After we got our project Honda Rancher one of the things that began chafe our hides – literally – was the rock-solid, non-adjustable suspension. The stiff springs allowed the nimble Honda Rancher AT to handle like a sports car, but the tradeoff was a ride that would absolutely shake the fillings out of your teeth on rough trails.
Well, our dental plan sucks and we needed to do something fast so we called Progressive Suspension and explained our plight. The folks at Progressive Suspension agreed that the last thing the 4X4Review needed was another toothless editor so in the interest of dental hygiene they shipped out a 512 Series Utility ATV suspension.
So what makes the Progressive 512 Series suspension different than it’s OE red-headed cousin? Progressive rate springs and gas-charged, velocity sensitive shocks. Progressive rate springs use variable density windings to allow the spring to react differently at various levels of compression. Under light compression the tightly wound section near the end of the spring allows the suspension to be rather soft, which takes the edge off of bumps. The looser windings in the middle of the spring are firmer so they provide a tight and controlled ride when the springs are compressed further. In short, the springs are nice and soft during your average ride, but the progressive spring rates will stiffen things up a bit with heavy loads, or during the landing that follows your Super Man impersonation.
The other big difference is the fact that the Progressive 512 Series suspension provides a spring preload adjustment. Why Honda left this off is beyond me, as nearly every other competitive ATV offers a preload adjustment and it couldn’t cost more than a few dollars per shock to add – so what gives Honda?. The preload adjustable springs are wrapped around gas charged shocks that use velocity-sensitive dampening to help provide a smooth ride and reduce shock fade – a situation that you do NOT want to happen during high-seed runs. (Click here to learn more about how shocks work)
Yet another benefit to the Progressive Suspension is that it provides an additional inch or so of much needed suspension travel. Finally, each Progressive 512 shock/spring combo comes with a durable and removable “Shock Sock” which helps protect moving parts like the piston and seals from dust and grime.
The installation of this suspension system is so easy, it’s not even worth a detailed outline. To do so however, start by safely jacking up the ATV, then do away with each of the OE shocks and springs by removing the bolt at each end. Replace them with the Progressive shock and spring combination and reinstall the bolts. Having someone to lift the rear end is helpful, but otherwise this is a one person job that should take less than 45 minutes from start to cleanup.
Once we had the Progressive 512 Series suspension installed – a few laps around our test track quickly revealed an astonishing improvement in ride quality and control. It was like graduating from a go-cart to a rally car. The Rancher’s ultra-firm OE stock suspension provided go-cart handling, but the penalty was that the jolt from every bump, rock and dip was transmitted directly to the seat and handlebars. The Progressive 512 series suspension, on the other hand, gobbles up trail imperfections like Pac Man goes after pixels, without sacrificing ride control. The result is a much softer ride with no loss of stability or predictability. The ride is also much less fatiguing and the improvement in control and predictability translates to an improvement in safety and fun.
So what’s not to like? Zip, nada, nothing. The suspension was easy to install, the price was fair (about $350 for a full set of front and rear shocks), and the improvement in ride and handling was simply phenomenal. Whether you use your ATV for work or play, I can’t think of a single upgrade that is easier to install and provides as much of an improvement in performance for the money as the Progressive 512 Series Utility ATV Suspension.
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