ELKA STAGE 5 UTV SHOCKS
— Testing a set of premium $4,800 shocks —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Can you remember far back enough to the May 2019 issue of Dirt Wheels? Our associate editor Collin Duffy built a tricked-out Polaris RZR XP Turbo project with more horsepower, wider suspension and an extensive list of the industry’s best aftermarket parts. We have spent a lot of seat time in the machine, dialing in the suspension to tackle the gnarliest terrain around the deserts of the West Coast. Elka Suspension came on board with a set of their impressive Stage 5 shocks for the front and rear of the long-travel RZR, and it’s time to lay down the facts on the setup. These aren’t shocks for your average trail rider. They are designed to tackle the roughest terrain for the highest speeds your machine can reach. Big whoops, hard hits, rough landings and G-outs are strewn throughout of deserts, and stock shocks just can’t keep up.
We are big fans of Elka. Through the years we have included and tested all of their shock models on our project ATVs. Stage 5s are their premium race models. The smaller the number, the less features the shocks have. A Stage 5 has a dual- or triple-rate spring setup and is preload, high- and low-speed compression, and rebound adjustable. A Stage 4 Elka has one less compression adjustment. The Stage 3s ditch the rebound adjustment, etc. The lower the number, the more affordable the price but with fewer features. However, for the average rider or driver, shock adjustment can be confusing, and it is routinely ignored. On the other hand, those that make adjustments frequently fail to make improvements. One adjustment on the front shocks can change how the rear function as well, so we can’t recommend the Stage 5 Elkas to the average joe.
The 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo Dynamix that was used for the build started life as a 64-inch-wide model. Collin decided he wanted to widen it for stability, so he built this RZR with Lonestar Racing’s MTS long-travel suspension kit. The stock shocks simply couldn’t keep up, and at the time nobody knew what to do to make them work with a long-travel kit. Elka offers Stage 5 UTV shocks for stock suspension geometry and aftermarket kits. They will ask you technical questions to try and dial in your shocks just right for your machine. Weight, suspension kit, common terrain you drive and other modifications can all play a factor in the setup you need. On the plus side, if they don’t get it right, you can ship your shocks back to them under warranty to get them dialed in closer to your desired specs.
Elka employs high-flow technology in their shocks—basically large oil ports that offer low restriction of the oil flow. The internals are made from hard-anodized aluminum, which aids in offering lower operating temperatures, reduced weight and allows for very tight tolerances. They top off the shocks with a proprietary shock fluid blend that they have had years to test and perfect to their standards.
We chose Elka’s $1999 (a pair) Stage 5 front, 2.5-inch piggyback reservoir, dual-rate shocks with crossover rings. The rears are $2799, remote-reservoir, 3.0-inch Stage 5s with a dual-rate spring setup and crossover ring. When we first tested the project, the shocks were far too stiff for the driving we wanted to do. We expected a much different outcome with a longer-travel setup, so much so that we preferred the stock suspension at the time. So we sent the shocks back off to Elka, and they happily changed a few things and shipped them right back to us. Changes to the shocks were easy to recognize, and the overall performance was greatly improved.
Collin wanted the RZR to handle harsh hits and rough terrain while maintaining high speeds, so for the average driver, the setup is still stiff. If you like driving aggressively at all times, then the setup turned out just right. The RZR was able to soak up a lot more chop that was jarring before. We could blast over whoop sections, plow through G-outs and land jumps smoothly in the open desert. The bottoming resistance is superb, and we rarely reached a full bottom-out. The Polaris rarely bucked in the rear and was very controllable in our terrain. However, there are still some kinks to work out depending on where we drive the RZR. Rocky terrain will require some adjustments, and that’s where a complex shock setup gets tricky. Changing compression requires rebound adjustment. Ride height and spring preload play a factor as well. If you want a set of shocks that handle most things very well, Elka still has great shocks for the average rider or driver in their lower stages that will drastically lower the price tag and let you get more enjoyment out of your ride. If you want to race or beat all your buddies and know how to tune your suspension to your needs, then we highly suggest you consider the Stage 5 shocks.
Elka Suspension never seems to disappoint us. Their ATV shocks are top-notch, and while they are somewhat newer to the UTV market, they are already doing a great job. All of their products are expertly machined and put together. Our industry helps provide the company feedback, along with their own extensive testing, to assist Elka in offering products that work how you want them to. Go to www.elkasuspension.com or call (800) 557-0552 to find shocks for your favorite ATV or UTV and get more enjoyment out of your ride.