What’s the difference between coil and air suspension?
Air suspension and coil suspension are fundamental components of a mountain bike's setup, each with distinct advantages and functionalities. Essentially, while both involve springs, the former utilizes an air spring and the latter employs a coil spring. But there's more to the distinction than just the underlying mechanics.
Both types of suspensions have seals. However, air suspensions demand more seals to confine both air and oil (for damping purposes) in their designated places, whereas coil suspensions only involve oil. This, combined with the pressure level in an air shock, means coil shocks experience reduced stiction. Therefore, coil shocks offer superior responsiveness to minor bumps as they need less force to initiate movement.
Weight is another contrasting factor. Air suspensions primarily rely on a lightweight air can, whereas coil suspensions incorporate a denser coil spring. The coil spring's weight varies with the rider's weight, necessitating heavier riders to use a weightier spring.
The adjustment capabilities also vary. Sag adjustment is crucial and is set based on the rider’s weight. For air shocks, this adjustment can be easily made with a shock pump, whereas for coil shocks, the appropriate spring weight needs to be procured.
The core difference lies in their behavior: linearity vs progression.
In simpler terms, a progressive spring requires increased force as it compresses, while a linear spring demands consistent force. Air suspensions are typically progressive, offering increased resistance as they compress, whereas coil suspensions, being linear, move more fluidly.
So, how does this affect your ride?
Different riders with varied focuses prefer one over the other. Cross-country enthusiasts might lean towards air suspension due to its lightweight advantage. Conversely, downhill and enduro bikers might prefer the coil suspension for its enhanced traction.
Beyond genre-specific preferences, the inherent properties of each suspension type also influence a bike's behavior. Air suspensions give a more energetic, responsive feel as they compress, while coil suspensions promote better ground adherence, potentially offering a smoother ride in technical terrains. However, coil suspensions might slightly compromise pedaling efficiency due to their reduced stiction.
One notable advantage of coil suspensions is their consistent performance during prolonged descents, as they don't heat up like air suspensions, making them a favorite for downhill and enduro bikes.
Which is the ideal choice?
It's pivotal to research thoroughly as not all bikes are compatible with coil suspensions. The design of a bike's suspension system is optimized for specific performance, and modifying its linearity might alter its entire riding feel. Frame compatibility is also a consideration.
Ultimately, your choice should align with your riding style and preferences. Whether you're aiming for technical trail mastery with a coil shock or seeking agility with an air suspension, the right choice is based on your needs. Additionally, air suspensions generally offer more extensive and convenient adjustment options than their coil counterparts.
If you have any additional questions, come and visit us at 654 College street, Toronto. And we will show you why our suspension is one of the best in the market.