Review: Cane Creek DBAir CS rear shock

All Mountain Trail Components

Impressions

The first thing you notice when riding the DBAir CS with the CS lever ‘off’ or in the open position, is that it performs exactly the same as the DBAir, giving the bike superb small to medium bump compliance, and excellent composure and plushness. In addition, the set up for the air pressure, and low and high speed compression and rebound is precisely the same, albeit the adjusters are in slightly different locations.

Having spent a long time with the normal DBAir on my own Mojo HD, I knew the subtle wallowing and energy inefficiency issues during climbing, which could be mildly tempered by adding more air to the shock. It was quite the revelation to feel how well the CS curbed any sort of those issues, giving any bike better traction, control and efficiency. The Mojo HD and HDR, with its dw-link anti-squat suspension had the lowest CS tune that Cane Creek offers, and the CS’s effect was more subtle than the Knolly Four by 4 Linkage and Intense VPP which I also tested, but it was still very apparent on any bike suspension system.

Switch the CS lever to its ‘on’ or closed position, and you engage the new climbing circuits, which are comprised of the low-speed compression and rebound damping circuits (LSC2 and LSR2). Although it seems subtle and subdued in a parking lot test and general poking around on smooth trails, its offers an effective alteration in how the shock performs on rougher trails. Instead of wallowing up through climbs on technical terrain, it keeps the bike composed, quiet and neutral.

The rear end of the bike doesn’t get tossed or bounced around during impacts, and it extends and recovers when required, without any undue suspension dropouts. Pedal up stair stepped terrain or roots and the rear stays firmly planted to the ground, giving great traction and control, while still absorbing undulations. Stand up and hammer down, and the CS platform keeps everything nicely composed. Another nice feature of the CS being engaged was when you were climbing up things and started to feel spent (out of gas), you could just keep pedaling and the platform allowed you to squeeze out that the last couple of moves. You could leave the CS ‘on’ during climbs, rolling terrain and an occasional quick downhill, though it felt out of sorts on mellower terrain, where the bike lost its playful and fun characteristics and the joy of swooping into berms.

Another interesting aspect of the CS is the rebound reaction, which was greatly appreciated in rough undulating terrain when climbing or just spinning along, since you could stay seated and fully weight the saddle and not be bumped out of position. I instinctively would unweight before bumps, dips and rocks, and it took a few times to stay seated and allow the CS to do its job.

It would be nice to have a remote to operate the CS, since depending on the terrain being ridden, you might switch it on and off quite often. For fire roads and butt smooth terrain, the CS isn’t a true lock-off, so it still might wallow too much for some people, though I found it a tolerable compromise.

Measured Spec: 553 grams for 215mm x 63mm (8.5” x 2.5”)

Bottom Line

The DBAir CS is the best All-Mountain air sprung rear shock I have used, and it provides incredible plushness and ride composure on any terrain, especially in the gnar. The alterable air volume and four-way independent adjustability make for a massive amount of tuning capabilities, allowing great control over the characteristics of the shock’s interaction between the bike, rider and terrain. The addition of the new CS feature offers greatly improved climbing characteristics up technical and rugged terrain, with increased traction and control. Regardless of the suspension systems used, the CS was noticeable on each bike I tested in varying degrees, and it was always a definitive improvement.

I would like to see the availability of a remote, to make it easier to change the lever on the fly. It’s not the lightest air shock, and the tuning is somewhat complex and it’s expensive at $695, but the performance, plushness, composure, adjustability and control make for a superb package.

The DBAir CS is a more polished and greatly improved shock than its predecessor, and the CS mode offers increased pedaling efficiency and riding comfort on difficult climbing terrain.

Pros
  • Superb small to medium bump compliance
  • Plush ride
  • Four-way independent adjustability
  • Twin-tube technology
  • Excellent composure
  • CS – offers great traction and control during climbs
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Tuning is complex
  • Needs a remote
Specs
  • Adjustments – Air spring rate, High speed compression, Low speed compression, High speed rebound, Low speed rebound, Climb Switch On/Off
  • Finish – Anodized and laser-etched
  • Lengths – 190 x 50mm (7.5″ x 2.0″), 200 x 50mm (7.87″ x 2.0″), 200 x 57mm (7.87″ x 2.25″), 215 x 63mm (8.5″ x 2.5″), 222 x 63mm (8.75″ x 2.5″), 222 x 70mm (8.75″ x 2.75″), 240 x 76mm (9.5″ x 3.0″), 267 x 90mm (10.5″ x 3.5″)
  • Weight: 509 grams (claimed, varies by size)
  • MSRP: $695 USD

For more information visit https://www.canecreek.com/products/suspension/dbair-cs.


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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