EXT's suspension roots run deep, and over the years they've amassed an impressive resume of mountain bike and motorsports achievements. From rally car racing to World Cup downhill, the Italian company has been involved at the top levels of multiple sports – Technical Director Franco Fratton even spent time as a technician on the Lotus F1 team in the early '90s.
The Storia Lok V3 Lok shock is available in a wide range of sizes, from 190 x 51mm up to 250 x 75mm in standard and trunnion mounts. The Storia is intended for enduro bikes, while EXT's Arma shock is the more downhill oriented model.
EXT Storia Lok V3 Details
• Adjustable low- and high-speed compression, rebound
• Hydraulic bottom-out control
• Lock out lever
• Metric, imperial, standard and trunnion mount options
• Weight: 700 grams (210 x 52.5mm, 500lb spring)
• MSRP: 799 Euro
Every shock is custom built in Italy according to the bike it'll be going on and the rider's preferences, and a dyno test is performed before each shock leaves the factory. Delivery time is between 2-4 weeks, and the retail price is 799 Euro. Details
The Storia uses a mono-tube design, where the main piston travels through a column of oil, and a nitrogen-charged internal floating piston moves to handle the displaced oil. That IFP is pressurized to a relatively low 55psi, which EXT says helps improve the shock's sensitivity.
It's the inclusion of a hydraulic bump stop that sets the Storia apart from other mountain bike shocks on the market. Coil shocks are linear in nature, which means that they work best with bikes that have more progressive leverage curves. It is possible to run a coil on a more linear bike, but over-springing may be necessary to avoid bottoming out too often, which reduces some of that small bump sensitivity and plushness that coils are known for. EXT's solution addresses that by delivering a 50% increase in the force required to compress the shock during the last 15% of the travel.
How does it work? As the shock nears the end of its travel, a secondary piston passes through a smaller tube. This increases the hydraulic pressure, and helps keep the shock from bottoming out. On EXT's Arma DH shock, the amount of bottom out resistance is adjustable, but on the Storia Lok it's pre-set from the factory.
That hydraulic bump stop allows EXT to use a smaller bottom out bumper than what you'd typically find on a coil shock – in this case it's a 5mm piece of foam, protected by two plastic washers.
The Storia has externally adjustable rebound, and low- and high-speed compression damping. There are 14 clicks of LSC, 14 clicks of HSC, and 10 possible rebound settings. The low-speed adjustments require a 4mm Allen key, and you'll need a 12mm wrench or socket for the high-speed adjuster. Keep that in mind if you're planning on doing any trailside tinkering - most multi-tools don't have a 12mm wrench on them.
There's also a small lever that's used to firm up the shock for climbing (hence the 'Lok' in the model name). The Lok lever controls a completely different valve and circuit than the one that's used to adjust the shock's compression damping in the open mode, and it has a blow off valve in case you forget to open it up before heading downhill. Two springs are included with each shock, with a 25 lb difference between them. My 210 x 52.5mm test shock with a 500 lb spring weighed in at 700 grams.Ride Impressions
EXT actually sent me two shocks, each with a different compression tune, in order to demonstrate the range of possible options. I started off with the softer tune, and was immediately impressed by the level of sensitivity it provided. The glued-to-the-ground sensation that coil shocks are known for was there, but the overall feeling was different than what I was used to, in a good way. Instead of making the trail feel as if it had been covered by an extra-thick shag carpet, the Storia made it feel more like there was a layer of memory foam over everything. The impacts were muted, but there was still a liveliness to the way the shock responded that made it very easy to tell what the rear wheel was doing. The overall feel of the shock was more supportive than super cushy and soft, although I'm sure EXT could tune a shock to feel like that if you really wanted.
That liveliness was still present with the firmer compression tune, but the overall comfort level was diminished. I could see how that firmer tune could be appropriate for a racer looking for a lot of support, but for my riding style and the slippery, rooty trails that I prefer, it was simply too much.
