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New Gear: Rock Shox Vivid Air

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Rock Shox will offer an air-sprung version of the Vivid in 2011, aptly named Vivid Air.

Claiming to drop roughly 300-grams from the coil-over design, it relies on a “twin tube solo air” system to mimic the steel- (or titanium-) sprung feel of its heavier predecessor. The general idea behind the inner and outer air chamber is to reduce heat by dissipation with the added surface area involved, keeping operating temperatures below 170 degrees on even the longest and roughest of  trails.

While on the subject of heating up shocks, new for both the Vivid Air  and Vivid is something the Rock Shox R&D crew has been working on for more than two years — the thermoplastic Hot Rod. Claimed to act essentially as a gate valve in the shock’s main port, the thermoplastic expands from heat conduction as the shock heats up, which ballasts decreasing viscosity of heated oil.

Or to put it another way, when the shock oil gets hot, it thins enough to run through the valving quicker, reducing both compression and rebound damping. So, according to Rock Shox, the Hot Rod expands at an equally opposing rate to slow down the thinner oil, thus keeping damping in both directions consistent. Talk about tolerances. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to ride one in the near future and see if it really works as stated.

No pricing for the Vivid Air is available at this time, and availability is targeted for September at the earliest. Frame compatibility will be identical to what the Vivid is currently offered on, in addition to any new long-travel designs that may pop up between now and then.

Without knowing pricing and actual performance of the Vivid Air, it’s hard to speculate on its potential to squeeze out the heavier coil-sprung Vivid, but going out on a limb, I’d assume the Vivid Air will be more expensive, keeping the standard Vivid alive as a cheaper alternative.

It would also be truly impressive if Rock Shox was spot-on in fabricating a coil-sprung feel out of an air-sprung, long-travel shock, so if they didn’t hit the exact mark, that could be another reason to keep Vivid in production.

As of now, Rock Shox states both versions will be offered in 2011, with no plans to cease production on  the Vivid.

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