Any good air shocks out there?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    Ole
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    Any good air shocks out there?

    I've tried most Fox air shocks (Float, Float AVA, RP3, PUSH'ed RP3, DHX Air), Swinger 4-Way Air 2004 and 2005, 5th Element Air, DT Swiss, Rock Shox SID, Risse Astro5. They all have spring rates that rise sharply during the first mm of travel (some more than others, depending of the negative spring arrangement), then become falling rate during the middle of the stroke, and rise up again at the last 1/3. The result is a shock that causes the rear end to rise up excessively during braking, and sag too much during climbing. But they eat medium sized bumps really well because of the falling rate in the middle of the travel.

    I've also tried several coil shocks on the same frame (5th Coil, 4-Way Coil 2005, DHX Coil), and they all make the bike go faster up and down, despite the extra weight. There's a lot less stinkbug'ing during hard braking, and a lot less sagging during climbing, and he bike generally behaves a lot more stable in technical situations.

    Most of the shocks I mention above have been tried on the same frame, and have been set up with the same sag and damping (as close as possible).

    Now, who knows how to make an air shock that actually works well? If Rock Shox can make air forks that are super linear, why can't anybody make air shocks that behave the same way?

    Ole.

  2. #2
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    Impressive list

    Hard to believe that none of them has been suitable. I think the only other company known for air shocks that you haven't mentioned is Cane Creek, but I would think the Fox products would outperform them.

    Just my thoughts.

    Bob
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  3. #3
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    I got a 02 sugar 1 with a white brothers XC 4 on it. I love that thing. It has only 80mm of travel, but it works amazing. It soaks up little things so well. I do not punish it too much, just a few jumps every now and then.

    I have rebuilt it once and it was rather easy. It is so light.

    The only coil I have used is a manitou axcel elite, which is a very cheap entry level shock. so I have not much to compare to.

  4. #4
    TNC
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    Seems odd.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    I've tried most Fox air shocks (Float, Float AVA, RP3, PUSH'ed RP3, DHX Air), Swinger 4-Way Air 2004 and 2005, 5th Element Air, DT Swiss, Rock Shox SID, Risse Astro5. They all have spring rates that rise sharply during the first mm of travel (some more than others, depending of the negative spring arrangement), then become falling rate during the middle of the stroke, and rise up again at the last 1/3. The result is a shock that causes the rear end to rise up excessively during braking, and sag too much during climbing. But they eat medium sized bumps really well because of the falling rate in the middle of the travel.

    I've also tried several coil shocks on the same frame (5th Coil, 4-Way Coil 2005, DHX Coil), and they all make the bike go faster up and down, despite the extra weight. There's a lot less stinkbug'ing during hard braking, and a lot less sagging during climbing, and he bike generally behaves a lot more stable in technical situations.

    Most of the shocks I mention above have been tried on the same frame, and have been set up with the same sag and damping (as close as possible).

    Now, who knows how to make an air shock that actually works well? If Rock Shox can make air forks that are super linear, why can't anybody make air shocks that behave the same way?

    Ole.
    I too have tried a ton of shocks personally, and I have noticed some of them perform just like you described...but not all of them. The other variable that can have a great effect on the how the shock performs is the suspension design of the bike it's on. Then another vairable is the length of the shock and its stroke. I've used a 7.875 X 2.0 and an 8.5 X 2.5 Manitou 4-Way Air on the exact same bike...a Bullit...and the shuttle was positioned so that the shock leverage ratio was identical with both shocks. The bike felt very different with each shock. Factors at work here were probably the air volume difference between the two shocks and the necessity to set them up differently to get them to work optimally on the bike. Then throw in a bike design like a Heckler which has a very noticeable falling rate, and a given shock will perform even more differently.

    Basically though, I think what you're saying has some validity as it pertains to that characteristic of ultra-plushness in the middle of the shock stroke. I think the same thing goes on in an air fork, but the sheer volume of air masks the initial stiction and ramping up somewhat compared to how it does in an air shock. I'm also beginning to think that perhaps we as riders are not used to this much plushness on our bikes and tend to look at it as a negative instead of having more positive attributes. Dirt motorcycles have very plush, long travel and exhibit some of those traits that you mention...but obviously their engines overcome that kind of lost energy expended in their suspension action. I guess the point that is bouncing around in my head on this rambling pontification is that a lot of well controlled "mushy" travel can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing. When we're climbing we want one thing...nice, taught, travel that's just good enough to keep the tire in contact with the ground and not suck the life out of us. When we're going downhill, we want well damped, bottomless travel to suck everything up and let us continue forward at warp speed. Then depending on the terrain we're traversing on level ground, we want something that resembles some ideal combination of the previous two condtitions.

    The bottom line is that one man's suspension plushness is another man's wasted movement and lost energy...and one man's suspension harshness is another man's feeling of applied power and efficiency. Ole's assessment of these shocks may not be mine or many others reading this. When bikes are of different design, riders are of different skill levels and preference, and the places we ride are dramatically different, one almost wonders how we are even able to write up our experiences here to get any kind of consensus. But then, getting a consensus isn't required. Alll of us are capable of making some kind of assessment, and the only requirement is that we give ours and let others make theirs.

    Thanks for the post, Ole. With the advent of so many new and vaired air shocks recently, there have been plenty of vaired opinins about them, and it's been very enlightening and interesting to see different rider's perspectives.

  5. #5
    Alpine Rider (Italy)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    If Rock Shox can make air forks that are super linear, why can't anybody make air shocks that behave the same way?
    Ole.
    http://www.magura.de/english/gabeln/...e_odinplus.htm
    i never tried one.

  6. #6
    Ole
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    Promising, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by 30x26
    It seems promising at first, but if you look at the spring curve, it requires almost 20 % of its maksimum force capacity just to overcome the initial preload. It's like if you have a 500lb/in 2.5" travel spring, and preload it 1/2 inch. It's gonna stinkbug like there's no tomorrow.



    The other spring curve is pretty much how I perceive other air shocks, but not necessarily with such a high starting point. The middle area of the other shock is what worries me. It doesn't take any adittional force to use up huge amounts of mid travel. You increase the weight on the rear end a tiny bit, and the frame is going to sink down a lot. Like when you climb, or pump large terrain features, or rail corners. And it takes an equally tiny amount of reduction in force to extend the shock a lot. Like when you're braking...


    Ole.

  7. #7
    TNC
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    I like that term, "common air rearshock: progressive spring rate". Aren't they disregarding the many tuneable aspects of many of today's modern air (or coil) shocks, what with stable platforms, propedal, boost valve, bottomout chamber capacity tuning, etc.? Maybe the old Stratos Strata air shock that was on my '95 Trek Y33 would fit that profile.

    I still think we might be missing something positive about the mid-travel plushness aspect on some of these air shocks. With proper rebound control, that plushness you feel on your butt is also keeping the rear tire on the ground. A lot of this becomes a real tap dance of compromise for any shock to do all things well, but my latest experience with the DHX Air I just tried on my Bullit has me thinking more about some of the benefits of this noticeable mid-stroke plushness. Most of us seem to have equated a very plush shock to a shock that robs us of efficiency and that may induce nothing but negative handling characteristics. I noticed on the DHX Air that my pedaling was still very efficient with bobbing being very controlled while the mid-stroke performance was as soft as anything I'd ridden on. Even in faster, rocky, terrain the rear tire stayed in a controlled contact with the ground as good as with any shock I had tried...no harsh bottoming, and no weird geometry shifts...while still providing this cadillac plushness. Granted I need more time on this shock, but I think I need to reassess what I'm expecting out of shocks in general and what I'm getting from this shock specifically.

    On an interesting side note about air shocks, I just found out that Zachdank over on the DH/FR forum has been using a DHX Air on his Banshee Scream when doing shuttled big hit trail rides. He says he still reserves the DHX coil for their session jump and stunt rides, but he found the DHX Air to be superior in most of the rocky downhills that they ride in that part of California. Frankly I was a little shocked (pun intended) to hear this, because any of you who know him and the riding his group does would be aware of how brutal that can be on equipment. He's not the only one over there who's using a DHX Air in this type of application. Anyway I just thought I'd mention this, because these are not the kind of riders that I would have thought would find any air shock suitable. Again, these are just some of the things causing me to rethink my/our concept of air shock performance.

  8. #8
    Ole
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    The falling rate at the middle of the travel does indeed make for a plush-feeling shock. But it also makes it impossible to set it up so it climbs AND descends well. With coil shocks, my bike becomes so much more versatile. The combination of short, technical climbs, long road climbs, downhills etc., are handled better by the coil shocks I've tried, simply because of the spring rate. The bike stays planted over fast rooty sections, were the sharp rise of the spring rate on an air shock makes the rear end bounce around a lot more. This is particularly true on general trailriding, where the seat post remains at full extention. With a lowered seatpost, it's possible to weigh the rear end to overcome this. But that's not practical for the terrain I ride, it consists of lots of small upphills, downhills and technical flats, and fast enough riding buddies that there's no time to stop and fiddle with the seat post. :-)

    Ole.

