We Ride Coil and Air Shocks Back-to-Back

Just don’t call it a comeback. Coil shocks are making their way back onto more and more non-DH bikes these days, helped by better shock design and better understanding of suspension dynamics in frame design. In other words, coil shocks are popping up on more and more bikes that were almost the exclusive domain of air shocks over the past 10 years or so. So what benefits are riders seeking that drive them to install a component can weigh almost twice as much as the one it just replaced, when just yesterday it seemed that building 27-lbs enduro bikes was all anybody ever cared about anymore? And what exactly happens to your bike’s handling when you go coil? We grabbed a couple of shocks from FOX and headed out for a little back-to-back action to find out.

The Hardware

In addition to the many different kinds of shocks we’ve ridden over the past years, one of our long-term bikes has had a FOX Float X2 on it for quite some time already, and we’ve previously reviewed both the climb switch and the non-climb switch versions of this shock with great results. Given that this particular bike sports a highly progressive rear suspension layout, it was always a prime candidate for a coil shock, which gave us the idea for this back-to-back test scenario. Somewhat unfortunately, FOX does not make a climb switch version of the DHX2 in the size we needed, so we took delivery of the standard version instead. 

FOX DHX2 Highlights

FOX Float X2 2-Position Lever Highlights

  • External adjustments: low-speed compression, high-speed compression, low-speed rebound, high-speed rebound, 2-position compression lever (optional), coil spring preload
  • Coating: Ti-Nitride
  • Travel options: 7.875 x 2.25 (2-position lever optional), 8.5 x 2.5 (2-position lever optional), 8.75 x 2.75, 9.5 x 3, 10.5 x 3.5
  • Weight: 776 grams (8.75x2.75, verified)
  • MSRP: $599.00 USD (without spring)
  • Kashima coated body
  • External adjustments: low-speed compression, high-speed compression, low-speed rebound, high-speed rebound, 2-position compression lever, air spring pressure.
  • Extra-Volume (EVOL) air sleeve
  • Tunable air spring via volume spacers
  • Travel options (with 2-position lever): 7.875 x 2.00, 7.875 x 2.25, 8.50 x 2.50
  • Travel options (without 2-position lever): 8.75 x 2.75, 9.50 x 3.00, 10.50 x 3.50
  • Weight: 520 grams (8.75x2.75, verified)
  • MSRP: $629.00 USD

Going Coil

Looking menacing with its piggy back design and an imposing orange spring, the DHX2 certainly makes a statement (not least on the scales, where this coil crusher weighed in at 776 grams compared to the air version’s 520 grams, for the same shock dimensions). The hydraulic adjustments mirror those of the Float version, while setting your sag is obviously done by figuring out the correct spring rate as opposed to just playing with the air pressure. We started out with the recommended spring rate for our weight and bike, but soon found that we needed a bit more to keep the bike from bottoming out too quickly. Going up from a 400 to a 425-lbs spring did the trick, along with approximately 3 full turns of spring preload and two extra clicks of HSC compared to our air shock baseline settings. With the adjusters properly dialed in, the bike felt close enough to the airsprung version in terms of its general behavior on the trail, although the differences between the two shock types would soon become readily apparent.

During our very first runs out with the coil bike, we literally stopped twice on the first trail to check the air pressure in our rear tire, convinced we’d find it half flat.

With the initial set-up taken care of, we gave ourselves a couple of months to ride the coil shock in order to get properly used to it and to iron out any on-trail issues. During our very first runs out with the coil bike, we literally stopped twice on the first trail to check the air pressure in our rear tire, convinced we’d find it half flat. That was all the coil shock’s doing…it certainly feels quite different in terms of how it deals with smaller bumps and the trail surface in general.

