About a month ago, we were fixin’ to publish a long-term review of the Coil IL shock Travis Engel has been running, problem-free, since 2021. But that model is six years old, and we got a whiff of something new on the horizon. And today, we finally get to look and whiff, because Cane Creek just dropped news of the updated Coil IL and Air IL. We’ll break down what’s new, what’s not, and why it matters.
Back in 2005, Cane Creek introduced the idea of four-way-adjustable damping to the masses. That is: high-speed compression, high-speed rebound, low-speed compression, and low-speed rebound. I’ll drop a note about all that in the comments if anyone wants an explanation, or if anyone wants to tell me why my explanation is wrong.
Fox and RockShox later adopted four-way adjustments, but only on their biggest, longest, enduro-est models. So, when Cane Creek introduced the Air IL (“Inline”) shock in 2014, they became the only game in town to offer that tunability in shorter, traditional (sans piggy-back) shocks. They even doubled down in 2016 with the introduction of the Coil IL. But it was tricky to fit all those adjustments into a compact shock. On some bikes, the rocker plates, frame tubes, or mounting hardware would rub the IL’s broad shoulders. That was the case if you tried to put an Air IL on the underrated Orbea Occam and ubiquitous Specialized Stumpjumper. Or maybe there was no IL shock with the proper eye-to-eye length to make a well-deserved upgrade to coil, as was the case on the Evil Following and Pivot Trail 429. For these and a few other frames affected, that problem is now solved.
On the non-trunnion versions of both the Coil IL and Air IL, the “valve body” (where all the knobs are) shrank from 68mm at its widest point down to 50.5mm. And on both the trunnion and non-trunnion Air IL, the body of the air spring dropped, from a 57mm diameter to 51mm. Plus, there’s now a shorter, 165mm trunnion model. There are also a few minor changes happening on the inside, like the air spring can now take 350 PSI, up from 300, the inner damper tube is stronger, and the Coil IL preload knob now has detents, making for more easily quantifiable adjustments. Cane Creek did not rejigger their damping circuits, or add any more knobs to the already knobby design. It just got broader compatibility. And that’s actually pretty huge.
Bikes like the Transition Spur, the Yeti SB120 and the Commencal Tempo are proving that travel doesn’t dictate what a bike is capable of. The rider does. And a highly tunable shock allows that rider to stretch a bike to meet their needs. In fact, my Coil IL was primarily responsible for converting me from always overbiking to usually underbiking. I now reach for my 130mm-travel, mixed-wheel Guerrilla Gravity on loops I used to reserve for my enduro 29er.
The coil spring is partly to thank, helping the 27.5-inch wheel handle square-edge hits. But so is the 4-way adjustability. I’ve tuned shock to ride light and quick, complementing the coil spring’s ability to get the wheel out of the way, but then return it to duty ASAP. Meanwhile, this is also a play bike, so I tuned it to stand up to body input, and be less bucky after harsh landings. This required all four dimensions of adjustment in a travel category that’s usually lucky to get two. And each of those adjustments offer a wide range, eliminating the need for an IL damper’s internal components to be “tuned” to your bike’s recommended range.
And of course, you’ve got similar freedom in picking the spring configuration that suits you best. My personal bike’s leverage curve happens to play well with coil springs, but if yours doesn’t, a progressive spring like Cane Creek’s Progressive Rate Vault Spring is a way to maintain mid-stroke support while still offering the sensitivity of a coil. Or you can stick with a traditional air spring, losing some weight and gaining some spring-curve tunability via volume spacers.
Again, most of this has been true about the IL shocks for years. But it’s newsworthy that Cane Creek took steps to get them on more short-travel bikes. Because short-travel shocks are kinda boring. EXT and Push are the boutique players of the day, and they tend to focus on enduro and DH categories. But managing travel becomes especially important when there’s not a lot of it to work with. Beyond that, Cane Creek shocks are built to order in the U.S.. In a component that we often consider to be a bit of a black box, they add a little soul.
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