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  1. #1
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    Coil vs Air for Enduro Racing vs Trail Riding

    Any input on how well coils play with, say, Enduro racing? I know they are supply and feel great, but does that translate well to racing scenarios? In general I've found over the years, "comfortable" and "plush" don't typically play well with racing, going fast and staying composed.

    I like the idea of using a coil fork but also need something that I can push hard and race Enduro on. Obviously the RS and Fox high end SC forks are the go-to standard, but was primarily interested in MRP Ribbon as an alternative. I realize I lose some adjustment (HSC and HSR) but gain some of that back with ramp control.

    Any thoughts are welcome!

  2. #2
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    Properly tuned coil suspension will work well for either trail or enduro racing. When I say properly tuned, I'm referring to the damper tune.
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  3. #3
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    I think coil is pretty awesome for enduro for two primary reasons: it's less fatiguing and there's less to go wrong. It depends what your races are like, but for longer, rougher stages I feel like coil takes the cake in performance and consistency. Here in the desert where the hits are sharp and frequent coil is sooooo good.

    I wouldn't say coil is plusher than air - you can setup an air-spring to be plush - but it's definitely more supple in the stroke.

    You don't see a lot of coil forks in the EWS because everyone has sponsors and none of the big guys make them, yet (exception being Ohlins and all the Specialized riders use coil/coil AFAIK). However, you do see a lot of coil shocks.
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    An Air spring is harder to get moving and harder to bottom out. A coil has more support in the middle of travel. So if you make an air spring soft enough to take small bumps you might blow through the middle of travel, not so with coil. This translates to wheel tracking well but has enough support for traction.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahColorado View Post
    I think coil is pretty awesome for enduro for two primary reasons: it's less fatiguing and there's less to go wrong. It depends what your races are like, but for longer, rougher stages I feel like coil takes the cake in performance and consistency. Here in the desert where the hits are sharp and frequent coil is sooooo good.

    I wouldn't say coil is plusher than air - you can setup an air-spring to be plush - but it's definitely more supple in the stroke.

    You don't see a lot of coil forks in the EWS because everyone has sponsors and none of the big guys make them, yet (exception being Ohlins and all the Specialized riders use coil/coil AFAIK). However, you do see a lot of coil shocks.
    Thanks Noah! That makes a lot of sense. Was wondering what some of the fast guys were doing, didn't realize the Spec guys were on Coils up front, makes sense.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberus75 View Post
    An Air spring is harder to get moving and harder to bottom out. A coil has more support in the middle of travel. So if you make an air spring soft enough to take small bumps you might blow through the middle of travel, not so with coil. This translates to wheel tracking well but has enough support for traction.
    This is far from the truth. An air shock will always “ramp up” but the leverage rate of the frame comes into play as well. If you put a coil on a frame with a falling leverage rate it will blow through travel easily. Most new bikes are all designed around air shocks and have falling leverage rates.

    Personally at a race pace I haven’t noticed much of a difference between coil and air when set up correctly other than air being significantly lighter. Coil climbs technical terrain better because small bump is a little better. Coil is also the latest greatest fad that has come full circle.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    This is far from the truth. An air shock will always “ramp up” but the leverage rate of the frame comes into play as well. If you put a coil on a frame with a falling leverage rate it will blow through travel easily. Most new bikes are all designed around air shocks and have falling leverage rates.

    Personally at a race pace I haven’t noticed much of a difference between coil and air when set up correctly other than air being significantly lighter. Coil climbs technical terrain better because small bump is a little better. Coil is also the latest greatest fad that has come full circle.
    Even though most frames are designed around air shocks, it´s not true that they are mostly falling rate, linear or slightly progressive is actually closer to truth. With damping adjusted accordingly it is completely possible to use coils in most enduro frames, that´s why a lot of racers do just that.

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    1) I don’t race, I try (but sometimes fail) not to chase people or worry about Strava times, and I focus on being smooth and having fun instead of “trying to go fast”. I usually find I wreck less often and ride faster when I do that.

