There’s been a bit of speculation floating around about the electronics on Geoff Kabush’s mountain bikes this year. After a little squish test, some button pushing and a lot of photos, we think we’re getting closer to the truth here.
First, a little background on the speculation: There’s a Shimano Di2 battery on the downtube, and Fox and Shimano have a good working history, so a collaboration wouldn’t be surprising. As for electronics, in 2010 Fox hired Dr. David Batterbee, who in the past created an electronic terrain sensing mountain bike suspension using magnetorheological fluid dampers.
Shimano’s rep said they’re not able to comment, and we haven’t heard back from Fox (we’ll update if we do). Pics and analysis after the break…
First up, the news here is that Kabush’s bike is running an electronic something on both the fork and the shock, and both are controlled by a single lever. Both fork and shock have one wire coming from the battery and one from the controller. This suggests that the Di2 battery is merely there to power the system rather as a matter of convenience. Why develop a battery and mount if there’s one already out there? Of course, it would also be convenient if you were running K-Edge’s Ki2 system or if Shimano develops an electronic MTB group in the future.
The fork itself has very little to show, likely because there’s room inside the stanchion for any brains, servos, etc. The Shock, however, had its system external and the control box was mounted such that a servo motor could rotate a damping valve where the new CTD compression settings lever is. What’s presumably the rebound lever is still there, likely just with an extended rod to make it still work. The knob is the same as what’s on their new shocks, just devoid of graphics. That means it could be for tuning what that box actually does.
Fox’s new suspension line up is built around their new CTD (Climb – Trail – Descend) compression damping. Notice the letters following Float only say CD.
The lever was a rotating bezel between the I-Spec brake/shifter clamp and the grip. It had only two positions, one for each of the two letters on the can. Flipping it back and forth I could hear little motors doing something. My guess is rotating a valve opened or closed, much as you would do if you reached down and turned the knob on the fork crown or flipped the CTD switch.
This could just be an electronic lockout or compression mode switch considering when it was in the “C” mode, it was completely and totally locked. As in my 180+ pounds couldn’t budge it, not even a blowoff. When in “D” mode, the suspension moved.
In this case, even when open Kabush’s suspension barely moved, but he’s a pro and pros like their suspension firm. And Sea Otter’s XC course is about as rough as my sidewalk. Without riding it and taking it off a few drops, there’s no way to tell if there’s more active (ie. computer controlled, terrain sensing) suspension technology hidden in there. It’s certainly possible.
Even if this amounts to nothing more than a glorified compression setting switch, it’s a bazillion times better looking than their mechanical CTD remote. It doesn’t stretch the imagination to think they could add a third “Trail” segment to the electronic switch.
UPDATE: Fox’s PR man Mark Jordan chimed in with the not unexpected statement about not being able to make a statement on prototypes: “FOX is always developing new products through its Racing Application Development (RAD) program. FOX strongly believes that racing provides the best environment for testing and all future product developments go through this program in one form or another. This may expose prototype products to the public before we are ready to communicate about them.”
What do you think?