Rockshox, LaPierre Debut Automatic Electronic Rear Suspension Damping
We’re working on getting more pics. In the meantime, we spoke with Rockshox Product Manager Jeremiah Boobar, who gave us the run down on how it works:
In development for five years at LaPierre, they have a patent on the way the system works but not the physical parts. Rockshox came on board about two years ago to make the shock that would work with their system. It was invented by one of their World Cup racers that did interned with them, and LaPierre paid for the development.
The system works using a computer mounted above the stem on a bracket that has an accelerometer with a display on top. The display isn’t necessary, it only shows the settings. Next is the HBC (Handle Bar Controller), and it has up/down buttons, which let you cycle through auto, lock, medium and open modes. Within those settings, there are five levels of fine tuning available, letting you pick how much of an impact the fork needs to take to go from locked, and whether it leans toward switching to Pedal mode or fully open.
There’s also a central button that cycles through standard cycling computer metrics like speed, average, ride time, etc.
On the fork, there is a second accelerometer mounted on the lowers, placed about where you’d put any cycling computer sensor. Down the line is a two-cell Li-Ion battery with all cables run internally on the frame where possible, which goes into a junction box with a chip that’s placed as close to the rear shock as possible. Why? Because it decreases the amount of power that has to be pushed to the rear shock, which saves battery, and it speeds up response time.
Next, there’s a bottom bracket mounted cadence sensor that reads magnets placed inside the hollow crankarm spindle (SRAM or Shimano, as long as the axle is hollow). The sensor is inside the frame, mounted on the plastic sleeve between the two bearings, and can tell if you’re pedaling forward or backpedaling.
The last piece of the puzzle is a 2013 Monarch RT3 shock with a servo motor replacing the compression knob. All of the aforementioned electronics and sensors turn the compression damping. The interface between the cam and the “poker” inside the shock had a change a bit compared to a standard shock. With this system, it’s changing the damping upwards of 200 times per hour, so they had to make a few parts out of stainless steel to stand up to the additional wear. The rebound knob remains externally (manually) adjustable.
When nothing’s happening, the shock will stay open. As soon as you start pedaling, it’ll want to put the shock into a default “locked out” mode. Based on input from the fork-mounted sensor (ie. how fast it’s hitting bumps and the magnitude of the bump), it’ll open the shock to either Pedal mode or fully open.
LaPierre’s specifications said the shock needed to be able to react in 0.1 seconds, which is the time it takes an impact to go from the front wheel to the rear wheel at 36km/h. It takes slightly longer to go from open to lock because of gas pressures, but only slightly. The system also reads rebound speed. So, if you jump or huck off something, it’ll see that you’ve completely extended the shock and switch it to fully open to take on the landing.
Why not use the Di2 battery? There were three companies involved. The third was Trelock, which developed and built all of the electronics components. The system is patented and owned by the Accell Group, which owns LaPierre, Haibike and Ghost brands. Trelock is a German company that’s best known for bicycle locks, but they have an electronics arm that’s under the radar.
Battery life is 25 hours per charge, and it shuts off automatically to save power. If you run it for 24 hours, it’ll still function for a little while, it’ll just work slower. It takes three hours to fully charge and has a 1000 charge cycle life. If it completely runs out of power or you crash and break part of the system or rip a wire, the shock will stay in the last setting used. If that happens to be locked, there’s a blowoff so you won’t harm the shock if you keep riding it. There’s also a 2.5mm hex bolt on the back of the shock that lets you turn the compression needle manually, too.
Technically, the system can work on any full suspension mountain bike. There are no travel constraints other than what sort of bike will be running a Monarch. There’s a lot of flexibility built into the design, and you’ll see it coming spec’d on 21 different bikes/platforms from Accell’s three brands. There is a lot of work that has to be done on the frame to make the wiring go in the right places. If you want this, plan on buying a complete bike. Boobar says they have no current plans to sell it aftermarket or license the system to others.
“They initially thought it would be an XC race things, but they found that as you got up in the travel range, the benefit increased,” said Boobar. “It’s pretty insane. It’s always in the setting you want. Always. Come into a rough berm and it’s open, then locked as you’re powering out of the corner. It’s crazy how flawlessly it works.”