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Tested: WP Suspension

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WP Suspension has come a long way since its inception in 1977 by Wim Peters. Their resume boasts some impressive names, from wining a world title with Michael Schumacher in F1 (1994  Benetton) to multiple world titles in motocross with Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Ryan Dungey, Jason Anderson and Jorge Prado to name a few. WP can now claim over 300 world titles to their name – that’s an average of seven per year!

More recently, MX Vice test riders Ashley Wilde and Jack Griffiths were invited out to FatCat Moto Parc to test the recently launched XACT Pro fork and XACT Pro SUPERTRAX shock.  Here is a diary of their day and an insight into what it is like to be a factory rider, who gets their optimal settings dialled in.

The WP XACT PRO test day held at FatCat Moto Parc.
The XACT PRO Technology

Today we tested the new WP XACT Pro front forks and the XACT Pro SUPERTRAX shock… First impressions looking at the suspension is it looks super cool! The fine detailing of both the forks and shock is very impressive. WP confirmed some changes to their XACT Pro forks this year, the black DLC coating to the forks have been superseded by a more natural chrome colour outer tube. This hard chrome has outperformed the previous generation DLC coating and gives better overall performance. It also improves durability over the life of the forks and that can only be a good thing!

The Black DLC coating has been superseded by the new chrome coating, as used by the likes of Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings.

Other changes to the eye are the compression adjuster and base valve on the top of the forks, which makes small adjustments on the fly that much easier as well as making servicing simpler with the proprietary tools that WP have at their authorised service centres.

The top of the forks are now anodised red and allow quick adjustment to the compression.

The XACT Pro forks all come with a red-stroke indicator. The fork still has Cone Valve Technology and Close Cartridge Technology. Another big change to the XACT Pro fork is that they are now 5mm longer than the previous forks.

The XACT Pro shock has a completely redesigned top piece. The redesign allows a lot more room for the exhaust pipe on the motorcycle. The XACT Pro shock also comes with the addition of a bladder system, helping with more feeling and comfort at the top of the stroke. The shock also now comes with the WP external pre-load adjuster allowing you to quickly check and adjust your sag on the fly.

The XACT PRO SUPERTRAX now comes with two adjusters at the bottom of the shock.

At the bottom of the shock is where we begin to see the biggest advancements on the shocks, however, with two adjusters (pictured above right). The first is the conventional rebound adjuster whilst the second is the traction adjuster, which adjusts the SUPERTRAX mechanism so when you open or close this adjuster you are fine tuning the driving traction.

The Test

So, to the test!  The guys at WP had three bikes all fully loaded with the XACT PRO front forks and SUPERTRAX rear shock. They had a KTM 250 SX, KTM 450 SX-F and Husqvarna FC 250 and each bike was set up for our weight whilst the fork and shock settings were set to the factory default for the first (morning) session.

Getting the sag dialled in.

After spending the morning looking closely at the suspension and hearing details of the upgrades and improvements, it was time to kit up and take the bikes for a spin around FatCat Moto Parc.

Straight away, from riding all three bikes, it was clear you could really feel the difference in the new upgraded XACT Pro suspension, specifically just how plush the front forks are at the top of the stroke. In my experience, the cone valves have historically felt quite harsh and you really had to ride them hard for them to work but the new system had a nice feeling. It offered a level of flexibility that could work from amateur to pro level, as the plushness at the top is backed up with the firmness and support it offers at the bottom of the stroke.

Following the initial morning session, we were then offered the opportunity to fine tune the SUPERTRAX shock.

KTM 450 SX-F
WP ensured that media and riders had all of the tools necessary to make an informed decision.

The bike was set up for my weight from the factory settings and also for the big 450 weight and power. Again, the plushness of the forks was something I really liked and it really helped the bike sit into some of the harder turns. With the forks being 5mm longer this year we started with the forks through the clamps one line. After a few laps I decided I wanted to change and go flush to help add more balance over the long fast bumps whilst also maintaining that planted feeling in the short sharp bumps.

Ashley Wilde is a former pro who now spends his time training the next generation.

Overall the suspension was nice all round. For me, if anything, the front was a little bit too soft. We did go harder and the smallest change makes a huge difference on the XACT Pro front fork and rear shock. When riding a 450 suspension is key, with all that power you need the bike to handle and work with you and not ride you. My opinion is the XACT will be very good for high level to pro level riders as the new technology offers so much more advanced setting changes, with time you will get the perfect set-up for the rider and also track conditions.

I also think it will really suit club level riders, as I talked about earlier with the plushness at the top of the forks it really felt settled and removed any harshness. The way the suspension works it also offers the support all the way through the stroke with it being firmer at the bottom of the stroke.

