Cane Creek DBAir CS Review

by Brian Mullin on March 7, 2014

“The DBAir CS is a more polished and greatly improved shock than its predecessor, and the CS mode offers increased pedaling efficiency and riding comfort on difficult climbing terrain.”

The Cane Creek Double Barrel is one of the best All Mountain rear shocks on the market today, and the 4-way tunability has been a hallmark of this excellent product. It had some subtle issues when climbing, in which it lacked enough platform during long pedaling sessions on smoother terrain or cranking up the chunder. Cane Creek designed a new selectable climbing mode feature for the DB, which kicks that issue right out the door. The lever actuated Climb Switch, dubbed the CS, offers low speed damping for both compression and rebound when engaged, and reacts like the existing DB when it’s turned off. They accomplished this trickery by having six damping circuits, which is two more than the normal DB.

The DBAir CS 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 509 grams, and retails for $695.

Cane Creek Technical Info

Double Barrel shocks with the CS feature have four low-speed damping circuits: LSC1, LSC2, LSR1, LSR2 in addition to the 2 high-speed damping circuits: HSC and HSR. In the “off” position of the Climb Switch, the low speed damping is controlled by LSC1 and LSR1; this is analogous to traditional Double Barrel shocks without the CS feature. In the “on” position of the Climb Switch, the low-speed damping is controlled by LSC2 and LSR2, the ‘climbing circuits’. These circuits are heavily damped and tuned specifically to limit low frequency motion of the bike’s suspension, but not to the extent that traction during climbing is sacrificed.

As noted, this isn’t a pedal assist, lockout or low-speed compression damping, but a combo meal package of low-speed compression and rebound when engaged, and together they offer efficient pedaling and riding in both climbing and moderate terrain conditions. The CS prevents inefficient wallowing and energy loss, while providing better traction and riding comfort. The amount of the CS’s LSC and LSR damping are factory preset by Cane Creek for particular bike brands, and they work closely with the vendors for the most ideal tune. There are five levels of tunes or firmness for the CS, which companies can spec for their bikes.

 

Besides the additional lever and circuits on the CS models, the new design required the separation of the low-speed and high speed adjusters. The shiny gold dials are for tuning the high speed, while the steel gray ones are for the low-speed. Another great improvement is the switch to a normal 3mm hex key for adjustment of the dials or knobs, instead of the funky double ended box wrench of its predecessor.

The Double Barrel lineup includes the DBAir CS and the existing DBcoil and DBAir versions. Unfortunately, the new design is not backward compatible or retrofittable to the original DB, so you’ll have to buy a DBAir CS shock if you want the CS functionality.

Impressions

The first thing you notice when riding the DBAir CS with the CS lever ‘off’ or in the open position, is that it performs exactly the same as the DBAir, giving the bike superb small to medium bump compliance, and excellent composure and plushness. In addition, the set up for the air pressure, and low and high speed compression and rebound is precisely the same, albeit the adjusters are in slightly different locations.

Having spent a long time with the normal DBAir on my own Mojo HD, I knew the subtle wallowing and energy inefficiency issues during climbing, which could be mildly tempered by adding more air to the shock. It was quite the revelation to feel how well the CS curbed any sort of those issues, giving any bike better traction, control and efficiency. The Mojo HD and HDR, with its dw-link anti-squat suspension had the lowest CS tune that Cane Creek offers, and the CS’s effect was more subtle than the Knolly Four by 4 Linkage and Intense VPP which I also tested, but it was still very apparent on any bike suspension system.

Switch the CS lever to its ‘on’ or closed position, and you engage the new climbing circuits, which are comprised of the low-speed compression and rebound damping circuits (LSC2 and LSR2). Although it seems subtle and subdued in a parking lot test and general poking around on smooth trails, its offers an effective alteration in how the shock performs on rougher trails. Instead of wallowing up through climbs on technical terrain, it keeps the bike composed, quiet and neutral.

 

 

The rear end of the bike doesn’t get tossed or bounced around during impacts, and it extends and recovers when required, without any undue suspension dropouts. Pedal up stair stepped terrain or roots and the rear stays firmly planted to the ground, giving great traction and control, while still absorbing undulations. Stand up and hammer down, and the CS platform keeps everything nicely composed. Another nice feature of the CS being engaged was when you were climbing up things and started to feel spent (out of gas), you could just keep pedaling and the platform allowed you to squeeze out that the last couple of moves. You could leave the CS ‘on’ during climbs, rolling terrain and an occasional quick downhill, though it felt out of sorts on mellower terrain, where the bike lost its playful and fun characteristics and the joy of swooping into berms.

Another interesting aspect of the CS is the rebound reaction, which was greatly appreciated in rough undulating terrain when climbing or just spinning along, since you could stay seated and fully weight the saddle and not be bumped out of position. I instinctively would unweight before bumps, dips and rocks, and it took a few times to stay seated and allow the CS to do its job.

It would be nice to have a remote to operate the CS, since depending on the terrain being ridden, you might switch it on and off quite often. For fire roads and butt smooth terrain, the CS isn’t a true lock-off, so it still might wallow too much for some people, though I found it a tolerable compromise.

Measured Spec: 553 grams for 215mm x 63mm (8.5” x 2.5”)

Bottom Line

The DBAir CS 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. The addition of the new CS feature offers greatly improved climbing characteristics up technical and rugged terrain, with increased traction and control. Regardless of the suspension systems used, the CS was noticeable on each bike I tested in varying degrees, and it was always a definitive improvement.

I would like to see the availability of a remote, to make it easier to change the lever on the fly. It’s not the lightest air shock, and the tuning is somewhat complex and it’s expensive at $695, but the performance, plushness, composure, adjustability and control make for a superb package.

The DBAir CS is a more polished and greatly improved shock than its predecessor, and the CS mode offers increased pedaling efficiency and riding comfort on difficult climbing terrain.

 

Pros
  • Superb small to medium bump compliance
  • Plush ride
  • Four-way independent adjustability
  • Twin-tube technology
  • Excellent composure
  • CS – offers great traction and control during climbs
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Hand knobs for low-speed adjusters
  • Tuning is complex
  • Needs a remote
Specs
  • Adjustments – Air spring rate, High speed compression, Low speed
    compression, High speed rebound, Low speed rebound, Climb Switch On/Off
  • Finish – Anodized and laser-etched
  • 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″)
  • Weight: 509 grams (claimed, varies by size)
  • MSRP: $695 USD

For additional information refer to http://www.canecreek.com

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