The Resurgence of High Pivot Suspension Design

Jul 4, 2018
by Paul Aston  



Bikes with a high main pivot and an idler pulley have had success throughout the years, but have never truly broken into the mainstream. We're used to seeing FSR, VPP, traditional single pivot, and DW link configurations on the podium, with high pivot bikes not consistently featuring at the pointy end of the world cup downhill pack. But, recently there's been a resurgence of the design.

The bike of the moment is the Commencal Supreme that, under a young and relatively unknown Amaury Pierron, has won the last two World Cup rounds. There's also Myriam Nicole, who has taken a 1st and two 2nd placings in 2018, along with first-year junior, and another Frenchie, Thibaut Daprela netting the same results. So the high pivot Supreme is the most successful bike this year so far, leading elite men, elite women, and second overall for the junior men on the World Cup circuit.

Is it just rider talent, some luck, and good team management on Commencal's part? Or are we seeing a truly faster suspension system reemerge?

Adding to the high main pivot hype, Norco recently released their Aurum HSP (High Single Pivot) bike with an idler pulley, and Sam Blenkinsop has since had some great results. Reportedly, after riding George Brannigan's Commencal a few years ago, Blenki wanted something similar to race on. This kicked off some experimenting with an idler pulley attached to the standard Aurum to tune the bike's anti-squat characteristics, and after a year of prototyping and relentless spy shots, the Aurum HSP is here.
Norco Aurum
The Aurum HSP is a beauty in the flesh. Testing is underway...


Commencal Supreme SX review


What is a high pivot bike, and why?

Most suspension bikes have their main pivot located somewhere around the top of the chainring, including many linkage bikes that have a virtual main pivot passes through a similar place near the top of the chainring.

Depending on the exact placement of the pivots and links, this could mean that a bike performs relatively neutrally when pedaling, braking, and hitting bumps. This is generally the preference for many companies, as it allows designers to tune kinematics for predictable, inoffensive, all around performance.

High pivot bikes have a physical pivot, or instant center, much higher than the top of the chainring.
YT Capra
The YT Capra is a good example of a traditional main pivot location, siting slightly below the chainring.

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The Canyon Sender has a low main pivot location on a four bar layout.
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The Commencal Supreme SX has a high main pivot location.


A high pivot can create a rearward path at the axle, which, in theory, allows the rear wheel to more easily move away from, and then over, an obstacle. The high pivot position, however, leads to a lot of chain growth as the axle moves away from the chainring, which will cause a lot of pedal kickback. This is when the cassette sprockets move away from the chainring and the cranks are pulled backward as the chain is put under tension, a trait that can keep the suspension from doing its job freely.

But there is a solution - the simple addition of an idler pulley close to the pivot point that routes the chain up and over it. High pivot bikes equipped with idlers have characteristics that are unique: the lack of chain growth, along with the rearward axle path, allows the wheel to float over bumps in a very different way than other designs. The downsides can be poor pedaling performance, extra drivetrain complication, and high anti-rise values that essentially pull the suspension down into the travel and affect the sensitivity of the suspension. This anti-rise, in particular, is a love-hate characteristic. Some moan about it locking out the suspension, but generally I prefer the way it conserves the geometry of the bike when braking on steep downhills - this negative can also be 'out ridden' in certain ways, which I will get to in a future article.

High main pivot designs can, in fact, tune the characteristics of anti-squat, anti-rise, etc., by changing the location of the idler. Commencal has been seen playing with this at recent World Cups races by lowering the idler below the main pivot, a change that would provide more anti-squat (and also more pedal kickback).


A young Danny Hart on an Appalache Real, albeit in Balfa kit.
A young Danny Hart on an Appalache Real, albeit in Balfa kit.


High pivot history

So, Commencal has the bike of the moment, but the theory is nothing new. Let's take a look back over the last twenty years to see the movers and the shakers in the high pivot world.

bigquotesThere is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope.Mark Twain

VProcess / 2000 - This version of the V-Process bike had a high single pivot and idler. Oliver Bossard (bottom left) of BOS fame and Nico Vouilloz developed a new bike each year that was focused on winning on the World Championship track; the other events didn't matter as much to them. Sierra Nevada was fast and loose but had a lot of pedaling as seen in this video. Coincidentally, 2000 was the only year Nico didn't win World Champs (he flatted) between 1995 and 2002, before retiring.

2004 Balfa BB7 size Large
Balfa BB7 / 2004 - The BB7 was between a young Danny Hart's legs as his career kickstarted and he went on to win tons of races around the world. Some versions had a floating brake arm to neutralize the anti-rise of the high pivot. It had a chunky aluminum front-end for rigidity, but a steel rear-end was employed for added compliance and reliability.

 FRAME Brooklyn Machine Works TMX Green Black w Avalanche DHS 3.0 x 9.0 AVA 450 FORK Marzocchi Shiver 2005 Black WHEELS 24 rear 26 front Doublewide Green rims laced to Hope Pro4 hubs w DT Swiss Supercomp spokes black and black brass nipples TIRES Nokian Gazzy 24 x 3.0R 26 x 3.0F BRAKES Magura Gustav M SHIFTER Shimano Zee 10 R DER Shimano Zee 10 Rear Derailleur green pulley CASSETTE Shimano10 speed 11-28 Cassette CHAIN KMC 11s DLC Black Green KMC Kool Knight CRANKSET Profile Racing LHD CHAINRING Ody MDS2 28t BOTTOM BRACKET Profile Racing SEATPOST Thomson Elite SEATPOST CLAMP Woodman Deathgrip Black SADDLE SDG Circuit black green GRIPS SDG green BMW endcaps BAR BMW Doc No Cross black STEM BMW Black HEADSET Chris King Black CABLES amp HOUSING Jaguar L3 black PEDALS BMW Veggie Burger Top Tube pad Roach Black
Brooklyn Machine Works / 2005 - I have next to no idea what Brooklyn Machine Works actually did when it comes to model names, travel numbers or any stats. What I do know, however, is that they did a lot of mental shit, used a load of chains, loads of steel, and they all weighed loads, too. People loved them, and somehow Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D was involved.

Trek Session 10 / 2006 - Trek's mid-aughts behemoth looked nothing like the Session we know today. Both it and its predecessor the Diesel used a single pivot layout with an idler. What a beast.

