Initial Thoughts: Cane Creek DBair
Cane Creek's new DBair shock offers an incredibly wide range of shock tuning options.
By Vernon Felton
$TBA // canecreek.com
Over the past few years, Cane Creek’s Double Barrel rear shock has earned a cult-like following of tuner geeks who practically foam at the mouth while sputtering about Cane Creek’s insanely adjustable coil-sprung shock.
And now there’s the DBair—the air-sprung version—to consider.
At first blush, it might appear as if Cane Creek is offering gravity types a new means of erasing a couple hundred grams from their burly rigs—that, however, is not the DBair’s prerogative. If you’re riding a frame designed around a coil-over’s linear spring rate, stick with the coil Double Barrel. The DBair is not your pony.
Instead, this new shock is targeted at riders who feel they aren’t getting the full travel and/or silky performance out of their air-sprung rear shocks. While the DBair comes in eight different eye-to-eye lengths (including a monstrous 10.5-inch, eye-to-eye unit that has “chairlift” written all over it), the most likely candidates for the DBair are members of the ever-sprawling all-mountain family. Likely matches, accordingly, include the Santa Cruz Nomad and Blur LTc, Intense Tracer 2, Transition Covert…and so forth.
Think of the DBair, then, as a more fine-tunable alternative to a Float, DHX Air, Monarch or Monarch Plus.
In short, if you want a more coil-like suspension feel, but are riding a frame that was designed around an air-sprung shock, the DBair could be your huckleberry.
But enough of the mission statement stuff and on to the widget-tech-feature bit of the story….
The DBair sports the same core technology (licensed from Ohlins) as its coil-bound brother—most notably, twin-tube, independently adjustable compression and rebound damping circuits. Those four shiny gold knobs turn independently, enabling you to separately tune your high and low-speed compression damping as well as high- and low-speed rebound damping.
On top of all that, you can also change the shock’s spring curve by adding or removing spacers to/from the air can, thus changing its volume and progressivity (more volume, for instance, gives you less ramping at the end of the stroke).
That, for the record, is a shitload of tweaking potential at your fingertips.
How does it all suss out on the trail? Like every other magazine or web hack in the trade, I rode a DBair outfitted on an Intense Carbine at Interbike’s On Dirt Demo.
I, however, also had a chance to stop by Cane Creek headquarters while we were testing bikes in North Carolina and was able to get another DBair bolted onto our own Carbine test bike. We then spent a week riding Pisgah trails on the shock. In short, I’ve got enough time to have a sense of the shock, but we’ll need a few months on one of these things before we can draw some hard and fast conclusions.
My gut reaction is this: it’s nearly impossible to dislike the DBair’s performance if you, in fact, are diligent about dialing in the correct tune for your frame and riding style. The shock’s performance is so variable that it’s sort of hard to run through the settings and not find a set up that works well for you. Stiction was not a problem at all either–if you run anything between 25 and 30 percent sag, the DBair is supremely smooth on the small stuff. More to the point, if you don’t like how the shock is working, some patient twiddling of the knobs will completely change how the thing works.
I can’t stress this highly enough—small changes in sag and damping settings radically alter how the shock behaves. While that’s true, to an extent, for all air-sprung shocks, it’s doubly so with the DBair. Cane Creek has, in essence, given you a shock, a little wrench (for those knobs) and the wherewithal to become your own one-man (or woman) Push Industries/Hippie Tech/(insert any other custom shock tuning company) tuning shop.
There are a few additional things worth mentioning. You can rotate the massive air can, which should make fitting the shock easier on a wide range of frames. Clearance problems should be less of a, well, problem. The shock also features an auto-adjusting negative spring, so there’s one less thing to think about when setting up the DBair. That’s actually a very good thing, since getting dialed on the DBair takes more thought than on either a Fox or RockShox unit.
With the DBair, you aren’t just setting sag at 25 percent and rebound at a “please, don’t buck me off” rate of return. You need to spend some time fine-tuning the DBair settings, which is, of course, the whole point here. You know uber-adjustable and all that….
While that may sound overwhelmingly complex or tedious, it’s not horribly so. The adjuster functions are clearly identified on the shock body and Cane Creek is working on creating base-level adjustment guidelines for particular bikes—starting points for all your twiddling, which would save riders a hell of a lot of time in set up.
As is the case with any component that boasts a wide range of adjustments, you can make the DBair feel fantastic or like utter crap, depending on your tuning diligence. If you are the sort who has never come to grips with the red and blue anodized doo-hickies on your past forks or shocks, I wouldn’t recommend the DBair: there’s no point in buying a shock that requires fine adjustments if you aren’t willing to adjust it properly.
Now, having written all of the above, you might think that the DBair is designed for riders who want to fiddle with their shock all day. Nope. Exactly the opposite. With the DBair, you put in a solid day or two of experimenting with compression and rebound damping, find the right settings and then never touch the thing again. This is a set it, ride it and forget it product. There are no “lock-out” levers to reach for when you see the trail suddenly climb. Thus, if you like swapping back and forth mid-ride between plush and firm shock settings, you might be better served with a Fox, RockShox, X-Fusion, etc.
It’s too early to say anything about the DBair’s durability or long-term performance (we had to send our pre-production unit back after a month of testing). Once we get a season of testing on a production version, we’ll let you know how this new shock fares.