World Superbike Racer
Join Date: Apr 2015
I Ride: 2015 30th anniversary ZX-6R
I've used Öhlins on a 996 S; an Öhlins on a R1; Penske 8987 3-way adj. on another R1; and a Elka triple adjustable on a CBR 1K RR. I have not used the K-Tech. My two most favourite shocks were the Penske and the Elka (I really liked the Elka). I think I'm going back to the Penske for the 636, though.
K-Tech is big in Europe/WSB-WSS & BSB because they are British, show up at all the races and are essentially forced into the same level of support if they wanna go head to head w/Öhlins. This is not a bad thing.
One ought not loose sight of the fact that sport bikes/cars are big business in Europe where they are generally well supported by sizeable fan bases for each. Whereas NASCAR & H-D are still & will always be the Big Deal in the USA.
Penske is not forced into hosting a big army of support at local roadracing events. Which probably speaks to the why Koni never got into racing shocks for sportbikes - not enough insensitive to tango with Öhlins for such a small market. Remember Yamaha used to have a big financial stake in Öhlins.
Elka is a Canadian firm, and are a big player in MX & Quad racing. And because there is less sportbike demand, and is substantially less populated than Euro/USA markets they haven't cultivated the sportbike market. Plus, at the time Elka was first getting started there was a substantial difference in the relative weak CND $ vs the strong US $; labour costs were noticably less N of the 49 parallel.
I don't know for sure one way or the other, but I would hazard a guess that because of their respective socialism policies in their respective homelands that Elka, K-Tech & Öhlins receive various state backed insensitives, whereas Penske, of course would have no such benefit.
As others have noted, one really cannot go wrong with any of the major players in the suspension business. I initially got started using Penske for two reasons - both were (are) important: as has been noted by other ZX-members who have had personal experiences with R1s, these are in many ways fabulous bikes, but every single R1 made since the '98 model to the present has always longed for a substantially better shock (& forks until the most recent models) than they left the factory with. I know, odd with the Yamaha/Öhlins connection.
And at the time I was riding on the street and seguing R1s to the track, Penske was really 'the cat's meow', even better than the vaunted Swedish brand. The second reason I went with Penske was the local suspension gurus, used to be Circuit 1 (my '02 R1 was actually their mule for developing their fork kits & Penske shock settings), which became GP Suspension was based in Portland. Well, the owners of Circuit 1 split, which brought about GP Suspension formation. GPS, since has moved to Seattle. And now EDR has filled that void. See, even politics on a private & local level alters our view of reality. On a personal note, I love that EDR is much more than 'just' a suspension shop. BTW, they are FABULOUS to work with.