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Tech Report: SRAM looks toward 2008

Last year, SRAM’s RockShox brand debuted a line of new long-travel single-crown suspension forks capable of competing with the market’s best. But at the same time SRAM admitted that it did not have the industry’s best-in-class rear-suspension components, especially after Fox Racing Shox introduced its RP23 air shock in 2006. This is what you call motivation. SRAM got busy, digging down deep into its BlackBox program. And at Sea Otter, program manager Jeremiah Boobar showed what had been unearthed: a 1998 BlackBox four-way coil-over rear shock that was ridden to two World Cup overall titles.

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By Matt Pacocha

The Vivid long-travel, coil-over rear shock

The Vivid long-travel, coil-over rear shock

Photo: SRAM

Last year, SRAM’s RockShox brand debuted a line of new long-travel single-crown suspension forks capable of competing with the market’s best. But at the same time SRAM admitted that it did not have the industry’s best-in-class rear-suspension components, especially after Fox Racing Shox introduced its RP23 air shock in 2006.

This is what you call motivation.

SRAM got busy, digging down deep into its BlackBox program. And at Sea Otter, program manager Jeremiah Boobar showed what had been unearthed: a 1998 BlackBox four-way coil-over rear shock that was ridden to two World Cup overall titles. This venerable component, with its four adjustments — both high- and low-speed rebound and compression circuits — served as the inspiration for Vivid, RockShox’s new production long-travel, coil-over rear shock.

Durability was SRAM’s No. 1 focus in designing Vivid. The size of the one-piece damper body was increased to fit the largest possible O-rings, and an oversized seal head bushing takes the majority of the load off the anodized aluminum damper shaft.

The new shock is also shop-serviceable to encourage regular maintenance, an uncommon attribute among high-end downhill dampers.

As for adjustment, Vivid has only what’s needed: low-speed compression, beginning stroke rebound and end stroke rebound. SRAM’s engineers say that its rebound adjustments have a more profound effect on overall ride quality than a high- and low-speed compression adjustment.

The shock also has three interchangeable bottom-out bumpers called Drop Stop pads that can be used to fine-tune the bottom-out feel in the last 20 percent of the stroke, separate from the damper.

“We created a feature set which is narrowed down and focused so that the rider only has the adjustments that they really need to make the bike feel better and none of the adjustments that are confusing and leave the rider with a poor-feeling bicycle,” said Boobar.

Steve Peat and Sam Hill both raced on the latest version of Vivid in the Sea Otter Classic’s downhill.

Meet the Monarch
Also new is Monarch, RockShox’s rear air shock. Its major goal was to intertwine pedaling efficiency with smooth, seamless bump compliance. It’s not aimed directly at the cross-country market; none of Monarch’s four different models come with a lockout. But it does come in sizes that fit full-suspension cross-country race bikes. It also comes in sizes that will readily accommodate bikes with up to 160mm of travel.

While weight varies with size, Monarch’s target weight in the shorter-stroke models is 200 grams, putting it on the low end of the weight range for rear shocks.

The Monarch 4.2, RockShox’s high-end rear air shock

Photo: SRAM

Monarch relies on a new Solo Air spring adopted from Solo Air fork technology. With Solo Air both the positive and negative air chambers fill simultaneously through a new swiveling air valve. Pressure is automatically balanced between the two chambers. This makes for a quicker and easier initial air-spring setup.

The best “Why didn’t we think of that?” feature is the anodized gradient marks on the damper shaft. The marks delineate where 10-, 20- and 30-percent sag is, eliminating the need for an O-ring and ruler to set up a rider’s sag.

The shock will have two air-can volumes, standard and oversized; this is to accommodate the vast span of bike types and travel ranges. The larger-volume sleeve gives longer-travel bikes a more linear feel throughout their travel. The compression damper is also new.

“It’s important to know that it’s not actually a motion-control system in the compression damper,” said Greg Herbold, SRAM spokesman and test rider.

“We have parallel compression circuits. That allows us to push oil through two different zones for low- and high-speed compression instead of forcing all of the oil through a low-speed zone, which then affects the high-speed zone. It also has a two-speed or dual-rebound circuit similar to what we’ve done in the Lyric and the Totem.”

The Monarch comes in four versions. The most basic is the 2.1, with only a rebound adjustment. The 3.1 has rebound and a dial platform adjuster. The 3.3 has rebound plus a three-position compression adjustment: full open, medium platform and firm platform. The top model, the 4.2, has an on-off platform switch with a dial platform adjuster plus rebound.

