RFY Model 3 Shock – Analysis

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The RFY Model 3 completely disassembled.
The RFY Model 3 completely disassembled.

I’ve dubbed this RFY release the “Model 3.” It’s the latest in the line of budget shocks coming from the People’s Republic and is an enticing find given the promise of at least three visible adjustment knobs. At a low $180 price point, I wanted to see if this 3-way adjustable appearing damper had the right stuff.

Right off the bat, the key word here is appearing. Upon unboxing the Model 3, it was obvious that the two (actually four) knobs located on the top of the shock body were fake. Oddly enough, there aren’t just two knobs up there, but rather there are four as the shock body is a mirror image of itself. This was disappointing, but the let downs did not stop there. The rebound adjuster found at the bottom of the shock shaft, just above the lower clevis, is also a fake. It turns infinitely, though it does have a convincing mechanical detent.¬†In contrast with the Model 2, the reservoir and bladder is machined and assembled so that it would function properly.

RFY Model 3 with reservoir removed.
RFY Model 3 with reservoir removed.

Instead of giving up on the analysis I decided that I’d at least get the shocks a part to see what’s inside. Shock disassembly was not unlike that of the RFY models, but it was different enough that I had to create entirely new fixtures to complete the process. Several dimension have been changed with this model. The shock shaft itself is larger, as is the shock body, and piston diameter. To accompany that, the spring has also been adapted to these new dimensions.

The spring is of a larger diameter than the other models. The internal diameter is around 4mm larger, at 48.5mm. The spring is constructed of 7.6mm wire and has a coil count of 10. This provides a calculated spring rate of somewhere in the 100 pounds per inch spring rate. I did not take the time to run this spring through a real world test.

The piston construction is much like the Model 2 variant, though it appears much larger. It features a proper piston, with pass-through ports for both the heave and rebound strokes. Top and bottom have shim stacks that can be varied or changed to adjust damping properties, though availability of the RFY shims is likely slim to none. The shim stacks on this piston are assembled in fairly simple manner. The stack assembly features just a few shims, all of the same diameter, both on the top and bottom of the piston. This assembly method is generally frowned upon when compared to a pyramidal stack assembly, where shim diameters decrease as they are stacked away piston surface. The pyramidal stack assembly helps to prevent shim deformation. Shim deformation reduces the ability of the stack to seal on the piston surface and results in a loss of damping properties. It’s tough to say weather the Model 3 will experience this, only disassembly and thorough inspection after a few hundred miles of riding will tell. One thing however is for certain, the Model 2 has a better shim stack assembly, as it uses the pyramidal stack formation.

Piston comparison from the three various models.
Piston comparison from the three various models.

Overall impressions of this package are much the same as the other RFY models. The finish of the Model 3 is nice. All pieces have a high quality finish and the machine work and tolerance is well done overall. Assembly of course remains the weakness of this package. Again, the damper was improperly filled and resulted in a package that without a rebuild will not produce a shock worth riding. Moreover, the use of thread locker was not only generous, it was excessive. Like other RFY models, they applied thread locker to shaft seal, making disassembly an extremely difficult and tedious process.

It is tough to say how this set of shock will perform, though, overall the design is equal to Model 1. Considering only design, the Model 3 might be considered better than the Model 1, at least on paper. The main difference between the two is the Model 3 features a better piston design, however, this distinction has not yet been established via real world performance testing. So take it with a grain of salt.¬†Unfortunately, with the price point of this shock coming in at around $180, the Model 3 is not the best bang for your buck. The Model 1 holds that place as far as I am concerned. Had the Model 3 been adjustable as the various knobs suggest, it would be a great package. Given the complete lack of functionality of those adjusters, the higher price point, and the downright ugly color package, the Model 3 goes directly in the “do not buy” column for me. In my opinion, the Model 1 remains the king of value and performance across the board.

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