Taken to the extreme, every aspect of your bike's geometry and suspension could be adjustable. Telescoping tubes, hinged steerers, slotted dropouts and eccentric bottom brackets are past innovations. Suspension flip chips, sliding shock mounts and offset bushings are nothing new, nor are forks with variable offset and travel options. You could buy a mountain bike based solely upon your favorite components, color, and frame material of the moment without sweating the numbers. Imagine, for instance, the Specialized Enduro of the future:
Once assembled with the wheel diameters you've selected, setting up your Specialized Enduro PGSHT (Personalized Geometry & Suspension Harmonizing Technology) would ensure perfection.
You'd need only to enter your size, weight and your assumed level of radness into the PGSHT smartphone app, then follow its baseline recommendations. Pair the PGSHT app with Strava and you'd get periodic coaching metrics to improve your Enduro P's geometry and suspension kinematics based upon data learned from riders who are significantly faster than you.
Rocky Mountain's Ride 9 chip offers nine adjustments that affect suspension kinematics and geometry.
Liteville 601's forward shock mount can be adjusted fore and aft to alter its geometry or adapt different shocks.
Doubt Medication and a Great Sales Tool
Somewhat closer to reality is that adjustable suspension and geometry devices are a form of mechanical medication. Self doubt sells. "Should I stick with what I know best, or should I buy into an emerging trend?" It's human nature to straddle the fence. That's why sliver SUVs are so popular.
Flip chips are powerful anti-anxiety pills for finicky customers and a wonderful sales tool for bike brands. "If you don't like long, low and slack, you can always return to familiar territory." Adjustable features assure timid buyers that expensive mountain bike purchase will be future proof.
Flip chips allow bike brands to avoid risk of being first adopters. Geometry adjustments let bike makers lag safely behind the long low and slack curve until the movement had gathered enough momentum to eliminate financial risks. Not pointing fingers, but there's some conspicuous names proudly waving that flag today who missed the wedding.Once You Know, You Don't Need It
"Pro racers are constantly changing their setups, right?" True that, but they're surrounded by experts and searching for one or two seconds from a bike that is near perfect. That's not us.
Granting the power to adjust your chassis doesn't automatically empower you to get it right. Candid conversations with bike demo technicians and and pro suspension tuners suggest that, while many riders have a working knowledge that can get their bikes in the ballpark, relatively few possess an accurate and comprehensive understanding of proper suspension tuning and bike setup.
Those who score in that top ten percentile are also capable of choosing a bike with the correct suspension and geometry to suit their riding styles. They don't need flip chips. The rest of us probably have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right so, providing the bike maker has a competent engineering staff, an argument could also be made that the absence of chassis adjustments would guarantee better than average performance.
"Less-is-more" and "simpler is better" are becoming keynote marketing phrases. Bikes are pretty good across the board. Both trends suggest that the next wave of performance improvements may be strategies to reduce the complexity of our technology, while extending the useful range of the mountain bike's handling and suspension. Less dials and more smiles. That said, today's poll asks: