First Ride: RockShox Flight Attendant XC Suspension System

Mar 11, 2024 at 18:58
by Dario DiGiulio  
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1.8%. That's the potential time advantage RockShox is advertising with the new Flight Attendant XC system. Even they are willing to admit that's a fairly small margin, but it is enough to make or break a race. Where the prior generation was focused more at trail and enduro bikes, this updated system hits squarely where it counts: cross-country race bikes.

The premise hasn't changed much since the system was first released, but the performance and results certainly have.
Flight Attendant XC Details

• Forks: SID and SID SL Ultimate
• Shock: SIDLuxe Ultimate
• 100-120mm fork travel
• SID SL: 1480g, $1,349 USD
• SID: 1624g, $1,449 USD
• SIDLuxe: 349g, $849 USD
rockshox.com

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Models

This is a pretty tidy lineup, so there are really only three new products to discuss. There are two forks and one shock, all with updated electronics, dampers, and software to get the most out of the system.

SID SL Ultimate is the 32mm chassis fork, offered in 100mm and 110mm travel. It's their lightest chassis available, and will be a good pairing with bikes like the Santa Cruz Blur or Mondraker F-Podium.
1480g, $1,349 USD

SID Ultimate uses 35mm stanchions, and is only offered in 120mm travel. Geared more towards the modern crop of highly capable "trail ready" cross country bikes, it'll do well on bikes like the new Epic, the Canyon Lux Trail, or the Orbea Oiz.
1624g, $1,449 USD

SIDLuxe Ultimate is the sole shock in the lineup, and is available in a variety of fitments to try to cater to as many current bikes as possible. RockShox encourages checking with your frame manufacturer prior to adding an FA shock to a bike not on the approved fitment list.
349g, $849 USD

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Updates

There are a bevy of software updates that have gone into the Flight Attendant (FA) overhaul, and much like using the system itself, you don't really have to think about them. The FA algorithm considers more points of data, has a longer memory, and uses all of that to change its performance to better match your rider profile. The name given to that latter system is Adaptive Ride Dynamics, and principally it's the mind behind the system. You choose your Bias Adjustment - basically how firm/soft you want the system to bias towards - and it collects data points that influence how it's performing, giving better fidelity to the changes it makes.

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Key to this data aggregation is having a power meter paired in the system, which differs from the first version of FA that only implemented a pedal cadence sensor. That power data collected by the meter gives the algorithm a better sense of where your given thresholds are, so it can differentiate between Low, Medium, High, and Sprint outputs. You can also set those thresholds yourself in the app, but I chose to let the robot do the thinking for me.

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The more of these you have, the better off you are - this goes for existing FA customers as well.

That's the final key detail here: beyond pairing the system, you don't actually have to do anything else. You can edit mode settings and fine tune the effort thresholds, or you can just ride and let the system do its thing. I've barely opened the app since putting the fork and shock on my bike, and the settings have noticeably changed with time.

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There are hardware updates too, like this nice fender.
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Hidden mount and a clean cable clamp.

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Having a left remote is useful for the Override function, where you can immediately change to your chosen mode.
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You still have to set your own air pressure and rebound though.

A note to people who already have first-gen Flight Attendant on their bikes: updating your firmware will get your system more in line with the most modern version, but not entirely. To increase the fidelity of data collection and get the best algorithmic learning out of the system, you'll want to have as many of the connected components as possible. Namely, the power meter and Transmission drivetrain are going to help a lot.

Some FAQs

SRAM put together a very thorough FAQ packet for the Flight Attendant update, and I figured some of them were worth plugging directly in here, as I'm sure the questions will come up.

Comparing the same bike with or without Flight Attendant, how much weight does the system add?
Including the fork, rear shock, pedal sensor/power meter, both SRAM AXS batteries and the difference in weight between a 1- and 2- button left controller, the system adds around 220g for XC components and 308g for Trail/All Mtn/Enduro components.

Can I adjust Low Speed Compression on my SID Ultimate Flight Attendant, SID SL Ultimate Flight Attendant, or SIDLuxe Ultimate Flight Attendant?
No, Low Speed Compression is only adjustable on Flight Attendant Trail/All Mtn/Enduro forks. Charger Race Day 2 is designed to be the perfect companion for race day—all you need to do is set your air pressure and Rebound, then let Flight Attendant control your suspension position for you.

How do Flight Attendant’s Bias Adjust and Adaptive Ride Dynamics work together?
Think of Bias as the first step to personalization: you can set the Bias to trend toward Open, Lock, or a balance of the two positions. From there, Adaptive Ride Dynamics gathers rider effort data, and uses that to meet the rider where they are on that ride. For example, if you’re riding in the Low Effort Zone, you’re probably soft pedaling along and the system will trend toward the Open position. If you’re putting out more effort and you’re in either the High or Sprint Effort Zones, you’re going to likely prefer that it is firmer, and it’ll trend more toward the Lock position. All of it is based on the initial Bias setting, which will determine whether the system will trend in one way or the other.

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Ride Impressions

I swapped out the 3-position TwistLoc suspension remote on my Specialized Epic a few weeks ago, and have been trusting the data-powered Flight Attendant hive mind ever since. My ability to twist that left-hand knob before and after a climb never felt terribly lacking, but it's pretty great to not have to think about it. Learning to trust the robot has been a bit of a learning curve, and I've had to stop trying to trick it so much, because 1. that's bullying, and 2. it's just trying to help. When you let it do its thing, Flight Attendant is really impressive. The changes are quick, though not predictively so, and the system modulates between modes far more than I would if I were controlling things.

