Over the last two months, I have been lucky enough to be testing an EXT Storia on the back of my Alpine Trail XR. I haven't been holding back anything about the XR, and getting the rear end to work how I like has been a struggle. There was nothing wrong with the Super Deluxe Coil, but I jumped at the opportunity when I was offered the EXT for testing.
At first look, I was confused as to whether this was a rear shock or a piece of art. From every angle the Storia's finish was impeccable. Every edge is sharp, the adjustments are easy, and every adjustment turn gives a decisive click. The machining was accurate, and I instantly knew this product would be good.
When ordering the shock, I was asked what bike was going on, my weight, riding style, and preferred spring rate. This custom tuning is available to every customer, and I think it is a massive part of why this shock feels so damn good (more on that later). As I often sit between two spring rates (600-650lb) depending on the bike, I was stoked when I found two coils in the box.
Thank god the dials are so sexy because there are a few to look at. The Storia features 14 clicks of High-Speed Compression, 14 clicks Low-Speed Compression, and 10 clicks Rebound adjustment. There is a nice lockout lever up top which completely locks the shock separately from the compression system. This means they can include a blow-off valve for when you inevitably forget to flick it back open.
While that all sounds standard, there are some pretty fancy party tricks that separate the Storia from the rest. The first is the extremely low 55 psi pressure behind the IFP (most shocks run upwards of 200). Lower pressures in the oil circuit decrease the force required to get the oils flowing. I actually lowered the IFP on my Deluxe before switching the shocks. I found it made a significant difference (don't try this at home unless you understand the extra servicing required).
Coil shocks are linear in nature, and on some bikes, this may lead to harsh bottom outs and blowing through the travel. EXT has employed a hydraulic bottom-out circuit that increases the resistance in the last 15% by 50%. So if you want to run a lower spring rate for that fantastic small bump compliance and don't want to worry about harsh bottom outs.
The LOK lever does what it says on the box. It locks the suspension; that's about all I have to say there.
After fitting the shock to my bike with the 600lb spring, I went out for my first testing run. I like to start with compression settings wide open and the rebound within a ballpark for the first setting. In this configuration, the shock was soo easy to move I wouldn't be surprised if a fly landing on the saddle caused it to move.
The shock was terrific on the trail and soaked up everything I threw at it, but it was a little too "dead". It was like the rocks disappeared, and I was riding quicksand covered by duck feathers. I think this might be the first time in my riding life where the compression was too open. As I run a high spring rate, I often don't need to run much compression on fewer boutique brands but, this time was different.
To see what it is like on the other end of the spectrum, I closed the high-speed circuit and did a run, followed by a run with LSC closed and HSC open. This is my way of understanding how the shocks actually work. High-speed compression definitely changed the feedback I received from the chunder and gave me better trail feel when it was choppy. Low-Speed speed compression enhanced the feeling through corners and off lips. When it was wide open, my bike seemed to lose its pump, it was less efficient in corners, and it would bog down on jumps. A few clicks in, and I found the sweet spot.
With such a wide range of settings and clicks, often I find it easy to get lost in the settings. The EXT Storia offered concise change with every click, and getting it dialled was easy. The rebound was pretty much bang on after the first run, and I have only opened it up to track better on some rougher tracks.
Thankfully it was quick to set up and didn't need to be changed often. One downside to the shock is that it requires a 4mm Allen key and a 12mm spanner to adjust the compression. The rebound is toolless, and I would have liked to see this across all dials. I am not sure about you but carrying a 12mm in my pocket is not ideal for riding. It doesn't affect performance but, the user interaction loses points here.
EXT's Storia also has a plastic spacer on the stanchion shaft to clean the mud away from the shock. Unfortunately, mine was loose and could rattle on occasion. While we are talking about the noise, we may as well mention the shocks noise at the end of a run. As the shock heats up, you begin to hear the damper working more, and it becomes slightly distracting. No biggie.
The EXT is so damn good; my only complaints are that I need a 12mm, and its exceptional dampening circuits are loud…. It transformed the Marin into a bike I am almost happy with. I can run a lighter spring to suit my linear and flat kinematics thanks to its hydraulic bottom-out control. Traction is through the roof, and I can charge hard into features with gusto. With a hefty price tag, I was apprehensive about whether it would live up to the hype; the storia proved me wrong. I think this may be true love.
What next? Well, now I have a coil dialled; I believe it is time to get one of my favourite shocks of all time, the superdeluxe with a meg neg. Hopefully, I will have one of these in the next couple of months, and I will be able to comp
are oranges with bananas.