Cane Creek DBAir Review

by Brian Mullin on March 29, 2013

I have been using the Double Barrel Air
or DBair for quite a long time on my Ibis Mojo HD, and it is one of the
best rear shocks I have used, especially in regard to All Trail and All
Mountain riding. It has a vast range of tuning settings, with separate
adjustments for air, low and high speed compression, and low and high
speed rebound. The DBair is an air sprung rear shock, with four-way
independent adjustability, an auto-adjust negative air spring, tunable
air volume, and Twin Tube damping technology. It comes in eight
different lengths and strokes from 190 x 50mm (7.5” x 2.0”) to 267 x
90mm (10.5” x 3.5”) and three XV (extra volume) sizes, and weighs in at
530 grams, and retails for $650.



DBAIR Twin Tube Technology
Their Twin Tube Technology, which is the same basic configuration that
the coil version of the DBair uses, refers to the construction of the
damping section, and it’s comprised of the main chamber where the piston
resides, and then an outer chamber in which the oil can circulate back
and forth. During the compression stage, oil gets pushed by the piston
up through the cylinder head, down through the compression valve, up
through the rebound check valve, and down the outer Twin Tube chamber,
and finally exiting through some holes into the rebound chamber. During
the rebound stage, the piston pushes oil back out through the bottom
holes, up the outer Twin Tube chamber, down through the rebound valve,
up through the compression check valve, and back into the compression
chamber. It does this continuous circulation of the oil as the piston
fluctuates between the compression and rebound stroke, reversing
direction between each of those circuits. This system allows for
effective and functional external tuning via the low and high speed
compression, and low and high speed rebound adjusters, without having to
resort to internal valving or shim stack changes. Although the shock
got the base technology from its coil brethren, they sort of tossed out
the book, and created a full-on air shock, not some bastardized coil
version.

Tuning
The Dbair’s four independent damping adjustments are the low and high
speed rebound, and the low and high speed compression, whose knobs are
altered using the supplied double ended wrench. The low-speed adjusters
are the upper smaller hex nut, while the high-speed’s are the larger hex
ones. They’re clearly labeled, which is a good thing since I always
seem to forget which one is which. The adjusters allow a huge spectrum
of tuning, both good and bad, so once your outside of Cane Creeks
suggested settings, you need to be careful of getting carried away. I
found the easiest way to get within the ballpark for your personal
preferences for tuning, was to repeat a short section of difficult or
rough terrain, and tweak the adjusters back and forth until you narrow
it down to a good discernible setting.

It takes some extra work to
get it tuned properly for your weight, riding style and personal
preferences, and although it’s not a hugely complex process, it takes
some patience and tinkering. The base tune’s
that they offer on their website for particular bikes works extremely
well, and you could easily live with that functional setup, but the
extra edge, control and precision you can get from tweaking things are
where the shock really shines. This is especially true if you are
outside the typical weight range (light or heavy), or have a particular
riding style or frequent a certain type of terrain. Cane Creek has a
private forum named the Lounge,
where Double Barrel owners can gather, share and collaborate, ask
questions and chat with Cane Creek engineers, sponsored riders and
various bike companies.

Once
the high speed was set, they really didn’t need to be changed, and they
could be considered, set and forget entities. I do wish the low-speed
rebound, and compression had easy hand adjustable dials instead of
having to revert to their wrench, as I occasionally liked to play with
settings depending on the terrain. The major adjuster is always going to
be the air, and I regularly changed it depending on the amount of XC
riding I was doing in between the gnar. You could bump the pressure up
for a firmer ride, and drop it for more plushness. I would like to have
some sort of pedal platform for riding fire roads and smooth
singletrack, as it would fill in the gap on the one spot where the shock
wallows more than I would prefer.

My personal tunings:

  • Sag – 35% or 22mm
  • HSC – .5 turns
  • HSR – 3 turns (+ .25)
  • LSC – 7 clicks (+2)
  • LSR  – 14 clicks (-2)

The
kit comes with air volume reduction spacers, which give a more
progressive air spring, to prevent harsh or frequent bottoming. You
remove the air can with a strap wrench and insert the spacer to decrease
the volume. Cane Creek recently came out with a XV (extra volume) air
can, made for bikes with a more progressive leverage ratio. You can also
rotate the air can for the proper orientation of the air valve, to make
it fit a wide range of frames.

Testing Rig and Terrain
I tested the DBair with the Magura TS8 150, the FOX TALAS 160 (27.5″)
and VAN 160 forks, on my medium Ibis Mojo HD with the various 26″ and
27.5″ wheels and tires. I am 5’9″, weigh in at 155 lbs, and I have
mostly ridden in the West, including vast portions of the Colorado Front
Range, Sedona, Moab, Fruita/GJ and many parts of the Colorado
mountains. The testing terrain is predominantly loose rocky conditions,
with many long steep climbs and descents, rock gardens, slick rock, an
occasional smooth singletrack and lots of ugly, loose gravel. I tend to
enjoy gnarly technical terrain, where precise steering and maneuvering
are required and intricate follow-through, and full commitment is
required.

