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All DOWN Cycles MTB NewsMain MTB NewsLocal NewsTech Tips & Reviews
Tech Tips & Reviews
02/15/05
English (US)  
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Rear shock technology has improved leaps and bounds over the past few years. So much has evolved that I felt compelled to test a few of the new designs. Three shocks were tested and to my surprise all work very well at propelling us downhillers even faster down mountains. All were tested on my latest and greatest downhill ride, the Orange 223.

Tested are two more recognized brand names: Avalanche DHS, Progressive’s 5th Element and the black sheep, underground company, Push Industries. New on the scene, Push is doing in the US what the Euros been doing for years, tossing out the internals of your FOX RC and replacing them with new technology. Riders now have the option of upgrading rear shock performance without having to buy an entire new rear shock. Push offers an upgrade to install FOX “Pro Pedal” or go for the gusto and install their totally revamped “Race Internals” (tested here).

[More:]

I have found that all three shocks tested have certain qualities that may appeal to certain riders. One is not necessarily better than the rest, just different. Because of this, I’ve decided to review each shock separately rather than test them head to head. The reader will have to decide what shock is best for their specific needs keeping in mind there are other rear shocks not tested that may better suit your style. Starting off this 3 part “Tech Tip” is a review of the Avalanche DHS.

The Avalanche shocks utilize “motorcycle style” technology. The 5th Element incorporates SPV or “stable platform valve” with tuning handled by the customer via five external adjustments. Push designs the race internals to ride similar to FOX shocks answer to SPV: “Pro Pedal” (a non adjustable platform factory built into the shock). Both the Push and Avalanche are custom tuned for rider style, weight and type of bike. Progressive shocks offer the rider five external adjustments that help fine tune every aspect of performance. Beneficial to some, the complexity of almost infinite adjustability is perplexing to most.

Avalanche tip toed onto the DH scene in year 2000, blowing minds with gigantic, sophisticated shocks and forks. The major difference from other brands at that time: Avalanche shocks had incorporated a high speed internal valve for rebound and compression. With high speed valves custom tuned for you and your bike, one could finally fly straight through gnarly terrain without a hint of hydraulic “spiking”. Eric at Wold tool engineering, also a downhiller, deserves credit for the flawless machine work and reliable coatings that stand out in a crowd of cast aluminum, pot metal OEM suspension. Riders fed up with unreliable suspension began building frames to fit the then huge 3.5” stroke shock. Thankfully, Avalanche designed a smaller version of their original MTN-3.0 and 3.5, the down sized DHS.

So what are the negatives? For one, they are expensive. Secondly, your bike may not accept an Avalanche shock. In some cases, the heavy, oversized coil spring (same size and interchangeable with a Romic) interferes with suspension links and frame designs. Check Avalanche Downhill Racings web site (www.avalanchedownhillracing.com) for fit applications. Lastly, do not expect to see them at every major race with a huge service rig and flamboyant race squad. A titanium spring is available as a $200 option. Offered are both a remote compression reservoir and two styles of piggyback reservoirs.

I’ve owned bikes with the amazing “MTN-3.0 and 3.5” Avalanche rear shocks in the past. I assumed the “DHS” shock would be less impressive do to its much smaller size. Custom valved shocks are able to resist bottoming and still retain small bump compliance. With out an SPV you would expect the dreaded “pedal induced bob”. The DHS, like its big brother, rides high in its travel and remains fully active with hardly a hint of “bob”. The rear suspension stays glued regardless how nasty the terrain. Acceleration is the key to winning races as long as the power gets to the ground. SPV technology seems a band aide on a problem. Craig at Avalanche found a way to isolate pedal feedback with properly tuned valves and Nitrogen gas (much less affected by heat build up). SPV relies on the user applying air pressure with a hand pump (that needs to be checked frequently) to add pressure to reduce feed back. This pressure is effective on reducing bob, but reduces the bikes small bump compliance.

The Avalanche shock has three external adjustments, low speed rebound, compression and preload. I’m not sure if I would consider “preload” an adjustment. Rear suspension experts all recommend the least amount of preload possible, just enough to keep the spring in place (3 full turns in should do the trick). Avalanche recommends slightly more than that for titanium springs (six full turns). Rear shocks are not designed to handle any type of “top out”. With too much preload, your shock could rebound back violently, destroying the internals. In extreme cases, too much preload could cause coil bind and eventually tear the shock in two (see past Tech Tip on suspension set up). A blown shock caused by “top out” is not covered under warranty.

Wow, only two adjustments, is that enough? Apparently it is. The Avalanche shocks adjustments are subtle yet effective. The rebound can be adjusted slightly faster than the 5th Element. Avalanche with its Motocross roots is very into racing. Their shocks and forks are designed to keep your bike glued to the ground. “Brake jack” is also less of an annoyance when riding this shock. I blame most brake jack sensations on the lack of or lack of knowledge of high speed compression valving. Tested on a single pivot with no floater, braking is controllable.

