Has the DEC always seemed a bit more sticky than the RA rotation ?
I wonder if it is just because the OTA momentum is much lighter than the counterweights, offsetting the momentum on the RA swing. For the “same amount” of axial friction on your well greased axles, pushing the well-(fore/aft) balanced OTA, might present more friction, whereas there may be more momentum when you push the same OTA & CWTS, about the RA axis.
Once the RA direction gets going, the scope might seem easier to push further. Not the same case rotating the tube vertically on the DEC axis, unless there is a humongous CCD camera at one end of the balanced OTA, to add some momentum like the CWTS do , once initial DEC axle stiction is overcome.
Mechanically, there should be absolutely no difference in the smoothness of either axle, once the clutch brakes are released – the gears aren’t involved at that point.
Just a thought.