There are a number of aftermarket suspension tuning outfits looking to eke out whatever performance they can from a suspension product. From those developing alternative methods of affecting the end stroke, to completely new cartridges and internals, the options are pretty good. Vorsprung Suspension is one of the more recent of these outfits and their Luftkappe, released late last year, is the latest product from this team out of Whistler.
The Luftkappe is a machined tube that replaces the piston in the air spring of a RockShox Lyrik, Pike or Yari fork. It increases the negative air spring, which aims to make the fork lighter off the top, while the increased pressure used (a starting point of about 10% more than the typical pressures used in a stock Lyrik/Pike) allows for increased support in the mid and end stroke. It can be used with RockShox's Bottomless Tokens, though there are some limitations to consider, depending on the fork model that the Luftkappe is going to be used in.
• Larger negative air chamber
• Improved mid-stroke support
• Compatible with Tokens in some models
• Optional 10mm shaft clamps available for self-install
• Weight: 30g (~21g more than stock piston)
• MSRP: $85 CAD (Luftkappe only)
• MSRP: $235 CAD (Factory Service and Luftkappe install)
Vorsprung makes the Luftkappe in-house, in their own CNC lathe with live tooling machine. This was the first product that the team fully developed in-house: design, prototyping, testing, and production. The Luftkappe replaces the piston in the air spring side and can be done at home, by those that are comfortable with working on their suspension, or you can send your fork to the team in Whistler, where they can install it for you, which includes a service as part of the process and carries an MSRP of $235 CAD.
For those that may be interested in trying the Luftkappe and already have something like MRP's Ramp Control Cartridge
the good news is you can use both, but there are limitations. The two can only be used together in a Pike that is up to 140mm of travel, and a Lyrik up to 160mm. Going beyond these there is not enough room for all the pieces as the fork compresses to full travel. It also doesn’t work with the Dual Piston Air fork models.
Installation of the Luftkappe requires the fork be torn down and the stock piston removed. Actually removing your piston can be a bit of a tricky process, so if you're not comfortable with that, it might be best to send your fork in to Vorsprung and have their team take care of it for you.
Once the stock piston is apart, the Luftkappe, which contains a number of key parts, can be split up and installed. Some grease and careful management of the new o-rings is required, but it's a fairly straightforward process for the mechanically inclined.Performance
Let’s not kid ourselves; the Pike and new Lyrik are both exceptional forks out of the box. The chassis is sturdy and reliable, and tuning the air spring is very straightforward—they’re also easy to get set up to a point that's great on the trail. That’s not to say that the stock range of tuning options works for everyone, but they’re damn good from the get go.
After some time on the Lyrik, I found I wanted more support through the mid-stroke of my 170mm Lyrik and for the end stroke to be more consistent with the rest of the travel. Dynamic ride height wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, despite what I did while trying to keep the performance off the top that the Pike and Lyrik are renowned for.
To get close to what was my personal, ideal suspension tune, I had previously arrived at three tokens, about 70psi—roughly 15psi more than recommended for my weight. But I still wanted more from the fork. It would use a lot of its travel before hitting a "wall" deeper in the stroke, where the tokens became more apparent. Removing tokens and adding more pressure got the mid-stroke closer to where I wanted, but the top end suffered. Nothing further from the externally adjustable LSC was helping either.
Naturally, when first hearing about the Luftkappe and what it claimed to do, I was intrigued. Rather than working on the effects of the air spring at the end of the stroke, Vorsprung claims that it would make the fork lighter off the top (feel more “like a coil”) and allow for more support through the mid. Sounds good, right?
Steve and I initially set the fork up with 10psi (12%) more air. Given my complaints of the wall at the end of the stroke (and my fork being a 170mm travel version), we removed the tokens altogether. As a general starting point, Steve recommended running 1–2 clicks more rebound too. I quickly arrived (one to two rides) at my happy place of 8psi more than pre-Luftkappe, while the rebound now sits at between the one to two clicks difference mentioned, depending on the riding.
The Luftkappe's change to the feel of the Lyrik was immediately noticeable on the trail. Traction was increased across chatter and the fork remained higher in its travel and more stable, improving the dynamic ride height without sacrificing the top end. My confidence soared when hitting sections with a lot of chatter and mid to large-sized hits, and the result meant more comfort and speed through such sections.
Flat corners with chatter throughout were another area that the performance was easily noticed, with more confidence in the fork's ability to support me and the actions made throughout. My fork remained on line more easily than pre-Luftkappe and made up for more hack moves. The Lyrik went from being a really, really good fork to a great one, with more efficient use of the stroke and more traction. It was always there to get me out of ugly situations and I have far less of an issue with finding myself too far through the travel in heavy situations—it's saved my arse on a number of occasions and while it may have been possible to get through without it, less rider input was necessary to do so. Never did the fork do anything quirky or out of sorts. Pinkbike’s Take: