RideTech's shock test was one for the history books. I had the opportunity to test their new coilovers and airbag components, and learn a few things from the air-ride man himself, Bret Voelkel. Bret started the company because he was on the road a lot and kept seeing semitrucks rolling down the road with stickers that read "Air-Ride Equipped". Bret, having a do-it-yourself hot rod attitude, wanted to incorporate airbags in his hot rod. Some trial and error was in order; luckily, Bret had plenty of friends who were willing to pay him to build an airbag kit for their ride.
Skip forward to 2011 and RideTech is stronger than ever. Britt Marlolf, the head of R&D, is one of a team of experts developing new products. So, to say the least, they have been working very hard to develop suspension parts for anyone who wants a great quality ride and performance handling. I was very skeptical on the handling part with the airbags, but the crew from RideTech proved it is very possible to have both.
Our test vehicle was a mild '53 Ford Stepside graciously supplied by John Hemmen, an employee of RideTech. The '53 is what I would consider the average guy's garage build. It has a Ford 9-Inch with a four-link out back and, up front, RideTech Mustang II tubular control arms. An Iron 400 Ford and a C6 transmission powered John's truck. He built it with cruising in mind, rather than autocross racing.
Now that you know what we tested, how did we test it?
Britt took his laptop and this highly sophisticated box that can read up, down, and side-to-side movements from inside the truck. With a very complex formula, the computer read and spit out an average number that Britt could then translate into what the shocks were doing. The bigger the number, the more bumps you felt: Picture a truck going down the road and you were watching it from the side hitting speed bumps. Ideally the truck remains level and still inside, while the shocks hit the rough stuff and soak it up. Britt measured the shock's ability to keep the truck level and the tire on the road so that we could compare each setting. With the box secured under the seat, Britt and I would drive a very bumpy road for 40 seconds at 35 mph. We did this several times with the Black Series, Master Series, Select Series, and the new coilovers.
Then it was off to the track where Bret kicked my butt, running consistent time laps with the '53 Ford. Keep in mind, it was my first time on the track with someone else's truck, so I was very timid at first. Bret took a few hot laps and set the bar for the fastest lap in with the F-100. The Black Series shocks have a steel body and twin-tube construction that is ideal for the daily driver or long hauler who drives long stretches of road. The Black Series shocks are not adjustable, so if you're looking for bolt-in ride performance you don't have to adjust, the Black Series shocks are it. The good news is that they are very economical in price compared to the other shocks.
Ride Meter Score: 9.399
We headed over to a nearby shop, where the RideTech crew swapped a few dozen shocks for our testing pleasure.
The Master Series was up next, and with the truck being prewired for testing, we set off to do the ride quality test again. As I headed over to the bumpy road I could feel the difference in ride quality and noticeably firmer suspension feel. The brake pitch felt less when applying the binders and in turns. The airbag settings were all set at the same air pressure as the previously tested Black Series. Once again we found the autocross track under the tires and Bret improved his time by 1.42 seconds. For my turn I asked Bret for tips but he kept saying to drive more consistently; I tried but still could not beat his time. The Master Series shocks placed First in overall ride numbers from the computer by managing the larger bumps a lot better with shock valving and the ability to adjust rebound on the shock. The Master Series is also a twin-tube design, but with RideTech's machined aluminum body. RideTech offers two types of shock to go with the Master Series. One has a single adjustment and the other shock has rebound and compression adjusters. Both the single- and dual-adjustable shocks have knobs on top of the shock towers.
Ride Meter Score: 8.87
The Select Series was one of my favorite shocks that RideTech offers. The Selects have a very good ride quality to them and were really close to being the fastest time on the autocross track. In fact, it was the fastest airbag on the track. With the Select you can choose from a dash-mounted switch what setting you want to be in: Soft or Firm. RideTech also has the option to get two selector switches and control the Soft and Firm setting from front to back. This, in my opinion, is ideal for any kind of towing or load inside the bed. The steel body has a machined aluminum bottom lip that holds a bearing that you can customize the hole size to fit your truck's shock bolt size. In fact, all of the RideTech shocks have the lower and upper Kevlar bearings to keep the shock traveling straight, thus improving suspension bind. If you're wondering why my time didn't improve much, it's because the right rear tires after Bret was done were almost down to the steel core. Plus, I kind of did a little spin that made me slow down for fear of damaging John's truck. (I could be making excuses for my slower time.)
Ride Meter Score: 9.362 Soft Setting
The final shock tested was the all-new RideTech forged aluminum-bodied coilovers. These new coilovers feature a 5/8-inch diameter shaft and 26 clicks on the rebound adjustment, while the compression valve has no adjustment. Overall ride quality is top notch, but you will need to adjust ride height from the underside of the truck unlike the air-ride setup that's as simple as pressing a button with the Ride Pro digital or analog. When adjusting the height on the coilovers the adjuster that is screwed on the outside of the body has a pinch bolt to crush it to the treads, unlike other coilovers that will damage the treads when locked down. As I said, the ride quality is great but it is also the track that makes the coilovers shine. After getting over my fear of spinning on the track I hopped back in the truck and beat my best time by .571 second. Bret also beat his and my best time as expected.
Ride Meter Score: 9.141
The tire was toasted by the time we were done testing the shocks. It does make me wonder w
Check out the entire shock combos; we didn't get the chance to test every classic truck, b
Greg Schneider's '67 C10 with the Master Series DA was also a blast to drive. Greg's truck
When it comes to track time with RideTech products Bret has been there, done that and his knowledge of little tweaks and turns has been passed on to the product. Believe me, I tried my hardest to beat his best lap times. I even tried to skip the slalom, but still couldn't beat his time. Whether you're looking for a basic adjustable airbag to help ride down the road smoothly, or the full-out race truck, and anywhere in between, check out these parts made in Jasper, Indiana.