During the initial DHX2 testing period, we made sure to ride all the different types of terrain you’d expect to be able to take on with a modern enduro bike. Everything from long days out with smooth climbs and fast and flowy downhills, to more technical terrain with some airtime-inducing features thrown in for good measure. Throughout this testing, we found that our bike was still very much an excellent companion for it all. The main difference lies in how the bike reacts to rider input and to the trail. On the “plus” side, you get extra traction and a general feeling of surefootedness from the coil shock that adds another dimension of descending aptitude to your enduro bike. On the flipside, you also end up with a bike that is less poppy and playful, and that wants to stick to the ground a lot more.

In terms of pedaling efficiency, the coil shock also suffers from a lack of explosiveness. When you want to put down a few power cranks, the bike feels slightly more sluggish than its airsprung counterpart. Note that we are not talking about pedal bob here, we found both the air and the coil version fairly close in terms of how they deal with that, rather we’re referring to out-of-saddle efforts or more energetic pedaling. This has less to do with damping and more to do with spring rate curves in this case. Because the air shock has a much more progressive spring rate curve, it means that it provides a lot more support earlier in the stroke – i.e. when you are sprinting for example. This does not only have to do with the ACTUAL leverage ratio at sag, but also the SHAPE of the spring curve at that point. Because of the progressive spring rate of the air shock, the slope of the rate curve at sag and just after the sag point is also steeper, which influences how the shock is going to react to various suspension events caused by heavy pedaling, pumping, jumping, etc. Put simply, you cause a sharper change in total spring rate with less outside input on an air shock, which translates to a “platform” feeling on the trail. Note that we are taking the frame’s leverage ratio curve out of the equation for this part of the discussion since we are testing on the same bike.

For another recently published feature, we had the opportunity to ride an air and a coil shock from RockShox back-to-back on a 2018 Devinci Spartan in Whistler. The Spartan is also quite a progressive bike, and our findings match the FOX results in the present feature very closely. In our discussions with Duncan Riffle and Chris Mandell of SRAM/RockShox, the “adiabatic” nature of the air shock compression characteristics were referred to as a possible cause of the extra pop of air shocks. Whilst it could be taken at face value to mean “air springs are more progressive,” the simple fact remains: even DH-oriented air shocks behave quite differently to their coil-sprung counterparts.

Because of their aggressive looks and proliferation on DH bikes, people tend to equate coil shocks with more aggressive riding. This is however only partially true. On the right bike, the coil shock will be more confidence inspiring at speed over rough terrain, but when it comes to jumping and airtime, it’s hard to beat the bottomless feeling of a good air shock. With the coil shock on our test bike, we were able to confidently hit everything we usually do even with just a moderately stiff spring rate, testament to this particular frame’s progressiveness, but there is no doubt that the air shock provides a lot more margin for error and a much more controlled bottom-out experience.

In addition to the inherently more progressive nature of the air shock making it easier to live with on many frames, the ability to tune the spring rate curve with both volume spacers and air pressure is another advantage. Once properly set up for your frame, it is indeed possible to get pretty close to that "coil-like" behavior - in everything but small bump compliance. Whilst the air shocks featured in this article are far from sticky, the way a coil shock takes the edge of even the smallest bumps remains un-matched. We are really talking about high-frequency chatter and similar here, as the air shock does an admirable job on mid-sized rocks and such. The difference is more tactile than anything else.

Back To Back

At the end of the test period, we headed out for a day of back-to-back testing on a local loop we ride a lot. Featuring a good mix of speed, rough terrain, and some drops, this track would quickly help us really pinpoint the differences in behavior between the two shocks. For your viewing pleasure, we documented the day on video:

 

For this day of back-to-back testing, we ran each shock at our preferred settings, which involved a bit more HSC on the coil shock (two to three clicks). We were impressed at how effective this adjustment was in terms of dialing in the extra bottom-out resistance we needed on the coil shock, which is a fancy way of saying "the knobs do what it says on the box." Riding the two shocks back-to-back like this didn’t reveal anything we hadn’t already figured out, but it served to further underline how different the two types of shocks are on the trail. Note that we did not specifically set out to try to measure things like heat build-up on long runs, compression and rebound “fade” etc, nor did we attempt any timed measurements of any kind. Once again, our goal here was to hone in on how the different shocks “feel,” and not which one is “best.” A subjecto-objective measurement, if you will.