Empire AP-1 / 2008 - The Empire was radically different when it was launched. Its cast aluminum frame employed a high pivot with an idler pulley that was on the line of the chain towards the main pivot. It was also bloody heavy, and a couple of frames snapped in half under Alex Evans, regardless of the heft. Alex, who was racing internationally and helped develop the bike, is now our European Content Manager, and also raced a Balfa prior to the Empire. Empire still sells the VX8 version of this bike today, but the cast metal approach has been replaced with a mixture of machined components and tubes.

Honda RN01 / 2008 - The Honda RN01 was a beauty to behold and the most mythical beast to ever grace a World Cup downhill track. Honda coming to the World Cup series was a serious deal. Its secret gearbox system turned out to be a derailleur inside a box when it was shown to the public, although I never quite believed that's all it was as Honda have some interesting patents that could have been hidden in there as well. It was a high pivot machine that had the chain running over the pivot after it was turned by the gearbox. Supposedly, there are only two left in existence after they were all crushed; one at Honda in Japan, one in Greg Minnaar's shop museum, and possibly another bike (sans gearbox) that was stolen from a race. The engineers used to split the gearbox from the bike and take it to their hotel rooms overnight!

Lahar / 2007 - The Kiwi-made Lahar must be the wackiest of wacky. Its carbon, single-tubed front-end starts the wackiness, and that's followed by a high pivot with a floating brake arm, two chains, and an internal gearbox. I remember Cam Cole racing this bike at the legendarily loose and dusty Montgenevre Maxxis Cup in 2006. At the time, it was silent compared to the rest of the rigs we had back then. After this, he took the bike home and piloted it to Junior World Championship gold on home soil in Rotorua.

2Stage / 2008 - This one isn't quite a pure high pivot bike, but it's too good to not include. The Kiwi's have a lot of explaining to do - so many weird bikes from such a small country. The 2Stage had it all: Idler wheel, floating brake arm and, not one, but two shocks. Nathan Rankin and Glenn Haden were racing in Europe on them over a decade ago.

K9ine med black
K9ine Engineering / 2008 - The K9ine bike seemed to disappear as fast as it arrived. It had a steel front end and alloy rear, the opposite of the Balfa. Long dual links, an idler pulley, and a serious amount of Formula One-style testing and data acquisition went into this bike designed by Luis Arraiz, who now works at GT. This bike was also ridden and raced by James Mcknight, the man behind the Hurly Burly books.

2017 New Canfield Jedi - Large
Canfield Jedi / present - The Jedi is still available on Canfield's webshop in limited options for a crazy discounted $1099 USD for a frameset. The 'Formula 1' suspension design uses dual links and a one-piece swingarm, with the idler located in between the two links. I have never even seen one in the flesh, but have heard nothing but rave reviews from rare owners. This bike has a full 228mm of travel, as well as 90mm of rearward travel.

Superco silencer
SuperCo Silencer / 2009 - The SuperCo Silencer used a high pivot and two chains. One chain from the crankset (steel, Profile BMX cranks, of course) to the idler wheel, which was on an axle that transferred the drive to the opposite side of the frame. The second chain went from the auxiliary idler to the derailleur and cassette. It also had a floating brake arm, which could neutralize the anti-rise effects of the high pivot.

Zerode G2 27.5
Zerode G1/2 / 2011-15 - Zerode went one step further and integrated a Shimano Alfine internally geared hub into the G2 frame, just below the main pivot. This was another bike with two chains and a pivot that was seriously far above and behind the bottom bracket. Anybody that rode one seemed to love it. Zerode where also spotted prototyping a similar high pivot trail bike, which was superseded by the more traditional Pinion-driven Taniwha and, unfortunately, any trace of the G2 and the science behind it has disappeared from their website.

Ghost DH 9000 / 2013-2015 - This 2013 Ghost 9000 takes a more traditional 'looks like a Session' four-bar linkage and adds an idler pulley to tune the anti-squat and pedal kickback. The four-bar linkage is probably the most popular suspension layout in modern mountain biking because all the characteristics of the kinematics can be adjusted easily. This meant Ghost could tune the rearward axle path, but also manipulate the anti-rise and leverage ratio easily.

Redalp Replica DH 2014 35.27 lbs
Redalp / 2012 - present - The Redalp gets a real hard time in the PB comments for being an ugly duckling, and rightfully so. But, it surely boasts the highest pivot ever? The idler is located on a linkage that moves as the bike cycles through the travel. There is another link to drive the shock, too, which is placed super high – presumably to tune the ratio, isolate the shock, and make it look even weirder.

Wyn Masters Bike Check
Bulls Wildcore / 2015 - Wyn Masters was previously sponsored by Bulls, so maybe it was him who longed for that high pivot lifestyle and commanded GT to make him the prototype he's been racing on this year. Or maybe it is because Luis Arraiz, formerly of K9ine, is now an engineer at GT. The Bulls bike had a high single pivot, and it used an idler pulley and a brake attached to the swingarm, which would make the bike squat under braking. The lower link, which almost looks like a mini-chainstay, is similar to the way the Commencal and Norco connect the swingarm to the shock.

Bergamont E-Trailster review
Bergamont e-Trailster / 2016- present - Well it wouldn't be an article by me if I didn't throw in an eMTB somewhere. The Bergamont still has one of my favourite suspension systems on an eMTB, and I thought we would see more designs like this, but it turns out that Haibike have a patent for high pivot idlers on e-bikes and they are featured on many machines in their range.


Eurobike 2016


The new school?

Within the last two years, there have been a number of other bikes pop up. Don't call it a comeback as they never went away, but many of these designs are generally from the niche, shed engineers, and the weird or short-lived marques. It is interesting to see Commencal, Norco, and apparently GT put some serious investment and confidence in these bikes, though.

side view - painted
The aesthetics of ARBR's Saker caused a hate storm when it was released, but I wonder what it rides like.

Peregrine Bikes from the USA make steel, Pinion driven, HSP downhill and freeride bikes.

Deviate Cycles
Deviate Cycles have combined a Pinion gearbox with a high pivot system.

The Antidote Darkmatter is far from a common site at the World Cups.
Holy moly, the Antidote DarkMatter is a beauty. The brake is located on the chainstay to reduce the anti-rise effect.

Starling Sturn
More niche and weird stuff from the UK. Starling has developed a single-speed bike that's a throwback to the Brooklyn days.

Sick Bicycles keep teasing with renderings of a 180mm-travel, 29" wheeled Pinion-driven bike.

Wyn Masters Prototype GT spotted at Oceania MTB Champs 2018

GT Prototype / 2020? - The GT sled has been seen at numerous races this year, and we can only imagine it will be sent into production. Remember that Ghost from 2013? I thought it looked familiar. Also, the K9ine was an interesting bike designed by Luis Arraiz, who now works at CSG, the parent company of GT.





Final thoughts

It will be interesting to see how these bikes are accepted in the future. Most of the machines from the past that are featured here died off for one reason or another, be it they were niche racing rigs, brands that couldn't manage themselves, or simply unappealing bikes that were a hard sell to fickle consumers. The biggest cull of these bikes was likely due to wheel size and standards changing so fast that small brands couldn't afford to keep up. Ironically, if win-on-Sunday-sell-on-Monday still holds true, the 29" wheeled Commencal and Norco could be some of the best selling downhill bikes of 2018.

Initial impressions of the Commencal has been extremely positive, and the Norco has just landed for testing. Both bikes are going head to head against some other 29" downhill bikes over the next few months, so expect the reviews to start landing soon.

What weird and wonderful high pivot bikes did we miss from the past? Let us know in the comments.


212 Comments

  • + 110
 Honda please bring that bike back....... please, I want to make motorbike sounds when I ride it!
  • + 44
 MTB development in general could use Honda making a comeback.
  • + 24
 "Brooklyn Machine Works / 2005 - I have next to no idea"


You have mucho to learn little grasshopper, as most bike companies will find out.
  • - 10
flag Waldon83 (Jul 4, 2018 at 0:43) (Below Threshold)
 Not another standard

"Yes, we have created the smoothest, fastest saddle rails, made from crushed rock, old carpet and herbicide. But it will only work with our saddles made from genuine organic whale skin and giraffe furr - we call this standard - Honda.98"
  • + 0
 In general I agree categorically. Hondas engineering is amazing when applied. Going by their current moto selection, but hit and miss. I drive one of their recent additions with an R moniker. Design, driving, engine, ohhh the gearbox, road holding, the car beats my M moniker one. Quality wise..... When you ain't got nothing good to say, best say nothing at all. Hypothetically thinking 21st century Mazda and Honda together.
  • + 2
 The Empire AP1 was based on the Honda RN01, and then the VX8
  • + 9
 @fecalmaster: People who have not tried them don't even come close to imagine how good these things were. I've had a Brooklyn racelink and it was by far the best DH bike I've ever ridden. And regarding the weight, the only time I noticed it was at the end of the day by the fadding on the brakes due to overheat... but that was because I'm a pussy who has trouble leaving the brake lever alone! :p
  • + 13
 Be carefull what you ask for. Yammy is already developing an e-bike. I'm sure Harley will make a beefed up e-fat bike for all those cheeseburger fat bellys.
  • + 7
 @gnrendeiro: I too have a Racelink and i agree, they are brilliant things, i let a mate have a go in 2014 and he reckoned it was the best dh bike he had ridden, at the time he had the current model V10 and was getting top ten in state elite dh races, people who have not ridden them would be impressed even today. I would like one a bit slacker and lower if i had the option today but . . . . . . . Mines a keeper.
  • + 8
 Hopefully pull shocks can make a come back and we can see even more frame designs! Who wouldn’t want a modern day GT Lobo, or Schwinn Straight 8
  • + 4
 @watchtower: Between the brilliance of Avalanche and Doc, the Racelink eats up the most insane terrain like nothing is happening. It's almost an unfair advantage. Have blasted Mach speed while others struggle to stay on their bike over Volvo sized boulders. Pharrell picked the wrong guy to partner with unfortunately.
  • - 4
flag endurocat (Jul 4, 2018 at 4:46) (Below Threshold)
 @Waldon83: YT seems to be doing pretty Damn well without that contraption.
  • + 8
 Indeed! The TMX was a beast, like a rock crawler/ bicycle lol. Yes it was heavy, but it rolled and dropped off anything in its path. I called it the Plattekill/Mt Creek machine. Mt Creek even has a trail named after Brooklyn Machine Works called BMW (this is not a flow trail). The RaceLink was the newer, lighter more pedal friendly dh bike, still made of steel, high pivot, profile cranks and chain ring. The reason the Super Co looks a lot like a race link is because Doc designed both bikes! Oh I almost forgot BMW meat tenderizer pedals (you better rock some knee and shin guards lol)!@fecalmaster:
  • + 1
 @drs140t: Ya the tmx was mega adjustable and surpringly great at dirt jumping. The Racelink is more sophisticated withe the dog bones and shock shuttle giving the rear an endless feel. I got mine down to 42 pounds with some tricks but have seen a few crack 40. The silencer was more modern Geo and could easily get to 35-37 lbs. Would have been an absolute beast.
  • + 1
 I like the subliminal ad for Redalp.They got the suspension sorted to win races. Definitely function over aesthetic based company.
  • + 2
 @drs140t: didnt primo make the tenderizer? bmw had the shinburgers i thought
  • + 0
 @kbonesddeuce: They are the shinburgers, some might call them the tenderizer. Not aware of primo making a similar product but they didn't sell any official designs.
  • + 3
 Not a high pivot but a single pivot steel DH frame we offer
ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb15765381/p4pb15765381.jpg
  • + 1
 @watchtower: Starling Cycles Sturn...
  • + 1
 @jollyXroger: Honda is too busy with MotoGP, lawn equipment and cars..............but I agree that bike was a smasher.
  • + 1
 Yes you are correct! The Primo pedals were great, and a more affordable option as well. The BMW pedals were scary, better hope you don’t slip a pedal with those! @kbonesddeuce:
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: you know your shit bro
  • + 2
 @b-wicked: Big thanks, I was privileged to roll with Doc(what an amazing rider and genius of MTB) for many years. I wish things could have gone differently but such is the business. If you look at the Supervisor design you can see the Racelink 2.0. Would have been a game changer.
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: That is so true, thanks for reminding, obviously we can't forget the Avy shock importance in the package. I've left DH and sold my racelink a few years ago to another guy who liked BMW as much as I did. I still have another Avy DHS for an enduro bike, though.
  • + 48
 I like hardtails, they have a solid pivot point.
  • + 1
 Me too! and they are fun to ride
  • + 1
 Actually, for some unknown reason, I am in the market for a hardtail again. But....Oh, my aching back and knees!
  • + 2
 @bbeak: you should get out of the saddle while riding downhill!
  • + 2
 @bbeak: Be sure to get a steel frame!
  • + 2
 @thewerner: wait should we really be doing that?
  • + 36
 The article makes me wonder why a linkage system that in the past apparently has not proven to be significantly better is being brought back.

