To a large extent, rear shocks are defined by the things they’re bad at. Some lack adjustments, others are highly prone to failure, while others just ride poorly in some particular respect.
To date, I’ve yet to find a major flaw in the DHX2. Like I mentioned above, I don’t find myself wishing for more adjustability, and more importantly, the adjustability it has is quite usable. On a shock like the Cane Creek Double Barrel – (which has the same basic adjustments as the DHX2), I find the usable range of the adjustment to be relatively narrow. Cane Creek has a handy little feature on their website that gives you a base tune for your particular bike, and in my experience, substantially deviating from the base tune usually results in a rear shock that feels pretty bad.
The DHX2 doesn’t have that issue, or at least not to the same extent. Depending on where I’m riding and how I want the bike to feel, I find the “sweet spot” in the tune is much broader on the DHX2. Now that isn’t to say that for a given rider on a given trail there isn’t a “best” tune, it just means that the shock is a lot more forgiving to “wrong” tunes. It also means that tweaking the settings for different situations seems to yield better results than it does on the Cane Creek.
In terms of the setup on the shock, the only thing I’ve noticed with the DHX2 is that it seems to work better with the rebound set a little slower than on some other damper units. With the rebound set to what I’d call my personal “normal” (quick, but not wide open), I found my Devinci Wilson was much less inclined to settle down through high speed chunder. Slowing the rebound down a few clicks on both the high speed and low speed circuits helped keep the bike from getting kicked around as much, without leading to the shock packing up.
The compression adjustments worked exactly as I’d hoped — really well. My first week on the shock was in Whistler, and every time I go to Whistler, I find it takes me a few days to re-learn the trails and get back up to speed. So at the beginning of the week, I tend to run the high speed compression fairly open, but as I figure out the lines and start going faster (and hitting things harder), I start closing off the high speed compression circuit to keep the bike from unnecessarily using too much of its travel.
For the low speed compression, I’m usually trying to balance support in fast, bermed corners with suppleness and traction over smaller roots and rocks.
After plenty of fussing around, all of my settings on the Devinci Wilson ended up roughly in the middle of the shock’s adjustment range, which I take as an indication that Fox did a good job with dialing in the damper. Even when I’d just bolted the shock onto the bike, and my settings were way off from where I ended up, the shock never felt terrible. It always felt smooth, it never topped out, and it never felt spikey or uncontrolled. And, of course, once I got it dialed in, it felt even better.
On the durability front, so far I have zero complaints. I haven’t done anything to the shock, and it’s still as smooth as the day I got it. I’ve also played with a couple DHX2’s that are a bit older than mine, and they’re also still going strong.
Compared to the Rockshox Vivid R2C:
The DHX2 is more adjustable (the Vivid lacks a high speed compression adjustment), and I feel that the Fox does a far better job at the beginning and end of the shock stroke. I find the beginning stroke rebound on the Vivid needs to be set pretty slow to avoid topping out, but this can lead to the first part of the travel packing up a bit. I also find that, with an equivalent spring rate, and with the shock mounted on the same frame, the Vivid is far more prone to bottoming out harshly. Regardless of the shock settings, the DHX2 never tops out or bottoms out harshly. The Vivid also feels a touch less smooth than the DHX2 – it feels like there’s a bit more friction in the system.
Compared to the Cane Creek Double Barrel:
As I mentioned previously, the DHX2 and the Cane Creek bear a lot of similarities in terms of general design and available adjustments. That said, I think the DHX2 is a bit better in pretty much all respects. I find the range of the adjustments to be more usable, and the shock feels smoother throughout its stroke. Perhaps most importantly though, the DHX2 seems to be holding up better. Pretty much every Cane Creek I’ve ridden was prone to sucking air into the oil, which manifests itself as less consistency in the damping, and a “sucking” noise. The DHX2 hasn’t had any issues like that after a few months of hard use, and less maintenance means more time on the bike.
The DHX2 does everything I want it to, and nothing I don’t. In the two months I’ve been riding it, it’s been consistently smooth, problem free, and perfectly controlled at all times. With the SLS spring mounted up, it’s one of the lighter damper units on the market, and it’s priced right in line with other high end dampers. I haven’t spent enough time on some of the more exotic dampers on the market to make any comparisons there, but of the “big three” (Rockshox, Cane Creek, Fox), I’d take the DHX2 over the competition every time, without question.