What’s The Bottom Line?

It’s a good time to be a mountain biker! With advances in knowledge of suspension design and the evolution of damping technology, we have more good options than ever when it comes to building our dream bikes. And while coil shocks are not for everybody, we are now at a point where they are a 100% valid choice for your enduro or trail bike – provided you have a frame with a suspension design that is progressive enough. If you want a bike that is super supple off the top and that leaves you feeling glued to the ground even through the roughest sections of trail, coil is for you. If you’re after maximum playfulness and more pop, you need to plop for air. In either case, a quality shock with multiple adjustments and a climb switch will help you get the most out of your bike.


About The Reviewer  

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Tal Rozow, Nils Hjord, and Johan Hjord

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53 comments
  • johnD

    10/30/2017 1:38 AM

    "For another recently published feature, we had the opportunity to ride an air and a coil shock from RockShox back-to-back on a 2018 Devinci Spartan in Whistler." Clicked the link but couldn't find any info about the coil vs air on the 2018 Spartan. Could you please point me in the right direction? Thanks.

  • iceman2058

    10/30/2017 1:48 AM

    That article was all about the discussion (in audio) with the RockShox guys. As stated in the present article, our findings on the Spartan were very similar to what was written here when it comes to the on-trail experience with the two different shocks.
  • johnD

    10/30/2017 7:21 AM

    Thanks for the info!

  • dan.wojo

    10/23/2017 3:12 PM

    nice to see a decent amount of comments and interactions. comments can get a bit lonely on vital posts but good to see users stepping it up

  • Suns_PSD

    10/23/2017 1:17 PM

    Enjoyed the article.

    I will say that I added Avalanche tuning to my X2 (bike is the Yeti 5.5 which has a very linear linkage rate so I ruled out a coil shock) and then added a RWC roller bearing kit and it feels a lot like you describe the coil shock (except for being linear). It has a ton of sensitivity to small trail chatter (this pretty much exclusively came from the bearing kit), great mid-stroke support, and feels a little dead/ like I have a flat rear tire but with gobs of traction. The last 2 functions came from the Avy tuning. Bottom out resistance is ideal, that's all on Fox and the nature of compressed air I guess. I wouldn't change a thing about that rear suspension's performance now.

    Thanks again!

  • mtbkluth

    10/18/2017 10:40 AM

    Something I've been wondering. A coil fork must be as linear as it gets as there is no frame leverage ratios etc. But why is it that a certain progression is wanted in the coil shock? Would it not make for a very balanced ride if both curves were as close to each other as possible?

  • TEAMROBOT

    10/18/2017 3:42 PM

    Linear fork curves also suck, and engineers have found lots of ways to make coil forks less linear in spring rate. Hydraulic bottom out assist, pneumatic bottom out assist, rubber bottom out bumpers, and of course dual spring rates.

  • razorree

    10/18/2017 8:42 AM

    What about RockShox Super Deluxe performance ? is it far away after Float X2 ?

  • iceman2058

    10/18/2017 8:48 AM

    The Super Deluxe is a great shock, we've ridden it on many bikes and we've been very impressed with it since day 1. It's a significant improvement over the Monarch series.

  • Jmhdh

    10/17/2017 8:57 PM

    Of course, since the progression curve of a coil shock (linear) is different than an air shock (progressive, flat in mid-stroke, then progressive again), you really can't go ride each on the same bike. If you design the bike for an air shock, you need to adjust the leverage curve to compensate. One of them is going to be kinda poor performing, or if the bike is designed to be a compromise between the two they are both going to be "meh". This review had good intentions, but just because manufacturers spec both coil and air shocks on the same bike doesn't mean they have this figured out and sometimes it's pretty wacky no matter what they spec.

