Though rear shocks are the main component or a full-suspension mountain bike, they are something that you don’t really give a lot of thought to – until they give out, that is. What few people realize is that shocks can have a significant impact on your riding experience. Certainly, they make things more comfortable, but the models available today are good for a lot more than just that.
Choose the right option for your bike, your level of advancement and your style and you’ll see a marked improvement in performance. As you advance, you’ll naturally want something that you can fine tune and that offers a higher level of performance.
Types of Rear Shocks
There are two main types of rear shocks: Air and Coil. Coil shocks are generally much cheaper and heavier than air shocks which compress air into lightweight cyclinder.
The key to choosing the right ones for your bike is in analyzing exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Do you want to have the most advanced models for bragging rights? It’s fine if you do, as long as you have the skill that goes with using them.
Are you looking to save weight? Do you want a hassle-free option, or do you like to tweak settings? If you get a tunable option, will you have the patience to getting the settings, right? This can sometimes take ages. Do yourself a favor and be honest about your motivations and skill level upfront.
The next consideration when buying this kind of gear is to make sure that it will fit your bike. As bikers, we tend to be pretty good at modifying parts so that they fit perfectly. The problem with that here is that it will void your warranty.
So, when considering which model to finally order, you need to consider what results you want and ensure that there is a good fit.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are a lot of different options to choose from. To help narrow it down a little, we’ve identified our top three picks. We looked at performance, features, and price when choosing the best options.
Hopefully, this will be helpful to you in your own search.
Rock Shox Monarch RL C2 MTB Rear Suspension Shock
Rockshox are the market leaders in rear shocks. They have been building suspensions for bikes since 1989 and were taken over by Spram in 2002.
The piggyback shock design from RockShox has become something of an industry benchmark to compare other shocks to. It’s a very easy to use system and perfect if you don’t want to have to tune your shocks constantly.
These aren’t the most advanced shocks out there, but they’ll keep pace with the best of them. You’ll be able to build up a good speed quickly and enjoy the ride more. These are reliable and a great option for beginners and more advanced riders alike.
The price is also pretty good for this kind of tech, so you score anyway that you look at it.
• A set and forget option
• Durable and reliable
• Sensitive and default damping make this an exceptionally user-friendly option
• Price is not bad
• Established company with a solid reputation
• Fine-tuning is out of the question
• While the price is affordable for this type, it is still a fair amount of money to put on the table
DNM Mountain Bike Air Rear Shock
This is our budget option and comes in at under $100. With regards performance, you need to temper your expectations. These work reasonably okay but will never live up to the performance of our other two models.
The company themselves don’t have a lot to say about the performance other than giving the basic specs. They do say that they are working on establishing themselves as a leading brand. We believe that they have a pretty good attitude.The shocks are made in Taiwan and feature an air spring. So, they have a lot of potential.
In terms of whether or not these are the shocks for you, the jury is out. While most clients look on these as good value for money, there have been problems with loss of compression in some cases. What we suggest if you do buy these is that you fit them without modifying them.
If something does go wrong, there is a year-long warranty in place, so you can get them replaced in need.
• The price is definitely right
• Good performance
• Will stand a good deal of rough treatment
• Light weight
• Made in Taiwan
• One-year warranty
• There have been some issues with a loss of compression
Cane Creek has developed a reputation for innovative and exceptional products. They have helped to set the standard when it comes to adjustability and control. These shocks can have a transformative effect on a standard bike, increasing performance levels significantly.
There were some issues with oil leaks in the early days with this model. These seem to have been more pronounced in the case of extremely heavy wear. The company did acknowledge that these issues existed and did address the problems. Since then, they have been working hard at rebuilding their reputation.
They have made it into our top three because they have ironed out the teething problems and made a successful recovery over the last couple of years.
Overall, if you are a high-performance freak, you’ll love these. You’ll spend ages tuning and fine-tuning them to get the perfect setting for your needs. There are very few options at this price point that allow this degree of adjustment.
• Phenomenal performance at this price point
• Light weight
• Allows for excellent control
• You can fine tune it to your heart’s content
• The company had teething problems with its new design
• The price is good but might be out of reach for those on a more limited income
Marzocchi’s high-end rear shock absorbers are perfect for helping your tire with grip on those long downhill runs. The adjustable preload allows you to tune the shock for the best sag and travel. And the compact size means that it is easy to replace your existing shock using the same mounting points.
