Air shocks - helpful set up hints.

Mar 10, 2009 at 0:09
Mar 10, 2009
by Norco Bicycles  
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Air shock technology has come a long way over the past few years. Today's suspension is less reactive to pedaling and more tunable than ever before...but, how do you set it up?

Read on for helpful hints,

Bicycle suspension has become more and more complicated every year. In the store, your shock seemed great with knobs, valves and doofers offering limitless adjustability. Now, as you are in the moments before a ride trying to get the shock set up, the only thing limitless is confusion.

Shock setup is to say the least, less than intuitive...

The two most widely used types of air shocks on the market are Fox and Marzocchi, although they are based on different technology, adjustment is relatively similar. In this article I will go over the adjustment of a Fox DHX-5.0 Air and a Marzocchi Roco Air TST-R. If you are using a different shock the air pressures are similar to what I will mention but it is a good idea to consult your manual.

On first inspection, the DHX and the Roco look quite similar. They both feature two air chambers, a rebound knob and an Pedaling Efficiency Switch.

That is great...but – what do they do?

The main air chamber is your main spring, this is the side mounted valve on the main body. The pressure in this valve will control the overall stiffness and sag on your bike. When setting up your shock, regardless of brand it is a good idea to start by inflating this chamber to your body weight in air pressure. (if you weigh 170lbs, inflate to 170psi) From this base there is room for adjustment. For a Marzocchi shock you will likely let out air while a Fox will require increased pressure. Adjustment from this reference point should be made to adjust for optimal sag (usually between 20 and 30 percent) based on riding type.

The Second, smaller air chamber will adjust how progressive the shock is. Simply, the more air you put in the assist valve, the harder it will be to bottom out. When setting up your bike, if unsure, make the two air-pressures equal and adjust from there. Both the DHX Air and the ROCO will have minimum and maximum air pressure recommendations on this chamber-stay within those measurements.

On the Fox shock, you will also notice a knob called the bottom out adjustment. This knob controls the air volume in the boost valve. Wound all the way in is the lowest volume setting, where the bike will ramp up (get stiffer) late in the travel. Wound out, in the high volume setting the shock will ramp up slower through the entire length of the travel creating a more even feel.

Rebound adjustment will control how fast the shock ‘springs back’ after being compressed. The rebound knob is a small dial found at the base of the shock on the main body. When adjusting rebound there are two requirements to think about. The rebound should be slow enough that it does not give a bucking sensation and fast enough that it has decompressed fully before the next hit. Remember; when it comes to rebound, increasing rebound damping will equate to a slower return.

The last adjustment on the shock is the Pedal Efficiency Switch. This adjustment is where you will find numerous confusing names which all pretty much mean the same thing. Fox calls their system ProPedal while Marzocchi uses TST. What are these adjustments? When engaged, the shock will have reduced pedal bob and be more efficient while climbing. To engage the switch move the pro-pedal to ‘Max’ position. On the Roco shock, rather than max/min, labels you will see CL and DS. CL is used while climbing while DS is used while descending. Simple enough? Just remember to switch them back to their ProPedal Off and DS positions for those long descents as your shock will perform better that way.

It should also be noted that there are both min. and max. pressures for all shocks. Be sure to check labels and your owner’s manual as it can be potentially dangerous to be outside the recommended pressure range.

Your shock adjustment will not be perfect out of the box. The best way to dial it in is to throw a shock pump in your bag and hit the trails. Adjust it as you go.


Originally posted at:
Must Read This Week


  • + 28
 Articles like this are dope
  • - 5
flag sgsrider (Mar 10, 2009 at 0:25) (Below Threshold)
 depends on the level of knowledge and experience of the person who writes them,as well as any personal bias they may sometimes have towards one product or the other. of the ones i've seen lately, this happens to have some great info in it, but he could have gone into more detail on the setup. all in all, a great article.
  • + 4
 yea its been really great lately to see a bunch of helpful articles like this. keep em comin!
  • + 4
 well, i was expecting a little more then what we find in manuals explains the same, and acctualy gives u even more tuning tips according to riding and trail conditions, who has already readen a fox manual knows what im saying...i was expecting that you would tell us a little about the feel and ride differences between air and coil, advantages an disadvantages of air/coil, for dh, fr, trail and so on...but i guess youve put every adjustament in a very simple way to understand for those who are not familiar with it, good article anyway
  • - 5
flag konad (Mar 10, 2009 at 13:58) (Below Threshold)
 biggest difference between the 5.0 air and coil is weight. air shocks theoreticly dont ride as nice as coil after alot of hard riding in a day cuz of the friction.theres not much point talkign about how its going to feel because thats kind of up to you to adjust the rebound to your likeing everythign else is sposed to be adjusted to your weight.
  • + 12
 pinkbike!, make Fav's for articles like this.. this is Great stuff!
  • + 1
 yeye great idea
  • + 1
 tis a great idea.

