A little over a year ago, a small Australian company called Dusty Dynamics announced a new product that had home suspension tuners reaching for their credit cards before they'd even finished reading the full details
. Called ShockWiz, it's a pint-sized telemetry unit that's designed to help riders of all ability levels get the most out of their air sprung suspension. It monitors the behavior of a fork or shock over the course of a ride, and then offers tuning suggestions on a smartphone app after the data is gathered.
The invention caught SRAM's attention as well, and the company recently announced that they had acquired the project. Inventor Nigel Wade will remain in charge of the development, and will continue to work on improving and refining the device's hardware and software in conjunction with engineers from Quarq and RockShox. Once the initial orders that came in via Kickstarter are fulfilled (the units will be manufactured at Quarq's factory in South Dakota) there's no concrete timeline for when a SRAM / Quarq branded product will hit the market, but it's possible that we may see something by next summer.
Nigel Wade was at Crankworx Whistler with several prototype devices that he was testing with athletes, including Giant Factory Off-Road's Yoann Barelli and Josh Carlson. The riders went out on a predetermined lap and then returned to the pits where the data could be analyzed via the ShockWiz app. According to Wade, the overall goal behind ShockWiz is to help riders find their “window of happiness” when it comes to suspension settings. Because rider preferences vary, there isn't one perfect setting, but there is relatively small range where a fork or shock will work best, and that's what the ShockWiz is designed to determine. How Does it Work?
The ShockWiz unit monitors the air pressure inside a fork or shock's air chamber during a ride, information that can be used to determine how often the suspension bottoms out, how quickly it's rebounding, and whether or not any unwanted behavior is occurring, such as pogoing or packing up. That information is transmitted to a smartphone, where an app offers suggestions on what steps to take in order to improve the suspension's performance, whether that's by increasing or decreasing the amount of rebound damping, adjusting compression settings, or altering the amount of bottom out resistance.
In the case of Barelli and Carlson, when they came back from their lap, the data showed that both riders' suspension was within that “window of happiness,” which you would hope would be the case when it comes to two professional athletes that have a full-time mechanic ensuring that their bikes are running smoothly. All the same, the ShockWiz did show that there were steps that could be taken to further optimize the suspension, and after a few tweaks Carlson rode away to experiment with the new settings. Yoann wanted to take things a step further, so he decided to let a bunch of air out of his fork, set the rebound as slow as it would go, and back the low speed compression all the way off to see how it felt. Of course, this is the same guy who decided to race A-Line on his cross bike - his methods aren't exactly recommended for mere mortals.
It's easy to see how the ShockWiz could become an invaluable tool for teams to use during pre-season testing, reducing the amount of time it takes to find base settings for the suspension products that arrive prior to the start of race season. The same goes for consumers and shops as well, simplifying a process that to many seems like a dark art.
We'll be keeping tabs on the product as it nears completion, and putting one to the test as soon as possible.