Rear Shocks

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How to choose a mountain bike rear shock: Dual suspension mountain bikes have come a long way in the past decade. No longer do trail and XC riders cringe at the thought of struggling up a long climb while their rear damper bobs up and down inefficiently. Modern frame designs and rear shocks have all but eliminated the argument against dual suspension bikes, making the rear shock a component not to be overlooked. Shock manufacturers offer air and coil-over versions to fit any frame. With available options like a lock-out, high and low speed compression, high and low speed rebound, pedaling efficiency settings and spring rates (either air or coil) there are rear shocks for every bike and riding style.

Rear Shocks

Types

There are two very obvious types of rear shock: coil-over and air shocks. The major functional difference being that a coil shock compresses a steel or titanium spring located outside the shock body, whereas an air shock has an internal chamber where the compressed air provides resistance. Both types of suspension pre-date mountain bikes and are trustworthy choices. The most significant practical difference between the two is weight. As a general rule, coil-over shocks, even with a titanium spring, are heavier than their air-sprung counterparts. This is why you will never see a coil shock on an XC race bike. However, long travel bikes almost always come with coil shocks, and they remain the standard on competition downhill bikes.

Sizes

Sizing for rear shocks is done according to two measurements: "eye-to-eye" and "stroke." Both measurements should be provided by the frame manufacturer's website or catalogue and are generally shown as eye-to-eye x stroke (ex: 6.50 x 1.5 inches). Eye-to-eye refers to the distance between the two eyelets at either end of the shock where it is bolted to the frame. The stroke of a rear damper refers to the length of the shock's ability to compress independent of the frame (think of the travel measurement on a fork). Eye-to-eye measurements range from 5.5 to 10.5 inches. Stroke lengths range from 1 to 3.5 inches.

Materials

Rear shocks are almost entirely made from aluminum. Coil shocks use either steel or titanium springs, but their bodies and shafts remain aluminum. There are some very high-end shocks that use carbon fiber bodies.

Things To Look For

First, look for a shock designed for the type of riding you want to do. Shock companies simplify the selection process by offering models developed specifically for every riding style. Once you have found a suitable shock platform, it is important to choose damper with the adjustments you will benefit from most. For recreational trail riders, an aftermarket shock with adjustable compression, rebound and possibly a lockout can offer huge benefits on the trail in terms of control and comfort. More serious cross-country riders may want to invest a little more to get the lightest possible model, with lockout and more sophisticated damping to improve pedaling efficiency. Downhillers, freeriders and aggressive trail riders can benefit from available high and low speed settings for both compression and rebound settings. The greater tuneability can take seconds off the clock and make any descent smoother.

How Much To Spend

Rear shocks range in price from around $150 to $1100.

In the $150-$350 range, air and coil-over shocks equipped with basic adjustments like rebound and compression damping are available. Components at this price provide solid performance in a reliable package.

Moving up to the $350-$550 variety, shocks begin to incorporate high and low speed compression and rebound adjustments, remote lockouts and anti-bob pedaling technology. These shocks could be a great upgrade for any enthusiast looking to get a little more out of their rear damper.

Shocks ranging from $550 to $1100 are top-of-the-line, performance oriented parts designed for competition. Products in this range combine all of the available adjustments into a lightweight package. They also use additional technology, such as a special coating on the shaft to reduce friction and increase suppleness.

Product Reviews

Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.

We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.

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