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Care for your RockShox DebonAir

Maintenance and an Easy Fix

Words by Andrew Major. Photos by Andrew Major.
June 26th, 2016

In the world of bikes is there a conversation more telling than one that starts with a long sad sigh? You know the one. It begins with a deep draw of breath and ends some seconds after the exhalation of every last gram of air in your interlocutor’s lungs. It inevitably results in the kind of whiny component based prattle that has you choking back the urge to scream “First World Problems!”

Care for your DebonAir

We’re back with Jeff Bryson of Bikeroom. As part of their curriculum Jeff teaches services on RockShox forks & shocks – from basic service to full overhauls.

Truth, Lies, and the Grease it takes.

It’s no secret that some DebonAir shocks have been sticking down. Sometimes after hundreds of hours of abuse-sans-service and sometimes on the first ride fresh from the factory. Even if you haven’t read about it in a bike review, this isn’t uncommon. Yes, it sucks when it happens on a trail. Yes, it is probably the reason some companies are spec’ing bikes with RockShox Pike or Lyrik forks but Fox shocks for 2017. Yes, there is a simple solution.

Care for your DebonAir

Shawn Cruickshanks for Fluid Function has serviced as many RockShox forks and shocks as anyone. Including the Whistler Bike Park demo fleet.

I had the opportunity to hear Shawn “The Wizard” Cruickshanks of Fluid Function talk to an audience on this very subject at a symposium of bicycle mechanics organized by Bikeroom this year and even in a room full of wrenches there were a lot of misconceptions about the issue. So let’s sum it up:

Let the air out. Replace three o-rings. Grease. Lube. Ride!

Care for your DebonAir

Care for your DebonAir lubrication: Slickoleum, RockShox PTFE Grease, Synthetic 0w40 Oil, Coffee.

For best practices Jeff recommends Slickoleum, RockShox PTFE grease, synthetic 0w40 oil, and when you’re working on shocks at 6am some good, strong, coffee. But, he is quick to point out that if your shock’s air can is sticking down or squeaky-dry, some lube, any lube, is better than nothing. If you’re just looking after your own shock, the 5cc packs of Fox Float Fluid are a great, small quantity choice to keep around.

Care for your DebonAir

First let the air out. Then remove the outer air can o-ring (a dental pick works but anything pointy will do) and pop the can off. Quick & easy. If you’re lost at this point it’s okay but this is not an expensive service to have done in a shop so consider the better use of your time: lubing the shock VS. making sangria?!

Going back to the introduction. It’s insane (to me) how many riders are out there talking about spending hundreds of dollars on a replacement shock who have either had no issues with their DebonAir Monarch or Monarch Plus shocks or who absolutely rode the sh*t out of them and are sagging into blown dampers and sticky air can seals that are really just screaming out for service.

Care for your DebonAir

Care for your DebonAir

The outer can pops off by removing an o-ring. The inner can is un-threaded using a strap wrench (a $10 investment from the auto section, and sometimes kitchen department, of any Canadian Tire-esque store).

Care for your DebonAir

Basic service laid out: the three seals in the background divide positive air from negative and should be replaced during a basic service unless the shock is virtually brand new. Damage to these seals, or a lack of lube on these seals, is what causes shocks to stick down.

As you can see this is a quick and cheap procedure. RockShox recommends performing the basic service 2-3 times between damper services. Generally a full damper service would be every 100hrs of riding, and once you’ve done it a few times it becomes old hat quickly.

“The DebonAir’s influence is everywhere.”

While the air can assembly is off Jeff will test the damper by compressing it in all its compression settings and through a range of rebound settings to make certain it is performing properly. Any sneezing, wheezing, sucking, plucking, burping, chirping, or dead spots and it is definitely time to have that damper overhauled.

Care for your DebonAir

Jeff checks the shock for sneezing, wheezing, sucking, plucking, burping, chirping, or dead spots.

RockShox’s DebonAir air can changed how a lot of riders thought about air shocks providing the Monarch and Monarch Plus with a lively feel, great traction off the top, solid mid-stroke support, and a super tuneable end stroke via volume spacers (that are so cheap and so easy to install, or remove, that they strongly encouraged riders to experiment).

If you ride a Fox-equipped bike back-to-back with a regular air can and their new EVOL model the difference ranges from appreciable to amazing, depending on the bike, and there are also a number of similarities with the Topaz shock from DVO, and even the way volume spacers are applied to CaneCreek’s Inline shocks. The DebonAir’s influence is everywhere.

Care for your DebonAir

Take your time to thoroughly, and gently, roll the grease into the ring that sits at the main seal. If you need to get in the mood to groove on some lube consider Every Breath You Take.

Care for your DebonAir

Slickoleum. Every mechanic who works on air suspension should have a little Guadalupe-style painting of Arlo Englund in their shop. This shock is almost new and was dry, so Jeff did not change the o-rings that separate the positive and negative chambers as part of this service.

Care for your DebonAir

Strap wrench again. How tight? “If you crap your pants it’s too tight.”

Like any passive-aggressive over-opinionated bike industry hack unable to think of a polite reason to run the other direction, I listen patiently to a soliloquy about which $1000+ shock would best befit Eeyore’s $10,000 bike but can’t help my mind from drifting…

Bikes are Fun!

