Thought Experiment: The Squishiest Mountain Bike

Jun 25, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  

Suspension is good. As statements go, that's about as uncontroversial as they get. It's undeniable that when bike designers started adding damping to mountain bikes, the sport improved and bikes became significantly more capable and fun. Although some riders still look for suspension-free thrills, it's safe to say most of us probably would have given up this sport long ago if we were forced to do it with rigid forks and frames.

Can you have too much of a good thing though? Forks and shocks aren't the only suspension items engineers and entrepreneurs have attempted to fit during mountain biking's history, although these alternative ideas haven't always been a runaway success. To celebrate the niche and not-so-niche products and, to be honest, for a bit of a laugh, we tried to assemble the squishiest bike possible. The result is an abomination. Enjoy.



Frame: Structure Cycleworks
Travel - 153mm / 151mm

Structure Cycleworks SCW 1

Some bike frames are totally rigid, some have a few pivots and linkages, some even have flexy seatstays but there aren't as many that squish as much as the Structure Cycleworks. The frame features a fairly regular Horst Link design rear suspension, but it's up front where things get a bit weird.

Structure call this linkage fork the WTF, which of course stands for 'Without Telescoping Fork'. The claimed benefits of this are that it reduces antidive and makes the bike slacker as it cycles through its travel. This basically makes it the opposite of a hardtail and therefore perfect for this article. If you want more info on the wild design, read our six-month review, here.

More info, here.



Handlebar: Fasst Company Flexx Aluminium
Travel - 5°


Starting at the front of the bike, we're speccing Fasst's Flexx bars. The bars hinge halfway along their length and use elastomers to offer 5° of travel. This translates to different amounts of travel depending on how long you run them, so we'll of course be running them uncut in the 810mm downhill version. The bars are available in carbon or aluminum and we'll be speccing the aluminum version as there's probably slightly more give.

More info, here.



Stem: Redshift Shockstop
Travel - 20mm


Gravel biking has done many things for the road cycling community, but perhaps most amusingly of all it has introduced them to all the bad ideas mountain biking forgot years ago. At the top of that list are suspension stems.

Redshift is one brand bringing this tech to a new audience through its Shockstop stem. Designed to reduce fatigue and strain when rattling along backroads and gravel tracks, the stem offers up to 20mm of travel with 5 levels of elastomer resistance to tune it to your liking. Two models are available a +/-6° version in 80mm, 90mm, 100mm, 110mm, and 120mm lengths and a wild +30° high-rise version in 100mm length only.

Another option would have been the vibration damping Hammerhead stem.

More info, here.



Grips: Rev Grips
Travel - Vibration Damping

Revolution Suspension Grips

Completing a cockpit of cushioning comes the Rev Grips. These grips are suspended from contact with the handlebars and use shock-absorbing inserts to reduce vibrations and therefore the bane of arm pump.

More info, here.



Seatpost: Cane Creek Thudbuster
Travel - 90mm


It would have been tempting to go with a dropper post here, after all, some of them have in excess of 200mm travel, but when you have the height set the seatpost is generally as solid as a rigid post. Instead, we went with the classic Thudbuster from Cane Creek.

Historically a favourite of hardtail riders looking for a bit of butt cushioning, it has also been adopted by a new crop of eMTB riders that spend more time seated than riders on regular bikes. We'll be speccing the recently released long-travel version that offers 90mm of squish.

More info, here.



Saddle: Bike Yoke Sagma
Travel - Vibration Damping


On top of that Thud Buster we're going to have the Sagma saddle from Bike Yoke. This German brand started by making upgrade suspension links and then transitioned to becoming a component company in its own right. Its Sagma saddle was released in September 2019 and it uses a special chassis molded from carbon fiber reinforced nylon that contains a pair of elastomer cushions. The cushions allow the saddle to rock back and forth slightly with your pelvis as you pedal as well as damp some of the vibration which normally would transfer through the saddle to your nether regions. The cushions are replaceable and BikeYoke offer different hardnesses to suit your preference.

More info, here.

Bonus: Amazon Padded Seat Cover


Why not?