The new damper has yet to be named, but SRAM plans to have a name and production models in the market by mid-summer. The suggested retail range will be $210 for the 2.1 to $350 for the 4.2.

But wait, there’s more!
In other SRAM news:

X.0 rear derailleur: The company celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, and to commemorate the date, it updated its X.0 rear derailleur.

“This was the first product that helped re-establish SRAM as a performance brand,” said Ron Ritzler, SRAM’s road product manager. “Our goal at the time was to spare no expense and make the best derailleur in terms of weight, performance and durability. For this year we’ve changed the technology that makes up the cage.”

The new X.0 rear derailleur has a cage modeled after the Force road rear derailleur and will be able to accommodate the new BlackBox ceramic pulleys (the older style X.0 derailleurs will not).

The outer half of the pulley cage is made from carbon fiber, but the inner half has been replaced with 7000-series aluminum. The update is said to bring stiffness to the lower cage along with more chain control. SRAM also claims that the impact strength of the cage has been increased by five times over the previous all carbon version.

The new hybrid carbon cage will also be found on the long-cage X.0 derailleur. Historically only the short and medium cage lengths were made with carbon. An outside vendor made the old composite cages, while the new design relies completely on SRAM’s own carbon technology.

The Noir, in single-speed with chain guard

The Noir, in single-speed with chain guard

Photo: SRAM

The B-bolt is anodized gold and laser-etched with the 20th anniversary logo. Regardless of cage length chosen, the new X.0 rear derailleur will cost $230.

Truvativ cranks: Truvativ’s carbon crank with a unidirectional (UD) finish, Noir, will now be available in a single-speed configuration for the coming year. It comes with a 32-tooth chainring without shift ramps and a CNC-machined carbon-fiber outer guard with a UD finish to match the crank’s arms. Its weight is said to be 730 grams in a 175mm length with a GXP bottom bracket.

The Stylo 3.3 Team crank is Truvativ’s workhorse crank. It has been redesigned for 2008 to match the updated X.9 group. The crank uses a GXP bottom bracket and can be upgraded to SRAM’s new BlackBox ceramic GXP mountain bike bottom bracket.

Forged from 7050 alloy with 7075 T-6 alloy rings, the crank is said to be 10 percent stiffer than the previous version. It will be available in 170mm and 175mm lengths and with single-speed and double-ring bash guard equipped all-mountain versions. The triple chainring 3.3 Team weighs 890 grams with a bottom bracket and costs $180.

Juicy's carbon lever

Juicy’s carbon lever

Photo: SRAM

Avid brakes: SRAM’s brake brand, Avid, put its line of Juicy brakes on a diet. The goal was to trim every Juicy model to less than 400 grams.

The Juicy Ultimate, released last year, was already well under, but will receive an aluminum backed pad, losing roughly 10 more grams per wheel. The Carbon, Seven and Five have lost 30, 25 and 20 grams, respectively due to a redesigned lever body and slight caliper refinements. Juicy Carbon loses even more due to its use of Juicy Ultimate’s carbon lever.

All of the brakes upgrade to DOT 5.1 brake fluid giving them a much greater resistance to heat during extended braking sessions. DOT 4 and 5.1 fluid is fully interchangeable, so older brakes can be upgraded.

“DOT 5.1 boils about three times later than DOT 4,” said Paul Kantor, Avid’s product manager. “So if a Juicy boiled at, say, 300 seconds, a Juicy with 5.1 boils at closer to 900 seconds.

“One of the reasons we use DOT fluid is that it’s regulated by the Department of Transportation and the minimum wet and dry boiling points of all DOT fluid are very highly regulated. There are three or four manufacturers of DOT fluid in the world despite the various options you may see in the auto parts store.”

The Code 5 caliper

The Code 5 caliper

Photo: SRAM

The Code downhill brake has also been put on a diet. Its new magnesium lever body drops 60 grams per wheel. And SRAM’s gravity brake gets a baby brother for the coming season. The new Code 5 brake pairs Code’s four-pot caliper with a Juicy Five lever. The brake comes with 160mm, 185mm and 203mm rotor options and only weighs about 10 grams more than Code per wheel.

What Code 5 gives up is the lever technology found in the original; it doesn’t have the no-tools reach adjust or breakaway lever design. Depending on the rotor size Code 5’s price ranges from $153-$160.

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