Finding after market products for a Yamaha Grizzly 450 is a tough task. Other then wheels, tires and a few protection and performance modifications manufacturers seem to be focusing only on the big bore category. I have been part of many discussions as to what the 3 best modifications you could do for an ATV are, and my reply has always been, skids, winch and tires. To my surprise many others responded that a good set of aftermarket shocks were the #1 modification.
I have never thought much about replacing my stock shocks but began to wonder how they would improve my 450’s comfort and handling. So I began my quest to not only find a set of aftermarket shocks but a manufacturer who had great customer service and stood behind it’s product 100%. My search was narrowed down by the fact that only a few companies were producing shocks for the little 450 and after many phone calls and hours of research Elka Suspension is who I chose.
My expectations were pretty simple. Improve comfort and handling for my riding style and terrain,. and lose zero ground clearance from my stock setup. John and Yann at Elka assured me they would be able to meet my demands and after taking a few measurements of my stock shocks and providing all my specs ( my weight, riding style, terrain type, cargo weight etc.) I placed the order on the 22nd of February and they arrived on March 5th.
When the shocks arrived like a child on Christmas morning I ripped open the boxes to find my new Stage 2 shocks with preload and rebound. The shocks were packaged very well to guard against damage in transit and upon inspection I could not find even the slightest scratch. The front shocks were set with the preload all the way up and the rears just under ¾. The tags from the dyno test had them marked at +2 for the rebound setting.
I began installation of the shocks which is a pretty simple task. I will point out for any 450 owners that it will be easier to remove the front plastics to access the front upper shock mounts. I had another set of hands so I decided to leave the plastics on and only remove the front wheels. After removing the stock shocks I placed them next to the Elka’s and could easily see the difference in size, weight, and quality. Reseating the bolt through the upper mounts on the front shocks was the toughest part of the install and with a 2nd person wiggling the shock while I set the bolt it was done pretty easily. I suggest looking at your owners or service manual for torque specs as the 450’s have had 3 different shock styles in the last 7 years. Total install time was about 1 hour.
I measured my quad at stock with all my usual gear and also unloaded and loaded. At stock unloaded my fronts measured 9 inches and the rears were 9.5 inches. The Elka’s measured 9.5 inches for the fronts and 10 inches for the rears. Once loaded my stock measurements were 8.5 inches front and rear, and the Elka’s measured 9 inches front and rear. I actually gained .5 inch in ground clearance from the Elka’s setup to my specifications. Also due to the ride quality I am now able to run more psi in my 26’ Maxxis Zilla’s so I set them to 5 psi instead of the 3.5 psi I had to run them at in order to not feel like my teeth were going to shatter on the rockier trails I ride. By adding the additional air it increased my ground clearance to just shy of 10 inches front and rear.
So now that I had my new shocks installed it was off to the trails to put Elka’s claims to the test. The first thing I noticed was that the rough feel from the Zilla’s under 5mph was much smoother, definitely a plus. The steering in 2 wheel drive is also much lighter then with the stockers on but 4 wheel drive felt about the same. After having 2 days of riding some pretty sloppy trails I was able to really get a feel for the shocks and the setup they provided to my specs. The Elka’s feel great even with the preloads set higher, a little stiffer which is how my stock setup was but still a lot softer and more comfortable then the stock shocks. After hitting a few whoops for the first time I realized what I had been missing, I have never felt my stock shocks extend and compress. The Elka’s felt like I was floating over the whoops as opposed to crashing into them. I then tried a rockier trail to test the rebound settings and could feel the Elka’s once again doing something the stocks never did, actually work. From large diameter single rocks to multiple rocks close together the 450 took them in stride and never once bucked or tried to kick out sideways on me. I was able to do some faster corners and they handled them great also. Not once did the 450 nose dive or feel like it was out of control. I will post a few videos to this review when the trails clear up to show what the shocks do at high speed cornering and jumps. The trails right now are too slippery around turns to attempt it, better safe than sorry. The setup Elka provided me with is everything I had asked for, everything they promised to deliver, and I still have plenty of adjustability come the time the trails permit me to drop the preloads to take full advantage of the plush factor. Set as they are now the Elka’s are still 50 times better then the stockers ever were.
My closing comments
I never thought I would purchase an aftermarket set of shocks, but now that I have I am amazed at the difference in the handling and comfort they provided my 450. The Elka’s are top notch and not too shabby to look at either. Should everyone run out and buy a set, NO. If you’re an occasional rider or just use your ATV for working around the property they might not benefit you. For the ATV guys who ride often and want as so many have told me before, the best modification you can do. Yes, it is well worth the cost to feel the difference. I would like to Thank John and Yann at Elka Suspension for all the help and information they have provided me and our members. I know if I ever need assistance their great customer support is just a phone call away.
To obtain information on any of Elka’s shocks vist the website at ca.elkasuspension.com or call them toll free from the US or Canada at 1-800-557-0552.