Once I'd settled on the base compression tune, I started experimenting with the various compression settings. Each click makes a difference, and there's enough range to really change the feel of the shock. For the most part, my happy place was right in the middle of the settings, unless it was super wet and slimy out – then I'd back things off to maximize the amount of traction.
The Storia was installed on a Stumpjumper EVO carbon, a bike that has a fairly linear suspension curve. With the stock Fox DHX2 I'd been running a 550 or 600 pound spring for my 160 pound weight in order to keep from bottoming out too easily. Thanks to the Storia's hydraulic bottom out feature, I could run a 500 or even a 475 pound spring without any issues. The ramp up is fairly subtle, with no sudden harshness when landing off a big drop, and it was a welcome improvement over the DHX2's tendency to bottom out on flatter landings.
As for the Lok feature, that worked exactly as intended. Flip the little lever into the closed position and the shock will firm up nicely, with just enough give to keep it from feeling too
rough. I mainly used the Lok lever when I was spinning on pavement or grinding up a long gravel road. On more technical sections I'd flip it to the open position for maximum traction.Issues
EXT use two plastic washers to protect the Storia's thin bottom out bumper, which makes sense. Unfortunately, those washers have a tendency to rattle around, especially on rougher sections of trail. I ended up carefully putting a dab of SuperGlue on each washer to permanently affix them to the bumper. That did the trick, and the sound of rattling plastic disappeared, although I'd like to see the shock come this way from the factory – messing around with SuperGlue near such a fancy shock seems a little silly.
On the topic of noise, the Storia can be a little noisy at times. It wasn't overly distracting, and it's nothing to worry about, but I did notice the 'click-squish, click-squish' sound on quieter sections of trail.
There was also a noticeable top-out 'clunk' on the first version that EXT sent, but the second revision had a softer top out bumper which got rid of that issue.How Does It Compare?
Does an $885 shock really perform that
much better than bare-bones, $330 option? I wondered the same thing, so I headed up to the Whistler Bike Park to do some back-to-back testing of the Storia Lok and a Marzocchi Bomber CR (which is basically a slightly modified Fox Vanilla RC).
If you're afraid of dials, getting the Bomber set up is extremely simple. Make sure you're running the correct amount of sag, set the rebound to your liking, and then turn the low speed compression dial for the final bit of tuning – it's as easy as that. The Storia Lok takes a little more time to set up thanks to the addition of adjustable high-speed compression, and the fact that you'll need a 4mm Allen and a 12mm wrench to make adjustments. But, that's also going to be part of the appeal for some riders. The Storia also gets a point for having a climb lever, which is a nice feature to have on rides with extended fire road climbs.
Weight's probably not too much of a concern if you're considering installing a coil shock on your bike, but it's a factor to consider. The Storia handily takes the win there when compared to the Marzocchi with a standard steel spring – you're looking at 700 grams vs. 924 grams. However, that difference can be flipped around by installing an SLS spring on the Bomber, which results in a final weight of only 614 grams. Of course, the SLS spring costs $130, which will bump the Bomber's price up to $430.
The biggest difference that I noticed was the extra traction that the Storia provided compared to the Marzocchi. It felt more stuck to the ground when faced with repeated impacts, and there was a higher level of grip when pushing into loose turns. The Storia's compression tune likely plays a large roll in that sensation – remember, it was set up exactly for my weight and bike. It is possible to alter the shim stacks in the Bomber, but that'll typically require the services of a knowledgeable suspension technician.
For most riders, the Marzocchi is going to leave little to be desired – it's a set-and-forget option, with easily adjustable, consistent performance. But for those who want a fully bespoke setup, the exotic Italian damper does offer noticeable performance benefits, as well as looks that stand out from the crowd.
Custom tuned for rider / bike+
Very usable range of adjustments+
Hydraulic bottom out allows more linear bikes to run a coil shock
12mm wrench required to adjust HSC-
Noisy bottom out bumper washers