Ah it’s always a joy to go online and see what people think should be next and why. More often than not, many predictions though of what the arm-chair engineers think will be next are whatever they think will get the most “likes” or “me too’s” to make their work day go faster.
There are a few predictions and naysaying from the peanut gallery I’d like to put in real world perspective for all.
Suspension: I want XYZ fork or XYZ company to make a version of their squish in a fat bike.
My first thought in my head is what tire pressure these guys are running? Second if they reached said tire pressure by personally trying to perform CPR on their Presta valves. After that, I breath a few times and this is what I think about…your tire is really a 1000 little springs already. If it’s too harsh, let out some more air just like you would with suspension forks and such. Boohyah. Extra squish…and extra traction. I’m 235lbs and I’ve been pretty happy doing just this.
I do however see suspension having it’s place…just not how we typically see it. Key thing you have to realize is that you are rolling on a 1000 little springs that are going to be really hard to dampen in rebound. Add into the mix that suspension typically helps you go a lot faster and we now get more bouncy bounce from the tires. Get going fast enough and, well, now you are going to be loosing more control than you gain from any current suspension design.
That said, I do predict we’ll see someone in the US come up with a 50mm-65mm travel fork. (german: A are already playing around with fat bike suspension in Europe with their FLAME fork as used by Sandman fat bikes in Belgium!) And in the rear, something like a Moots YBB or the old Ibis Silk ti. Both would be enough to take the edge off the trail as well as lesson the uncontrollable rebound of those 1000 little springs on each wheel we generally lump in under the term “tires”. I’m sure the fork will come first…maybe one or two companies by May or June. Perhaps will see the old Maverick single crown come back around even with a shorter travel option.
This is not to say someone won’t try a 100mm, 130mm, or even a 150mm fork. Or try to make one on their own. But really, in the end, you are just adding weight and complexity to a bike that is already pretty heavy…and the joy of riding it is the simplicity of it.
As far as rear suspension? Many current designs actually already have issues trying to be adapted to 29ers. Ibis stating that trying to get the DW link design to adapt to a 29er the way they wanted is no marketing BS. Santa Cruz didn’t jump into a 29er right away for similar reasons. I was in Hurricane post Interbike I was sitting around drinking beer when someone asked Noel of Knolly Bikes when he was going to do a 29er…same thing, he didn’t see an easy way to adapt the design to a 29er because of the various dymanics of the extra 3″ to the diameter of the wheel. Citing things like wheel flex, lengthening of the chain stays, pivot locations, and change in load dynamics (note: I was 4 beers in, I’m not quoting word for word here) made it tough.
In each of those cases, you have a HUGE market for the 29er and it takes companies time to adapt a design as well as put aside precious dollars towards the R&D. However, fat bikes pose new problems on top of those already encountered adapting a 26″ design to a 29er just in physical wheel size. Not to mention, we have a new factor suspension designers have never really never had before…trying to control the near uncontrollable rebound of those 1000 little springs on each wheel in relation to your suspension design. It’s tough enough to get people to understand sag, now tell people you’ll have to most likely do a fancy math equation made up of your own body weight (which will mean weighing yourself in full gear…and not on your wife’s scale), what your tire pressure is on your fatties (I only recently bought a gauge that properly tells the PSI…nearly all bike pumps/gauges won’t work at the low PSI we run on fat-bikes), and then figure out the shock pressure.
Yeah….just ride rigid.
Suspension isn’t all mechanical shocks though. I for one am looking forward to ditching my alloy bar for something like a Moots ti handlebar (or the Thomson which is not far away from real world purchasability) or throw on a carbon bar. Keep it wide to help take the edge off. I threw on an ENVE riser on my 6″ travel dual squish and it helped that take off the stutter bumps quite a bit. I also honestly think that a lot of what Jeff Jones has been tinkering with over the last 4-5 years will play heavily into fat bike “suspension” in the future. Had a nice long chat with him a month or so ago on the phone. Talked briefly about his love of big fat tires up front and pivot less suspension. It all made sense. And in the future, I have a feeling his wild and crazy designs may not seem so wild and crazy in our fat bike world.
In the end, undoubtedly, suspension will come and go. Its’ inevitable. Vitamin G is well used in the world of bikes. It’s sure to spawn some whacky stuff. But my feeling is we’ll find other things to worry about and spend money on that will make more sense. Like lightening up our wheels. But that my friends, will be for another day….