Cane Creek IL Air Shock Upgrade SuspensionWerx NSMB Andrew Major (20)
TEARDOWN | FIRST IMPRESSIONS

2014 & 2022 Cane Creek IL Double Barrel Air Shock

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jun 7, 2022
Reading time

Upgraded, Invigorated

They say misery loves company. Commiserations then to anyone struggling to find a rear shock for their bike. You see, I really wanted a Cane Creek IL Double Barrel coil shock for my new Marin Rift Zone build, but can't find one.

This is my second Rifty, the first having been re-homed to a very worthy local trail builder and advocate, and I ran predominantly ran the piggyback version of the CC DBcoil on that bike. It still had plenty of playful pop running it, firmly, sprung with a coil. I really appreciated having 100% of the damper adjustment external to the shock and the added ability to tune the shock for the bike it's mounted on but also with the mis-matched characteristics of different forks I ride.

Alright, no coil shock but the inline CC DB Air shocks do share the same twin-tube bladder damper. I was a little hesitant as I didn't love my past CCDB Inline Air experiences. Some of that was the trail bikes of the day weren't designed for the high volume air shocks, which more closely mimic the spring curves of coil systems. There were some early bladder architecture issues that were resolved years ago. I knew plenty of folks that were happy with theirs but I stuck to my coil Double Barrel CS.

Cane Creek IL Air Shock Upgrade SuspensionWerx NSMB Andrew Major (4)

Starting out. This Inline Air shock had already received the updated bladder but otherwise it's a stock shock going back to the 2014 production.

Cane Creek IL Air Shock Upgrade SuspensionWerx NSMB Andrew Major (47)

The same shock. With a fresh body, air cans, Climb Switch lever, seal head, and service it matches exactly what you'd buy from Cane Creek in 2022.

There are no air shocks available either. I don't know if the techs building shocks at Cane Creek's shop in North Carolina are struggling to keep up with demand, or they're having problems getting enough parts, or the parts arriving don't pass their rigorous QC/QA process. Those are all reasons for product shortages that I've heard from other suspension manufacturers. Either way, I had a whole bike's worth of parts in a box ready to go and no rear shock.

Enter James from SuspensionWerx, a properly cooked old Cane Creek Inline Air shock from his spare parts bin, and a plan. Instead of coming up with a shock, all I needed from Cane Creek was the update kit to turn it from a 2014 Inline Air to a fresh 2022 version of the same shock. Combine that with a full service and I'd be riding in short order.

From a testing and writing perspective it's extra tasty too. Cane Creek's Inline air shocks came on a lot of bikes and I still see them regularly. I've seen versions in need of a rebuild going for as little as 100 USD. Going off SWerx pricing, the routine yearly service is 220 CAD (175 USD) including seals and the upgrade kit. If you want to include inner & outer air cans and the black shock body, that's another 135. From there I've extrapolated three costs for the shock I'm riding:

  1. 135 CAD: Rider already owns an Inline Air shock and is due for a service anyway and wants to upgrade to a new IL Air.
  2. 355 CAD: Rider already owns an Inline Air shock and isn't due for a service but wants to upgrade to new IL Air.
  3. 505 CAD: Buying a used shock and having it serviced and updated.

Value wise, the proposition is going to change depending on your situation. Looking on Cane Creek's website, a new Cane Creek DB Air IL shock currently retails for 580 USD | 730 CAD, plus tax. So a factory fresh rebuilt model is going to net a nice savings whether you're starting your acquisition by going out to find a used shock, or you already have one hanging on your bike. Yes, the rider who already owns the Inline due for a service could sell it for, say, 150 CAD but going with a used shock is at least two bills less expensive than a brand new unit before taxes. And for riders who aren't in love with the performance of their old Inline air shock - maybe it's due for a service or maybe just because they've ridden more impressive shocks - I think the potential value is higher when you consider its net worth used relative to any new top-end shock.

Cane Creek IL Air Shock Upgrade SuspensionWerx NSMB Andrew Major (7)

While the damper is unchanged, do note that the air can dimensions are smaller on Inline Air shocks. If your frame clearance is very tight the upgrade may not work for you.

Cane Creek IL Air Shock Upgrade SuspensionWerx NSMB Andrew Major (42)

It's not a massive change going to the IL air cans and I've only heard of one example, a Rocky Mountain, that could fit the original Inline shock but not a new DB Air IL.

