I got the urge to upgrade my P520’s suspension at the peak of the Covid19 pandemic chaos. Predictably, nobody had parts in stock and the wait times were long and utterly preposterous. On the bright side, however, this disastrous scenario gave me plenty of time to research and analyze the available options before making a decision.
As many of us have come to realize the budget friendly Honda Pioneer 500/520 is equipped from the factory with cheap, throw away shocks that deliver unforgiving, teeth rattling, back-breaking, butt-numbing, bucking, bouncing and choppy ride quality on anything but completely smooth and flat terrain. The stock P500/P520 shocks are awful and the ride quality, is atrocious!
Planning to swap out the dreadful factory shocks is my second attempt to improve the appalling ride quality on my P520. I first installed oversized wheels and tires to help mitigate the rough ride. However, the larger wheels and tires (ITP Ultracross R 27x9-14 tires and 14” Raceline A95 Trophy (4x110, 5+2) wheels) only marginally improved the ride quality. The misses, didn’t appreciate the minor improvement and demanded more. So naturally more work and attention was needed to mollify her and to overcome the unforgiving riding experience. Which brings me to this point. Here I am.
I narrowed my shock choices between two popular brands, Elka Suspension and Walker Evans Racing. Aside from what I have read online, on the forums and videos I’ve watched on YouTube, I had no prior knowledge of either company, or their products.
The Elka shocks come in a variety of performance stages, with each stage, promising distinctive ride characteristics and various forms of adjustability. The Elka shocks look fantastic and the quality of their products are obvious. The attractive price of the Elka stage 1 shocks, at roughly $1,000 per set, grabbed my attention initially, but the eye catching appearance of the Elka stage 3 coilovers with the integrated piggyback remote reservoirs and adjustable dampening, demanded more thought and additional consideration.
The Elka shocks start getting pricey as you move beyond stage 1. So, the question becomes; Would I need the additional adjustability and increased performance of the stage 3 shocks? Or, would stage 1 be enough?
Honestly, I’m sure the Elka stage 1 would provide an adequate improvement in the handling and ride quality for my uses but, sometimes, you have to splurge. Or, better yet, if you don’t have any direct experience with a particular brand and you settle for a product simply based on price, sometimes you can develop buyers remorse. Nobody wants that! So, I’m thinking stage 3 is the way to go.
The Elka stage 3 shocks are gorgeous! They are absolutely the best looking coilover available for the P500/P520.
They are pure P500/520 shock nirvana!
I mean…Look at them!!!
They’re absolutely stunning!!!
The Elka stage 3 shocks are sold in pairs. And, man, they’re not cheap. Basically, you’re looking at $2,000 for a set of front and rear shocks. Whew, that’s a lot greenbacks! In any case, the appearance, performance and quality certainly appear to match the price!
I was prepared to order a set of front and rear Elka3 shocks but, when it came time to pull the trigger, I couldn’t find any US distributors (I believe that has changed), so I needed to order directly from Elka Suspension and they’re based in Canada. No problem.
But, there was a problem. I began reading about the possibility of having to pay additional import taxes and fees to have the shocks shipped across the border. What!?! Really? Well, that totally blows. Those fees would add quite a bit more money to the overall purchase price and I felt the cost was beginning to get out of control. To top it off, I had been hit recently with similar import taxes and fees for a watch I purchased from an authorized dealer in Singapore. What a nightmare! Had I known upfront about the import fees (I probably misread some fine print), I would have waited until an authorized dealer in the US had one available. Damn. This sure does complicates things.
The Elka3’s are already expensive and having to pay additional shipping, fees and taxes just put them over the top. That’s when I seriously started looking at the Walker Evans shocks.
The Walker Evans Racing coilovers are not offered in multiple levels or stages of adjustability or various degrees of handling characteristics. They offer just one shock for the P500/P520. Their one and only coilover option features piggyback remote reservoirs and 16 way compression adjustability. The WE’s are also very high quality and more than capable for my needs.
So, for comparison sake, the WE’s are similar to the Elka3 shocks. Just like the Elka3’s, the Walker Evans shocks have adjustable dampening and feature external piggyback reservoirs front and rear. Likewise, both coilovers have glowing reviews from P500/P520 owners and both are highly recommended. Some may disagree but, in my opinion, the appearance of the Walker Evans shocks are nowhere near as attractive when compared to the beautiful Elka3 shocks. However, the WE’s are quite a bit cheaper, which is extremely appealing. The WE’s run about $1,400 for the complete set of front and rear shocks and as a bonus, they’re made in the USA.
Well, that settles it, Walker Evans it is!