Oh, and many Monarch and Monarch Plus DebonAir shocks are out there for sale quite literally three o-rings and a $5 tub of Slickoleum away from being pretty awesome. News flash: it’s a buyers market.

Care for your DebonAir

Add ~1cc of oil in the top of outer air can before you press it into place (1cc above)

Care for your DebonAir

The difference between the enthusiastic home mechanic (me) and a professional (Jeff)? No, it isn’t a Snap-On valve installation tool with a preset torque rating. Pretty cool though.

Jeff says that if you have a new DebonAir shock on your bike it’s a great idea to do that first basic air sleeve service a little sooner, after approx. 15hrs of riding, to maximize the performance and longevity of your shock. Of the shocks that Jeff has seen stuck-down, the two most common causes are a lack of service and riders not making certain to lube the inner can o-rings when they are adding or removing volume spacers.

While you’re at it, buy an air volume kit and play around with the progressiveness of your great shock and super fun bike. It’s just this easy. Just make sure to have some Slickoleum around!


Ready to care for your DebonAir?

  • kurtm

    Thanks for the helpful article. I’ve got about 10 rides in on my 2015 Spartan RR. The shock (debonair) seems to be losing air very quickly. When it was brand new, it leaked like crazy, whooshing air out on every compression. Eventually this subsided and it lost air at a slower rate. I attributed this to dried out seals from sitting on the shop floor for a year and a half before I bought the bike. But the problem persists. I’ve confirmed that it’s not just the shrader filler valve. I can pump the shock up to 260 psi (I weigh 220 lbs) and by mid ride it’s down to 170. On the other hand, if I fill the shock up and leave the bike sitting untouched for a few days, no air at all is lost.

    Do you think a re-grease as you’ve descried above would help with this problem? I’d send the shock in for warranty but I don’t want to be without it for a week or so. This article came in at the exact perfect timing for me. Thank you.

    • DrewM

      Hi KurtM, you definitely want to pull off the air cans as shown and inspect the seals/o-rings.

      Your issue could definitely be a lack of lubrication; it could also be that something was pinched from the factory assembly.

      If the o-rings all look good lube them up and ride. If any are suspect an air sleeve service kit is not expensive (may be worth doing just for peace of mind).

      While you’re in there consider trying a couple volume spacers for a more progressive end stroke (I believe there are none stock on your Devinci).

      Thanks for reading!

      • mevp

        Spartan has a fairly progressive suspension, so I’d only add one at a time if you’re playing around. First bike I’ve ever owned where the stock suspension didn’t bottom too easily.

      • kurtm

        mevp,

        I agree completely. I’m amazed at how well that thing ramps up. I’m 215 lbs and running 250 psi in the shock stock. It seems the bike sits at about 30% sag for a wide range of pressures – and now I understand why since taking the air can off. There’s a small dimple in the aircan about 30% into the travel. I infer that this causes the piston to favor this spot so the pressure of pos and neg springs are approx equal.

        It’s feeling pretty good now. Even with the shock drastically under pressurized due to the leak, I rarely felt it bottom out. It seems the damper and suspension kinematics do a great job of making sure the swingarm velocity is zero at max stroke.

        I did however add two bottomless tokens to the pike and its feeling pretty good. Not sure if I can be bothered throwing in a third one yet.

      • DrewM

        Kurtm, don’t be afraid to chop a bottomless token in half and try +2.5 tokens. Notably different than +2 or +3.

      • kurtm

        @disqus_CK71TyEVIi:disqus
        I’m about 4 rides in after following your instructions above. Didn’t change any seals, just removed the air can and re-greased the hell out of everything. Hard to believe the only place I could find Slickoleum in Edmonton was MEC (lots of high end shops here). I wonder if adding a all that (extra?) grease decreases the air can volume significantly enough to effect the spring curve? The shock seems to be holding air just fine now. I guess I can save that $30 seal kit I bought for when an actual servicing is needed. Thanks again for the write-up. Saved me sending the shock in and being without it for a week or two.

        Idea for your next article: How to service an Avalanche Downhill Racing cartridge and shim stack configurations. I realize this may be beyond the average weekend warrior.

        Thanks,
        Kurt

      • DrewM

        Hi Kurtm,

        I’m glad it worked out for you; I’m surprised the guys at RedBike, Revolution, and Hardcore all don’t stock Slickoleum! I would guess they all at least use it in a shop quantity.

        Custom valving it is one thing, but servicing your Avy cartridge is actually really straight forward. Craig has pretty good breakdowns on this site and there is lots of information out there. Basically get the existing damper cleaned out and fill with recommend oil to recommended oil height!

        I road one in a Fox 34 for a couple of years (before switching to a PUSH Industries MX top cap (LSC / HSC) upgrade for the stock FIT damper) and it was fantastic (weight aside).

        Cheers,

      • kurtm

        DrewM,

        I followed the procedure your outlined. Above. After a short mellow ride, the shock seems to be holding pressure. Will updated after a proper trail ride. I freaked out at first after re-mounting the shock. It sounded like some major scratching and wear was occurring. Then I remembered it was probably just the air can oil (float fluid) wooshing around through the ports connecting the inner chamber to the outer chamber as well as negative spring. After 5 or 10 hard compressions the sound stopped.

  • Morten_P

    Just curious why 0W40 is used, when Rockshox prescribes Maxima4 15W50? Can any brand 0W40 be used?

    Cheers from Denmark

    Morten