Teardown Talking Points

The neatest thing about Cane Creek's shocks - piggyback or IL versions - is the amount of backwards support for the products. I'm positive that more than a few readers have had to write off a shock newer than the 2014 release date of the Inline Air because of a worn or broken part that wasn't replaceable. And then, never mind support for past products, I think it's really neat that Cane Creek has such a strong focus on backwards compatibility.

There is of course a flip side to every argument for backwards compatibility, which is that it can prevent new features from being introduced. I do find that these arguments generally come from folks who are very mountain bike focused whereas riders who have any kind of powersports background - moto, car racing, etc - tend to have a more skeptical view of 'innovations' thanks to the relative maturity of suspension for those applications and the massive budgets committed to R&D for racing programs. The Twin Tube dampers that Cane Creek uses in all their shocks are a great example of this, having been introduced by Öhlins into the Formula Racing circuit in 2002. Bladder dampers, like those used by IL shocks, are also very common in powersports shocks, and increasingly common for mountain bikes.

For fans of the Double Barrel CS (Climb Switch) shocks there is a very clear difference with the IL units, apart from the lack of a piggyback reservoir, which is probably quite apparent if you're looking at the controls on both shocks. Where the piggyback shocks have a center-mounted climb switch, the CS adjuster on the IL shocks is attached to the low speed compression adjuster. This is an important distinction for fans, like myself, of the big shock's system.

For the CCDB CS shocks with a piggyback, the Climb Switch is actually retarding both the low speed compression and the low speed rebound circuits to create a platform that works in both directions to maintain traction and support a rider higher in the travel. For the Inline shocks the CS is only affecting the low speed compression circuit, which is similar to how pedaling platforms work with most shocks on the market.

First Rides

As I'm writing this I've been out on the Cane Creek IL DB Air a few times already. Only tame terrain and I'm certainly not pushing things but wow is it nice to be back in the woods riding bicycles. I'm slowly accessing more terrain every week and it's going to be an interesting evolution to experience how, and if, my shock settings change as my physical abilities, psychological comfort, and the level of terrain I'm hitting all gets more aggressive.

When I put together a review in the future I'll talk more about the performance of the Cane Creek relative to other air shocks I've used with the same suspension system. I'll also go into greater detail about how I go about tuning a Cane Creek shock. I know some riders find them intimidating because of the four-pack of damper adjustments and the huge range of tuning, with all the adjustment being external, but I get settled on a base tune quickly. Thus far, since my first ride all I've adjusted is the low speed rebound.

Cane Creek IL Air Shock Upgrade SuspensionWerx NSMB Andrew Major (43)

Post-service damper check. On the hand dyno the shock feels awesome.

Marin Rift Zone NSMB Andrew Major (11)

The obvious wear mark on the head unit is the only real proof this is a used shock.

One thing I'm really looking forward to talking about when it comes to setting up the shock is pairing it with different suspension forks. First I'm working on wrapping up a fork review that was rudely interrupted by my injury. This is for Manitou's 32mm XC-Race & DJ fork which they call the R7 and I call "The Magic Toothpick." It's a firmly damped, efficient, unapologetic race fork. I also have a SR Suntour Durolux EQ lowered to 120mm travel, which initializes much more softly and I suspect will require the IL DB Air shock to be run with less volume, more sag, and different damper settings to match up perfectly.

My Rifty is designed with budget friendly (basic) shocks in mind and I found my previous unit worked well with every shock that I tried in it - coil and air. Marin recommends 30% (15mm) of sag which is where I ended up riding a coil CCDB CS paired with an over-forked setup on my previous rig. Combined with the Manitou MT at 20% sag, I'm currently running my setup at 25% (12.5mm) of sag and that seems to be working very well. I won't make any performance claims until I'm back riding a bike at my 100%.

Marin Rift Zone Andrew Major

It's an eclectic mix of parts assembled to make a mulleted mountain bicycle. Yes, that is a 2.8" WTB Vigilante squeezed into a 32mm-stanchioned XC Race fork.

Min-Max

In the spirit of looking back at past review products that are still in regular use, like Formula Cura4 brakes or Chris King hubs, I'm in love with the idea of reviewing an updated shock from 2014. Depending on how you split hairs on model years that's 8-9 years ago. I do wish it was a carry forward from a past effort, but here we are. Whether it's apparel, pedals, brakes, suspension, or complete bikes I think there's a lot of value in revisiting the recent past when we're talking about what's new and exciting.