Nevertheless, the WE’s had one significant drawback. Build time. I’m talking really long. An astronomically long build time. I ordered my Walker Evans shocks in August 2022 and I didn’t receive them until the end of January 2023. Crazy long wait!
During my extended wait time, out of sheer boredom, I sent a couple emails to Walker Evans Racing to check the status of my order. Shockingly, every email I sent went unanswered. That’s something I cannot comprehend and from a customer service standpoint, is unacceptable. I was severely disappointed. I can’t stand poor communication and horrible customer service. However, when I eventually got desperate for an update on my order, I called them directly. Equally as shocking, they answered the phone promptly and I was able to get an update on my order immediately. In all fairness, they probably should just let customers know the best method of communication is to contact them by phone. Aside from the email debacle, everything else went well with my order. Once the shocks were assembled, packaged and shipped, they arrived at my door in only a matter of days.
I’ve bought a lot of performance coilover shocks over the years for various vehicles I’ve owned. But, this is the first time I’ve bought coilover shocks for a SxS. In general, based on my automotive experience, the SxS shocks are expensive when you consider the retail price of the machine itself. However, the quality of these shocks are really impressive. The WE shocks are equally as nice as a $5K coilover setup I installed on one of my vehicles several years ago and nicer than the $2K setup I installed on another one more recently.
The installation of the new Walker Evans shocks was simple and straightforward. Heck, I didn’t even have to remove the wheels and tires to get the job done. Worth noting, the ride height was unaffected with the WE coilovers installed and no adjustments were required.
The only complication with my installation was deciding where to mount the rear piggyback remote reservoirs since they are not integrated in the shock assembly like the front shocks. This is definitely one aspect I much prefer with the Elka3 rear shocks. On the Elka3 shocks, the rear remote reservoirs are part of the shock assembly. They are not a separate component like the Walker Evans which make the Elka’s easier to install and have a much cleaner overall appearance.
The rear remote reservoirs, with the stainless steel braided lines are a pain to manipulate into position. Because of this, it isn’t easy finding a good spot to mount them. Even worse, Walker Evans includes ridiculously cheap and flimsy hose clamps to secure the rear piggyback reservoirs to the chassis which is totally absurd considering the overall cost of the setup. As you would expect, the Walker Evans dollar-store hose clamps simply will not work for my installation. I had to look elsewhere for some decent quality brackets that would provide a secure mounting solution and a professional appearance. Amazon.com, delivered. After picking up some hardware locally, I was able to mount the rear reservoirs to the chassis using the new brackets I sourced from Amazon to complete the installation.
I’m pleased with how the installation came together.
Not what I expected…
I read so many raving reviews about the Walker Evans shocks and the insane improvement in handling and ride quality that I expected my P520 to literally sit on top of a fluffy cloud, hover, glide and float over rough terrain, while I laugh hysterically, enjoying the heavenly plush ride in complete comfort and total bliss. However, my initial test drive wasn’t like that at all.
I was very much underwhelmed with the performance of these shocks on my first test drive at low speeds. Don’t get me wrong, there was, without a doubt, an improvement, it just wasn’t nearly as monumental as I had envisioned, or lead to believe based on reviews I’ve read.
There had to be something I’m missing.
Well, there was.
I adjusted the compression dampening of the shocks two clicks from full hard, to three clicks from full soft. And ran the P520 over the same terrain at the same speed. The difference, and improvement, was night and day. As I began increasing speed, these shocks really started to come alive and demonstrate their dampening mastery. Holy Cow! These shocks are amazing! It is absolutely insane how much faster my P520 can go over rough terrain with the WE’s installed. These shocks flat out perform at high speed! I’m able to go over rough, uneven, rocky, bumpy and choppy terrain at near top speed. These shocks produce a mind-bending improvement in ride quality in comparison to the abominable factory shocks. I never thought I’d be able to ride at or near top speed on these unforgiving terrain conditions. With the WE’s installed, my P520 is completely stable, in control, planted to the ground, and soaks up every transition in the harsh terrain. The improvement in handling performance is so extreme, that the WE shocks reward you with absolute confidence and beg you to pour on more and more speed! They’re dangerously good! I’m gonna have to be ultra cautious. I can now see how the chances of a rollover are increased with a modification like this.
After logging some riding time with the Walker Evans shocks installed on my P520, I can see why they have earned the highly complimentary reviews. These shocks are legit. I’m extremely happy with these shocks!
The Walker Evans coilover shocks have far surpassed my expectations. These shocks truly improve the overall control, stability, handling, ride quality and dominate the harsh terrain with amazing authority!
Most importantly, the misses is happy!
Thank you for reading.