From The Top: Öhlins Racing CEO Henrik Johansson & His Team

Apr 30, 2018
by Ross Bell  




Late last year we took the trip over to Sweden and the outskirts of its capital Stockholm to visit the Öhlins headquarters. As well as getting a behind the scenes look at the factory floor, we took the time to talk to key members of the company, including the CEO and team leaders of the mountain bike department. We grilled them about everything from the company's heritage to their relationship with Specialized and what's to come in the future.




When and where was Öhlins born?


Öhlins was born a little more than 40 years ago in Kenth Öhlin’s father’s workshop. He was doing the suspension for his own own bike and also for his friend’s bike, but at that time it was only motocross. He was not happy with the suspension that was on the bikes at that time so he started to develop his own products and they worked pretty good. From then on friends, competitors, and other guys on the racing circuit wanted to use his products, so that’s where it all started.

So initially it wasn’t a commercial venture?


Yeah, he is a very technical person and also an entrepreneur so he was just not happy, and whenever he is not happy, it doesn’t matter what it is, boating or building houses, he does his own inventions!

In 2007 the main shares in the company were bought back from Yamaha, did that affect the direction of the company?


It’s different being a fully Swedish company, rather than the majority being Japanese. It was much longer to make decisions back in the Yamaha days, but still I think they did a really good job as an owner of this company. They didn’t interfere too much and they still allowed us to be the technology company that had new ideas – I think we had some good years with Yamaha. I think it is of course easier to be by ourselves, we can make decisions in an hour here if it’s needed.

After starting in motocross, what was the next area you expanded in to?


From the rear shocks on the motocross bikes the next step was the front fork. That is where Kenth made his first real invention in turning the front fork upside down, still, when you consider Öhlins many people think of the upside down fork. Then later every competitor also turned it upside down. The next step was road racing of course, street bikes, and specifically sport bikes in the series which is called MotoGP today, as well as superbikes. That was the same: a rear shock and front fork were developed. Then in the late 80s we started with automotive as well, mainly focusing on racing like Formula racing, saloon car racing, touring cars, then later also with rally and rallycross. Since then we basically cover every vehicle that has a need for rear suspension in the area of racing… ATV, snowmobiles, motocross, enduro, Formula 1, rallycross, everything… Then only 5 years ago we started to look into mountain biking, so that is pretty new to us!

Ohlins Racing
Ohlins Racing

Öhlins’ race pedigree and championships success is clear to see, are the products aimed at championship or market success? Or do they both go hand in hand anyway?


The racetrack for us is the development area. That's where we can test new ideas and where we can fine tune new products. Where we can tune the vehicles together with the customers. Then when we get the fantastic new technology we can move into aftermarket and later to OEM, but also we have new ideas that never develop into anything. We see the race track as the development ground for us. Then of course when we win world championships people read about it and we make a stronger and stronger brand, then it also becomes a part of our marketing.

How ‘factory’ are your products? For example, could I buy the same suspension that Rossi and Marquez are racing Moto GP on?


More or less, yes. More or less yes I would say. The same thinking, the same valving, the same idea, but maybe not the same materials. If we have a carbon fibre front fork, we would never sell that after market. If we use magnesium parts on the race shock, we would probably have aluminium on the production shocks. But the same performance and basic ideas would be the same on what you buy.

Öhlins was involved in the design of the Cane Creek Double Barrel shocks – was that the company’s first foray into mountain biking?


That was more like a consultant type of job. They came to us and asked for support and we did it, and charged for the development time. Then for some years, they paid us a license for that technology. Actually, we did mountain bike way before that, I think 15 years ago. That was limited production and I think that was with SCOTT who wanted us to develop a rear shock for downhill. We took our smallest motorcycle shock and put it on that bike, that was actually probably the first. That was a long time ago! Then maybe Cane Creek, but already quite soon after that I met personally with the guys from Specialized over in Taiwan. We were already sourcing parts from this factory, then I met with Mike McAndrews and some other guys from Specialized. Then we had the first meeting here in Sweden, that must be 5 or 6 years ago, they flew in with their team during Euro Bike and then we started to discuss...

Ohlins Racing

Talking of that exclusivity with Specialized, what have you gained as a brand from them?


A lot. When we started we knew basically nothing about mountain biking. They have taught us everything about the market, the kind of racing, the usage of the bike, the customer requirements, the customer expectations, the geometry of different bicycles... It’s been essential for us to have a partner like them because we believe they are one of the really top companies in the field. They have very good in-house skills that when having an exclusive relationship, they can open up and explain to us, and we can open up and explain to them because we have agreements taking care of this, non-disclosure agreements, etc. I think it creates a very open atmosphere between the two companies.

In terms of OEM you are sole partners with Specialized, you don’t partner anyone else?


Correct.

Is that not quite limiting for you guys?


Yeah you could think so, but I mean if you look at only Specialized, the number of bikes they sell per year is huge, and for sure it is big enough for us. I mean we haven’t even started to look into the bigger volumes yet.

So with your current production levels the exclusivity with Specialised suits you well?


Yeah.

Ohlins TTX 22

Would you look to expand into more OEM in the future?


We still have many, many years of exclusivity to Specialized to come. So for the time being, no. But in the aftermarket we are still open to do what we like with the models we have to sell.

You were talking about electronically controlled suspension a little earlier, how is that progressing?


It is available, I would say if you look at the overall market, the electronic suspension has been on passenger cars for 20 years already. It has been on motorcycles for 10 years, and now we’ve started to see some systems on mountain bikes. We are not overly impressed by what’s out there, and we don’t want to release anything if we are not happy. We have just started to think about that, but for sure we will have electronic systems in the future. That’s for sure.

So that will come across to mountain biking you think?


I’m quite sure. I think it will start maybe with e-bikes because they already have the battery power onboard, and they have all the wiring done and everything, so I think that is where you are going to see it first most probably. You have the shifting already on road bikes and MTBs, so for sure, you will see it happening there. We have ideas and have first sketches done but it’s not far into any program from our side yet.

Ohlins

What is your biggest product market?


Right now in this factory, it’s obviously motorcycles. Our biggest customer is Ducati and it has been for probably the last 10 years. There are many others, Yamaha, Honda, BMW, Aprilia, Triumph. We cover pretty much all the high-end market. But then we have a second office in Sweden 3 hours south from here, and they do semi-active suspension which is a growing business where it is actually as big as the motorcycling side. That is only for automotive, so far.

Where does mtb sit in comparison to that?


It’s still less than 10% of our turnover, but the potential is for it to become half of our turnover when we do everything right and we cover all the different areas. We began to scratch a little bit at enduro and maybe advanced trails and a little bit downhill, but cross country we didn’t start to attack yet… That’s coming up for a 3 year period.

So you’ll be looking into cross country in the future?


Yeah, for sure, when we feel like we have the knowledge and the technology.

How much crossover can you take from say mountain biking to rally or MotoGP?


More than you would believe actually. So this Twintube Technology that was originally developed for road racing, it’s downscaled in terms of sizes, dimensions, and weight, but it is really the same thinking behind it, but it’s a whole set of new parameters, new valves and new components basically. But the overall idea of how to set up a vehicle is pretty much the same actually.

Ohlins Racing

What is your approach to sponsorship? I had heard you don’t sponsor teams or riders in terms of money or product?


We never sponsor anything I would say… Apart from maybe a charity. For our race teams, our racing partners, they would always pay the cost for the product and service they like to use. Then it’s not a profitable business, but we try to get back our cost. The idea is to have a plus and minus zero situation for all racing. Some years we succeed, some years maybe not.

Does that hold true for mountain biking as well? It’s probably a very different approach to any other sport…


In mountain biking it’s special for us to start with because we have exactly one customer. We have an exclusivity agreement with Specialized, so in part of the contract with them we are not allowed to race with other brands, and we will not race with other brands. It’s part of the overall contract. They get exclusivity with us, and we obviously get other things from them.

Ohlins

What are some of Öhlins highlights and achievements that stand in your mind from over the years? Is there anything specific that comes to mind?


We have set so many footprints for being such a small company, we are still only around 300 employees. Still we manage to have deliveries to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, Specialized. It says something about our product because it’s not the cheapest in the world, but we really think our knowledge makes our customer products become better. That is what they see in our brand, and that is what is so fantastic. No matter if it’s a race car, motorbike, or mountain bike, we can, together with the customer, make the vehicle better. Still as a private person or together with your workshop you are able to tune your product, you can disassemble it, open it up, change oil, change settings, do maintenance… We still get products back from the 70s that people like to get serviced.

You still have the facilities to do that?


We have ways to support those old guys so to say! We don’t have the spare parts from the 70s but we have a modular system so we can replace it with something similar. At the end of the day they are happy.

What does the future hold for Öhlins? Are there any exciting plans you can share?


I think what you will see in both motorcycle, automotive and in mountain bike is electronic suspension moving in. It is starting now. With motorcycles we already have different systems, with automotive we have sold 10 million units off this semi-active valve. The next generation valve is what I’m going to present in Shanghai, and that is also to start with in the automotive industry but the same little valve can be used for motorcycles as well as mountain bikes. That is the big revolution for us I would say, then you will probably see us in more and more areas of mountain biking in the coming 5 years, which is really exciting for us.





bigquotesI’ve been involved with Öhlins for as long as I can remember. The reason for that is my old man was one of the very first riders using the Öhlins shocks. He was a professional motocross rider racing GPs and when he stopped in 1978 he started working for Kenth. First in his bike shop, but then he got production manager at the time, I think. I would’ve been 10 years old at the time running around Dad’s office and terrorising people! When I got a little bit older I worked there during the holidays, when I got off school and sat there stamping gas caps. 2000 of them, I got some money and a t-shirt, and was pumped about it! Then I started racing motocross myself. I always had a good relationship with the company, I had friends working here, and worked here extra sometimes. Then in June 1999, Mads who is in charge of the MotoGP department was also in charge of the motocross racing department. He called me and said, “hey, it’s time to come home and work now.” I started the first of September '99, and just got thrown into the motocross Grand Prix circuit. In the winter between 2000 and 2001 I went to the US and worked for 4 months starting up a supercross team that was using the Öhlins product, taking care of that. Then mountain biking started growing and I had been involved a little bit with mountain biking as we also had an effort in the US with MotoConcepts and Mike Alesi and all that, so I was going back and forth and I went to a couple of mountain bike tests with Specialized and thought it was pretty cool, something new. I worked together with Mitch Ropelato at the time and Brad Benedict, it was mainly those two initially. Then it came to a crossroad, we said we were going to split up – the off-road block needs to go back to its own entity and we need to keep growing. I felt like maybe it was time for a change, that was 3 years ago.Terje Hansen





bigquotesMy father used to own 2 bike shops and I’ve been biking for as long as I can remember, biking to kindergarten and school. I started riding dirt and street more serious when I was 12 years old, now I’m 31 so that’s almost 20 years ago! I always wanted to be some kind of engineer and then I ended up here, it was always a dream to work with bikes but it wasn’t something I was actually aiming for. Öhlins started doing mtb products 5 years ago, I applied for the job and got it. I’ve been here since then. I started off as a mechanical engineer in the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, then I worked for ABB doing calculations and simulations for a couple of years, then I ended up here. I was the first guy to be hired solely for mtb, then I started working with the TTX 22M, our first rear shock, the coil one. I worked on that for a couple of years then I ended up working on forks and became the team leader half a year ago.Erik Walterson

The RXF 34 and 36 are already out there on the market, but you’ve been developing the downhill fork with the Specialized team last season - how has that process been?


Erik Walterson - Yeah we’ve been racing with Loic and the team, it started around a year ago or so [as of October 2017] with the first tests, we’ve been racing those all season. This fork has been way more race orientated, not so much focusing on production things but finding performance. So it’s quite different compared to working on the 34 and 36, now we are working with low volumes and dedicated to 3 riders and spending a lot more time testing and optimising for racing.

Loic Bruni s mechanic Jack Roure making everything s mm perfect after giving Loic s demo the Ohlins gold touch.

What has the rider’s feedback been like to work with?


Erik Walterson - We are working with the Gravity Team and they arrange all their own things, so we provide them with material and we have done some testing with them but mostly they do their own testing and come with feedback.

