Elka Suspension's Stage 5 may not be the first name that springs to mind when you’re considering upgrading your rear shock, but maybe it should be?
The shock is available in a variety of six compression valve assemblies and four rebound valve assemblies to suit a variety of different bike designs, meaning it’s essential to know the exact production year of your bike before you buy one, to make sure you get the tune just right.
Along with the custom valving, the Stage 5 stands out thanks to its simplicity and easy-to-understand setup instructions. Adjustments on offer include spring preload and rebound, plus fully independent low-speed and high-speed compression, via some nicely machined and indexed dials. The high-volume reservoir and 14mm damper shaft accommodate massive oil flow for consistent and responsive damping.
We had our shock valved to suit our Rocky Mountain Flatline Pro test bike by the guys at Silverfish, who distribute Elka in the UK, using one of the high-tensile steel Elka springs, which is a claimed 10 to 15 percent lighter than other steel springs out there.
As soon as the wheels were rolling, it was clear that things had changed for the better. After the initial bedding-in period, we found we only needed to stray from the base settings slightly to achieve the feel we were after and, thanks to the wide range of effective adjustment, this was easy to do.
Once we were happy with the setup and our speed was picking up, the first thing that was really noticeable was the control it delivers. It’ll keep the rear wheel tightly hugging the contours of the trail, spewing out grip as you carve through turns.
At lower speeds, on more technical terrain, the supple beginning stroke picks off the smaller bumps with ease, leaving the rider to concentrate on the task at hand and hammer any line with confidence. On choppier terrain, the Elka deals with the bumps in a composed fashion, without spitting feet off pedals.
There’s no blowing through the travel when it takes a big hit, just a reassuringly smooth, controlled compression. Landings and harsh compressions aren’t unpleasant either and are all handled comfortably. The only thing that you’ll notice is the whistle on the rebound stroke that may take you by surprise at first.
Some may quibble that it doesn’t have the masses of adjustment that the Cane Creek Double Barrel shock has, but it’s this simplicity and the more affordable pricetag that means this shock deserves to be right up there with the very best of them.