Nitron’s shockingly good V-twin suspension story
Founded in 1998 by former SPAX automotive and WP Suspension man Guy Evans, Nitron Racing Systems is a high-end UK based suspension manufacturer with a story to tell – and they are headed for AIMExpo in September to tell it!
Nitron started out making shock absorbers for cars, but these days their motorcycle product line accounts for more than 35 percent of sales, and Evans sees the motorcycle aftermarket as where Nitron’s best prospects for further growth lays.
“I’ve been a rider for a very long time, and although I was initially hesitant about getting into the motorcycle market, our sales have grown steadily ever since we showed a limited run of our first motorcycle designs.”
That limited run has now evolved into a large range of high performance shocks – offered either in kit form or made and built to the customer’s own requirements, with applications for all sectors of the motorcycle industry. “Our whole manufacturing process is geared to modularity and customization,” Evans says.
“Our tooling and assembly system enables us to do runs of 10 as easily as runs of a few hundred. We have our own R&D and prototyping CNC machines, with production parts made by specialist aerospace and automotive sub-contractors with advanced CNC machines in other parts of the UK.”
“manufacturing is geared to modularity and customization”
Nitron specializes in gas monotubes, which “cool better than twin tube systems with a second tube inside because of the increased air contact,” says Evans, “but they are trickier to make. Gas monotubes are filled with oil and have a pressurized gas cell separated by a second finely machined piston.”
They are made from aerospace grade aluminum alloys and use stainless steel components, which reduces mass and inertia whilst improving cooling, and after CNC billet machining, they are hard and titanium anodized for protection against corrosion.
|R1 Classic Twin|
|R1 Stealth Twin|
|R3 Classic Twin|
|R3 Stealth Twin|
Because Nitron’s motorcycle shocks are all hand-built to order and made to exacting tolerances from high specification components to exacting tolerances, Evans says the result is a lightweight shock with excellent anti-fade properties that will last a long time, Teflon-lined bearings and bushes to stop metal-on-metal friction, ultra-low friction seal design, length adjustment fitted as standard, sealed adjusters and a third piston shim stack for very low speed rebound control.
“everything is built to order”
The shocks are fully rebuildable and revalveable, have easy adjustment and an infinite range of compression/rebound ratios. Though so far largely only sold in Japan, Nitron has a comprehensive range of aftermarket twin shocks, “possibly the most comprehensive range in the world,” Evans says.
“The reason we have been so successful in Japan is the ease with which our shocks can be customized. The Japanese consumer expects a wide range of choice, and due to the modular nature of the parts, which can be assembled in many different ways, we can offer that choice. Apart from the technical specifications, the spring platform might be available in titanium, silver and black, the spring in black, titanium or turquoise and the body in a choice of colors. We can also do limited edition shocks, which we think will be something that will appeal to the Harley aftermarket and to V-twin custom bike builders, and can also supply specials, for example shocks for drag bikes or ones that are shorter than standard.
“Our Harley shocks are top-of-the line in both price and specification terms, but they have done so well in Japan that we are becoming increasingly convinced that there is a market for them in the United States too, and among customizers, and we are definitely also interested in leveraging our Off-Road and Adventure Touring shock absorber experience in the Quad market there too.”
“their shocks are fully rebuildable and revalveable”
Nitron currently employs 25 people and expansion is underway at its UK headquarters to give it 10,000 square feet of R&D manufacturing and distribution space. “We can offer distributors and dealers pretty good discounts, and although everything is built to order, we supply everything that is ordered, even a single shock - unlike some other well-known manufacturers, who won’t build and ship until they get sufficient order levels.”
With the addition of their ‘TVT’ fork cartridge range earlier this year, Nitron has continued to see incredibly strong growth within the motorcycle suspension market - with overall sales having doubled in the last two years - thanks in large part to success in export markets such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand as well as at home.