Terje Hansen - We already had the rear shock, it was a few bits and pieces that we swapped for racing, the front fork was a brand new product. Something we didn’t have. Erik at the same time was at home taking care of his second kid, so I was calling him and harassing him saying ‘we need that and we need this, you need to design that’... Together with the other front fork engineers they did a tremendous job, I bet no one has come up with a downhill front fork that quick. It’s almost unreal. We took off to Italy after the World Champs, we had 6 prototypes… It was down to the wire! This whole racing effort has taken a lot of time, I’ve been trying to go to as many races as I can myself just to get an understanding of what it’s all about and try to get a clear picture of what needs to be done. I think we now have a very good picture for the future, I’m a strong believer in the more work you have done before you come to the races, is going to be a key factor for success. Don’t fool around too much. To be able to make that happen you have to have the right people around you, and that comes from all the engineers here and the right teams out there. That’s very important.

With the engineering here in Sweden and the manufacturing in Taiwan, how difficult is that in terms of feedback and getting what you want with the time difference and potential language barrier?


Terje Hansen - It’s tough for Erik and the boys, it’s designed and all that here in Sweden, but they have a lot of experience down there as all mountain bike suspension is built in Taiwan. Everything.

Erik Walterson - Yeah it’s always a challenge, but it’s a challenge with Swedish manufacturers as well. Language is one thing, but really getting a manufacturer to understand our demands which are really high compared to other mechanical products. But as Terje said, they’ve been building mtb products in Taiwan for the last 20 years. They are the best in the business. You still need to control everything, with a lot of work on quality control, keeping everything the way we want it.

In terms of bringing that downhill fork to the market, is there any timescale on that at the moment?


Erik Walterson - Not at the moment, we are just focusing on racing. Supplying the Gravity Team with the forks they need from our side, and the other guys are working with the rear shocks.

Terje Hansen - I would say we came into the market at the worst possible time. I mean the industry was booming, no question about it. Everything was changing. It was 26” wheels for years. Then it went into 29ers, we came in at that time, at the same time it was going 29 boost, 27.5, and then this and that and what’s happened now in the last year is the tire manufacturers have gone wide. The fat bikes, plus tires, boost front, boost rear, non-boost, boost bars, metric… it’s crazy.

Erik Walterson - Yeah it’s constant change, the rear shock is one thing which you can adjust pretty easily, the length and the mountings. With the fork, you always end up with a really expensive lower, the tooling costs a lot of money and takes a long time. So that’s always a challenge, as well as trying to understand what the market will do in the next few years. In the same way, when we are always complaining about the industry changing, I remember 15 years ago when I was riding some Santa Cruz Bullit which weighed like 40 pounds… It wasn’t that fun, so change is good, at least for the rider!

Gold Ohlins stanchions aboard Loic Bruni s Demo.

How much satisfaction do you take from the team’s success on Öhlins suspension last season?


Erik Walterson - I don’t know how to explain it, in Australia they raced early in the morning for here in Sweden, I woke up and I had forgotten about the whole thing. I checked up and I was like ‘what the f***?! The first thing I looked at was Finn as I thought he was the safest bet, then I saw Loic won, and Miranda as well. We’d been putting a lot of work in this year with racing, constantly developing at each race, trying to improve everything. Loic had a pretty rough season with injuries and a bit of bad luck, to end up with this is just fantastic. It’s pretty hard to explain.

Terje Hansen - We had Jack and Laurent from the team over in Sweden last year, we sat down and basically Erik took all the notes, a wishlist that Jack had. I wouldn’t say we achieved them all, but I would say that we achieved 90% of it. Of course, I would say it helps to work with guys like that.

How did the relationship with Specialized start?


Terje Hansen - Specialized came to us, they were going to stop their own suspension manufacturing, or I think they had already stopped. They felt there was plenty of space for 1 more competitor out there as far as suspension manufacturers. Plus, they had some ideas, some patent that they wanted to transfer along and they didn’t want to share that with FOX or RockShox because they felt like they might take that technology somewhere else.

Erik Walterson - Also some of the managers in Specialized had a lot of experience from motocross and they saw the gap between performance that exists in motocross compared to mountain bikes and they wanted to bring that performance and experience into the MTB world. That’s why they came to us.

Terje Hansen - Racing was something both us and Specialized wanted to do, the problem that we were having in the past was that the riders themselves had big contracts with suspension suppliers. Like Aaron, he was on a big paycheck from FOX, Troy didn’t have a paycheck from RockShox but had a personal relationship with them, he’d been with Rock Shox since day 1. We wanted to extend that, Brad Benedict was fighting in-house at Specialized, saying that we should go racing a little like what they do in motocross. What the bike comes stock with is what we go racing with. It can be different materials, but it should say the same on the logo or name at least. It was a lot of fighting and pushing and convincing over at Specialized, we had initial meetings in the beginning of last year at Crankworx in Les Gets. We would do a test with the Gravity Team after the World Champs in Italy. That’s when Erik and the team started to jump on the downhill fork. We took some of the experience when it came to clamp designs and so on, Erik was looking around on what we had been doing in different categories here at the company, took the best out of that to transform it into the downhill fork. Lowers and stanchions, lowers it’s no secret that we had to take an existing lower that was already out there because we couldn’t afford to just make our own. Time wise as well – there was no chance we would be able to make a lower in one month. No chance. The team also had some requests that were standing out, like certain axle to crowns that they arranged that was out with of what everybody else was using, so they had more options. They had options also on offsets on the clamps, damping levels was just to preferences.


What was the initial feedback from the test in Val di Sole?


Terje Hansen - The rear shock was spot on, front fork we were dialling a lot with the air spring in it. Not so much setting but different balances on the bike. That was the prototypes, the next batch of forks we’d done a lot of changes.

Have you started working on an XC fork?


