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Ohlins create a rather special rear shock for Specialized

00:00 15th July 2013 by Ed Haythornthwaite

Steve Jones got the chance at the Val Di Sole World Cup to sample the fruits of Specialized’s new collaboration with the Swedish masters of suspension, otherwise know as Ohlins. Over to Steve to tell the story…


Specialized partner up with Ohlins to ditch the excess damper adjustment on their gravity range of bikes


Back in 2005 Cane Creek introduced the Double Barrel. It was an exceptional shock. Its twin tube design came with Swedish Ohlins heritage, a company that had worked with the very finest motocross racers for many decades. I have clear memories of watching the brilliant Russian Gennady Moiseev and Swede Hakan Carlqvist win world titles back in the late seventies when they used Ohlins on their Ktm and Husqvarna’s.

Back to bicycles, and there’s a part of many riders connecting the two sports, it still took many years for the Cane Creek Double Barrel catch on – its superior performance was failed to be recognized by many company’s and a certain disconnect emerged between riders and the shock in their ability to either know what they wanted or how to achieve it even if it is the case with most other dampers too. More than this many bike designs simply didn’t work with the brilliant damper.

This Ohlins/Specialized partnership sees a marked shift over the cane Creek connection in several ways. First they have removed a large part of rider decision making to a certain extent and also have the unit dialed into the bike. On this occasion the Demo, but it also becomes available for the Enduro Evo too.


What makes this shock special is that it removes any unwanted areas of damping, extremes whereby it is quite normal to be able to slow rebound down to almost zero movement or speed the unit up to an undamped wild spring like behaviour.

As much as many company’s shout about a shock being tuned for the suspension design the bikes – and yes many of them do have a reasonable middle setting – most bikes still come with a massive amount of unwanted, unnecessary dial adjustment. In the past decade we’ve been dumped with a crazy amount of decision making on the dials out of nothing more than laziness, cluelessness or money counting from many companies. It’s not uncommon to now see twenty clicks of high speed, a similar number of low speed plus the same again in rebound. When you add in boost valves and the pressures inside that it becomes a game of chance for many. The new RockShox Vivid air and coil is a step in the right direction.


As much as the Ohlins is high end engineering lets not get too carried away here on internals, it is after all oil and washers – but that might missing the very subtle element of magic that an unit like this brings. It doesn’t offer a monster difference in performance but if you tune into the grip and control that such dampers offer then the difference is VERY significant. How much value do you attach between control or failure?

If you could simplify the sensation then the feeling is weighted more towards a hydraulic feeling than a spring sensation. The Ohlins introduces a level of grip and chassis stability better than a stock unit. We’re dealing with tolerances here.

Spring rates – 26lb increments/High Speed Compression – 3 settings/Low speed compression – 20 clicks/Rebound – 6 clicks

Sensitivity with support characterizes the Ohlins ride dynamic. It delivers a ride that always feels it’s working on hydraulic, the sensation seldom too hard. First run on the Demo was given a full middle setting, three rebound, middle (2) HSC and ten clicks low speed. The ride was brilliant and I didn’t really know where to go from that point in the set up. But I did.


In the hardest (3) HSC setting the TTX still operates effectively but is at its best in different conditions, those being the bigger faster breakers where the bike now skips over the tops a touch more than the middle setting. Rebound was the adjuster that was a marked improvement than other dampers in that it pretty much eliminates the crazy extremes. It still livens up the ride but does not lead to ridiculously poor chassis stability.

The softer compression setting offers a weaker and livelier ride character but is still a workable solution and will certainly still work for different speeds and conditions. For me at 14 stone it will be a real wet weather option. For riders new to damper settings they will quickly learn the benefits to what a change in settings brings when conditions change quickly from hard to soft.

All said and done the Ohlins can still be dialed into a less than optimum by way of going for the harder or softer setting in the wrong environment on the compression particularly but crucially the adjustment is at a very rough guess about 15% off optimum compared with say 80% possibility found on many shocks. This is a massive benefit for any level of rider.


The new Demo bikes will be available in July/August and the shock will be available aftermarket, which will fit on all current versions of the Demo (model year 2012-2014) and Enduro EVO (2013-2014) so should be a sweet upgrade. Prices will be set by the individual markets very soon and you will be able to buy from Specialized retailers only.

Dirt had a chance to ride the new Ohlins damper out in Val Di Sole World Cup but unfortunately the large Demo became unavailable. Still I managed to get some reminiscing in with Torkel Sintorn from Ohlins about the seventies and managed to stash some yellow gold back to the UK.

We also managed to catch up with Brandon Sloan, Director of High end bikes at Specialized, for a chat about where things were heading. Read the full story with him in Issue 138 which will be out in a few weeks…

  1. Brian Law

    The Engrish in this article is pretty embarrassing…

    1. Ed

      That’s not surprising…Jones is Welsh!

    2. PS

      Don’t worry. The german dirt is even worse…

  2. Vorsprung+Suspension

    Very cool to see Ohlins getting involved with MTB stuff beyond just licencing their tech.

    While I somewhat agree with the sentiments regarding unusable regions of the damper adjustment, the bike world is completely unlike the automotive/motorcycle world in terms of suspension, for two reasons:
    1. The products are very standardised. A 9.5×3.0 Fox RC4 fits most modern DH frames. Try finding a shock that will fit your CR450 and your EX250. Because leverage rates alone vary so much (a 10% alteration in average leverage ratio creates more than 20% change in the damping forces at the wheel if the damper itself is identical), the shocks need a very wide range of adjustment in order to be cross compatible between any two bikes. The valving internally is only a small component of this.
    2. Rider weight is anywhere from 80-95% of the sprung mass of the bike, but the rider alone can vary from a 40kg kid to a 120kg tank. Obviously, even if a damper is well tuned for a single leverage rate, it needs to be able to cater for the huge weight spectrum of the bike/rider combinations and the variation in spring rates this entails. Ohlins obviously aren’t idiots, and I would expect them to provide a range of damping that accommodates a reasonably wide spectrum of the population, but it’s hard to fault manufacturers for trying to make their single damper unit work well with all bikes and riders.

    1. Mr B

      Damping is relative to shaft velocity not rider weight (in an idealised damper). As such It matters a lot more where and how somebody rides than how much they weigh.

  3. Fabulous

    You get paid to write this crap?

  4. Ajejez Brazorf

    Nice press release… although it should be an article written by an independent journalist…

    1. WAKi

      Pun intended? Indepentent journalism? U mean people who can write and buy products themselves? Because it is hard to get to fly to Sedona, Chatel or Whistler, eat, drink, ride sweet trails on sweet bikes and then write shit about the company that paid for all of it. You have to give blokes a break!

      The only company that got shit despite such efforts was Fox and their CTD. After all it’s a fkng bike, who really cares?! nobody reviews fkng ambulances or chair lifts which should be a bit more of our interest, whether they operate well or not. It’s entertainment, enjoy :D

      Top Gear is popular because at the end of the day nobody gives a shit whether you can fit two backwards-facing child seats in Maserati Quattro Porte – they want to see zem tyres burn!

  5. Reno

    What’s the reason it won’t fit the 2011 Demo??

    1. Hancock

      Because then you wouldn’t buy a new one.

    2. Gareth

      Because its a different frame design. There’s a visible difference between the frames.

  6. jonesdirt

    1) Having a shock parity with suspension design is not as frequent as you’d imagine in the mtb world and 2)You only need to adjust what needs adjusting on the TTX 3) Riders are leaving shops after spending 4K or more with a huge amount of decision making to go through.

    This bike/damper offers riders an immediate damper setting with a focussed range and improved sensitivity. You should really be working off a middle setting on the bike just like many of us do with car stereos. I have had many well known bike designers tell me the dials need to be skewed one way or another on some of their bikes. Believe me this Ohlins/Demo is big news even as a press release.

    Its a small step forward from the CCDB (still an incredible unit on many bikes) in tune with the bike where you can get close to optimum (although it will always be a compromise on a range of tracks) much quicker than any other shock. It all leads to more control.

    Please, surely somebody out there gets it?

    1. Hancock

      We get it, it’s just that anything with the word Specialized in it sets off everyone’s overhype alarms. It looks like a great shock (and the idea is solid even to an obsessive shock adjuster), but does great in isolation equate to better than what’s already out there once you’ve got it away from the release and into the wild?
      You need to get a back to back to back test in between this, a CCDB and a Stoy (Maybe even an Ava too). Spesh shock mounts probably make that impossible, another reason for skepticism, ‘it’s the best there is, because you can’t have anything else’ is a familiar line from the big red S.

      1. dirt dodger

        @jones – yes some of us will, despite my sarcasm below it is surely a good thing – but how long before we see more of the same/similar with other brands?

  7. dirtmonsta

    Err havent BOS been doing this since the 90s? Sunn, Morewood? The partnership with BOS and the Makulu has produced the best performing suspension on a DH bike (IMO) and it’s a lot cheaper than most WC level steeds. There’s no PR machine behind the small South African brand.