    2) When I was looking into the ELEVENSIX for my Nomad (v3) most of the reviews I read focused on the improvements to traction and composure of the bike. The only negatives I recall were some loss of “pop”. The trade off to me seems right in line with what a racer would desire. Also, I found the bike to still pop just fine. I got an ACS-3 coil Fox 36 from PUSH as soon as I could after that.

    3) Here’s Curtis Keene talking about his setup last year. I think this is the video where he does back to back comparisons of air and coil on his fork. https://youtu.be/6MABt1XOmk8

    4) For some reason it seems like there are more coils in enduro and fewer in downhill. My guess is this has to do with the long punishing days in enduro and downhillers going much harder and faster? But I’m just guessing.

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    Not a racer, but it seems like enduro is the best application of coil. The big benefits of coil are suppleness, reliability, and consistency over a longer run. All things that are pretty important for enduro. The downside- increased weight, isn't going to make that .01 second difference that matters in downhill, and the climbs aren't timed so it doesn't matter on the transfer stages either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    Most new bikes are all ...falling leverage rates.
    Nope. A decade or more out of date. You have to do some hunting to find a falling rate frame made in the last 8 years. Your assessment of coil/air matches mine.
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    My perspective may be a little different. I sometimes prefer air on smoother trails, even if those trails have bigger features, because it's a little more firm and responsive to pedaling and pumping. As Chris points out, the damper tune is important, but coil sucks up a lot of energy, it dampens a lot of movements that aren't dampened with air. But my move wouldn't be to run an air shock of the same travel on a smoother downhill, it would be to run a shorter-travel coil bike, to lessen that amount of energy that is damped, in other words, if the enduro is so smooth that the coil bike sucks up too much energy or is too heavy, it's probably more a function of overall travel, where a 5" or 120mm bike would work better than a 160mm travel one.

    For what it's worth, I run a tuned coil most of the time, I put my tuned air shock on once this last summer and decided "naw, back to the coil". I ran the coil for everything. It's just so much better. I did race enduro the season before with the air shock, but I think the coil lets me go even faster on the downhill, as this enduro is on full DH trails.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    My perspective may be a little different. I sometimes prefer air on smoother trails, even if those trails have bigger features, because it's a little more firm and responsive to pedaling and pumping. As Chris points out, the damper tune is important, but coil sucks up a lot of energy, it dampens a lot of movements that aren't dampened with air. But my move wouldn't be to run an air shock of the same travel on a smoother downhill, it would be to run a shorter-travel coil bike, to lessen that amount of energy that is damped, in other words, if the enduro is so smooth that the coil bike sucks up too much energy or is too heavy, it's probably more a function of overall travel, where a 5" or 120mm bike would work better than a 160mm travel one.
    The poor behavior of an air spring can be easily emulated with damper tuning...
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    .... but the damper better be something good like an Avalanche cartridge that has the proper tuning and mid-valves. My RC2 damper tune wasn't as good despite throwing a bunch of money at it.

    And your air spring better be working too. It took some work to get mine feeling okay.

  13. #13
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    There is some suggestion that on long descents an air shock will get hot and the resulting increase in air pressure will result in less performance. The coil shock is suggested to stay cooler and have more stable performance.

    In reality I think you would need a massive hill!

    I just got back from a truely epic man weekend. 3 days of descending. 5000 vert m/day.900m vert per 25-30 min run. 5 dudes all the same speed, 2 coil shocks, 3 air. I could not tell any difference in performance of my x2 air shock over the 30 min run. No clear winner emerged between coil or air riders.

    I think the short answer is that it doesn't matter which shoxk you get.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by plummet View Post
    In reality I think you would need a massive hill!

    I just got back from a truely epic man weekend. 3 days of descending. 5000 vert m/day.900m vert per 25-30 min run. 5 dudes all the same speed, 2 coil shocks, 3 air. I could not tell any difference in performance of my x2 air shock over the 30 min run. No clear winner emerged between coil or air riders.
    Just because you didn´t feel it doesn´t mean it wasn´t there, you didn´t feel it because it happened gradually and as we all know, gradual changes are hard to feel. If you had thrown the shock on thy dyno at the start of the run and end of the run the difference would be undoubtedly there, even with X2 which is perhaps the most downhill focused air shock out there. And to be honest mate, I don´t know how good rider you are but if you managed to do 30 minute run without stopping to relax hands a little you must be quite a beast, I for sure struggle to ride more than 5 minutes of proper downhill(X line in Saalbach for example) without stopping, which allows the shock to cool down a little as well.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    1) I don’t race, I try (but sometimes fail) not to chase people or worry about Strava times, and I focus on being smooth and having fun instead of “trying to go fast”. I usually find I wreck less often and ride faster when I do that.

