Walking around the show, it’s easy to spot obvious trends. But we talked to product managers, brand ambassadors, and the marketing folks at hundreds of companies over the four days of Eurobike to get the real scoop on what’s coming for suspension in 2018 and 2019…

SHORTER OFFSET FORKS

Photo is of the dropouts, but most suspension fork offset changes are made at the crown because that’s far less expensive than casting an all-new lower.

Offset changes are coming from bikes like the new Transition Sentinel and Specialized Epic. They run longer top tubes with reduced fork offset. That keeps the wheelbase at a reasonable length, but it can increase trail and wheel flop at the extremes of cornering. Quicker handling off the top, though, but you’ve got to stay on top of it the sharper you turn. X-Fusion’s people say this means brands will have to manufacture more fork options, which can mean consumer confusion when it comes time for upgrades. And for smaller brands like them, it means more SKUs as they follow Fox and Rockshox.

29er forks typically have about 51mm offset, and 27.5 have about 46mm offset. And 26″ forks are around 42mm. Now, says X-Fusion’s rep, we’re looking at 27.5″ forks with <40mm offsets. The concern with changing it means we’re taking 20+ years of mountain bike handling refinement and throwing it out the window, sort of. So, there’ll be a learning curve as to what works best, but no brand wants to be caught off trend, so it’s likely that many more will be jumping on the long reach/short offset bandwagon.

Fox says it’s a trend that’s coming from OEM customers (aka “bike brands”), and that they’re definitely seeing more demand. They’d offered both a 44mm and 51mm offset for their 32 and 34 29er forks, but now they even offer it on the 36. Around 64° head angle is where you might run into to too much flop, but that is highly dependent on BB height, how much angles changes when sagged, and all the rest of the geometry. So you can’t just look at a head angle and offset and say a bike will or won’t work.

Our take: You can’t stop progress, and there’s no doubt bikes keep getting better, but it makes a test ride all that much more important. Especially considering a lot of brands’ bikes are really dialed for their company’s local terrain, but your conditions may be wildly different.

MORE COIL SHOCKS

Cane Creek Helm Coil prototype, High and Low Compression knobs

Did you notice coil shocks and forks are making a come back? Both Cane Creek and MRP launched new coil versions of their forks, and PUSH recently introduced a conversion kit for Fox forks, letting you turn your 36 into a coil sprung unit.

More than a few bike product managers talked about returning to coil rear shocks for upcoming longer travel travel bikes. Properly setup with the correct spring weights, it’s hard for air shocks to match their supple and bottomless feel or to be able to offer the same performance for a comparable price tag.

ALT DRIVETRAIN SUSPENSION

Thanks to market growth for gear boxes (like Pinion) and internally geared hub updates from the likes of Shimano, Rohloff & others we’ve started spotting full suspension bikes getting the alt drivetrain treatment. We talked with some folks from Gates and they have been working with bike makers to figure out way to get the low maintenance benefits of belt drives on some suspension bikes. This prototype Nicolai takes advantage of the lower belt tension requirements of Gates’ Centertrack (with a tensioner pulley) and is a bike we look forward to getting to ride in a couple weeks at the Outdoor Demo in Bootleg Canyon.

GRAVEL & ALL-ROAD SUSPENSION

We already hit on suspension for gravel bikes yesterday, but it bears repeating. Suspension is popping up on more gravel and all-road bikes. Lauf’s leaf spring forks have been a big part of making that more visible (as was Cannondale’s Lefty-equipped Slate even earlier), but big companies like Specialized with their hidden Future Shock tech Roubaix and of course Fox with the short travel AX gravel fork seem to suggest that this trend is only growing.

CARGO BIKES!

We thought full suspension gravel bikes were crazy. That is until we saw the full suspension cargo bike. Riese & Muller’s new Load e-cargo bike (yes, we managed to sneak an e-bike into this trends post after all) debuted in the spring, but this was our first chance to see them in person. Now we kinda want to get one for a test and see how it does on our Prague cobblestones, and maybe some dirt roads! Why not, amiright?

…AND KEEP YOUR EYES OUT FOR:

Kross Earth prototype carbon 29er 100mm full-suspension XC XCO cross-country race mountain bike Made in Europe rear end

Word is, Trunnion mount shocks are taking over OEM conversations. They offer a bit more room for longer stroke shocks, more damping system volume, or a slightly more compact package for tight fits, making them a versatile frame design tool without sacrificing performance.

And DVO says they’re getting requests for a compression adjust (aka lockout) remote for downhill forks. Yes, downhill. Why? So riders can make the most of out-of-the-gate sprints and flat sections between the trees. Seconds count, incremental gains, and all that…


This post works as our semi-weekly Suspension Tech series, where we explore one small suspension tech, tuning or product topic at a time. Check out past posts here. Got a question you want answered? Email us. Want your brand or product featured? We can do that, too.

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25 COMMENTS

    • Yes, because its similar to how when I buy a Tesla Model S it is, all told, the same as a 19th century electric car. No improvements or refinements whatsoever.

      Coil suspension feels great, especially with today’s dampers. Maybe more expensive to tune initially, but after the spring rate is dialed its very good and the spring side becomes maintenance free.

      Bikes get lighter and more capable. I see no issue trading the weight saved on carbon wheels and hi-end drivetrains for a coil fork if one’s riding style/terrain benefited.

      • “Yes, because its similar to how when I buy a Tesla Model S it is, all told, the same as a 19th century electric car. No improvements or refinements whatsoever.”

        Ummm no and the analogy is completely off the mark. They should NEVER have gone away. That they did was because the marketing departments came up with a different flavour of Kool-Aid for the kiddies to drink.

        And remember, it’s only the cycling industry that like to reinvent everything, every year or two.

      • Jbikes, I think you missed the point. Refinements aren’t the same as invention.

        Coil suspension has always been better than air. Is there any product besides bikes that seriously uses air suspension as a “superior” model of suspension?

        New dampers, that actually function as advertised? Those are definitely great improvements to the technology that is suspension. Most of those improvements came to aide air springs in the effort to make them feel more like a coil. Triple air chambers, Trek’s DRCV, volume altering “chips”, etc. all made to produce a more coil like feel from air.

        These “improvements” and the whole of the air spring mythos is what the industry was selling. Air springs, like many of the more recent technologies in bikes had nothing to do with providing a better experience and everything to do with reducing manufacturing costs, selling product, and streamlining the purchasing experience.

        We were sold that air springs were “lighter” and more “adjustable”. They are definitely slightly lighter. Who actually cares about that? How many people riding a 30lb bike are clamoring for a 29.75lb bike? The “adjustable” part is so that suspension manufacturers, bike companies, and bike shops don’t have to create and keep a large spectrum of coil springs on hand, and change them to suit the rider. It was just easier to have one air spring that anyone could ride, even if it rode like crap.

        Is a Tesla any better than a 19th century electric car? Yeah, but not because there is something different today about DC power than there ever was. It’s the battery technology that allows these cars to be what they are. Even back then, people understood what could be. You think HDTV was invented in the 90s?

        • Nicely said Sawtooth. The only, and I do mean only downside to the 55 I have (which is an OEM coil/air that didn’t really get spec’d that season) is that they are heavy. But on the 6″ bike, that’s not light, their weight is offset buy their performance and insane stiffness.

          All air was and remains a sham for all the reasons you mentioned, as well as understanding all too well they were marketing to people who really knew nothing about the subject for the most part. As @dypeterc said, motos use coils exclusively, from the bottom of the market, all the way to the very top. There’s a reason for that….

        • I don’t disagree. I may have misread Eleven’s comment…thinking they were stating this was a waste as coil forks were old tech and didn’t work.

          • …as in why go back to them since they (are perceived) as old and/or cheap. i.e. why go back to electric cars with horrible range, no roof and wooden wagon wheels…

            Many people will perceive a coil fork as the cheap option. High-end non-DH coil forks will help change that, although I can see people complaining that don’t understand a new spring is needed to properly tune the fork as opposed to a simple air pressure change

            • Well, it’ll be interesting to see the BS the marketing guys come up this time with to sell coil over all the air spring BS they’ve been telling people until now. I don’t disagree that there will the perception that a coil will be ‘cheaper’, simply because they’ve spent so much time telling people air is the, *ahem*, high-end option.

              Talk about digging yourself a hole.

        • Problem is you can never walk into a bike shop and just buy a coil spring. No sane shop will stock several weights of several manufacturers several lines of springs.
          So you will always be on a way out of tune fork.

          • This problem exists with all ‘non-standard’ parts in the bike industry, which is nearly every part on a bicycle today. So, if your local shop is primarily a ‘road’ oriented shop, you’re lucky if you can find 3 different 29er tires for example, because that’s not their target customer. So not utilizing a technology on a particular bike ‘because the local shop won’t carry it’ is now less of a concern than ever before for a bike company. If a shop needs a part it’s only 3 or 4 days away, which for most customers is fine.

  1. I can see coil making a comeback. Motorcycles strictly use coil sprung suspension. In fact, Rockshox should convert the RS-1 to coil and make it the most stiction-free fork out there.

  2. “…but it makes a test ride all that much more important.”

    I think this is the key to this entire article.

    People don’t test ride properly. They do the bounce test in the shop, ride the bike of a curb, then buy it. Then a week later they go online and complain about how Bike Brand Model sucks, and that they would love to put a Fox 36 with 180mm of travel on their XC hardtail, “to make it a little more plush, braaah.”

    Like politics today, it’s the people who yell nonsense over the rational whisperers who get the attention. The people who are dialed on their bikes don’t go online; only the loud, uninformed consumers who can’t make a proper purchasing decision are the ones who turn the industry dial, so to speak.

    That’s why 27.5″ came along: Enough people who didn’t know what they were talking about started yelling really loudly about a problem they had no idea how to define.

  3. FS cargo bikes make a lot of sense for pinch flat avoidance alone. But only if they either have a crazy firm spring or a mechanism to quickly adjust per load weight changes.

    Love seeing a belt driven, gearboxed FS (from Nicolai, who would’ve guessed!? /sarcasm). I’ve been dreaming of such for years. Make that Pinion a CVT with enough range to climb trail and the future has arrived. I’m more than willing to give up some efficiency and gain some weight for a smooth, silent, and low maintenance FS.

  4. Changing the offset to less is super ideal. The horrible slack front angles coming out of manufacturers lately is frustrating to all but beginners. Slow steering equals not fun and zaps energy over long rides. This is a step in the right direction to get back some handling.

    • Yeah, I think the same. Moreover a 150+ single crown forks with ha of 64-65 (on trail bikes lol) is going to flex less with reduced offset.
      People should be educated on bike geometry and understand that trail is more important than head angle… but try to came out with a 68 ha nowadays and your hope for big sales is gone.

  5. The problem with air forks is the air seals requiring constant maintenance in order to keep sensitivity decent.
    Formula figured a solution, I think they call it ITS or something along these lines, and my 35 has been running like new out of the box for the past year. Without any service. It also has coil for the initial travel and it is the lightest of them all. And the easiest to service. They also offered the fork with shorter offset from three years ago.
    Unfortunately formula usa does not seem to understand how to sell products… this stuff has been around for a long time and there are only two online store selling them.

  6. I can also see coil making a comeback as bikes and components get lighter.
    It’s been a struggle for suspension manufactures to mimic the plushness of coil suspension by air alone.
    Even motocross and off road suspension companies like Showa KYB…have developed air forks only to later revert back to coil.

  7. Hey Bikerumor,
    Really nice job with these trends summaries from EB17. It lets people stay up to date with market segments they care about, with reading just one article.

What do you think?