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Air or coil? It's a long debate that dates back to when air shocks were introduced into the industry. Coil shocks are now making a comeback with better designs. Our friend, Milt, has been running the Ohlins TTX22M coil. See what they think!
Air vs Coil, the great debate. Many many moons ago, maybe a couple of decades, almost all rear suspension bikes had a coil shock. My 1996 Klein Mantra had a Fox coil with damper and no adjustments, not even a different spring rate on the coil as an option - and it behaved like just a spring. Then Downhill came along and coil shocks reigned supreme (and still do) with more sophisticated dampers and a range of spring rates to select from. But coils were heavy, not that adjustable, and air shocks took hold on the Trail and All-Mountain bikes where weight was a concern. As technology progressed both coil and air shocks became more sophisticated, more adjustments, more range, lighter, and more durable. Today, coils are not just for downhill anymore. Certainly, air shocks are lighter (no spring!), but damper and spring technologies have improved immensely. Just google "mtb air vs coil" and the debate rages. Yes, the coil will weigh more by a few hundred grams, but skipping your latte in the morning or that second cheeseburger; you might just lose as much weight.
Looking at some advantages vs disadvantages: coils weigh more, air shocks weigh less. Win One for Air. Coils rely on springs you have to change for different conditions (i.e. too much beer and nachos and you weigh more) but with air, you just pump it up more. Win Two for Air. Riding bumpy trails with little hits and big hits, Coils have very little stiction and respond to little stuff much better than Air. Major win for Coil (to me). Suppleness, the ability to move the shock under a light load - coils have little stiction to overcome, especially compared to air shocks. Another win for Coil. Basically tied so far. What else to consider?
Consider my experience ... I ride a 2012 Kona Satori and likely will not ever get another suspension bike in the near future that suits my needs and riding style. I upgraded the original air shock (a Fox) to a very good air shock (Fox DPX2 Factory), and fought compression rebound settings, and shock pressure, continually on every ride. If the air shock was supple enough on the trail chatter, it would bottom out on the bigger hits despite the volume spacers. If I set the air shock to not bottom out, it was harsh on the trails. So I looked into coils, which were looking promising with less stiction for the low-level stuff and the new breed of coil shocks were more adjustable and a bit lighter than their predecessors.
Why the Ohlins TTX22? It had great reviews, was very simple, and it fit my bike (with the correct bushing kit). The TTX22 comes in seven different sizes so it was easy to find one to fit my bike. For adjustability, besides the multitude of springs available, it has a 3-position High-Speed Compression lever (soft, medium, and hard), 16 clicks of low-speed compression, and 6 clicks of rebound adjustment.
Installation was easy - pull the old shock, press in the new bushings into the Ohlins, install the spring and mount the shock on the bike. My bike is too old for the Ohlins Spring Calculator which works based on the bike model, but there are other spring calculators on the web to help select the proper spring for your weight and riding style. Ohlins has quite a few spring rates available in all the different spring lengths so it was easy to get a spring with the proper spring rate. I ended up with two different springs, one for heavy days (i.e. big pack) and one for light days (i.e. the little pack).
And now the big question is 'How does it ride'? It took less than one ride to dial it in, adjusting the low-speed compression and rebound. Compared to the air shock, the Ohlins TTX22 is smoother and tracked the trail more closely. Riding chattery trails, switch it to soft mode; when the hits get bigger, switch to medium. If needing some stiffness for climbing, switch to hard. I found myself leaving the high speed in a medium mode much of the time. For my riding style (I don't jump and like the rubber on the ground), it is almost night and day compared to the air shock. Bombing downhill, it never bottomed out but still floated through the braking bumps in the corners and turns without lifting the rear wheel. Riding over cobbled trails, the ride was smooth and plush. On the first ride, I even PR'ed one of the downhill trails I regularly ride as it helped the bike track and respond to trail conditions so much better.
In short - looking for a new shock? If you are willing to put up with a few hundred extra grams on your bike, the Ohlins TTX22 is really worthy of your consideration.