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Cane Creek DBair rear shock – First ride review

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The new Cane Creek DBair rear shock features the same twin-tube damper design as the full-blown Double Barrel model but in a lighter and more progressive air-sprung design.

The new Cane Creek DBair rear shock features the same twin-tube damper design as the full-blown Double Barrel model but in a lighter and more progressive air-sprung design. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The four damper adjusters on Cane Creek's DBair rear shock can be tough to contend with on the trail but a handy dedicated tool makes easy work of it and the thing fits easily in your pocket or hydration pack, too.

The four damper adjusters on Cane Creek's DBair rear shock can be tough to contend with on the trail but a handy dedicated tool makes easy work of it and the thing fits easily in your pocket or hydration pack, too. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The new Cane Creek DBair is equipped with a rather large air chamber, making for lower pressures than is typical as well as more dramatic changes in feel for a given pressure change.

The new Cane Creek DBair is equipped with a rather large air chamber, making for lower pressures than is typical as well as more dramatic changes in feel for a given pressure change. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The unique concentric twin-tube design makes for a complex oil flow path with fluid flowing in one direction in one chamber but in the opposite direction in another.

The unique concentric twin-tube design makes for a complex oil flow path with fluid flowing in one direction in one chamber but in the opposite direction in another. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The main piston is fitted with shim stacks on either side for blow-off purposes but for the most part, it's essentially a solid disc that pushes all of the oil through the individual damping circuits located in between the main body and the piggyback reservoir.

The main piston is fitted with shim stacks on either side for blow-off purposes but for the most part, it's essentially a solid disc that pushes all of the oil through the individual damping circuits located in between the main body and the piggyback reservoir. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Ohlins design is essentially a deconstructed traditional pyramid-style shim-stack damper. Instead of trying to pack everything into a single piston, though, all of the damper functions are physically separated into the individual components. Low-speed damping adjustments alter the cross-sectional area of the oil port while high-speed adjustments change the spring preload on the shim stack.

The Ohlins design is essentially a deconstructed traditional pyramid-style shim-stack damper. Instead of trying to pack everything into a single piston, though, all of the damper functions are physically separated into the individual components. Low-speed damping adjustments alter the cross-sectional area of the oil port while high-speed adjustments change the spring preload on the shim stack. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Cane Creek's new DBair is intended to be a highly adjustable option for longer-travel bikes that are designed around air suspension.

Cane Creek's new DBair is intended to be a highly adjustable option for longer-travel bikes that are designed around air suspension. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

Let's make one thing clear straight away: Cane Creek does not intend its new DBair rear shock to be a weight saving strategy on bikes designed around coil-sprung shocks, though it is about 200g lighter than a comparable Double Barrel. Instead, Cane Creek says the DBair is an extra-adjustable air-sprung shock for longer travel applications that just happens to be pretty light and to that aim, the company seems to have hit its mark.

Indeed, the DBair's unusually wide and plentiful range of fully independent damping adjustments (high-speed compression, low-speed compression, high-speed rebound, and low-speed rebound) can be a lot to deal with initially though the settings are easy to tweak trailside and yield surprisingly tangible changes in ride quality. Once you get things dialed in, though, most users should be able to get exactly what they're looking for (provided they actually know what that is).

We ended up with very light high-speed compression settings on our loaner Intense Carbine test rig at Bootleg Canyon, Nevada but a slightly more middle-of-the-road position for low-speed compression damping. Likewise, we ran the high-speed rebound damping just a few clicks shy of full-open to keep things lively on chatter but a bit heavier low-speed rebound to keep monkey motion in check on smoother terrain.

Cane Creek fits the DBair with a rather large-volume main air chamber so the inflation pressures were lower than we expected and the shock is certainly more sensitive to changes in pressure than most. Adjustments of just a single psi or so are very noticeable – especially deeper in the stroke – so users should exercise care and take good notes during setup.

Those settings are likely to vary substantially with different suspension designs and rider weights but the point is that there's a broad enough tuning range on the DBair that it's unlikely many users won't be able to get the feel they're looking for.

Once we got everything where we wanted it, though, the result was a particularly pillowy ride on the area's plentiful square-edged rocks and bigger drops but still impressively stable pedaling performance, even when out of the saddle. As expected, overall feel was a tad floatier than a good coil-sprung shock but traction and ground-hugging ability was outstanding overall. And if there was any appreciable increase in stiction with the extra seals as compared to a coilover, we couldn't tell during our short test ride – the DBair is smooth with a capital 'S'.

Cane Creek will have production units available in just a few weeks and while initial impressions are favorable, we're definitely looking forward to a proper long-term test aboard some more familiar machines and on local terrain.

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar