Which shock should I change to?

Here’s a familiar theme: Guy has a bike and likes it. Guy wants to make it lighter. Guy starts fantasizing about upgrades. Guy writes in …

Hi lee – love your website.

I ride an 07 Kona Coiler with lots of mods – Vanilla 36 fork, DHX 5.0 coil shock, Hadley wheel set, XTR drivetrain apart from Saint cranks and Easton seatpost, bars and 50mm vice stem. The bike weighs 35.5lb.

I’m 59 years old and my rides consist of easy downhill and fast flowing singletrack. I’ve ridden lots of different xc and all mountain bikes and I like the stable feeling geometry of my slack angled Coiler.

I’m considering lowering the weight of my bike a bit by fitting lighter cranks (XTR ,XT, FSA GRAVITY LIGHT or RACE FACE ATLAS) and an air shock (DHX AIR or RP23).

I’ve read varying opinions on the DHX AIR. Seems to have some reliabity issues. The RP23 on the other hand gets rave reviews in everything I’ve read and it’s going to shave a lot of weight. What’s your opinion – DHX AIR or RP23?

Thanks – Rod

Hey Rod,

Thanks for the kind words. You seem like a kindhearted and enthusiastic fellow, so I’m gonna give the whole truth.

What you want to hear

FOX RP23 shocks are awesome and very tunable. Get a custom-tuned one from PUSH. Throw on some XTR cranks. Build a set of light UST wheels with tubeless XC tires. Switch to a 36 FLOAT fork. Speed is a question of money. How fast do you want to go?

What you need to hear
– It sounds like your bike is working for you. I say ride the thing. The front and rear coils balance each other. Make sure your bike is dialed correctly, then ride it as much as you can. Why are you messing with it?

– Oh yeah, weight. If you lop off two pounds with new cranks and shock, you’re still riding a 33.5-lb pig. We should be talking about wheels. Depending on who you believe, rotating mass makes 1.5-3x the difference of non-rotating mass. Something tells me you’re running DH rims with heavy tires. Rotational inertia is not your friend.

– If you’re 59 (or any age), and you ride easy downhill and flowing singletrack, you have no business riding such a burly bike. Are you bending standard rims? No. Do you feel flex in your non-DH stem? No. Are you breaking XT or XTR cranks? Heck no. (Who really needs Saint, anyway? That stuff is ridiculous.) I coach an awesome 5-0 woman to whom someone sold an Ellsworth Dare with full Saint. She weighs 100 pounds! She just learned to hop curbs! The industry is doing many of you a disservice.

– If you really want to make a change, sell The Beast to a kid who will huck it to flat. Then:

– Build yourself a 6-inch all-mountain bike with slack angles and trail-oriented parts. You can get a very capable, very quick bike under 30 pounds. You will never outride an Enduro SL, Nomad, 575, ML-8 or similar. Are you as strong/aggressive/fast as Mark Weir, Brandon Sloan, Curtis Keene, Mike West, Ariel Lindsley, Jon Watt, Abby Hippeley or Bobbi Watt? No, no, no, no, no, no, no and definitely no. These riders are not being held back by their trail bikes.

– Whatever you ride, learn to ride it correctly. You suck more than you know. (We all do.) A skills clinic with me will change your riding more profoundly — and more permanently — than any equipment.

You have lots of options. Make your decision. Release the details. Rip it up.


— Lee

Paypal: Send whatever feels right to lee@leelikesbikes.com

8 replies
  1. mackai says:

    Lee come out to norcal (tam or annadel). Myself and about 4 or 5 others are in need of a much-needed clinic! We suck too!

  2. Stephen says:


    Listen to the man, he knows whats up. After riding 8.5″ and burly parts forever I moved to a 5.5″ bike that could take some abuse and worked on my technique. lets just say there was a world of difference.

  3. Rodney Scholes says:

    Hi Lee,
    What I like about you is you don’t beat around the bush – you have your own opinions (50mm stems & flat pedals come to mind) and you come right out with them.
    I got the answer I wanted to hear – RP23 shock and XTR cranks.
    As for what I needed to hear – You are absolutely correct, I don’t need to ride such a burly bike. Fact is I’ve been having a ball riding a ‘tractor’ down the hill!
    I’m fully aware of the issues you’ve raised and if I get one of the bikes you’ve listed or similar it’s going to be a far more realistic choice. I’m considering my options.
    I have no doubt you could teach me heaps but I’m emailing from Australia so the skills clinic isn’t an option. I’m going to have to purchase your book.
    Thanks – Rod Scholes

  4. MW says:

    If the “Tractor” makes you smile and gets you off the couch and in the dirt, rock it! Like Lee said, light cranks, wheel set, heck, most of your build is stout. Lighten it up with parts that you can always switch over to a new frame in the future. May cost more in the long run, but new stuff gets you stoked and excited about riding without a whole new bike, great. And if 33.5lbs is a pig, I own a barn yard 🙂 ” here little piggy”

  5. Rodney says:

    The ‘Tractor’ makes me smile every time I take her out and nail the 1.5 mile downhill & numerous bits of flowy singletrack I’ve built – too much fun! Thanks MW for your comments. Custom building my bikes is what I’ve always done from back in my BMX days in the 1980’s. I love trying new stuff and getting the bike dialled – and dialled it is right now! So I’ll leave that one as is.
    I’ve got an identical Coiler frame which I’ll build with a light setup and see what I think. It may or may not lead to buying some lighter boutique brand in future. Who knows, I might just end up with the ‘Tractor’& the ‘Bobcat’

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    That sounds perfect. Identical geometry, different spec.

    Time your runs and tell me how it goes, OK?

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