Cane Creek featured on every expert rider's shopping list when the original DB Coil came out, so can this new Kitsuma shock deliver the same kind of performance leap?
With four easily-accessible tuning dials, Kitsuma is Cane Creek’s latest generation Double Barrel shock, hand built in North Carolina and available in either air or coil sprung guises – and we’d rate it as one of the best shock upgrade options on the market. Fox and Öhlins both offer similar damping architecture with independent compression and rebound circuits in top end shocks, Kitsuma differs by delivering tool-free adjustment over a bigger range, along with a unique Climb Switch feature.
Substantial oil volume circulates inside the shock between adjustable valves on both damping circuits, rather than flowing back and forth across an internal piston. This means totally independent tuning in each direction, so tweaking rebound won’t affect compression damping and vice versa. The new design uses big ‘guitar dials’ that are easy to see (on my bike anyway) with a huge range of damping tunability – there’s actually twice the effect on certain parameters over its predecessor. This also means riders up to 130kg won’t need a retune.
Cane Creek’s clever CS (Climb Switch) lever stabilises the bike in both directions to support against pedal bob and calm shock movement while still retaining traction and control for technical climbing. The new (even) firmer mode is really effective to the point of almost full lockout, and set in the middle, CS is great for extra calmness and support for mellower or jumpy trails. The dull and smooth feel trumps rivals’ low-speed compression-only platforms that can come across as stuttery and sharp on rougher ground.
On an Evil Wreckoning V3 with a progressive leverage rate well suited to coil shocks, switching from the stock RockShox Super Deluxe coil to the Kitsuma felt like an immediate upgrade. There’s another dimension to the smoothness, cornering grip and damping control, and once dialled, everywhere from hauling across rocks and roots, stabilising over smashed up entrances to berms on the brakes or just neutralising trail buzz, Cane Creek’s shock has it covered. The Evil always stays in the sweet spot and it excels at dealing with fast, repeated, hits so they never faze the Kitsuma (or your) balance and composure.
The highlight of Cane Creek’s design is how it can track and trace tiny contours and bumps very accurately with a super fluid feel, but also go from ‘poppy’ and lively to a very damped and dull ride as you choose. I didn’t feel it was always ‘over damped’ at all on my bike (as I’ve seen others claim elsewhere), and it retains a nicely rounded feel to bump absorption even when set much firmer.
In common with other leading shocks, knowledge of what the damper dials are doing is essential to get the best out of Kitsuma. Arguably, it’s even more crucial here too, as the broader adjustment range makes it easy to get settings totally wrong if you’re not willing to continually back-to-back set ups to maximise performance. The ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ on rebound and ‘soft’ and firm’ labels on compression make great sense, but there’s no denying it’s a tweaker’s product, rather than one for a rider who prefers to set and forget.
Coil shocks obviously weigh a chunk more than air units, but I’ve yet to ride an air shock that offers this level of traction, tracking and performance. It’s also been totally reliable over months of riding with zero heat fade or unwanted damping changes over long Lakes descents or bike park runs. The new Kitsuma is over £100 more expensive than the previous DBCoil CS, but the new external dials make it way easier to set up on-the-fly and the broader damping range will suit more bikes and more riders too.