Also after seeing Aaron Gwin move from a demo to a tues, two bikes with vastly different suspension kinematics (even with his custom link on the demo), and him just keeping on winning, makes me suspect its way more about the rider than the linkage design.
  • + 6
 Sure, we'll see with the rest of the DH season, but it gets me wondering to which extent a rearward path of the rear wheel may help prevent flats, which in turn could help win the season.
Forces applied to the rear wheel are probably different whether it has to climb the obstacle "face first" forward or more freely with a rearward wheelpath.
  • + 2
 It’s always going to me mostly about the rider when you are talking about the top riders and the top bikes. All these bikes perform great, they just have different characteristics that will come down to preferences and riding style. A rider as good as Gwin will adjust and do well on any high end bike.
  • + 10
 Gwin didn't do that well on specialized in 13' the got second in 14'. Although those were the years that Stevie Smith and Bryceland had amazing years, and Gwin was close on Rat boys tail, then he the won next year. Seems like it took him a while to get used to the bike but he was pretty keen to get off it ASAP. he didn't like the team and he decided to put together the YTMOB and won right away, exactly like he did with trek. Sam Hill and now Jared Graves also sucked on specialized after riding amazing bikes. Even Bruni seemed to do better over all with Lapierre, Although he has won twice at cairns on the demo.
  • + 1
 @Will-narayan: OK, it's 2012 but here is santa-cruz CEO and head engineer take on axle path:

www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-US/news/344

Most of its rational is based on the huge pedal-kickback trade-off associated with rearward axle path, but he doesn't comment on idler pulleys.
  • + 3
 @gnralized: Interesting, but as you say he doesn't comment on idler pulleys, and the little tweaks that Commencal's been doing lately may imply it's important (if I got it right, they lower it a bit, probably trading a bit of chaingrowth and pedal kickback for better antisquat).
I'm a bit surprised by the "20mm is not important" comment though. Of course this parameter may not matter much, but many parameters on a bike matter the most when you reach very tight tolerances (half a degree on one hand somewhere is a 3cm movement on the other end).
And as I said I'd be curious to see a lab test showing the difference between a wheel going up an obstacle with a forward and rearward path. In this case the little difference may be a flat of not.
  • + 14
 I've been riding a Commencal SX (somwhere between a DH and Meta) for a month now. It has the HPP of the DH and I must say; it rides like a dream. Suspension is progressive and maintains traction over some of the gnarliest terrain (and braking bumps) in the French alps. Minimal noise and chain slap, too. This article might be hype but HPP designs aren't!
  • + 4
 All designs have pros and cons, and some of them are beyond the average rider comprehension of his own bike characteristics. Its awesome that you love your bike, that is only what matters in fact, but I don't think hpp have clear advantage over other designs. It's just a good design amongst others that happens to be hot right now.
  • + 9
 @t1000: I love how you completely dismiss his opinion and insert your own as though yours is somehow more important.
  • + 1
 @t1000: after riding 4 bar, DW, VPP, horst, Single Pivot, SDS (antidote), HPP idler and floating brake.. nothing compares to the ability for eating rough terrain like a HPP bike (owned a balfa and ridden a Canfield Jedi)

I also like that in hard cornering, the bike lengthens, becoming more stable once in the corner, allowing for a shorter chainstay length at tip in.
  • + 2
 @MrZ32: I sold my Suprem V4 for that very reason, as soon as the track is not straight if become a nightmare to do anything with it. You get in a tight or even medium corner, pushed the bike in and it just tanks in there unless you waste incredible amount of energy. Give me a FSR style anytime or even a Suprem V3/Furious.
  • + 3
 Didn't want to disrespect anyone, sorry if I sounded condescending.
  • + 0
 @AgrAde: you are witty sir !!
  • + 13
 All those highpivot bikes and not one Sunn Radical Plus is included. Shame on you!

www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/download/file.php?id=419616

These bikes piloted by the likes of Ann-Caroline, Nico and lets not forget a young Cedric Gracia won A SHIT LOAD of championships back in the day.
  • + 1
 Love the courage calculator. I'd forgotten about that
  • + 3
 Yeah, they've also forgot my dream bike from when I was young. The Nicolai Nucleon!

industrial-bg.com/featured_item/nicolai-nucleon-dh
  • + 7
 No mention of the relatively large geometry (CS length) changes as a high pivot bike moves through its travel. Given that CS length has a huge bearing on ride feel, particularly during cornering, I feel this is certainly worth a mention...
  • + 31
 Also... Excellent article. More like this please!
More tech, less fashion. Am I alone in wanting this?
  • + 2
 Agree 100%. This is the main drawback of this solution and it has to be mentioned. It has a bigger influence on the riding characteristics than the anti-rise.
The change in the CS length leads to an unpredictable feeling and this might explain why this design can't establish. I had a BB7 (with a bad shock at this time) and sometimes I just couldn't figure out why I couldn't lift the front wheel as I wanted. I supposed the suspension was compressed and it was much more difficult to manual than with a sag of 30%.
  • + 1
 no big deal in practice. a bit harder to manual, sure, but not something that you can't adjust to. i can see not everyone would like the feel, but the difference in how much less a high pivot hangs up on square edge hits is certainly tangible. hp bikes are beasts in the chunk. really cool to see them come back into fashion.
  • + 1
 I've always thought there would be the benefit of the wheelbase staying closer to its static numbers since both wheels follow similar paths, up and back. Have never ridden a HSP but have always wanted to. That deal on the Canfield sounds like the best frame deal going! They have to have the longest running frames with an idler pulley.
  • + 3
 @xy9ine: First, I don't know whether the 90mm rearward path of the Jedi are right or not, according to the linkage design blog, it is closer to 30mm. But still, having a bike with 460 or 440mm CS makes a difference, that everyone will notice.
You need to pull harder with 460mm CS to manual or to execute a bunny hop.
Secondly, do you know exactly where you are in travel ? No sure I know exactly when I am riding. And that is the main problem. How to be prepared ? This run you avoid a root so you need to pull less on the coming prejump?
Maybe a better shock helps but I think too much variation in the CS length makes riding more difficult.

