The Helix Expert™ has proven its worthiness ride after ride, drop after drop and race after race. As the first tunable progression coil shock (utilizing the proprietary Air/Coiltm), the Helix Expert is ideal for the more massive rider or aggressive drop-happy lunatic seeking to add a truly “plush” feel to their suspension.
Featuring external spring pre-load, air assist, and external rebound damping adjustment, the Expert was made for all riders looking to add suspension performance without breaking their piggy-banks.
Strengths: Nice, solid construction. Amazing tuneability. You can get small bump sensitivity and bottom out resistance. Somewhat user serviceable due to no nitrogen chamber. Inexpensive for the performance.
Weaknesses: Stratos may not be making these anymore. Tuning correctly takes time. Stratos isn't terribly helpful in teaching the quickest way to set it up. Stock springs are iffy.
With this shock, you can finally maximize your travel without harsh bottom out. Properly set up, you can get more of your suspension travel during general riding AND get a smooth transition to major bottom out resistance. It feels like, and is as tuneable as, the end of travel progressivity of a Marzocchi fork
I have four of these shocks on three bikes (one is back up). After much experimenting, I've found the following setup regime works well: Whatever rate spring you usually use on a Fox, use a straight rate spring that is ~70% of that on the Stratos (skip their progressive stock spring, it's usually a bit screwy). Then use the air chamber to fine tune sag and bottom out resistance. For example, I weigh 175# so on my 2.5 leverage ratio Fury, I ran a 450 spring on the stock Vanilla R. This ran the trail smoothly but bottomed harshly on drops. Switching to a 325# spring on the Helix and 180PSI in the chamber, I get even smoother mid-stroke performance and have to do a 5 foot drop to really bottom out.
I think this shock came out ~4 years too early. Riders weren't as keyed into proper suspension tuning back then. Now, I think we're ready for this level of performance. If Stratos put some real advertising effort on these shocks and learned how to teach people to tune them, I'm sure this shock would kick the crap out of any other shock on the market. As it is, they're not even sure they'll make another run of these. C'mon Stratos, ante up!! This thing is a winner!!
Similar Products Used: Fox Vanilla R, RC, and R Pushed. Romic.
Bike Setup: Mountain Cycle Fury for AM riding, Azonic Saber for FR/DH, old SC Heckler for XC. All use Helix Experts. Saber has Stratos S7 fork, Fury has Z1FR, Heckler has Z1BAM.
a Cross Country Rider
from Lansdale, Pa
Date Reviewed: June 9, 2004
Strengths: Light weight. Compression damping that actually does something. Plush, yet controlled.
Weaknesses: Rebound knob that just turns. Not the greatest range in rebound. No option to upgrade to a SPV type shock.
I have had this shock for over 3 years now and it has worked well. It is soft on the top and firms up nicely on the medium and big hits. The rock shock deluxe was just terrible. No compression damping at all. The fox is actually only a little bit better - except it has good rebound control. This Stratos shock has both good rebound control and great compression control and it works great with the BETD link. I am using a 750 lbs spring with ~225 lbs air. I weigh 200 lbs and this works great. Stratos sells the shock with a 500 lbs spring and pretends that it will work for everyone. This is not the case. I hated the shock until I moved to a much heavier spring. If you get this shock, make sure you work on getting the spring rate correct.
I had been running the Fox for a while and forgot how good the Stratos worked on my bike. So much so that I wonder why I went and bought the Fox. Oh well.
I have sent the Fox Vanilla to be pushed and will see how that compares.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the shock and the people at Stratos. I had the shock serviced once and that was no problem. Sent the shock in and it came back within a week.
Without a doubt I would recommend this shock to anyone with a BETD linked FSR. For everyone else, it is worth a shot. Just work on getting the spring rate right.
