Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Gear

Locked-Out

It struck me as I sat on top of the world. Well, at least the top of the world according to San Bernardino, California. You see, I had positioned myself at the top of the cross-country course at Big Bear a few weeks ago on a technological mission. I wanted to take count of exactly how many riders would actually use their fork lock-out. A nit-picky mission at best, but with all the talk of suspension efficiency, I wanted to see which riders cared enough to take the time to "flip the switch." My very informal results were very surprising, to say the least. As the lead breakaway pack crested

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

Various ramblings about suspension lock-out

By Andrew Juskaitis

Even our old friend Ryder couldn't muster the energy to lock-out his fork, but he did end-up winning in the en ...

Even our old friend Ryder couldn’t muster the energy to lock-out his fork, but he did end-up winning in the en …

Photo: Andrew Juskaitis

Even our old friend Ryder couldn't muster the energy to lock-out his fork, but he did end-up winning in the en ...

Even our old friend Ryder couldn’t muster the energy to lock-out his fork, but he did end-up winning in the en …

Photo: Andrew Juskaitis

It struck me as I sat on top of the world. Well, at least the top of the world according to San Bernardino, California. You see, I had positioned myself at the top of the cross-country course at Big Bear a few weeks ago on a technological mission. I wanted to take count of exactly how many riders would actually use their fork lock-out. A nit-picky mission at best, but with all the talk of suspension efficiency, I wanted to see which riders cared enough to take the time to “flip the switch.” My very informal results were very surprising, to say the least.

As the lead breakaway pack crested the top of the climb and sprinted past, I paid close attention to how many of the rider’s forks were bobbing under their Herculean effort. Of the top 20 racers that passed me, only two had taken the time to activate their suspension fork’s lock-out. The rest bobbed-on by, transferring their precious energy into heat (from friction) instead of transferring it to the ground.

After the race, when I spoke to a few of the riders about their decision not to lock-out on this most-appropriate section (long, smooth and steep climb) most responded that they were either “too tired” or “too focused on the race” to take the time to turn off their suspension. I can sympathize with their responses (the guys were hammering up the hill at a blistering pace) but I find it hard to believe that the spilt-second action of activating a fork’s lock-out (especially with the proliferation of remote lock-out devices) would do more harm than good considering the efficiency benefits of a rigid fork.

In fact, if you think about it, front lock-out is probably even more critical to efficiency than rear lock-out is. When racers sprint out of the saddle up a hill, their weight is shifted dramatically over the bars, thereby switching the 60/40 rear/front wheel bias to probably something more in the neighborhood of 40/60. With 60 percent of their weight over the front wheel, the 1-to-1 ratio of a compressing suspension element becomes that much more apparent. Even a properly sagged fork (for a seated rider) will most likely compress about 85 percent of the way through its travel under a sprinting rider’s weight. Lock it out and that inefficiency disappears. Over the course of a 2 1/2 to 3 hour race, that bobbing adds up to significant wasted energy.

RockShox's Blackbox remote lockout works wonders..in my opinion

RockShox’s Blackbox remote lockout works wonders..in my opinion

Photo:

RockShox's Blackbox remote lockout works wonders..in my opinion

RockShox’s Blackbox remote lockout works wonders..in my opinion

Photo:

I might be overly sensitive about the issue, but while racing cross country this past weekend at round #3 of the Subaru Mountain States Cup here in Colorado, I found myself activating the remote lock-out on my SID World Cup six times per lap. With a total of seven laps, that’s a grand total of 42 times I activated/deactivated my fork’s activity. Yes, the course was smooth as a baby’s bottom and as flat as the Dead Sea, but any time I got up to sprint or attack one of the very moderate climbs, I locked-out my fork. I’m not going to claim I was able to pass other riders because my fork was locked-out and theirs wasn’t, but I do know that I was felt more apt to get out of the saddle and attack sections I would normally stay seated for if my suspension was bobbing. Call it a psychological advantage, or call me crazy, but I’m in love with rider-activated front lock-out (I haven’t formed a solid opinion about automatic front lockout as found with Fox Shox’s TerraLogic technology). It constantly amazes me that more racers don’t take advantage of this seemingly apparent technology.