  • Rems

    10/17/2017 6:39 PM

    Nice article.

    However I may have some question/criticism, mostly related to the spring rate you chose. On the video you are bottoming out with the coil on what seems to be a pretty small feature. Now this match the graph you are showing, but I believe the (coil )spring rate should be higher. Normally, riding with compression fully open, you should use all travel (or almost) but never bottom out on your typical trail... So going to a higher spring rate also means it offers more support in mid stroke (which partially equate to more pop and playfulness, but also better response to pedaling), however it would also mean a little harsher ride (but probably still better than air)

    Based on my personal experience ( I recently switched my monarch debonair for a moto c2r on my nomad 3) I tried 3 different coil rates:
    -350lbs was a lot more supportive and poppy than my air setup (especially when jumping), but it was rowdier and clearly a bit too much for me.
    -so I tried a 300lbs, which felt quite like what you are describing, glued to the ground and quite "dead" (but I wasn't bottoming out on regular riding)
    -And then I bought a 325lbs spring which is only a little less poppy than my air, but is a lot more supportive in mid stroke and is clearly tracking a lot better.

    Now it would have been better if I could compare the coil to a downhill air shock instead of a trail/enduro one.
    And maybe it is just the video dulling things out

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 10:52 PM

    Yeah, the video tends to flatten stuff out a bit...that feature is by no means big, but it is a bit awkward for the suspension. When you come at it with a bit of speed, you catch a landing area that is almost uphill, and the lip actually has a bit of an upward slope to it, so it pops you up as well. All that to say, I have bottomed out plenty of more linear bikes there with enough spring rate for most other trails I ride. All the other coil bike pics in the article were shot with the same spring rate, with no bottoming out anywhere.

  • Serge-W

    10/19/2017 2:19 PM

    I second Rems' comment. Got a Capra with a Moto C2R and a 350lbs spring (at 67kg naked). Before it had the stock Float X2, which was good, but no match for the coil.

    On the graph of force characteristics you show, the curves are parallel at initial travel, but greatly different near bottom-out (much higher force for air shock). If I'd want to substitute an air shock for a coil one, I'd select the new spring rate so that it matches the bottom out force of the air shock. That curve will then actually give a much better platform mid-stroke than the air shock.

    Pedalling and sprinting is then better with the coil and the bike handles so much more dominant and forgiving at the same time. At the same endstroke force, you'll also have the same bottomless feeling. Feels harsh only in the parking lot, but once you give it some heat, you'll have a big grin on your face.

    I know I said this elsewhere already, but air shocks seem rather harsh to me when going fast. I dig the progressive nature of air forks though. Seems like a winning combo and is my go-to formula on both my DH and my Enduro bike: air fork + coil shock (on rising-rate frame).

  • iceman2058

    10/20/2017 12:50 AM

    By choosing a coil spring that gives the same bottom out force as the air spring, you are in fact choosing to run much less sag, thus also affecting your ride height and the bike's handling characteristics (to a degree). This may be good or bad, depending on your preferences and riding style.

    Now, what you have stated above really touches on the core of the issue: air shocks are progressive, coils springs are not. To optimize either, the best way is to design the frame around the intended application. If you built a frame exclusively for coil use, you'd give it a ton of mechanical ramp up in the linkage, to get an effective spring rate curve that looks like the air curve. If the frame is NOT optimized for either spring type, you end up having to use various "crutches" such as compression damping, changing spring rates, using tokens in air shocks on linear frames etc etc.

    The bottom line is: on the right bike, coil is awesome. How close to "perfect" you can get it is a moot point, there are so many variables in suspension set-up that personal preference is the ultimate deciding factor. In my case for example, I don't see myself removing the coil shock from this bike in the near future, even if I touch the bottom of the shock 5% more.