Impressions
It likes to sit down deep it its sag, and once it’s there it absorbs
everything tossed at it, and keeps the bike nice and level over the
ground while the shock undulates, sort of like a mogul skier racing
through the bumps. If your climbing gnarly terrain, with stair steps,
ledges, rock garden and other heinous obstacles, the shock keeps the
rear end plastered to the ground, making bursts up technical terrain
seem effortless. Rolling in and out of berms and high speed corners, the
shock kept its composure, without any loss of stability or washouts,
even when pushed hard. Tossing it off jumps and hucking makes it happy,
and it nicely absorbed things, until it lightly ramped up towards the
bumpers, all of which made for a plush launcher without any harsh
bottoming out problems. When climbing up smooth fire roads, and long
butt smooth singletrack, it does wallow slightly unless you increase the
air pressure, but it’s one of the few places it doesn’t feel at home.

The
small through medium bump compliance is superb, offering plushness and
resiliency, while on medium to large encounters, it stiffens up
slightly, but it retains a good feel with some decent softness. Towards
the end of the stroke, it ramps up, and even though you can hit the
bumpers, there seems to still be a tad more left, so you don’t feel like
your smashing into a wall. If you jump up and down with some force, you
can get some bob, but under normal sprinting situations, there wasn’t
an ordinate amount of wallowing. The HD and its DW-link suspension like
spirited sprinting, and it did just fine when I hammered hard.

When
going downhill this shock is a ripper, and it loves to fly and absorb
everything tossed into its path, huck it, crank it though rock gardens,
toss it into some super technical terrain, do some slow-speed trial’s
moves, and it just rules the roost. Another highlight of the shock is
that you can firmly weight the rear end to make a technical maneuver,
and the subtle platform that gets created allows you to add some body
English to make the move. The word that comes to mind while riding this
shock is composure, especially when going downhill and flying along
undulating terrain, and it just seems to float through those conditions.
The other day I was on a trail in which the terrain had lots of old
eroded horse hoof marks, and the bike stayed very neutral while the
shock was continually absorbing all the undulations. I took a look down
and was amazed of how much work it was doing, while the bike seemed calm
and collected in the cockpit. I could extract most of the vestiges of the travel, but I tended to keep the air pressure low (lots of sag).

Specs:

  • measured weight – 550 grams
  • size – 215mm x 63mm (8.5” x 2.5”)
  • measured stroke – 65mm

Bottom Line
The DBair is the best All-Mountain air sprung rear shock I have used,
and it provides incredible plushness and ride composure on any terrain,
especially in the gnar. The alterable air volume and four-way
independent adjustability make for a massive amount of tuning
capabilities, allowing great control over the characteristics of the
shock’s interaction between the bike, rider and terrain. I would have
liked some sort of pedal platform and low-speed hand adjustable knobs,
but that is some minor nitpicking, and has nothing to do with the
performance of the shock. It’s not the lightest air shock, and it’s
expensive at $650, but the performance, plushness, composure,
adjustability and control make for a superb package.

Strengths

  • Superb small to medium bump compliance
  • Four-way independent adjustability
  • Twin-tube technology
  • Excellent composure

Weaknesses

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Lack of a pedal platform lever
  • Hand knobs for low-speed adjusters
  • Tuning is complex

Overall Rating: 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers


Features/Specs

  • MSRP: $650
  • Visit the Cane Creek DBair website
  • Twin-tube damping for unparalleled small bump sensitivity and adjustability
  • Precision-machined parts for maximum performance and reliability
  • Auto-adjust negative air spring
  • Four-way independent adjustability
  • Tunable Air Volume
  • Weight – approx. 500g (weight varies by size)
  • Damping Twin Tube independent compression and rebound
  • Adjustments – Air spring rate, High speed compression, Low speed compression, High speed rebound, Low speed rebound
  • Finish – Anodized and laser etched
  • Mounting Interface – Norglide bushing 1/2″ Universal Axle

Lengths

  • 190 x 50mm (7.5” x 2.0”)
  • 200 x 50mm (7.87” x 2.0”)
  • 200 x 57mm (7.87 x 2.25”)
  • 215 x 63mm (8.5” x 2.5”)
  • 222 x 63mm (8.75” x 2.5”)
  • 222 x 70mm (8.75” x 2.75”)
  • 240 x 76mm (9.5” x 3.0”)
  • 267 x 90mm (10.5” x 3.5”)

XV Lengths

  • 200 x 57mm (7.87 x 2.25”)
  • 215 x 63mm (8.5 x 2.5”)
  • 240 x 76mm (9.5 x 3.0”)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Clinton Tyree August 5, 2013 at 7:34 am

I am planning on converting my HD to 650B and running this shock. Did you have to shim the shock at all? I was planning on running the Hans Dampf 650B

Reply

Clinton Tyree August 5, 2013 at 7:34 am

I am planning on converting my HD to 650B and running this shock. Did you have to shim the shock at all? I was planning on running the Hans Dampf 650B

Reply

Fabricio September 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I got one also in my HD160 and love it, like you say is a little annoying to set up the 4 adjustments, but CC has a good starting point in the website. My bike changed a lot with this shock and my riding allowing take another lines than before the bike was just out of traction (up and down). If you choose this I recommend the XV can in the HD160, even better feeling with it and need an extra setting after installation (also very easy to do).

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