Scotts Steering Damper Review

I have always been sceptical about steering dampers. However when the opportunity came up to test the Scotts unit I was willing to give it a go and finally, find out for myself what all the talk was about.

The little gold box comes well packaged with all the components in foam and comprehensive installation and servicing instructions. Mine even came with a police escort, but that's a whole other story!

Looks like some lost componentry for the Mars Explorer doesn't it?

The instructions were easy to read, even for people who don't like reading them. After about an hour, the damper was installed on my KTM525. You just have to remove the bars and the top triple clamp. While you have the triple clamp off don't forget to grease those steering head bearings! Slip the damper spigot on the frame around the steering head and tighten the locknut. Then slip the triple-clamp back on. The Scotts Damper mounts with it's own bracket replacing the original top bar clamps.
It is easier if you have someone to help on the install, as the front wheel might want to roll away when you take the top clamp off. I had a few helpers, but most were offering advice only. One tip is to cable-tie the front brake lever on so the wheel can't roll away and the peanut gallery can keep watching.

The first test was some rutty and rocky terrain. It really reduced the small ruts and corrugations letting me track better across the terrain in the direction I desired. I then adjusted the Base Valve Knob, to a firmer setting as I got used to the feel of the damping. No longer is there a fear of ruts and rocks as the front wheel tracks positively where ever I point the bars.

My next test was down at the local Motocross track. Picking my own lines across ruts and eroded berms was easy. This gives you a better run out of corners so be prepared to start bashing bars with the front-runners. I even went back to have a good look at a few corners to see what I was getting through. Jumping was even improved, both on the up ramps and the landings. You did not have to fear any rocks or lips on the top of the jumps and you will track straight on landing. I even tried landing a little crossed up (for testing purposes only) and rode out of it fine.

On a small gnarly test track I was clearly travelling faster than ever before. The reduced deflection of angled roots and rocks is confidence inspiring. Especially when you take sudden hard hits and you find the bars are not ripped from your hands. The other benefit for a trail rider is reduced fatigue. You are not fighting the bars to hold lines, but look ahead to the next obstacle, or just enjoy the scenery if you are game!

There are two other things rarely mentioned about steering dampers.

The first is impact energy. When you take a big hit from a tree root on an angle, normally the bars flick and the bike and you will be pushed off your line, but hopefully not off the track. With a steering damper fitted, hitting the same root, the impact energy does not push you off your line. It is not magically absorbed by the little gold box on the bars either. The damper only holds the bike straight. This energy is forced through the front of the bike and it's suspension. If the bike is too lightly sprung for you, you may bottom out on these hits. If the bike is set-up correctly, it will be like riding over a small hump.

The second thing is that a damper does not just control the bars direction, but it also controls the back of the bike too. Imagine that you are going up a slippery rutted hill without a damper and you want to cross a rut. Lofting the front over it, the back often drops in the rut and you either ride crossed up, drop your front wheel back in it to ride straight or simply crash. With the damper fitted you will find that the rear wants to track out of the rut easier. Think of a bike's steering as a hinge between the front and the back of the bike. When this hinge is fitted with a damper you restrict its movement. Hold one end of the hinge (the bars) straight, the other end of the hinge (the back of the bike) will follow. Obviously a huge rut will bring you undone, but from slippery tracks to rocky hills and sandy trails the rear end moves a lot more positively in the direction you point the bars.

All that glitters sometimes is gold!

The quality of the
Scotts Steering
Damper is

There are two main knobs on the Scotts Damper for high and low speed damping. It also has adjusters to regulate the swept area where the damping acts. Unlike other dampers the Scotts does not dampen on return, ensuring you can always get the bike pointing straight quickly. The only two faults I could find with the Scotts Damper are the lack of a protective pad and no provision for a spigot extension if you want to raise your bars.

The main thing I have learnt is that I am not riding without one - EVER. A damper is an essential riding component and the Scotts is the Rolls Royce version. From its packaging to its instructions and finish it oozes quality. Now I am off to find some gnarly stuff.

Story: Diego Esqueria aka Flying Fossil

Edited by dbw's Editorial Team

Scotts Steering Dampers are distributed by Shock Treatment. RRP $699.00 Contact Jan and Terry on 02 4773 9115.