The DHS Avalanche rear shock surpasses any of my expectations. The Review of this shock alone killed the ideas I had for a shock “shoot out”. I’ve always hated “shoot out” tests. They seem biased and are never worth reading. Sometimes a certain product works well for some and not for others. I’m not going to say the Avalanche shock is the best shock for you. The reader should determine what shock seems best for their particular needs. The DHS will stay on my bike and probably any bike I own in the future. If all this hype seems too good to be true, it gets even better. I nicknamed my DHS “Ol Faithful”. A 40 lb DH bike will put a scare into a rider on occasion. My bike never once deflected off a rock or nosed off a jump. A predictable bike inspires confidence in any level rider. Do you like to ride fast? Are you looking for simplicity? Are you sick of your bikes unpredictable ride? The DHS may be for you.

Is Avalanche going to become the next Rock Shox? The small Connecticut based company has no desire to take over the world of mountain bike suspension. They could never spec shocks for the OEM market since every shock is custom made. A shock by Progressive with factory standard internals and many fine tuning external adjustments is a much better OEM spec. A custom tuned Avalanche is for riders who are looking for a high end shock built and tuned specifically for whatever your needs may be. All the top Professionals rely on modified suspension. You may see the big brand names stickered on the outside of their Professionals shocks, but what’s going on inside is not what you buy off the showroom floor. Spoil yourself with personal tuning and step up your level of riding!

DOWN Cycles is a dealer for Avalanche suspension. Depending on the season, these shocks can take 1 week to 1 month to receive after placing an order. They have a 1 year warranty against defects. The DHS reviewed in this article retails for $575.00 with a steel spring. The lighter than steel, titanium spring is a $200.00 option. Despite what you may have read about titanium springs, they do not improve shock performance. Buy a rear shock from us and the install is free!


Left Click on Images to Enlarge
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5 Updates

Updates

Hands Down the Best shock I have ever owned!!!

Update from: visualmtb [Member] · http://www.visualmtb.com — 01/31/06 @ 10:01
Avalanche shocks are so superior in both performance and durability over every shock out there today ! I Am lucky enough to have had Craig build me 4 shocks over a wide range of applications. Balfa BB7, Banshee scream, Cannondale gemini, and a Cannondale prophet. These applications range from the big hit to race to heavy duty XC riding in the Northeastern USA.

I have been in the bike industry for 17 years as a wrench and racer and I have been on every worthwhile squishy bike/shock/fork ever since Pro-flex was the king of bounce and the Avalanche shocks are such an incredible feel and value considering that all of the other "big" brand shocks would blow out or lock up on me in well under a year of riding.....The Avalanche shocks just seem bottomless regardless of the bike that I have ridden them on. There is no doubt that they are the absolute most durable, well built custom shock for a suspension bicycle that has ever been crafted by hand and with meticulous care from a really great engineer and knowledgeable, friendly guy named Craig Seekins. I am lucky enough to live the next state over in Rhode Island and have had craig invite me over while he custom fitted and machined a few one-offs for some proto applications for one of my bikes. Absolutely can't say enough about the products and the guy behind it ! Both totally top notch !!! As of recent he also started to do the 888 fork mods as well as rebuilding/revalving Manitou swinger coil rear shocks and 5th element coil rear shocks..... the tune is called the Avalanche Advantage, and I have a manitou done by Craig on a Balfa 2 step DH and the SPV stuff gets tossed and his magic and seals go inside as well as a nitrogen charge. Much better than SPV stuff. Even though an SPV system can be set up for ZERO movement, they are still harsh when they activate !! AND even if you were lucky enough to have a 5th or swinger coil not blow oil in the first 6 months.....clearly you have paid your dues in church !!! No other shock makes just about any chassis feel better than an Avalanche !! You owe it to your love of the ride to get one, you will feel as enthusiastic as me in no time !!!

Update from: Jeff G [Visitor] — 07/27/08 @ 18:32
Hi AJ
I so lucky can find your web i got a chumba xcl and i just put a new vivid 5.1 coil shock on it the problem is no matter how i set it i still feel it very stiff , I 'm weight 150lb and the spring is 350lb.
Please can you give me some advise!

Update from: paul [Visitor] — 06/18/09 @ 04:59
Seems everyone is impressed with the Avy. I'm a lifer.

"Paul", get yourself one of these shocks. They can make any bike ride like a dream.

Update from: ajdowncycles [Member] · http://www.downcycles.com — 08/19/09 @ 21:10
Ran the Avalanche DHS 5 years ago and loved it, decided to try about every shock under the sun over the last few years and Im back on a woodie now. (dhs wiith resivoir connected to shock) and I couldnt be happier its still totally ahead of the game, I rode the vivd 5.1, roco wc iar, Elka stage 5, DHX 5.0, 5th,6wya intrinsic and hands down the avy is a better shock. Tuning and adjustments as well as its a true speed sensative shock vs the position sensative out there.

I am riding the Ava advantage Hi speed mod for the 2010 boxxer in my WC and it opened up the potential of the fork even over the new designs and tuning.

AVY for life.......

Update from: Travis [Visitor] — 04/28/10 @ 20:17

You are not authorized to write a update.


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