But I agree with you, HPP bikes hang less than other design and the difference is easily noticeable.
  • + 2
 @MikeGruhler: the problem is that your body (and so your center of gravity) does not move. So It does not really help you ... Also a constant WB length might not be better in turns, like the moto GP experience shown.
  • + 2
 @labourde: Good point, see what you mean, weight goes forward as the whole bike compresses. Moto GP thing I'd never heard about, interesting as well. I imagine for even the above avg rider it still comes down to whatever has the best feel to them.I know Canfield have always been overlooked for the most part but have been developing that system for years. Also those guys are absolute badass riders, would have to assume they got some shit figured out.
  • + 2
 Much like the massive decrease in wheelbase when the suspension compresses on normal bikes, they do change in handling. You adapt pretty easily, and it's only really a problem if your bike is has a front triangle that's too short.
  • + 1
 The length change on a normally laid out swingarm is much smaller than on a HP bike. Also as both ends are shrinking, your fore/aft weight balance doesn't really change, while a HP bike will dump your weight onto the front axle as both ends compress.
  • + 3
 @gabriel-mission9:
Have you spent more than a day on one? I've ridden a few and as I said, I adapted. Going back to the normal bikes, the shortening of the wheelbase was noticeable.

The forward weight transfer is more noticeable on high pivot bikes with front ends that are too short in the first place, or ones with chainstays that already start long so are far too long at mid/end stroke. It's a non-issue on a bike with reasonable length chainstays at sag and a front end that fits you well.
  • + 1
 @AgrAde: No I haven't ever owned one and therefore I haven't ridden one for months on end. I'm not saying that CS growth means HP bikes are crap. Nothing as black and white as that. Just that from the few goes I've had on HP designs this is definitely a feature of the way they ride, and worth mentioning when discussing their characteristics.
  • + 7
 The Trek Session 10 wasn't the first Trek Session. They introduced the Session 7 and Session 77 first. The Trek Session 10 came one year later. As for other high pivot bikes, it may be worth a mention that because of the layout of the Effigear gearbox the Cavalier could be considered a high pivot bike too. The same of course goes for the PeteSpeed gearbox equipped BeOne downhill bikes. And for G-Boxx equipped Nicolai bikes of back when they built a Rohloff geared hub into the frame as a gearbox. Basically just as Zerode does with their Alifine equipped DH bike or GT has done with a Nexus equipped bike at some point. Orange has experimented with a high pivot and idler too on one of their downhill bikes, though I don't know if it was actual series production.
  • + 16
 Good catch on the 7 & 77. Updated.

Something tells me this story is going to bring the esoteric suspension nerds out in full force. Stoked. Smile
  • + 2
 @brianpark: Yeah, it may actually be nice to update the article with information found in the comment section. And then later have an interview with the suspension engineers. Clearly some brands (or engineers) have always been into this high pivot stuff, some just started to implement it (like Norco) whereas others (like Trek) consciously moved away from it. I recall articles from Luis Arriaz in Dirt magazine back in the day praising the rearwards axle path (and lamenting the move by Trek to ditch it with the Session Cool . And then Joe had his own column on the Santa Cruz website claiming that axle path doesn't matter one bit because as long as the wheel is rolling, the tire contact patch still moves rearwards with respect to the axle. Interesting stuff!
  • + 1
 @brianpark: Reading what I wrote about Joe from Santa Cruz, I think I need to clarify. On flat ground the contact patch obviously doesn't move rearward with respect to the axle. Over an obstacle, square edged bump or anything though, it does. Which is the bit that matters in this context.
  • + 1
 What about the 88?
  • + 9
 I have never ridden a bike again, which was so good in smoothing out big braking bumps and stuff like that, like the Canfield Jedi. High pivot designs are working great.
  • + 2
 It is not just the "high pivot" thing. I would say the most important part is the rearward travel of the rear shock, which is fairly common on the high pivot bikes. This gives you a longer wheelbase when compressed increasing its stability at high speed and also being a rearward travel reduces a lot the "braking effect" when hitting an obstacle with your rear wheel.
  • + 3
 The Jedi felt awesome when I did a few laps on it. Now it's discounted, grab that while you can.
  • + 1
 I would love to test one out- everybody that rides one only says good things about it.
  • + 2
 It's amazing craftsmanship and extremely beefy. Super plush, great Geo. I guess only thing to complain about is it's not the lightest but my friends rig is easily 37ish. Lot of bike for the money.
  • + 2
 Jedi is the way to go. I've only ridden a half dozen types of DH rigs but still the Jedi is the most amazing bike I've ridden. Felt immediately comfortable on it and made it easy to ride things I'd never have ridden on other bikes.
  • + 2
 There were Jedi all over the place in Utah and Idaho back in the day
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: Love my Jedi.. I keep trying out different frames to see what I want next but I haven't ridden anything that compares to the Jedi yet. I really want to try the new Norco or Commencal to see how they compare.
  • + 2
 The only negative thing I can say is, it bottoms out a little bit too easy on hard hits.
  • + 1
 I finally saw one in person yesterday and it was beautiful.
  • + 2
 @loganm2977: You really have to see it up close to see the craftsmanship and beefyness of the Jedi, that's a word right! My friend has a marz cr and it still feels about 36lbs or so. It's deceivingly light considering how beefy it looks.
  • + 10
 Can 26" and 20mm thru axels make a resurgence too?
  • + 2
 20mm axles have, they've just moved the rotor a little and called it boost.
  • + 5
 Great article. Surely a big reason for the high pivot resurgence would be todays bigger wheels. Keeping the traditional pivot point near the BB while the wheel size has increased results in a more forward axle path. Completely the opposite of what you want.
  • + 5
 @brianpark you missed the Craftworks ENR!
As far as I know it was the first production 'enduro bike' with a rearward axle path.
It also features the patented i-track suspension system, which gives the designer ultimate flexibility for tuning the Anti-Squat, Anti-Rise, and Leverage Ratio, without the compromise that exists in the other designs.
www.craftworkscycles.com
www.i-tracksuspension.com
  • + 1
 How could @paulaston miss it?
  • + 2
 Wow that is crazy. I would love to try that.
  • + 2
 @Happymtbfr:

I didn't plan for this article to be a 100% definitive list of every single high-pivot bike ever, I already spent waaaay too much time researching this piece as it is.