Hubs: Gokiso
Travel - Vibration Damping


If you think a hub would be immune from suspension, think again. Gokiso is part of Japans' Kondo Machine Corporation that also produces bearings, for jet engines and it's this highly precise background that has allowed them to create some of the smoothest running hubs in the world. The hubs have been tested at 300km/h and apparently the bearings didn't even fail when they were run at 100km/hr for 100,000km. They also impressed a CyclingTips reviewer, who said they, "offer the lightest, most precise action I’ve ever experienced in a wheel."

Part of that action comes from the hub's design, and more specifically its suspended axle. A ribbed sleeve or external ribs function as springs, separates the axle from the influence of the rest of the wheel. Unfortunately, this design does nothing to isolate the shock from the trail reaching the rider but instead is designed to keep the axle perfectly straight. More info on the design can be found in Cycling Tips' article, here.

The hubs are non-Boost and only works with Shimano 11 speed so there are definitely some limitations here. The biggest limitation here is probably the price though, they cost around $5,000 USD for a set. Ouch.

More info, here.



Spokes: Berd
Travel - Vibration Damping

Atomik Berd Wheels Daniel Sapp Photo

Berd spokes may look like string but they're actually made from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE. These spokes are claimed to be more durable and lighter weight than traditional steel spokes while also offering improvements in ride quality. How much? Well, Berd believes it is a measurable difference and our reviewer Dan Sapp compared it to the difference in feeling of a high-end steel frame compared to a high-end carbon frame.

More info, here.



Rims: Spank Vibrocore
Travel - Vibration Damping

SPIKE 350 VIBROCORE WHEELSET Spank Spike 350 Vibrocore wheelset

Spank's Vibrocore rims look like pretty standard aluminum hoops from the outside but you'd have to take a hacksaw to them to see the really cool part. I'm talking of course about the injected green foam, or proprietary, biodegradable, complex foam core of precisely controlled density as they would rather you call it. This is designed to absorb chatter from the trail and offer a smoother ride than a comparable design.

More info, here.



Or... Superwheel

If all that sounds a bit rigid to you, there's always the thermonuclear option of fitting the SuperWheel. An Irish inventor claims to have invented a bike wheel that offers pedalling assistance without the need for a motor and battery. We're yet to be convinced that it actually works, but free energy or not, there's bound to be some squish from all those springs. If you want to wade into the details, take a look here.



Cranks: BikeDrive
Travel - N/A


Of course, putting springs into bike components is nothing new as this BikeDrive proves. The RetroBike forums did some digging into this gem and uncovered a description of how it works. Apparently, the springs absorb energy in the dead spot of the pedalling rotation and then expels it when it's needed. It also apparently helps you maintain a circular pedal stroke over rough ground. If you fancy testing it out then a pair can be bought on eBay for $450, here.



Pedals: BioConform BIUS1
Travel - Float


Most clipless pedals have an element of float to them that allows you to wiggle your foot around without coming unclipped, so why can't flat pedals do the same thing? Well, that's where the BioConform BIUS1 comes in. The springs allow the platform to move along the axle, which in turn apparently takes pressure off the hip and knee joints when pedalling.



The rest

Time to fill in the gaps. The Structure gives us 2.6" of tire clearance so we'll be speccing the widest, softest rubber we can combined with a meaty tire insert so we can drop the pressures as low as possible. We couldn't find any suspended brakes or a drivetrain but if you can think of any niche products that fit the bill, let us know in the comments below.


117 Comments

  • 285 1
 This seatpost is a fail though. You should have just used a Reverb and get the best of both worlds...
  • 31 1
 lol, I was going to congratulate them for not taking the obvious cheap shot at the Reverb
  • 7 0
 *worst of both views
  • 23 0
 PNW Coast Seat post, literally both a suspension post and a dropper
  • 7 0
 @mtmc99: They could not do it for obvious reasons, but I think that they counted on us. I could not let them down Wink
  • 1 0
 @AddisonEverett: I believe BikeYoke has a similar post too.
  • 68 0
 Gel padded fingerless gloves, obvs.
  • 48 0
 And don't forget to wear suspenders.
  • 14 0
 and a 15mm thick chamois
  • 22 0
 www.hannshoes.com

please god wear these for the test...
  • 48 1
 "Suspension is good. As statements go, that's about as uncontroversial as they get."

