When I started riding mountain bikes only a couple of years ago, I remember that everyone I rode with had an air shock on their bike. Even though it was only a couple of years ago, the most common shocks for enduro riders were the Fox Float X or Rockshox Monarch, and sometimes the Fox Float X2 or Vivid Air were on long travel enduro bikes.
In only the last couple of years, the coil shock has made a huge comeback and even shorter travel trail bikes are getting in on it. I have heard many people talking about how they used to run coil shocks in the old days but when air became so tunable, reliable and cost effective it made more sense to get the air shock. The advantages seem clear – you can adjust the feeling of the air shock with air and bands to best suit the track you are racing or riding with very little effort. It saves having to buy lots of springs of different rates.
So why the change? I believe it is because the current coil shocks have an amazing amount of tunability now. Look at the Fox DHX2 or the Push 11-6. They can be tuned with such precision, and with the use of super light springs and titanium, springs can now be used across a broader range of tracks and they’re much lighter than they once were. They are even making them with lockouts now. I recently read about XC bikes in Europe running light coil springs on 120mm bikes as the tracks are becoming very trail-like in features, so XC bikes can benefit from having the coil. That is something most people wouldn’t imagine. You can also get them relatively cheap. You still have to sort out your spring rates, but once you do you will have an amazing ride.
For me, moving to coil on my enduro bike was an experiment to see if I did get improved back wheel traction, especially when going up hills on technical sections. For me it worked really well, and I instantly noticed I had a plusher ride with better sensitivity for small bumps, and I had more control of the bike. The only downside was getting the springs that suited me best. I now have enough range to ride pretty much any trail I come across. It did make my bike 350 grams heavier, but it’s in the middle of the frame so it’s not really a big issue for me.
So let’s look at the pros and cons of both.
Pro: Cheaper, lighter, more tunable for any trail, suits virtually any frame (linkage) type.
Con: More servicing, not as plush in early stages, can fade on long descents.
Pro: Really supple and plush ride, keeps back wheel stuck to the ground, doesn’t fade on long descents.
Con: Heavier, more expensive with springs, doesn’t suit every frame (linkage) type.
I think it is a personal choice. I still use both depending on what type of riding I’m doing and which bike I’m using. My 140 trail bike runs a DPX2, my 170 enduro bike has the DHX2 coil. On my downhill bike I switch between both air and coil depending on the track features. I find the DH bike can run either with only small differences in feel. But for me personally, I really like the feel of a coil shock and it will be my go-to in the future.
By Sam Luff – Pushys Sponsored Athlete