Environments: Trail, All-Mountain, Gravity
Eye-to-Eye: 7.28”— 8.86” (185mm – 225mm)
Travel: 2.17” — 2.95” (55mm — 75mm)
Weight: Body 12.56 oz (356 g), with spring 32.59 oz (924 g)
Spring: Not Included
Adjustments: Low-Speed Compression, Rebound, Spring Pre-Load
Depending on your existing shock, you can choose from a range of eye-to-eye lengths of around 7.3 to 8.9 inches. This translates to a stroke of between 2.17 and 2.95 inches. Most riders will find this shock in the sweet spot for trail riding since it is compact and low-weight with excellent absorption.
The 12.56-ounce shock does not come with a spring. But to tailor to your weight, you can choose one of many bespoke titanium springs to fit. Minor adjustments are easy to make out on the track, thanks to the preload adjuster for the spring. This shock makes it possible to make fine sag adjustments with the help of a friend.
The high-flow piston offers excellent impact response, with fast recovery for those big bumps. You can also use the low-speed compression adjuster dial to give you even more control when switching tracks or riding-style.
A lightweight design with a choice of titanium springs.
An easy to adjust spring preloader.
Simple shock absorber dial.
A range of models with different travel lengths.
You can find lighter shocks.
No color choices.
DVO’s funky color scheme and attention to detail on the Jade Coil make this shock stand out from the rest. Dealing with heat is a major problem with shock absorbers. The Jade coil comes with a large oil bladder and cooling fins. The bladder and fins help with the speed of compression but also with dispersing the heat that builds up on long and demanding runs.
Environments: Trail, All-Mountain, Gravity
Eye-to-Eye: 7.87” — 10.5” (200mm – 267mm)
Travel: 2.25” – 3.5” (57mm — 75mm)
Weight: Body 28.35 oz (425 g)
Spring: Not Included
Adjustments: High and Low-Speed Compression, Rebound, Spring Preload
You get a wide offering of shocks to suit bikes with eye-to-eye distances of 7.87 to 10.5 inches with travel distances up to 2.5 inches. The Jade Coil is a little heavier than some competing models, at over 28 ounces before you add a spring, though the extra weight is there for a reason.
Traditional shocks use floating pistons to smooth out the impact and O-rings to keep in the absorber oil. Such a design increases the stiction inside the piston cylinder, in turn increasing heat production. Having a bladder also reduces the need for a wider piston, so it is easier to fit narrow frames.
Both the preload and shock reload are simple to adjust on-site. You can control both the coil preload and spring for better comfort. And the shock is adjustable for both high and low-speed compression with a low-speed rebound.
Strong IGUS bushings in the eyeholes for longevity.
Numerous settings for the coil and shock.
Large reservoir and bladder with heat fins.
Heavier than other competing shocks.
No color options.
Fox continues to grow its cult following by making the types of simple changes that most other shock makers end up following. The functional design means that you do not feel the need to spray it down with a hose each time you ride through a puddle. And adjustments to the spring and shock are straightforward and easy to make.
Environments: Cross-Country, All-Mountain
Eye-to-Eye: 6.5” — 7.87” (200mm — 267mm)
Travel: 1.53” — 2.25” (57mm — 75mm)
Weight: Body 7.7 oz (221 g)
Spring: Not Included
Adjustments: Rebound, Compression, Lockout
Fox’s Float DPS comes with a three-position shock pre-set, which is easy to flip out on the track to open, medium, and firm modes. The dual-piston design gives the rider both better rebound and compression flow; for better control and comfort.
Shocks come in six lengths from eye-to-eye, from 6.5 inches to 7.875 inches, with travel lengths of 1.5 to 2.5 inches. One of the most appealing features is the light-weight design of the shock, at less than 7.7 ounces without the spring.
The Fox Float comes with either the traditional metric eyeholes or, the more complex but superior, trunnion mount. There is no external fluid reservoir or bladder on this model, which may be a good solution for tight bike frames, or when you want to keep it simple.
Half the weight of other shocks.
Simple shock settings.
Less complex, without reservoir and bladder.
Tough Kashima anodized coating.
