One would expect
that a brand founded upon the simplicity of a traditional steel hardtail and a single-speed drivetrain would define innovation and progressive design within the same framework, like their Gates Carbon Drive cog belt system, a Pinion gearbox, or perhaps a carbon frame. So, the likelihood that Spot would show up at the first bike show of the season with a 150-millimeter-travel trail bike, sporting 27.5-inch wheels, a novel rear suspension design, and state-of-the-art carbon construction is so much of a quantum leap that it made me wonder if they had bargained their souls to the devil in exchange for the most badass trail bike they had ever seen. That stuff actually happens.
Meet the Rollik 557 Details:
• Purpose: trail / all-mountain
• Construction: carbon front and rear, Boost 148 spacing, threaded BB, internal control routing, "Living Link" suspension
• Travel: 150mm (R), 160mm, (F)
• Shock: Fox Float EVOL Kashima
• Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3, Boost 110 spacing
• Derailleur: Shimano side-swing direct mount or one-by option for front
• Bottle mount on down tube
• Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC
• Sizes: small, medium, large and x-large
• Colors: Red accents or natural carbon
• Weight: NA
• MSRP: $6499 USD complete, $2999 frame and shock
• Contact: Spot Brand Bicycles
Turns out, Spot's Rollik 557 came into this world because a number of the folks who work at Spot wanted a longer travel trail bike that could rock the downs near their home in Golden, Colorado. They selfishly designed it to maximize their enjoyment, and in Colorado that means, in addition to descending technical, high-speed trails that often run longer than an hour - it has to climb very, very well. To justify those conflicting goals, Spot chose a novel rear suspension, designed by Avid Brake founder Wayne Lumpkin and adapted for Spot by Andy Emanuel. Called "Living Link," it is a modified dual-link four-bar configuration, with a stiff carbon leaf spring inserted where we would normally find the lower rocker.
Reportedly, the stiff carbon flexure boosts the suspension's spring rate both positively and negatively at exactly the right time to enhance the bike's suspension performance, and its Fox shock has been tuned to compensate for that. In addition, the carbon leaf spring sits parallel with the chain, so it can eliminate the effects of chain tension on the suspension's action without adversely affecting pedaling performance. To help get our heads around the Living Link's action, Spot furnished us with an animated GIF.
The Living Link is not a pure leaf spring, though. For reasons unexplained, it is rigidly fixed to the triangulated swingarm, but is allowed to hinge freely on a ball-bearing pivot where it attaches to the frame's seat tube. There is a noticeable amount of chain growth as the suspension is compressed, which is in keeping with the suspension's instant center, which hovers above the bottom bracket axle near the top of its 30-tooth chainring and then migrates towards the rear wheel near bottom-out.
I spoke with designer Andy Emanuel at the Sea Otter Classic about the longevity of the Living Link's carbon spring. Andy said that during testing, the flex-link outlasted a number of shocks on its way to three million cycles without signs of failure nor fatigue. "That equates to riding every day for 12 years," said Andy.
The frame and suspension bits are constructed by one of Taiwan's best manufacturers, using a carbon fiber fabric from Sweden called Textreme, which was pioneered by Felt. The wide checkered pattern of Textreme is used to reduce layering and weight where omnidirectional loads are present - which is almost everywhere on a mountain bike's chassis.
"Frame geometry is very progressive," says Andy. "We make the seat angle very steep - up to 76 degrees on the extra-large size - and the top tubes are long. That makes climbing much easier and gives us an advantage on the downhills. Plus, you don't have to switch the suspension on or off to make it pedal well, so the Rollik is very playful, and easy to ride."
Production models will arrive with SRAM's time-honored XX1 eleven-speed drivetrain. Wheels are by Stan's - a longtime partner with Spot, while suspension is split between its RockShox Pike fork and Fox Float EVOL shock. Cockpit items are Race Face up front, with a RockShox Reverb dropper topped by a WTB saddle. It's the kind of build that results when the design team are avid riders.First Impressions
Spot's first crack at a mid-travel trail bike looks impressive. The Rollik 557 has the right manufacturing pedigree, the right numbers and the right build, so if its Living Link rear suspension can deliver as promised, then all that is left is for Spot to convince its ultra-conservative fan base that after nearly two decades of religious adherence to steel hardtails and single-speeds, that revelation is at hand and their salvation has taken the form of a 150-millimeter-travel, carbon fiber framed, dual-suspension bike, with work-of-the-devil 27.5-inch wheels, and patented monkey motion. So, while Spot is busy working on that magic Kool-Aid, we asked them if they would be kind enough to send us a Rollik 557 for a proper review.