Bikes are designed with a series of compromises that are usually aimed at making them good for typical riders in a given category. But individual riders are rarely typical. World Cup racers are constantly trying new links and different geometries. Which is why a cottage industry has sprung up around a number of bikes to provide aftermarket linkages that can dial bikes in for the terrain and rider on it. Back in the day, this often led to long-travel bikes with longer stroke shocks and poorly thought out kinematics and geometries, but things are more refined now. Often an older bike can be updated to a more modern geometry.
With a different link, some suspension designs can be modified to be more favorable for lighter or heavier riders by allowing the use of a different shock tune, different length shock, or a combination of the two. Let's check out a few of the different options out there, what bikes they work on, and what makes them unique. Keep in mind, not all of these are manufacturer-approved and may void a frame's warranty.
BikeYoke and Cascade Components all make suspension links that can be used in place of a bike's factory suspension link, on specific bikes, in order to allow the use of different shocks and to give the rider greater freedom in manipulating the way their bike rides. Orbea and Raaw also have aftermarket links for some of their bikes, we'll touch on those below as well. It's also worth mentioning Specialized's latest Stumpjumper and Stumpjumper ST use different shock hardware and fork travel to achieve different suspension and geometry numbers with the same frame.
make a number of different links that can be used with a variety of bikes in the Specialized family. The company was founded by Stefan Sack who had the notion that there were plenty of riders looking to run different shocks on their Specialized Enduro frames other than the shocks that came stock with a proprietary mounting plug. Since then, the company has developed numerous other products including a dropper post.
The CNC-machined aluminum yoke is available for a number of bike models in Specialized's line including models that are several years old. Currently, BikeYoke makes a link for the Specialized Camber, Enduro, Epic, Stumpjumper, SX Trail, Turbo Kenevo, and Turbo Levo. That's right, you can take the proprietary BRAIN system right off of your $10,500 USD S-Works Epic and bolt a standard shock on.
BikeYoke also make the Modefixxer that replaces the Shapeshifter unit on 2015-2017 Canyon Strives. There are two different links, the DH and PRO version. Both versions remove the remote and cable. The DH is available in one fixed geometry, DH. The PRO allows the adjustment of geometry between DH and XC modes. Both links also offer weight savings over the factory link.
All of the products are designed and tested in Germany and are available on their website for sale. Be sure to consult their manuals and PDF's for proper fit on each specific bike.
Cascade ComponentsCascade Components
manufactures aftermarket links for Santa Cruz's Nomad and Bronson. They also are working on a link for the new Megatower as well, according to their webpage.
Cascade Components' Nomad LT link gives riders a more progressive leverage curve, more travel, and longer chainstays while claiming to maintain stock pedaling characteristics, helpful when running a longer travel fork than stock. This allows for more options with tuning related to bottom-out resistance and small bump sensitivity. The increased progression also helps with bottom-out resistance for more aggressive riding or when running a coil shock.
Nomads can be set up with 190mm of travel via a 230 x 65mm shock or 177mm of travel with the stock 230 x 60mm shock. The link increases chainstay length by 6mm and uses sealed Enduro MAX bearings. It's made of 6061-T6 Aluminum and comes in raw, black, and blue colors.
The Bronson LT link helps manage bottom outs on the bike. The link adds 12% progression over stock and keeps the same pedaling characteristics of the stock Bronson layout while increasing the travel of the bike to 157mm, using the stock 210 x 55mm shock to help balance the bike out when using a 160mm or 170mm fork. The link helps increase small bump sensitivity and drops the bottom bracket height about 2.5mm below the stock low setting on the bike.
The link allows for more shock options and the use of a coil shock, something Santa Cruz do not recommend on the stock bike and provides more clearance for larger diameter shocks, such as the Fox Float X2 can more easily fit in the frame. The shock adds 5mm of chainstay length, is made of 6061-T6 aluminum and is available in raw, black, or clear anodized colors.
RAAW have confronted the conundrum of tuning the suspension for different rider weights head on by designing multiple links for their Madonna bike. Since bikes are designed for riders within a certain weight limit, the suspension works best in the middle of that range. Riders that are above or below that limit are many times working at the extremes of a shock's tuning window and don't always get the best performance out of a bike.
RAWW's Madonna is a 160mm travel bike with a 60mm stroke shock with 20% of progression throughout its travel. That leaves a leverage ratio of 2.67:1 which is good for riders on the lower end of the spectrum but heavier riders typically have to run a lot more pressure in that scenario.
Instead of dealing with less than ideal ranges for certain riders, RAAW decided to go straight to the point and have developed a second rocker link with different geometry designed for riders over 90kg. That link, the Rocker 65, is designed to generate the same 160mm of travel but with 5mm more shock stroke resulting in a lower average leverage ratio of 2.46:1 with 20% progression. This allows a heavier rider, up to 115kg, to use a lower spring rate or air pressure and keep the same anti-squat and anti-rise values.
As of now, all Madonna frame-kits and bikes are equipped with the Rocker 60. The Rocker 65 is available separately for 199.95 Euro including VAT (168.03 Euro w/o VAT for non-EU customers).
It's not aftermarket but also worth mentioning is Orbea's "Rally-On" linkage, recently introduced
as an optional add-on to their Rallon bike.
The new link gives the fifth-generation Rallon a 10mm increase in travel to match the 2020 updates for the bike. The increase to 160mm rear travel also comes with a claimed increase in sensitivity and a more progressive leverage curve that some riders were asking for.
Orbea offers the link so that owners of the pre-2020 Rallon can convert their bikes to match the revised 2020 numbers... pretty great for those who aren't looking to drop a few years worth of car payments on a new bike each season.
The kit sells for $299 USD and comes with two new rocker arms, bearings, a new pivot axle, shock clevis, and hardware. It also gives you a bearing preload tool. The only thing missing to make the Rallon 2020-ready is a 170mm-travel fork but Orbea say it isn't required with the new linkage but hey, if you avoided buying a new bike, what's to keep you from just getting a new fork?
So who did we miss? Are there any other linkage manufacturers out there making World Cup level customizations for weekend warriors?