best shocks for rough roads

Best Shocks for Rough Roads

When it comes to driving on rough and uneven roads, having the right shocks can make all the difference in providing a smooth and comfortable ride. Off-road enthusiasts and adventure seekers often find themselves tackling challenging terrains, such as forest service roads, rocky mountain trails, and open deserts. To handle these diverse conditions, choosing the best shocks for rough roads becomes crucial.

Understanding Off-Road Nuances

Off-roading encompasses various terrains, each requiring different suspension characteristics. Forest service roads are easy and graded, allowing stock shocks to handle them with ease. Rocky mountain trails can range from easy to hard, demanding shocks that provide both control and comfort. Open deserts, with their unpredictable washes, require thicker shock dampers to maintain vehicle composure at higher speeds.

Off-Road Shock Types and Definitions

To understand the differences in shock performance, it’s crucial to grasp various shock types and their defining features. The main components include the ride zone, compression, rebound, and internal bypass. Additionally, shock performance varies based on low-speed, medium-speed, and high-speed compression, each suited for different driving conditions.

Trail Shocks: Versatility and Capability

Trail shocks strike a balance between everyday driving and off-road performance. They come with various features like adjustability, internal bypass, and twin tube or monotube design. Adjustability allows suspension accommodation for heavier loads, while internal bypass creates a plush feel in the ride zone. Twin tube shocks may offer softer feel on rocky trails, whereas monotube shocks excel in rebound valving for improved handling.

Race Series Shocks: Performance and Durability

Race shocks, like the ones found in King Shocks or Fox Shocks, are designed for high-performance applications. They are larger in diameter, with a bigger piston, providing better handling on lifted vehicles with larger wheels and tires. Valved for low to medium shaft speeds, race shocks offer excellent damping support and are built with high-end materials for race applications. Maintenance is essential for long-term durability and performance.

Top Off-Road Shocks: A Comprehensive Review

Let’s delve into some of the top-performing off-road shocks available on the market. We will explore their features, benefits, and performance to help you make an informed decision for your vehicle.

Fox 2.0 Performance Shock

The Fox 2.0 IFP high-performance shocks are perfect for those seeking improved handling on and off-road. They excel in aggressive terrain and offer a significant upgrade over factory or Bilstein shocks.


  • Coilovers provide leveling-kit ability
  • Excellent high-performance entry-level shock
  • Handles hard hits well
  • Improves handling and traction in all terrains
  • Rebuildable and serviceable


  • Higher price point compared to similar offerings
  • Requires servicing for optimal performance
  • Firmer than factory and other factory-like upgrades

Fox 2.5 Factory Series Reservoir with DSC

Stepping up to the Fox 2.5 Factory Series shocks provides substantial improvements in both comfort and ride control. The 2.5-inch shock offers increased oil capacity and lower operating pressures, allowing for high-speed driving on aggressive terrains while maintaining vehicle control.


  • Huge improvement in road comfort and off-road handling
  • Adjustable and reservoir options
  • Serviceable, rebuildable, and custom tuning available
  • Excellent handling in high-speed environments


  • Requires servicing between 30-50k miles for optimum performance

ICON Vehicle Dynamics 2.5 Adjustable (CDCV) Series Shocks

ICON’s unique approach to valving mixes digressive tuning for improved handling on and off-road. The CDCV remote reservoir coilovers and shocks offer excellent control and handling improvement in both on and off-road conditions.


  • Excellent control and handling improvement on and off-road
  • Adjustable options for increased tuning ability
  • All-in-one kits provide a total package approach
  • Unique features, such as Delta Joints for control arms or RXT leaf and bump stop systems


  • Exceptional build quality comes with a cost

ICON Vehicle Dynamics 2.5 EXP Shocks

Icon’s newer EXP 2.5 shocks bring ride height adjustment and high-speed off-road performance to your vehicle. The 2.5 shock body paired with performance-oriented shock tuning provides a substantial control and handling boost to your truck, both on-road and off-road.


  • Uses factory springs to achieve added ride height
  • High-speed performance-oriented; the faster you go, the smoother they get
  • Serviceable and rebuildable
  • Aluminum body for sustained off-road use


  • May require factory shock tower disassembly and a coil spring compressor for installation


Electronic shocks are gaining popularity, offering unlimited potential to your vehicle’s comfort and control. The SDI E-CLIK system allows on-the-fly adjustability between full comfort or full control, eliminating the need for external bump stops through bottom-out control.


  • The most versatile suspension system on the market
  • On-the-fly adjustability between comfort and control
  • Removes the need for external bump stops
  • Suitable for various driving conditions


  • Limited applications
  • Electronics may be a possible failure point in high heat environments

King 2.5 OEM Performance Series

King’s off-road shocks for OE applications are unmatched in ride comfort and performance, offering legendary tuning out of the box. These shocks excel in high-speed environments and aggressive terrain, making them a top choice for serious off-road enthusiasts.


