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Ohlins Mechatronic Electronic Shock Review

Monday, December 10, 2012

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Ohlins Mechatronic Electronic Shock Review Video
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MotoUSA tests Ohlins latest Mechatronic electronic shock absorber that is OE-compatible with all 2011-2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10Rs. Watch the Ohlins Mechatronic Electronic Shock Video Review.
Ohlins is pushing suspension technology into the digital future with the advent of its Mechatronic shock absorber ($1625). Designed in collaboration with Kawasaki, the e-shock offers fully automated, semi-active damping adjustment based on riding conditions and engine power mode selection (Full, Medium, and Low). It’s engineered for those that would rather spend time riding then fiddling with suspension clickers. The shock is compatible with all 2011-2013 Ninja ZX-10R sportbikes.
“We’ve created a new product that’s in a category of its own,” explains Ohlins Motorcycle Project Manager, Peter Andersson. “Just a few years after our racing success in World Superbike with Mechatronics technology, and with the successful launches of the EC systems for the Ducati Multistrada and the Mechatronics aftermarket system for the BMW R1200GS, this is another significant step forward for our technology.”
Based off the Swedish company’s top-shelf TTX36 MK II damper used by many AMA and World Superbike race teams, the body features a twin-tube design in which the compression and rebound circuits are controlled independent of each other allowing for more efficient damping characteristics. The tension of the shock spring can be modified via a tool-less remote adjuster for added simplicity. However the real magic lies in its electronics with it reacting in real-time to road conditions and modifying damping settings during the ride.

The Mechatronic shock is only a few hundred dollars more than the manually adjusted TTX36 MK II used by many AMA and World Superbike race teams.

It does this by gathering data via a dedicated ECU (about the size of a flip-phone) that plugs into the Ninja’s wiring harness beneath the tail section through a diagnostic connector. Two wires from the shock body are plugged into the Ohlins ECU thereby allowing it to communicate with the motorcycle and activating the system.

The exact functionality is a closely guarded secret, but the gist is through programming the Mechatronics unit samples data from a variety of different sensors and inputs from the Ninja’s computer. It can measure variables like gear and throttle position, engine rpm, wheel speed and other parameters inside the motorcycle’s brain. Two riding modes are offered (Comfort and Sport), but they can’t be manually selected or modified. Instead the electronics select the modes, applying the optimum setting based on engine power mode selection, input received from the motorcycle and rider behavior.

When the engine is started the shock defaults to the Comfort setting. During fast paced rides, in which a predetermined mathematical threshold is reached, it automatically switches to Sport. Each of the three engine power modes carry specific parameters allowing the shock to alter modes at different intervals. Full power mode takes the longest to revert back from Sport to Comfort, and vice-versa, in Low, the switch from Sport to Comfort is shortest.

The Ohlins Mechatronic shock is a direct bolt-on replacement for stock. It communicates with the motorcycle’s electronics via its own ECU that plus into the OE-wiring harness through a diagnostic connection.

The folks at Ohlins invited us for an all-day mixed road and track ride to test the new system, which took us across a range of different road surface conditions en route to Southern California's Streets course at Willow Springs International Raceway. Ohlins also supplied a stock ZX-10R so we could compare both shocks back-to-back. The motorcycles were shod with Dunlop’s latest Sportmax GP-A AMA road race tires.

As soon as you sit on the Ohins-equipped ZX-10R the difference in terms of balance and chassis geometry was readily apparent. The back of the bike sits higher which made the bike steer sharper without compromising stability at high-speeds or over big bumps.

Cruising around at a mellow street pace didn’t net a big difference over stock in terms of comfort, but as the pace increased through some of the faster sections the Ohlins unit delivered a firmer and more accurate ride. Overall action was on the firm side yet it performed well in chop and over rough road surfaces, much to our surprise.

It was difficult to ascertain a difference in terms of feel when and if the shock was switching between modes. We also could never feel a difference in terms of damping adjustment - even on track. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just shows how well Ohlins developed its Mechatronic technology, which allows the rider to better focus on what they like to do best: ride.
Although it offers firmer feel on track and during spirited riding the shock is still plush over bumps and rough pavement.   
The Mechatronic shock delivers a more firm and responsive ride. It also sharpened steering.

Carrying a price tag of $1625 the Mechatronic’s shock is only a few hundred dollars more than its standard mechanical counterpart and each shock ships with the correct spring rate based on the rider’s weight. Ohlins plans to offer additional fitment for other brands/models in the future but for now is limited to only 2011-2013 ZX-10Rs. It’s a worthwhile upgrade for rider’s looking for an edge on the racetrack and a livelier, yet not overly firm ride on the street.

The Ohlins Mechatronic Shock is coming soon to Motorcycle-Superstore.com

MSRP: $1625
Ohlins Mechatronic Shock Photos
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2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R First Ride
It’s hard to imagine that nearly three decades have passed since the first Kawasaki Ninja sportbike was unleashed on the motorcycling public (1983 GPZ900R). That motorcycle helped usher in the generation of sportbikes we enjoy today. Now Team Green is at it again, evolving the technical aspects of high-performance motorcycles with the release of its 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. With the introduction of this Superbike, Kawi engineers have integrated a number of technologies that make it easier to ride than ever before. For the full technical briefing make sure to check out our 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R First Look article. In this review we’ll focus on our riding impression and how it performs at the racetrack...

Read the full review in the 2011 Kawasaki NInja ZX-10R First Ride
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motousa_adam   December 12, 2012 12:27 PM
@jfc1 HAHA nice funny comment:)
motousa_adam   December 11, 2012 01:50 PM
I'm not sure if it has the ability to log data. As of this time Ohlins doesn't allow the user access to the software to make adjustments. The bike sits higher because it comes with a little more ride height as compared to stock. Yes ride height can be adjusted with spring preload and/or ride height shims.
AnthonyD   December 11, 2012 11:38 AM
Does it log data? Can you go back and see what adjustments were made during a session? Does the bike sit higher because the ecu tells it to or just because you adjusted the shock? Ride height can be adjusted on the stock unit.
Rucuss54   December 11, 2012 09:29 AM
Great video review explaining what it does, but it's a hassle buying this for $1600 and wrenching then throwing the standard shock out. Would be good if Kawasaki offered this from factory at lower cost and calling the bike a ZX-10RR or something.
motousa_adam   December 10, 2012 10:31 PM
Hi guys I don't think I was clear enough in my review. My apologies: You could very much feel a difference in damping between casual street riding and a wicked up pace on track. What I meant by the sentence is that I couldn’t feel the shock mechanically change the settings-- it was seamless. This shock is very effective and similar to the BMW HP4 version only the damping settings in the Ohlins offer a racier, more rigid feel.
Bristecom   December 10, 2012 09:27 PM
Neat technology but just a bit too expensive to be worthwhile for most people.
AnthonyD   December 10, 2012 05:28 PM
For once I actually agree with JFC1 when I usually despise the paragraphs he writes in the comments. This review pretty much read like you couldn't tell if the device was doing anything for you and without any data there is no way to tell. $1700 for placebo riding focus? Isn't that what Red Bull does for $4. Also interesting is that one of Ohlins top techs in the US, Jun (R.I.P.), told me that true active suspension on motorcycles would be ineffective and even dangerous. This product has me scratching my head.
shashankmittal   December 10, 2012 10:11 AM
Sounds very similar to BMW HP4's DDC. Welcome to the world of high-tech electronics!