Fine tuning not possible with 3-modes.
Short eye-to-eye shock options.
Fox has put a lot of time into the DHX2 before even beginning to take their product out for evaluation. This is one of the best rear-shocks on the market, with a near-endless number of configurations for you to get the most from your ride. This shock is also compact and comes with many features to prevent the settings from slipping.
Environments: All-Mountain, Enduro
Coating: Chromoly, Ultra-Low Friction
Eye-to-Eye: 6.49” — 7.28” (165mm — 185mm)
Travel: 1.57” — 2.16” (40mm — 55mm)
Spring: Coil Spring
Adjustments: High and Low-Speed Compression, High and Low-Rebound, Spring Pre-Load
Small detents on the preload make tuning easy while you are locking in the setting. The detents prevent vibrations and the actions of spring movement from loosening off the coil preload. At the base of the shock, there is a high-speed rebound dial for small adjustments. There is also a low-speed dial on the reservoir with 8 and 16 click positions.
There is an optional 2-position open-to-firm switch on the reservoir for instant changes. This switch leaves your finer settings alone. You can also control the high-speed and low-speed compression along with 8 and 16 click dials.
The trunnion shock will fit most standard frames, and you can also add a 2-position adjust lever when ordering. There is also a standard eyelet option to fit older frames. Everything on the shock is about quality, with low-friction and durable construction.
A near-endless combination of settings.
Detents for locking in the preload.
Ultra-low friction damper.
Quick-flip firmness lever.
A short reservoir to fit small frames.
Some people may find it too complex to tune.
A lot of places for dirt to clump.
MTB Rear Shock FAQs
How do you know if your rear shocks are going?
Different riding conditions can give you deceptive feedback, which is why you have so many settings. When you set up your shock, you set the sag to 30% of the travel length, and you may need to tighten this over time as the spring settles in.
The shock settings control the rate of rebound, and you may notice that the seat comes back far too fast when the shock is on its way out. You may also notice that the spring bottoms out a lot when going over objects. A shock in good working order should find it almost impossible to bottom out.
What PSI should my shock be?
The PSI of a shock depends a lot on the rider’s weight. The pressure can be anywhere from 70 PSI for a pre-teen up to 180 PSI for a heavy adult. Some riders use the rule of thumb to calculate the PSI, one PSI for each pound of rider.
If you are paying a lot for a shock, you may want to be more accurate, and the shock’s user manual will tell you the correct values. There are also plenty of online tools to calculate shock PSI.
What size rear shock do I need?
If you are replacing an existing shock, the best thing to do is measure the old one. If you have the manual for the old shock, even better, as you have the exact eye-to-eye length. You want to know that you have enough space in the frame to fit the shock you are going for.
You need to make sure that shocks with reservoirs have clearance from the frame when in full compression.
Can I use a longer shock on the rear of my mountain-bike?
You can try, but it is also a gamble. The length of the shock will change the handling and ride height. A long shock will be able to absorb more impact, but it will also change the angle of the rear frame.
In general, it is better to replace your old shock with one of a similar length.
What pressure should my Fox rear shock be?
Fox recommends that you work on adjusting the sag to 25% for a firm ride and 30% for a soft ride. Though they do have a caveat that you should never exceed the peak float air pressure. To prevent damage to the shock in demanding conditions, it is better to under-pressure, rather than over-pressure, the shock.
How do MTB rear shocks work?
Rear shocks come with the support of a large spring, which always wants to pull itself back to its original position. The shock is there to control the spring and pull energy from its motion and bring it to rest.
The shock is the action of a piston moving through a fluid (oil or gas) inside a cylinder, which provides stiction. Stiction converts the movement to heat, slowing the spring.
Verdict- Best Rear Shock
So, which option is the best one for you? That all depends on what kind of results you are looking for. The DNM is a great budget option. It doesn’t come first on our list in terms of performance, but if your shocks give out and you need a replacement that won’t break the bank, this is it.
We would view them more as an interim solution while you are saving for a more expensive model.
In terms of a favorite out of the other two, that is more difficult. The RockShox comes out tops for beginners or those who really don’t want the bother of finetuning them. The Cane Creek, on the other hand, will be a good fit for those who value high-performance and like tweaking their bikes to get the best.
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