RockShox has its Climb-it control (with its $75 BlackBox remote lever as an option), Manitou has its TPC lock-out (with a remote lever rumored to be in the works for 2004) Marzocchi has its ECC system of lock-out, Fox Shox has compression lock-out of its own (with optional remote) and don’t forget Cannondale’s all-electronic ELO lock-out for its Lefty line. Each is as easy to activate as can be (with the remote options offering even faster activation/deactivation). So, next time you’re struggling up that monster hill and you’re wondering what you could possibly do to keep up with the guys or girls blowing past you, consider flipping that little switch that will help turn your bobbing monster into a locked-out steed. Just a thought…

Now, on to some product news:

Sit On It
Selle Italia just announced a new model to its line of hand-crafted Italian saddles. According to the manufacturer, “The Nixè saddle, the ultimate evolution of technology at the service of overall comfort for cyclists, will be available starting from April 2003. The design of a new rail in composite-structure carbon was based on making the saddle an active bike component.

You can’t get away from suspension these days–the Selle Italia Nixe

Photo:

In 1986, Selle Italia patented a shock absorber system comprised of a series of rubber pads made from a special copolymer. It has been used on many different Selle Italia models ever since.

The solution used for the Nixè saddle is even better; the shock absorbers have been designed to dampen vibrations by working both above and below the rail; this means that cyclists can sit on a “cushion” which eliminates stress from the areas supporting the ischiatic bones and the prostate. The shell is made from Rylsan nylon and composite-structure carbon to enhance flexibility. The vibration-proof rail fitting and the differentiated padding have been studied with Selle Italia’s usual attention to aggressive design and minimum overall saddle weight.” No word on price just yet.

Trigger Happy
Soon to be available to consumers, SRAM is seeing some early success with its new X.7 trigger shifters. This past Saturday’s and Sunday’s world cup events in Fort William, Scotland, saw the first SRAM trigger-equipped riders standing on the podium.

In the Women’s four-cross, Katrina Miller rode her SRAM Trigger Shifters to the top spot. According to SRAM’s Michael Zellmann, “It will be recorded as the first official victory featuring SRAM’s new Impulse Technology. Miller’s victory comes after only a few weeks of riding on the Triggers, but it’s obvious she prefers the new shifting experience of Impulse.” Miller held off an aggressive Mio Suemasa (Trek-Volkswagen), who finished second.

Buying Power
Just stumbled across www.bestbikebuys.com, an online shopping site designed to help consumers find the best price on a particular item. In addition, the site offers specials offered by local independent bicycle dealers so as not to entirely exclude the small-guy shop. Looks like a great opportunity to stretch your hard-earned dollars. Of course, it’s impossible to replace the expertise of your local shop, but if you’re only interested in maximum buying power, this site looks to be one of the most sophisticated on the net (founded originally as the wildly successful www.bestbookbuys.com six years ago).

According to spokesperson Theresa Smith, “Three years after first launching, Best Bike Buys reported that in addition to comparing prices among 13 online bike merchants on more than 10,000 bicycle related parts the online site now has the largest online directory of manufacturers of bicycles, bicycle components and accessories.  The newly expanded directory contains over 750 manufacturers with links back to the manufacturers’ web sites.  Further, each entry in Best Bike Buys’ directory describes the types of goods and services provided by the manufacturer.  The directory was designed to assist consumers looking for manufacturers of specialty bikes, components and accessories as well as to assist them in locating warranty service or replacement parts.”

Switch Hitter
As a final note, just wanted to bid a fond adieu to my old friend Jasen Thorpe as he “crosses the line” from a fellow magazine editor to now selling advertising for Mountain Bike and Bicycling magazines.

Although I rarely found myself agreeing with Thorpe’s normally antagonistic (but well-informed) opinions, he’s certainly proven himself as one test editor who puts his money where his mouth is by riding and racing more than most pros do. Which begs the question, will Thorpe swap out his trusted ratty camo shorts for some fine Men’s Warehouse threads? Only time will tell…good luck Jasen.

Photo Gallery