  9. #9
    MK_
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    Quote Originally Posted by tnc
    I like that term, "common air rearshock: progressive spring rate". Aren't they disregarding the many tuneable aspects of many of today's modern air (or coil) shocks, what with stable platforms, propedal, boost valve, bottomout chamber capacity tuning, etc.? Maybe the old Stratos Strata air shock that was on my '95 Trek Y33 would fit that profile.
    Looking at that graph has got me thinking. Uh Oh!
    I think that it does explain, very roughly (as the air shocks vary, like you mentioned), the reason why air shocks go through their mid-stroke travel so quickly. I have a DHXair on my 5 Spot and I definatelly notice my o-ring super low after a simple commute to work where I "hit" a couple of curbs and that's it, yet with the identical setup, on trail, I don't use up full 50mm of stroke unless I drop around 3 feet. I am wondering if some likage designs would benefit from the ramping part of the curve being moved more to the left. For example, if you were to take off the air sleeve and put in a little extra oil in it to take up part of the volume, if you would then use less of the mid stroke on corners, g-outs, etc. This would also take some of the work away from the Boost Valve as your air spring would ramp up more in the end of the stroke as well. AVA sleeve would be ideal here, but in lieu of it, adding oil might help?

    This is not to say that I don't enjoy the incredible plushness of the DHXair, I am simply wondering if it can be tuned a little further to extract additional benefits of the air spring.

    _MK

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  10. #10
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK_
    Looking at that graph has got me thinking. Uh Oh!
    I think that it does explain, very roughly (as the air shocks vary, like you mentioned), the reason why air shocks go through their mid-stroke travel so quickly. I have a DHXair on my 5 Spot and I definatelly notice my o-ring super low after a simple commute to work where I "hit" a couple of curbs and that's it, yet with the identical setup, on trail, I don't use up full 50mm of stroke unless I drop around 3 feet. I am wondering if some likage designs would benefit from the ramping part of the curve being moved more to the left. For example, if you were to take off the air sleeve and put in a little extra oil in it to take up part of the volume, if you would then use less of the mid stroke on corners, g-outs, etc. This would also take some of the work away from the Boost Valve as your air spring would ramp up more in the end of the stroke as well. AVA sleeve would be ideal here, but in lieu of it, adding oil might help?

    This is not to say that I don't enjoy the incredible plushness of the DHXair, I am simply wondering if it can be tuned a little further to extract additional benefits of the air spring.

    _MK
    If you make the spring rate ramp up at the end, you'll have to do something with the rebound at that part of the travel to prevent the bike from kicking back. I prefer a very linear spring rate, and rather let the compression damping take care of excessive forces at the end. That way there's no supercharged spring that needs to be controlled by a too-slow rebound damping. I generally run my rebound on the fast side, and use the comp to prevent the bike from going too deep in g-outs, which again lets me get away with less rebound damping. That way I get a rear end that is able to cope with fast, rooty sections without packing up, and at the same time not kicking me over the bars on hard landings, g-outs etc.

    Now, if somebody could make adjustable highspeed/low-speed position sensitive rebound damping, then we'd be talking good sh*t! ;-)

    Ole.

  11. #11
    TNC
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    Ramp up & DHX Air

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    The falling rate at the middle of the travel does indeed make for a plush-feeling shock. But it also makes it impossible to set it up so it climbs AND descends well. With coil shocks, my bike becomes so much more versatile. The combination of short, technical climbs, long road climbs, downhills etc., are handled better by the coil shocks I've tried, simply because of the spring rate. The bike stays planted over fast rooty sections, were the sharp rise of the spring rate on an air shock makes the rear end bounce around a lot more. This is particularly true on general trailriding, where the seat post remains at full extention. With a lowered seatpost, it's possible to weigh the rear end to overcome this. But that's not practical for the terrain I ride, it consists of lots of small upphills, downhills and technical flats, and fast enough riding buddies that there's no time to stop and fiddle with the seat post. :-)

