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"Dirt Rider", March 1, 2013



Jimmy Lewis


Getting your suspension revalved is a very personal thing. I’d compare it to a haircut, but that is only drawing from memory. Just sending your suspension off to Tom, Dick or Harry to make it better because they say they can (and maybe you don’t know exactly what you want) is a real crapshoot. So before I tell you about company owner Alan Stillwell, let me tell you that I’m very fond of the stock suspension on the 2012 KTM EXC and XC-W and I pretty much challenged him to make it better.

This took time, especially on the phone going over the positives and very few negatives we both felt the suspension had. And by comparing what he had learned with other riders and what I felt I wanted to gain — and not lose — he said he had it figured out. That was converting my request for some additional bottoming resistance, better control of the near fully-compressed stroke rebound and some changes to the initial part of the stroke, all tuning that goes a little beyond what the clickers will allow and converting that information into shim stacks inside Alan’s head, then into the suspension. Luckily, I was able to ride two different setups on a pair of KTM EXCs, a 350 and a 500, being used as project bikes for FMF. Both sets were a little different in character, and both had the improvements I’d asked for valved in, also using a progressively wound spring in the rear. The 350 had more of a race setup inside it holding the bike up taller in the stroke and allowing more feel of the ground, something that many racers prefer. Although it acted stiff, it wasn’t, and the wheels tracked the ground like they need to without deflecting on rocks. The 500 had a little of that dead and planted feeling so you don’t feel much of the ground, more so than just the added weight and inertia that the bike creates. And with this it didn’t get sluggish or heavy feeling. Both bikes shared improved bottoming resistance and they rebounded out of bottoming hits better than the standard bikes. On the 500 we had to slow the shock’s rebound with the clickers to gain stability but more importantly to make the front end feel more plush in the small stuff, the kind of tuning for balance that goes a long way especially on the new KTM chassis.

All in all it was a marked improvement and exactly what we’d talked about, the kind of communication necessary in personalizing anything. Turnaround is typically five working days, and Stillwell’s standard $225 revalve fee includes every thing but replacement of worn-out parts.


Turnaround time 18/20

Function 49/50

Communication 10/10

Design 9/10

Price 8/10




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