Terje Hansen - Maybe we can say that we are still researching… It’s not like we will release something next year or whatever.





bigquotesMy father worked at Saab at the time when they were doing rally in the end of the 70s. I grew up in a motorsport family so I guess from that point it was a set goal for me. I’m going to work in motorsport. In Sweden, there is basically only one company if you want to work in motorsport and that is Öhlins. The goal was maybe not to work at Öhlins but in motorsport, if it was in the UK or wherever. I knew where I wanted to go, so that was my goal since I started. I chose University, I chose the course, everything was dictated to go to motorsport. It didn’t matter if it was aerodynamics, engines, suspension. I just want to work with racing cars, I did a lot of racing myself when I was at university. I started working at a consultancy firm where the boss was doing a lot of rallycross design, but after a couple of weeks, I got the Öhlins job and I’ve been here since, that was 2002 I started. I’d been working with rally cars or off-road racing cars since then, it’d been from grassroots level up to WRC with Prodrive, the Mini and the Subaru rally cars, being on the top level down to the local rally team here.Johan Jarl


When was it you came across to the mountain bike side of things?


Johan Jarl - I started riding mountain bikes when I was quite old. I started riding mountain bikes when I was 35 years old. Then I thought, okay, I’ve been doing this rally stuff for over 10 years and now we are starting up mountain biking so it’s time to try something else… I’d been doing everything in rally and off-road racing so now it’s time to try something else.

It sounds like the introduction of the mountain bike side to Öhlins offered fresh opportunities to quite a few people inside the company?


Johan Jarl - Yeah there are a few of us who had been here for a long time. It’s been an opportunity to hand pick the background from the experienced engineers, okay we need this to form this team, but also there have been a lot of new recruits coming in. We need these type of skills, it’s quite a rare opportunity to build up something new, ‘we need this CAD genius, we need this calculations guy’, etc. I think we have formed quite a strong group right now.

Ohlins Racing
Ohlins Racing

How have you found it working to the demands of mountain biking compared to rally cars?


Johan Jarl - There are definitely similarities, although I would say the rear shock is very similar to motocross, but the motocross shock is also used as a rear shock in a lot of rally cars or rallycross cars. I would say in terms of damping performance and damping requirements it is very similar between motocross and mountain bike shock absorbers. The basics are there. You are looking at response, adjustability, and so on. You always have these specific things that you need to design to cope with what the industry or what the vehicle needs. In mountain biking you tend to reduce a lot of that because it needs to be so light for instance. A mountain bike shock is fairly simple when you look into the many systems we have, position sensitive damping systems, we have frequency dampers – a lot of sensitive damping functions related to certain kind of inputs. With the old system, not metric, the old length versus stroke system, there was simply no room to exploit those types of damping technologies. Now with metric systems, you have a lot more space internally. So that opens up possibilities which we will look into, to take I would say known Öhlins technology and put it into the mountain bike shock. That is something I hope we will work on with the race team during this year. If Specialized comes with new bikes which are a little longer in terms of shock versus stroke because that has been a limiting factor. It’s definitely getting better, the metric system is quite a big advantage for the shock absorber manufacturers to get some more available space to make it a little bit more robust. The difference on the mountain bike compared to motocross is the amount of sideloads put into the shock, a car or motocross bike is much more rigid, when it flexes it doesn’t put the load into the shock in the same way. A lot of mountain bikes are designed so the shock is actually part of the structural stiffness, and that is something hard to handle. Metric gives a little bit more freedom to have a little bit more support. You see it with RockShox, they have a slightly longer bushing overlap and bushing support surfaces and so on. It’s a good thing.

You guys are pretty strong advocates for coil…


Johan Jarl - Yeah I think we all like the performance of the coil and that is also the background where we come from.

Loic has a custom lockout fitted to his Ohlins TTX rear shock to help with that drag race to the line. Clearly it was of help

It’s an interesting talking point at the moment in mountain biking, a lot of enduro riders are going to coil and a lot of downhillers to air?


Terje Hansen - One of the explanations I got was that they can’t get the linkages of the downhill bikes progressive enough. That’s the only reason they have air on there, because they can make it more progressive. I think they sacrifice some of the functions, I know for a fact that Aaron Gwin for instance is not as good, traction, comfort, stability, with air, but at the same time he needs it to bomb into anything. Maybe for Aaron Gwin it doesn’t matter how it feels all the time, it’s just a matter of going from A to B as fast as you can. That’s the only explanation I have.

Johan Jarl - There are solutions but as we said before it hadn’t been possible to add them due to the available space like our hydraulic bump stops that we have in rally cars and motocross. We have different levels of sophisticated systems, but if there had been more room we can for sure improve bottoming resistance quite a bit. That could open up more coil shocks, but I think you are right. Everyone is talking about progressivity which is harder with the coil shock for sure, you see in motocross if they don’t have enough progressivity they need to have the hydraulic bump stops. I think for enduro racing, especially the long runs, it’s definitely an advantage with the coil shock. Coil springs have got lighter, the weight difference depending on what shocks you compare is around 200-250g. I think it is more of a feeling of what you want from your bike rather than the weight. For sure if I go ride our flat trails around here, okay you like the poppy feeling off an air shock, but when you start going down I like the coil shock better. I understand people who like the air shock rather than the coil shock, which can feel a little bit dead sometimes, everything can get too stable, you can have a little bit too much grip, you want to feel alive when you are riding, so I would say from our eyes it’s more what you prefer. If you are not racing I would go for what you like best.

Ohlins Racing

We've seen remote lockouts for coils introduced at the World Cups throughout the year, you had a system for the Specialized team in Cairns – is that something you’d bring to the market?


Johan Jarl - There are a lot of patterns around lockouts. Right now we don’t have a system. To be fair, for sure I can see some racers looking for the last little bit of performance, okay you want it. But for normal riders doing local races I think it’s a bit overkill, I like the clean handlebars and reducing things that can cause issues. We did the one-off for Loic and those guys, something I think Terje discussed with them for the World Champs only, a one-off. To be fair a lot of bikes these days pedal really well, also with a coil shock you have a lot more damping so I would say it pedals better than an air shock if you leave the adjusters in an open mode, you have a lot more damping control in the coil shock so I think it already pedals better. Today we are not working on a lockout system, it’s more for one-off racing options. If we see customer demand that says we really need this to be selling shocks, when marketing demands are high enough you have to maybe revisit. It’s not on the highest priorities.