  • Serge-W

    10/20/2017 2:15 PM

    Well yeah, but less sag is secondary to the benefits, in my experience. Especially the geometry bit. When the suspension is constantly at work and at different travel positions (eg front on root, rear in hole), you're not so likely to note the effect. I feel the geodifference of an angle set much more than changes in spring rate balance. That leaves me perhaps with a harsh ride, but only feeling that in the parking lot. So for rising rate frames, for me that's the way forward.

    Decidedly not air, because at comparable end stroke forces, the air shock actually feels really sluggish, uncommunicative and sitting deep in the travel.

    You're right though, frames with different leverage rate curves will be different beasts.

  • Krispy

    10/17/2017 1:48 PM

    Great article, Vital rocks.
    While I agree with what is stated in this article I've had different outcomes when testing coil vs air.

    First off, what hasn't been mentioned here or in the Rockshox story is how the negative chamber works on an air shock. The negative air makes the shock softer at sag and can make the shock feel less poppy. The coil spring on the other hand is firmer at sag which gives the support so many people feel. I've found this to make the bike feel more poppy and faster.

    Due to larger negative Evol and Debonair air cans this has become less noticeable. I'm just stating this because a lot of us have contradictory responses to what's stated in this article and it may be because we've all had older air shocks that feel different from today's fantastic air shocks.

    Lastly, air shocks don't have bottom out bumpers that can cause a harsh bottom out. Riders that experience this resort to adding bands/tokens to get more progression. This causes ramp up throughout the stroke which isn't always desired. I think the reason they don't have bumpers is the O ring fun meter won't ever reach full travel which makes people think there's something wrong with their setup or have the wrong stroke shock. Coil shocks don't have travel measuring o rings so no one knows they're missing a few mm's of travel. Air shocks (and coils for that matter) should have 5 mm's more travel and bottom out bumpers to get the true stroke at bottom out!!!!!

  • get_rekttt_son

    10/17/2017 4:32 PM

    The air spring curve is completely wrong in the article. A brief google for any fork's air spring curve gives an S shaped curve that is flatter through the sag and midstroke than a coil with the same amount of sag.

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 10:55 PM

    We are talking about the shock here, not the fork...but yes, the graph was meant to be illustrative and not an actual representation of the spring rate curves here. Now, when we're talking about "pop", we typically refer to events that can easily use up 50% of travel or more, preloading the suspension for a bunny hop or pushing into a turn with lots of support for example. In those cases, we're clearly always going to be well into the steeper part of the the spring rate curve on an air shock.

  • get_rekttt_son

    10/18/2017 12:06 AM

    Yeah sorry, fork/shock same thing when it comes to air springs though (for the most part).

    People often don't realize how deep they get into the travel due to rider inputs. You should illustrate that rather than try to justify the feel by talking about how the wheel force curve is steeper in the sag area (which it isn't).

    There isn't enough talk about dynamic ride height vs static ride height (sag), and spring vs damper behavior when talking about rider inputs vs terrain inputs to the suspension.

  • iceman2058

    10/18/2017 12:27 AM

    TBF I did say "just after the sag area" in the article...but maybe that could have been clearer, yes.

  • b-lec

    10/17/2017 1:26 PM

    Excellent article. I know you didn't do timed runs, but any idea which was actually faster? I "feel" faster on my air shock but can't tell if it's because the coil is just so much quieter and controlled that it feels slower. Would love to be able to compare times to see... thanks!

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 10:59 PM

    No real feel for which one might have been faster, that trail is short and any difference would be hard to attribute to the shock, with so many opportunities to screw up the riding along the way. I think that if your runs include any kind of pedaling and/or twisty awkward turns that are hard to generate speed out of, the air shock would have an edge. On longer, steeper and rougher runs the coil might provide the kind of serenity that will make a difference towards the end when you get tired.

  • Mr. P

    10/17/2017 12:36 PM

    Wouldn't a way to get "pop" back into the coil, would be to go up one spring weight?
    25 pound differences in springs can allow a tuning like this.

