Last year I had the chance to ride a very nice coil shock, the $2000 Push ElevenSix. I mounted the ElevenSix to my Santa Cruz Hightower, replacing the stock RockShox Monarch Debonair air shock. Now, to be fair, these shocks aren’t equivalent – the Monarch is a pretty basic (and cheap) shock. Still, I’d been happy enough with its performance – partly because at 80 kg kitted up, I’m pretty sure this shock’s damping was designed for someone my weight (I have friends who are 50kg and 95 kg respectively, neither of whom could get the Monarch to perform well in their own Hightowers). While I’d been happy enough with the stock RockShox Monarch, I knew it heated up a lot on descents longer than a few minutes and that the sag lessens noticeably when it gets hot.
When you order an ElevenSix shock, Push will take into account your bike, weight and riding style, to provide an internal tune suitable to you needs. That’s pretty awesome. On top of that, the ElevenSix is highly tuneable by the rider; with four adjustments: low and high-speed compression and low and high-speed rebound. In addition to that, one of the ElevenSix’s key features is two independently adjustable damping circuits, which can be switched between with a lever. In this way, you could have a setting for tracks that are high speed and feature big-hits and another setting for rooty or rough tracks where traction is what’s needed. That’s now I would use it – a tune for different tracks or locations, rather than something I would switch mid-ride (I know a lot of riders prefer a less active suspension for climbing, but personally ,even set with really low compression damping, I never felt the need to firm up the damping for climbing).
What changes to the ride did I find when I fitted the Push ElevenSix? In three words: consistent traction and support. The first ride was weird. I struggled to get the back end to break free; traction was so good. I could brake much harder before the bike would skid. I said above that I was happy enough with the Monarch, but once I mounted the ElevenSix and felt how supportive it is, I realised I’d been compromising between trying to get that level of support out of the Monarch’s mid-stroke without making it ramp too hard at the end. Not so with the ElevenSix. With minimal low-speed and high-speed compression damping, I let the coil alone prop the bike up, yet never felt the shock bottom harshly. It also doesn’t change its behaviour midway down a long rough descent, because there’s no air to heat up and cause a higher spring rate, and the hydraulic fluid isn’t getting hot enough to change the damping.
During seated climbing, the ElevenSix provides better support, keeping the back end of the bike up more, rather than sinking back when the slope got steep. This makes for better climbing, along with the incredible small bump performance providing great traction. I don’t tend to sprint out of the seat much, but I’d say it was on a par with the Monarch in this regard in that is was OK, but (like any well-tuned rear suspension in my view) it will move about under thrashy pedalling and body-English.
I think it’s worth touching on the suspension rate of the frame the shock was fitted to. In my view, the Santa Cruz’s hump-shaped spring curve is especially suited to coil springs because the nature of this sort of frame-rate is to be ‘firm at the start, softer in the middle, and firm at the end’, which is the same as an air spring’s nature. So, you’re getting a double-helping of those traits. Whereas the coil’s linear rate balances out the frame’s rate nicely, providing a more ‘neutral’ feel, with a softer top, firmer middle and accessible end-stroke. For me at least, that’s how I prefer the bike to ride.
Downsides? It’s heavier, by some 500 grams over the little Monarch it replaced. Did I notice that weight when riding? No. The biggest downside, which is more and less relevant for different rider styles is that coil springs have less ‘pop’ over trail-kickers and roots and such. For me, the trade-off for that lack of pop, in the form of traction and comfort, is worth it, especially on natural tracks with lots of rough ground and a need for traction.
Overall, the shocks performance is the best I’ve ever ridden, even ignoring the adjustability. The traction afforded by the coil when set with really light compression damping is very noticeable; the shock is pretty much unflappable and the difference in performance is much greater for me than, say, switching to a carbon frame from an alloy frame. But at $2000, yeah, it’s really expensive. Having said that, it’s worth factoring in that this shock can come with you if you change frames. It might need to be sent back to NZ’s Push distributors, Suspension Tech, to be tuned or have the length or stroke modified, but it can be adapted to fit your new bike. Yes, that’s right, one could argue (to your significant other) that the ElevenSix an investment in you and your bikes’ lives…
Distributed by: www.suspensiontech.com
Words & Images: Carl Patton
Originally printed in Issue 87 of the NZ Mountain Biker