Just because you said that, we're gonna have some angry rigid rider up in here shouting about how he/she is superior because of masochistic reasons.
  • 20 0
 Which proves the point: lack of suspension causes lack of chillness
  • 21 0
 "the power transfer is more efficient and I get better trail feedback!"
  • 13 0
 fixie riders are definitely triggered right now
  • 6 1
 gravel riders rise up!
  • 10 0
 There really is no other feeling that compares to getting an entire saddle shoved up your butt..
  • 18 0
 @friendlyfoe: you called? I ride a rigid fixie mtb specifically so I can get self-righteously fired up over these topics!
  • 2 0
 Trueeeeeee @Mac1987:
  • 4 0
 I am superior because of masochistic reasons.
  • 2 1
 I've got a rigid bike that I ride when my wife rides our shared fully...the 2.6 tires, tire inserts, and pnw coast dropper have made a huge difference. No masochism about it...just too poor to be a multi fully household. I think I'll get some fasst bars and rev grips to really tie the room together in terms of making the bike even more tolerable. I've met the guy that owns fasst at an event. I'd feel pretty good about supporting such a nice person and maybe save my wrist and tooth fillings while I'm at it.
  • 1 0
 @showmethemountains: I just assumed that was the only reason to ride a fixie!
  • 2 0
 @friendlyfoe: It's a big one for sure! Also, a rigid fixie with tubeless needs laughably little maintenance... just regular chain lube and occasional tire sealant even if I ride it in the worst weather (admittedly a rigid singlespeed is close to that as well, just with a freehub or freewheel added to the equation). It's also really handy to have around whenever the big bike is down for maintenance or suspension work
  • 3 0
 @Mac1987:

As a wise old musician once said, "I'll be mellow when I'm dead!"
  • 1 0
 @showmethemountains: my suspension goes out for a service before riding season starts and usually a fork oil service half way through. My derailleur is 3 years old and has been basically faultless. New gear is pretty low maintenance as long as you're not running super low tire pressures and I definitely ride a lot harder than you would on a single speed
  • 2 0
 @friendlyfoe: I also have a Knolly Warden. The fixie is my backup bike and my change-up. I have year round riding so it’s always helpful to have a second bike and not miss a good day of riding. I did a full drivetrain replacement on my Warden this spring, and then while I had it in the stand decided to do disassemble all the pivots to clean and adjust. And now I have sealant leaking from my rim seam?! Like I said, always nice to have a second bike!
One of the coolest things about any kind of more limited bike, whether it’s a fixie, single speed, xc hardtail, etc, is that riding hard is about what you are doing as a rider not just how fast your bike is going. My rides on technical trails may be slower with my fixie but they are at least as intense in effort, skill and riding on the edge on control, and usually harder in terms of abuse on body and bike. And I don’t have to go as far to seek out the gnarliest trails to go hard either.
  • 3 0
 Yep, cue my boss ranting that "full suspension is for people who can't pick good lines".
  • 1 0
 Fixie Rigid UNICYCLE right here. Pure as the driven rain. But I still one. 'Specially that saddle configuration!
  • 23 0
 Now Henry's going to come along and write a piece about the most rigid bike possible with the most impossible internal cable routing. It's basically a road bike from 2015 but he's going to say it's the best option for singletrack everesting at elevation.
  • 3 0
 Same guy that did the whole "loosen off the spokes by a quarter turn and now my wheels are magically better even though I never measured anything"?

If so, I guess I'd take anything he writes with a salt mine.
  • 3 0
 @dirtyburger: wait is this real???
  • 2 0
 @Civicowner: yea in the silt am 29er wheelset review he says that he loosened the spikes because they were too stiff
  • 4 0
 @masonsheats: is this the wheel equivalent of ppl thinking spring preload changes spring rate
  • 17 0
 Actually, this is the squishiest bike: www.youtube.com/watch?v=N39uwTykTQk
  • 3 0
 hahaha, i remember finding this video on the first week of covid lockdown, it was a boring saturday night digging deep into a youtube rabbithole.
  • 4 0
 I guess Furze's hover bike would smooth out the trail quite well too, but that's like bringing a pillow to a knife fight
  • 1 0
 Thank you so much for digging that up.
  • 14 0
 Why isn't this a full suspension fat bike? the Lenz Fatillac has up to 165mm of travel with 27.5 x 4.0 tires.

