RockShox DebonAir Air Spring and Charger2 RCT3 Damper Upgrade Kit: Rider Review

If you are currently running a RockShox fork but it's starting to feel "sticky" there is an excellent upgrade for DebonAir owners. One of our customers Reno Toffoli gives us the lowdown on his RockShox DebonAir Air Spring Upgrade Kit. Check his review below!


I have been riding the new Pike since they came out a few years ago and have found it to be a spectacular fork in all respects. When I saw that Rockshox had come out with the Debonair Air Spring Upgrade Kit and the Charger 2 damper for the Pike, I was intrigued. I had upgraded a Monarch Plus to Debonair a couple years back and was very impressed with the outcome so it seemed a natural fit for the Pike as well.

RockShox DebonAir Air Spring and Charger2 RCT3 Damper Upgrade Kit Rider Review
My Pike is a 2016 RC 160mm Solo Air for 29" wheels with boost spacing. It has been on my 2016 Niner WFO since it was new. I've had the WFO for around a year and a half and it's got just under 2000 miles on it. I live and ride in Northern Colorado where the trails tend to be steep, rugged, and littered with lots of chunky rocks and roots. It's a great testing ground for suspension, especially for a hard-charging descender like myself. If you're someone who feels comfortable working on suspension, the installation of the Debonair spring and Charger2 damper is pretty straightforward. It is actually possible to install the damper without taking the lowers off the fork but my fork, was due for service so I removed the lowers, changed the oil, and the dust wipers at the same time. I was able to find the official Rockshox installation videos with a quick online search and it's all pretty straightforward. If you're performing the installation yourself, I'd recommend using Rockshox lubricants as they're designed to work best with your fork and won't cause the o-rings to shrink or swell. I bought SRAM butter and the Pike 0W-30 oil with my order from Worldwide Cyclery as I was running out anyway.

RockShox DebonAir Air Spring and Charger2 RCT3 Damper Upgrade Kit Rider Review
With the fork back together, the difference that the Debonair spring made was instantly noticeable. It felt much more smooth and responsive with less initial stiction while just cycling the fork in the garage. Also noticeable was that the middle 'pedal' position of the damper was more active requiring less force to move the fork and the firm position was more firm than the old Charger RCT3 damper. In setting up the fork with the new air spring and damper I did have to add a bit more air pressure to get the sag at the same level as the old air spring. It took somewhere between 5-10 psi more with the Debonair spring to get my sag at 25%. I normally run one bottomless token in this fork and found that after my first ride bottom out resistance was the same and did not need to change it. In addition, I found that the rebound setting I had used on the old Charger felt right on the money with the Charger 2 Damper so there was yet another thing I didn't have to change.

RockShox DebonAir Air Spring and Charger2 RCT3 Damper Upgrade Kit Rider Review
The first ride on my "new" Pike was eye-opening. I had around a 50-minute climb up a service road to get to the descent I wanted to test the fork out on. Most of the climb is fairly smooth but there are a couple of steep and chunky sections. I found that running the fork in the pedal position on the climb kept if from bobbing during the smooth parts of the climb but allowed it to be much more active than the old damper over the chunky sections. Which made the bike that much easier to control when I was scrambling for grip and oxygen.

The descent I had chosen to try the DebonAir spring out is a trail called Wathen in Horsetooth Mountain Park just outside of Fort Collins, Colorado. Wathen is just under a 5-minute descent for me and it's all downhill with just a couple of short pedaly sections. It's got a little bit of everything including fast sections, steep sections, chunky rock, roots, jumps, drops, etc. This is a trail that I've ridden hundreds of times before and the performance of my "new" Pike with the DebonAir spring was mind-blowing. The suppleness and small bump sensitivity of the fork is drastically improved (not that it was bad before). The DebonAir Air Spring Upgrade Kit took all of the trail chatter/small bumps and turned them down to zero. The smoother ride meant that I was in more control, was able to ride faster, and generally groove on things that much more. Big hit performance and bottom out resistance felt about the same as it had been before but the mid-stroke support did seem a bit more firm when braking and carving corners. It was like riding a completely new fork and I was blown away.

Normally when I get to the bottom of Wathen, I've got to take a break and rest mainly because my hands and forearms get cramped up. At the end of this descent, my hands and forearms felt fine. The DebonAir spring and Charger 2 damper drastically decreased the vibration and shock at the bars which allowed me to ride faster and in more control with less fatigue. It was astonishing!

RockShox DebonAir Air Spring and Charger2 RCT3 Damper Upgrade Kit Rider Review

Once I got used to the feel of the Pike over the next few rides, I found I was able to go faster through sections of trail that had previously been white knuckle rides on the edge of control. In fact, the fork is so plush, it provides a calming effect that kind of feels like you're in slow motion floating over everything when in fact you're going faster than ever. I ended up setting PRs on sections of trail without even trying because I had so much more speed and control.

In conclusion, I'd highly recommend the Debonair and Charger2 damper upgrade for the Pike. It gives you all the benefits of the latest technology and the performance of a new fork at a fraction of the price. I really appreciate that Rockshox provides these upgrade kits as it takes a little bit of the financial sting out of an expensive sport. Happy Trails!

Shop RockShox Charger 2 Damper Upgrade Kit

Shop RockShox DebonAir  Air Spring Upgrade Kit

January 23, 2019

Damper › Rider Review › RockShox › Suspension ›

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