  • One of the highest-performing shocks available for OE applications
  • Serviceable, rebuildable, and custom tuning available
  • Compression adjustment and reservoir options
  • Distinctive “Badass Blue” color


  • May lack some features compared to competitors
  • Requires servicing between 30-50k miles for optimum performance

Bilstein 6112 Shocks

The Bilstein 6112 shock is equipped with a massive 60mm active piston and 2.6-inch shock body, providing exceptional off-road capability and handling. These shocks are aimed at adventurers, off-roaders, and overlanders who see a lot of dirt while maintaining daily driver comfort.


  • Leveling height adjustments
  • 60mm piston; “best in class”
  • Great price-to-shock ratio
  • Massive off-road ride upgrade; improved road handling and comfort
  • Long-lasting, durable, and serviceable


  • Does not come pre-assembled from Bilstein
  • Requires a coil-spring compressor for installation

Bilstein 8112 Coilovers

The newest damper from Bilstein, the 8112 coilovers, challenges top race companies in the off-road space. These coilovers feature high-tech internals, including jounce cutoff and rebound stops within the primary coilovers, providing a substantial control and handling improvement on the trail or in the desert.


  • Premium German engineering with USA manufacturing
  • 60mm piston with high-tech internals
  • Height adjustment up to 3.5 inches
  • Top-of-the-line off-road ride control
  • Class-leading performance


  • Limited applications

Bilstein 8100 External Bypass Shocks

The Bilstein 8100 series external bypass shocks are among the most advanced shocks available for OE replacement applications. Utilizing bypass technology with compression and rebound damping adjustment, these shocks are infinitely adjustable for your ride control needs.


  • Highest level of adjustment, compression, and rebound
  • Achieve both ultimate comfort and high-speed control
  • Rebuildable, serviceable, and custom tuning available
  • 60mm piston for improved performance


  • Highly technical, suitable for high-performance vehicles

Eibach Pro-Truck Coilovers

Eibach has unmatched capabilities in the light truck and Jeep market, offering exact matches of dampers and springs for many applications. By designing and manufacturing both shocks and coil springs in-house, Eibach ensures perfectly matched spring rates and damping requirements for a given application.


  • Height-adjustable shocks for leveling your truck
  • Monotube design provides consistent fade-free performance
  • Perfectly matched springs and shocks in a single package
  • Improved ride control and handling


  • Requires a coil-spring compressor for installation

Old Man Emu BP-51 Shocks

Old Man Emu shocks come with rebound and compression adjustment, already featuring class-leading features for OE-fitted shocks. With internal bypass ports, the BP-51 shocks and coilovers offer the ultimate in both comfort and off-road control, providing an exceptional ride experience.


  • Compression adjustment to handle varying vehicle loads or tough terrain
  • Rebound adjustment for comfort control
  • Internal bypass addresses comfort in everyday driving conditions
  • Improved off-road performance and handling


  • Compression and rebound adjustment may be slightly tougher to change than competitors

Choosing the Right Shocks for Your Vehicle

Selecting the best shocks for your vehicle involves weighing your priorities and driving needs. Consider how often you are willing to service your shocks, whether you prefer comfort or high-performance tuning, and whether you frequently navigate rough terrains or stick to everyday driving.

If you don’t mind regular maintenance and want maximum control and handling performance, race series shocks might be your best bet. However, if you seek comfort without sacrificing control, internal bypass or adjustable shocks are likely a better fit.

At Shock Surplus, we help customers find the perfect shocks for their vehicles, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable off-road experience. Our extensive catalog includes a wide range of top-quality shocks from reputable brands, offering options to match your specific needs.


Off-roading and driving on rough roads require a reliable set of shocks to ensure comfort, control, and overall vehicle performance. By understanding the nuances of off-road driving, the different shock types available, and evaluating top-performing shocks, you can make an informed decision that suits your driving needs.

Remember to consider factors like adjustability, internal bypass, and valving when selecting the best shocks for your vehicle. Whether you opt for trail shocks that offer versatility or race series shocks designed for high-performance applications, finding the right shocks will significantly enhance your driving experience.

Choose shocks that complement your driving style and the terrains you explore, and you’ll be well-prepared for any off-road adventure that comes your way!


Regular servicing is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and longevity. We recommend servicing between 20-50k miles, depending on use and abuse.

Yes, most high-end trail shocks can handle high-speed environments like deserts, as their capabilities often exceed driver skill and vehicle capabilities.

Race series shocks can be used for daily driving, but they are valved and designed for high-performance applications, so they may offer a stiffer ride compared to trail shocks.

Adjustable shocks allow you to fine-tune your suspension to accommodate heavier loads or handle tough terrains while still providing the option to adjust for comfort during daily driving.

Monotube shocks, like the Old Man Emu BP-51 shocks, are known to perform well on rocky terrains due to their rebound valving and control capabilities.

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