THE AIR-SPRUNG SHOCK
Weight savings: Nearly a pound
off your bike—instantly.
Near-perfect small-bump compliance: OK, air springs have more
seals in them, which means they naturally have more friction. However,
newer air shocks use negative air
springs along with super high-tech
coatings and oils, and they deliver
small-bump compliance that’s on par
with their coil-shock brethren.
Infinite tuning options: Since you
can set up the spring rate with air pressure, you’re not limited by preset springs.
There are also numerous air-volume
options that can easily be changed by
swapping the air sleeve to fine-tune the
progressiveness of the spring curve.
More maintenance: More seals
mean more maintenance. Most air-sprung shocks will require a new seal
kit within a season of hard use. This is
not to say that coil-over shocks are
maintenance-free, but they require less
attention. We never needed to do any
maintenance during our two-month
testing period, but we will need to
change the seals at some point.
Heat dissipation: Heat is the
enemy when it comes to suspension. It
causes the oil to do some funky things
to the damping and can give the shock
an inconsistent feel on the trail.
However, most modern air shocks combat this with a few techniques. On our
X-Fusion Vector air, the air sleeve is
thinned out as much as possible to
avoid trapping heat, and the oil volume
is increased to minimize the impact the
heat will have. We were never able to
heat this shock enough to cause any
kind of inconsistency.
COIL OR AIR
The most demanding downhill riders
still want the heat resistance of a coil-over shock, but most of us will never
ride a course that can generate that
much heat. We were never able to ride
the Vector air hard enough to make it
fade or change damping characteristics,
even on our toughest shuttle runs in
If you just want to ride a coil-over
shock because it “looks tough” on your
trailbike, then by all means, ride one.
We’re not going to tell you it’s wrong.
However, after our testing, we want to
ride the air shock. Sure, we will have to
change the air-sleeve seals once or
twice a year, but if this 30-minute session of routine maintenance saves us
from carrying a pound of steel coil
around our favorite epic trails for the
next year, we’ll easily make up that half
hour in ride time. This leaves more
time to enjoy the views and wait for
our buddy who is still sluggin’ it up the
hill on a trailbike ghetto-rigged into a
downhill sled on a budget. You can’t
turn a trailbike into a downhill bike by
simply changing the rear shock to a
coil. If you’re riding a trailbike, an air-sprung shock is the best choice. ;
correct spring rate with a coil-over
shock, you have to replace the coil itself.
This not only means removing the
shock from your bike, but it also means
you have to buy a new coil. Since most
manufacturers only make these springs
in 50-pound increments, you have to
approximate the coil, and then use
the compression adjustments for