MENTIONS: @rossbellphoto @cameronmackenzie



117 Comments

  • 82 3
 Love content like this, thanks PB!
  • 13 43
flag pinnityafairy (Apr 30, 2018 at 13:48) (Below Threshold)
 Love the content hate the specialized exclusiveness. Come back Cane Creek.
  • 12 6
 @properp: Ohlins makes shocks and forks for any brand. . . . . Haters gonna hate ! ! !
  • 9 1
 @properp: Öhlins products are available aftermarket. They are just doing development with Spec.
  • 6 0
 @poozank Indeed!

Wonderful read! @brianpark and Mr Bell

I especially like how these guys aren't shy to name other brands and people and give credit where it's due!
It's so corporate and boring when people sidestep questions and beat around the bush.
  • 36 0
 How about asking why there is no Ohlins specced on the new stumpy?
  • 4 0
 yes, this
  • 24 0
 That’s a good question! This interview was conducted before the new Stumpjumper landed. Sorry!
  • 6 0
 I doubt they’re speccing the air stuff on anything for a while.
  • 4 0
 Perhaps it will be specced as a coil option on the Evo? Seems the STX was a bit of shitter, but the TTX has been pretty bulletproof (and it's made in Sweden).
  • 3 1
 Curtis posted images of his new EVO specd with Ohlins coil shock and fork
  • 1 0
 @cheetamike: of course he is running ohlins on all of his bikes ...
  • 26 0
 Two enduro s-works, four blown out STX22 shocks. It rode really well but could just never get them to hold air. Specialized replaced it with a float X2 and I've never looked back.
  • 7 0
 My coil rxf 36s one day just started feeling really hard to compress, so i rang my local BS. Yeah your bushings are knackered common fault with them forks so ohlins are sending me a brand new replacement fork sooooo every rainbow and that.
  • 15 4
 the main problem is with the S enduro frame, not the ohlins. Since the enduros still use the stupid bolt-on shock yoke, side loads are transmitted into the shock body. The X2 might be a bit more durable than the Ohlins, but I guarantee the same thing will eventually happen.
  • 10 0
 The Ohlins air shocks came leaking oil straight out of the box. Let's not even talk about the forks. They are issuing Fox forks as replacements
  • 5 9
flag jeremiahwas (Apr 30, 2018 at 13:18) (Below Threshold)
 I’ve had more than a few enduros and only ever had a problem with the STX. I brought this up to a certain pro racer that said this ‘side-loading’ thing is a non-issue written about in the forums. @hamncheez:
  • 7 6
 @jeremiahwas: it is a problem, doesn’t take a PhD in applied physics to get that. The whole yoke thing is a problem, fixing side thing is 50% of the success though. Not saying STX is worth the money over Fox, it highly probably isn’t.
  • 2 3
 @WAKIdesigns: I’m no pro, just saying what a pro told me. But then, I doubt he’s got a “Phd in applied physics” so what does he know?
  • 6 0
 @jeremiahwas: did he ride for the brand in question?
  • 3 4
 @WAKIdesigns: The same applies to every other Spaz bike then too does it? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the very beefy link and yoke isolates the side loads very well. Talk about blaming the frame for the shocks failings....
  • 6 2
 @headshot: huh? So you didn’t hear about same problem with every single frame from Stumpjumper up? Isn’t demo having even fatter, even stiffer link? You haven’t heard the same about Kona or Commencal? I have. At least to me it is no big news that Fox and RS air shocks take it well while Öhlins and Cane Creek fail repeatedly on Enduros and Demos. It is also no big secret that Öhlins air shock and first iteration of their forks is crap. So don’t accuse me of any agenda here.
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I must have not trolled the net quite as much as you. Missed that. But okay you've just confirmed it has nothing to do with frame flex and rather some problem with CC and Ohlins... Without some actual data I'm afraid your version remains an acute case of internet myth propagation. Take a chill pill and call us in the morning ????
  • 2 1
 @headshot: what? You cherrypick info from what I’ve said. There’s no point for me to explain you anything without holding the thing in my hand. You may though try to rethink the idea that a long rod being inserted into a tube will be more likely to get skewed than a short one. Especially when end of the long rod is well fixed putting all stress on the bushing and the shaft. Whatever. I will be sleeping just fine if 5mln people won’t get it
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns: it's fun cherry picking. I just don't get how RS and Fox have somehow managed to avoid the same failings as Ohlins all the while fitted to the same yokes with the same alleged flex issues. I had a super flexy mono pivot with an old float on it years ago. Hammered it. No issues. Black magic I tell you....
  • 6 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I blew up a monarch plus on my old Enduro. My buddies who all had the double barrel blew up theirs as well. Other acquaintances have blown up monarchs, fox floats, etc. The Ohlins might not have the same durability as Fox or Rockshox, or worse quality control, but the old Specialized bolt-on shock yoke definitely was a poor engineering choice, put tons of extra stress on rear shocks, and guaranteed will destroy any brands shock faster than a traditional mount.
  • 1 2
 @hamncheez: Maybe the facts actually are that shocks sometimes blow up. On all brands with a variety of different mounts. Until you have actual data, your ramblings are just more internet myth making. BTW I had one of the first Enduro's with the X wing frame and yoke. I bent shock bolts and eventually cracked the frame at the BB. No shock issues ever. What does that prove?
  • 2 2
 @headshot: uhm, first off coil shocks have shafts which aren’t as stiff. I don’t hear of Cane Creeks failing in other frames as often as in Demos. I heard of failing TTXs too. I assure you that if you put coil vivid into Enduro or Demo you’ll have the same issue. Öhlins STX is neither a reliable nor performing well enough to live up to the price or company’s reputation. Whatever mate. There is nothing good that can be said about the shock you had in your Enduro other than the fact it didn’t fail due to side load. It failed on every single bump.
  • 2 0
 Yokes are absolute shit on bikes and wear out shocks much faster. The new DPX2 uses a chrome plated steel damper shaft instead of an anodized alloy shaft. Only reason I can figure for this, is how many brands are using yokes. The new canyon was a surprise in my opinion, as the sender uses bushings in the mx linkage to help reduce side load and binding on the shock. Yokes offer an easy solution to dial in suspension rates, while being able to work around the difficult demands of a mountain bike. Mainly, getting the shock into a location that it’s not in the way of frame design, inparticular seat tubes. The most effective rear suspension on ANY bike is going to be the one that has absolutely zero side load and binding on the shock. This is why brands such as ohlins and Bos believe in the orbital eyelets, same as those we used to see on the first CCDB coils. These allow the rear triangle to flex and move independently of the front without binding the shock, causing premature wear and broken shafts (nobody wants a broken shaft). The article about the new pivot 29er dh made me laugh. It specifically referred to the shock as a structural unit in the bike on the previous model. I can’t think of a worse situation to put a shock in...
  • 1 1
 @mountainyj: I suspect that side loads are unavoidable on most vehicles to some extent. The nature of bike suspension means that there will always be a compromise when it comes to stiffness because of weight. That said if the problem with yokes was as terrible as you and the Waki make out then I'm sure that designs using yokes would have disappeared by now. Then again facts always kill a good internet squabble.:-)
  • 2 0
 @headshot: it's not just the side load Facepalm it's, the doubling of the leverage on the bush/shaft from all directions, it's just that until 2019 models, they had a rigid connection yoke/shock so sideloads were magnified. It buckles the shaft more and skews it the bushing inside the sleeve. Yokes are a compromise like anything else, I'm not saying we should get rid of them. They are what they are for a few reasons, but they do increase the likelyhood of a shock getting fkd up. Spec Enduro 29 is my top choice if I was to change the bike now.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Which 2019 models are you talking about? enduro, Stumpy what?
  • 1 0
 @headshot: stumpy 2019 has regular eyelet at the yoke
  • 1 0
 @headshot: Kona scrapped the yoke design on the process with the new generation, because the old one ate shocks....
  • 1 1
 Having a regular eyelet, like the new stumpys and what Ibis does, reduces most side-loading from the shock body, since its turned 90 degrees and can freely pivot laterally.
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez: the issue is that sideload is only a part of the story. If you see where the force is applied in regular layout vs yoke layout, It will still be exposed increased bending force due to increased length of the rod. The shaft is still virtually 2 times as long in case of specialized and almost 3 times the length in case of Ibis Ripmo.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: If you want to get technical, then completely lateral movements of the seatstays with no rotation will put stress on the shock. However, most of the flex/movement is more rotational (its a swingarm, not slidearm) so the yoke can pivot independently from the shock. No doubt a yoke increases the stress on rear shocks, but when done properly I'm not sure its really that much. Many of these manufacturers using a yoke instead of a vertically mounted shock (like what Trek does) do so probably because they do FEA on their frames and find that completely redirecting the forces from rear shock compression requires more weight and material than keeping the force somewhat inline from the seatstays (see below)


scontent.fslc1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t31.0-8/30806234_10214917929649038_9027544181813087455_o.jpg?_nc_cat=0&oh=13af41f3b30937f9897bb8a886372494&oe=5B5CB799

scontent.fslc1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t31.0-8/30821883_10214917929609037_1064583868016095020_o.jpg?_nc_cat=0&oh=142d2d961654b3b976f6963578f7e41a&oe=5B8B23B1
  • 1 0
 @hamncheez: it’s not pivoting laterally in the eyelet because it’s turned 90 degrees. Ibis uses a bolt the same size as the eylet and the bushing is completely removed. If you have rotation here, you’re going to have lots of wear issues. Removing that busing there, and creating as strong and stiff of a junction as possible, seems to help reduce some of the flex and binding you would normally see. Ibis uses bushings instead of bearing on the yoke/seatstay junction also. Our ibis’s Have done ok for a yoke driven bike, but long enough use and lack of service still creates wear on the top side of the shaft in some rear shocks. Kona process used to rub material off of the damper body and eat air can seals. This was probably the worst I’d personally seen on regular occasion, but have seen the same issues on multiple other yoke based bikes as well, especially the previous generation of demo 8s. Any new bike with a metric shock will handle this better due to the larger bushing overlap, but the force still exists. Again, the absolute best performance you can get out of a shock, is by reducing any binding and friction, this allows the shock to do its job properly with the least amount of wear on bushings and seals.
  • 1 0
 @hamncheez: that's why I said that yoke is a compromise like any other.
  • 20 0
 I thought Ohlins would bring a whole new level of performance and professionalism to MTB shocks, but sadly it seems the performance and reliability have been lacking. I had a TTX that worked well for me although I didn't put a ton of hours on it (DH bike) but as a Specialized fanboi I have heard about all the failures of the STX22 including my friend. Seems like the forks have not exactly set the MTB world on fire either. I feel like maybe they are not putting their best efforts forward on it.

Which sets up one of my common rants about how MTB suspension still seems so primitive and consumer level. I have literally see one proper dyno chart of a shock with proper units, once, in a post from Push buried in a thread somewhere. These types of graphs and testing should be common place, as common as the linkage curves we see (ideally they would be frame linkage damping graphs). I mean people are out there trying different oils and re-shimming stuff, and they have no analytical idea of what they have or where they ended up. "Feels a little soft in the mid-stroke" I mean WTF ? Show me, catalog it. The first aftermarket tuning company that actually provides before and after dyno graphs of what they are doing will definitely get my money. Until then its in Craig I trust, but I'd do a whole lot more trusting if I had the data to back it up. CAn you tell I come from a motorsports background where this type of analysis is common even at the amateur level ? My feeling is the companies just don't believe the market will support that kind of tech.
  • 1 0
 Dynos are apparently very expensive... But I agree, it's so subjective otherwise.
  • 1 0
 Vorsprung have released some dyno data on work they have done. One of the axis wasn't labeled however. The reason cited was they didn't want to give that data to competitors if I remember correctly.

