While the big three shock manufacturers seem to have the lion’s share of the market these days, there are a few companies out there that are working really hard to make a name for themselves. One of those companies, Diverse, is making waves on the FR / DH scene with their new Dueler shock. Diverse started off in 2002 making springs for motocross bikes and suspension tools and as MTB enthusiasts themselves, they moved into the MTB market in 2007 with a coil over shock and titanium springs (cha ching). After speaking with Fadi Ahad about Diverse, I really got the sense that he knows his stuff as well as his customers, giving them what they want at a price they can afford. This is accomplished via a direct sales approach which bypasses the distributor.
I received the 8.75″ x 2.75″ ( 220mm x 70mm) Dueler Shock ($339.99 MSRP) in a neat box almost ready to go. Complete with a titanium spring (450 lb/in), all I needed to do was install a set of bushings for my frame set (standard RS or Fox hardware) and I was off. The Dueler comes preset at the factory with 120 psi in the bottom out control which can be adjusted simply by adding more pressure into the chamber with a high pressure pump. Pretty sexy I gotta say.
A good thing about this rear shock compared to others out there is the Dueler can be rebuilt by nearly any decent tech. Heavier riders may opt to change out the fluid but for the most part this shock comes ready to rock. The DH needle set installed on the Dueler I tested needs faster shaft speeds to work properly (more on that later) while the more user-friendly DH / AM needle set is now in production and comes standard on the new units.
Set-up and configuration
Now the difficult part. Setting up the Dueler can tricky depending on which setup you get. The Dueler version I tested features DH valving which requires hitting the slopes to get things set it up properly. The set-up sequence is critical: rebound first, followed by high speed compression (HSC), then low speed compression (LSC). After the shock speeds are set, you’re probably going to have to set sag by pre-loading the spring (if you got your spring rate right that would be about 4 turns pre-load). Check the old spring on your bike to get an idea of the spring rate you’re currently using; otherwise a rate change may be in order. If the stock spring rate on the Dueler isn’t right for you, you can choose one with a different spring rate for an additional $50.
Starting with rebound, the shock should extend as quickly as possible without bucking the rider off the bike, yet not so slow that the shock packs down and doesn’t return in time to absorb the next bump (lost travel). If therebound rate is too fast, turn the knob clockwise to increase damping (slow rebound). Conversely, if the rebound rate is too slow, turn the knob counter-clockwise to decrease the damping (faster rebound). Rock gardens offer the best test to see whether rebound is dialed in correctly.
Next up: high / low speed compression settings. Start off with both adjusters in the middle of the travel. Now find a few good drops where you will be riding that involve some serious damping. I chose a nice flowy section of trail with a gnarly rock garden followed by a G-out and then two good jumps and a drop down. While sessioning the section, I simply adjusted the HSC to prevent bone jarring landings. Here you’re looking for the shock to compress in a controlled state without being too stiff.
Once the HSC was set, I started on another section of the slope with some serious bermed corners – perfect for setting up the LSC. Here I was looking for the bike to enter corners, pitch, and come out without feeling wallowy in between. In other words, a crisp and fast reaction out of turns but not so fast that the bike would start to shimmy. It took a bit of work but a few clicks from the middle to the “+ve” side and I was there.
Hitting the trails with my Opus Nelson1, I found the Dueler worked equally well with both single crown and dual crown set-ups. With just a bit of tuning the Dueler was clearly most effective when traveling fast over terrain rather than slow. Considering that the Dueler valving was tested by a bunch of DH racers, I can tell the speeds those guys run at compared to my speed is a good bit higher.
I got a chance to test the Dueler on nearly every trail surface you can think of – rock gardens, loamy flat corners, berms, drop downs, table tops and double jumps – and I can say that they Dueler matched up great with the Melson and worked very well on all those surfaces. I especially found that the control of the compression circuits felt spot on when hitting kicker-style jumps to a drop down. I also noticed very quick compression ramp-up which decelerated the bike almost instantly without the harshness of the impact traveling through my wrists like some shocks I’ve tested. Now on the really slow technical stuff you may find on some FR runs, the Dueler felt a bit soft. Most of the softness can be tuned out but it takes a bit of time fiddling with the HSC and LSC once again.
The Diverse Dueler is a competition-ready shock that’s more than capable of taking on anything you can toss at it. With its high quality build, light weight, and durable toughness, this is a shock that just works great. At well under $400 you get all this plus a Ti spring to boot (to keep the weight down, just 410 grams compared to 600 grams plus for other steel sprung rear shocks). Contact your LBS or Diverse to get the shock configured just the way you want it.
-High Speed Compression
– Low Speed Compression
– Spring Preload
– Bottom-Out (Air Pressure)
– TITANIUM SPRING
-PRC, Progressive Ramp Control (Reservoir Volume)
Standard on 9.5×3.0 and 10.5×3.5 Dueler PRC Models
Thanks to the folks at Diverse for providing the Dueler for testing and OPUS for a great test bike for review.