    2) When I was looking into the ELEVENSIX for my Nomad (v3) most of the reviews I read focused on the improvements to traction and composure of the bike. The only negatives I recall were some loss of “pop”. The trade off to me seems right in line with what a racer would desire. Also, I found the bike to still pop just fine. I got an ACS-3 coil Fox 36 from PUSH as soon as I could after that.

    3) Here’s Curtis Keene talking about his setup last year. I think this is the video where he does back to back comparisons of air and coil on his fork. https://youtu.be/6MABt1XOmk8

    4) For some reason it seems like there are more coils in enduro and fewer in downhill. My guess is this has to do with the long punishing days in enduro and downhillers going much harder and faster? But I’m just guessing.
    I don't see that many coil shocks in Enduro... at least not in Colorado. I would say the Expert class is a 80/20 air/coil ratio and pro is probably closer to 90/10. Curtis Keene was also running a custom linkage on his enduro to change the leverage rate. I rode a chairlift with him at winter park and directly compared our Enduros... Mine stock... his not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostbiker View Post
    Just because you didn´t feel it doesn´t mean it wasn´t there, you didn´t feel it because it happened gradually and as we all know, gradual changes are hard to feel. If you had thrown the shock on thy dyno at the start of the run and end of the run the difference would be undoubtedly there, even with X2 which is perhaps the most downhill focused air shock out there. And to be honest mate, I don´t know how good rider you are but if you managed to do 30 minute run without stopping to relax hands a little you must be quite a beast, I for sure struggle to ride more than 5 minutes of proper downhill(X line in Saalbach for example) without stopping, which allows the shock to cool down a little as well.
    Maybe there was some change that i didnt notice. But if that is the case, does it really matter if a small performance change is not noticed over a 25-30min rough descent?

    No clear winner emerged in the group either. The coil riders didnt start riding away from the air shock riders towards the bottom of the hill.

    You are right we didnt ride top to bottom with no stops. there was token stopping to regroup. Maybe 30 seconds x 3 or 4 over the 25 min run.

    How is my dh speed? Not pro speed, typically top 3% based on strava times.

    Anyway. My point is that if you cant feel a difference and if no clear winner emerges on the longest descent you do then the performance difference is so minimal that it doesnt matter. Unless you are pro racing looking to optimise to the points of seconds it wont affect your performance enough to change your race result.


    Oh, check out the trails i rode. There weren't easy smooth tracks. It was 900m of intense rocky rough trails per descent.


    https://www.thegorge.nz/our-trails

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    Yeah, I don't see many coil suspension in the racing circles either. It's easy to see coil SHOCKS, if used, but much harder to see what's going on in the forks, which is where my question was kind of rooted. Based on my understanding of coils, less playful, more planted, less fatigue...it seems to check all the boxes for enduro racing....but most of the top guys are sponsored by fork manuf that DON'T have coils.

    I guess the real question would be, IF the top guys had access to Coil forks, comparable to the air forks, which would they pick? I'm guessing coil, particularly if they started playing with ti-springs, High/Low speed adjustments, custom wound spring rates to suit course, etc....they seem to offer nothing but benefits at the expense of weight and the ability to fine tune the razor edge of performance, but if you have the $$ and a mechanic....

