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Old 03-30-2009, 03:24 PM   #1
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"Motorhome" magazine article on shock absorbers

For some time, shock absorbers have a topic of discussion topic on our forum – Bilstein vs. Koni vs. RoadKing. There is an article in the May 2009 issue of “Motorhome” magazine titled “Shock Therapy” that you might find interesting. The writer, E. Don Smith used a 2008 Tiffin Phaeton 36QSH, 36’ on a Freightliner XC raised-rail chassis with a 228” wheelbase for the test vehicle. This particular coach has a GVWR of 32,000 pounds with 20,000 pound rear and 12,000 pound front axle ratings; these weights very closely approximate those of our Alpines. A Camping World shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee did the shock swapping; that must have been fun.

The parameters evaluated were: Cornering At Speed, Slow Speed Handling, Rough Road Comfort, and Smooth Road Comfort. Each characteristic was evaluated on a scale of 1 through 5; with 1 being poor and 5 exceptional. The scores for each characteristic were totaled and then again evaluated for Value on the 1 through 5 scale.

The end result ranked Bilstein “Exceptional,” Koni “Above Average,” Sachs (listed as an OEM on many new motorhomes was also tested) “Average,” with RoadKing “Poor.”

I’ll have to admit that I purchased a set of Konis a year ago and have not taken the time to install them, shame on me. Therefore, I cannot personally judge the relative merits between our WRV supplied Blisteins and the Konis. But, I think we will have to agree, from the extensive reports of our fellow Alpine owners who have made the swap – all are indeed greatly satisfied and enthusiastic regarding the results achieved by the Konis. I was very surprised that the RoadKings were rated so low. From reading the article it appears the high cost of the RoadKings may be the reason for the “Poor” rating. I did find it interesting that both the Konis and RoadKings were rated low for “Rough Road Comfort,” Koni received 1.5 and RoadKing 2.0 ratings in this area. Both did well on “Smooth Road Comfort.” However, both were faulted as having “harsh” rides on the “Rough Road Comfort” test. “Rough Roads” were defined as potholes, highway expansion strips or any sharp bump. The evaluator said of Konis and RoadKings, “Both damping and compression were just too stiff for a coach of this weight.”

All in all, the article is good, in that it has an excellent overview of the different types of shock absorbers available. In the case of this evaluation, those tested were either twin-tube or gas-pressurized monotubes.

Personally, I’ll go along with the enthusiastic reports from those of you that have already tested and reported your outstanding results with the Konis. Now it’s time it get busy and do the installation of mine.

2006 Alpine 36' FDTS
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Old 03-30-2009, 05:50 PM   #2
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I saw the article, but I would not go back to Bilstein's after my experiences with Koni's. In my opinion the Koni's are far superior in ride control.

2001 34' Alpine Coach
2008 Jeep Rubicon or 2012 Ford F150 4x4 Lariat towds
or a couple of different trailers
Retired in Apple Valley, California
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Old 03-30-2009, 06:34 PM   #3
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Same here. Personally, I would not put Bilstein's back on in place of the Koni's if they gave me new ones for free. (Surprisingly nobody has offered me any free ones anyway.

Changing the subject, seeing the 228" wheelbase on their 36' test vehicle reminds me of one more reason I bought the 36' Alpine with a 252" wheelbase.
Jim A
'04 Alpine Coach 36' MDDS
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Old 03-30-2009, 06:53 PM   #4
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Thank you, Dick, for sharing that article with us. VERY interesting. Those that have put on the Koni's seem to love them - I have not seen a negative post regarding them. And those that put on the Road Kings love them (with the exception of me). I found them to be just like the article said... " Both did well on “Smooth Road Comfort.” However, both were faulted as having “harsh” rides on the “Rough Road Comfort” test. “Rough Roads” were defined as potholes, highway expansion strips or any sharp bump. The evaluator said of Konis and RoadKings, “Both damping and compression were just too stiff for a coach of this weight.” And they certainly did NOT stop the excessive tilt on turning corners (right turn especially).

I feel that the harsh ride does not justify the high price of the Road Kings.
Konis should give you all that you need.

Carolyn for
The Swans
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Old 03-30-2009, 07:33 PM   #5
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If your Road Kings are harsh riding on "potholes, highway expansion strips or any sharp bumps" I would check with Road King. Curing the ride under those conditions is exactly why I bought mine and they have done a GREAT job doing such. I got them directly from Road King and they told me they would match the settings used on one of the Country Coaches. Maybe yours are not set right. I never expected the shocks to cure the tilt on corners or driveways. I was overly surprised and happy to find how well the Super Steer Motion Control Units did cure that.
Dale Gerstel
Las Vegas, NV
Had: 2007 Limited SE 40fdts
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Old 03-30-2009, 08:45 PM   #6
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Dale - We live about 5 miles from where Road Kings are built and bought them direct also. We took them back once and had thought we would go back and have the owner drive the coach - but we never did because it had been in the "shop" more than out and Tris had to take them off to have them adjusted. I'll send you a private message ...
The Swans
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Old 03-31-2009, 04:17 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Rich and Cork View Post
I saw the article, but I would not go back to Bilstein's after my experiences with Koni's. In my opinion the Koni's are far superior in ride control.
I have not changed out the OEM Bilstein's but I am curious. Is it possible that those who change to Koni's and see a ride improvement are simply reporting on what anyone would expect -- an improvement over worn shock absorbers? In other words, if your OEM shocks were shot, wouldn't almost any "new" shock absorber provide a noticably better ride than the worn ones? You may have simply forgotten what the ride was like when the Alpine was brand new. I think that is why the test in Motorhome magazine has the control of switching out new shocks on the same coach and comparing apples to apples. If you are comparing new Koni's to 4-5 year old Bilstein's, it is not a fair test, IMHO: a 4 year old Bilstein against a brand new Koni.
Jaime & Dave (and our 3 cocker spaniels)
2005 Alpine Coach 36FDTS w/ 2009 Honda CR-V, Doran TPMS, Roadmaster Towbar, US Gear Braking
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:20 AM   #8
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That wasn't the case with my coach. I changed out the shocks to Koni's with only 7,000 miles on the coach. The ride change was dramatic. The porpoising from road dips was eliminated! It was money well spent, and as far as I'm concerned Koni's should have been original equipment. We'd have saved a lot of money making the change.
Rick Coleman
'05 Alpine 36MDDS
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Old 03-31-2009, 09:50 AM   #9
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Dave & Jamie -
Our Bilstiens (our 2nd set) had less than 5000 miles on them when we put the Road Kings on the Apex. We had such bad porpoising from the very beginning that WRV had replaced them once but it didn't help.

