The Basics to Upgrading the Rear Shock On Your Mountain Bike (Step by Step Guide) [Video]

Words by: Max Morgan

Upgrading the suspension on your mountain bike is one of the best things you can do to breathe new life into your bike. Whether it is a fork or rear shock, you will be amazed at the technology these days in suspension, and how having a quality product gives you the confidence to shred harder than ever before. Not to mention the smile on your face!

The Basics To Upgrading The Rear Shock On Your MTB

When looking to upgrade the rear shock on your mountain bike, it may be overwhelming to know exactly what size shock you need, which kind of shock will fit on your bike, and also which shock will perform best on your specific bike. Here in this blog, we are going to cover all of these questions and more.

Shock Length and Stroke

The Basics To Upgrading The Rear Shock On Your MTB

All mountain bike rear shocks come in an array of “standard” sizes. Traditionally shocks have been measured using inches with common sizes being 8.5" x 2.5" and 7.875" x 2". Now those are just examples, and there are certainly more size options available. More recently, Rockshox has started making shocks measured in metric sizes.

Now let’s break this down. A shock that measures 8.5 x 2.5 means that the shock is 8.5 inches long and uses a 2.5-inch stroke. The length of the shock is measured from eyelet to eyelet, while the stroke of the shock is the amount the shock can physically compress. One thing to keep in mind here is that shocks that are the same length may also come with different stroke lengths. The most important thing is to make sure you get the correct length and stroke shock for your bike. Each manufacturer and frame may use a different size shock and your bike is not guaranteed to function properly without using the correct size. To find out what size shock is correct for your mountain bike, call us at the shop and we would be more than happy to help!

The Basics to Upgrading the Rear Shock On Your Mountain Bike

Coil Shock Versus Air Shock

When upgrading your rear shock, one major question is whether to get a coil shock or an air shock. While there is no simple answer to this question, hopefully this information will make it a little more clear.

First, think about what kind of terrain you are riding and also what terrain your bike is intended for. The majority of trail bikes out there today come stock with an air shock because they are lightweight, offer a range of tuning options, and can provide an efficient pedaling platform. For those cross country focused riders, an air shock will certainly do the trick. For those riders looking for a bit more downhill performance, or maybe even racing an enduro race, you may consider a coil option. In general, coil shocks handle the small bumps on the trail with more ease, giving the rider supple feedback and more traction. The negatives to using a coil shock are carrying the additional weight and a less efficient pedaling platform.

+ Please ask one of our professionals whether you and your bike would be better suited with a coil shock or an air shock. 

Shock Mounting Hardware

The Basics To Upgrading The Rear Shock On Your MTB

Not only do shocks come in different lengths and strokes, they often use different mounting hardware. The shock mounting hardware is used to bolt the shock onto the frame, ensuring a tight fit. 

Keep in mind, shock mounting hardware is sold separately. There are some cases where the shock is made for a specific bike and if listed in the title it will likely include hardware and that will/should be stated in the title and/or description. Always best to check first though as 90% of shocks do not include mounting hardware since there are so many different sizes for so many different bikes out there. Mounting hardware generally has a top and bottom - sometimes they are the same size, sometimes you only need it on one end, sometimes they are different sizes top and bottom. Again, all dependent on your particular bike so it is necessary to know this when buying a shock and hardware with it.

We always advise you to stick with the same brand mounting hardware as your shock brand. This is because of the various sizes and fitments among other brands. All hardware (even if the same size) is intended to be used for that brand shock only. You might be able to bend this rule, but we'd suggest not to. There are two parts to the hardware, width and bolt hole. So when you see something like "22.2 x 8" - that is in millimeters and means 22.2mm in width and a bolt hole diameter of 8mm. There are literally dozens of sizes out there for all the bikes on the planet so make sure you get the right size you will need.  

+ If you have more questions about how to measure shock mounting hardware, click here.

The Basics to Upgrading the Rear Shock On Your Mountain Bike

Frame and Shock Compatibility

Not all bikes will accommodate all the different shocks that are available. Therefore, it is important to check and see if your specific combination of frame and shock will work together.  Some frame designs have space limitations when trying to fit certain coil shocks and certain air shocks. If you want to double check to make sure you won’t have any fitment issues when upgrading to a new shock, please give us a call at the shop.

The Basics to Upgrading the Rear Shock On Your Mountain Bike

Some of Our Favorite Rear Shocks

Some of our favorite shocks come from brands like Fox, Rockshox, Cane CreekPush Industries, and DVO. While each has its advantages and disadvantages, finding a shock with good tunability and reliability will improve your riding experience on the trail. Remember to never hesitate to call us at the shop with any questions. We give recommendations on rear shock upgrades all the time! Mountain bikes are our passion and we love assisting our customers with anything cycling related. Feel free to send us a picture of your bike, use our live chat on our website or bring your bike into the shop. We are here to help!

The Basics to Upgrading the Rear Shock On Your Mountain Bike

Max Morgan

This article was written / authored by Max Morgan. Max has been a professional downhill mountain bike racer for the last 10 years, competing in the UCI World Cup downhill series and U.S. Pro GRT series. Having ridden all different kinds of bikes on trails all over the world, Max's experiences being out on the circuit give him a unique perspective on what makes for a quality cycling component. Max also has degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics, and so if you don't see out on the trail, chances are he is probably in the garage tinkering on the next project.

June 07, 2019

Bike Knowledge › Buyers Guide › Rear Shock › Suspension › video ›

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