clean, helpful article. any coil shock or air fork crash-courses in the offing perchance? Smile
  • + 2
 Why are people worried about negative props? Like I care what people think... how about: I like smoking dope, riding fast and taking long jumps in the woods. I'll take anodized aluminum over carbon, Guiness over PBR (before 3 am, after 3am I'll be on the PBR...), bongs over pipes, and Vinyl over Ipods. I enjoy sunsets as long as nobody is talking during it. Oh, and your mom never gets old.
  • + 1
 I have never liked air shocks ... sure they have come a long way over the first releases, but anyone who says they are at the same level as their coil counterparts is smokin' a little too much weed. Personally, a DHX with a Ti Coil is almost as light as the air version. The mid stroke wallow and bottoming is a real PIA to deal with. I have never had this with a coil. Weight weenies can don the spandex and rave about how light they are while they spend their money on one (instead of a gym membership), I won't debate that ... BUT to state they are on PAR with Coil in terms of performance on a long travel bike .... I don't think so!! Better every year ... yes ... close to coil ... yes ... equivalent or better .. NO.
  • + 1
 I'm thinking of getting an air shock Fox DHX 5.0 Air for my Giant reign X1 this helped a lot but I'm not sold on how much they can handle. Any advice if I should keep my Fox DHX 3.0 coil or go for the Fox DHX 5.0 By the way that was a great article! Thanks
  • + 1
 ayup! ive got a dhx 5.0 on me marin quake when i bought the frame i had every intention of changing it for a coil but funds where abit tight so i decided to run it untill i could afford a roco wc or similar... turns out that the 5.0 is actually an amazing shock that has never let me down regardless off what ive thrown at it! perfect for climbs an descents ive even mucked around on skateparks and never had any probs... and if your runnning a steel spring then another big plus is the fact that you can shave around a pound an a half of your rig!
  • + 1
 I like air shocks and they aren't that hard to set up. Just need to understand what each feature is doing and why. Good on you for writing it up. One thing that should be mentioned is that the propedal is a low speed compression adjustment. For the older models that didn't have a switch, you could fine tune the propedal for conditions. Ideally it would have a switch and a dial. And like a previous guy said the bottom dial does change the highspeed compression. Also, setting sag should be done with equal weight over the front AND back of the bike, balanced like you would be riding. The idea with sag and why it so important to set properly, is that it allows the wheel to maintain traction when traveling over holes and through ruts. Allows the wheel to drop into the hole instead of the entire bike.
  • + 0
 For everyone saying that they don't like their airshock, specifically if they got the DHX Air or a marzocchi, you probably should have looked at your options when buying it a little more carefully. As far as I am concerned, as well as are alot of other happy customers, in terms of feel, adjustment, bottom out resistance, and reliability (no stuck down b.s.) a Manitou Evolver ISX 6 (o I know... manipoo this, manipoo that) knocks the socks off of the fox and the marzocchi. It's like the cane creek double barrel of air shocks. If your in the market for a new, or your first air shock check out the Manitou, you won't regret it.
P.S. the only reason i went on this little rant is because this article only refers to the fox and marzocchi, and i know this article was meant for the majority (those who own a fox or a marzocchi), but it would be nice to give an explanation for the minority (manitou owners) out there espescially when it's about such a great product that deserves much more publicity then it gets
  • + 0
 bah i got the dhx air and regret it. just waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy to hard to set up and such a pain. would have way rather gone for a coil and spend some extra on a ti-spring to save the weight. i have bottom out knob completely out and the psi are both under the max limit and it works out nice (took 3 months for me just to get it tuned perfect for me and it still isn't as nice as a coil)
  • + 0
 Hi folks,

