Air shocks…rubbish yeah? /Slight Rant..

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  • Air shocks…rubbish yeah? /Slight Rant..
  • Premier Icon flange
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    Now, for some reason unknown I bought a copy of MBUK last night. In said rag (which actually isn’t as bad as it was last time I read it) they’ve got a test on C£1200 FS bikes. One of the complaints they had about a bike was that it came with a coil fork rather than air and apparently coils are rubbish, air is great.

    Which is the polar opposite of my experience. I HATE air shocks, they’re either too hard so they don’t bottom out and therefore do nothing or too soft so that they actually do something but then you end up smashing the crap out of them (and the linkage). My lyrics and CCDB were easily the best feeling shocks I’ve ever had and the coil CCDB was awesome for climbing – just seemed to have waaay more traction with it than the RP23 it replaced.

    More and more bikes now have air shocks (even DH bikes) so am I just a)rubbish at setting air shocks up, b)using rubbish air shocks or c)just rubbish? Or are coils actually better and this is all some big marketing thing?

    Premier Icon jam bo
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    coil is 23.2% betterer. fact.

    although i’ve just converted fully from coil to air…

    messiah
    Member

    Pinkbike Tech Tuesday on why air is now better… especialy for up-selling you new bikes and stuff.

    So much depends on how the shock is set up. Many riders go from a poorly sorted air shock to a well sorted coil shock and then proclaim for all to hear that coil is much better… however a well sorted air shock may have have given them the same benefit. I’ve experienced how a well sorted air shock was much better than a poorly sorted coil shock.

    ndthornton
    Member

    Air shocks are one of the best things to happen to mountain biking. Coil shocks are just too heavy for everything except DH. Modern Air shocks come very close to the performance of coil. I guess you must be C 😉

    phil.w
    Member

    they’re either too hard so they don’t bottom out and therefore do nothing

    ahh yes, the old bottom out myth… do you rate suspension using the ‘car park test’ too?

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    ahh yes, the old bottom out myth… do you rate suspension using the ‘car park test’ too?

    No smart arse – I base it on bending two link pins on my Yeti because the shock was pants. But thanks for the condescending tone..

    I don’t doubt that air for XC bikes might be the way forward but on three separate bikes with air shocks they’ve never felt as good as a decent coil, despite sending them off for a proper tune. My cane creek with a Ti spring wasn’t noticeably heavier than the RP it replaced yet the performance increase was massive.

    My current camber has a CTD on it which again never really feels like its doing much. This one hasn’t had a tune but I’m loathed to throw more money at an air can for no real improvement in performance

    bigyinn
    Member

    Air shocks are all about playing with pressures first and then tuning the damping.
    Bending link pins on your bike? You’re doing it wrong. Was the shock bottoming out heavily? Thats the only way I can imagine you’d do that.

    AndreyE
    Member

    I don’t have too much experience with coil shocks TBH since all my FS bikes have been in the ‘Trail’ category, mostly.

    But I’ll have my 0.02p to add on the air shocks in general.

    1. They are not all the same. And with every year manufacturers release better and better models like Monarch Pluc (RC3), or even CCDB Air (never used this though).

    2. Horses for courses. Obvious statement but IMO using a coil suspension on a 5 inch travel bike is close to nonsense. It’s heavier, bobs more (whatever suspension linkage you have) and generally gives a different feel. This feel is more than welcome on 6 inch plus bikes (AM territory etc) but do you really need this on milder trails? I probably don’t. A good air shock can do very well for XC-Trail, have decent (not 100% perfect but still) small bump compliance and bottom out resistance etc. Speaking of which, another imporant factor is…

    3. Linkage itself. It always amazes me how people start talking about a shock on a frame. A shock itself means little if you don’t take the linkage into account. They are very very related. Shock has its own spring characteristic (ratio of force you apply to it to the travel it makes), and suspension linkage has its own leverage ratio (how the shock movement corresponds to the wheel movement). It does change a lot.

