Strata Pro Vs. Super Deluxe|
Thursday, April 01, 1999
When front suspension hit the bike shops in the late 1980's the new gear was embraced by fat tire brethren all over the world. While it was expensive and heavy, not to mention the fact that it didn't work so well (maybe you got an inch and a half of travel) every rider, their brother and their brothers' best friends' cousin wanted a front shock. Yeah, there were, and still are a few holdouts who insist they are purists·. Shocks are for wimps. It's only my personal opinion but guys who claim to be purists are either to stupid to see the benefits of three inches of travel on the front of your steed or they are just too damp cheap to cough up the greenbacks for a smoother, softer and better ride. Anymore you hardly ever run into goofballs like this that insist they have more control with a rigid fork.
This, however, is not the case with rear suspension. Ever since manufactures like Fox, Rock Shock and Stratos began producing rear suspension the debate has raged on. To be rigid or to be soft seems to be the question being asked at the trailhead these days. If you ask me I am all for the rearend travel. In fact I own two shocks. A Stratos Strata Pro and a Super Deluxe Rock Shock.
The argument against rear suspension is something of a mystery to me. Those who prefer it hard and stiff say that the weight gain is not worth what you get out of the softer ride. They also say that you lose power when climbing. And they say that the pros that are winning cross-country races are not using rear suspension. OK with this last one I have to say gimme a break. The pros are not even mortal. So it is a completely ridiculous argument to compare what they ride and how they ride to average guys like you and me. There is no comparison. If you don't believe me then you have never seen the pros race. Lame argument!
The weight argument on the other hand may have some validity. When I first began checking into rear suspension I was concerned with weight. I was riding a carbon fiber Univega that weighed less than 23 pounds. She was light and quick as a jackrabbit. The only downside of the bike was that the super rigid tail was squirrelly as hell and wreaked havoc on my lower back. I was constantly fighting fatigue and pain.
I was also concerned with the pogo effect. Hard tail believers claim that as you pedal you bounce around on the rear shock losing precious energy and power. Another valid argument.
A few years ago I bought a Trek Y-22. My first upgrade before I even lay my MasterCard on the counter was the Stratos Strata rear shock. Because it was an air/oil shock it was light. I must admit, not as light as a hard tail but to me the benefits of a smoother ride outweighed the extra weight. Plus I knew that through other weight shaving purchases I could keep the weight of my bike under control. Two years and about $1,500 later my fully suspended bike weighs under 24 pounds. I haven't found many bikes that are hard tails that weigh a whole lot less. Sure, they are out there but I can guarantee the ride is not nearly as smooth.
The Strata is simply awesome. The combination of air/oil provides a plush ride in even the most extreme terrain. With three to five inches of rear wheel travel I can ride over fat logs and large rocks. My line is a much more direct route down the trail. This, coupled with the fact that my ride is smoother gives me more control and allows me to ride even faster. In real life practical terms: the year previous to riding with the Strata I raced in the beginner class and managed only one finish in the top ten out of six or seven races. The last two years with the Strata I have finished in the top in seventeen out of twenty races. In the sport class. Granted the Strata is not the only reason I have placed higher the last two years. However, I do ride faster with more control and confidence with rear suspension.
As for the pogo effect it is not a problem with the Strata. Stratos designers developed the first ever shock with on-the-fly lock out abilities. When you buy the shock it requires you to purchase an old style over the bar thumb shifter and extra cable. At any speed, on any terrain, at any time you can flick the switch and go to a hard tail and any point in between. I use the switch constantly. At the start of a race I lock out the shock in order to get as much power and speed off the line as possible. In the downhill I let the shock go as soft as possible. The smoothness of the ride provides more speed and beats up my body less. I can ride faster for longer periods of time. Then when I come to a climb I lock out the shock again. I have no problem sprinting to the top of hills. At least there is no problem due to the shock.
Pre-load on the shock is adjusted with a hand pump specially designed for the Stratos shocks. It attaches to the shock easily and then you pump in your desired PSI according to your weight and riding style.
The only problem I have had over the last two years with my Strata is that is breaks down every once in awhile. Three times to be exact. But I figure it is a technically sensitive piece of equipment. I ride four to five days a week. I race ten to fifteen times per year. This year I even raced down hill. I definitely use the gear and push it to its limits. So it's to be expected that I bust up some of my gear every once in awhile. I simply pull the shock off my bike and send it to Stratos. A week later I have a newly rebuilt shock. No charge.
Stratos, a small company, takes care of their customers. In fact, the last time my Strata broke, Stratos sent me the all-new Strata Pro. The latest version has a dimpled knob on the shock that adjusts the shocks rebound rate. And unlike most "adjustable knobs" this one really works. You can tell a huge difference in the shocks response depending on where you turn the knob.
The Rock Shox Super Deluxe is not as light as the Strata Pro. Not even close. Nor does it have ability to lock out on-the-fly. However, the oil/spring shock is stronger and can take more punishment than the Strata Pro. As I said, the Strata breaks down every once in awhile. I figured I needed an extra shock I could slap on my bike and beat the hell out of racing downhill. I opted for the Super Deluxe.
This shock also provides three to five inches of rear wheel travel. While it is heavier, the coil over shock is more durable. The Super Deluxe also has a knob that adjusts the shocks damping. This knob works well and can be adjusted while riding. Its not easy to adjust while riding but it can be done. Just be careful when you reach behind you to turn the knob. Don't put your hand in your rotating spokes! This damping knob also gives you the ability to decrease the pogo effect you get from pedaling and stiffens up the rear end for climbing.
With the SD you can also adjust your pre-load on the shock. All you have to do is turn the threaded spring to dial in your shock for your weight, riding style and ability.
Regarding price, the SD is less expensive than the Strata Pro. The SD is roughly $250 and the Strata Pro is about another $100. I say both shocks are without a doubt well worth the cash. Let the debate continue. I like the smooth ride and never will I go back to a hard tail. Never.