Who Do We Have Test It?
The first problem we encountered with our Cove Shocker demo bike was that nobody around here rides downhill exclusively. Sure the editor in chief has a few freeride bikes in his work shop as examples of engineering but itís been a while since even he has bombed a true downhill or shuttle run. We knew right away that the testing criteria would have to be clearly understood as we didnít want to fault the bike for its weight or lack of gear choices by a bunch of cross country racer wannabe journalists.
After laying down the ground rules, we selected four test riders of varying skill levels and headed straight for the local ski resorts with the Shocker. We would take and sprint it along some singletrack just for curiosityís sake but not until after the test results in its natural environment were compiled.
But First a Little Background:
The Shocker has been around since 2006 and has a trophy roomís worth of testing under its belt through the skilled hands of Cove/ SRAM factory rider Tyler Morland. Despite an already proven chassis, Cove redesigned several aspects of the Shocker for 2007. Easton RAD 7005 aluminum provides the bikeís backbone of the dual-link frame, the bottom of which is constructed from a solid piece if aluminum for strength.
The Shocker is sold as a frame which can be built up however your heart desires. Ours was a demo bike that came equipped as follows: Up front we find the Rock Shox Boxxer World Cup air sprung dual crown fork and a Fox DHX 5.0 shock in the rear. Shifting duties were accomplished via SRAM XO components and slowing the beast were Avidís hydraulic Code 5s.
Climbing onto the Shocker could be viewed as a shocker for someone not used to the downhill realm of off-road riding. The head angle is slack at 65 degrees; which basically shoots that front wheel a mile out there. The saddle is notably rearward with a slight rise in the nose which adds to the long and stable feeling. Distance to the pedals is surprisingly short. It is nearly impossible to straddle the Shocker without grabbing a fistful of brake and pushing down on the bar to activate the first inch or so of the Boxxer World Cupís silky smooth travel. At least thatís the first thing we observed in our time with the bike.
Once launched into the vertical wall that is a modern day downhill course, the engineering behind the Shocker becomes very apparent. The taller gearing on the XO set means turning the cranks is a definite possibility even when the wheels are spinning at unimaginable velocity. That long stable feeling chassis that was so peculiar on level ground is indescribably comforting and assuring once gravity takes hold. Out of habit, we found ourselves dodging ugly rocks and off cambers early on. By the second day of testing we had pulled a 180. The Shocker makes its pilot hunger for obstacles that would send even 5 inch travel all mountain bikes into hiding. The suspension is very well mated to the frame and in fact strikes up a harmony in which the bike just glides over the roughest lines. Rock gardens vanish beneath the wheels as flat landings are soaked up with ease. We were certain the bikeís low speed stability would decrease with speed but this simply wasnít the case. As the speeds increase, so too does the Shocker DHís hunger. This chassis flies an incredibly straight course even as the going gets rough. Try as they may, our test riders (ranging in weight from 150 to 205 lbs) couldnít find the limitations of the suspension travel. The rear of the bike actually slightly overshadows the flawless performance of the Boxxer fork by firming up very progressively. The shockís 3 inch stroke is working at a 3:1 leverage ratio (which means 9 inches of travel). If ever there was such a thing as a point and shoot bike, the Cove Shocker would be a top nominee.
Interestingly enough, the bike sticks to the ground almost too well. Humps and bumps that send lesser bikes skyward tend to get lost to the long legs of the Shocker. The bike absorbs most everything in its path- even when that itís devouring is meant to toss you airborne. This isnít to say that jumping the Shocker is impossible; it just means that the lip of the jump has to be pretty darn tall. Drops were a bit easier.
Cornering & Braking:
For a chassis as long and stretched as the Shocker, the riderís weight is surprisingly centered. The front wheel pushes on flat corners but tracks well on sloping or off camber turns. The bike likes to be leaned in the ruts and absolutely rails on the outside of berms. Again, the true beauty of the bikeís engineering isnít realized until the ground is blurring past and the stop watch is ticking.
Braking was very precise. The Avid Codeís modulation is spot on and locked the wide Maxxis Minion tires only when we ham fisted the brakes in a panicked attempt to scrub speed. Burn in took a bit longer than most bikes we test here, perhaps on account of the massive 8 inch rotors. Once burnt in, we did nothing other than squeeze them silly for a week straight.
|Cove Shocker DH
||Easton RAD 7005 Aluminum
||RockShox Boxxer World Cup
||Fox DHX 5.0 Coil over
||Avid Code 5
||SRAM PG950 11-34, 9 speed
||WTB Rocket V
Taking the DH on an XC:
Okay we realize we told you we werenít going to hold the Shocker DH to the overly-active, underweight standards of the XC or trail bike world, but if youíre like us (and we hope for your bank accountís sake that you arenít) you are already asking yourself the following question:
What happens if you try to take this monster out on the trails?
Curiosity got the best of us as well. However, let us again stress that its singletrack performance was tested after the test results were in. Having said that, and surprisingly, the bike can be pedaled! At 44lbs, the chassis does remind its rider that this is no sprinter but stomping on the Race Face cranks gets the bike powering away. Perhaps itís that centralized rider position or the steep seat angle we mentioned earlier, but somehow the bike manages to get the power to the ground even without gravityís assistance. Even the steering was passable, providing loads of leverage in all but the most technical (or narrow) passes.
We arenít suggesting that the Shocker could replace your all mountain rig, but with a more trail oriented gear set, it just may be possible to have the Shocker perform double-duty.
Whatís the Verdict?
Our XC goons walked away pretty impressed. There is something terribly addicting about pounding through the tallest rock gardens, steepest descents, and highest drops without flinching in the process. We had to readjust our riding style after returning the Shocker to its rightful spot on the shop floor due to the residual confidence it left our test riders with. About our only complaint is that this is no entry level sticker price. At $5,000 smakeroos for a build like ours ($2500 for the frame) we arenít talking petty cash here. However after taking down its first mind-numbing descent and living to tell the tale, the cost of entry is quickly forgotten.