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    I´m not saying coil will make you faster, mostly because obviously even big gap in DH racing like 1s per minute doesn´t mean anything in noncompetitive environment. For me it´s more about predictive bike handling after 5min of dh and not getting bucked on the jumps because rebound got faster during the run, which seems common for air shocks. Also improved small bump sensitivity helps more the longer the descent is as if really helps minimize fatigue. NZ seems like one of the best locations in the world for riding, too bad it´s even more out of reach for me than Whistler. Quenstown also seems damn good from reviews I´ve read.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    Yeah, I don't see many coil suspension in the racing circles either. It's easy to see coil SHOCKS, if used, but much harder to see what's going on in the forks, which is where my question was kind of rooted. Based on my understanding of coils, less playful, more planted, less fatigue...it seems to check all the boxes for enduro racing....but most of the top guys are sponsored by fork manuf that DON'T have coils.

    I guess the real question would be, IF the top guys had access to Coil forks, comparable to the air forks, which would they pick? I'm guessing coil, particularly if they started playing with ti-springs, High/Low speed adjustments, custom wound spring rates to suit course, etc....they seem to offer nothing but benefits at the expense of weight and the ability to fine tune the razor edge of performance, but if you have the $$ and a mechanic....
    I raced a coil front/rear bike for most of the 2018 season. With tire inserts and a water bottle it was over 38lb. The last race I did had 6000’ of climbing. I think weight really comes into play. Fatigue even for the top pros is real. Most Teams have the ability to run a push coil insert very cheaply and not be noticed if they choose but they don’t. Why? Especially when you have guys running blacked out sidewalls on their tires to not upset sponsors. A drop in coil kit is way less apparent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    I raced a coil front/rear bike for most of the 2018 season. With tire inserts and a water bottle it was over 38lb. The last race I did had 6000’ of climbing. I think weight really comes into play. Fatigue even for the top pros is real. Most Teams have the ability to run a push coil insert very cheaply and not be noticed if they choose but they don’t. Why? Especially when you have guys running blacked out sidewalls on their tires to not upset sponsors. A drop in coil kit is way less apparent.
    You sure they dont? I've seen the "Bike Checks" which they call out air pressure for forks, so assume you are right....but that almost negates the assumption they COULD if they wanted, since we'd all know about it.

    It's almost like if you know they are not, they can't.....

    I did an enduro this past summer with 7k+. I was on more of a Endurized XC bike, I still got tired, but the limiting factor with the racing / results were not transfer sections but the speed I could manage on the stages, weight still plays a factor there too if they have lots of accelerations and/or climbing. Still got my butt handed to me by guys on the bigger rigs....

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    Interesting thread. Of the two enduros I did last summer one was more DH oriented (Grand Targhee) and about 1/3 of the bikes were coil and the Flagstaff race which was more XC maybe 20%. I don't pay as much attention to forks. For me, 11-6 and ACS kit I find the bike tracks better through chunder at race pace. Not too worried about pop and getting jiggy. Bad things happen to me in the air.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    Most Teams have the ability to run a push coil insert very cheaply and not be noticed if they choose but they don’t.
    Zero chance any major Fox athletes are using Push ACS in their forks, not because it isn't great, but because people would definitely notice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    4) For some reason it seems like there are more coils in enduro and fewer in downhill. My guess is this has to do with the long punishing days in enduro and downhillers going much harder and faster? But I’m just guessing.
    More consistent performance on longer stages and less susceptibility to failure (you can't swap suspension parts in most enduro races). The latter is especially relevant to amateur and privateer pro riders. Top pros get their stuff worked on all the time and they still worry about failure. I presume those with no or less support are exponentially more likely to have critical failures with their service cycles being longer and equipment more haggered. You can ride a blown damper in a coil fork or shock, it sucks on an air shock. And if your air spring goes? You're done.

    Coils are to suspension as tire inserts are to tires.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahColorado View Post
    More consistent performance on longer stages and less susceptibility to failure (you can't swap suspension parts in most enduro races). The latter is especially relevant to amateur and privateer pro riders. Top pros get their stuff worked on all the time and they still worry about failure. I presume those with no or less support are exponentially more likely to have critical failures with their service cycles being longer and equipment more haggered. You can ride a blown damper in a coil fork or shock, it sucks on an air shock. And if your air spring goes? You're done.

    Coils are to suspension as tire inserts are to tires.
    That's a good point - coil suspension is always at least rideable regardless of what happens, unless you happen to lose your springs, in which case, I dunno....

