World Exclusive: Inside the Extreme Racing Shox Arma rear damper - Dirt

Mountain Biking Magazine


World Exclusive: Inside the Extreme Racing Shox Arma rear damper

Pedigree is a strong word in motor racing, hours over the gasket, 1/4 turns of bolts, testing, timing and retesting all drip into the tank called experience. Tapping that knowledge and applying it to a problem is something any experienced engineer relishes, the challenge of mountain bike suspension is exactly what Franco Fratton is applying his experience to.

Dirt took a trip to Italy earlier this year to see Franco at Extreme Racing Shox along with his partner in this project, World Cup mechanic Dave Garland. The pair have been developing this shock over the last two years and their plans are big. They were told some of their ideas were impossible and that the pressures and systems involved just wouldn't work in mountain bikes.

However, new ideas always attract scepticism and that attitude simply serves to fuel these guys into making the product they believe in on paper a reality in aluminium, oil and steel. These new dampers could be a game changer, we find were there to find out why.

Franco has worked on pretty much anything that develops BHP on tarmac or dirt, from Gerhard Berger’s F1 car to moto cross bikes and championship winning quads, if it’s got suspension and goes fast Franco is your man.

Most people would be happy building suspension for Ferrari Touring cars, Honda rally prototypes and the like but if there is something new on the horizon then the inquisitive switch is flicked and things start to happen.

This project came about when Franco and Dave Garland were brought together by a shared passion. You guessed it, suspension, and the dampers of a Citroen works rally kit car to be precise.

After briefly being aware of each other back when they both worked on cars, Garland reignited his passion for cars and bought a 2003 works Citroen Saxo kit car or S1600 class if you know your rally cars.

During Dave’s hunt for the right components he needed dampers, Franco had built them for Citroen and thus started the meeting of minds.

The choice of your bikes suspension is generally made for you when you buy complete and those units are likely to be from Fox or RockShox with Cane Creek also being a popular choice. BOS are also becoming more prevalent but up to now have been under represented in the UK, a new distributor in the form of Jungle should change that.

Ohlins moto heritage has been employed with Specialized, a solid knowledge base that has produced an outstanding and simple shock. As we reported in August (#138) Ohlins have taken away unnecessary damping adjustment and developed the shock for their Demo frame design. But that is their limiting factor, a shock for one manufacturer. They are developing a shock for the Enduro too but this is still within the American stable.

Then there is DVO, the promise is there for a tuneable system that can be dialled to any rider’s preferences. We are yet to take a spin on the Jade rear shock but if the product lives up to the hype and the bladder system that transitions between compression and rebound they could be onto a winner. DVO are aiming their shock with maximum adjustability for the rider in tune with their dials, there are some good features but Jade is yet to get on one of our bikes only time will tell.

Are the big guns doing something wrong?

Most definitely not, they are producing some great products on a huge scale that perform, on the whole, very well. RockShox and FOX have shocks that the majority of bikes use, stock bikes come with them and the upgraders out there will look to these guys as well as Cane Creek, BOS and DVO to spend their upgrade cash. Across these dampers there is a huge amount of adjustment to cater for wide range of riders and suspension designs but by the virtue of their mass market success getting something bespoke takes more than many are prepared to, or have the knowledge to undertake.

What are you getting that’s different from Extreme Racing Shocks?

As we all ride our bikes and get to know how they react in different situations, taking that knowledge and employing it to improve the damping characteristics of our steeds is another thing altogether. The Ohlins model of simplification and fit to design is a good one and the aim of Franco and Dave is to tailor each unit to the leverage ratio of the customer’s frame. Extreme Racing Shox could well have the answer if you are looking for something different and tuneable, so long as you understand what does what when it comes to clicks and dials.

Are we talking more than just sag and rebound adjustment then?

Lets be straight, we are adaptable creatures, and riding our bikes within an understood range of suspension adjustment is pretty straight forward. Set the sag then basic rebound and compression damping, it’s all reasonably simple and relatively easy to understand.

The stage on from this is what Extreme Racing Shox are aiming to answer and the plan is to cover any rider and their bike. Steve sat down with Franco and Dave at their factory to find out what is on offer.

So do the Arma (DH) and Storia (Trail/Enduro) from ERS hold a solution?

The gap these dampers are aiming to fill is that of a rider who wants to be able to have something bespoke and of the highest engineering standards. I would say more of a rider engineer’s dream than a flash new bit of carbon to show off to your mates. To spend some time, and money, getting their setup right and to test in a similar way that we see World Cup race teams doing pre-season or post sponsor change.

The Storia and Arma have been designed differently, simply and in an environment with nothing unnecessary, there’s no bottom out control, negative spring or 49 clicks of adjustment. These dampers run on light oil, at low pressure with their movement controlled by a proven piston design. The pressure the dampers run at is low when compared to the rest of the market. 35psi rather than pressures running into the 100’s, aimed at improved sensitivity and traction this has been achieved by using a control piston derived from Franco’s F1 experience. Look at the bike shock piston next to the same component from an F1 damper its hard to tell them apart. The fact is that they are pretty much the same design.


Main piston Ø29 mm

Compression Valve Ø24 mm

High Flow Valve, Hydrostatic Spool System

Reservoir Ø28 mm

Chromed Shaft Ø14 mm

Rebound Valve with anti-wallow system

35 psi N2 pressure

3 way high and low compression speed and rebound adjustment

Proprietary Nickel Base Coating, low friction & no stiction

Built in 7075 T6 and Titanium

450gr for 241/76 mm



If you are looking for something that could be a step up in performance and you are confident that you can be sensitive to the changes made to a damper then this setup could be for you. As mentioned the guys will set the shock up for you based on the leverage ratio of your bike and work with you to gain the best performance out of your damper. The range of adjustment should be then be tailored to your bike and be narrower than the adjustment range on a stock damper from the big guys.

The cost could seem high but with a shock tailored to your frame design and preferences with support from a friendly team and experienced world class mechanic this will no doubt interest a lot of you.

The shocks are on sale now and available through the Extreme Racing Shox website, they are priced at £599 and that includes the lightweight steel spring.

If you want to check out everything that these guys get up to outside of biking then check out their Facebook page here and contact for UK purchase is Dave Garland – [email protected]

We should be getting some more time on these dampers soon on a number of different bikes so keep an eye out for that soon.

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