High pivots were the talk of the town in Lourdes with new models from Cube, Commencal, Mondraker and more. But not every brand was so keen to jump on that latest trend, we took a lap round the pits to find out why.
Ruben Torenbeek, Managing Owner, Raaw
What are your overall thoughts on the high pivot trend and why didn't you use one on your new frame?
I think the reason we haven’t gone for a high pivot layout that needs an idler in the end is that you do it for one benefit, for the better axle path. That maybe gives it a bit better bump absorption but you push all of the decisions of the frame layout in one direction. The construction of the frame is one thing to start with, if you have a very high pivot, that means that everything naturally builds up very high into the frame so that’s one big challenge to make it work in terms of stiffness and keeping the weight in a reasonable window. But then also there are more ways to make a very capable rear end and I think with the layout we have we keep doors open to be able to tune all the other characteristics of the rear end.
I think a bit more specifically, I think the thing I personally don’t really like about a high pivot bike is the growth of the rear end when you get into the travel. It’s this thing that exponentially gets worse. If you have a big impact it grows and then you dive into it and your bike gets longer and it becomes harder to handle, and then it builds up. I think that is the main thing. Our end grows quite a bit, I don’t know the exact number on the downhill bike but on the Madonna it’s 20mm.
Because your bike is sort of a high, low pivot, right?
Right, before the high pivot hype came, we used to say that we have a relatively high pivot layout that comes with a bit more anti squat, a bit more pedal kickback and those are things you can discuss about whether you like it or not but our experience is that we like a bit higher anti squat values and the pedal kickback is manageable. It would be nicer to not have it but in the grand scheme it’s acceptable.
There are other variables that you think are more important?
Exactly, it’s also just there’s so many aspects. I often think in terms of construction because we need to make the frame, that’s one thing and then the other thing is how it rides. But also making an idler work well, and making it work long term, it’s not easy. And there’s the issue with drag, there’s quite a bit to it. If brands go that route, with a high pivot, there’s quite a lot of challenges and downsides for one upside that you might even achieve with other solutions.
Have you tested high pivots?
Not with Raaw but I’ve actually ridden the Ghost downhill bike in 2011ish. I actually worked for Ghost at that point, it was my first job so I’ve ridden that bike quite a lot. I’ve also ridden quite a lot on the Zerode that had a super high pivot. But that Ghost I knew very well. It’s kind of funny because it was a 26” bike and if you see it now it looks old school but it had a lot that is now being picked up by brands. I had that in my memory of how that rode and it was definitely a bike that you needed to be very active on, you needed to work it hard. In rough stuff it was a good bike but it wasn’t an easy bike to ride.
So for you high pivot is more like a tool, it achieves a certain thing well but compromises on others?
It’s always that balance of all characteristics of the bike. Like you said, you have tools in your toolbox and that’s how we explain the adjustments we have in the downhill frame. It’s all like little tools that you can use to change the characteristics of the bike. The four bar link that we use on the Jib, Madonna and downhill bike just seems to be the best baseline to start from. Actually we were talking a bit with Neko about his bike and ours and we have very similar general layouts with maybe different detail solutions and Neko is currently I think pushing it especially in terms of progression pretty high but aware he’s on the high side. I think him doing that project we weren’t aware of it but it’s a nice confirmation for us.
So, can we expect to see a high pivot from Raaw?
In production, no. We’re very convinced of the concept we have right now. Maybe we’ll do testing at some point but there’s nothing in the making or something. But then a high pivot is a term describing a high pivot but there’s so many variations of how you could do that layout and I actually think we'll see the pivot heights coming down a bit. The Commencal has come down from what they used to have, that Zerode for example, that sort of pivot height you don’t see that much. Even if we were going to learn some more about the high pivot with idler combination then there is so many ways to implement that.
Gee Atherton, Atherton Bikes
What are your general thoughts on the high pivot stuff?
I think the high pivot idea is a legit idea. I remember having meetings with the Commencal guys back when we were with those guys about the idea and they’ve developed it over such a long time and they’ve done it well and you can see how it is working for them. I think the goal is what the high pivot delivers and in certain riding styles it is going to help and it is going to add a better ride.
Is it something you’ve tested?
Yeah, it is. I think the whole high pivot thing is not necessarily the only way to achieve what a high pivot delivers. Something we’ve been working on with DW6 with Dave Weagle is how the linkage works to deliver a similar outcome and that’s something we’re gong to be developing in future.
Is it something that depends on the platform?
Yeah, I think so. It’s like anything, I think Commencal probably started the trend and did it well and I think there’s a lot of companies jumping on board and throwing a high pivot onto a bike and it doesn’t necessarily deliver the same outcome. It’s similar to the 29 wheel change, you can’t just slap a 29er onto any old frame and it works the way you want to. It’s like anything, if you want to do It well, it can work and if not, it’s not going to help.