The Road Kings completely eliminated the porpoising. Tris reminds me that RK revalved the front shocks so that they are not as rough as they were originally and that is what he thinks is so great about them - you can take them off and have them adjusted by the factory - even rebuilt if they ever wear out (which would mean you would put a heck of a lot of miles on the coach first!)

The Swans
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:33 PM   #10
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Motorhome magazine has affiliation with CW; naturally Bilsteins would get a favorable... Where was the mention of Monroe's Gas-Magnum series? The test, to me, is rather unfinished...
2004 Tiffin 34XB,Workhorse.22K,8.1L,Gas
Saturn SL
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Old 04-01-2009, 12:37 AM   #11
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I think everyone may be missing the point on the Bilsteins. They were testing the "aftermarket" upgraded Bilsteins, not the OEMs. There is a HUGE difference.

Also many seem to judge the effectiveness of the shock to do the work of other parts, like sway-bars and motion-control units.

My only concern when I read the article was the "rough road" part, especially the expansion joints. That's exactly what I'm aiming to attenuate when I (finally) install the Koni's (I, too) bought last year.
2003 Alpine 40FDTS (400HP)
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Old 04-04-2009, 12:01 PM   #12
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I like the article and I read results as being that the Bilsteins were #1 with a total point count of 15.5, Road Kings as #2 with a Total point count of 14.5, Koni #3 with a total point count of 13.5, and the Sachs #4 with a point count of 9.5. The Value (Cost) was Bilsteins the lowest cost and the Road Kings the highest cost. The article was one persons view and how they feel the way a Motorhome should ride. I feel that since the Alpine has a longer wheel base it starts out as a better handling Motorhome than most others and our concerns are a little different then the writer had in mind.

The down fall in the article for the Road Kings and the Koni’s was the Rough Road and Comfort. The Bilsteins and the Sachs being a softer shock gave a smother ride on the Rough Road and Comfort. I have always had a problem with the Bilsteins on rough roads as they do not control the Coach like I think they should because they are too soft. The compression and the rebound with the Bilsteins is not the greatest on dips or Freeway joints because they are too soft. I do not think we will ever get the perfect shocks for the Alpine. I still have not put shocks on the Alpine and I am still leaning towards the Road Kings over the Koni’s.
Dave Fernandez
2001, 38ft FDDS, 350 ISC, Tow 2004 Yukon
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Old 04-04-2009, 12:51 PM   #13
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Yeah, that article was okay but not overly definitive for everyone out there. Quite a few 40' single axle and 42' tag axle Allegro Bus owners have gone with the Konis and been very pleased. These were on mainly Spartan chassis.

Comparing a 36' Phaeton on a Freightshaker solid front axle chassis to a 40' Alpine on a Peak chassis just isn't apples to apples and I'd expect to see some significant differences because the chassis are world's apart. Now, if they would have tested an Allegro Bus on the Powerglide chassis - that would be much closer seeing they were penned by the same guy.

As to me, when the time comes to replace mine I'll go with the Konis.
Mark & Leann Quasius
2016 Cornerstone 45A
2007 Allegro Bus 42QRP (Sold)
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Old 04-15-2009, 05:52 PM   #14
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I veel the article was incomplete due to the qabsence of reference to
warrantiees, except for the reference to the erroneous "life time guarantee". I would like to partially fill the gap by relating my personal experience with Bilstein/Thyssen Krupp Bilstein of America.

I had a set of Bilsteins installed by CW in 200 and concluded in 2007 there was a problem with them. I decided to use CW again because of an attractive sale, in the event they were not declared defective. Both CW and I attempted to deal with Bilstein through a very tedious process as they insisted upon using only E-mail. They advised the procedure was to send them the old shocks for their evaluation and authorization of a refund if found defective. That meant I incurred the full expense of purchase, installation and tax to get the shocks off for ssubmission. It was a pleasant and unexpected surprise when Bilstein confirmed defectice shocks. Reimbursement was aaa nother matter. Bilstein considers their customer to be the retail supplier, not the retsail purchaser. They authorized only the wholesalers cost price as the sole reimbursement and paid CW an amount unknown to me. There was no reimbursement to me for the retail price, removal of the defective shocks, installation of the new shocks, tax etc. by Bilstein. However, CW stood up like the company I thought they were and they reimbursed me almost 100%

In the course of E-mails to and from Bilstein, they advised that warranties are essentially a factor of price to an OEM, warranties are almost never purchased for the benefit if the untimate consumer and are limited to the warranties provided by the OEM.

So, even if youpurchased Bilsteins in the after market exxpecting a "lifetime warranty" you are in for a big surpris!


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