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Upgrading your rear shock has to be one of the most enjoyable processes for mountain bikers. You improve the look and performance of your bike, what else could you ask for? In this review, our customer goes straight to the top with his new Fox DHX2 rear shock. Read on for more!
I purchased my Evil Wreckoning approximately one year ago and had the stock rear shock on it (Monarch RC3). If you have ever ridden a Wreckoning, you will know that the bike is efficient while seated and spinning slowly up a hill, but sprinting acceleration is poor and out-of-the-saddle efforts or high-speed climbing is extremely taxing. It is a great bike for learning new skills and for pushing the edge of your comfort zone on the downhills but is not going to win you any sprints to the finish.
The geometry of many new-school bikes (slack head angles, long reaches, short stems, and short chainstays) has the effect of putting the rider’s weight very far back on the bike. This is great for fast and steep trails but requires a very forward riding position to get adequate weight on the front wheel for cornering. (I have heard many reviewers mention this as an “active” riding style). The Wreckoning is not the most extreme of the new school geometry, as the reach is relatively conservative by 2019 standards. However, it does require a fair bit of this “active” riding style, especially in an XL frame.
The reason why I mention my frame size: the larger the frame size, the further back your weight is, and therefore a more “active” riding style is required. This is due to the fact that, with the exception of a few brands like YT, the chainstays on most bikes do not grow with the front triangle frame size. This means that the front wheel gets farther away from the bottom bracket with larger frame sizes, while the rear wheel does not. As a proportion of the wheelbase, your main weight loading on the bike (your feet) is now farther back.
The difference that I noticed immediately when riding the bike with the Fox shock was a dramatic increase in rear-wheel traction, both when climbing and descending. When climbing, the bike tracks better and sticks to the ground through the chunky stuff, and is much less likely to spin out or slip if you accidentally bias a little too much of your weight forward or get out of the saddle on a punchy climb. I have found that you can also run a lot more low-speed compression damping in the open setting (or use the climb switch) and still maintain traction due to the suppleness of the spring. The result of being able to run more low-speed compression is a more efficient pedal stroke, especially when standing. Surprisingly, even while adding a pound to the bike, the coil shock has made a huge improvement in the bike’s climbing abilities. Many reviewers have stated that the climb switch on the DHX2 is very firm and not good for singletrack; I have not found this to be the case. It feels like just the right amount of pedal platform to me, while not sacrificing traction.
A critical piece of the bike performance puzzle is how well a bike accelerates. Especially if you race, this is a critical component of how your bike performs. Because the coil shock allows me to run more low-speed compression damping, calming pedal bob, more of my energy goes into driving the bike forward. With the coil, I can finally sprint this bike effectively! It is still not going to accelerate like a lightweight trail bike, but the difference is striking. (Side note-the stock shock does not have a low-speed compression adjustment. Due to my size, the stock low-speed compression settings may have been far too light for me. A similar difference may be noted with an air shock with a low-speed compression adjustment-i.e. the Float X2 or Super Deluxe).
For a bike that requires an over-the-front riding style to get enough traction on the front wheel, you would think that an increase in rear-wheel traction would not be a benefit. However, the fact that the rear wheel tracks so much better means that you don’t have to worry about it sliding out on you through the chatter and chunky turns. This allows you to shift your weight forward more to keep the front tracking and let the back wheel do its own thing. This creates a much more predictable cornering setup on the bike than with the air shock.
The big story you hear about coil shocks is that while they increase traction, they decrease playfulness. I think that this is over-simplified. To start, let me say that the DELTA linkage on Evils is a dual-progressive suspension curve that has ramps in the progressiveness of the linkage around the sag point for a pedaling platform and another ramp near the end of the stroke for bottom-out control. Evils, therefore, work extremely well with coil shocks. You may not have a similar experience to the below if you have a bike with a very linear suspension curve.
I find that air shocks can get oddly springy and somewhat less predictable on really fast sections, big successive hits, jumps, or big bunny hops where you really need to push HARD into the bike. The coil, on the other hand, does not suffer from these oddities and feels much more consistent in these high-challenge situations.
I find an air shock requires more finesse at higher speeds than a coil does. The flip side is that a coil makes the bike feel more subdued at slower speeds. At high speeds, the coil actually allows me to jump or bunny hop FARTHER than I would with an air shock because with the consistency the shock provides, I have more confidence to push into the bike. Therefore, at high speed, I find no playfulness disadvantage to the coil. At moderate to high speed the coil feels playful, yet controlled.