The Structure is nice but 2.6" is a compromise in ultimate squish compared to a squishy beast like that!
  • 13 0
 Pinkbike needs to blow their entire years marketing budget on building this up. For science.
  • 1 0
 Think about the Science!
  • 11 0
 You also need an OChain kickback-absorbing chainring! Might be hard to get a custom bolt pattern to match that old crankset though
  • 3 0
 Garbage. Elastomer fork only, full coil is where it's at.
  • 7 0
 You know the game QWOP....this build is basically the QWOP of bikes. You'll be flailing all over the place just to keep momentum going forward
  • 7 0
 This looks something Arnold Schwarzenegger would rip down the trail on, shooting other robots.
  • 3 0
 Many years ago, when I worked at a used shop, we built something we called the Moon Bike. It had a department store full sus frame, with the lightest spring we could find installed, and tension rolled off. Paired that with a retro springer fork with the same treatment. 72 spoke wheels and ape hangers, just 'cos. If you hit a dime on the road it would bounce for at least 30 seconds. It was a blast. And also horrible.
  • 6 0
 You motorboating SOB! Is she built for speed or comfort!?
  • 3 0
 I think pink bike should make all this gear into one bike and test it see how soft all the kitbis together please make this dream come true id test if for you if you did this PB
  • 5 0
 A classic Brook Flyer saddle would have added like 3" of coil-sprung goodness
  • 5 0
 BioConform BIUS1 - answers the question what if a Shake Weight and a pedal got it on.
  • 5 1
 I have a reverb, that can be dropped AND gives you 20mm of squish. You can have it, only 500€ ;-)
  • 6 0
 Those hubs spark joy
  • 1 0
 I came here to say this exactly. The effort and level of detail in those is insane when viewed against anything currently offered. Grade 9 binder over your crotch while you walk around school level need boner.
  • 1 0
 I had a similar idea for aligning bearings in a hub previously. I was excited to see someone made them, until I saw the price.
  • 3 0
 could you replace the non-teloscoping portion of the wtf fork with stanchions from a boxxer or fox 40? then it'd be 350mm travel.
  • 2 1
 How could they just wrote a complete article? They should have slowly built the suspense and then stopped halfway... with a short preview of what to expect next week

Other than that, no fat tires with slow reezay compound and with Huck Norris over Cush Core?
  • 2 1
 Before pedal platform was a phrase. When Marzhochi was king. Bikes were plush. You want long travel easy to pedal crutch bikes. You got em. Plush bikes you have to go back ten or fifteen years. Modern bikes are easy to pedal, fast. But are not plush .
  • 1 0
 Throw all that suspension stuff onto that frame there, and include an old Alsop suspension stem for good measure, and you will have ALL kinds of movement to measure and document. PB might need a resident physicist for that. At the very least, the rider won't be able to tell he's pedaling a bicycle at all.
  • 1 0
 I want SQUISH. ultimate SQUISH!!! I don't want to even feel the trails. or even see them! Is there a bike poncho available somewhere? preferably in forest camo so it obscures all evidence of being on a bicycle. I want to FLY through the woods..
  • 1 0
 This idea was done by some guy on MTBR 20 years ago. The result was a 50lbs bike with a whopping 18” of total travel.

