Why Your Bike Might Have Less Travel Than Claimed

Jan 14, 2022
by Seb Stott  
I'll admit, this cartoon is way over the top. But it's worth knowing that suspension travel figures are far from exact.

Recently I made the case that more is more when it comes to suspension travel. But it may surprise you to learn that many bikes don't actually offer the travel they claim. Some have more travel than advertised, but more often they have less. Sometimes quite a lot less.

I must give credit to Alan Muldoon of MBR magazine for drawing my attention to this. Never content to take any bike brand at their word, he's been measuring the travel of test bikes for years. Because some of the bikes he measured were way off-spec, he convinced me to start doing the same in 2018. Two of the first bikes I measured were the 2019 Specialized Enduro and Scott Ransom. The Enduro had a claimed 160 mm of travel, but my test bike with its Fox DPX2 shock was delivering just 148 mm; meanwhile, the Ransom claimed 170 mm but delivered 173 mm. So, instead of a 10 mm travel difference, the bikes had a 25 mm gulf between them. I'd already noticed the Ransom far outperformed the Enduro in the rough, but was more imbalanced unsupportive in the corners. Measuring the travel provided a credible reason why.

Measuring travel

I'll admit that measuring travel isn't precise. I estimate my method has an error of +/- 3 mm, but that's good enough to spot when a bike deviates significantly from the claimed travel. I put the bike upside-down on smooth, level ground, adjusting the dropper post until the axles are level, then measure from the floor to the centre of the axle. Next, I deflate the shock and thread a ratchet strap from the bottom of the rim to the seat tube. Ratcheting it tight while allowing the remaining air to escape the shock, I can be sure it's fully bottomed out. Then I measure the distance to the floor again and take the difference.

Of course, you could use linkage software to calculate the travel, but this assumes you know the real-world stroke and eye-to-eye length of the shock and a lot of the variation in travel comes down to this.

Why travel can change

Marketing
Customers often shop for bikes by travel, so brands might occasionally stick a badge on a bike that fits it neatly into a particular travel segment based on intended use, rather than its actual travel. One brand told me off the record that they once had a bike that measured up at 158 mm travel but they sold it as a 150 mm bike because that's what customers wanted. More common is just to round up to the nearest 10 mm.

The Grim Donut
Who needs precision when you're this hydrated?

Compromise
Frame designers have to balance many considerations when designing a suspension linkage: weight, cost, ease of manufacturing, reliability, progressiveness, standover clearance and (most importantly of all) how many water bottles can fit around the shock. Stipulating that the bike must deliver exactly X mm of suspension travel is an unnecessary extra constraint. If moving the shock mount a few millimetres will make it less likely to break, or better still, allow a water bottle to fit, then who cares if the travel figure changes a bit?

Shock stroke
Most bikes have a leverage ratio of between 2:1 and 3:1, meaning for every millimetre the shock moves, the axle moves 2-3 mm. So if a shock measures 1 mm short on stroke length, the travel will drop by as much as 3 mm.

Fox say their shocks are built to a tolerance of +/- 1 mm on stroke length, but in the real world, it's often difficult or impossible to access every last millimetre of that stroke. Modern air shocks are designed such that the negative air spring prevents it from topping out harshly when riding and helps improve the off-the-top sensitivity. But in some cases, this can make them unable to fully extend without being pulled by an external force. If you forcefully extend the rear axle or over-inflate the positive chamber, you can usually get these shocks to deliver their full travel, but whether or not you'll ever use those last few millimetres on the trail is another question. Similarly, some modern air shocks have substantial bottom-out bumpers which make it difficult or impossible to fully compress the shock.

Don't get me wrong, shocks that don't fully top-out or fully bottom-out are undoubtedly a good thing on the trail. But depending on how you measure it, the "usable stroke" can be as much as 2-3 mm less than the fully-extended stroke length in the most extreme cases, corresponding to 5-8 mm less travel.

2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude
2021 Rocky Mountain Altitude

Geometry adjustments
Some bikes have adjustable chainstay lengths or longer chainstays for larger sizes. Increasing the chainstay length usually increases the length of the effective swingarm, which means more travel. Roughly speaking, for every 10 mm increase in the swingarm length, suspension travel will increase by about 2-2.5%, so about 3-4 mm for a 150 mm bike. Not a huge amount, but for bikes where the chainstay length can vary by as much as 20 mm, it's worth considering. Note this isn't true for brands like Forbidden where the change in chainstay length is achieved by moving the bottom bracket relative to the main pivot, not by changing the swingarm length.

The leverage ratio for the 2019 (non-high-pivot) GT Force, courtesy of Dan Roberts. In the low setting, the leverage ratio is slightly lower meaning less travel, though not by much in this case.

Less obvious are flip chips at the shock eyelet, which are designed to raise or lower the bottom bracket height. Flipping these can change the average leverage ratio and therefore the amount of travel that's extracted from the shock. Ironically, the low/slack setting, generally considered better for descending, usually offers less travel. The difference is usually only a millimetre or two, but in some cases where the flip-chip is mounted on a short rocker link, it can be much more.

Axle path
Axle path diagrams are often shown with a compressed scale. This makes it look as if the forward or rearward component of the travel contributes significantly to the overall distance the axle moves along the perimeter of the arc, or diagonally from the start point to the endpoint, as opposed to the vertical component of the travel which is normally quoted.

But if the axle path is drawn to scale, like in the diagram opposite, it becomes clear that measuring travel vertically or diagonally doesn't make much difference. Even for a bike with an extremely rearward axle path (a Forbidden Dreadnought in this case) the difference is only about 3 mm. For bikes with conventional axle paths, the "diagonal travel" is usually around a millimetre more than the vertical travel.

Does this matter?

