Coil Shock Background:

The simple coil-over-shock assembly has controlled the vehicle dynamics on the majority of cars, trucks, and motorcycles for over a hundred years. While your bike hauling vehicle of choice also rides on coil suspension, it isn’t the same race-ready suspension as what you’re looking to put on your new bike. Factory suspension on your car is tuned for your vehicle’s weight and ride intentions, lacking all the adjustments you’ll want on your new MTB shock. This keeps costs low and reliability high, which is why factory automotive suspension often runs for 50K+ miles before seeing any degradation in damping performance, and can run much longer than that while maintaining a very adequate ride quality.

Coil shocks on mountain bikes are high-performance components much closer to the tuner suspension that you’d see on the loudest STI at the stoplight than the factory shocks on your WRX. This means these shocks will include adjustable spring rates for different rider weights and have enough damper adjustments to control the spring’s behavior as it compresses and extends.

MTB Suspension Terminology:

  • Spring rate - the spring rate sets your ride height (sag)
  • Preload* - used to compress the spring at topout and change the feel of the shock as it settles into the sag height from topout
  • Compression - damper adjustment that slows the shock down as it moves into its travel
  • Rebound - damper adjustment that slows the shock down as it extends from a compressed state

“Preload should never be used to adjust sag. If the spring is too soft, get a stiffer spring, do not increase preload.” - Chief Enginerd Matt

*A note about coil shock preload: the main purpose of the preload adjuster is to easily accommodate spring lengths that vary, but the goal is just enough preload to prevent the spring from rattling. Coil preload increases the topout force, or the energy required to start the shock moving. For example, a 400 lb spring with 1/8" of preload on The Smash will require 50 lbs of force to begin moving whereas a shock with zero preload requires no force to begin moving. In a nutshell, preload is not a replacement for the incorrect spring rate.

Damping makes you go fast, Dampening makes you wet.

Many of these shocks feature independent high and low speed damper adjustments. More adjustments offer greater control over the shock's behavior but can add complexity to shock setup.

MTB Damper Adjustments:

  • Low speed compression (LSC) - controls how the shock absorbs body weight movements like braking, pedaling, and pumping
  • High speed compression (HSC) - controls how the shock absorbs big hits and square edged hits that require a lot of suspension movement over a very short distance
  • Low speed rebound (LSR) - controls how the shock extends from small hits
  • High speed rebound** (HSR) - controls how the shock extends from deep into the travel where spring forces and shaft speeds are the highest

**A note about high speed rebound - high speed rebound is typically preset in most forks and shocks. In practice, increasing high speed rebound increases the usable range of low speed rebound adjustment. This means that increasing high speed rebound will also increase the low speed rebound force on most shocks. The complications surrounding high speed rebound tuning are why MRP and PUSH both preset the HSR adjustment, giving you a single rebound adjuster with noticeable differences between clicks.

MTB Shock comparisons

We have settled on a few popular brands of coil suspension for our bikes and below is a table comparing the different features of each shock. For weight references, the shocks here are 230 x 60, sized for The Smash with a 450 lb spring.

Shock Weight (g) Price LSC HSC LSR HSR Climb Switch
Cane Creek DBCoil IL 700 $$ Y Y Y Y Y
Fox DHX2 w/ SLS spring 777 $$ Y Y Y Y Y
MRP Hazzard w/ Enduro SL spring 825 $$ Y Y Y - Y
PUSH ElevenSix w/ Hyperco spring 916 $$$ Y Y Y - Y
Rockshox Super Deluxe Coil 970 $ Y - Y - Y

Help Me Choose

Why should you choose one shock over the other?

  • PUSH ElevenSix - you want the supercar of rear shocks this is 100% American-made and custom tuned to your riding style and our suspension kinematics. Rather than a true climb switch, the PUSH shock offers two completely separate compression circuits, so you can set up one with added compression for a pedaling or berm smashing firmness or open it up to allow a plush ride with the flip of a lever.
  • MRP Hazzard - you want a shock assembled in Colorado with a focus on lightweight bang-for-your-buck performance and clean aesthetics. Fox DHX2 - you want a highly adjustable shock that stands out on the trail with its matching orange SLS spring.
  • Rockshox Super Deluxe Coil - you live by the mantra of keep-it-simple-stupid and want a coil shock because it’s simple, paired with a simple damper so you can hop on and ride.

We hope this comparison clicked with you and helps you dial in your new suspension. Be sure to subscribe to The Dispatch in order to receive the latest updates by email.