    Some examples:

    – HL Turner Spot. The stock 5.1 rockers are designed around a linear coil shock and do not work very well with small chamber air shocks. The travel feels harsh and shallow, very hard to get decent travel out of it with normal sag. However, if you put a later 5.5 rockers on this bike, the same shock feels considerably better – it’s like that, really. I was amazed when I did this back in 2009 and started suspecting that shock it not everything.

    – Marin Mount Vision around 2008-2009. Why they would put standard volume chamber air shocks on cheaper models (like East Peak) is beyond me. This linkage has a very strong ramp up towards the end of the travel, so much so that it’s impossible to get full travel even with high volume shocks. Small (standard) chamber feels bad – little travel, not plush by any means, worse than 5 Spot etc.

    – DW Link Turner Spot. IMO, one of the best matches of an air shock and linkage that I’ve seen. Very plush yet has a good bottom out resistance once you reduce the air chamber a little bit (I am closer to 100 kg geared). Tried it with small chamber RS Monarch 3.1 – not good, harsh etc.

    – Liteville 301 MK8. Small chamber Fox it not suited for this frame. Once you put a high volume chamber, the ride transforms for much better .

    – Giant Trance X 2008-10. The stock air chamber is small and this is definitely the way to go. It has quite good small bump compliance yet does not blow through travel and does not bottom out when used sensibly (I was not using it not sensibly so cannot comment further.. :). I imagine what the comments would be if someone my weight would have to ride it with a high volume air chamber – blows through travel etc.

    These are all from my own personal experience. So, the brief answer is – no, air shocks are not crap. Yes, in many cases whey will track worse than coil. No, you cannot comment on a shock itself, you have to account for how well it suits the particular frame – linkage, air chamber size etc (and I’m not even starting on that gazillion of shock tunes available nowdays). Yes, you need to compromise when choosing almost everything including rear shocks, and it may be sensitivity, weight, price, reliability etc.

    BTW, RS Revelation Team Dual Air is one of the sweetest forks I’ve ever had a joy to ride. If it were a bit stiffer even at the expense of extra 200-300 grams I’d never stop using it I think… And this is an air fork.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
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    My current RP23 is as good as the DHX5 it replaced on good trail riding
    The new fox CTD is great

    Coil is great too but I don’t want a huge weight penalty for marginal gains.

    A good shock will cover the failings of a frame design a poor one wont.

    patriotpro
    Member

    It will have waaaay more traction and waaaaay more weight and cost waaay more.

    swings n roundabarts innit

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    I didn’t notice it was bottoming out massively but clearly it was – also had to run it at the top end pressure wise (300psi) to stop it and consequently lost all small/mid bump damping. Bike was an ASR-7. Also had the same issue on a Five which led me to swapping out to a Cane Creek.

    PeterPoddy
    Member

    I HATE air shocks, they’re either too hard so they don’t bottom out and therefore do nothing

    Why does it need to bottom out? It doesn’t.

    People seem to believe this “it must bottom out once a ride” thing, which is, frankly, a load of crap.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
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    [slight rant] this is starting to sound like one of those £300 headphone or gold speaker cable things[/slight rant] 😆

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    AndreyE – from your post (which was a good read!) it sounds like the way to go is a larger air chamber?

    For the record although it sounds like it I’m not dead set against air shocks – I like the fact that you can change the ‘spring rate’ without having to buy another spring. Its just that I’ve yet to ride a bike with an air shock and feel like it’s actually doing what it’s meant to be doing. The Camber currently feels ‘dead’ compared to the Five, to the point where I was thinking about changing out to a coil.

    retro83
    Member

    I think it’s more down to the damper than the spring personally (presuming that the air spring has a negative spring which AFAIK they all do now).

    I don’t really get on with Fox dampers as they come from the factory. Not sure why, they seem to be soggy and harsh at the same time. Much better once tuned or Push’d. Then again, I rated the DHX Air which everybody else seems to hate.

    grum
    Member

    Air shocks are one of the best things to happen to mountain biking. Coil shocks are just too heavy for everything except DH.