    But it would add the implications of less sag, more support, more bottom out resistance, less rock vacuuming, and all the riding characteristics that goes with those.

    Dig the article. Thanks.

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 11:03 PM

    Obviously yes, but there is still the matter of the shape of the spring curve which I feel has a lot to do with generating "pop" as well.

  • mutton

    10/17/2017 11:43 AM

    Thanks - great article and very timely. I just replaced a DHX2 on my Delirium with a Float X2. I probably could have had a heavier spring all along now that you mention it...but damn...the X2 felt great off the bat. Exactly as you described. Cheers

  • RipNshread

    10/17/2017 10:15 AM

    I take it your from Scandinavia, the source of the word "niggles". Very derogatory. That word is widely believed to be the word the rest of the "N-words" were derived from. Might be OK to use in the "Great White North", but not the rest of the world. Please remove it.

  • stagnant

    10/17/2017 10:25 AM

    I don't think it was meant in any derogatory context...at all.

    From dictionary.com -
    verb (used without object), niggled, niggling.
    1.
    to criticize, especially constantly or repeatedly, in a peevish or petty way; carp:
    to niggle about the fine points of interpretation; preferring to niggle rather than take steps to correct a situation.
    2.
    to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details:
    It's difficult to be meticulous and not niggle.
    3.
    to work ineffectively; trifle:
    to niggle with an uninteresting task.

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 10:39 AM

    As somebody who has American parents and who has lived and worked most his life in various English-speaking countries/companies, I might contest your use of the term "widely believed" in this context, as "niggles" is definitely a term used in many places to describe "minor issues" (and certainly not intended to be derogatory in this article, as if that actually needed to be pointed out). However, as a citizen of the world of 2017 I believe we have enough problems caused by the insensitive use of potentially derogatory terms (and the corresponding deeper, underlying social issues) to gladly take your criticism at face value and adjust accordingly. The article has been updated. Thanks for making your discomfort known to me.

  • RipNshread

    10/17/2017 10:47 AM

    Thank you, and I did not think it was purposefully derogatory on your part. Maybe, "widely believed" was too harsh, but either way... @stagnant read further down on the page you referenced...

    Word Origin and History for niggle
    v.
    1590s (implied in niggling), possibly from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian dialectal nigla "be busy with trifles"), perhaps related to source of niggard. Related: Niggled ; niggling ; niggler.

  • get_rekttt_son

    10/17/2017 4:22 PM

    The words niggle and niggard are from a completely different origin than the "N word" and have nothing to do with it at all. ripnshread is just an idiot tripping over himself trying to get offended.

  • RipNshread

    10/20/2017 9:10 AM

    Wow...just wow....this world we live in these days.

  • get_rekttt_son

    10/23/2017 5:18 PM

    Do you also get angry at people that use the word "count" because it is very close to another offensive word? What about deck?

    Do you refuse to utter the name of the country Niger?

  • crisco

    10/17/2017 7:48 AM

    An ignorant question, but i wonder why we don't see progressive coil springs on mountain bikes. I used them almost exclusively in automotive applications (although I certainly wasn't as in tune to my suspension then as I am with my mtb), and it appears they exist in the moto world.

  • Krispy

    10/17/2017 1:34 PM

    There were progressive springs for a while on MTB's. I think the reason we don't see them now is that they fatigue. Springs on bicycles are as short as they can be to save weight and, aside from new Metric shocks, there isn't room for a longer spring. With progressive wound springs a few coils work harder than the rest which causes them to sack out, get softer and break. Foes had 2 stage springs and we at Go-Ride made 2 stage springs for Fox 40's for a while before the dampers were up to snuff. Our springs would sack out rather quickly since the softer of the 2 springs did most of the work. The Foes springs were awesome, there was a limiter to keep the softer spring from being overly compressed. Foes discontinued theirs, the shocks were significantly longer which made them heavy, and hard to sell.

