Review: Cane Creek DBAir CS rear shock

All Mountain Trail Components

The Cane Creek Double Barrel is one of the best All Mountain rear shocks on the market today, and the 4-way tunability has been a hallmark of this excellent product. It had some subtle issues when climbing, in which it lacked enough platform during long pedaling sessions on smoother terrain or cranking up the chunder. Cane Creek designed a new selectable climbing mode feature for the DB, which kicks that issue right out the door. The lever actuated Climb Switch, dubbed the CS, offers low speed damping for both compression and rebound when engaged, and reacts like the existing DB when it’s turned off. They accomplished this trickery by having six damping circuits, which is two more than the normal DB.

The DBAir CS is an air sprung rear shock, with four-way independent adjustability, an auto-adjust negative air spring, tunable air volume, and Twin Tube damping technology. It comes in eight different lengths and strokes from 190 x 50mm (7.5” x 2.0”) to 267 x 90mm (10.5” x 3.5”) and three XV (extra volume) sizes, and weighs in at 509 grams, and retails for $695.

Cane Creek Technical Info

Double Barrel shocks with the CS feature have four low-speed damping circuits: LSC1, LSC2, LSR1, LSR2 in addition to the 2 high-speed damping circuits: HSC and HSR. In the “off” position of the Climb Switch, the low speed damping is controlled by LSC1 and LSR1; this is analogous to traditional Double Barrel shocks without the CS feature. In the “on” position of the Climb Switch, the low-speed damping is controlled by LSC2 and LSR2, the ‘climbing circuits’. These circuits are heavily damped and tuned specifically to limit low frequency motion of the bike’s suspension, but not to the extent that traction during climbing is sacrificed.

As noted, this isn’t a pedal assist, lockout or low-speed compression damping, but a combo meal package of low-speed compression and rebound when engaged, and together they offer efficient pedaling and riding in both climbing and moderate terrain conditions. The CS prevents inefficient wallowing and energy loss, while providing better traction and riding comfort. The amount of the CS’s LSC and LSR damping are factory preset by Cane Creek for particular bike brands, and they work closely with the vendors for the most ideal tune. There are five levels of tunes or firmness for the CS, which companies can spec for their bikes.

Besides the additional lever and circuits on the CS models, the new design required the separation of the low-speed and high speed adjusters. The shiny gold dials are for tuning the high speed, while the steel gray ones are for the low-speed. Another great improvement is the switch to a normal 3mm hex key for adjustment of the dials or knobs, instead of the funky double ended box wrench of its predecessor.

The Double Barrel lineup includes the DBAir CS and the existing DBcoil and DBAir versions. Unfortunately, the new design is not backward compatible or retrofittable to the original DB, so you’ll have to buy a DBAir CS shock if you want the CS functionality.

Continue reading for more on the Cane Creek DBAir CS and full photo gallery.

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • roger says:

    CS might be good for Single Pivot bikes, but does nothing for VP and DW suspesion designs. That was the whole point of VP and DW suspesion designs is to cancel the bob.

    • Brian Mullin says:

      Sorry, but I found the CS to be very effective, not as much on the DW-link as the VPP, but still very useful. Both of those designs lessen bob, but don’t eliminate it. The DBair can be a bit wallowing feeling when it set it up with the recommended 30% sag, and the CS adds some platform.

      • Dan Armstrong says:

        I would agree after running a DB air all last season and upgrading to the CS this year on my Nomad that there was an apparent difference between the CS and non-CS versions. I actually like running the extra compression on any smoother trails and the enhanced climbing abilities were amazing, especially on rough terrain. The VPP does really well on long, steady climbs but slower rebound and more compression kept the rear grounded in any chunder.

  • Jon says:

    Great review Brian. I think you got it bang on.
    I’m running one on an HDR. Exactly as you describe — extremely plush yet lots of support through the stroke. Super, super tuneable if you’re willing to put in some effort.
    I also completely agree with you about the CS switch on the DW suspension. There’s no question it adds some nice platform for climbs or just riding along streets or paths to get to trails.
    I hear the criticism about the weight but how much more is it over a double barrel Float X or RS Monarch Plus which a lot of people are upgrading to?

  • zoso says:

    The one issue I had with my Mojo HDR was the lack of small bump plush. This shock completely turned that around and it is perfect through mid and big hits as well. It doesn’t bottom harshly, it’s plush, and the CS switch is helpful on the slogs.

    • Ryan says:

      Had the exact same issue on my HDR running the stock Fox rear shock. Anyone looking at the HDR just pay the extra from the factory for the CS, worth it. And it’ll save you money because you will upgrade to it anyway.

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve been running the DB Air CS for about 5 months now on a GT Sensor 9R (size L).. I find it to be an amazing shock and compliments long climbs fantastically…

    Feels like all of my pedaling energy is being used to move me forwards instead of in bike/pedal bob… and yet when going over a limb or size or a small rock bump uphill the bike responds to the bump instead of pushing me out of the saddle..

    small bumps, large bumps and rolling moguls are no match for this shock..

    My only complaint is it does to good of a job absorbing up the bumps and yumps Way to WELL, and has forced me to relearn how to jump the bike since before I could simply line up and at the right time pull up to launch, but now when I setup to launch the suspension just absorbs my effort and I just smooth over it.. It’s a funny sensation to think I’m gonna fly as I did with the previous fox shock only to get no air and stay in perfect contact with the terrain..

    So with that being said I’d love to see a lock out just for those times.. Or I guess I could just work on my timing and get it right.. 🙂

  • Roy says:

    Wow, I was almost shocked to read that the CS feature made such a noticeable difference.

    I ride a Mojo HD 160 with the DB Air and absolutely love it. I couldn’t imagine needing the CS feature on my bike. But to each their own.

    +1 to Ryan, I found the stock Fox CTD that came on the Mojo practically worthless.
    I thought that before I got my bike and I confirmed it 5 minutes after getting it.

    • Brian Mullin says:

      Roy – I have ridden the HD/HDR extensively with the DBair and DBair CS, and the CS really is a great feature, and I use it all the time. I can’t imagine riding without it!

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