    Only if you’re a weakling.

    Coil feels much better to me.

    I didn’t notice it was bottoming out massively but clearly it was – also had to run it at the top end pressure wise (300psi) to stop it and consequently lost all small/mid bump damping. Bike was an ASR-7. Also had the same issue on a Five which led me to swapping out to a Cane Creek.

    So you had the wrong ‘spring’, did you try a lower or higher volume can? If it’s bottoming out and the sag is about right then the volume is too high.

    People seem to believe this “it must bottom out once a ride” thing, which is, frankly, a load of crap.

    +1

    PhilAmon
    Member

    Generally bottom of the range bikes come with bottom of the range coil forks. They are heavier and are supplied with a spring that is unlikely to be the right ‘weight’ for the rider, therefore air forks on a budget bike are usually a step up, and the first upgrade many people make. Coil shocks on the other hand are a completely different matter

    AndreyE
    Member

    AndreyE – from your post (which was a good read!) it sounds like the way to go is a larger air chamber?

    Not exactly. The way to go is having a shock that matches the suspension linkage. For some strange reason manufacturers not always pay enough attention to this (costs etc?).

    In some examples I have HV was the way to go, however Giant Trance X had a small air chamber and it was perfect. I just started riding an HD 140 with small air chamber and it seems a good match, too.

    The HL Turner Spot example I have just shows that linkage itself can be a huge factor. The shock in this case was small chamber but it worked well with 5.5 rockers.

    Or another one – I used to ride a GT Force with stock small chamber Fox RP23 and it was a good match, would not want HV chamber on it. If the suspension works well with small chamber, high chamber will probably mean blowing through travel and bottoming out which is a common complaint for air shocks.

    Say, Intense Tracers VPP are well known to suffer from this ‘blowing and bottoming’ issue with stock HV RP23 but putting a different but still air shock on them like Manitou Evolver or Roco Air improves things a great deal AFAIK (have not tried this frame myself).

    pinhead
    Member

    My cane creek with a Ti spring

    are you a pro flange? if not then just ride yer bike.

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    People seem to believe this “it must bottom out once a ride” thing, which is, frankly, a load of crap.

    I’m not saying it has to bottom out, but it would be nice to use more than 50% of the travel without smashing itself to bits.

    I’ve just had a chat with TF tuned (Murry – very helpful chap!) who say that the CTD one I’ve got is basically shit, as is the fork (the shock more so). Recommend action is to bin the CTD Evo that I’ve got and either buy the next one up, or find an RP23 and have it pushed. As to the fork, its QR anyway which is a bit pants so might have a look round for something a bit bettterer

    are you a pro flange? if not then just ride yer bike.

    Nope, not at all but it does gripe me a bit that I’ve forked out £2.5 for a bike that feels like a badly sprung hardtail. The CCDB with ti spring was purchased second hand off a nice bloke on here. I’d have stuck with a steel spring had I been buying new

    ndthornton
    Member

    Only if you’re a weakling

    sigh….
    Just because I am capable of dragging a large, pointless and old fashioned piece of steel around with me doesnt mean I want to.

    You will be faster without it no matter how manly you think you are.

    I used to have coil on my Norco Six – it was heavy and wallowy – swapped for an RP2 for the Megavelanche (not a race for weaklings I should mention)- Bike transformed.

    patriotpro
    Member

    Is it fair to compare the feel on a Camber with 120mm to a Five with 150mm…

    Imo, coils are the go-to for plushness and ultimate control, hence the DH application.

    Air has the edge on just about every other aspect imo.

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    s it fair to compare the feel on a Camber with 120mm to a Five with 150mm…

    Valid point (the camber is actually 110mm) and one of the reasons why I’m thinking about air again rather than just slapping a coil on it. Maybe I’m just expecting a bit too much from the bike and it’s not the fault of the air shock. Dunno, but obviously if there’s the opportunity to throw away more cash…

    grum
    Member

    You will be faster without it no matter how manly you think you are.