    Ole.
    This is the usually negative aspect of air shocks that I notice has been just about put on par with coil shocks by these more modern piggyback air shocks...that "kick up" at the end of the stroke. I don't know if it's the bigger air chamber, better damping engineering, or both. I just don't notice that jolt or loss of tire/wheel contact that you describe in your situation. I'm even beginning to assess that this DHX Air and my Swinger 4-Way Air may be just a bit superior in this area...not an observation that I'm coming to lightly. In fact it's the DHX Air that's causing me to really analyze this whole concept. I did not feel that a shock this soft could feel this controlled in harsh terrain. My "pea" brain is telling me that this can't be good...why?...mainly because previously any shock I had ridden that gave this kind of mid-travel feedback would wallow in their travel, bob ferociously, and give that quick harsh bottomout. But this DHX Air isn't doing those things...at least for me...and neither is the Swinger. I'm thinking back more to the feedback of my dirt motorcycles, which I still ride, and I'm seeing more of a connection there. My assessment is that these later generation piggyback air shocks and our modern piggyback coil shocks are just about on the same plane...and perhaps the air shocks offer some tuning capabilities that our coils are not capable of. And I keep harping on "piggyback" technology because I think this provides a better foundation for more lattitude in damping tuning, volume, and longevity.

    It's clear to see that you too have given this much thought and much riding time to come to your conclusions. Our different observations kind of reflect what I touched on in my initial post about this whole topic of suspension performance assessment.

  12. #12
    "El Whatever"
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    Get a shock pushed at push industries.... They'll make whatever you want with your shock. They'll tune it to your entire liking... and will do it again if you don't like the way it was.
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  13. #13
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    Try rockshox's new pearl shock, like a beefed up 3.3, have not ridden one though. I have a swinger 3 way, suprised you did not like the 4 way, you may have had too much ramp-up on the 4 way so that it would feel that way. Swinger=awesome RP3=sucs!
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  14. #14
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    I dont think anyone makes a good air shock.
    The Swinger 4 Way on my 5.5 felt harsh until it started loosing 40 pounds from the main chamber every 15 minutes. That after 6 weeks of riding.
    But the RP3 I ordered hoping for a plusher ride showed up the following day.
    Enjoyed ridng it for 2 weeks but just noticed yesterday that it got "stuck down".
    That said I did like the PUSHed Float on my Tracer.

  15. #15
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    woops in earlier post I thought you were asking about forks.

    I have a cane creek cloud 9. fricking love it.

  16. #16
    Ole
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    PUSH can't

    Quote Originally Posted by Warp2003
    Get a shock pushed at push industries.... They'll make whatever you want with your shock. They'll tune it to your entire liking... and will do it again if you don't like the way it was.
    As you see from my list of shocks, a PUSH'ed RP3 is already tried. Unfortunately, PUSH can't do a thing about the spring rate. Wish they could, though...


    Ole.

  17. #17
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathaniel Williams
    I have a swinger 3 way, suprised you did not like the 4 way, you may have had too much ramp-up on the 4 way so that it would feel that way. Swinger=awesome RP3=sucs!
    The 2004 Swinger 4-Way I had became great after a few months of riding. The early 2004s had a air negative chamber that slowly (over a few months) adjusted to perfectly balance out the pressure from the positive chamber. It was super sensitive and very linear until the very end. If I lifted the rear end of the bike 10cm from the ground, and dropped it, it didn't bounce back up. Show me any other air shock that does that! Unfortunately, this slowly balancing of the negative pressure was due to the air piston scratcing the inside of the air can, causing air to slowly leak past. It worked really well for a few months, and then it was ruined. TFTunedShox macine down the size of the air piston ever so slightly to prevent this scratching, but then the shock doesn't selv-adjust any more. For late 2004, and 2005, the negative spring is an elastomer, and the shock feels completely crap, like an old style air shock with preload from hell. If you run very low pressures (50psi in the main spring), then there's no preload. I've got a two year old son who could probably use it when he turns four. And cold weather with elastomer negative spring? Forget about it...

    I wish Fox could make a Dual Air version of their shocks. The auto adjust feature they have now works better than other air shocks, but still not on par with coil. With adjustable air pressures, one could even adjust for the additional spring force from the IFP.

    Ole.

  18. #18
    MK_
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    Quote Originally Posted by TracerJohn
    I dont think anyone makes a good air shock.
    The Swinger 4 Way on my 5.5 felt harsh until it started loosing 40 pounds from the main chamber every 15 minutes. That after 6 weeks of riding.
    But the RP3 I ordered hoping for a plusher ride showed up the following day.
    Enjoyed ridng it for 2 weeks but just noticed yesterday that it got "stuck down".
    That said I did like the PUSHed Float on my Tracer.
    Sounds like you have alignment issues with the frame. If you keep busting shocks so fast it is an indicator that you need to get your frame checked out.

    _MK

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  19. #19
    "El Whatever"
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    As you see from my list of shocks, a PUSH'ed RP3 is already tried. Unfortunately, PUSH can't do a thing about the spring rate. Wish they could, though...


    Ole.
    I got your point now that I went thru the whole thread... sorry for my first post.