IIRC, They rode the thing off a roof top and the combined suspension did what it should have on compression, but the rebound was super unpredictable and it threw the guy off.
  • 4 1
 Thudbuster seatpost? Please, we all know a saggy reverb has more travel than that!
  • 4 0
 You forgot the O-chain, basically drivetrain suspension.
  • 1 0
 I agree with the Structure bike. Front end with 150mm of travel was more supple than my DH bike. Couldn't believe how it saved me from the scariest nose landing off a jump I have ever done
  • 2 0
 I'm pretty sure you need to mount a shockster as well, so your rear suspension has more suspension. Also a softride beam would be an alternative to the thubuster.
  • 3 0
 this build would be for the kinda guy who'd pay a "guide" to literally fish for him
  • 3 0
 How else am I gonna double fist beers? Whats the point of fishing if you aren't competitive in the DUI game?
  • 1 0
 Wonder how those bike drive cranks compare to an oval ring? I wonder if they bounce around a bit when you are riding downhill and not pedaling?
  • 2 0
 With Cable actuated disc brakes (they are just as good as hydro!) you could get super spongy brake lever feel...
  • 2 0
 Power free pedal assist? Cmon pb don’t even entertain the thought of some 2nd law violations
  • 4 0
 Flexstem aint dead.
  • 2 0
 Obviously you're going to want a nice pair of Teva sandals and some thick socks to soak up the left over bumps.
  • 1 0
 Clearly you mean Crocs
  • 2 0
 Do not forget to add a Shockster bolt on rear suspension!! www.ebay.com/itm/124124503996
  • 1 0
 Shame on you, putting thru axles on this one. Good old 5mm quick releases'll give you the extra flex you need
  • 1 0
 my mistake - just looked at the picture with those spokes. Combined with those gokiso hubs - sick build! Kudos
  • 2 0
 Suspension is good, it can save lives!
  • 1 1
 “Your Scientists [pinkbike staff] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think If they should.”
  • 1 0
 Whens this build coming? Have barelli test it, timed runs, the whole thing!
  • 1 0
 Agreed Pinkbike builds it, and hucks it to flat slo mo. Watch all the squishy things at once
  • 1 0
 I heard hover bikes are cheaper.
  • 2 1
 Would it be possible to clamp a dual crown fork in that frame
  • 3 0
 I think you're on to something. Front suspension frame AND suspension fork!
  • 1 0
 To get this on the next level throw a pole btw the wheels and handlebar
  • 2 1
 Should have used a Reverb! Dropper and suspension post in one.
  • 1 0
 or: "how to ride a wet noodle"
  • 1 0
 Those grips are intriguing
  • 5 0
 Believe it or not they are actually quite highly regarded by, let’s call it, the older crown
  • 3 0
 *crowd
  • 2 1
 Mid 30s here, I've a pair. They've dramatically reduced the amount of arm pump I get while riding. Expensive, but a) the value is worth it for me and b) when the sleeves wear out they cost about the same as a regular grip, so it's a one time investment.
  • 2 0
 Need to add a Shockster
  • 1 0
 I want to know what this beast would weigh. 50+lbs?
  • 1 0
 So are you gonna put all those parts on that bike or what?
  • 2 0
 You guys are bored
  • 1 0
 A modern girvin flex stem!
  • 1 0
 SuperWheel for the win, super is in the name it must be true.
  • 2 1
 Please build this and do a Huck To Flat.
  • 1 1
 Went looking for a "Sagma balls" joke in the original article for that saddle; was not disappointed. Never change, Pinkbike.
  • 1 1
 The youtube revenue from Jason's huck-to-flat video alone will keep PB in the black for the next couple of years.
  • 1 1
 Pinkbike, please please build and review a bike built from as many of these parts as possible
  • 1 0
 Karpiel Armageddon with super monsters would be pretty soft I reckon
  • 1 0
 PNW Components suspension dropper post
  • 2 1
 Imagine getting paid to write this.
  • 1 0
 should have used this old moster DH forks with 300mm travel
  • 1 1
 That's going to be one comfy couch or a bouncy castle.

Add some Revgrips Smile
  • 1 0
 @James Smurthwaite: Just build that thing and review it. Please...
  • 1 0
 I dont know I think they should have went with a full suspension fatbike
  • 1 0
 Stop the tease. Build it.
  • 1 0
 Balloon tires? Also known as 3" Gazzaloddi.
  • 1 0
 Lacing wheels, literally
  • 1 0
 wow just wow
  • 1 0
 Those hubs tho!
  • 1 0
 Cush AF
  • 2 1
 Grim Donut...
  • 1 0
 Squishy rider-ebike
  • 1 0
 o chain?!
  • 1 0
 D3O shoe insoles too!

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