Posts in the category Interviews

Suspension Setup Series #3: Set Compression & Rebound to Maximize Traction

Bikerumor how to set up your mountain bike suspension guide for maximum performance - rebound and compression damping tips

In Part One, we discussed sag, which puts your suspension in the right position, setting the stage for good performance. In Part Two, we talked about low speed compression and the various “platform” settings available on modern forks and shocks, recommending you try them wide open to fully utilize all that R&D that went into them in the first place.

For Part Three, we’ve once again turned to Duncan Riffle (Rockshox PR manager & 2x U.S. DH Champ), Mark Fitzsimmons (Fox’s pro athlete suspension tuner), Eric Porter (veteran pro mountain biker, Manitou test athlete) and Josh Coaplen (Cane Creek’s VP of engineering).

As a quick primer, your compression and rebound circuits control the motion of the suspension by controlling the rate of movement. Without it, you’d basically be riding a pogo stick. They do this by forcing oil through an orifice, and the size of that hole controls the speed at which the oil flows through it. Smaller holes mean slower oil flow, which means more damping. Bigger holes mean less damping, which equals faster movement. There are two types of control over hole size. Usually for low speed, you have a fixed port size with a needle or some other barrel that opens or closes access to that port in steps. High speed compression is typically handled with a spring or shim stack holding a seal over larger ports. With enough force, the shims flex or the spring is compressed and the ports are opened, letting more oil flow through to handle big hits. The strength of the shims/spring dictates the amount of force required to flex them. Your particular fork or shock may operate differently, but the principle is the same: Control oil flow and you control the rate of compression or rebound.

Here’s how to use that to your advantage and help keep the rubber on the trail…


Suspension Setup Series #1 – Set Your Sag Properly

bikerumor guide how to set up mountain bike suspension sag

At virtually every mountain bike and suspension launch we attend, we’re told to simply sit on the bike while someone slides the “fun-o-meter” ring to the base of the fork or shock, then we hop off and see where it lies. If it’s in the ballpark, we gear up and head out, fiddling with the settings as we ride.

Recently, I had some time with Rockshox brand ambassador and SRAM MTB marketing manager Duncan Riffle, who also happens to be a 2x U.S. National Downhill Champ and former World Cup DH competitor, so we discussed the finer points of suspension set up. The result is this 6-part series, with additional input from Manitou’s Eric Porter, who’s raced professionally in XC/DH/DS/DJ over the past 11 years, and Mark Fitzsimmons, Fox Racing Shox’s race program manager and pro athlete suspension tuner. As you’ll see throughout the multi-part story, there’s quite an art to getting it all dialed, but when you do, it’s pure magic on the trail.

So, ready to rethink everything about how your suspension is set up? Good. We’ll start with sag, which is the amount of travel your suspension moves through just by adding your own weight (body, clothes, pack, etc.) to the bike. This puts the suspension into an active state, letting it react in both directions, keeping your tire glued to the dirt. To get it right, there are two things to consider: Rider position and amount of sag. We’ll start with properly positioning yourself on the bike so that sag is set based on your actual riding.

But first, make sure your fork and shock both have their compression damping set to their fully Open/Descend positions, then hop on the bike…


Road to NAHBS 2014: Argonaut Gets on the Gravel


We’ve been following Argonaut’s Ben Farver since his launch, with an in depth look at how they make the bikes and a full review of the gorgeous road bike. Now, after dialing in the process further, he’s launching his second model and we’re stoked to see it jumping on all the right bandwagons.

BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?

BEN: Carbon fiber, with aluminum and titanium dropouts.

BIKERUMOR: What’s new with your company since NAHBS last year?

BEN: Oh man… so much! We’ve even further refined and developed our layup patterns to more accurately and specifically meet customer’s needs. We’ve also developed what I’m calling a gravel racer. The gravel racer is a variation on our current road bike, but with disc brakes and slightly more stable geometry.


Road to NAHBS 2014: BME Design’s Wicked Nighthawk Stealth Fighter Road Bike & More!


Editor’s note: This is a guest post, written by a friend of the builder, so it’s a bit of a different format than our usual Road to NAHBS. We’ve paraphrased and edited it slightly for length, but the spirit of the article remains intact. We like it because it provides a bit of insight into what many small builders go through to not only build the amazing bikes we feature here, but what it takes (especially for foreign brands) to ramp up then stop work to travel for the show. Big thanks to Peter Kortvel for the submission, and James D. Shepperd for writing it. Enjoy!

Most of Bikerumor’s readers are familiar with NAHBS, the North American Handmade Bike Show, center of gravity for the burgeoning handbuilt movement. What they may not know is how these builders prepare for this annual coming out. Writing as an amateur builder and enabler of other lunatic builders, painters and cyclists, I wanted to take this opportunity to share what goes on in a builder’s head when he commits to showing his work to 8,000 people in a weekend.

Building custom frames for a living is no easy feat. Marrying the skills needed to build appealing, durable and safe bikes is hard enough. Add to that artisanal skills, marketing know-how, accounting and negotiation, and you will start to appreciate how much is involved in bringing the custom bike of your dreams to reality.

