The DBcoil [IL] is an inline version of Cane Creek's piggyback shock that offers all of the same adjustments that you're used to seeing from the North Carolina company, including their Climb Switch feature, but in a lighter weight and more compact package. According to Cane Creek, the DBcoil [IL] is designed to ''bridge the performance gap between trail bikes and long-travel downhill rockets,'' while also bringing ''all of the function of an external reservoir coil shock into a lighter and sleeker package.'' In a nutshell, the [IL] shock is a DBcoil CS with its piggyback removed to save weight and allow it to fit on even more bikes.
Improvements like RockShox's DebonAir and Fox's EVOL air springs have, in most cases, vastly improved the performance of air suspension, which brings about an obvious question: with air shocks offering some pretty impressive performance these days, why bother with a heavier coil-sprung shock?
It doesn't apply to everyone riding a short-travel bike, but there's no doubting that some of these so-called ''little bikes'' aren't exactly being ridden like little bikes anymore. Thanks to evolved geometry, stronger frames, and components that are up to the task, as well as changing mindsets, many people are getting wild on bikes with less travel than ever. And some of those people might like the sensitivity and different feel that a coil spring provides compared to air, which is where Cane Creek is hoping that their DBcoil [IL] shock comes in.
Cane Creek knows that there's far less demand for a coil-sprung inline shock than there is for an air-sprung version, and they even admitted exactly that in their press release from last August when the DBcoil [IL] was first announced: ''This shock almost never left the R&D lab,'' said design engineer Brandon Blakely. He built a few prototype test samples in his spare time regardless, and they ended up being ridden by other employees.
The project went from 'no' to 'go' shortly after that, and I flew down to Cane Creek's headquarters that spring to see the inner workings of the new shock.
Internally, it employs the same Twin-Tube damper layout that you'd expect to see, and you can adjust low- and high-speed rebound, as well as low- and high-speed compression via Cane Creek's familiar looking gold dials. There's also the Climb Switch function that applies a boatload of low-speed rebound and compression when activated to increase pedaling performance without sacrificing traction.
We can't talk about, or especially test, a Cane Creek shock without at least touching on the topic of reliability, can we? Most people are aware that there were issues with the original DBinline that saw it fail far too often, and while it performed extremely well when it was working, it was working far too infrequently for a lot of consumers. That run of unreliable shocks was, according to Cane Creek President Brent Graves, a combination of the inherent complexity of the design and not fully realizing the quality assurance and level or robustness that it required. ''We've definitely made a big investment in quality, and what we've got to do, what we've been doing, is focusing on quality assurance,'' Graves said to me when I asked him point-blank last year about what's changed. ''Quality assurance is doing it at the front end, putting in controls to ensure that you're making it right to begin with. Quality control is checking it after the fact. Quality assurance is going back up the supply chain to the supplier and saying 'Okay, let's walk through the process.''
That process has, according to Cane Creek, been examined, simplified, and purged of any troubling steps when it comes to all of Cane Creek's shocks, and the supplier manufacturing process has been scrutinized with the aim of eliminating anything that could cause an issue down the road.
During my visit to Cane Creek's HQ last year, I rode Ghost's 160mm-travel FR AMR 10 all-mountain machine, a very red bike that would usually come equipped with an air-sprung shock but that had the new DBcoil [IL] bolted in place instead. That very same bike, with the same shock, then made the journey to Whistler during Crankworx this past summer where it was treated to some serious vertical on some equally serious terrain, and it has been in my stable ever since.
The 160mm-travel Ghost first saw a 500 in/lb spring fitted to its DBcoil [IL] shock that provided about 27-percent sag, which was maybe a touch too little. Dropping down to a 450 in/lb spring brought that number up to around 32-percent, which was more in the ballpark for a bike of the FR AMR 10's intentions.
As you'd expect from a coil-sprung shock, initial bump sensitivity was very, very impressive, and the early part of the shock's stroke only felt better after dropping down to the softer spring. Today's air shocks, with their clever air cans, are remarkably active, but our time on the DBcoil [IL] served as a reminder that there is certainly still a difference between them and a coil, and that a coil-sprung shock can be more forgiving and seemingly provide more traction. This was most noticeable when braking and, somewhat predictably, when the trail was greasier than a fifteen-year-old boy's face.
As with all of Cane Creek's shocks, the DBcoil [IL]'s adjustment range is wide enough to accommodate everyone from a flyweight rookie to an overweight hard-charger, just so long as the spring rate is correct, of course. Bikes, however, might be a different story depending on what you're looking to bolt the [IL] onto. The FR AMR has enough progression designed into it that, even at over 30-percent sag, there was more than enough ramp-up near the end of the stroke.
We expected to be dialing the high-speed compression dial in to combat clanging into the end of the travel, but just 1.5 turns in from fully out did the trick. This is bike-specific, of course, but the DBcoil [IL] certainly played nice with the FR AMR's rear-end. And when we did hit bottom, it was more of a soft, rubbery thud than a smash that would be cause for concern.
The shock's Climb Switch functions in the same manner as on Cane Creek's other shocks, firming up both compression and rebound rather than just the former as on other shocks. It can't really be used as a firmer "trail mode" due to how it affects the rebound, however, which is something to keep in mind.
The rest of the adjustments were turned more open than closed for our weight, spring rate, and very wet fall and winter riding conditions, which means that there is plenty of room to firm things up all around should the need arise when the trails are dry and rolling much quicker. Coil and air aside, the vast damper adjustment range afforded by the Twin-Tube design is a serious advantage for someone who takes the time to learn how to use it, and Cane Creek's website and Dialed Tuning App
provides all the resources you'll need to do exactly that. Or you can just leave it at the stock setting all around and be fine. Reliability
It doesn't matter how well something works if it only works well for a short period of time, which some of us are unfortunately all too aware of. The bottom line is that our test shock simply had to last, and it's done exactly that. The action is still consistent throughout the stroke, and there are absolutely no gurgles or other funny sounds that would hint at a loss of pressure and air entering the system. The dials and Climb Switch lever all still have the same effect and, if someone wiped the mud off the shock and put it on a different bike, I'd assume it was still brand new. Can't say much more than that, can you? Pinkbike’s Take:
|So, the question that needs answering is this: air or coil? Assuming that you have a bike that can work well with either, the answer is still going to depend on your needs. The DBcoil [IL] with the lightweight VALT spring weighs 633 grams, which isn't that much more than an air-sprung shock, and let's not forget that anyone looking at a coil option is probably not going to be bolting it to a mega-light bike to begin with.|
It's hard to ignore the gains in sensitivity, and therefore traction, that a coil spring provides. And why would you? Well, at the risk of offending someone, those who possess fewer skills and not a ton of courage probably won't benefit from a coil spring, but they very well could from a properly adjusted spring rate, which is a hell of a lot easier to attain with a shock pump. Pick your weapon that suits your bike and needs. - Mike Levy
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