  25. #25
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    The Vorsprung guy made reference to a few known riders running coils when on paper they are running air with their sponsors.

    Like a lot of these things, my personal take is 'it depends'. Going from a DPS EvoL for example to a coil shock is a marked difference.

    The difference between a Float X2 & DHX2 might not be so apparent.

    Personally, I seem to be happy with a coil rear & air front

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by -C- View Post
    The Vorsprung guy made reference to a few known riders running coils when on paper they are running air with their sponsors.
    I remember hearing that was often the case in the early Boxxer World Cup days.
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    Quote Originally Posted by -C- View Post
    The Vorsprung guy made reference to a few known riders running coils when on paper they are running air with their sponsors.

    Like a lot of these things, my personal take is 'it depends'. Going from a DPS EvoL for example to a coil shock is a marked difference.

    The difference between a Float X2 & DHX2 might not be so apparent.

    Personally, I seem to be happy with a coil rear & air front

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahColorado View Post
    Zero chance any major Fox athletes are using Push ACS in their forks, not because it isn't great, but because people would definitely notice.
    How can you tell if someone is using an ACS insert if you don't use a push top cap? Seems like it would be really easy to hide if Vitorria sponsored riders are running Maxxis with sharpied out Maxxis logos lol.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    How can you tell if someone is using an ACS insert if you don't use a push top cap? Seems like it would be really easy to hide if Vitorria sponsored riders are running Maxxis with sharpied out Maxxis logos lol.
    Maybe. Fox doesn't strike me as a company that'd be okay with that.

    Tires are a bit different. Not every tire maker has treads for every condition. The support is different too - there's no Vittoria pit at races to go get your tires worked on, LOL. Tire companies are generally big subsidiaries of giant corporations, they don't sweat the details of sponsorships too much. They just want an athlete to use in their ads and sign autographs at tradeshows. People don't want your autograph if you ain't winning because your tires suck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    This is far from the truth. An air shock will always “ramp up” but the leverage rate of the frame comes into play as well. If you put a coil on a frame with a falling leverage rate it will blow through travel easily. Most new bikes are all designed around air shocks and have falling leverage rates.

    Personally at a race pace I haven’t noticed much of a difference between coil and air when set up correctly other than air being significantly lighter. Coil climbs technical terrain better because small bump is a little better. Coil is also the latest greatest fad that has come full circle.
    We're talking forks, an air fork has a hammock in the curve. So its softer in the middle then ramps up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahColorado View Post
    Maybe. Fox doesn't strike me as a company that'd be okay with that.

    Tires are a bit different. Not every tire maker has treads for every condition. The support is different too - there's no Vittoria pit at races to go get your tires worked on, LOL. Tire companies are generally big subsidiaries of giant corporations, they don't sweat the details of sponsorships too much. They just want an athlete to use in their ads and sign autographs at tradeshows. People don't want your autograph if you ain't winning because your tires suck.
    Hah that’s true... didn’t think about Fox being around
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberus75 View Post
    We're talking forks, an air fork has a hammock in the curve. So its softer in the middle then ramps up.
    Sorry, I was thinking rear shocks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    How can you tell if someone is using an ACS insert if you don't use a push top cap? Seems like it would be really easy to hide if Vitorria sponsored riders are running Maxxis with sharpied out Maxxis logos lol.
    It's likely some Fox guys are/have been running coils, just supplied by Fox that they either no longer offer to the public or make one-off for the racers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    How can you tell if someone is using an ACS insert if you don't use a push top cap? Seems like it would be really easy to hide if Vitorria sponsored riders are running Maxxis with sharpied out Maxxis logos lol.
    I have no doubt that fox people can build a custom spring/damper to suit anyone. Amusingly, the job gets easier when it's a custom deal. It's so much harder when they're trying to build a product that all the schmoes will covet, be competitive in the marketplace, suit riders with an enormous variation of size and skill, and be cheap to manufacture. If fox needs to outsource internals for their riders that's just incompetence.


    Tires can't be built/tuned individually. A maxxis sized catalog isn't realistic for most manufacturers. It's not a valid comparison.
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