We haven’t met a bike that didn’t benefit from a good quality steering damper. Now the quality part is paramount, because for most of us, having one that fits on the bike perfectly centered, doesn’t leak, doesn’t interfere with the turning sweep of the bike and has the right types of adjustability to suit the rider is a tall order. Although most riders just like to feel the steering being damped, but there is so much more available.
The Fastway System 5 Steering Damper is arguably the most adjustable steering stabilizer on the market. It offers separate knob-operated high- and low-speed damping circuits as well as a separate return-to-center adjustment with a flat-blade screwdriver. The System 5 even allows you to adjust your left and right cornering angle (where the damper frees up on the extreme ends of the bar’s sweep) and the damping level, too, also with a screwdriver. In theory, this should allow you to absolutely dial it in any way you want. In practice, this was mostly true. The sweep adjustments were effective and tunable, so that in the end of bar-to-bar sweeping turns, the last part (where you are likely going pretty slow, so having a stable bar is a moot point) you can set it to be free and dial in where you want that free movement to kick in.Another key feature is the return-to-center adjustment which is a key debate point among riders who love dampers. On the Fastway, you can truly have it your way, not one or the other, and it’s adjustable, too. Most riders prefer 100 percent damping-free return to center. The high- and low-speed adjustments do just what they’re supposed to do, and one of our favorite settings is to go with very minimal low-speed adjustment and then get the right amount of high-speed to take the bite of a good bar-twisting hit.
Our only issue, and it takes a very particular rider to feel this, is that the high- and low-speed circuits seem to have some sort of effect on each other, so that if you increase the low-speed damping, the high-speed will increase slightly as well, and vice versa. For some this is a benefit, because if you want more damping across the board, you get it with one simple on-the-fly adjustment. For others it was bothersome as it took moving the two simple-to-spin knobs, one stiffer and one softer, to keep either the high- or the low-speed adjustment the same while changing the other. Picky, yes, but that is why we test stuff so thoroughly.The damper will work on any bike there is a mount kit for, and we’ve easily gotten a year of use out of ours before needing a service. Yes, it’s like a shock and the oil will break down over time. Installation is bike-specific and we aren’t evaluating the mounting kits in this review, though we used the damper on four different bikes and it simply swaps between them as long as the arm is the correct length. At $410 for the System 5 (the System 3, without the sweep adjustments, is $85 less) and $170–$230 for a proper mounting kit (there is a package deal, too), some investment into the product is required, but for the performance and added tuning feature to your dirt bike, it is a performance deal. -Jimmy Lewis