m.pinkbike.com/news/new-tractive-luftkappe-tuning-systems-from-vorsprung.html
  • 1 0
 If you buy a spring from sa racing, it comes with a printout of the exact spring curve of that specific spring.
  • 2 0
 @jaame: spring curves are easy, you can do those with a simple press with a pressure gauge and a quick conversion calculation. Dampers need a proper dyno to measure resistance at different shaft speeds etc. It's very expensive.
  • 1 0
 ohlins you were the chosen one
  • 14 1
 Quality control is shocking. Loved my ohlins air shock when it worked but it was not the stroke length it should have been. 6 months later and 3 or 4 returns with shocks coming back with dents in the shaft and damaged parts I gave up. Back to fox. Not as nice a ride but runs without issue. Disappointing when I wanted to be an ohlins fan boy
  • 9 1
 My solution for my STX leaking on the third rebuild was an X2. Thanks Specialized rep!
  • 3 0
 Its like Öhlins is using the same damn factory that Specalized use to produced their own shocks and forks in.....
  • 11 0
 Here you go have an Ö
  • 8 0
 I now feel educated. Having read this waiting in the Dr's office with a broken ankle. It beat the hell out of Golf Digest.
  • 7 0
 "Maybe for Aaron Gwin ...it’s just a matter of going from A to B as fast as you can."
ya think?
  • 1 0
 Ha ha ha yes!
  • 4 0
 In my opinion, mountain biking is the most advanced suspension application, because you want it to do so many things. You don't want it to bob when you pedal, you don't want it to compress when you bunny hop, you don't want it to rebound fast on a big impact, you want small bump sensitivity, or even anticipatory actuation. Mountain biking has it all, and zero products address everything. It's almost even funny, because a solid fork addresses almost as many problems as a suspended one on a mountain bike, it's a very complicated realm where I think suspension manufacturers could prove themselves.
  • 6 0
 Had a Ttx coil on my Carbine 29 for 8 months, no problems, blows the X2 it replaced away. Amazing shock.
  • 3 0
 My new Guerrilla Gravity Smash is going to have one. Get is this week, pretty stoked.
  • 2 0
 Still have the bike and the shock still rocks.
  • 2 0
 Ohlins was just as over-rated in the OEM sport bike world (5 years ago) as they are now in mtb. The OEM stuff back then was absolutely not the same performance of the stuff they made aftermarket. I didn't believe it until my tuner from Computrak showed me the differences.

The real question would be, who decided on the damper tunes for the Specialized bikes? Every reputable review has complained of over damped forks and shocks. What works for Graves and Keene doesn't work for the general riding public.
  • 5 0
 I really like what there doing in the mountain bike world.
  • 12 13
 *They're.
  • 15 1
 Thanks for clarifying that I never would have understood it otherwise
  • 1 0
 @properp: right.
  • 5 1
 @stumpymidget: thank you. If not for people like you, the English language would be right down the toilet that it is already half way down.
  • 6 2
 Can progression really be the reason to use air shocks?I mean you can wind progressive coils too?
  • 2 1
 Why havent we ever seen progressive coils in the mountain bike world, certain levels of progressivity in coil shocks would be the holy grail of spring performance.
  • 1 0
 @Shimanosaint0097: I suppose it could be size constraints?
  • 2 0
 @Racer951: one would think the linkage could be set up with enough progressivity to use coil. I mean, the new Capra for example is said to be less progressive than the last one, because most of those customers use the air shocks that come with the bikes. If you can make it less progressive, you can make it more progressive, right?
  • 1 0
 @jaame: There are advantages to both progressive and linear leverage curves but the option to achieve either through the use of a range of progressive rear shock springs would achieve the riders ideal curve with a coil shock on any bike.
  • 1 0
 @Shimanosaint0097: how do progressive springs work anyway? Is OT a spring inside a spring, or variable gauge wire?
  • 4 0
 @jaame: I was on about progresssive springs, not progressive linkages - I believe progressive springs use variable gauge 'wire' as you say which may pose a packaging issue for smaller bicycle springs to actually be effective.

In terms of progression on rear suspension - most just dont need lots of it, Gwin rides at a speed so far apart from the average 'enduro' rider that you may as not bother making the connection at all. Suspension designers design a linear system out of choice as that is what feels nice for the majority rather than having a bike that you do not have access to the last 1/4 of travel, they also design around air springs which is the other big reason - they are lighter and more tuneable and they are what people want to buy.

I personally dont know anyone running a coil on a non-dh bike, the tracks just dont require it round here, we dont have 10min descents available to heat up that air can etc.
  • 2 0
 @Shimanosaint0097: yes we have...Diverse Manufacturing (DSP) used to offer them for shocks. Progressive Springs offered them for forks. Race Only is still offering them for forks. Do you want a variable rate, or a dual rate. How much progression do you want, percentage wise. One bike for instance, a GT Fury, would need a much higher level of progression than say a Tues. how do you determine how much you need? How does a brand work around this? Do they offer multiple levels of progression in different rates? Now their inventory just went up exponentially. A fork is easy, it’s a consistent 1:1 ratio.
Mrp is offering a progressive spring option with their rear shocks as of this year.
We used to see bottom out adjust on Fox and Zocchi back in the day. The issue here is, A: you’re reducing the volume behind the IFP, this creates more pressure on the oil, resulting in more bottom out resistance. It also means more pressure on the shocks seals. B: increase the pressure behind the IFP. Again higher seal pressures, also more pressure on the IFP and a higher break away force, so less sensitivity.
The EXT ARMA is intriguing as it has an adjustable Hydraulic bottom out feature, no idea how it works persoanlly, as I’ve never gotten to play with one.
X Fusion had a proto with an adjustable dual chamber IFP that was supposed to do something similar, talk about complicated though.
Now that we have metric shocks and trunion gaining popularity, maybe it will allow manufactures a little more room to work in a bottom out feature into the shock body.
The only other way I see it happening personally is something external similar to the Push ACS-3 which is basically a pneumatic bottom out design from Offroad racing, trophy trucks. It would have to be something the frame manufactured around though, or a very complex, and expensive shock.
  • 1 0
 @mountainyj: all very good.
Do those Diverse Manufacturing (DSP) guys do progressive springs for Ohlins?
  • 2 0
 @Shimanosaint0097: I haven’t seen any bike springs from them in years. See if they make a comeback.

Just had another thought though in regards to progression. Possibly stepping away from the thought of progressive springs and more towards progressive damping. While you’re still increasing oil pressures in this case, I believe it’s less than changing the IFP. In Offroad shocks there are bypass tubes and internal bypass in some cases. These work in a similar way to current knob adjustments we know on our bikes. But where our current method controls the same level of damping through the entire stroke if the shock. Bypass’s allow for position dependent damping. Basically the first 2/3(example) of travel would have a softer damping coefficient. At the last 1/3, the bypass would be closed off by the piston passing the port and closing it. This would increase the amount of damping in the shock in a controllable manner, allowing for a “progressive” feeling. I’m guessing the ext works in this way some how.
  • 1 0
 @mountainyj: mmmm yer, damn I'd like to find a progressive spring for an ohlins though
  • 1 0
 @Shimanosaint0097: I’d say to look around for an old diverse spring for a cane creek. Think Doerfling used to run them. That will (should) fit a TTX
  • 1 0
 @mountainyj: I'll have a look mate
  • 6 5
 From the top to the flop ! 6 months i am riding with Ohlins rxf 36 and Ttt22, 2 times serviced , not working good at all, no sensibility in the ttx22 even by changing the spring 4 times to find one quite ok .. and now the fork, what a joke seriously, just experiment something on my last race, stage 1 fork was perfectly fine , Start stage 2 and it's hard like a piece of wood after 30 sec. The fork and the shock just come back from service and i have been waiting 1 month for a bad service !!!!! now i a gonna sell my specialized because i am sick of this stupid suspension and don't want to spend any money to buy an other system to have an other shock ! Thank you Ohlins for this bad service
  • 1 0
 Don't speak negativity about your bike or you won't be able to sell it!
  • 1 0
 I d love to understand how they sponsor Nico Vink without paying him.
I get the deal with Specialized as it is 2 ways (comp is an investment from Ohlins but they get it back when selling the shocks for stock bikes) but don t get hiw it works for personal sponsorhip.
  • 12 9
 I appears Specialized has locked Ohlins in a long term exclusive agreement.........good for Specialized bad for Ohlins
  • 16 0
 Why? You can still buy the products aftermarket.
  • 14 0
 if Ohlins didnt have an exclusive agreement with specialized they wouldnt be where they are at now, specialized have propelled ohlins onto mtb scene, when that contracts over im sure plenty of other brands are gunna want to partner up with them.
  • 2 3
 @jclnv: Because OEM is locked out.......$$$$$ they're leaving on the table. That's real market share!
  • 5 0
 How can you call it exclusive when you can by an Öhlins shock for many different bikes?
  • 2 1
 @stumpymidget: I think they are talking about OEM (comes on the new bike from the factory) is Specialized only - they can still sell aftermarket to individuals.
  • 6 1
 They didn't talk about all those defective shocks and forks. That's why you don't see them on the new 2019 Stumpjumpers.
  • 1 3
 @rivercitycycles: Ohlins is really small in terms of production and I'm not even sure that they would sell more than currently if they could.
They ever were a race-oriented company and their biggest customer is Ducatti, which is a quite small company, and all the Ducati bikes don't even have Ohlins elements...
So if they sign this agreement with specialized, that's probably because it fitted them well. You can trust Ohlins, their lawiers and market analyst probably do their advisory job.
  • 4 2
 Same pictures and similar content that the november 8th 2017 post...
"Inside Öhlins Racing - Swedish Suspension Specialists"

Why is PB remixing content?
  • 5 0
 That was a look inside their HQ (we link it at the top of the article), and some of those photos were relevant to these interviews too. We felt that the insights from these guys deserved a separate story.
  • 1 0
 @jaredgraves Being one of the best riders around. Have you noticed a drastic improvement since using Ohlins ?
Very intrigued to see if the top 3 are much of a muchness or they stand out in their own little areas.
  • 2 1
 Yamaha seperated from Ohlins in 2007?
That would probably help explain the abysmal rear shock on my 2008 Yamaha WR250R....
  • 3 2
 Blame Ohlins. . . . Don’t blame KYB for sure!
  • 3 2
 @MX298: I'm blaming Yamaha! A Pro-Flex elastomer shock would probably work better than the KYB POS they spec'ed...now back to our regularly scheduled PB comments Smile
  • 3 1
 That fleck paint job on the speshi - very nice, indeed.
  • 3 3
 I have been waiting 3 years for there to be an ohlins dh fork. what the f*ck?!?!?! once they put the ohlins fork out, im sure the performance will surpass the new boxxer.
  • 3 0
 Have you tryed the Ohlins cartridge for the fox 40’s?
  • 2 0
 This is really great stuff......thanks Pinkbike!
  • 1 0
 Doesn't Ohlins sponsor Adam Brayton? In the article it says they only work with Specialized for mtb racing.
  • 3 0
 Nope Ohlins doesn't do any sponsoring they clearly stated that in their business policy,teams & pro riders pay big bucks to use their product.
  • 4 0
 They should sponsor him after how he took that first corner in Losinj. Watch the replay, it is sick. Luca Shaw destroyed it, also.
  • 2 0
 @CaliCol: as far as I know, being a hope sponsored athlete, big Ad is free to use any parts he chooses as long as hope does not make said part.
  • 2 0
 RXF 36 coil in a 27.5" Non-boost, please...
  • 1 0
 Well they do all but the boost part...
  • 1 0
 @ChazzMichaelMichaels: I could use a boost adapter but the only coil version I’ve seen is for 29”/27.5 plus...
  • 1 0
 @DrPete: It was announced at Sea Otter. I'm not sure when it will be available but it's now on the US website but the not the euro
www.ohlins.com/product/rxf-36-27-5-coil-front-fork
  • 3 1
 Dejavu ...
  • 1 1
 so the old Noleen shock was made by Ohlins? okay I admit I skimmed the text...
  • 1 0
 Really honest interview!
Thanks Öhlins
  • 1 2
 "They get exclusivity with us, and we obviously get other things from them... ...people like to get serviced."
  • 2 3
 Henrik: Det var inte SCOTT, det var CyclePro som hade motorcykelbakdämparen på sin downhill ram, Octagon DH.
  • 2 6
flag bonkywonky (Apr 30, 2018 at 12:24) (Below Threshold)
 En nu in het Engels, koekebakker.
  • 2 1
 @bonkywonky:
Niet zo moeilijk te vertalen voor een nederlandr, toch?
"Het was niet Scott maar CyclePro, enkele hadden moto achtervering zoals op hun DH, de Octagon." Geen dank!
  • 2 6
flag WAKIdesigns (Apr 30, 2018 at 14:50) (Below Threshold)
 Hasselhoge aus Cyclepro niejgen bultenschmal inn havs mojn af geiranger mal guden. Ja, om dejd vore fur einman vohre det brag
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