Gear

Tech Report: Motion Control and single-speeders

A few members of the VeloNews staff and I were able to sneak away two weeks ago to Moab for a little mountain-bike product testing that was part work, part vacation. Coincidentally, RockShox is nearing final production of its 2005 Pike and Reba suspension forks. And as luck would have it, a quick call to a RockShox product manager resulted in a freshly-built, long-travel Pike being delivered just in time for our departure. I planned to install the Pike on my 2004 Specialized S-Works in the classy digs of Moab’s Apache Motel, then head for the trails. Silly me – I forgot that Pike is a

By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor

A few members of the VeloNews staff and I were able to sneak away two weeks ago to Moab for a little mountain-bike product testing that was part work, part vacation.

Coincidentally, RockShox is nearing final production of its 2005 Pike and Reba suspension forks. And as luck would have it, a quick call to a RockShox product manager resulted in a freshly-built, long-travel Pike being delivered just in time for our departure.

I planned to install the Pike on my 2004 Specialized S-Works in the classy digs of Moab’s Apache Motel, then head for the trails. Silly me – I forgot that Pike is a through-axle-only fork. I panicked, briefly, before remembering that a Mavic CrossMax XL wheel can be easily retrofitted to accept a 20mm through axle. But I couldn’t find the adapters, either here in Boulder or in Moab, so another call – this time, to Mavic – scored me a last-minute delivery of the critical spacers. With my favor-jar fully emptied, I was armed with all the parts I needed to hit the trail.

After a relatively painless six-hour drive to Moab, I installed the fork, popped out the standard quick-release spacers on my CrossMax XL wheels, slipped in the through-axle adapters and installed the front wheel with RockShox’s Maxle quick-release through axle. After dodging a full chamber of technical bullets, I was ready to join our little group and hit some of the best riding in the world.

While my report four weeks ago from the 2005 SRAM/RockShox ride camp covers most of the technical bases with the Pike and Reba line, I’d like to reiterate my assertion that RockShox’s Motion Control is quickly becoming my favorite “stable platform” damping system.

In that last report, I wrote favorably about RockShox’s simple, yet effective method of eliminating unwanted bobbing, which still allows the fork to “break away” under predetermined forces, and I caught quite a bit of flak from readers and my fellow co-workers for being overzealous. One marketing director from a competing suspension manufacturer scolded me, saying: “Andrew, you’re always so impressionable when you go to these press camps. You always write favorable things about new products.”

Say what you will – I stand by what I wrote. RockShox’s Motion Control damping is easier to use and makes a more noticeable difference than any other stable-platform damping system I’ve ridden. No air pumps, no air-chamber adjustments, and totally trail-side adjustable. All these features won me over when I first rode the technology four weeks ago, and continued to impress me over the weekend.

A rider can tune the performance of the fork while riding, from fully active to fully locked-out and everywhere in between. Don’t like or need a stable platform? Turn the adjuster knob all the way off. Want to sprint a bit, and don’t want a bobbing fork, but still want it to operate over larger hits? No problem. Just tune the Motion Control platform to a medium setting, and there you go.

I’ll note that the fork I’ve been riding is very close to full production, but not quite there yet, so I can make no claims about durability or true production quality. But if the 100,000th Pike rides close to the version I have, I’ll remain impressed. Only time will tell.

* * *
While visiting the Fruita Fat Tire Festival on our way back to Denver, I picked up a copy of the Grand Junction newspaper, The Daily Sentinel. Surprisingly, it bore festival coverage on the front page. And in a story headlined, “Gunnison Streak Continues at Fat Tire Festival,” Jason Groves provided an relatively candid report on the “subculture” of single-speed mountain bikers.

Until now, I’ve kept my mouth shut regarding my feelings about these characters, but I wanted to share a quote from one of the single-speeders that I feel best describes up the inexplicable (to me) phenomenon that has become single-speed racing.

Single-speeder Keith Benedetto sums up the prime mentality of this growing legion of male and female racers, categorized solely on their decision to run a single speed. “All of the single speeders are usually hanging out together, there is a lot of camaraderie there,” Benedetto said. “The beauty of single speed is that you can’t go wrong. If you’re slow, you can say you’re on a single speed.”

And that’s my point: “If you’re slow, you can say you’re on a single speed.” There’s nothing wrong with riding or racing on a single-speed (I’ve been beaten by many a one-geared rider). But designating a separate class for these racers is a huge cop-out. If you want to race a single-speed, do it in your regular class, against the rest of us geared folk. Technology is no reason to designate a separate category – to me, it’s just a handy excuse for a poor performance. Age, sex, racing ability (even a rider’s weight) are all valid reasons for designating a specific class. Leave the technical stipulations to the Sports Car Club of America.