The company is conscious that growth must be carefully managed, to ensure that the Nitron brand’s hard earned and enviable reputation for quality and service is not compromised. Rather than just trying to find as many partners and distributors in as many markets as possible, as quickly as possible, Nitron’s approach has been similar to its manufacturing philosophy – modular, gradually adding new market set-ups one at a time and focussing on making them work well before looking for the next opportunity.
So far, the company has really only flirted with the US market, but this is why they will be exhibiting at this year’s AIMExpo at Columbus, Ohio, in September.
“possibly the most comprehensive range in the world”
Their presence at the show isn’t so much to launch the brand into the US, “but more for us to be able to talk directly to US consumers and dealers and really start to gain a clearer picture of the US suspension market and exactly where Nitron will fit in,” says Evans.
“With further strong growth predicted in our other markets in the next 24 months, a more considered, steady approach is required in the US, so we can start building relationships that will stand the test of time.
“With the Nitron range already very strong in sports, touring and adventure bike applications, the growing number of American V-twin models we have covered is almost by default making the brand more appealing to the US market. With sales of our ‘Classic’ and ‘Stealth’ twin shock designs having seen massive growth in sales with virtually no marketing effort, it must prove that our blend of performance, styling and quality is what the market is looking for – and because of manufacturing flexibility and low overheads the people we meet in the industry are generally genuinely and pleasantly surprised by the value we offer when compared to other options on the market.”
The twin shock range currently consists of three color finish options, with the ‘Classic’ and ‘Stealth’ options proving by far the most popular. There are also two specification options with a choice between the NTR R1, which offers a one-way combined compression and rebound adjustment, and the NTR R3, which offers independent high and low speed compression and rebound adjustment.
“our Harley shocks are top-of-the line”
It is just worth mentioning at this point that the R3 option isn’t available on all V-twin applications as it requires a piggy-back external reservoir, and there isn’t always room for this. Evans says that “most owners’ requirements are also normally satisfied by the R1’s single adjustment, and it keeps things very simple for the owner who doesn’t have the expertise to correctly set up a more sophisticated shock.
“A lot of manufacturers will load their distributors and dealers with unnecessarily expensive track derived feature crammed product simply because they think that is the only way of garnering brand Kudos. We can mix it with anyone, we can and do build the most advanced shock absorbers possible for the most demanding of applications and riders, race and otherwise, but we are also more realistic about the real world riding that most people do.
“One thing that is particularly common with V-twin customers is the reactions we get. Comments like ‘Wow, what a complete transformation’ through to ‘It feels like the bike weighs 60 kilos less’ are pretty much the norm.”
“so far, the company has really only flirted with the US market”
Nitron’s twin shock range not only covers V-twin application, but extends right across a whole range of older Japanese and European models, which has grown steadily over the years and has been developed jointly between the UK and their Japanese partner’s R&D operations. Their experience with older models, Japanese and otherwise, has been just as important as their top-end mono shock and Race Pro Series in ultimately proving to be a well-engineered, great performing upgrade design package for V-twins without the company necessarily having the history with U.S. made bikes that others may have.
“Those with the experience largely limited to the existing aftermarket for U.S. made Tourers and Cruisers will not have had the direction of engineering travel to be offering features such as a full lightweight anodized aluminum body, 35mm mono-tube piston design, 14mm induction hardened, super polished piston rod, Nitrogen gas pressurization, 24 click combined compression and rebound adjustment, and Silicone chrome springs with flexible long-life coating.
“With Nitron all this is available for the V-twin aftermarket, all in a fully serviceable and re-buildable design, with a choice of 3 color/finish options, spring preload adjustment and a limited two-year guarantee. Oh, and the confidence of the back-up you can get from our fully trained factory approved service centres around the world, including in the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.”
As I said, Mr Evans has quite a story to tell, and he’ll be on booth 559 at AIMExpo in September to tell you even more!
NITRON RACING SYSTEMS