Serious grip, imported from England
If it's new, we want it!
Here at TrackdayMag.com, we're on a never-ending quest for excellence in motorcycle suspension. Some would call us obsessed. The truth is, if there's a hot new shock out there, we've got to give it a try. English suspension purveyor, Nitron, is a very popular and race winning suspension brand in Europe and Japan. In July, 2013, the brand became available in the American market as well. Immediately, their shocks began winning here at the club level. They've been very successful in the AMA Pro Roadracing Supersport and Harley Davidson XR1200 classes as well, regularly finding the podium and even standing atop the box. We simply HAD to see what all the fuss was about.
Who, what, where?
Nitron is an English company, with its roots in the specialty manufacturing community that exists to support UK-based Formula One car racing teams. With a background in automobile racing and a history of dealing with high-end automotive exotica, motorcycles were a logical next step. The company's home base in the United states can be found at 2901 N. Sheep Lane, Unit 704, Tooele, Utah, 84074. Why is this address significant? Because it's located on the property of Miller Motorsports Park. This puts them right in the heart of America's West Coast motorcycle scene and just minutes from Pit Out at one of the newest and most challenging circuits in the country. Testing? Oh yes. Nitron USA does testing.
While there are way too many applications and accessory combinations to give one simple answer to the question of price, we can offer a generalization which proves pretty darn accurate. Nitron feels that their product is world class but here in America, they lack brand recognition. What the consumer will find is that if he compares a given Nitron component to the same piece offered by a company that finishes their product in gold, blue or red, the shock from England will offer a reasonable savings over those more recognized brands. Nitron is positioning itself to be attractively priced while at the same time offering the best performance available.
A world-class opinion
In America, Nitron's Technical Director and R&D chief is Lenny Albin. Longtime readers will remember that Albin has collaborated with TrackdayMag.com on numerous past projects throughout our magazine's history. Sharp-eyed observers will recall that Lenny has worn a number of different brand names on his shirt during those years. As tuners go, it would be hard to find many with his experience, which extends from WERA and CCS to World Supersport and AMA Pro Roadracing. We asked Albin why he'd chosen to go with Nitron. His reply was, "During my career as a suspension builder and tuner, I've had literally every available brand apart in my hands. I've worked for several of the top companies in the business. I've joined Nitron because presently, I believe that they are building the best motorcycle suspension in the world." We asked Albin what he felt set Nitron apart from the competition. He responded, "Nitron's experience with F1 racing and exotic supercars has prepared them well for the motorcycle arena. They bring a level of technical expertise in engineering, machining and attention to detail that is expected at the tip of the four-wheeled pyramid. Nitron's machining processes, mechanical tolerances and material choices are cutting edge. As just one example of their attention to detail, the company runs every shock they make on a suspension dyno before they package it. Every shock! When you buy a unit from Nitron, you know that they made sure it worked properly before it left the factory."
Trial by tire
For this test, we chose Nitron's triple-adjustable shock without remote preload control. Understand that this unit was not laying on some shelf of Nitron shocks in a storage room. A shipping clerk did not pull one out that would fit our bike and toss it in a box marked "To USA." Each customer's Nitron experience starts with a build sheet. You're asked a ton of questions, some of which (rider weight and skill level, for example) will tempt you to lie. Don't do it. We were (cough) more or less painfully honest and what arrived about a month later was a shock which had been built from the ground up especially for our tester and his machine. The beast to be thrashed was our trusty 2008 GSXR1000. This motorcycle has been in a constant state of development for three seasons and truthfully, was making us very happy prior to this comparison. Our Suzuki was equipped with a racing shock that had been manufactured by one of Nitron's highly respected competitors. That damper has been serviced and tuned professionally since the day it was new and has provided us with great performance. Prior to installation of the Nitron shock, we considered the GSXR's handling to be superb and if we had anything to complain about at all, it was that we couldn't quite get the tire wear we were after.
Like day and Nitron
When we began riding on the Nitron triple clicker, we were initially confused by what we were perceiving. The overall sensation was one of friction, which is something you certainly don't want in suspension. This seemed to be combined with a bit of harshness on large bumps. Our gut reaction was to open the clickers, thus lessening the damping. That wasn't the solution, as it produced excessive wheel movement and made the harshness even worse. We now recognized our harshness issue as bottoming over the largest bumps. Returning to the as-delivered settings, we next experimented with spring preload and discovered that in the case of our setup, adding a few rounds on the spring collar was an improvement. This cured the bottoming and harshness issues. During a training session with suspension tuner Dave Moss, it occurred to us that we might have the GSXR's Bazzaz traction control turned up too high. When we backed it off, an amazing thing happened. The resulting bit of wheelspin freed up the chassis and let the Nitron shock come into its own. We'd needed the extra electronic assistance to tame the previous shock but the Nitron was actually better when the tire was spinning and the bike was in a slight drift. At this point, we suddenly quantified that feeling of friction which had been puzzling us throughout the test. What we were feeling was the traction of the rear Michilin slick, just as you'd feel the sticky suction of a paint roller against a wall when it is exactly as wet as it needs to be to do the best job. This was stunning. We've never been able to sense that much feedback from a rear tire on any machine we've had the privilege of riding and for sure, our GSXR1K test platform had never accelerated this easily out of a corner! Best of all, this improved performance came hand in hand with improved tire wear. Our eventual setup was within a click to each adjuster from what we'd received out of the box, while the extra few rounds of preload that we'd needed to add might be attributed to the fact that we'd supplied our tester's ideal weight, rather than being as brutally honest as we might have been.
We're completely in love with this Nitron shock. Clearly, the company has come to play. In past tests of shocks in hues of gold, blue and red, we've gotten satisfactory performance from dampers which had been assembled from a spec sheet and then fitted with a spring to suit us. This shock was hand assembled from new to be just for us, then tested on a dyno to be sure that it performed the way the builder intended it to. Earlier in this article, we likened the feedback of this damper to a perfectly wet roller against a wall. Imagine what it feels like to paint rubber onto the track with your rear tire. Truly, the asphalt becomes your canvas. That's the Nitron experience.
Nitron's American website, nitron-usa.com is still under construction. To find a local Dealer/service center, call 801-663-7436.