  8. NeilB

    Yeah, informative and definitely sounds like the right idea. Surely it has to be right that there’s no need for an adjustment range that goes stupidly too far in either direction. And surely the spring’s mainly what adapts for rider weight?
    Yes, haven’t BOS been doing this for years. Rode my Nic AM with the “wrong” SToy tune for a couple of weeks whilst awaiting the right one. The difference between the 2 base tunes significantly altered the feel. BOS do seem to limit adjustment range to the reasonable too, I couldn’t have got tune 1 to work like tune 2 using the knobs.
    Isn’t the Cane Creek issue its too adjustable? The base tune for the bike should surely me in the middle of a realistic range of adjustment. This from Ohlins sounds great for those who have compatible bikes.. Please keep us posted Jonesy, I bought my BOS stuff on your say so and I’ve not regretted it.

    1. dirt dodger

      No that is not it’s problem Neil, i would dare say most of the time the problem with it is the user. The CCDB is rewarding if you have a selection of basic skills. 1: the ability to read and interpret plain and simple instructions. 2: the ability to turn dials bit by bit while following the plain and simple instructions. 3: the ability to record what you find happening when you turn the dials (pen, paper, phone). This is surely great news if you own one of the 2 Spesh models above and can only be arsed to understand 3 dials instead of 4………….. ;-) lol.

  9. jonesdirt

    For the grammar haters try this one with a deadline looming x


  10. jonesdirt

    Of course, the Bos Makulu is some bike but even then you are still dealing with 28 HSC/LSC and 28 Rebound and if you are dealing with fine tune the base was still fractionally on the hard side. Bos equipped bikes have been amongst the best i’ve ridden (Nico’s Lapierre for example) the thing is the majority of the top racers have never used the smaller suspension company’s. Its very different in MX where many riders have to buy their White Power or Ohlins packages.

    1. dirtmonsta

      @jonesdirt – on a slightly unrelated topic it would have been good to have included one of the best aluminium DH bikes as a benchmark in your recent carbon DH shoot out.

      I don’t think the bike manufactures would like it but your readers would have loved the no BS comparison.

      I’d have loved to have seen the Makulu or the YT Tuesday 2.0 up against the bling carbon rigs.

  11. The butcher

    I raced Moto cross for 20 years plus at all levels. The first thing most privateer riders do at national level and above is bolt a rear ohlins shock to the back and forks (if they can afford them) to the front.
    From past experience nothing is as good as an ohlins shock/fork combo.
    But I can’t really comment in regards to their performance on mtbs as I only ride hardtails!
    Interesting stuff though.

  12. craig

    if its so good y is gwin not winning ?

    1. Gareth

      A single item doesn’t make a winning run Craig.

    2. AD

      Were you expecting him to win 80% of all WC’s from now on. That said, I’m guessing he will be back on top at some races, will just have to wait and see.

  13. JFC

    This is definitely a good idea and yes, no doubt other companies will want this shock tuned to their bike. I never could understand why fox/RS/etc didn’t/don’t supply a simple step by step breakdown of how to make your shock or forks find the most grip on a given track. They manage to sort it out with their sponsored riders during ‘testing’ so why not write it down and help out the hand that feeds you? Also, Gwin isn’t winning because he isn’t the fastest right now. It’s the rider not the bike. 99% of the guys beating you at any race you enter are doing it on a bag of nails held together with gaffer tape that’s painted to look nice. They are riding the wrong weight spring, with not enough rebound and have absolutely no idea what pressure is in their tyres. But they beat you all the same because they are fitter and or more skilful than you. Brake less or pedal more than them and you will beat them. It really is that annoyingly simple!

    1. Leon

      Rockshox have a little pdf that gives you good base settings for pretty much all track conditions , not that I ever change my settings to suit conditions though..

    2. David

      Man, Im so sick and tired of that old argument ” its not the bike its the rider bullshit” Im no pro racer at all and even I can clearly tell when Im faster on a bike rather than another one.Ive gotten brand new bikes in the past that just didnt feel right for me and others that made me noticeably quicker.

      Gwin has NEVER had a worst result in his short career than Ft WIlliam this year.When he switched from Yeti to Trek he INSTANTLY started to DOMINATE the rest of the field, not just more consistent or slightly quicker : DOMINATED the freaking WC races for 2 years…You would think that if certain bikes make a noticeable difference for ME it should in theory have a drastic impact for a WC racer.Im sorry but THE BIKE is a BIG factor in Aaron’s poor results this year…His teams and new contract surely are another reasons why but come on , you’d have to be blind not to see that bike does not work well for him.