    In an XC race maybe. For me though the most fun bit is going downhill and I’m not bothered how quickly I can get up the hills. Saying ‘coil is too heavy for anything except DH’ is just a daft sweeping statement.

    I ride my Pitch with coil front and rear up hills in the Lakes, Calderdale etc on rides with 1000-1500m of climbing and its fine. Admittedly I don’t do 60 mile epics but then I doubt I would with an air shock either.

    I’ve done the Mega too and would much rather do it with the DHX5 and 36 Vans I’ve got now than the RP2 I had before.

    reggiegasket
    Member

    I’ve experimented with air and coil shocks on my Remedy and there really wasn’t much between the std Fox DRCV air shock and a Fox Vanilla RC. They rode differently but one isn’t ‘better’ than the other. The DRCV really is impressive, and the pro pedal works well.

    But for forks… I’ve not used an air fork I’ve liked. Coil every time here for me.

    plushness and ultimate control, hence the DH application.

    Depends how the DH bikes set up, most race bikes will feel a very long way from ‘plush’. Think how much energy those guys are putting into the shock compared to the joe average rolling over smaller bumps at half the speed. The shocks will be firmer.

    The reason air shocks don’t come on DH bikes is cooling. Riding down a hill (as opposed to downhill) and air shock gets warm to the touch even on an XC bike. Ride at DH race speeds over a much longer decent and you’re putting a lot of energy into the damper, which on a coil shock has air flowing over it keeping it cool. On an air shock it’s insulated which is double bad as no only does the damping decreace but the spring rate is increacing as the air warms up. The vivid air used bit’s of plastic in the damper so that as it warmed up they expanded and kept the damping stable.

    mtbant
    Member

    A rather random question, but I’ve recently build up a 29er FS with some Fox 34 floats on it, and they really do seem to lack the small bump performance of a coil in any of the damping settings that the CTD offers. I was wondering if it would be possible to convert them to coil! Having come off a set of 66 ti’s there leagues apart and I was hoping to be able to get some of that feel back 😉

    Doug
    Member

    Do yourself a big favour and get an air volume tuning kit. Put a bigger spacer than currently fitted to get back your small bump sensitivity.

    patriotpro
    Member

    Aren’t all BOS forks Air now? I think they are (without checking). So Air is def a goer for DH.

    I see what you’re saying about the firming up coil for the DH racers, but if they were using air they would firm these up also, meaning the difference in plushness would remain parallel.

    Having owned both coil and air, coil is untouchable for low speed sensitivity and I imagine this will be the case for years to come. I can see why MBUK are pushing the air forks as being more desirable especially for a non-DH bike.

    I don’t think one is better than the other full-stop, but I do for specific applications plus at the end of the day a lot of the benefits are perceived anyway as they boil down to preference.

    I’m glad the choice exists.

    grum
    Member

    The reason air shocks don’t come on DH bikes is cooling. Riding down a hill (as opposed to downhill) and air shock gets warm to the touch even on an XC bike. Ride at DH race speeds over a much longer decent and you’re putting a lot of energy into the damper, which on a coil shock has air flowing over it keeping it cool. On an air shock it’s insulated which is double bad as no only does the damping decreace but the spring rate is increacing as the air warms up. The vivid air used bit’s of plastic in the damper so that as it warmed up they expanded and kept the damping stable.

    Yup, my RP2 started to feel awful half way down long rocky descents in the Alps.

    Doug
    Member

    I don’t think one is better than the other full-stop, but I do for specific applications plus at the end of the day a lot of the benefits are perceived anyway as they boil down to preference.

    Air is more tuneable so is great on an all round bike. Coil all the way for DH though for both feel and reliability.

    bellerophon
    Member

    PeterPoddy

    Why does it need to bottom out? It doesn’t.

    People seem to believe this “it must bottom out once a ride” thing, which is, frankly, a load of crap.

    Never a truer word said.

    wrecker
    Member

    – DW Link Turner Spot. IMO, one of the best matches of an air shock and linkage that I’ve seen. Very plush yet has a good bottom out resistance once you reduce the air chamber a little bit (I am closer to 100 kg geared). Tried it with small chamber RS Monarch 3.1 – not good, harsh etc.

    Conversely, I found the quite basic fox van RC much better than the stock rp23 on my ’11 spot. The platform was a waste of time really as it’s not needed. It just shot through its travel on climbs, in corners and felt a bit shit. The coil was a vast improvement in all areas except weight.
    I’m not an air shock hater, I love the rp23bv on my blur.
    I’ve gone for fancy pants rp23 with BV and adaptisometing for the spot now. Ill have to see how than goes.

    messiah
    Member

    I think when people repeat that phrase“it must bottom out once a ride” they mean getting full travel in a nice controlled way rather thunking metal on metal and breaking something. 🙄

    Aren’t all BOS forks Air now? I think they are (without checking). So Air is def a goer for DH.

    Forks and shocks are worlds appart, for starters forks work on a 1:1 ratio, mostly anyway, obviously the stationary bit of the damper (e.g. MOCO) is a much lower ratio as it’s working on the decarbon design. There’s a much larger volume of oil, and there’s a huge surface area for cooling. And the air ‘spring’ is much bigger, which allows lower pressures, meaning looser seals, meaning less friction (more performance enhancing than heat generating though in this case though).

    I think when people repeat that phrase”it must bottom out once a ride” they mean getting full travel in a nice controlled way rather thunking metal on metal and breaking something.

    But why would you want either? Stop thinking of it as ‘suspension’ designed to float you over the trail and more as a ‘shock absorber’ designed to take the edge off impacts and thus retain momentum and wheel/ground contact.

    uwe-r
    Member

    My 2p.

    The OP referred to cheap(ish) bikes (full sus at £1,250) where I have experience of cheap and basic coil v’s air and would go air every time, performance wise not a lot in it both are ok but weight wise cheap coils are heavy and as the performance is mediocre it just makes the bike feel dead. Air is also a simple system to tune based on pressures where as you are not going to mess around with springs on a cheap bike.

    A lighter air fork on a cheap set up makes a lot more sense. If you are throwing money around then obviously its horses for courses and coil would come in to the equation.

    soobalias
    Member

    I’ve just had a chat with TF tuned (Murry – very helpful chap!) who say that the CTD one I’ve got is basically shit, as is the fork (the shock more so). Recommend action is to bin the CTD Evo that I’ve got and either buy the next one up, or find an RP23 and have it pushed. As to the fork, its QR anyway which is a bit pants so might have a look round for something a bit bettterer

    is this honestly the advice you have been given by a company you are paying for a shock/fork service?
    TFTuned might like you to expand, provide some background, or they might be fine for you to quote one of their guys saying “the shock is shit and qr forks are pants”

    mildred
    Member

    I didn’t notice it was bottoming out massively but clearly it was – also had to run it at the top end pressure wise (300psi) to stop it and consequently lost all small/mid bump damping. Bike was an ASR-7. Also had the same issue on a Five which led me to swapping out to a Cane Creek.

    Now I’ve had an ASR7 with both an rp23, Dhx5 air, and then a CCDB.

    I’ll admit that the difference between either air shock and the CCDB was night and day. I was astounded how different it felt. Both air shocks were like on off switches: they dove through the mid stroke and generally had pants traction.

    I was so struck by how different it felt I downloaded the linkage software and saw that the yeti has a very odd leverage curve, which is exaggerated by the air shock.

    However, i might add that not all air shocks are created equally. I currently have a Bos Vip’r and it is amazing. I’ve had tuned air (TF tuned, Push, & a Loco tune), and none of these are as controlled or supportive as the Bos. It’s amazed me so much that I’ve now sold my CCDB.

    Also, as mentioned above, the bike is a major factor; the leverage rate can change throughout the stroke of the shock so the linear feel of a coil shock is not always best. As said, horses for courses.

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