Box of Avalanche Speed Sensitive Valve (SSV) goodies destined for my Nicolai Helius AM
Iím not selling this stuff just reporting back on what Iím finding out while riding them. There is some good info on the Knolly forum about Avalanche stuff and the Nicolai forum seems to have become a Bos fan zone so time to cross pollinate
This is all geekery and itís not to make me faster but to make the bike handle how I want which pleases me
I wanted improvements to my suspension and knew what I wantedÖ which wasnít a three option switch to faff with or some other marketing departments wet dream. Iíve tried the Bos VIPr and Deville combo (thanks Dipper) and I liked them but the current warranty and servicing hassles had me worrying as I like to fiddle and tend to break stuff. Iíve always ended up getting rear shocks custom tuned and had decided that even my all-singing-super-adjustable-never-need-custom-tuned CCDB needed a tweak to improve it. I did consider a CCDBAir but I thought I would end up wanting it custom tuned too? Iíve been looking at Avalanche Downhill Racing stuff for a few years and when on a work trip to Phoenix Arizona last year some of the guys I rode with were running Avy forks and shocks so I had a chance to ask what they thought; all positive feedback especially regards tuning options and longevity. When I read about the Avalanche fork tune cartridges becoming available for a Fox 36 and Marzocchi 55 Forks (both of which I have), and tuning options for the much maligned Fox DHX Air shock it became an itch which I thought worth a scratch; especially since I could now do fork and shock from the same tuner. So I entered into an email conversation with Craig at Avalanche and spoke to him a few times about what we thought would work for me. He suggested sticking with coil shocks and forks but the weight weenie in me wanted to go air as I have a few Enduro type races I want to enter this yearÖ so I decided to get my Float fork tuned rather than my Coil Marzocchi. For the shock since I didnít own a DHX Air shock Craig recommended buying an older version as it has a multi position Pro-Pedal dial which converts to a better Compression Adjuster than the three position Pro-Pedal switch on newer DHX Airís. The DHX 4.0 version also doesnít have the volume adjuster which is removed as part of the modification anyway so he suggested a DHX Air 4.0 with a dialÖ and once we found a suitable shock on eBay USA I bought it and had it sent to Craig. When he was ready to carry out the work we had another quick chat and he built my shock and fork cartridge and sent them over to the UK.
The modified DHX Air is lighter than a CCDBAir (heavier than a Float R/RP23 etc though)
This is what my AM now looks like (bit of a sleeper... "why are you running a DHX Air when everyone knows they are sh*% Mr... and 36mm stantioned forks are so last year" ).
And this is what I think so far.
I'm very impressed with the Avalanche tuned fork and shock. Compared with all other shocks I've used including CCDB's and custom tuned Fox this is my favourite. It holds up in its travel which makes it feel good on tamer terrain and doesn't blow-through through the travel when you do big weight shifts to the rear like many air shocks do (Especially the standard DHX Air). In the gnar it feels like a coil shock; when you start hitting stuff hard and fast all the travel is there and the shock is able to recover quickly enough to take the next hit without packing down. It feels quite like a BOS VIPr but a bit more fluid feeling at the start of the travelÖ and without the ďchirpingĒ.
Overall feeling is one of efficiency - it only uses the travel it has to and doesn't give me that falling over the back feeling that I used to get with big weight shifts on the CCDB/Float. Pedal stroke wise it feels really good and when clawing up techy steeps the shock feels like itís working for you rather than against you in the way it rebounds from rocks and roots helping with grip and almost pushing the bike along (yesÖ really).
With the Avalanche tuned 36 up front the two work together well as they have similar feeling; there is plenty of mid stroke support which limits brake dive yet they feel smooth and bottomless when hitting stuff hard and fast. Get out of the saddle and honk and again fork and shock are only using the first part of the stroke so not wallowing around too much. Where the Avalanche combo feels amazing is when being pumpedÖ much better than anything Iíve tried before, almost like a great big hand is shoving the bike forward with each pump (yesÖreally).
Best fork and shock I've used by far and very much worth the cost.
MORE ON THE FORK
Installation was easy as I followed the Avalanche instructions... and I did indeed need the blowtorch to release the Loctite on the rebound cap. Heat then twist, heat then twist, etc as itís a very fine thread and took a while. Once installed filling with oil was easy and getting the fork back together was no bother. I bought some MAXIMA Race Enduro fork oil from ebay as Avalanche recommend using fork oil designed for cartridges (Spectra which is what Avy use is not available in the UK as far as I could find out). Going from the FOX RC2 Cartridge to open bath Avy the fork gained 150gÖ which means it now weighs only 100g less than my Marzocchi 55 RC3 Ti. If Iíd realised that before I might have got the cartridge for the Bomber but the 250g of the 36 was calling the weight weenie in me .
Performance wise the fork is a huge improvement over the 36 RC2 (older 2010 FIT cartridge). It feels overdamped in the garden but on the trail it is superb. I used to run about 55psi as a compromise pressure; this gave 20% sag which is less than I wanted but it prevented wallowing, fork dive, and end of travel harshness (packdown?). Iím now running 50psi which is about 30% sag and I think I will go lower still as Iíve yet to feel dive is a problem and the fork is not yet as plush as the Bombers (I doubt it will ever be but itís fun to tryÖ should I have bought the kit for the Bombers though?).
MORE ON THE REAR SHOCK
After the first ride I reduced the air volume as the DHX Air has a high volume can and I found it was wallowing in the early travel a little (Iíve done this with my other Float shock so expected this to be the same). It was an improvement and now the DHX feels really well suited to my AM. It feels better than either the Float or the CCDB which is high praise. The TF/Push tuned Float I have is a great XC shock as it has plenty of compression damping so doesnít give up its travel easily (unlike before it was tuned). Where my simple Float was not enough such as for rides with big hits and long doonhalls where it gets very hot I used the CCDB. I loved the CCDB on the downs as it soaks everything up but for techy climbs it can wallow deep in the travel making you feel like your falling over the back. The Avalanche DHX Air feels like a great combination of the two. As with the fork it feels overdamped in the garden and sitting on it Iím getting 30% sag at the same pressure I do with the Float (and the same sag as the CCDB). Out on the trail it feels little different to my Float at low speed which is great in the normal stuff, but when the speed increases it seamlessly gains the fluidity of the CCDB and Iím using all the travel without feeling like Iím falling over the back or suffering lots of pedal strikes (like the CCDB sometimes does). Coming from the CCDB the Avy also has loads of pop and playfulness which is something I missed when running the CCDB. I liked the CCDB but I prefer the Avy DHX Air.
FORK & SHOCK
So far so good. Iíve not done everything I want with them yet but so far they feel better than the other forks and shocks Iíve tried (Yes, even the BOS stuff!). As good on the XC stuff as the Float/Float combo I have and as good on the doonhalls as the CCDB/Marz set up. Where the Avalanche combo has amazed me so far and really feels special is when you start attacking and pumping trail features. This is something I love about hardtails but some full suspension set-ups just donít work that well at it. I loved my CCDB/Marz combo at speed but for low speed and pumping they felt too soft and had more squish than pop. I think CCDBís are quite slow to rebound from deep in the travel which is why they donít pump too well, and perhaps why people say theyĒ feel a bit deadĒ or ďlack popĒÖ and Marzocchi forks are generally a bit softly sprung and underdamped which feels great at speed but isnít overly responsive (IMHO etc). The Avalanche combo feels amazing when being pumpedÖ much better than anything Iíve tried before, almost like a great big hand is shoving the bike forward with each pump (yesÖreally). More testing and riding required but so far Iím very very impressed.
Thanks to Craig at Avalanche for reading and listening to my ramblings... and for making me the best fork and shock combo I've tried yet
I'm enjoying the ride and the geekery
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