I have a DHX Air 4.0 on my freeride bike I bought last summer. It's a single pivot frame, which means degressive characteristics. The Fox bottomed out often and did not have any mid-stroke damping. I opened the shock and filled the second main air chamber first with a piece of plastic, as it worked with silicone. Reduced Main Volume -> less pressure and more mid stroke. But it still bottomed hard. So I opened the piggy back and controlled the ifp- setting (internal floating piston). was about 33mm from the screwed cap. Removed the Cap and the ifp, filled in a bit of oil, and set the ifp to around 22 or 23 mm from end cap (which is 17mm high) (less volume, more progression). Fact is, it doesn't bottom out any more. Perfect progression. The stroke stops like 1-2mm before bottom out on big jumps. PERFECT! Mid stroke feels better, but I don't know if it's just because I spent so much work on it. ;-) I think Air shocks in general are a great addition to coil ones. But the manufacturers should offer smaller main air chambers and setup- changes without high pricing as accesoires/aftermarket items to give anyone the opportunity to get the characteristics they like. My DHX runs very nice since self-adjusting. So long ... Andy
  • + 0
 I agree, pro-pedal is just additional low-speed compression.

A better explaination of Fox's air pressure/bottom-out resevoir volume is: When the canister is high volume (decreased bottom out), the air pressure effects the first 50% of the spring curve and when the volume is low (increased bottom-out), air pressure will effect the last 50% of the curve, adding more progression to the end of the stroke. What the article said is basically right on though.
  • + 0
 Nothing new, but a must read for someone, who thinks his shop provides ride ready bicycles. It's obvious for certain people to check out every air valve in his bike, not only tires or tubes, but also suspension. This would be the last thing you want to forget - to bubble up fluids in your brand new rear shock.
  • + 0
 I have been running a Manitou for a year and it only needed to be rebuilt once which was under warranty and took less than 2 weeks this fall. Great shock, wish i had read this article when i first set it up, would have saved a bit of head ache.
  • + 0
 i have a question that need be answered....i am new to ridin a fully.....i use it for slope and like a firme and very unplush rear end......which is better coil or air?....right now i have a DHX 4.0 and it feels plush even when i have the pro pedal all the way off, the rebound jacked all the way up and the air presure set at 250 120 lbs
  • + 0
 i really like these articles, so this is constructive critisism - although you say why an adjustment is good, you don't say why it is bad. why wouldn't i want to run the secondary air chamber at max pressure, for the most progressive feel? why wouldn't i want to run it at the largest air volume, for the most progressive ramp-up? all in all i'm just as confused as after i read the owners manual...
  • + 0
 A short answer would be that running anything at their extreme operating settings will cause pre mature failure
  • + 0
 Well, it isn't rocket science is it? I am 75k and I ride my DHX 4.0 in some 150psi (small chamber) and 220psi (largest one). When I take the bike down to the trails, it is a only a flick on the lever's and there you go. The air spring rate feature, I don't use it that much to be perfect ly honest (I've just got it into the possition Taylor says it is best as I really don't see that much difference).
  • + 0
 Great read! Cleared up a lot of the questions I had about my first fully and how to begin tuning the air pressure in the shock. Now, if anyone could simplify this sag thing lol
  • + 3
 Sag is basically where your shock sits when you are neutral on your bike (meaning when you just sit/stand on your bike with no extra pressure up or down). The best way to set it is to put that little o-ring on the small chamber right against the big chamber and sit on your bike (gently!) the sag is the distance your shock travelled when you sat. At this point it's up to preference where you want your sag, but usually it's between 10-30%. 30% if you're doing some fast rocky lines and want lots of shock movement and 10% if you want it stiffer for smoother or pedal trails.

The purpose of the sag is so that when you're riding your not bottoming out OR topping out. This keeps your wheel on the ground and makes your ride a lot smoother!

To adjust sag: the easiest way is to adjust the air in the main chamber until you get the desired sag. The more adjustments your shock has the more you can fine tune your sag. Basically you have to play with it. Each frame has a different set-up due to all the different types of geometry so not all full suspension bikes would take the same adjustments for the same amount of tuning.

