Cane Creek have been teasing us in New Zealand with the Double Barrel shock for a few years now. First in a coil version, then with a pretty rad and oversized air shock, and now they've just pimped that air shock out with the Climb Switch. Up until now you had to buy Cane Creek shocks separately and they cost a bomb, so we Kiwis really only got to see them in magazines, but now we're seeing many bike brands spec'ing them as stock. The Climb Switch is a cool new feature that one might think is an industry standard compression firmer-upperer, but oh no! It’s a completely new idea of not only firming up the low speed compression (LSC) but also ramping up the low speed rebound (LSR).
Before we get into it, the standard CCDB Air has four separate damping circuits: high and low speed compression and high and low speed rebound. This allows you to fine tune the shock to get the bike to behave how you like at slow speed (pedalling) and not affect the high speed ride (landing jumps and smashing berms and roots). In the past we had to fettle with our rear ends to try to find a happy middle ground or sacrifice pedalling dynamics for hard riding performance or vice versa. Also it runs twin oil pipes, hence the name “double barrel”; one pipe each for compression and rebound. This allows for far superior tuning and not having to run the oil through the main piston.
Those who could afford the original CCDB Air seem to have been very happy with the improvement they got from the four circuits and they were mainly found on freeride and DH sleds but almost everyone now has long travel trail bikes and a pedal-assist feature was called for. The problem with a standard compression switch is that it’s usually a little too firm and tends to kick the back wheel up over obstacles, especially as the rebound speed is still much quicker, so the chaps at Cane Creek dabbled with the LSR and found that slowing rebound down settled the bike and gave unparalleled traction and smoothed out the ride. Then they realised that because of this, the LSC didn’t need to be as firm so they backed it off a bit and Climb Switch was born.
It’s important to note here that the CS version is the exact same shock platform as the non-CS and when the switch is off they behave exactly the same. If you have the original CCDB Air, I’m sorry but you cannot get the CS fitted to it, you have to buy a new shock. Bugger!
Does it work? Hell yes! I got my CCDB Air CS shock in the generic factory tune and took it for a spin. On flicking the switch, I was surprised at how little difference it felt bouncing around on the spot. But as soon as I hit a root infested climb I finally understood what CC had been harping on about. Because the LSC is only slightly firmer than open, I wasn’t turning the switch off as often as I would with my other brand of shock. In fact, I rode quite a bit with the CS on and it smoothed out the ride, the only drawback being on smoother trails the bike lost some of its liveliness and I sort of missed the crispness of a firmer compression when stomping out of the saddle but the added traction and “glide” more than made up for it. Also I fettled about with increasing the High Speed Compression (HSC) and the shock was definitely having to hit harder to achieve the same stroke, so yeah, these circuits work.
The CS circuit is factory set and tuned for the bike if it comes as stock spec. If you buy the shock on its own, it will be tuned in the middle ground somewhere. Cane Creek know there are superior beings out there so if you're unhappy with this then CC can re-tune the CS setting if you send them the unit.
So, who’s going to buy one of these babies? Pretty much everyone who has that niggle in the back of their brain that their rear end isn’t quite up to the job. Okay it’s a bit pricey, and a couple of hundred grams or so heavier than the other two main brands, but a way better option than buying a new bike ‘cause yours isn’t just quite right. If you’re on the fence, then take a gander at the beautiful craftsmanship and imagine the jealousy of others that ownership will entail. Then think about how you ride. Are you obsessed with perfection and bottom-out control and pedal-bob? What about the negatives? Price? Who cares! Weight? Pooey! Here’s one… I had to carry the little Allen key tool in my pocket, ‘cause the adjusters don’t have levers, really annoying for a while, but then with four circuits I would always be stressed that someone had pissed about with them and to be honest, once I had the shock dialled, I didn’t adjust them any more. Which was great because my bloody bottle cage got in the way and was really getting me razzed. Maybe I should go back to a hydration bag anyway.
So in a nutshell, if you're unhappy with your lack of H.S.C and L.S.R and your B.O.C is minimal and your M.R.S isn’t in charge of your C.A.S.H then I advise you to improve your R.O.A and your S.O.D and get a C.C.D.B.A.C.S.