  • Egurfink

    10/17/2017 7:40 AM

    Johan - What about jeffsy 29 model?
    DHX2/float X2 / new DPX2 fox shocks? 200x57

    Thanks

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 8:43 AM

    I don't have any experience with coil on that bike, so I wouldn't know how to answer your question.

  • stagnant

    10/17/2017 6:21 AM

    Thanks for putting this together. What good timing...I have the same Capra and recently picked up both of the same shocks!

    After just one day of lift access on both, I am really impress with the air shock. The coil is definitely plush and ground hugging, but it felt almost 'dead' at first. I expected it to be better on such a progressive frame. Time to hit the jump park to compare.

    @Johan - Can you list the LSR/HSR/LSC/HSC you have found to work best for both shocks? I haven't had enough saddle time to dial them in. I am also curious if you use your climb switch much at all? I debate buying one. It's sad it costs so much more when other lengths come with it. I rarely used the switch on the stock Monarch when climbing.

    And lastly, an observation - I am running a 400 x 2.75 spring for my weight and sitting at 30% sag with two turns. I noticed you have a 3.00 spring...what a great idea, duh! That would allow for more broad sag range. I will say, I had to buy two springs to find the right rate...a drawback to coil shocks.

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 8:55 AM

    Yeah, there is a definitely a big difference in how the bike feels with the coil shock, that's for sure.

    My settings (on the air shock, add 2-3 clicks of HSC on the coil shock):

    LSC 14 from closed
    HSC 15 from closed (12 from closed on the coil)
    LSR 12 clicks from closed
    HSR 12 clicks from closed

    I'm 190lbs, I run 190 psi in the air shock, with 2 or 3 of the "tokens" (inserts). On the coil shock, a 425lbs spring with 3 turns of preload (I think the 425 only exists in 3.0 length, it was a squeeze to install but it works fine).

    As for the climb switch - the stock Monarch shock that came on the bike has a way firmer tune than the Float X2 (or DHX2) when comparing the open modes. For that reason, I never felt a need to use it on the Monarch. However, once I moved to the Fox shock, I found myself running more open compression settings, which meant the shock was also more sensitive to bobbing. In this scenario, the climb switch is definitely worth it! When I tested the first version of the shock (without the lever), I ran firmer settings to compensate for not having the climb switch, but once you have the switch, it's much more fun to leave the shock more open (since you can now just lock it out for the climbs instead).

  • stagnant

    10/17/2017 9:01 AM

    Awesome info. Thanks for all the detail! I can't wait to try out some similar tune settings. And it makes sense on the 425 spring being only a 3". I've read your other posts on the Float X2 and spacer testing...also good info. I'm going to have to play with 2 vs 3. Thanks again...keep shreddin'

  • TEAMROBOT

    10/17/2017 9:48 AM

    Johan! Loved the article. I especially like that you took the spacers out for the sake of testing to try to get the air shock feeling more "coil-like."

    Have you tried cranking low speed compression on the coil shock to give you more of a platform for jumping (make it feel more like the air shock)? Seems like a lot of the dead/not poppy stuff could be mitigated with a nice stiff low speed platform to push into.

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 9:56 AM

    Yes I did, but there's still something slightly "dead" about it. I guess pushing against a dynamically loaded (air)spring is inherently more "bouncy" than pushing against a platform, regardless of how stiff that platform is? Glad you liked the article!

  • TEAMROBOT

    10/17/2017 11:33 AM

    Totally, damping is a bandaid solution for bad spring rates, but if your shock feels dead, damping is still an available bandaid solution.

    This one of many reasons why I love air suspension- it's so hard to dial in spring rate with coils, and you can't do anything about spring curve progression- it just is what it is. Being able to fine tune spring curve with tokens and being able to fine tune spring rate with little 3 psi bumps is priceless.