Yes and no. Though important, suspension travel is far from the only thing that affects suspension performance. Ultimately, if a bike rides well it rides well, whether or not the travel matches what's written on the frame badge. Besides, I don't want you to think that most bikes are centimetres off the quoted travel figure. Most I've measured are within a few millimetres - close enough that any difference could just be a measurement error and certainly not enough to worry about.


But just as riders want to know exactly how much a bike weighs, they should know how much travel it's got. In those (rare) cases where a bike has notably less travel than claimed, it can help to explain why it rides the way it does. It's a bike review cliché to say a bike feels like it has more or less travel than it claims to. In some cases, that's because it does!


216 Comments

  • 954 8
 Good theory but the number one reason for less travel is corona lol
  • 8 0
 nice one
  • 6 0
 Smooth. That’s pretty good
  • 88 36
 ... which is caused by 5G.
  • 24 1
 @mrti: aliens
  • 43 13
 @mrti: that made me laugh, but my scientific brain told me to downvote.
  • 1 0
 hahhaaa
  • 1 0
 that was good one
  • 15 2
 @mrti: I heard you could remedy this via setting cell phone towers on fire.
  • 84 280
flag getsomesy (Jan 14, 2022 at 10:43) (Below Threshold)
 The reason for less travel isn't corona, its tyrannical mandates from governments. The disease didnt block us from traveling, the government did. Dont get it twisted
  • 107 23
 @getsomesy: ratboy called, wants his tinfoil hat back
  • 79 10
 @getsomesy: I feel the standard reply of "you must be fun at parties" is relevant here.
  • 42 2
 @getsomesy:

joke
/jōk/
noun

a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline.
"she was in a mood to tell jokes"
  • 4 84
flag neilbarkman02 (Jan 14, 2022 at 11:12) (Below Threshold)
 You must be even more fun@roguecheddar:
  • 7 0
 One of the first comments here to make me actually laugh out loud. Have a LOL
  • 19 3
 @mrti: no, you need better sources. It's the other way around: corona vaccines improve 5G reception!
  • 3 10
flag weebleswobbles (Jan 14, 2022 at 12:39) (Below Threshold)
 @mrti: I had heard that some people were trying to correlate covid w 5g interwebs rollout
  • 13 23
flag rideone62 (Jan 14, 2022 at 15:38) (Below Threshold)
 @getsomesy: yep nailed it.
  • 9 24
flag BikesNRussets (Jan 14, 2022 at 17:36) (Below Threshold)
 @getsomesy: Yo, I agree with you. But that was a joke, meant to be funny.
  • 15 1
 Why is beer causing less suspension travel?
  • 6 11
flag gnarlysipes (Jan 15, 2022 at 15:47) (Below Threshold)
 @getsomesy: Whether you call it tyranny or not doesn’t change the fact that government mandates were a huge factor leading to less travel. The scary part about this is that some people can’t call a spade a spade. They don’t trust their governments except when it comes to “keeping them safe” from a virus. So sad.
  • 2 0
 @pink505: I don't know, but it also decreases damping. Even when standing still the bike is bouncing around.
  • 393 62
 My bike identifies as having more travel than it does
  • 19 17
 this made my day hahaha
  • 40 16
 r/onejoke
  • 40 19
 I heard the Canyon Strive is travel-fluid too. Rad.
  • 46 103
flag elemon58 (Jan 14, 2022 at 9:37) (Below Threshold)
 @ct0413: That's hilarious haha. Let's just hope it doesn't cut itself.
  • 26 49
flag noakeabean (Jan 14, 2022 at 9:42) (Below Threshold)
 Comment of the day
  • 67 18
 Now we just need stickers for rigid singlespeeds that say: “I identify as a DH bike.”
  • 16 23
flag bman33 (Jan 14, 2022 at 10:00) (Below Threshold)
 @bishopsmike you win today sir...you win. Big Grin
  • 55 126
flag rpdale (Jan 14, 2022 at 10:07) (Below Threshold)
 @elemon58: Internet Jokes degrading people who are different than you make your day?
  • 65 25
 @rpdale: yeah pretty much
  • 38 29
 @carym: "I identify as a prius" - recently seen on a lifted, mud-terrain tire'd, coal rolling Ram 4x4.
  • 21 10
 @rpdale: not sure how you read that from my comment, but you are clearly a strong detective.
  • 10 4
 My $700 hardtail identifies as a $20,000 spesh turbo kenevo sl
  • 2 0
 @solar-evolution: shit's gone nuclear, huh? dayum
  • 19 33
flag roguecheddar (Jan 14, 2022 at 10:58) (Below Threshold)
 @solar-evolution: OwNinG ThE LibZ
  • 54 10
 Trans-slender - Fat guy that identifies as thin. (Me).
  • 4 2
 @roguecheddar: haha, my first thought when I saw it was "check mate, well played."
  • 11 36
flag lucaj (Jan 14, 2022 at 16:00) (Below Threshold)
 TrAnsPhoBia LOlz.
  • 4 1
 @carym: i would actually get one of these !
  • 106 0
 Dammit! My bike has 3mm less travel than claimed! No wonder I can't ride as well as Loic Bruni does!
  • 57 0
 This is the real reason I measure travel: more excuses.
  • 8 4
 @seb-stott: wouldnt the strap in the above article also induce error, if you tighten to 5 pounds pressure vs. 500 pounds. The 500 pound may bend the stays enough to add more travel?
  • 4 0
 @dirtmcleod: So your saying you cannot bend the seat/chainstays ?
  • 4 0
 @fabwizard: he said it was +/- 3mm and acknowledged it wasn’t super precise.
  • 7 0
 @fabwizard: It could, but I trust that Seb is mentally functional enough to know the difference between 5 and 500 pounds…