Plenty of laps were logged by Jack Griffiths [left] and Ashley Wilde [right] on the day.
KTM 250 SX

This is one fun bike to ride! It’s even more fun when you put some good suspension on her. After a few laps riding and gaining confidence on the bike I began to push harder and it was here that I felt like the suspension set-up was a little too soft all round, so we worked with the guys from WP to try some different settings.

MX Vice test rider Ashley Wilde gathers information.

Firstly, we added more compression to the forks, changed the settings on high speed and low speed. All the changes were positive, and right away if felt like we were moving in the right direction! What was also nice was that the smallest change on the XACT suspension made a noticeable difference to the feeling of the bike. This really highlighted its versatility and the level of customisation available no matter the level of rider.

Once the compression settings were optimised for my style of riding we looked at some next-level changes to really dial the forks in. The guys from WP changed the actual cone inside the fork to give me a stiffer/firmer feeling. Up close you can really appreciate the technology in these forks and WP have introduced a screwed red seal holder ring with an updated fork guard clip, which has an ‘S’ clip design that prevents premature wear and makes servicing the forks much quicker and easier.

The WP mechanics changing the cone spring and adapters on the front forks to provide a firmer ride.

Overall, the set-up as a little on the soft side for me but the feeling of how the suspension works is great. Both the forks and the shock aren’t too harsh but they have the firmness not to blow through.

Husqvarna FC 250

The Husqvarna FC 250 was the last bike I got to test and for me was the best handling bike. The minute I got on the bike the balance felt perfect!  The guys at WP have the factory setting for this bike spot on. I haven’t rode a 250 in a long time, but with the XACT suspension I felt straight away I could ride the bike really hard and hit bumps knowing I have the support underneath me to smooth it out. The extended 5mm forks really help over the long whoops, wave sections and the fast choppy turns without compromising traction on the tight, hard turns.

MX Vice test rider Ashley Wilde checks in.

The new top out spring as well as the bladder kit on XACT Pro shock really help with the nice plush feeling you get on the top of the stroke on the rear shock. This plushness on both the forks and the rear shock has taken away the harshness and feels like the suspension is working with you.

I felt so comfortable on the FC 250, so we agreed with the guys from WP to try the SUPERTRAX component so that I could really get stuck into it!

The SUPERTRAX Technology

This new feature to the rear shock is a great new addition to the XACT Pro Shock. The factory settings we tried on the other bikes are in the middle of the SUPERTRAX mechanism, so this was an opportunity for us to really test it out the extremes!

While testing with the WP technicians we tried winding the system all the way in and all the way out, so we could really put the SUPERTRAX to the test and see how both settings felt. It was huge! It almost felt like having two different shocks inserted into the bike! The feeling you have from the rear shock with just a few clicks is crazy. Turning the SUPERTRAX adjuster all the way in (therefore adding preload on the SUPERTRAX spring) improved traction but also made the rear end much more lively over the sharp braking bumps.

It felt as though the shock couldn’t react quickly enough to the bumps causing it to move side to side. I also felt like the rear wanted to snake behind me when under acceleration and found it difficult to get on the power hard. I know some riders may like the feeling of knowing how far they can push with the feeling but this was something I wasn’t too keen on.

I had a much better feeling with the SUPERTRAX set in the middle setting on the other bikes so was really keen to understand what difference it would make turning the SUPERTRAX adjuster all the way out and it didn’t disappoint! It really gave the bike a more level ‘dead’ feeling.  The feeling with it wound out definitely suited us both a lot more.

DRT Kawasaki rider and current red plate holder in the WMX series Courtney Duncan was testing her WP suspension during the morning session.

The bike felt like it had a lot more support under us and the shock could react to the short sharp braking bumps under hard braking and stay in line. With this feeling it was a lot easier for us to flow into the turns and carry speed. With the system set to our liking the increased preload on the SUPERTRAX spring provided more traction and we were able to power hard without the bike wanting to snake.

With this information we knew the optimum setting was likely to be somewhere between the middle setting to all the way open. From this point we began to make smaller changes to really get it dialled in. The results from there were incredible and the level of technology in the SUPERTRAX system is amazing. You can really fine tune the shock to how you want it and also to suit the terrain you are riding.

Overall we were very impressed with XACT Pro forks and shock and didn’t want the day to end! Given more time with the WP technicians we have no doubt we could have really fine tuned things to get that perfect feeling to suit our similar riding styles!

The XACT Pro Fork and SUPERTRAX Shock are available now from all WP authorised dealers:

– Xact Pro Supertrax Shock SRP £1,793.71.

– Xact Pro Fork SRP £2,756.66.

Words: Ashley Wilde | Lead Image: ConwayMX