    Besides the fact that it's a PITA and expensive to buy 2-4 springs before you dial in sag, you never actually dial in sag at all. With a coil shock, even at 25 lb increments, you can only get sag close and you're left to compensate with compression damping to get the feel you want. I find I play with knobs a lot more on coil shocks, because I can't do anything about the spring rate. On my air shock bikes, I rarely touch the dials. If there's a problem, I grab my shock pump.

    My hunch is that 90% of suspension performance is related to spring rate, and the rest is just managing how that spring performs. It's the spring that actually holds your weight up. If you can get your spring rate where you want it, you have a lot less futzing with the last 10%.

  • Mr. P

    10/18/2017 9:11 AM

    Someone smarter than me wrote that the spring controls the mass while the damping controls the spring.

  • weezyb

    10/17/2017 5:35 PM

    Changing from 2.75 to a 3.0 should have no impact other than being heavier if you are running the same spring rate (400# or whatever it is) That 2.75 just means it's the most the spring can compress before it binds. That 2.75 or 3.0 # must be = or be greater than the stroke length on your shock to avoid binding. Ie 2.5 stroke length can take a 2.5 or greater spring but only to the point that the spring will actually fit on the shock itself. There is no point in going more than what the stoke length is on the shock unless there is not a spring made for that exact length. Ie the black steel springs are 2.8 I think and therefore if you have a 2.5 or 2.75 shock that's what you get. But running a longer spring only means it's going to weigh more. There should be nothing else impacted by that. The 400# just means it takes 400 pounds of pressure to compress the spring 1 inch and regardless of the length of the spring it is the same across them all.

  • iceman2058

    10/17/2017 11:02 PM

    With the caveat that if you run a longer spring on the same shock body, you can preload it more to bump up the effective spring rate. Because you have more room to load up the coil without causing it to bottom out on itself at the end of travel.

  • get_rekttt_son

    10/18/2017 12:13 AM

    Preload doesn't change the effective spring rate, it just raises the activation force of the spring.

  • iceman2058

    10/18/2017 12:47 AM

    Effective spring rate: the spring rate at the wheel. But to your point, yes, preload actually just changes the starting point of your spring curve (how much force is needed to start the spring into its travel). The slope of the spring curve remains unchanged (because a coil shock is linear). The point of this part of the discussion is still that a longer spring will allow you to use more preload (within the constraints of the amount of travel available from the shock body).

  • weezyb

    10/18/2017 6:39 AM

    You should have gone up a spring rate. Page one of the setup guide for the shock you used said if you cant get the right sag from two preload turns then you need to go up to the next spring rate. What you did by adding preload was take away from small bump by increasing the force required to move the spring at the beginning.

  • iceman2058

    10/18/2017 6:59 AM

    I never said I didn't have the right sag... I set it up to give about the same sag I was running on the air shock (~30%). Now, for a more telling example of the difference between these two shocks, I can run the air shock at 40% sag off that same drop and NOT bottom it out like the coil shock. Air just ramps up a whole lot more, further amplified on this bike by the sharply falling leverage ratio of the suspension linkage.

  • weezyb

    10/18/2017 7:26 AM

    If you are having to dial the preload more than 2 to get the right sag you're not on the right spring. Buying a longer spring and cranking the preload because you don't want to buy another spring is not the solution.

    Terrible audio but here you go.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUGRbaWlH8M

  • iceman2058

    10/18/2017 7:50 AM

    My sag was well within acceptable limits also at 2 turns of preload....but sure, I could go up another step in spring rate. As you could hopefully gather from the rest of the article however, the bike does not have a bottom out "problem" at all as it sits now, I've been riding it that way for two months. (FYI, common spring rate calculators put me at around 390 initially...and that's without taking into account the falling leverage ratio curve).

  • Yossi_Sarusi

    10/17/2017 4:25 AM

    good article

  • Kramz

    10/17/2017 7:15 PM

    It was enjoyably informative, love stuff like this. I would have liked a side by side visual of the shocks as he rode down the trail.

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