At this point I can't say too much about the performance of the current generation of the Cane Creek DB Air IL compared to other current shocks. But I think there's a strong financial and performance argument for anyone who already owns a previous generation Inline Air shock to get it updated at their next service. When I'm able to come back with a proper review I want to tackle this shock from both perspectives - updating a shock that was born in 2014, and comparing Cane Creek's twin-tube inline air shocks against the current crop from other companies. Regardless of the outcomes, I think it's neat to be able to update a shock that's marching on a decade of life to the current spec.

Related Stories

Trending on NSMB

Comments

earleb
earle.b
8 months ago
+3 Andrew Major pedalhound silverbansheebike

Hopefully used Inlines don't shoot up in price. I have been meaning to snag a used one to add to my collection. 

Need to get the used CCDB coil I got for $90 dropped off for a rebuilt and size change.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

Hahahaha. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be musking up the value of used Cane Creek shocks. Really impressed with the updated IL thus far. Great little shock.

Reply

TomO
TomO
8 months ago
0

But really - I'm just waiting to see how many sock puppet accounts Andrew sets up on PB to sell of all the ones he stockpiled over the last few months before releasing this article....

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
+3 Velocipedestrian earle.b Jake Smith

Totally. I keep them in the third garage bay of the West Van mansion that Crankbrothers bought me for reporting their dropper posts are good.

Reply

Poz
Poz
8 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Niels van Kampenhout

Did this a few years ago. Found a DBAir CS for $75 complete with oil leaking out. Dropped it off at SuspensionWerx and said to toss it if not repairable. Came back to me new. Ran that shock for 4 years before selling it. 

I’m a big fan of cane creek suspension, currently on a DBAir CS and Helm MK2. Their backwards support is huge, and I tend to keep my parts for years - I think that comes from the fact they don’t have a large catalogue of models and build onsite. 

Also XC race/dj fork?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
+2 Poz Suns_PSD

$75??!!? 

However they arrived there - employee owned, using very established suspension tech, in house suspension production - I think backwards compatibility is the key to long term product support. How to get more companies on board?

———

Hahahahaha. The R7 is a 32mm stanchioned XC race fork. But it caught my interest reading somewhere (can’t find it now) that they were so confident in the chassis that you could dirt jump it if you wanted. 

I know a few folks who still ride Shore trails on full on XC bikes and that’s basically a new CSU with every service. Plus carbon wheels being what they are and most XC  forks being what they are, I think it creates a significant stiffness imbalance when you put the package together. 

Anyway, I had to try one. In the days where riders are snapping up 38mm chassis forks and proclaiming their deliverance from the flexy horrors of 35/36mm chassis it just seemed too fitting.

———

Total aside. Helm is a great fork. Loved mine and it’s still going strong on the original CSU. Love how easy it is to adjust travel/volume and set up.

Reply

Eneen
Aleksander Pusz
2 months ago
0

This Manitou fork has very small negative chamber. I'm not suspension expert but this looks bad, take a look @ my drawings here:

https://www.mtbr.com/threads/2020-manitou-r7-pro-120mm-can-it-compete-with-the-34sc-or-sid-ultimate.1142851/page-21#post-15798740

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

Fantastic riding fork. If you get a chance to try one in person I’d recommend it. I call it Manitou’s Magic Toothpick.

Full review is pending.

Reply

mnihiser
mnihiser
8 months ago
+3 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian Pete Roggeman

Minutes after reading this article I managed to find one on PB for 60 USD shipped. Looks to be in good shape, just been sitting on a shelf for a while.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
+2 mnihiser Velocipedestrian

Wow. Enjoy!

Reply

silverbansheebike
silverbansheebike
8 months ago
+1 Cr4w

Interesting! I had no idea there was so much backwards compatibility. I would've expected the opposite, considering how tough it is to get even seal kits for CC shocks.

Reminded me of a video i saw comparing the internals of a CCDBA to an X2. Theres really only so much difference that time and branding can make on a shock of similar construction or layout i guess. Would be cool to see how this old thing compares to an off the shelf shock of today!

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
+3 Niels van Kampenhout silverbansheebike SuspensionLab_JonoChurch

Maybe not a popular opinion but given the amount of absolutely hacked sh*t I’ve seen I think it was better when more suspension brands were particular about who serviced their product (at least from the perspective of having the best versions of their product in the wild).

