Paving Rock Gardens with the Öhlins TTX22M MTB Coil Shock [Review]

Every subculture has its signals and semaphores that allow members to show their affiliation with one group or the other, and to demonstrate how “in it” they are. Mountain biking is no different. Folks can sport cut-off jeans and a flannel at the park to make sure everyone knows they ride loose, or a clean pro kit can show that racing is the aim of the day. Some of those cultural call tags are more practical than others.

Turning up with a canary-yellow coil shock on your bike might say a lot of things about your cultural preferences, and there’s no doubt it screams “I care a lot about my suspension.” Öhlins stepped into the mountain bike scene in 2013 with the TTX22M coil shock, and they have continued to improve it since. The brand began designing motocross shocks back in 1976 when Kenth Öhlin founded Öhlins Racing AB. Their suspension products would eventually smooth the road for nearly any motorized vehicle that can be raced, with countless pilots proudly displaying the unmistakable blue and yellow logo on the podium.

Features

The TTX shocks are available in most metric and Trunnion sizes. I tested the 205×65 Trunnion on a Privateer 161, swapping lower hardware and mounting the shock in a matter of minutes. Öhlins has a vast bank of tunes to fit with different bikes and riding styles, and this little squisher was tuned just for me.

In terms of springs, Öhlins’ Lightweight Spring Series is hard to beat. The spring itself offers a competitive weight and a tough coating that should last as long as the shock. While most brands offer springs in 50lb. increments, the yellow coils from Öhlins come in tighter 4Mn/23lb. increments for a more precise feel. The spring preload works similarly to any other, but there are a few plastic grub screws that hold the collar in place so that it can’t move while riding or be cranked when your buddies decide to play tricks on you. These tiny screws are a welcome feature, as a loosening coil that slaps and clangs while descending can be quite frustrating.

This race-inspired coil shock uses a twin-tube damping system that separates the rebound and compression circuits from one another for a more precise tune and functionality. For a full dive into the differences and advantages of twin-tube vs single-tube shocks, check out this video from Vorsprung. Like some other twin-tube shocks, the TTX22M uses a nitrogen pressurized bladder to manage those damping forces. The air we breathe is 78% nitrogen, and removing the other gases allows shock designers to eliminate some variables and further improve performance. The one downside of a nitrogen pressurized bladder is that you have to find someone with a tank of N-gas in order to rebuild the bladder, which is typically a suspension specialist. This factor might be worth considering for folks who like to maintain their squish at home.

The rebound circuit is adjusted by the usual dial at the base of the shock, and there are just seven clicks to choose between. Detents on all of the knobs are very clear and precise, with a satisfying feel between each position. The lower number of rebound clicks adds up to an obvious change between each of them, and it’s definitely possible to make the shock super fast, skipping the rear wheel like a flat stone on a mirror lake, or to move it in the slow and grippy direction to print Velcro across the forest floor. I landed around the middle, with the rebound knob four clicks from fully closed/slow, cracking it one click faster when the ground is dry and traction plentiful.

Sixteen clicks of low-speed compression (LSC) damping make up the shock’s most fine-tunable adjustment. The 434lb. spring felt just a touch light for my 69kg riding weight and trails, and I left the LSC cracked open a few clicks past the halfway point on most rides, adjusting occasionally for different trail conditions. The high-speed compression (HSC) lever has three positions that work well for climbing on a trail or road, with the fully-open setting suiting rough descents well. With the HSC fully closed my test bike’s active suspension platform firms up significantly, while still allowing enough movement for the tire to grip the ground and climb.

Finally, the shock stroke can be adjusted by 2.5mm by installing a spacer, and the shock can be returned for a re-tune or resizing at any point. If you purchase a new bike that requires a different length or mounting hardware Öhlins will make the swap for a price far less than the cost of another shock.

Trail performance

Based on my poor math skills, the Privateer 161 has a roughly 23.5% progression rate through its 161mm of rear wheel travel. Depending on how someone rides, that’s not a super high rate, meaning that a linear shock like this TTX22M coil may bottom out more easily than it would on a frame where the force ramps up more throughout the travel. The X-Fusion and Formula coil shocks I tested on this bike performed best with a 450lb. spring, which felt a little over sprung for my weight, but it prevented the frequent bottom outs and lower ride height of the 400lb. spring. With the TTX22M tuned for this bike, the Goldilocks 434lb. spring works perfectly to provide support and maintain a balanced ride height, with only one or two bottom out claps on fast and rough descents. It feels far more supportive than the 400lb. spring while maintaining a smooth and predictable ride.

I like to set up shocks for speed more than pop, with the goal of making the front triangle that my hands and feet are attached to ride as smooth and as balanced as possible, while the rear end and fork do all of the moving and vibration eating. One way I test this is by riding a long set of stairs that have a high rise over their run, adjusting the clickers until the front triangle stops bobbing back and forth at speed. On the trail, this typically translates to maximum grip in the turns and composure over the messiest segments of the trail, while it’s often fairly stiff and pedal-ready on smoother sections of track. Finding this sweet spot can take some time, but it was surprisingly easy with this banana-hued shock. I tested it with three different forks, on two different bikes, and I’m stoked on the ease of setup and how the shock responds to small adjustments.

Apart from looking en vogue, a lot of riders will mount up a coil shock to experience the amazing grip opportunities the metal springs can offer. If traction is your jam, this shock will serve it up by the shovel. Grip is easily tested on flat turns and loose conditions, where the TTX22M performs alongside the best of them, but where I like to ride that max traction factor is the key ingredient to holding a line across off-camber roots and rocks. This is where the Öhlins coil outperforms some other coils I have tested, allowing the tire to remain planted when all of the earth asks it to slide sideways. Once I do lose grip the supple stroke lets me gently push into the tire and regain it in many cases. That’s a magical feeling and a useful one for anyone racing in the European enduro scene or riding those same trails.

I also tested this shock on the Lapierre Spicy, which seems to have a more progressive leverage curve. Similar settings on the Spicy resulted in impressive traction characteristics, while the bike’s kinematics also give it a lively feel with the coil that pops out of banked turns and hard compressions. Bikes like the Privateer can require a fair bit of input from the rider in order to compress and bounce across the trail or off a lip, but with the lighter and livelier Spicy, I can’t see the advantage of using an air-sprung shock. The platform and shock are a perfect pair for speed and fun combined.

The bottom-out bumper does a good job to slow and silence that last bit or travel.

Another reason to mount a coil shock is if you ride or race down long descents without pause. Air shocks heat up as the air expands and contracts a few thousand times, and that heat can cause the shock to stiffen and become less responsive. The metal spring on a coil doesn’t get overworked in the same way, and therefore maintains the same performance at the finish line that it had in the start hut. Like nearly any other coil, the TTX22M is on its best behavior all the way to the bottom, which is why it’s mounted on a large number of World Cup DH bikes and EWS frames. Through all of their testing and trials, a good number of athletes prefer the coil performance over their sponsors’ air option.

Conclusion

If I had to launch a single complaint at the TTX22M it’s that I wish the shock were available in other colors. However, for this level of performance, I’ll put up with the screaming yellow between my calves. My only other gripe would be that you have to remove the rebound knob to swap the spring. While most riders won’t be changing springs regularly, there is no clear advantage to this system over one that allows the base plate to slide past the rebound adjuster.

In summation, whether you’re trying to look cool, or go fast, or both, the TTRX22M has you covered. So long as your bike’s suspension kinematics can provide the progressivity, this little spring will do all the rest with aplomb.

Öhlins TTX22M shocks retail for $755. Available at JensonUSA and Worldwide Cyclery.

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