Progressive Suspension’s New 6th Sense ATV Shocks

ImageYears of development have gone into developing Progressive Suspension’s new 6th Sense ATV shocks. According to Progressive, their CVT technology allows the rider to tune his or her shocks for incredible variants in rider weight and riding applications, making the need for internal revalving a thing of the past.When it comes to an ATV’s performance one might argue which part of the machine is truly the most important; motor performance, or handling? One thing is for sure, in the ultra-competitive world of ATV racing it takes a machine that is strong in both areas to finish atop the podium. If an ATV’s motor is the heart of the machine, then the suspension system must be the brain. Modern ATV suspension must be extremely adjustable, reliable and have the ability to deal with an infinite number of different size bumps, jumps and impacts with equal precision.

As with motor builders, ATV enthusiasts have a number of suspension manufacturers to choose from, with shocks varying in price and performance from entry level, to state of the art racing applications. Over a year ago at the inaugural ATV Expo, we reported to you on a new system being developed from Progressive Suspension. Progressive has been around for some time and got its roots by manufacturing rebuild kits for Honda Gold Wing suspension. From there, the company expanded into the Harley and off road market. Now after years of development, Progressive has made the jump into the high performance ATV Market.

Understanding Progressive’s 6th Sense Shock

ImageThe 6th Sense equipped machines felt incredibly plush — soaking up all of the whoops and square edged holes found on the purposely un-groomed Competition MX motocross track. For years ATV shocks have worked in the same way. A spring or series of springs are used to offer resistance to the shock’s compressing. If the springs are too soft, the machine will easily bottom. With springs that are too stiff, the shock is unable to use all of its travel on large hits – making the shock less than efficient.

If springs were the only component at work on your ATV’s suspension, your ATV would ride like a giant pogo stick, so inside a quad shock is an oil reservoir with a series of check valves that control how fast or slow the shock compresses or rebounds. On entry level shocks these settings are generally preset and un-adjustable. More expensive shocks feature various levels of external compression and rebound adjustability, giving riders a greater number of adjustments with which to tune their ATV’s suspension.

Lately FOX Racing Shocks has developed a line of “air” shocks, designed for recreation or racing applications. These shocks use air pressure, rather then steel or titanium coil springs to set spring rate. Progressive Suspension has combined the standard spring setup; high and low speed compression and rebound damping adjustment, with adjustable air pressure to give their shocks an even greater level of adjustability.

As opposed to acting to increased spring rate, Progressives air system effects damping. Progressive says that these shocks can be adjusted for radically different riding conditions. They claim these shocks are adjustable enough that your girlfriend could go riding on Saturday, while through external adjustment only, you can readjust your suspension and go motocross racing on Sunday. They achieve this level adjustment through their CVT technology. This allows you to tune the shocks for varying track conditions and riding applications by allowing you to use air pressure to change the shocks damping curve. Increasing air pressure puts more pressure on the shocks oil reservoir changing the way the shocks damping and blow off system works. Essentially, you can revalve your shocks using air pressure, eliminating the need for revalves as long as your chassis components remain the same. Combined with the shock’s other “more standard” adjustments Progressive can rightfully boast “the most adjustable shock” on the market today.

At the Intro
ImageWe were impressed with how well the 6th Sense shocks could smooth out the smallest of hits and still absorb less than perfect big air landings. To introduce the shocks, Progressive invited us out to Competitive Edge MX Park, located in Hesperia CA. Progressive brought out the three most popular sport models on the market today, the Yamaha YFZ450, the Honda TRX450, and since the LTR was not yet readily available, a Suzuki Z400.

There were two versions of each machine available for us to ride. One with stock shocks, the other with Progressive 6th Sense shocks installed for direct comparison. All of the machines had OEM A-arms and swingarms so the Progressive equipped machines had no handling advantage other than the shocks we were evaluating.

So the machines had enough power on tap to put the suspension through its paces, White Brother’s Donnie Luce came out and installed White Brothers exhaust systems on all of the test machines. While we were not there to evaluate the White Brothers exhausts, we can’t help noting that all three machines felt considerably stronger than their stock counterparts we have ridden in the past.

Time to ride

ImageSince we were’nt being bounced around like we were with the stock equipped shocks, we could attack the turns with much more aggression.The day we rode at Competitive Edge MX, the track was extremely rough with lots of major braking bumps, holes, square edge bumps, not to mention some pretty large jumps. It was the perfect place to test the full range of the new Progressive shock capabilities. After the pre ride hype and explanation of the new shocks, ATV Scene’s John Pellan headed out on the stock machines to get familiar with the course. Riders on hand complained about how rough the track was on the stock machines, especially through the small square edged holes and braking bumps. The 2006 YFZ was the most punishing to ride with its shocks that seemed to be tuned for smooth tracks with huge jumps, while the Suzuki with its plush suspension was more forgiving in the small bumps, but suffered more on big air jumps and had a lot of body roll in the corners. JP felt that the track was so rough and the stock suspension so stiff, he couldn’t wait to finish his initial lap and get off the stockers and on top of something more plush.

After riding the stockers, it was on to the Progressive equipped machines. We felt that riding the stock and Progressive equipped machines back to back was like comparing apples to oranges. The Progressive shocks were simply improved that much over their stock counterparts. “The Progressive shocks were much more smooth and forgiving on the track’s square edge bumps, yet they could soak up big air even if you over-jumped or came up short”. John Pellan explained, “The quads with the Progressive shocks floated through the roughest part of the track where I found myself needing to back off the throttle on the stock suspended machines.”

There seemed to be little difference in the ride height of the stock and Progressive equipped machines. However, cornering ability was much improved on all three machines. The Z400, with its plush stock shocks and narrower foot print, had some issues with body roll that seemed to be greatly reduced with the Progressive 6th Sense shocks installed. In the roughest corners, the Progressive equipped machines could rail where their stock counterparts were being jarred and deflected off line.

Final impression

ImageThe Progressive 6th sense shocks were amazing! No matter which machine we were on, the upgrade in suspension performance seemed flawless on everything from the smallest of bumps to the largest hits. Unfortunately the day came to a close much sooner then we had hoped, so we didn’t get as much time to play with the suspensions adjustability. Had we not been so impressed with the shocks, perhaps we would have spent less time riding and more time tuning.

Obviously we are very impressed with what we have seen from our day of testing the new 6th Sense shocks, but if all suspension companies only had to build shocks for OEM A-arms and chassis components there would be a lot more top notch suspension companies out there. The real test awaits when we see how well Progressive copes with the dozens of chassis component manufacturers. We hope to have Progressive build us a set in the future for long term testing on a fully-moded aftermarket machine. If they turn out as good as the ones we rode at Competition MX you have just gotten your first look at the next big player in ATV suspension.

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