If I've missed something or something doesn't make sense please add-on!
  • + 2
 Precisely what I was looking for. Thank you.
  • + 0
 What they call sag is only the rear shock's portion which is actually driven back into its bore as you sit on your bike and before the suspension proper shows up, but I personally don't follow the set up guide chart for air pressure in this sense. When you buy your bike the shock comes with a band ring fit onto it for this purpose. The idea is you put pressure into your rear shock, have it fitted onto your frame, sit on it, and find out how much the rear shock is socking up by means of reading the band's displacement along the shaft. If you are asking, I ride my rear shock quite tight in my bike and I only tell about the difference when I turn into pro-pedal.
  • + 0
 Sorry, I mean to say I am into pro-pedal but I switch for more plush: this is when I find out.
  • + 2
 Great article, and some very useful posts as well. V. informative! Thanks!
  • + 1
 great article that didnt leave me scratching my head trying to make sense of it all cheers..... dont suppose you fancy writting one about 07 66 sl`s???
  • - 4
flag martyn748 (Mar 10, 2009 at 5:52) (Below Threshold)
 Yes in plane english, the fox site makes no sence at all.

Yes any chance of an explaination on Zokki AM range? good luck. lol
  • + 0
 Are their any good downhillers who ride at whistler that run an air shock for downhill instead of coil. If so what type of air shock
  • + 0
 Yes this is helpful information. As I will be investing in a Rocky Mountain Slayer and it will have the DHX 4.0 on it this will be a good reference. Thanks pinkbike. Smile
  • + 0
 more how-to articles are great. There's so much stuff out there to use and set up's nice to see something you might not normally use or think about as an option.
  • + 0
 i have a question umm was was thinking of putting one on my rocky mountain flatline do they work good for down hill?? or am i better off with a coil shock
  • + 1
 write about 07 66 sl1 ATA... the hardest thing to tune... dah!
  • - 3
 Good artical but I must agree with Sonicsloth, in the part about why you dont explain it is bad. It does give those new to the air shock system a quick glance I think you should have dropped a little more in depth. I say this because at the end you say just bring a pump with you and mess around with it while your riding? Heck I could have done that before you said anything in this post and probably come out with the same product.

As to the air vs spring shock, Its all to riders preference. I personally stick with my coil spring seems a little more reliable tried and true, that and if you ever blow out your shock atleast you got the spring to get you down the hill where as you blow out an air shock your done for and hiking down the rest of the way.
  • + 1
 air v`s coil? dont recall anyone bringing that up to be fair and as far. And as blowing up an air shock i ran a dhx 5 air last year in les gets and had absolutly no probs whatsoever! do you own or have you ever owned an air shock?
  • + 0
 Im and just stating that if you did blow up the shock there is atleast something to ride on if it did blow im not saying its going to or that air shocks are shitty, I personally dont mind them. So settled down and re read the comments then?? Im not saying there was an arguement of which was better but the difference between them. People need to think before they speak, settle down boy
  • + 0
 pinkbike needs more news articles like this one, good job!
  • + 0
 ive seen fox dhx 5.0 on the team mojo orange 224`s if that helps?
  • + 0
 information that a lot of people know and a lot dont know. Good article
  • + 0
 spring only looks better =)
  • - 1
 by the looks of the marzo air shock it looks like if you bottom out the reservoir would hit the frame...
  • + 0
 please dont neg prop me...thats just what it looks like...ive never had a fully so i wouldnt sorry
  • + 0
 good info
  • - 2
 nice those looks legit
  • - 31
flag konad (Mar 10, 2009 at 9:01) (Below Threshold)
 realy good article,so easy to set up as logn as you dont fuk with it,you got your lockout wich you dont lockout,your rebound on 5.0 does like 6 clicks and the bottom out is common scense,and the air preasure its easy to do cuz u set it to your weight.the coil 5.0 is prety much same adjustments,the air is great because how easy it is to set up to any riding on the spot because you dont need to mess with the air once its set up for you.
  • - 32
flag konad (Mar 10, 2009 at 9:03) (Below Threshold)
 and the lockout can be lockedout but only for riding that isint rough,like riding on the rd,i usuly dont bother locking out my shock for that tho
  • + 1
 it is a little harder to adjust air. I'm speaking from first hand experience, so don't bitch at me. My dhx 5 air requires a much higher pressure than my dhx 5 coil (both on the same bike, swap them out occasionally) to feel the same. Also, I have my bottom out screwed all the way in on the air and the coil only halfway, and the air still bottoms more easily, with more pressure than the coil. The air is also a little less sensitive, but it's not too bad.
  • - 16
flag konad (Mar 10, 2009 at 15:49) (Below Threshold)
 air has more psi cuz theres no coil,coil doesnt bottom as easy cuz it has a coil....
  • - 3
 I wouldn't put a air shock on my dh rig. and I wouldn't buy a Norco. I want something that will last.
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