A wonderfully performing shock let down by reliability
Cane Creek’s DBinline is the lightest version of its twin-tube shock, but still gets independent compression and rebound damping circuits. The standard DBAir has an external reservoir, but Cane Creek has eliminated this from the slimmer DBinline design and the weight saving is significant; it’s around 200g lighter.
It’s not quite as light as the equivalent Fox or RockShox damper, but then it does have around 50 per cent more oil volume, which translates directly to improved downhill performance and reduced shock fade.
On the trail the DBinline is very fluid, but a stabilising Climb Switch lever increases low-speed compression and rebound and is the best solution to increased pedalling efficiency I’ve tried. On top of four independent damping adjustments, the air spring can easily be tuned by adding volume spacers to increase bottom-out resistance and progressivity.
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Rather than pushing oil back and forth through a floating piston, like you’d find in a regular Fox shock, the oil within a Cane Creek DBinline circulates continuously through adjustable valving circuits. It also features a new flexible rubber membrane that separates the damper oil from the nitrogen-charged chamber that cleverly surrounds the shock eyelet area and compensates for oil displacement when the shock is compressed.
The upshot of all this technology is reduced stiction, and having tested it on several bikes, over as many months, my conclusion is this is the best performing trail bike shock available. Grip levels, off-the-top, are superb, as is the ability to track the ground and handle high-speed compressions when riding over repeated roots or rock gardens.
Support, right throughout the stroke, can be perfectly tailored to how supple or poppy you want the bike to feel — assuming of course you have a good idea what the dials do.
The Cane Creek DBinline would be looking at a perfect score here but there are some quirks and reliability issues. One niggle is that equalisation between the positive and negative air chambers leads to a dead spot that’s noticeable when the bike extends and touches down over really rough terrain. This flat spot isn’t consistent but it did eventually become more pronounced on all the shocks I tested.
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I’ve also witnessed various failures — shocks getting ‘stuck down’ or rebound damping issues — especially for heavier riders.
Cane Creek has a potentially class-leading product in the DBinline. If we could be certain that sustained high performance was guaranteed from every unit, we’d be looking at a 10/10 rating instead.