      The Demo platform has been out for 10 years now, they need to scrap that design and come out with something new.All I can think of is a bunch of shareholders sitting at a table and saying” lets keep milking that cow until it runs completely dry.Cheaper, bigger profit margin than starting from the ground up with a fresh design…lol, that new bike/shock combo does not get my attention at all.

      1. AD

        Since Aaron has a three year contract with Spesh, I would guess that they will have a all new Demo next year with heavy input from Gwin. Just my 2 cents.

  14. jimferno

    Really looking forward to this.

    I’ve been struggling along with a CCDB for the last year and I just can’t get it to feel right. Base setting by Cane Creek seem way off and I generally understand what I want from my suspension & how to get it to act how I want.

    I’ve considered that I may have a faulty unit, I’ve been so unimpressed by it.

    1. The butcher

      I to struggled with the cane creek.
      It blew my brain. I thought it was just me!

      1. jimferno

        You’re not alone buddy, I feel your pain! haha

  15. Gareth


    Get your shock sent off to someone independent like J-tech suspension. He’ll service and tune your shock to your weight, bike and riding style. It’ll make a world of difference and you’ll then love it more than you could ever comprehend.

    1. dirt dodger

      jim/butcher – as good as Jim @ Jtech is if you think you have a faulty piece of kit (which is possible but i doubt) then TFTuned are the uk service agents – send it/or probably speak to them 1st and discuss your apparent issues. The CCDB is there to be understood bit by tiny little bit – the 1 and 2 click changes do work. time run, change dial(in order specified by the manual), record changes: time run, change dial, record changes: time run – you get the picture…persistance beats resistance every time.

      1. Mutly

        Different strokes for different folks. Spesh/Ohlins pre-sets, tailored for one particular bike, the Demo, would certainly simplify things and suit some folks really well. My 2010 frame comes from a smaller company that probably is never going to have such an option. What I do know is that the settings that I use on the my CCDBAir shock riding in 3 degrees ambient temperature and 3inches of mud during a deep winter ride vary significantly from those for 30degrees on a rocky surface on a summer road trip. Also that subtle single-click changes make a noticeable difference in each situation. I simply cannot believe that ~3 pre-sets could cope with such real-world variation. Fox gets lots of criticism for dumbing down slow comp to CTD in a similar way but I am sure that suits a whole host of riders – across an infinite range of frame platforms. Just not me. Fox’s RC2 fork damper gets lots of opposite criticism, especially from Jones, for having too many clicks of variation. Sorry Steve but that suits me better thanks. Am never sure why you enthuse in such a polarized way to such a broad church as your readership.

  16. gabe

    this page is heavily commented already, but I feel i have to say…I dont care if my shock has 30 clicks of adjustment,some of which i may never use, as long as somewhere in there are the right settings for me, my bike and the track im riding. I get how the simplifying (dumbing down?) of settings is going to make this shock less of a headache for some riders, but there must be some pay off. I assume that payoff will be less chance that my bike will be adjustable between easy pedally/jumpy tracks with no armour or gear on to steep gnarly bastard tracks with full body armour, tools and 2 litres of water in my bag, plus wet or dry, tired or wide awake, etc etc for either track. if there is the range then perhaps less fine tuning in between? This is only speculation, but i generally find when you only have three settings, high, med and low, none of them is ideal for any track. i know some people don’t like having to get the tools out, write things down, get headaches over it all and will love the ability to quickly find roughly the right settings. I don’t exactly love the pain in the arse of it all, all the time, but I like to go fast, and if thats what it takes, then don’t you dare take that option away from me.

    1. Mutly

      gabe, +1

      1. dirt dodger

        very well said Gabe – for me adjustment and freedom is something i am used to and more than comfortable with.

  17. fanboy

    Great to see an alternative to BOS coming out (they have the same ideas) but hopefully with better customer service. Looking forward to some forks from Ohlins..

    Regarding too much adjustability, I don’t find it an issue. I find the lack of a setup guide and base settings for each bike the issue. With a £4k bike the manufacturer should really be arsed to give a recommended base setting.

  18. gary

    Mutly..have you ridden the ‘dumbed down’ Ohlins? You must be some rider to demand such fine tuning. Isnt what the Dirt review points out anyway – that it offers a good first solution in changing weather conditions during the day?! And the increased sensitivity…something that a rider of your doubtless world class ability desires. Also i read the dirt dh test and they rate the RC2 damping highly – also in the video too – you must be getting confused with theyre point that the Fox high maintenance doesnt equate to a higher performance and that a Boxxer team for almost half the offers an equally good, less maintenance ride. Clickety click brother…..

  19. Michael Elstob

    I just get on my bike and beast it, lets all stop pretending we know what were on about and just ride.

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