    But... also, let's remember that a shock is a [mass]spring-damper system. One affects the other and I still think that a revalving could be used to tune it the way you like. It may be hard to get, but I think it can be done.

    For rebound, I think position sensitivity is less important than speed sensitivity. Basically, what you have is a problem of high speed rebound during the last third of travel (or first third of rebound, as you want it to see).

    While Push can't make much for the spring rate, they can tune damping to fix all those bugs in the shock.

    As TNC mentioned earlier... get the Linkage program and get to know the rate of your frame if you haven't (but I'm almost sure you had). Maybe an air shock is just not the best offer for your frame... maybe you should stick to coils. Fox DHX weighs in nothing. I'd rather save those grams on the wheels or myself.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK_
    Sounds like you have alignment issues with the frame. If you keep busting shocks so fast it is an indicator that you need to get your frame checked out.

    _MK
    I think the 4 Way just had a bad valve. Per Manitous recommendation I removed the core. Screwed out the valve body. Applied teflon tape and reassembled. Seems to be holding air now.

  21. #21
    Alpine Rider (Italy)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    For late 2004, and 2005, the negative spring is an elastomer, and the shock feels completely crap, like an old style air shock with preload from hell. If you run very low pressures (50psi in the main spring), then there's no preload.
    i tested dt ssd210L and 4-way. imho elastomer isn't a big problem. it acts like an air spring: more air in the positive = more force trying to compress the shock. at 50psi you'll get a similar compressing force from an air negative spring.

    the only problem with elastomer could be a change in shock's lenght; my dt inflated to 110psi was only 198mm c/c instead of 200, not a big difference.
    i agree that elastomer is more sensitive to cold, you can solve buying a new elastomer and
    cutting it, as we did many years ago with fork's elastomers :-)
    i prefer to spend 5 euro than a stuck down shock....

  22. #22
    "El Whatever"
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    Also, Clyde makes a good point. Maybe you might try Cane Creek's shocks. Those are all air damped.

    Theoretically, the damping in those is supposed to be controlled by speed, volume, pressure (volumetrical flow) thru the orifices so, again, in theory the shock would be able to control better the air spring.

    Too many people like the Fox shocks and its solutions but also, too many people swear by their CC shocks. Those are also user serviceable and one of their models have an adjustable volume chamber so you can tune the bottom side of the spring rate. You can tune them also by yourself. Cane Creek's web page gives instructions about it.


    At a fraction of the cost of other shocks, it might be worth trying one.

    Good Luck!
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  23. #23
    thats right living legend
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    So generally speaking?

    You guy's seem to know what you're talking about, and I'd like to know. Is a coil shock generally speaking overall, worth the wieght penalty for performance for "aggresive/fun" trail rideing. Or do I have the reasons people go for a coile shock all wrong. Sorry I've never rolled a coil and I'm very curius about em' today.

  24. #24
    "El Whatever"
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackagness
    You guy's seem to know what you're talking about, and I'd like to know. Is a coil shock generally speaking overall, worth the wieght penalty for performance for "aggresive/fun" trail rideing. Or do I have the reasons people go for a coile shock all wrong. Sorry I've never rolled a coil and I'm very curius about em' today.
    By comments of Ole, TNC, Tscheezy, Squeaky Wheel, Bikezilla and others... yeah, the coil ones have an edge in performance against air ones.

    If the weight penalty is worthy... that's something that lies in your hands. See... some people are weight weenies and want everything as light as possible, compromising performance. Some others would watn performance compromising weight.

    Now, my take is that the "penalty" in weight is worthy. A DHX Coil weighs NOTHING. If you put a Ti spring... well, it will even rival an air shock with a performance gain.

    How much is the difference in weight between a DHX Coil and a DHX Air?? 1 full pound?? Half of that mass is unsprung weight, the another half is sprung. So a REAL penalty is in the order of some 200grs... you'd rather have a 200grs lighter wheelset and it will make much difference. You'd rather put 200ml of water less in that Camelbak or simply cut some beers and pizza off and shave a complete pound off from you.

    Give me coils!!!
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  25. #25
    thats right living legend
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    Thanks alot!

    Thanks that actually got through me.

  26. #26
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    Shocks don't operate in a vacuum

    Many bikes use a linkage to control the leverate rate througout the range of travel. The characteristics of air shocks are well known. I'm sure there are plenty of frames that are designed to work well with the spring rate of an air shock. I know I don't have problems you are describing despite the fact that I'm running an RP3. It sounds like the linkage on your bike was optimized for the linear characteristics of a coil spring.

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