The EXT Storia LOK V3 is a high end, Italian coil shock. I first spoke with EXT at Eurobike in 2017, but at the time they didn’t have a UK distributor. Enter Chris Porter, with Mojo Rising.
Before talking about the hardware or the setup, I’m going to talk very briefly about the first ride: It’s not often you get offered a shock complete with tuning from Chris Porter, and EXT ones are specifically tuned for the frames they’re going into.
So, with this all jazzed up for the Nukeproof Mega 275c it was going in, I also assumed that the settings would be some kind of Chris Porter magic too, so whacked that bad boy straight into the bike and took off. Halfway down the first descent it was kicking like a resonant mule, and I ruefully grasped that the compression dials were probably wherever people back at the office had left them, after plenty of fiddling and going “ooo” at the shiny. Setup time then…
I should tell you a bit more about the shock. Back in the 90’s EXT were making shocks for rally cars, and still do, where many of their technologies were developed before being adapted for mountain bikes. Their Arma shock is designed for downhill, but the Storia you see here is more for enduro bikes.
There are various different spring weights, this one came with a 400lb and 375lb spring, of which I rode the lighter one. All that thread may make it look like that preload ring has loads of travel, but EXT specify there should never be more than two full turns of preload.
As well as preload and spring weight, the other adjustments on this are a rebound damping dial near the base, high and low speed compression near the piggyback cylinder, plus a lockout switch.
The Storia isn’t something you just buy off the shelf, and it’s certainly not designed for massive OEM deals. When you buy one of these, it involves having a conversation about you, your riding, and your bike. The shock is going to be tuned to make sure it suits the linkage characteristics of your frame, and your riding style too.
There was a point in this review where I was maybe going to transfer it onto another bike (alas, that bike didn’t materialise). Not only would that bike have required a different length shock, it would have been a trunnion mount instead of standard eyelets too. Chris didn’t seem to think any of that would be a problem – simply send the shock back, and he could sort the required alterations and replacement parts.
Because of that, this shock can fairly easily follow you from bike to bike, though it might not be cheap depending on how much you need to alter. If it goes in one with the same shock length, that might just be revalving it. Beyond that, changing the length and travel are possible too.
The only downside I could find with this shock was that the hardware is a tiny bit fiddly. It appears to be stacks of nylon washers on either end of the bushings, and can fall off easily while you’re removing or installing it. Probably to do with small manufacturing. I guess it’s easier to buy something like this off the shelf than have custom spacers turned? As downsides go, this is a tiny one though, and nothing to worry about once it’s bolted in.
I have a particular order of operations for setting up a shock: sag, rebound damping, then if it has them, gradually zeroing in on high and low speed compression settings.
Sag, pretty much everyone knows how to do. I needed a friend to help check this with the Storia, as the foam bottom out ring is a little fiddly to work with by yourself. 375lb was the right spring, getting me near 30%.
My typical setup for rebound damping is to find a high curb and roll off it, looking for a slight return bounce up past the sag point, with no further oscillations. Too much rebound and you’ll get several bounces from that one impact, too little and it’ll return to the sag point too slowly. Where it’s just right, that’s your critical damping point. The EXT manual has a slightly different method that’s easier: looking for the same bounce, but on flat ground by assuming an attack position and giving the bike a good shove down with your legs. That’s what I did, and I think it’s now my preferred method because, not only did it work, it can also be done just about anywhere.
I don’t want to sound too gushy about the Storia, but if feeling what a shock is doing during setup is kind of like staring at a lake bottom through gentle ripples, this felt like the surface had settled to something like glass. As soon as you get on the bike you notice it’s an extraordinarily sensitive shock, and in turn this makes you feel more sensitive to what it’s doing.
The manual also mentions using the correct kind of tyres at the correct pressures, which is overlooked by some riders. Personally, I find lower pressures (around 17PSI with my weight and riding style) seem to speed me up and tune out a lot of high frequency chatter. It’s nice to a see a company go into enough detail on setup to mention this too.
I took the bike out for a quick favourite loop to get the compression dialled in. This is done by two nested adjusters. The low speed is the centre one, turned with an allen key, and has 12 clicks. Around that is the high speed adjuster, turned by a 12mm spanner and with 14 clicks. After backing both off fully and doing several runs down the descent it had previously kicked on, I could very quickly find the optimal range for high speed compression.
Calderdale not being particularly known for berms and jumps, low speed setup can take me a little longer, but that sensitivity in the EXT meant I could feel I’d turned it up too high when slowly rolling over some gentle humps on the moors. Immediately and very obviously, the bike stood up and amplified them instead of absorbing them, and a couple of rerolls over that section had it set up.
I didn’t really touch these for the rest of the time I had it – all the riding was in Calderdale, and it was mostly steep and natural. If I took it to a bike park or big mountains I’d likely fiddle more, but that goes for any suspension.
In short, this shock felt beautiful, I miss it, and I’m slightly gutted that my own bike is completely unsuited to coils.
The Storia turned one particular steep tussocky descent into a remarkably pleasing hum, like knobbly tyres on midsummer tarmac. Everything else I rode wasn’t so far off that. It doesn’t look super active at low speeds when you stare at it, but even on pebbled driveways and little bits of knobbly fire road, if you’re testing back-to-back it’s obvious how much smoother it’s making everything.
EXT’s Hydraulic Bottom out Control, or HBC, works well. It damps the last 15% of the travel with some very progressive hydraulic resistance. I never felt the shock hit bottom, but judging by the foam bottom out bumper, it often did. Not once did it hit anything harsh in the stroke, and must have been decelerating fast enough that the bottom out was never noticeable.
The shock does have a lockout switch, and with the setup it had that wasn’t super rigid. That meant it gave plenty of traction for technical climbing, while not being too bobby for smooth climbs.
So here’s the thing: With the very rare exceptions of a few genuinely terrible products, most mountain bike bits nowadays work, and do that well enough to not feel deficient. This EXT Storia though? Once it set up, it’s better than that. Much better. If you’ve ever been snowboarding and suddenly passed into the blissful whipped-cream feeling of fresh powder, that’s what riding this shock feels like. Everywhere, not just within some specific use case or product niche.
Doing back-to-back laps of two local descents with three different shocks to compare, I found I was not only fastest on the Storia, but consciously more confident too: off the brakes more, more trusting of the bike to plough through things, and leaning much harder into turns.
If my bike could work with one of these, I’d be saving up for it right now.
EXT, I kiss you a thousand times, just as my rear tyre now gently kisses the ground. I’m yet to ride anything else so smooth and responsive. This is bespoke kit that will be tailored to you and your bike. You’ll probably want it to follow you onto the next bike too, and thanks to its high end tuneability, it can.
|Brand:||EXT Racing Shox|
|Product:||EXT Storia LOK V3|
|From:||www.extremeshox.com/ / www.mojo.co.uk|
|Tested:||by David Hayward for 1 Month|