But, as there have been so many good comments, private messages and emails about various other bikes and history, I feel another article coming up later this year.
  • + 1
 Size L with 445mm of Reach ? 66.5 HA ? All that with a rearwar axle path ? No thanks I did the mistake of short front end with HPP once, not twice.
  • + 1
 @Balgaroth: Yeah, It's an amazing bike. The best pedalling trail bike I've ridden, bar none. Anyone who thinks HPP bikes can't pedal will eat their words if they ride it. Unfortunately it's pretty much ruined by being too steep and short at the front end. You get sent over the front as the suspension compresses and it's really nervous when pointed downhill or in banked corners.

With an angleset taking it out to 65 degrees it was a completely different bike and actually functioned well as an enduro bike, but it still needed another 20-30mm of reach. The grip and comfort the rear could supply was crazy. I took it out on a casual trail ride, felt like I was cruising and ended up setting strava PRs on almost every descent I rode. Especially good on long, very rough trails.
  • + 2
 @AgrAde: Sounds like my former Suprem V4 (appart from pedaling but that was intended). I'd go as far to say that HPP bikes need longer reach than normal bikes, Commencal going with tiny reach was a huge mistake, I was always thrown over the front, half the reason why t had to go. Maybe with more anti-squat HPP can be nimble but mine really wasn't, only good to plough though fast rough shit.
  • + 2
 @Balgaroth: Yeah, they definitely need a longer front-centre to balance the long rear. And those Commencals were absurdly short.
  • + 1
 @AgrAde: Their new one is absurdly long at 495mm in XL, plus the option for another 8-10 with a reach adjust headset
  • + 1
 @paulaston: well it's a welcome change, too bad for those who bought the first gen which was replaced within 6 months, frame and géo making you feel like they were selling unfinished bikes from pre-series before actually launching the final bike, yet still charging you full price ...
  • + 6
 Guys. You seriously dropped the ball on this story by not mentioning Alex Morgan and what he did with Buffalo Composite Designs.
  • + 4
 Oh man, I remember that guy and his incredible hand-baked frames. www.pinkbike.com/news/2087-BCD-Racing-29er-Carbon-Fiber-DH-Bike.html
  • + 2
 @brianpark: Damn look how close the wheels are?!
  • + 4
 "Initial impressions of the Commencal has been extremely positive, and the Norco has just landed for testing. Both bikes are going head to head against some other 29" downhill bikes over the next few months, so expect the reviews to start landing soon."

now, thats what we also want Smile
great article!
  • + 5
 @pinkbikeaudience you owe it to us more mortal punters to purchase a Canfield Jedi and do a full test on it. Compare it to the HSP 29ers you have in the works. Go on now!
  • + 3
 Never seen a Jedi in the flesh....in our opinion this article cannot be written without more focus on Canfield pushing and advocating for this design since they rolled it out thiers, back when. We have at least two team members that swear by the Jedi and others on the East Coast who consistently place well in races on the bike. $1099 for a frameset. Best deal on earth? Someone buy a Canfield! Commencal has the revenue and the program to get the design this visibility. We take nothing away from their stellar program or bike designs. Commencal is excellent at everything they do and rightfully so. But our hearts goes out to the Brothers for being there for so long, and regardless of the fact that this design is nothing new, ahead of the pack on making it better and advocating deeply for it.
  • + 1
 I've had a new Wilson, gt fury, tr500 and commencal V3. Then picked up a Jedi when they still had larges available for $1500. Best bike ever.
The others don't compare.
  • + 1
 Anybody know what's going on with Canfield Brothers.. The website doesn't make it look like things are going well for them.
  • + 4
 @BeerGuzlinFool: This isn't confirmed 100%, but from what I hear they put a bunch of money into developing carbon molds for the new trail bike to replace the Riot, then ran into quality issues and had to go back to the drawing board. So they've been liquidating all their stock to get cash fast and cover the cost. Chris has shown off two prototypes on Instagram and their new DH bike is being raced at the moment, too. They're not dead, just under the gun. I'm holding on to my bike money to see what they do this year.
  • + 2
 @bluedragonx: I hope things work out for them. They have been one of the best companies I have ever dealt with. I'll be looking for a new trail bike next year and they will definitely be on the top of my list.
  • + 3
 I own a Jedi and can tell you it rides like a dream. The talk about rearward axle path is true and in the gnar makes a huge difference in the speed, control and ride quality. The Brothers have known this for years and I can’t wait to see what they bring out next. High quality bikes; but best of all very high class guys.
  • + 2
 It's too bad to hear about the struggles. There are a few of us near Denver on canfield balances that have cult like appreciation for the bike. I almost want them to just license out their suspension designs
  • + 3
 Superco was started (and finished?) by Doc from Brookly Machine Works, hence the Silencer looking very much like the old Racelink. And that photo of Danny Hart is actually him riding an Appalache Real, not a BB7. Same designers, same concept, not actually the same bike.
  • + 2
 This is an excellent article, gotta say that some of these look cracking still even by today's standards, especially the Balfa and the Lahar, I remember seeing a few Balfa's around when I started riding and wanted one so bad...on the other hand how the hell is Redalp still in business, some people must be buying that monstrosity somewhere somehow and for some reason!?
  • + 6
 A Session that doesn't look like a Session?! My brain hurts.
  • + 3
 Literally frothing at this article, and the Empire ACR1 was an AP1 and the VX1 is a VX8!

www.pinkbike.com/photo/13308077

Best bikes I have rode, and yes I used to have a BB7 also
  • + 1
 If only they would update their sizing chart, geometry and add a 29" DH I'd throw away my money immediatly.
They look sick and a bit like Honda's RN01!
  • + 1
 @qreative-bicycle: We are working on the 29er as we speak (possibly it will merge to a DH variant also)!!! With bang up to date geo and we are bonding it rather than welding where we can

