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Ohlins STX46 vs. Bitubo XZE11


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Quick report for my newest upgrade. I managed to score an Ohline STX46 (YA419) second hand which I've just used to replace my Bitubo XZE11 which I also bought second hand, and wanted to give a quick comparo for those considering either of these upgrades.

For reference, I am 72kg / 160 pound without gear, and use the bike every day for commuting to and from work in the city. Once a fortnight I'll take the bike out into the hills for some spirited riding. I found the standard front end fairly harsh but OK, and the standard rear very harsh and lacking in rebound damping. Both would be sorted.

Over here in Australia shocks pretty much never come up for sale for these bikes and when they do, they're gone in an hour so you have to be quick.

Which is how I intially ended up with a Bitubo XZE11. It was the first shock in months that had appeared on the second hand market and so when it appeared for sale in one of the local groups, I grabbed it straight away. It had the "standard" 120 spring installed. I wasn't quite able to get the correct sag numbers as I suspect the 120 spring is still too high for my weight. I emailed Bitubo asking for the recommended weight range for the 120 spring and they never replied (great support there guys...). Either way, the improvements to ride quality were immediately felt and the bike was transformed. It wasn't much smoother than stock (harshness when hitting small bumps) but the rebound damping was substantionally better and vastly improved the bikes stablity while cornering. I found myself attacking the corners now rather than bouncing through them and it really made the bike so much more fun to ride. In saying that, I was hoping for a smoother ride as well, since my commute is riddled with bumps and manholes and dodgy bitumen joins everywhere so I still felt myself avoiding the known obstacles along the way. Very large dips in the road at higher speeds could also throw me up off the seat a bit but not like the standard shock did.

I was really happy with the improvements so I went and installed some Cogent DDC's in the front. They've been great. Improved ride quality and performance overall, but then again the front was never "that" bad for me. However I felt that the front and rear weren't quite balanced with each other. Bumps that the front absorbed, the rear transferred sharply and where the front would move with the road surface, the rear resisted it a little more. The impression was that the rear end was set up to be more sporty than the front, and for my type of riding too sporty overall. I thought a spring change might help (something lighter than the 120) but I assumed that it would also be the compression damping. Since the shock cost me $500AUD, spending another $200 on a spring and then whatever it might cost to have it revalved would mean I could have just bought a brand new shock and specified it to my liking by the manufacturer, so I kept it as it was.

Then an Ohlins STX46 popped up on the second hand market (the second used shock I'd seen in 6 months) for $100 more than the Bitubo, at $600AUD. I'd read that the Ohlins was more "street" focussed rather than track, where I suspect the Bitubo is more track focussed. The Ohlins also has a slightly lighter spring at 115. Knowing I could sell the Bitubo for what I bought it for I figured it was only an extra $100 and in the worst case I have a nicer coloured spring that's slightly lighter in weight. Well I can tell you the difference between the two is significant. The Ohlins is far smoother. Way smoother. It's exactly what I was hoping for when I first replaced the standard shock with the Bitubo. It eats up the sharp bumps even a little bit better than the front end now and has the same excellent level of control I got with the Bitubo but with a lot more compliance. The bike overall behaves much better as the front and rear really now work in unison and give the same response so it all feels much more balanced. The 115 spring might technically still be too heavy for my weight but I have no issues with at all and won't be changing it. I'm perfectly happy now and I will never replace the Ohlins.

In summary. They're both great shocks and I don't have anything against the Bitubo, but it's definitely the more sporty of the two and would probably be great for much more aggresive riding and matched up with a set of cartridges. But for general street riding and daily commuting with some sporty riding on the weekends, the Ohlins with DDC's has me 100% satisfied so my suspension quest is over.

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