Backwards compatibility is awesome, I think. Your local service center can still fully service and update CCDB piggyback shocks going back to gen-1 production. They were introduced in 2005, I think the first one I rode was in 2007.

At the very least, it tracks with my personal philosophy of seeing high end, high performance, parts as a longer term investment. 

———

Despite the age of the damper, the shock I’m riding is identical to a current CC DBair IL you’d buy from Cane Creek today.

I’ll talk more about current comparables in the future review.

Reply

TomO
TomO
8 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Andrew - do you know what difference the new air can and piston(s) are supposed to make to the performance?  I'm assuming new can is higher in both positive and negative chambers as well?  Any details would be helpful.

I've got an older model that is partially updated (black body, but old version of the air can) and recently serviced so would be good to know what difference an update would make (next time I service).

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

Yeah, the idea is it’s a lower force to activate, linear & supportive through the mid stroke, and then, being an air shock, still ramps at the end.

Definitely smoother off the top than a similarly fresh Inline Air. Can’t say too much more yet.

Reply

TomO
TomO
8 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Thanks for the info. That's what I thought, although I was hoping it was just a case of 'the new air can just looks more bling'.

I was lusting after the inline coil as well, but alas was too slow to pull the trigger when a used one popped up a while back.

But also I'm surprised there wasn't any changes to the setup on the poppets/damper/valving between the current and earlier versions.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

Appreciate the clear eyed and careful consideration always. I’m more than a little cynical about newer, bigger, better, myself. 

DBcoil IL is a great shock.

Reply

SuspensionLab_JonoChurch
SuspensionLab_JonoChurch
8 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Great write up! I'm a big fan of the DB inline shocks and have sold a bunch of them. Performance is excellent in my opinion, and one of the best value products in the market. I agree that their shocks proved how well good products can last, and don't need flashy new features every season.  Also great parts availabilty and can repair almost anything on them!

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

Cheers, yes, even as a new-in-the-box SRP shock purchase most folks I’ve talked to think they’re great little shocks. Never mind the used and upgraded route if you get the right price (or have a shock already).

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
8 months ago
0

Seeing all the specialty/proprietary tools irked me.... Ah, who am I kidding, even if I had the tools I'd still have no idea how to rebuild a damper.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

I'm not running out to buy a vacuum bleeder or nitrogen fill setup anytime soon, so I'm equally nonplussed about what tools are needed to work on rear shocks.

Reply

wombat4246
wombat4246
8 months ago
0

Will this help the reliability issues for the DB IL on the 2015-16 specialized enduro?  I picked up a 2nd one off a mates s-works enduro (for $50) but my local go-to suspension shop (NS Dynamics) told me that the in-line air or coil is not a good option for the older Enduro and prone to failure.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

The updated seal head and air piston will help on any bike that eats shocks, whether it has a Trunnion, yoke, or just sideloads the sh*t out of them. 

Where the linear (‘coil like’) performance of DBair IL can doesn’t save you is that those bikes like a progressive shock set up so even with the max volume spacers it may not be progressive enough. With an IL Coil shock you’d want a progressive coil for sure. 

Out of curiosity, what shock did they recommend instead?

Reply

wombat4246
wombat4246
8 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

They suggested getting a BikeYoke and then either the DB CS Coil, Ohlins TTX22 or a DVO Jade.  I actually asked about converting the DB IL into a DB IL coil - which is possible too for the cost of a major service + $150.

I'm currently running the original Monarch RL with Debonair can and vorsprung tractive upgrade - it's holding up ok but I thought i'd try the DB IL Air to see if it's any better.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

That makes sense. Cane Creek enlarged the CCDB shaft from 8mm to 9.5mm specifically to deal with bikes that were brutalizing shocks. 

I think with a BikeYoke setup instead of the truly hard-mounted body there's an added level of resilience so I'd be tempted to try a DBair IL. Or a coil with a progressive spring.

Reply

SuspensionLab_JonoChurch
SuspensionLab_JonoChurch
8 months ago
0

Those bikes are a nightmare for just about any shock! Its the extension that is a problem- the longer the shock the more it wants to buckle in compression. Something with a larger damper shaft, preferably steel is your best bet, like a fox float X or DPX2, rockshox super deluxe are your best bets.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
8 months ago
0

Combined with a BikeYoke link preferably to unlock the proprietary body interface.

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.