Similar Products Used: Rock Shock Deluxe, Fox Vanilla R
Bike Setup: 1998 FSR with a BETD link. This shock is run in the 3.33:1 leverage ratio setting giving ~5.3" travel.
a Weekend Warrior
from somerville, ma
Date Reviewed: December 12, 2003
Strengths: air assist allows you to run more sag w/o bottoming, exceptional rebound control and silky smooth travel after an oil change
Weaknesses: sales & service
got this shock after blowing up several fox shocks on my vps. had to wait 3 weeks for a shock that was in stock and when it showed up it had the wrong bushings (even though the invoice said 8mm bushings it was packed and shipped w/6mm bushings - quality control should take note). they did send me the proper bushings after i refused to "drill out the bushings" as the salesman had recommended. there was always something that just didn't feel right. the damping adjustment never seemed to work too good and it always felt stiff and harsh like an air shock, never plush like a coil shock should. the performance began to deteriate so i looked for the paper work. it was 5 days out of warranty so i was told to send it back to them and they'd service it for $75. what ever, whether it was a day or a year, it was out of warranty - but i couldn't help wonder if romic would have stood behind their product for an extra 5 days. after several emails to everyone on their contacts list and about half-a-dozen phone calls i finally got someone with a clue. i told him my symptoms and he gave me instructions on how to check, fill and change the oil level and weight so i could slow it down with an 800lb spring. he also mentioned that the salesman apparently neglected to inform me that the shock is designed for no more than a 550lb spring. i ended up changing from the 8wt oil (atf) to 30wt motor oil and this thing feels incredible! i weigh 225lbs with a full camelback and armor and i run 180lbs of air pressure and no preload on an 800lb spring which yields about 35% sag at the shock. i don't think i'd recommend one to anyone, maybe buy a used one for $50 from someone who is having problems with theirs and is fed up with their service dept, try the oil change yourself. otherwise pony up for a romic. i'd like to give it better ratings because it does feel good now but it took a bit of work on my own part and a lot of phone calls to get it this way. you can email me if you would like some tips on changing the oil. i'll answer as many as i can. 2 flamin' dog turds accross the board for stratos. if it were delivered with the proper bushings and had a heavier oil to slow it down i would have doubled that.
Weaknesses: heavy, placement of air valve and adjustment valve is awkward. No air pump included.
Feels like a whole new bike. Takes the hits.
I brought this shock as a kit to upgrade my FSR from 4" to 6" of rear travel. I did blow the shock when I was working on it off the bike, trying to turn the spring adjuster and blew a seal (expensive mistake - bike shops don't service them) Stratos customer service fixed it - 3 weeks at flat $75 rebuild rate.
I love this shock compared to my old one - It raised the BB up and firmed the ride for better control. I've done many drops in quarries and haven't blown it.
Rebound control actually works. I will probably get another Stratos shock depending on the price. 4 chilies cause of cost and 3 week turnaround service.
Bike Setup: Specialized FSR Pro with a 6" MountainSpeed conversion kit (was 4")
a Cross Country Rider
from South Kingston
Date Reviewed: January 16, 2003
Strengths: Extremely difficult to bottom out. Very plush! Looks cool. The first 2 or 3 months of riding were great...
Weaknesses: After my 1st 3 months of using it the rebound knob stopped working and there's a slight leak so I have to pump it up every 2 weeks. It still allows a slight amount of pedal bob which I'm not happy about. It's a pain to pump air into it on my GT I-drive due to clearance issues. Customer service definately left something to be desired since it took a whole month for them to get me a shock that correctly fit my bike and that worked.
I ride XC, with some DH rock gardens and maybe do a few 1 or 2 foot drops. I weight 220 so I needed a strong rear shock. Overall, I'm very disappointed in the amount of money I spent on this product and it's performance. The rebound not working and the slow leak is very annoying. It's great that this shock doesn't bottom but, it still leaves some pedal bob. It's difficult to know how much air you've pumped into the shock since when you take the pump out it always blows out lots of air (i've tried all the tricks). After having ridden bikes with a Romic and a Curnutt I strongly regret buying this thing. The curnutt is amazing. I wasn't as impressed with the Romic, although it did work well. Overall, I just can't reccomend this low quality product to anyone.
Favorite Trail: North Shore/anything with 5' min. drops, and skybridges
Duration Product Used: 3 months
Purchased At: cheapskates (hey, it's still a good bike!!!)
Similar Products Used: all 500# Vanillas, Romic, 5th Element, Manitou's new shock.
Bike Setup: 98' Kona King Kikapu, XT/XTR componentry, DH bar/stem, DH 2.4 Rokko/2.35 Kujo tires. otherwize completely stock 98 King.
from Ontario Canada
Date Reviewed: October 25, 2002
Strengths: Nice and squishy with sweet rebound.