The spring rate of a bike frame has got to be high enough that 20 vs 30 pounds of force or whatever makes no practical difference.
  • 1 0
 @fabwizard: I am saying you can bend them but that shock pressure isn't enough to flex stays unless they're made shit or made to flex, like flex stays.
  • 54 1
 It should be standard practice in a review to include actual measured travel, just like how the weight is typically recorded and included. It would be really interesting to see if there are bigger discrepancies in shorter travel or longer travel bikes.
  • 81 4
 Please include measured travel numbers with and without pedals.
  • 6 1
 That and geometry numbers
  • 3 0
 EXACTLY! Like claimed lumens vs. actual lumens
  • 2 0
 I read a German magazine that did, They also pointed out that coil bump stop elastomers where stiffer on RockShox and decreased the travel more than the fox ones did. If you run a coil, you can increase the stroke by around 5 to 7mm to make up for the elastomer.
  • 36 1
 My world has been shattered knowing that bike companies aren't telling me the 100% truth. What's next, please don't tell me I can actually mix sram and Shimano chains/drivetrain parts!
  • 7 11
flag justinfoil (Jan 14, 2022 at 10:14) (Below Threshold)
 Well, take a seat, because guess what... You can and it works well!. Just need to match speeds (duh), definitely match shifter with mech, and ideally match cassette with chain (maybe chainring, too).

For 12-speed, SLX shifter and Deore mech shifts an XO1 chain (way harder/longer wearing than a GX chain) across a GX cassette no worse than a GX mech, but it's way more stable (better b-pivot and stronger clutch) so it's better overall.
  • 23 0
 @justinfoil: GX AXS with an XT cassette and XTR chain is the ultimate watching the world burn mix. You get wireless shifting and shifting under torque.
  • 6 2
 @m47h13u: Rather have the reverse. Any Shimano 12-speed mech is so much better than a GX Eagle mech. The GX stuff is good for a while, but just wears out so fast*.

And I've had great luck slamming gears with the Eagle cassette and chain. I've tried a friend's full HyperGlide Plus setup and I didn't find it to be as great a difference vs Eagle as all the media likes to imply. If someday I need a chainring, cassette, and chain all at the same time, I might also grab a MicroSpline freehub and switch to full HG+, but I'm in no hurry to throw down almost $500 for pretty marginal shifting gains.

Also, I don't want batteries on my bike: keeping my lights ready for night rides (which is most weekday rides in the winter) is all the charging I'm willing to deal with.

* (I wore out a GX chain in like 400 miles. Granted, I am around 100 kilos and ride lots of punchy stuff, so the extra hardening treatments on the higher-end chains is so very worth it. Also had a pair of GX mechs get so sloppy at the b-pivot that they were ghost-shifting after maybe 600 miles, and that's just unacceptable)
  • 4 0
 @justinfoil: I just had to warranty my 12 sp SLX mech after 6 months, but Shimano wouldn't have a replacement for 9 months. So I had to wait 2.5 months for parts to arrive so my shop could rebuild the mech. Meanwhile, I still have the original 11 sp GX mechs on my 2015 trail bike and my 2016 Enduro bike.
  • 4 2
 @Rubberelli: @Rubberelli: yep same here. Still running the same GX mech from 2016. Looks like it’s been doing grinds on it yet it’s perfectly straight and no play in the pivots at all. I have another GX mech that’s just hit three years old still no issues. The new shimano 12 speed mechs are a joke, they’re even worse than the old 11 speed mechs. The clutches are even worse and even more prone to seizures and rusting and and the build quality on the deore and slx especially mechs are a disgrace. Complete false economy, they’re not even that much cheaper than sram at the moment yet it falls apart after a few months. Pay the extra and get something that’s going to work and not fall apart after a few months.
  • 2 0
 @m47h13u: Good idea! May give this a go (XT cassette $200 cheaper than X01!)
  • 1 0
 @Billjohn6: An XT cassette lasts me around 12-18 months before it’s all chewed up, skipping and ready for the bin. My four year old xo1 cassette hasn’t even worn through its coating yet and still shifts better than a new XT cassette. Money well spent considering how much longer they last. I’m still on 11 speed shimano. Don’t expect the 12 speed stuff to last as well.
  • 1 0
 You can actually mix and match Shimano 12 speed derailleurs and shifters with SRAM eagle shifters and derailleurs. The ratio is so close that it doesn't matter. I am running an XO1 shifter with an XT derailleur and it is perfect. I have done the opposite too. This doesn't work with anything less than 12 speed though.
  • 1 0
 @thejames: me too, i like the matchmaker and feel of the sram shifter, everything down below is shimano, works perfectly
  • 1 0
 @justinfoil: NX or GX shifter on a Deore mech works great and imho is an improvement.
  • 1 0
 @thejames: I've done this on 11 and 12 speed. No issues.
  • 32 0
 Really cool. I'd be fascinated to see a (probably redacted) breakdown of how bikes within a category compare. Knowing the Ransom and Enduro were so different, I'd be curious if there's even more range when you add more bikes, and if that affects perceived performance. I'm sure manufacturers wouldn't want this, as it could reveal marketing hooey or the like, but I'm curious regardless.

I'm also wondering if some brands are worse offenders than others- does Specialized always lie (I assume so, for a variety of reasons) or are there outliers? Are brands that list very specific travel, like the Ibis Ripmo AF at 147mm, more accurate or not? I know it ultimately makes little difference knowing or not, as the bike will ride how it rides regardless of whether it has 150mm or 154mm, but I'd be interested either way.
  • 23 0
 That Enduro was an outlier, and I think in that case the cause was the shock. The bike also measured slacker and lower than the geometry chart suggested because the shock wasn't reaching full extension for some reason. This is definitely not to say that every Specialized underdelivers on travel, or even every bike in that model. (In fact, according to Muldoon, the current Enduro over-delivers on travel (176 mm) - link below.) But I can only review the bike I had on test and that bike was underdelivering on travel.

I've also measured around twenty bikes now and the vast majority are close enough to be a non-issue. I just think it's interesting that travel numbers aren't exact and *occasionally* measure up a fair bit off.

www.mbr.co.uk/reviews/full-suspension-bikes/specialized-enduro-s-works-29-review#:~:text=with%20the%20suspension%2C%20as%20we%20measured%20its%20vertical%20wheel%20travel%20at%20176mm.
  • 2 1
 @seb-stott: I knew i remembered reading somewhere that the 2022 Levos measured less than the advertised 150mm travel, it was a review article from MBR.. they observed 139mm travel and "Specialized is looking into the discrepancy"

that being said, I own a 2022 Levo expert and love the bike, I don't think I'd benefit from an additional 10mm travel if their findings are true.

www.mbr.co.uk/reviews/electric-bikes/specialized-turbo-levo-pro-2021
  • 4 0
 @seb-stott: Could the Enduro have had air pressure in the negative chamber and become "stuck down"? Had this happen, and took me a while to notice an incremental loss of travel.
  • 4 1
 @seb-stott: what about the diagonal travel of forks? They lose about 10% with typical head angles.
  • 1 0
 @Aeyogi: It could be something like that - perhaps excess grease in the negative chamber making it harder for the shock to fully extend, but it wasn't so much that the shock was visibly lacking in stroke, like when a shock fails and becomes "stuck down".
  • 1 0
 @nigelh: Totally. The vertical and "diagonal" travel in forks are significantly different, hence why many bikes have longer forks than rear travel.
  • 24 0
 Time to come clean. I've been secretly removing travel from my friend's bikes for years. I have a whole bin of it in the garage.
  • 35 12
 Could be posted on a women magazine as well:
" Why your ride might have less travel than claimed"
  • 16 2
 Can I count the foreskin?
  • 47 7
 Why are some women bad at math?



Because they have been told that this is 8"

l------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------>l
  • 3 4
 @salespunk: disappointed i can only give one props.
  • 6 1
 It depends on whether you measure from the base or the taint...of the swingarm.
  • 3 0
 @salespunk: Viewed on my 48" TV, it is 8", possibly even more.
  • 5 5
 You guys are why we can’t have nice things.
  • 37 16
 I do not care for the attempted normalization of ebikes by including as supplemental graphics to articles that are not ebike specific. Boo!
  • 1 0
 Lol, this is an excellent observation and well said... Oh wait, you have an 0u75!d3+ account, I have to hate you now because you don't truly fight for the cause.
  • 18 0
 I love the analytical articles from Seb, always super interesting and informative! Someone finally taking the time to look into the random things I think about
  • 16 0
 "Downcountry" bike turned out to have 150mm travel instead of 130mm, I have been bamboozled.
  • 4 0
 it's like the vilest heresy there ever was *40k ultramarine*
  • 3 0
 Would you like the Wicked Wango card?
  • 15 2
 It is like when you buy a 12s bike, sometimes you got 13 but sometimes 11, who knows?
Only one thing is certain in the bike industry, it is that sram brakes do not actually brake.
  • 11 0
 For about 20 years riders were really hung up on travel equating to capability. This was part of the equation, but in reality geometry was probably just as important to capability. I'm so thankful that the concepts around geometry are now becoming mainstream. Geo, tires, travel, in that order!
  • 5 10
flag justinfoil (Jan 14, 2022 at 9:43) (Below Threshold)
 Travel is part of geo...
  • 4 0
 @justinfoil: travel set up (sag, stroke length) and design certainly influences geo. However, I don't think a bikes designated travel (as intended by manufacturer) dictates geo. For example a 150mm(ish) bike from 2002 is going to have about the same amount of travel as a 150mm(ish) bike from 2022. However, the geo will be quite different. I didn't down vote you, as I respect it's a good discussion point.
  • 1 0
 The difference between 1 1/8 and 1 1/2” headtube was a big advantage for rough decents. Same goes for for fork stiffness over the years. I prefer my rear shock to ride a little high in the stroke / set up so it also feels like i am giving up some travel - not really but just not using it .
  • 1 0
 @regdunlop: agreed. Must not also forget stem length and bar width too!
  • 4 1
 @JDFF: I mean that given 2 bikes with identical static geo but one with 120mm travel and one with 160mm travel are going to ride quite differently. Just as 2 bikes with same travel but one with 100mm shorter front-center or 3 degrees steeper head angle (just for examples, there are many variables here) are going to ride very differently. Both the same-geo-but-longer-travel and the same-travel-but-longer-slacker-geo options are going to be able to plow through rough stuff with more forgiveness, hence travel is part of how the bike rides and handles, thus part of the geo.
  • 11 0
 Bikes with a rearward axle path should be measured as diagonal travel, I think - Fork travel isn't measured vertically, why should rear travel be?

This is a great write-up, interesting to think about how "travel" is kind of poorly defined. Vertical or diagonal? Straight point-to-point, or arc length? Do we assume the bike isn't pitching forward or back when the fork or shock is compressed independently?

Hardtail fork travel can be similarly misleading. Head angle, reach, chainstay length, etc. can all affect how much "real" travel you experience at the pedals vs. the bars.
  • 2 0
 Good point about how it's defined. Since wheel/axle path is almost always an arc or series of arcs, travel is usually defined as the sum of arc lengths, and then rounded off.
Not sure I follow you on the hard tail fork travel part though. I don't think anyone cares to define how much travel you feel at the pedals.
  • 1 6
flag justinfoil (Jan 14, 2022 at 9:53) (Below Threshold)
 Why do the rearward axle paths get a special case? You're saying that those specifically should be measured straight-line point-to-point, like a fork, but then ask how to measure travel... You just stated the way you prefer.

That "travel at the pedals" (not calling it "real") you refer to applies to all suspension bikes, not just hardtails.
  • 3 0
 @justinfoil: I'm saying that regardless of axle path, if we're going to measure fork travel in line with how it actually compresses - not the net vertical component - rear travel should be measured similarly. I'm not saying that's necessarily better, but for consistency's sake it makes sense to me. Being that bikes tend to hit obstacles primarily while moving forward, I'd say a rearward path with the same vertical component has "more travel" than a more vertical path. Forward paths are a whole other discussion I guess.

I agree the travel at the pedals applies to all bikes - Hardtails might be kind of irrelevant to this discussion, I just find the various geometry effects interesting.
  • 2 0
 @seanchad: The problem with this is that rearward travel is still useful travel, from the perspective of the wheel moving out of the way of obstacles. So yes, a standard definition of straight-line path between 0-100% travel could be used, but that doesn't capture the length of path that the axle/wheel takes. It just so happens that fork travel is linear, but rear is not, so why try to describe them the same way?
  • 1 0
 @mammal: why set the same sag?
  • 1 0
 @baca262: I don't understand what you're asking here. I didn't mention sag, and I don't think sag is ever recommended to be set at the same % of travel for front and rear. Personally, I set the sag of my fork to allow the best balance between ride-feel, bottom-out resistance, and level of support for the given terrain I'll be riding. The rear travel is set so that it can ride in a position that's complimentary to the leverage curve of the bike, usually between 25-35% of travel depending on the design.
  • 1 0
 Technically/theoretically you could have a crazy rear wheel axel path that zig zagged back and forth during its travel and have a 300 cm of axel path travel but if measured vertically then it would only be 18cm.

Maybe some manufacturers measure the axel path travelled vs. vertical travel.
  • 1 0
 @fabwizard: I believe all or almost all manufacturers measure axle path traveled, for the reason you mention with that exaggerated example.
  • 1 0
 @mammal: it's because of different progressivenes of the fork and the rear linkage.

they'll take different amounts of force to compress the same amount. it gets complicated
  • 1 0
 @baca262: You seem to be answering a question that wasn't asked, or something. You referred above to setting sag, which I wasn't talking about, and now you're talking about a difference in progressiveness in front/rear suspension. Neither of those topics have to do with measuring travel.
  • 16 2
 is this where we say something about riding a hardtail?
  • 16 1
 My hardtail has always handled rough really well. Just checked and it turns out I've had 15mm's of travel this whole time.
  • 5 0
 Seems that rigid may take the win in consistency here.
  • 1 0
 Having negative travel helps with traction.
  • 3 0
 So disappointed my rigid doesn't actually have 120mm...
  • 6 0
 Well, at least they have as much travel as advertised...
  • 8 0
 Soooo, is there a spreadsheet you've made of actual vs advertised travel of test bikes?
  • 3 0
 No, it's just to say things, not bringing things
  • 6 0
 This is a great argument for bring back Pinkbike's old (ish) Behind the Numbers series. Hopefully their corporate overlords allow it to be outside the paywall.
  • 6 0
 This is all very fascinating, but what the people really want to know is why it’s been been three weeks without a new a PinkBike Podcast. Pinkers want to know!
  • 4 0
 And ratcheting the rear wheel tight may not reveal the full travel. Shocks have hard-ish durometer bottom out bumpers that squish under bottom out, yielding my guess is another 3-6mm of travel that your ratchet strap demo wouldnt pick up.
  • 7 0
 flex after bottom out should get you the rest of the way there.
  • 6 0
 Not the first time I’ve used that argument Wink
  • 4 1
 I wondered about this on my Nicolai G1, since changing the shock position changes the travel between a claimed 162 and 175 mm, but there is no explanation about how the travel is consistent between frames sizes and "mutations". It simply cannot be. With adjustments (mutators) and size differences, the swingarm length can be anywhere from 438 to 465 mm. The shock stroke doesn't change, so the travel must vary. Based on the 2-2.5% change, that could mean a 170mm travel bike is running between roughly 158 or 182mm. That is a big swing.

I could go grab a tape measure and see, but nah...
  • 1 0
 I definitely notice more of a monster truck feeling in the high speed chunk by adding the 450+ chainstay mutator over the shorter one that came stock on my size small G1. However, I also added the largest seat stay mutator to steepen the head angle as much as possible. Stock the bike sat below 60.5 as mullet and just below 62 HTA with full wagon wheels. IMHO, sub 62 HTA makes things just too sluggish for everyday pedaling or anything outside a steep DH track.
  • 6 1
 Fake news. Next you'll tell me actual weight is more than claimed, seat tube angles aren't as steep as claimed, and tires are heavier and narrower than claimed.
  • 4 2
 My friend bought the Interbike Turner 5 spot a long time ago. Hounded Turner for it. He really liked it till his measured it and found it had less than 5” of travel. There was some back and forth with Turner, culminating in a very heated phone call while driving out to a bike shop in Haleiwa on a too wet to ride Friday afternoon. Was quite funny to listen to as a passenger. Turner didn’t want him to have the bike and he didn’t want to keep it, so it worked out well for both parties. To this day, it still comes up in the riding group and it’s been almost 20 years.
  • 5 1
 If they really liked it, why the hell does it matter if they didn't measure it at 5 inches? How far off was their measurement, anyway?

(Note I said "they didn't measure it at" and not "it didn't have")

How petty do you have to be to get rid of something you like because of intentional rounding up or just differing measurement techniques?
  • 4 0
 To be fair, I got pretty heated when it came to light that I had less than 5 in....uh....nevermind.
  • 3 0
 @justinfoil: which is why it’s still a topic of conversation 20 later! It wasn’t off by much, that’s been lost to time.
  • 2 0
 A guy I know recently discovered that the shock on his new stumpy was about 8mm short on its stroke compared to another friends stumpy shock. He only discovered it after they did a bike swap to test different forks and noticed how completely different the rear felt.
  • 4 0
 8mm (probably 7.5mm actual) sounds like the wrong shock. Is it a second-hand bike? (ie: my Stumpy is currently under-shocked: got a de-stroked OEM shock from a 29er for my 27er, gonna remove the travel reducer next full service; but I'd tell that if I ever sold it before that service).

Did they check the intended stroke using the code on the shock and Fox's website?
  • 2 0
 @justinfoil: yeah that’s what I thought too, even if they were both at the extreme of the shock stroke ranges it didn’t sound right. Both brand new, less than 3 months old. I’m not sure what is happening with it. I assume some sort of warranty claim.
  • 2 0
 @Afterschoolsports: Fox shocks? Find the 4 digit/letter "Tune ID" sticker and check it at www.ridefox.com/fox17/help.php?m=bike. That will tell you the intended stroke and might help you decide whether to pursue warranty with Specialized (wrong shock) or maybe directly with Fox (not getting full stroke), or at least know if you should be asking Spesh for a new same shock or the actual correct shock.
  • 2 0
 @justinfoil: I’ve asked my friend who brought the guy along to find out what’s happened with it. I had forgotten all about it until this article.
  • 2 0
 Intriguing article as I was just studying my new-to-me MRP Hazzard shock.

What’s the deal with coil shocks? My 210x55 Hazzard has exactly 55mm shaft exposed, but 15mm of that is covered by the very beefy bump stop. It can never compress to zero, so I do wonder how much stroke it actually has!
  • 2 0
 Maybe like 53-54mm. It compresses a lot. I know this because the shock I have is waaaayyyyyy long from the factory and I gradually reduced stroke and needed to be within like 1mm to not damage my frame.
  • 1 0
 Same with an ‘21 DHX2 230 x 60 - huge bumper never lets me use full stroke (used 57mm). I did change the stroke to 62.5 - definitely helped a bit. But this can’t be intended
  • 1 0
 @mrwulf: You guys rather have a violent clank at bottom out that leave maybe 1mm of shock travel used?
  • 2 0
 @seb-scott I'd be interested how frame size impacts travel numbers especially now that we're seeing size specific chainstays.

I always assumed the advertised round number as a target across the size range. Smaller frame will have a little less, larger frame a little more.
  • 2 0
 @seb-stott So the SolidWorks CAD screenshot of the Dreadnaughts axle path shows both vertical and diagonal travel. Would be more useful if it also showed the length of the arc, given that that's the path the axle is actually travelling along and so should be the true quoted travel number. Sure it's only mm difference but that's kinda the point of the article?
  • 3 0
 This would be cool to see mentioned in field tests where they see how the travel compares to what the manufacture says it is.
  • 2 3
 Not unless they also check and account for all geometry measurements, especially including actual full shock stroke, in a consistent and accurate way.

Between manufacturing tolerances in both frames and especially shocks, pnuematic top-out & bottom out bumpers, and even differing leverage curves*, the numbers would be all over the place and fairly useless.

*(relatively higher ratio at the beginning would exaggerate not being topped out, while relatively higher at the end would exaggerate the bottom out bumper)
  • 2 1
 Don't forget, that terrain also has a huge effect on the effective travel. If you huck-to-flat a dh bike with a fox 40 it only has about 140mm vertical travel.... on the other hand you have real 200mm vertical travel when it is steep...

Similar (but less dramatic) things can happen with rear travel when comparing rearward vs forward axlepath in steep terrain.
  • 2 0
 My hardtail and I really appreciated this article and the level of the comments. I should apply that bloody 2022 resolution that was STOP READING THE COMMENTS, but I can't help it.
  • 2 1
 What about suspension forks? I've pondered how my claimed 170mm fork measures barely 165mm of stanchion showing. I doubt its intended to crush the seals at full compression. I know that 5mm aint gonna change my experience but its the principal of the matter. "The cost per mm is too damned high!"
  • 1 0
 Interesting article. Never believe what you are told… find the truth out yourselves (if it matters). I did a similar study on 5 pairs of forks (massive Data pool Lol). Most forks have 10mm less travel than advertised and fox even less due to inaccessible ramp up.
  • 2 0
 @seb-stott: When the bike has a coil shock are you compressing the shock until the bump stop is just touched by the shock body or when the bump stop is completely squashed flat?
  • 1 0
 Another interesting piece is that vertical front wheel travel is less than stanchion travel because of the head angle, but rear wheel travel is typically measured vertically, so if you have equal advertised travel front and rear you likely have mover vertical rear wheel travel and less vertical front wheel travel. Of course most people run more sag in the shock than the fork, so maybe that equalizes a bit.
  • 1 0
 @seb-stott it's an interesting observation but you're basically measuring travel to bumper contact, which can hardly be considered "full travel", particularly with the current trend of longer/softer engaging bumpers. The line of action of your ratchet strap is also significantly fore-aft, which I'd be interested to see applied to a high pivot design! To compare consistently between frame and shock manufacturers you would need something sensibly relating the peak wheel centre vertical force for "max travel" back to bike sprung mass plus rider control mass at a given (standardised) bump acceleration. My guess is there isn't an established standard for this, but somewhere in the range of 5-10g would probably be appropriate.
Bottom line, if customers want to understand how the wheel travel of different products compares, the industry needs a standard method of measuring it.
  • 4 0
 Oh no! Time to go buy a longer travel bike, just in case.
  • 1 0
 S4 stumpy Evo uses a 55mm stroke shock for "150mm" of travel. the stanchion on the float X is ~59mm long and I have consistently pushed the oring off it. Still doesn't hold a candle to the Enduro with "170mm"
  • 4 0
 I don't think you push the o-ring off it. Just had this convo with a riding buddy and we decided that it's mostly the o-ring getting twisted and then untwisting, and maybe inertia, that shoots it off the end.

My DPX2 is also one with a longer body (55mm max, travel reduced to 50mm), and I eventually put a zip-tie (~4 mm wide) on the very bottom of shock body to indicate the actual stroke end. Since then, neither the o-ring nor the zip-tie have been pushed off, because the zip-tie acts as a stopper against the o-ring twisting off the end.
  • 3 2
 That’s why I love DownHill specs for rear travel, it’s 100%, If the brand even has 1mm more travel then it’s competitors the will definitely let you know it’s 201mm not 200mm rear travel
  • 3 0
 When your articles have less interest than claimed.* Next week; top ten other mbuk articles*
  • 1 0
 true but it comes to a point where its just too much. I get nerdy with suspension i design suspension i plan to weld bikes and when i sell them, ill use the closest approximation of suspension travel. simple honest direct.
  • 2 2
 We will just end up with "140mm class" MTBs just like we have "55" class TVs", just so that we don't have anal reviewers and end-users suing or returning bikes claiming false advertisement and misrepresentation.

At the end of the day, a bike rides the way a bike rides. Whether a bike advertised as a 140mm rear travel and is actually a 135mm or a 150 is 148 etc, doesn't change anything for the end-user. It is not like a badly sized tire that won't fit your wheels or a off-size bearing that will not fit your headset, or a cheap carbon frame with missaligned press-fit BB receivers that creak.

The exact travel in MM makes no difference in real life, just like the way each rear triangle responds is different, so there is no linear relationship with "real" mm of vertical travel or the actual rear axle travel or w/e, and the performance of different designs. So you knowing whether the new SJ has +/- a mm from advertized or it is less than the previous model and whatnot, is just irrelevant, just like if your car manufacturer advertised 2,499cc and your cad software claims they actually gave your 2,498cc is probably irrelevant.
  • 2 0
 For me it's a matter of principle. You are right that is probably does not matter / the differences are negligible. But there is no reason whatsoever to quote a travel in mm and then just post a wrong number to give an impression. What's so hard about writing 148mm instead of 150? It's just a straight lie otherwise. With cars it's different, they say 2.5 liters. That is a rounded number. They would never say 2500 ccm (but really it's only 249Cool . In all documentation the real number is readily accessible.
If we quoted bike travel numbers in cm or dm then it may be acceptable to round it up, for example I have 15cm of travel (but really it's 152mm), but still it sounds weird and wrong. It's just a number folks, there is no room for interpretation.
  • 1 1
 As I never ride without a coil installed (or airspring suitably pumped) I never experience the lowrider effect of missing a few mm of stated travel.
Surely this whole issue is only relevant if you are:
a - bottoming out all the time (probably got the wrong class of bike and/or spring rate in the first place)
b - want to bottom out all the time (huck to flat support group required..)
  • 3 0
 my bike claims to have 131mm of travel. there's no way they're lying to that precision
  • 1 0
 My bike is one of those that loses travel in the slack position, but if anything it almost feels like more because the increased progressivity makes it harder to bottom out.
  • 2 0
 I didn't like mine in the slack position, way too progressive. Put it in neutral and god damn this bike is fun in both directions.
  • 1 0
 @m47h13u: actually I did pretty much that. I have a Rocky Mountain with the 9 positions. Full slack was too progressive for me (definitely did not feel like more travel!) and I ended up in position 3, halfway between slack and neutral. Thank you for jogging my memory!
  • 1 0
 @AndrewHornor: My Altitude is in position 5 with long chainstay mode, after watching Jeff Kendall Weed test it out I got a really good grasp of what I wanted more or less of and neutral geometry with neutral suspension curve seemed like the obvious choice.
  • 2 1
 Travel matters less than intended purpose/geometry/suspension tune etc.

For example, Yeti SB150 rides like a burly enduro bike with “only” 150mm of rear travel.
  • 2 0
 I just mesured mine and it is far from 150mm travel. I will need to go to the rampage site to make it go past 130mm…
  • 1 0
 Frame sizes. An XS frame size has its upper pivots in a different location to an XXL, which must affect leverage and therefore travel
  • 1 0
 Aren't travel lengths based on the length of the axle path? If u measure from the ground a more forward moving axle path will have less vertical travel than advertised
  • 1 0
 Please for the love of nerds, start including actual travel in your tests. Sure we don't neeeed those numbers per se....but it really is a big part of the fun.
  • 2 0
 3 inch travel shock more squish 2 inch travel shock less squish. I prefer moar squish. I ain't rocket surgery!
  • 2 0
 new marketing term: "travel headroom"
  • 1 0
 I think we all know the solution here: over-bike to ensure you're getting closer to what you paid for.
  • 1 1
 Except longer travel often means higher leverage ratios, which means changes in shock stroke have a larger effect on rear wheel travel (no matter how you measure it), so you might actually get further away from advertised.
  • 1 0
 @justinfoil: I just want a bike where the travel is more than the BB height is that too much to ask?
  • 1 0
 I don't need to read the article or the comments to know that marketing math drives consumer purchasing habits.
  • 2 4
 My old f250 hauls 500lbs more than gv rating Level and safe at 80mph highway. Tacomas (and tundras) shit the bed with 2500 pounds loaded. Popped tires and snapped axles. I'll still take the tacoma cause haulin bricks, fill dirt, or firewood is for the birds. Plus they look schweet... Gross tonage never match a good lookin truck parked out front of the pub or coffee shop.
  • 3 1
 I hope your brakes are good.
  • 2 1
 We’ve got more room here in North America.@littleskull99:
  • 2 0
 That Alligator looks like Kazimer.
  • 1 0
 My Rallon has 169.5mm of vertical travel at the rear wheel. About the same vertical travel as a 180mm fork.
  • 1 0
 Does the author have any real world examples of a frame boasting more travel than advertised? Lets OUT the offenders!
  • 1 0
 Are suspension forks also designed not to “top out”? In the way the article describes…
  • 1 0
 Most current designs do have an air negative spring that provides pneumatic top-out, but the well designed ones (Fox's Float NA2 springs, for example) tend to sit pretty damn close it their maximum height when unloaded. But they are also sensitive enough that the 30ish pounds of a modern trail bike is enough to self-sag it by a few mm, so I you were to measure from that starting point it might seem like there is a "loss" of travel, even though it will fully extend when unweighted (like jumps or drops or just holes)
  • 1 0
 Can you make actual rear travel measurement a feature on every PB bike review please @brianpark & @seb-stott?
  • 1 2
 Seems like possible lawsuit unless there is some fine print from a crafty lawyer in the bikes paperwork etc.
Would a 376 hp car marketed as 400hp pass muster?
  • 4 0
 Yes! it happens all the time. Evo FQ 400, makes like 390. hellcat 707 hp makes like 650 at the wheels. Every motorcycle snowmobile or quad ever sold dose not match the engine size. yamahas grizzly 600 was 588 cc for years or something like that. 400cc bikes with 372 of displacement, 125cc race dirtbikes having 128cc of displacement. its everywhere.
  • 1 1
 Yes, because every dynamometer is different. Just like every shock is different. As Seb mentioned (though I think he exaggerates the prevalence, or at least it varies between brands), not all shocks top-out all the way, especially modern very sensitive ones that will sag a bit even under the weight of a 30ish pound trail bike. And bottom out bumpers...