And yep, they were based on the RN01, good eye

www.pinkbike.com/photo/15588229
  • + 1
 @sewer-rat: Oh no single swingarm anymore? Maybe for the DH?
  • + 2
 @qreative-bicycle: no buddy, didn’t get a lot of love, could make you a VX8, potentially in 29, just message us on fb
  • + 1
 @sewer-rat: Any details on how your bonding the aluminium? I've been trying to figure out a good solution for some robotics stuff.
  • + 1
 @mman1506: we are working closely with 3M, other industries like aerospace etc are using it. We still don't 1000% know if it will work and will only become apparent when we test the prototype on dyno rigs and real life
  • + 6
 Awesome article... the Zerode G2 and the Honda are still so drool-worthy!
  • + 1
 Another new school entry, the yet to be released high pivot trail bike from Forbidden Bike Company. @mikelevy might know about it www.pinkbike.com/news/forbidden-bike-company-high-pivot-trail-bike-crankworx-whistler-2018.html
  • + 4
 Interesting article! You missed a few old-school jackshaft bikes like the Balfa Nouveau Riche, the Clifcat bike, ...
  • + 2
 now we're spiraling down the rabbit hole... those were some cool designs. and the devinci big bang: www.devinci.com/hello/328
  • + 1
 Was gonna say No BALFA!! BB7 was a TANK, however the idler pulley was weak enough to bend it with big pedal inputs
  • + 1
 Ahoy!
I would like to see an article about the small builders who were (always) first into these ideas... One example, Alex Morgan's BCDBCD designs. His inedible design was also a high pivot bike.

I still wonder. Where's Alex now?

And by the way, most of these bikes were really rad! Weird is nice. Brookly's TMX was such a nice looking bike!
  • + 2
 came here to ask the same, the BCD 29er was way ahead of its times
  • + 1
 Jerome, Joe, and Doc, please put the single speeds and bmx bikes aside, tell the wife you’ll be home late for dinner and get back into the game! You’re designs were, and still are incredibly functional and some of the best rolling rigs to ever hit the hills!
  • + 5
 This a bloody incredible article... Thank you!
  • + 1
 I'm paraphrasing previous comments from suspension designers that makes sense to me regarding rearward axle paths, "sure the rearward axle path may help on compression, but does this mean on rebound it's going to hang up more?"

I got a feeling the benefits are less axle path benefits in terms of bump performance but more neutrality through the pedals and wheelbase growth benefits. After all when you hit a bumps your wheelbase shortens due to the path of the front wheel, does this rear growth compensate for that settling the bike?
  • + 3
 I'm still curious about this. Sure wheelbase is important but I'd say the position of the rider CG relative to the wheelbase would be important too. If both front and rear wheels move rearwards under a heavy impact (huck) basically the rider shifts forwards with respect to the wheelbase, effectively putting more load on the front wheel and less on the rear. I'd be more interested in a bike where both the front center and the rear center shorten under compression (like for instance a DMR Bolt) so that when the suspension compresses in a tight turn it doesn't mess with your fore-aft balance. Then again this may be the very reason this is a typical DH thing.
  • + 1
 highpivot was the first suspension design i ever saw:
Trek 9000 and Cannondale Delta V one of the first (91?) and i still remember seeing in MBA the Boulder Interprid with the paint scheme (green and purple?) mid 90s GT releases thd RST, raced by Jason McRoy and Nico who would won the DH-WC on one - if memory doesn't trick me on the LTS).
The High (single) Pivot System was used to basically cancel pedal bob, because it was concider ineficient.

ps - Many things changed when AMP Research released the B3, and all rear end amp bikes that appeared at the time. It was a little revolution since the bike wouldn't bob that much, and suspension also helped during climbing.
Specialized would buy patents and call it FSR... and all know what happen afterwards
  • + 1
 I've owned a good few bikes on that list, high pivot bikes are by far the best suspension setup I have used, absolutely love it. I used to have a PDC Racing dh rig which is missing from the list it used to plow through things!
  • + 5
 I'm guessing Louis Arraiz now works for gt then.
  • + 4
 Is Waki even a real entity...or just a pissed off HAL operating system hell bent on fucking up the PB comment section.....
  • + 1
 I can easily point out why a certain bicycle is shit, but I can't make my own, so I shouldn't say anything. It's an annoying gap to be in, with the knowledge something's shit, but the inability. Then you just jump to the conclusion, "well stuff is shit".
  • + 1
 That's how I felt about the old Session 7/77. I don't know enough to know why that bike sucked so bad. I just know that it did.
  • + 2
 I had 4 Balfa BB7's and an Appalache Real. There is nothing like a single high pivot bike. They soak up small bumps like no other.
  • + 0
 When rear axle path go backwards on travel — suspension better absorb hits and terrain, but bike try to stay on the obstacle.
When rear axle path go forward on travel — suspension become little bit tough, but bike easily roll over the obstacle.
Most modern DH-rigs have backwards axle path in 1/3 of travel (Sag). If we don't count shock settings, high main pivot = slower bike)))
  • + 1
 Review the antidote! That bike has such excellent kinematics. High anti squat, no pedal kickback, nice progressive leverage curve, and the brake squat is very low for a high pivot as well.
  • + 3
 Still rocking my darkcycles scarab from 2002, of to morzine tomorrow for another 2 weeks Smile
  • + 2
 How much does the suspension design of a bike really impact the performance of top end world cup riders? Is it comparable to different aero designs between cars in F1?
  • + 4
 We’re mid prototype production on that one ????????
  • + 1
 @sickbicycleco you better be!
  • + 4
 You missed the dark cycles scarab!
  • + 2
 Its funny how not too long ago there was an article,or comment by pinkbike staff, about idler pulleys not being efficient.... Yet now many top bikes have one....
  • + 3
 Hey @paulaston, cool to see my old BB7 in an article of yours ;-) Nice read, thanks!
  • + 1
 As I saw the picture, I thought: "oh, this could be Stuttgart".
Nice BB7. How does it ride with a CCDB air ?
  • + 1
 Was the Millyard high pivot? It looks like it is from a distance, but on closer inspection it looks like what appears to be a high pivot is actually just the location of the gearbox, and the pivot is actually at the BB. Basically a low pivot swingarm with a dogleg bend and the gearbox located at the bend. If I'm misinterpreting it, please correct me and if you have any closeup pics of the pivot area then post the links.
  • + 2
 Missing is Nicolai Nucleon and M-Pire. Also that BB7 was years ahead of its time.
  • + 3
 Brooklyn Race link = YZ 450, class is over.
  • + 2
 This is one of the best articles I've red in a while! We need more context like this! Thank you so much!
  • - 1
 Well as a former owner of a Suprem V4 I can tell you one thing, no high pivot for me anymore. Sure it's amazing at keeping speed in the rough but unless you're racing on WC tracks it's really really physical to ride on anything with was resemble turns. Anytime you push in the corners it makes the bike longer and basically unless you then pull hard it won't go anywhere. Great for WC by the look of the tracks, not adapted for sunday racers unless maybe if in the Alps. And I've always been a Commencal fanboy, selling it made me sad. (You could also add to that the problem of how the geo changes as the bike works which makes it hard to predict in sketchy situations, Commencal finally fixed the Reach number so it should be better now but it's even longer so even more of a truck)
  • + 2
 Some mention of why the Zerode Taniwha is not high pivot
www.zerodebikes.com/history-1
  • + 2
 What about the 2001 Dreidoppel Gott
www.pinkbike.com/photo/7208992
  • + 2
 What the? Where is the Corsair Crown?
Two rear shocks up to 11 inches of travel.
  • + 1
 What about those Yeti ASX's and Santa Cruz super 8's !? I still ride my trusty 2004 ASX as an all moutainbike and at times ripping it on the DH tracks Wink
  • + 2
 Nice to look at some wild ideas on how to make a DH machine. The Balfa and the Honda were truly innovative for the time.
  • + 1
 I called this was all gonna happen last year becuase of trek session Geometry and suspension linkage all the bike brands were gonna start doing that too.
  • + 2
 Ha! I bought Danny's old yellow team bike he won nationals on. I love the design and the bike.
  • + 2
 No mention of the Kona Stab? Shame on you! Where do you think ghost ripped their design from lol
  • + 3
 Balfa...the bike of dreams back in the day
  • + 1
 @paulaston

