Ohlins now makes plug-and-play, electronically controlled replacements for the stock shocks. Fully ESA- and CAN bus-compatible using the OEM switch on the handlebar. If you're doing it, that's the way to go. The stock shocks on my '11 GSA are certainly passable, but the ride quality, tuneability and rebuildability (if that's even a word) of Ohlins is just the best. Combine that with electronic control, and it's all you could ever ask for out of your suspension. I will be upgrading to Ohlins next Spring (no pun intended!).
FWIW, I'm a big fan of ESA. I was initially a skeptic, but could not believe the difference when I took a badly rutted fire road with "Norm" street settings, then midway down the road pulled over and switched to the first of the two off-road ESA settings. It was a completely different bike -- it felt like it lost 250 lbs in a blink. The ride went from jarring and nervous and holy-shit-I'm-gonna-bite-it-any-second, to composed and confidence-inspiring. Crazy to say this about a big, heavy German tank like the GSA, but it actually reminded me of my old XR650 the way it handled the ruts. I was instantly able to add 15-20 mph to my speed.
I also took my wife for a spin a couple weeks ago, and adjusted the suspension for two-up. Then I forgot about it. The following Sunday I left for my morning ride and after a few miles noticed the rear end felt really stiff and "sharp," as if it was over-sprung. I pulled over, put ESA back to my favorite "Sport" setting, and was once again sending silent thoughts of praise in the direction of those German engineers... It really works.
Re reliability, after 3000 miles I'm not deep enough in to comment. But no issues to date.
Fibzzz screwed with this post 08-29-2012 at 01:55 PM