So, if you asked Specialized, they would say the Enduro has 170mm of travel if the shock moves X mm (62.5?). Because of pneumatic top-out and bottom out bumpers, as Seb pointed out, you might not measure that 170 mm on your bike, but you also won't measure that full X mm on your shock's travel.
  • 5 0
 @ridingofthebikes: 650 at the wheels almost sounds like it is making more than 707 at the crank.

And to add on they marketed the G35 as having a 3.5L engine, but it actually has 3.498! Those bastards lied to me.
  • 3 0
 A lawsuit? LOL
  • 4 0
 TBF quite a few cars don't exactly match the stated power numbers. That being said, it's not always a bad thing as often instead of having less they have a factory "bonus" (BMW B58 or VAG EA888 engines come to mind for example).

@ridingofthebikes In that hellcat example if the 650 it's at the wheels then of course it will be lower than claimed. Manufacturers don't use whp and for good reason.

To me whp isn't very informative as it depends so much on the drivetrain, gear ratios, final drive, wheel and tyre size, not to mention the specific dyno... Makes it completely irrelevant to evaluate the engine itself or compare between engines. Think of it this way: you build an engine, put it in a car and dyno it. Then you swap it to a completely different chassis. Has the engine's power changed? No. Yet whp is different. It's not like the whp number is any more "real world performance" than crank hp either. Real world performance is measured in seconds, not hp. But crank hp at least tells me the actual engine's capability regardless of chassis.

Capacities in production vehicles are almost always slightly below the rounded claimed numbers to make sure they will not jump to a higher insurance or tax group where local regulations base charges on engine size. And the rounding is for marketing, model names etc. 2.5l rolls off the tongue a bit better than 2.489l.
  • 1 0
 Check Husqvarna 610
  • 3 0
 Every single motorcycle ever marketed is like this. They are essentially categorized into classes. 250, 450, etc. They always round up or down. KTM and Husqvarna share an engine for the 690 and 701 Enduro but clearly they are marketed differently.
  • 1 0
 @pisgahgnar: not sure about Yam 426
  • 1 0
 @ridingofthebikes: True indeed, "Evo FQ 390" just dosent sound as cool. But it's still F**king Quick. Wink
  • 1 0
 @bananowy: What good is it to know crank HP, when it needs to be attached to a drivetrain in order to use it? ...unless you're literally just evaluating the engine
  • 1 0
 @Tambo: I answered exactly that question in the previous comment so you can have a read above. And yes, hp is there to evaluate engines, not complete vehicles. You use a stopwatch for the latter, not a dyno.
  • 1 0
 @bananowy: so you're saying car manufacturers shouldn't advertise HP at all?
  • 1 0
 @Tambo: I'm not sure how you read that into my comment but no, I am not.

I sure am glad they don't force themselves to list different hp numbers for the same car/engine combo when they put different size wheels on it, let alone a different gearbox or 2wd/awd. What should they advertise for part-time awd?

Again, it's really simple: hp tells you the engine's performance. Times tell you the vehicle's performance. Buyers want to know both and manufacturers list both.

Whp doesn't say much because you still have no idea what the engine makes and you still have no idea how the car performs on the track/road.

Example: ~300hp EA888 in a Golf R and Leon Cupra R. Does it magically become a different engine when Haldex engages in the Golf? No. Does that decrease "whp"? Yes. Does that mean the Golf will have a slower 1/4mile time? Quite the contrary because traction. Will they have the same "whp" from a roll when Haldex won't engage? Yes. Will they perform the same? No because one is lighter. How useful was "whp" here? Not very. It's literally the same engine. Performance differences result from weight and traction, not drivetrain losses in this case.
  • 1 0
 @bananowy: thx for sharing this.
  • 1 0
 If I'm measuring travel, it's arc length. That's how far the wheel moves.
  • 1 0
 Good luck with this bike then m.pinkbike.com/photo/17134815
  • 1 0
 Somebody please sort out that cable loop on the XTR brake!
  • 1 0
 I think it’s to clear the rotor or something.
  • 1 0
 @MaplePanda: I hope you're right... I just don't think you are
  • 1 0
 Another riveting piece by outside+
  • 1 0
 There is more sarcasm and sly insults here than a high school locker room!
  • 1 0
 Men are taught to over exaggerate size..I'm a long and lean 4inches!
  • 1 0
 perfect more excuses
  • 1 0
 *laughs in full rigid
  • 1 0
 Digging Taj's art!
  • 5 7
 I'm as sure of the length of my travel as I am the length of my dick.
  • 6 0
 Measuring by hand can lead to wild inaccuracies.
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