Hey! Can you provide the chainstay lengths of the supreme sx, and perhaps the supreme at 33% sag and 100% compression, please?
  • + 2
 The Cannondale Gemini circa 2000 was another high pivot with a dual drive from memory.
  • + 3
 Dat GT Proto, Damn, Wanted So Much.
  • + 2
 Indeed
  • + 2
 Ya it looks better every time I see it, good to see GT on a comeback.
  • + 3
 That GT looks better than all of them, and having ridden the Knine, I bet it rides incredible as well.
  • + 2
 Of all those, I'd love to ride the Redalp because I am most curious about it. Anyone ridden one?
  • + 2
 Well, their base in Crans Montana is only a few hours drive for me.... it needs to be done!
  • + 3
 I thought we killed Redalp with fire but the article says it's still present. Which means we need more gas.
  • + 2
 The I-drive bikes are another way of having a high main pivot and decoupling the chain growth from the design.
  • + 1
 Interesting point. Personally I thought they rode junky funky.
  • + 1
 @IamZOSO:
Yep.
But this was due to the fact that GT made a ton of compromises, in order to follow the current fashion of these times.... (once more the marketing rats, spoiled the ingenuity of the inventors....)
  • + 1
 Could an axle mounted inside a bearing in the frame work like an APB for non four/faux bar rear ends....?
  • + 1
 I love high pivots so i'm very stoked to see that for my next bike I now have options!
  • + 1
 I get the feeling we are soon goong to see the gt ptototype turned production bike review.
  • + 2
 Your scrote vs. that redalp who would win
  • + 4
 Redalp
  • + 4
 @mikelevy: We need a pair of scrotes versus a Redalp and a Liteville 301 in a head-to-head test
  • + 1
 GEEZUS Christ is incredible that out of all those bikes the ARBR's Saker is still the ugliest by a landslide.
  • + 1
 Is it not fair to finally and publicly say the Zerode DH bike is a copy of Aaron Franklin's Lahar?
  • + 2
 as the guys lived in the same area and knew each other well; to say it was heavily influenced is certainly not a stretch. bit of a shame zerode dropped the dh chassis. would be cool to see an updated carbon big wheel iteration.
  • + 1
 @xy9ine: Hi xy9ine, I remember many discussions of yours on ridemonkey.com. I also remember Aaron Franklin mentioning that Zerode guys had been visiting him many times, and him telling them many aspects of his design. They always behaved like their G1 dh bike is their invention.
  • + 1
 Seems like my 2005 GT Dhi is still up to date lol (while the swing arm isnt broken lol)
  • + 1
 Trek Session 10 - probably gives many lift/shuttle operators nightmares, those things weighed a ton
  • + 2
 @ Paul, Danny is riding a "Appalache Real" Smile

great article then! nice Smile
  • + 2
 Apparently emojis become question marks
  • + 2
 Thanks Jerome and Fred at Balfa :-)
  • + 2
 I love getting to see all those classic DH bikes in one article.
  • + 2
 More like the resurgence of common fucking sense...
  • + 1
 That GT looks better than all of them, and having ridden the Knine, I bet it rides incredible as well.
  • + 1
 Gt def needs a winning design again.
  • + 1
 This article...didn't suck.
  • + 1
 Can’t wait for the new HSP to hit the market tup
  • + 1
 Oh wow, what in article! How i have drooled over some of those bikes...
  • + 1
 Whats next? Resurgence of 26''?
  • + 1
 Im happy with maestro but id love to have a ride of a high pivot bike.
  • + 1
 @gadmack Apparently you Jedi’s are a rare breed!!!!!!
  • + 1
 Well, that was a trip down memory lane!
  • + 1
 The Honda is from 2005 or 2004... not 2008
  • + 0
 Chainstay length increase? Please, no. I like to have fun on my bike
  • + 4
 You don't think riding really really fast downhill, over bumps and across loose off-cambers on the edge of grip is fun? Maybe it is just me then...
  • + 1
 Thanks Max Commencal!
  • + 1
 Bring Back Balfa!
  • + 1
 I still love my 2stage
  • - 3
 Wow, to me looks like another mountain bike, 2 wheels, 2 pedals, one bar and 2 grips
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