The ELEVENSIX isn't just a work of industrial design art, it's one of the best component upgrades we've ridden this year.
Winner: Push ELEVENSIX
Cycling is different than most sports in that we have access to the same stuff the pros use. The one difference is that most professionals run custom valved suspension meticulously tuned for their weight, riding style, and race day needs.
Us mere mortals don't get that treatment unless we use an aftermarket tuner, like Push. While the Colorado-based company will custom valve your existing suspension, they also offer their own shock. Released in 2015, the ELEVENSIX retails for an eye watering $1200. But we say it's worth it.
The ELEVENSIX offers tool free external adjustments for low-speed rebound, low-speed compression, and high-speed compression.
We won't go into all the details (check out this video ) for that). But what really sets it apart is the customization. When you order an ELEVENSIX, it is built just for you (in the USA). Yes, you could achieve almost the same level of performance from a cheaper aftermarket option, but it could take months of tuning to achieve the feel of your personalized ELEVENSIX. Out of the box, the Push shock offers superb traction, stability, and small bump performance.
Still not sold? Included in the hefty price tag is shock re-valving. So when you decide to upgrade your frame, Push will retune your shock at no additional cost. And if the eye-to-eye happens to be different, you'll only be charged for parts.
As the first metric shocks on the market, the RockShox Deluxe and Super Deluxe had the honor of proving the concept.
Runner Up: RockShox Deluxe and Super Deluxe Metric
You know what the bike industry needs? More standards. After being hammered with wave after wave of stupid incremental improvements that have relegated expensive upgrades obsolete, we're all sick of it. And yet, here we are awarding RockShox for their new metric shocks.
Oh, you hadn't heard? Yeah, RockShox (and a bunch of other brands including Cane Creek, DVO, X-Fusion, and others) have decided to use metric instead of imperial units for shock measurements. We wish the conversion was as simple as getting your calculator out, but it's not. This is a whole new set of measurements that aims to consolidate and reduce the ridiculous number of current options.
In the short run, the whole thing is a nightmare. Most frame manufacturers refresh designs on a three-year product cycle, so for the next few years, we're going to see a proliferation of new shock sizes and mounting options. Looking down the road, however, the picture looks less bleak. By introducing de facto eye-to-eye/stroke and mounting options, we'll see better aftermarket compatibility, reduced SKUs (think increased parts availability), and improved performance.
The first new metric shocks to hit the market are the RockShox Deluxe and Super Deluxe. As the first of their kind, they have the honor of trying to convince riders that metric is better. There aren't many bikes that come stock with the metric equipped goods yet, but the early word is positive. And if the incremental performance gains don't blow you away at first, just remember that in the long run it's going to get better. To learn more, check our coverage here.
The slim body and reduced weight of the new Cane Creek DB Coil IL brings coil goodness to the trail bike market.
Honorable Mention: Cane Creek DB Coil IL
In the pursuit of lighter and lighter overall builds, manufacturers and riders collectively ditched the coil shock in favor of air. In addition to being lighter, air shocks are easier to tune and are more progressive. These attributes made the jump seem worthwhile until we tried coil again. Coil shocks won't work on every frame due to size constraints or leverage rates, but when they do it's magic. Simply put, coil shocks feel better. They offer improved small bump performance, increased traction, and effectiveness doesn't suffer as they heat up.
Cane Creek's DB Coil IL brings all that magic to shorter travel trail bikes. The design keeps the four-way independently adjustable LSC, LSR, HSC, HSR, and climb switch found on the beloved DB Coil, but ditches the piggyback. The slimmer profile helps shave over a quarter pound (169g) and allows the shock to squeeze into more frames. It's still heavier than most air shocks, but we feel the leap in performance is worth it. For more info, check our coverage here.
This post is part of the Mtbr Best of 2016 awards series. You can see all this year's announced winners here.