In the last few hundred hours of work and worry before the show, builder Brano Meres of BME Design is making an even more demanding journey to bring his bikes to NAHBS and to the world. Based in Bratislava, Slovakia – a former industrial hotspot behind the Iron Curtain in what was Czechoslovakia – he is meticulous. He is taking the painful and uncommon for custom builders route of getting all his frames and components tested to EN14764 safety standards.

I asked Brano, why go through the trouble of testing with such small numbers of frames? “Well, since I first started with frame building, I have had much of my joy from innovating new materials and processes that allow them to achieve -I hope- similar tolerances to mainstream materials.”

He is bringing two complete bikes to Charlotte, two types of laminated bamboo frames, and two titanium/carbon frames to NAHBS. All have faced “the rack”…


Road to NAHBS 2014: Retrotec Puts the “Fun” in Enduro


Curtis Inglis is still splitting his talents between his namesake brand and the curvy Retrotec bikes, and this year’s interview is all about the latter. Despite the classic sounding name, his latest creation is all about the current craze in the mountain bike world. Yep, that means enduro!

BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?

INGLIS: I build entirely out of steel.

BIKERUMOR: What’s new with your company since NAHBS last year?

INGLIS: I have been getting more requests for hardtail mountain bikes built around the 140 fork. I have been working on getting the geometry and tube sizing correct to make the bikes sweet. I call all the bikes built around the longer fork with slacker head angle Funduro. I’ll have one at the NAHBS show.


Road to NAHBS 2014: Breadwinner Cycles


Breadwinner Cycles, a collaboration between well know builders Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan, debuted at last year’s NAHBS show with a solid if reasonable range of bikes. While they’re not giving up too much about what’s en route to Charlotte, we did get some teaser pics and a little update on their progress.

BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?

BREADWINNER: We use Columbus steel for all of our builds because of their expertise in metallurgy, consistent quality of finish and range of selection. We believe that Columbus tubes are the highest quality materials available. All our bikes will now come with our proprietary TITO dropouts, which feature durable stainless steel surfaces on wheel, derailleur and brake caliper interfaces to eliminate rust and add to the longevity of our frames. On our performance bikes, we have partnered with ENVE Composites to supply carbon forks. Their innovative design is the gold standard for carbon road forks and they compliment our frames well.


Road to NAHBS 2014: Festka Brings Back European Titanium & Expands Product Range

Festka-Mist-Ti-disc-brake-cyclocross-fabrication-jig  Festka-Mist-Ti-disc-brake-cyclocross-fabrication-bottom-bracket-chainstays-builders

After a quite successful year of growth, we sat down with Festka founders Ondrěj Novotný and Michael Moureček, and new team partner Svatopluk Zatloukal over coffee to catch up with all that has happened in the last year, to talk about their progression at NAHBS, and to see where they are going in the next year. What started out as a quick road to NAHBS feature grew into a pretty deep extended interview, especially about their new projects.

Festka’s made-in-the-Czech-Republic bicycle lines are growing and the company is rapidly expanding into components and clothing. Last year they seemed focused on some extreme eye-catching (or even retina-burning) builds, but let’s take a look at what new things we’ll see from them at this year’s show. Like a new ti ‘cross bike…


Road to NAHBS 2014: Ellis Cycles Sticks to the Classics. And a Fat Bike.

Mike's Fillet Modern Classic road bike during construction.

Mike’s Fillet Modern Classic road bike during construction.

Ellis Cycles founder Dave Wages’ show bikes are often very traditional, but not without a few hidden features. Here, he gives us a peek at his process with build photos from several of his customers’ bikes this past year.

BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?

DAVE: I build steel and stainless steel frames using materials from True Temper, Columbus, Dedacciai, KVA and Reynolds. I love the ability to pick and choose different tube diameters, wall thicknesses and really “tune” the ride of the frame for each individual rider’s needs.

BIKERUMOR: What’s new with your company since NAHBS last year?

DAVE: I’d like to think that I’m one year wiser.


How to break into the cycling industry – Josh Liberles and Bre Rue of New Brand: HiFi Components

Extended Play 39mm Tubular Road Wheels

Recently, new brand HiFi Sound Cycling Components rolled onto the scene.  Their focus is building performance oriented wheels that won’t break the bank.  To do this, HiFi has a Taiwanese partner that helps them source the best rims and components coming out of Asia.  And while specific parts were not identified, they did let us know that there are some US based rims being sourced as well.

The rims are laced to HiFi’s proprietary, in-house designed, hubs using Pillar brand spokes (1420 X-tra for road and 1422 X-tra for MTB).  Most builds are done overseas where the rims are tested, wheels get pre-stressed, and a rigorous QC process is completed.  Once the product arrives stateside, the wheels are then put through another QC process here in Portland to ensure a quality product is delivered.  In the case of US sourced parts, the wheel builds are done here in Portland, OR.  Spokes on these builds vary per the needs of the wheel, but are typically Sapim Laser or something from the DT Swiss lineup.

Roll past the break for more on the brand, their products, and an interview with Josh and Bre.