This does feel similar to what happened with Trek and the 29er downhill bike, they'd been testing that for years.
And I think for these same companies it’s got to be a balance because you can’t ignore the trends if a certain trend comes along. It’s what people want, you can’t tell them no, that’s what they want so that’s what they’re going to find. The balance for them is not just throwing themselves into it, skipping long periods of testing to hit a target date. You have to go through that process of testing, developing, working with athletes over a long period of time so you know that, right, this is going on the bike and it’s as good as it can be.
So is it unlikely Atherton Bikes will be releasing a high pivot bike soon?
I think it’s unlikely we are going to slap on a high pivot system that you’re seeing a lot of companies jump to but I think what the high pivot delivers, the wheel travel the high pivot delivers, that’s something we’re going to be focussing on and working on how we can incorporate that into the Atherton bikes in a good way that doesn’t compromise any other part of it.
Lyle Hyslop, Mechanic, Santa Cruz Syndicate & Seb Kemp, Global Brand Director, Santa Cruz
What are your general thoughts on high pivot system and have you tested it?
Seb: We’ve tried a lot of competitors' bikes and we have a lot of fabrication abilities at our disposal as well, so we can validate a lot of things and we always have.
Is it a tool that a brand could use but not a be all and end all of downhill bike design going forward?
Lyle: It depends what you’re trying to achieve. I think a lot of people tend to just see a high pivot bike and that’s all they know about it. It’s kind of the same, especially with racing, if anybody goes well, and they’ve got one thing, could be a brand of brake, a disc size a suspension design, as soon as people start going well, everyone’s just like, “mullets are the best, full 29ers are the best”. I mean you remember what it was like here in 2017?
I remember even more what it was like in Fort William the same year when you had people machining out fork arches and stuffing bigger wheels into frames…
Lyle: …and here we are five years later there’s now mullets, there’s full 29er. So it’s what works with each individual rider. Early high pivots I think were quite an extreme of bike design and I think the more people do it, the more they refine it to bring it away from that extreme. I think what we do personally is what Seb says, cover all bases, try everything that we think is worth trying and come up with our own package that best serves the riders needs and all the different tracks that we ride.
Could you tune VPP to offer similar characteristics?
Seb: Well every suspension design has advantages and disadvantages and is very tunable and the high pivot or mid high pivot or low high pivot or whatever it is this week has got some advantages but there is also disadvantages and you’re trading off on things.
Lyle: And you don’t have to step away from having a VPP bike to have a high pivot VPP bike. The VPP is just the system, you can have a high virtual pivot point, medium, low, it depends on the ride feedback that you get and the characteristics that you want.
Have any Syndicate riders expressed that they want to go that way?
Seb: In the past, because you see a lot of competitors or their colleagues or their peers trying things and they’re like, “that’s the thing” but a racer is a system and sometimes they can transfix on one particular thing when actually it’s the system that needs to be worked on. So we spend a lot of time with all the guys suspension testing and tuning and tyre system is worked on...
Lyle: ... We’ve got a good relationship with the engineers at Santa Cruz so me and Greg went and caught up with the engineers in Santa Cruz and it wasn’t "do you want an X,Y,Z bike?" It was, "I like this bike but I want it to do this, this and this better". I know Greg personally is like, “I don’t care what anybody else is riding, I’m riding this, I want this to be better”.
So you’re more focussed on characteristics of a bike rather than what makes it do that particular thing?
Yeah, it’s a complete package, if you’ve ever played around on Linkage and you say, “I want my axle path to do this”, all of a sudden everything else is like, “oh no that doesn’t …” It’s a constant compromise and balance of all the attributes fit together in a big package.
Patrice Afflatet, Scott Downhill Factory Team Manager
What do you think of the current trend, will it sticks round?
Well, I think it’s something that you may want to put on your bike if you have to sort some problems and what to make benefit of that on the anti rise, anti squat, so that could be interesting in that area. But given our current set up and geometry, we have a very limited anti rise and anti squat so we don’t see the real benefit of doing the high pivot with the current geometry.
What did you learn when Brendan had his high pivot set up.
Well, we learned that! When Brendan was on the former platform we learned about the action it has on the rear and on the braking and the anti-squat; we took this into account when designing the current platform, so we don’t have it on the current platform.
Do you think there are advantages to that design?
As I say, we all try to have a bike that keeps rolling, that is having a good behaviour on travel, suspension and braking so that could help depending on your geometry, but you could also do that in other ways without having a high pivot so...
It’s a matter of balance of balance and compromise?
It’s always this. You have to find the best compromise that suits your requirement so yeah, it’s not mandatory to do a pulley and high pivot thing. There are quite a few other bikes that are not adding that.
For sure we are working on products, we are working on a future platform and we’ll see what we end up at, but it’s not mandatory for sure.