Originally Posted by boywonder
Very interested in what you think about the swaybars and the motorhome Bilsteins...... So you've got the 1.5" dia Hellwig? I think Mountainbikeroamer tried some of the motorhome valved Bilsteins but found them too stiff/harsh...
Hey! How's it going. Figured I should add some detail/clarify.
I did indeed try two different specs of those Bilstein shocks on my RB30 2WD.
When I chose between shocks, the two options available at the time for my application (1995 E250) were labeled by Bilstein as either 1) "Comfort" or 2) "HD." (Incidentally, I purchased them from eshocks.com --- great business to deal with.)
Like JWA, I was after a firm (controlled) ride. The original 20-year-old Ford shocks still on the van were floaty/worn out (and were probably similarly mushy when they were new), so I was highly keen to remedy that. And so I avoided the "Comfort" labeled Bilsteins....went straight for the HD models.
And wow, were they firm. On smooth/unbroken pavement, the van cornered darn near flat (or so it felt!) and body sway/roll/pitch was dramatically reduced. All good, right? Well, hold on a minute....and lets switch gears to how it handled sharp bumps and rough pavement....
.....which was absolutely like a jackhammer. I might as well have had replaced the spring packs with solid ingots of aluminum. These aggressive shocks (for the relative light weight of this RB van) had zero intention of allowing anything but extreme, extended forces to move the suspension. It truly felt like a sledgehammer was being applied to the suspension on sharp/hard bumps....essentially felt like zero compliance.
(And in that sense --- it felt like the handling was actually *compromised* -- the wheels/tires felt like they would chatter over rough pavement around corners, as the suspension wasn't being allowed to be as active. And a tire that's not firmly in contact with the road is a tire that's not in full control.)
Subsequent phone calls to Bilstein's North American customer service yielded a series of conversations with technical representatives....who cheerfully engaged in discourse about the ideal applications of the various shock valvings, HD vs. Comfort.
>>> What I was told....was that the HD models were indicated in their own technical notes to be best suited/reserved for Class C RV's (!) with seriously high curb weights and long wheelbases. They strongly suggested I switch to the Comfort valving version.
And so I went almost immediately and ordered up a set of the "Comfort-valved" Bilsteins and swapped out the HD's. And they were great! Still very controlled and a sharply marked improvement over the OEM shocks. Admittedly a bit less "German Sports Car" in their handling characteristics (I wouldn't be bombing freeway off-ramps **quite as much** like I was driving a GTI....) --- BUT --- the **ride characteristics** were stellar. For the weight of this van, these were unquestionably the right valving.
Every van is different though! And so, as well, is everyone's personal taste in ride/handling qualities. Every setup is a partial compromise. And tire size, tire make/model, tire class (DOT rating LT vs E), tire pressure, spring rate, etc are all equally influential in the overall ride/handling characteristics. Don't forget the all-important curb weight factor (and percentage of weight over each axle, front/rear.)
For reference, my E250 RB weighs 7000 pounds even. (With 3500 pounds over each axle front/rear.) I was running Cooper Discoverer AT/3's in size 245/75r16, load range E. (stiff, 10-ply tires these vans require.)
In hindsight, I'd love to have the opportunity to experiment a bit again with those HD shocks and bigger tires (more air volume, lower PSI, possibly some better harsh-impact compliance via those.) But that ship has sailed....the 5" lift kit and 33" tires (and Agile-tuned Fox shocks) have made it all a moot point