Nitron, A UK Company, do a range of shock absorbers for road or track and they’ll fit most models. In terms of reputation their product sits somewhere is the mid-to-upper range. Not perhaps on a par with Ohlins, but a cut above other competitors. Price pretty much matches this market postilion. Here we take a look at fitting their sport road shock to our ZZR1400, but the comments, so we gather from other owners, are pretty much applicable to any large fast bike. There’s a video of Dave’s clumsy but ultimately successful attempts to fit the shock too. (So you can see how not to do it! Ed.) Just click on any image below to go to video.
Nitron NTR Sport Shock
We were looking for a quality shock to replace the poor standard offering on the ZZR1400, with a budget somewhere between entry level shocks (like Hagon) and top notch gear (like Ohlins).
Nitron has some good reviews so we decided to plump for their Sport shock, aimed at general road use, but with the extra-cost option of a hydraulic pre-load adjuster. The story of how easy this was to fit is in our video section (or click images on this page), but here we are going to consider the performance of the unit, and, inevitably in these cash-strapped days, value for money.
Right out of the box, there was no doubting the robust quality of the unit…titanium, aluminium and nylon parts should ensure a long life. Close up, it looks good and feels good. Limited instructions, unfortunately, but that’s pretty much an industry standard. So far, so fine.
Technical and Features
Nitron say that they use high quality materials (like Titanium) , not only to reduce corrosion and withstand the stresses involved in hard use, but also to save weight.
The obsession with weight is clear in the ordering process, as each unit is tailor made for the customer. When you order the Nitron team will ask your weight (don;t be shy), whether you carry a pillion and the likely use of the bike (track, tour, street etc). The unit is then made to these specifications.
Despite this bespoke service ours took only 10 days to come direct from the UK factory and does not cost the earth Each new chock comes complete with bearing end spacers, and, for the standard unit, a c-spanner.
The basic shock adjusts in the usual way, with a c spanner for preload, but we opted for the remote hydraulic pre-load which requires no tools to use and is therefore easily set up by the roadside. Damping control is achieved via an accessible knurled adjusted on the bottom of the shock – again this is easy to use by hand.
Performance and Ride
The OEM shock we replaced had done 20,000 miles and was still reasonably OK 1-Up, but woefully inadequate when carrying a pillion, being under sprung and under damped. Just weak, really.
It would bottom out easily and on rough roads bounced the rider and pillion like they were on a Pogo-stick. This made long trips tiring especially for the passenger.
The Nitron was a revelation – as if someone had taken a giant iron to the road and smoothed it out. Distances seemingly shrank and the ride became effortlessly smooth.
Steering response was sharper too, especially when we cranked up the pre-load, thereby tipping the bike forward on it’s nose. Tackling big sweepers was like riding a wave of smooth, never-ending surf. Fabulous.
Living with it
Ease of use was something we were really looking for. The ZZR OE Shock has two fiddly and inaccessible adjusters for pre-load and damping and a nightmarishly awkward pre-load that is supposedly adjusted by C spanner, but which is so hard to access that many people remove the entire unit to get adjustment right. Not something you can do at the side of the road..
The NTR Sport shock has just one damping adjustment; a knob at the base of the unit that can be twiddled by hand. This adjuster affects compression and rebound, good for touring when you might want to adjust set up quickly.
On the standard unit, pre-load is adjusted by C-Spanner, but given the ZZR’s access issues, we went for the option of remote hydraulic pre-load. This is a knob that can be turned by hand and which sits on the bottom of the pillion footrest hanger on a neat bracket that is provided (see above pic).
Despite its overall excellent ride and great improvement over standard, there are a couple of issues. Firstly, the pre-load adjustment is more sensitive than the standard unit. In practice we were using a narrow range of adjustment.
Get it a bit too hard – and the back end goes rigid like a rock; not hard so you bounce, but without feeling of the road. Steering response is faster, but the rear tends to hop under braking. This is all as you’d expect by effectively jacking up the back of the bike, but it happens with remarkably little travel.
If on the other hand, you get the set up too soft then the bumpiness of the OEM returns. Broadly speaking there were only about 2 complete turns of the remote adjuster between 1-Up and 2-Up riding. You need to get it right.
And this brings us to another point, the adjuster knob has no scale on which you can reliably set the number of turns.
You cannot therefore know by looking at it, which setting it is in – say whether its set up for rider only or rider and pillion. It does click, but only once a complete turn, and so softly it is possible to mis-count.
Value for Money
Set up properly, the Nitron Sport transformed our ZZR; the bike ran smoother, had better handling and we benefited from vastly increased effective range thanks to the enhanced ride and fewer bumps. The pillion was especially impressed.
The price of the standard shock is $900, while remote pre-load brings it up to $1000. Given that a standard Hagon is about $800 and an Ohlins over $2000 with remote adjuster, it has to be concluded that the Nitron product represents very good value for money and is, in our view an essential upgrade for many standard Japanese or British bikes, especially if you want to ride with a passenger and luggage. Excellent. Very Pleased. Big Thumbs up!
Update February 2015
We’ve now done 1000 miles on the new shock and no problems to report. The bike handles way better than stock and is rated by Sarah, our Pillion Tester as being the most comfortable bike she’s ever toured on (and that includes the BMW K1200GT, the Goldwing and the Blackbird). Good stuff.