Weaknesses: It blows. literally!
only works for about four or five big hits then it blows. No joke! I blew mine up durring practice at the last race of the season. If stratos could make a shock that had this kind of compression and rebound and still stayed in one piece I would buy it in a second.
Date Reviewed: July 27, 2002
Strengths: ability to compress under certain circumstances
Weaknesses: blows up. rebound doesn't work.
the double spring medium design is very effective at stopping bottom out. however, the fact that my shock doesn't work anymore kind of negates that. halfway through the travel, the shock makes a huge banging noise, and refuses to go any more. to be honest, i can't be arsed: i spent £78 on it getting repaired. i'm gonna get me a risse.
Bike Setup: Ellsworth Dare, raceface, Marzocchi, Hope, XT, all the sh*t.
a Cross Country Rider
from Victoria, BC
Date Reviewed: July 16, 2002
Strengths: plush, setup options, options,
Weaknesses: none so far
Very happy with this shock, longer stroke and altering the rear mounting brackets I have achieved 5.25 of rear wheel travel. My bike feels like a completely different beast ! I have nothing bad to say about this shock..still glowing from last nights ride with the new shock!!!! Highly recommend!
Weaknesses: -not air light -some initial stiction (doesn't affect ride)
Nice. Felt like I had gained another inch of travel after replacing my blow-up pro deluxe. The air/coil combo works really well, plush for the little stuff but won't blow through the travel on the big stuff.
Similar Products Used: Rock Shox Deluxe (came with the bike), only has the predetermined rebound built in not adjustable.
Bike Setup: '97 Schwinn S-20
a Weekend Warrior
from Eureka, CA, USA
Date Reviewed: May 18, 2002
Strengths: excellent control over bumps, amazing adjustability, exccelent damping
Weaknesses: Rebound damping adjustment doesn't work (i bought it used, someone trashed it) Heavy if your a hardcore XC geek, if your like 95% of the biking world, you won't even notice
VERY nice shock, the air/coil combination makes for a progressive ride, soft over the little stuff and sucks up big things like no tomarrow. My only issue with it is that the damping control has come apart inside, so it doesn't adjust anymore (it's set about half, which is good for most things) I suspect the privious owner (i bought it used) thrashed it pretty badly. Aside from that it's wonderful, doesn't leak air at all, i don't even notice small bumps anymore (i notice big ones, but their dramaticly softened and controlled). One thing i discovered though, is that while it's very good on small and large stuff, the 6.5 inch one is NOT a full on downhill shock (cought a 10 inch waterbar on the rear wheel, landed 15 feet later. The takeoff was smooth though, not a sharp CRACK to the spine my old shock would have given me)
Bottem line of the Bottem Line: I love it, excellent shock for the money, If i blow it up, i'm buying another
Similar Products Used: Toughshock MA (came with the bike, sucks bad)
Bike Setup: Fuji Discovery III, Marzocchi Z.2 atom race, avid CPS brakes
a Cross Country Rider
from Santa Barbara, Ca
Date Reviewed: March 25, 2002
Strengths: Seems Durable, Great Ride. GREAT upgrade to an old frame with an old shock.
Weaknesses: Pricey, Heavyish (ACTUALLY 460 grams-1 Pound. DID NOT come with pump!
Totally Transformed my GT from a Suspension bike to an EXCELENT suspension bike. Increased travel with THRU 1.5" stroke (unlike Rocks Shox)and the controlability of the rear is 5 levels better. I ride completely different lines. I like the air spring in the last portion of the travel too.
Great Shock. Customer service is good too.
-1 Flamer for not coming with a pump. That is way lame!
I have a new Helix expert and am looking for a sping retainer that I dont have... do you guys have any idea what kind of brand should be compatible and where can I buy it on the web?
Thanks!!Read More »
I've got a Stratos Helix Expert rear shock on my Schwinn 4-banger with an unknown spring rate. It's just too soft. I've pumped up the air spring to 200+ psi and it still isn't enough.
Does anyone know what springs are compatible with this shock? What's the spring ID for the common brands like ... Read More »