All of those mode switches come with one consequence: noise. The *reet* of the mode change is a little jarring at first, and even now that I'm used to it I find myself gazing down to check where it ended up at times. There is a Dark Mode in the app, which lowers the user interface data that the bezel displays, and will probably be key for people who don't want to inure themselves to the light show.

Am I 1.8% faster with Flight Attendant in place of the TwistLoc? Probably so, but only in a race context. When you're going full gas, to the point where decisions start to feel taxing, the system comes in clutch. Anywhere shy of that, it can be more of an annoyance, something you're aware of instead of aided by. I feel less this way as I get used to it, but can't help but think that a single blip remote on the left side of the bars would be better for the majority of riders. Still wireless, but not quite as frenetic on-trial.

As I get more time on the system in preparation for a full review, I'll come to a clearer decision on whether I feel like I'm better off with the system. For a true racer, I think it's a no-brainer, assuming you have a compatible bike and the cash to splash. It's eliminating a variable, and that's key to pushing your limits. Stay tuned for the full review, assuming my FA kit doesn't gain sentience and take me out.

Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
193 articles

84 Comments
  • 75 2
 Flight Attendant is finally where it makes most sense, on XC bikes. Why did it not start there?
  • 63 0
 So they can test and tune technology first on less-demanding crowd with no weight restrictions
  • 25 2
 I agree with RS on this, I think it makes a lot of sense for Enduro racing, and trail riding. My big bike pedals well enough, and descends well, but with FA, you could have a much better pedalling bike, free of the constraints when you point it downhill. If we can agree, any bike thats meant to do both climb and descend, is inherently compromised, in both areas. Some are a little better at pedalling efficiency, while sacrificing the full DH performance. Its why DHbikes are soooo good at DH, no ones out expecting to climb Fromme well on their V-10. If you could convince a manufacturer to build a trail or enduro bike around the FA system, youd have a real weapon for sure. Actual DH bike capability, and still be able to pedal to the top. Its tough sell, cause it wouldnt be a very good bike in lower specs, cause FA is a pretty pricey investment. Its coming though, I'm willing to bet FA specific frames are being designed
  • 2 0
 @onawalk: I am with you on that. There is a lot to love about a efficient shorter travel trail bike. A bike that you're keen to go out of the saddle on climbs, because it feels rewarding. That feeling paired with all the travel you want/need for the descents sounds like a crazy attractive combination. I will probably get the chance to ride FA (the old system) soon on a 160/150 mm bike and am curious of that's really what it feels. Only the noise could be a big downer, as I like a quiet bike.
  • 4 0
 While I don't disagree with this, I have Flight Attendant on my '23 Norco Sight and I can't say enough good about it. I find it makes this 150mm travel bike a much better climber, and thus more manageable when the trails are smooth.
  • 4 1
 @WayneParsons: Wouldnt a frame designed around FA really be the thing though?
in my mind, a bike like the Spire/Range/Slash, but take away the kinematics that improve pedalling, and really prioritize descending. Let the FA handle the suspension movement, so we can have a pedal able mini DH bike. I feel like its a hard sell, maybe one of the smaller boutique builders needs to give it a go.

Wonder if I can whip up a frame to take advantage of FA?
  • 3 0
 @WayneParsons: totally agree and I think on a 'big' bike it saves a bit more than 1.8%.
  • 35 0
 I prefer Airline Steward
  • 13 0
 "You ain't nothing but a waitress in the sky"
  • 1 0
 @GTscoob: excuuuuuse me !
  • 29 4
 I definitely agree with wanting a dumb version of this system with a wireless remote, on/off, or on/middle/off.

Come on, RockShox.... make it. FOR THE PEOPLE. 3
  • 3 0
 yeah, and have the option to have it just for the shock (and include coil shocks)
  • 1 0
 this was the feature I was hoping for. Just a simple electronic lockout, mostly for XC bikes like the Element that don't have routing for a cable-actuated lockout.
  • 4 1
 Edit: Looks like it DOES effectively do this with override mode. The only critique I could make then is that it's probably more expensive than it needs to be if you never plan on using the intelligent mode. For being first gen, this is a pretty solid offering. Maybe in the future we can get a poor-person's version that doesn't require the crank either. For now though.... great job RS.
  • 1 1
 I have current FA and wish there was an electronic remote. That would be the one feature I wish they would integrate. It's pretty good especially for the rolling terrain by me, but could be faster/better.
  • 8 0
 @creed27: there is. Any AXS controller can be used as a manual remote for FA system.
  • 2 2
 I've been saying this for years... the AXS environment is perfect for getting practical suspension controls into your cockpit without a mess of wire and levers. Shifting, dropper, F&R lockout/modes with a couple pods... I'm not an AXS or a SRAM guy, but that would be tempting.
  • 3 0
 Like Scott does?
  • 1 0
 @creed27: There is - the upper button on the FA Reverb remote (Gen 1) or any of the newer Pod remotes can be configured so that one of the two buttons is a manual override. I have spent three years on the trail/ enduro version and at the end of the day it is makes better choices more quickly than 99.9% of riders.
  • 19 12
 Had a 2018 top fuel, put a scott twin loc on it. Racing i played with that f*cking shifter more than my gear shifter. Pedal mode on the flats, loc up, open down. Constantly.

Got a new 2023 element. Its so efficient with that fairly vertical post. Just use the dropper for the downs now.

I dunno, i guess for nino 1.8% is worth it, its cool if you are a techy dentist too?

Im just a fox/shimano fanboy now and think sram is full kook
  • 1 0
 I ditched the remote on my fork and just leave it open. Bike isn't designed for a locking shock. It is rare I miss being able to lock the fork. But I now never have the cognitive load, or the extra cables and levers for a remote.
  • 14 8
 The Flight Attendant on a 170mm bike is absolutely awesome. Its expensive--yes. So if that is your gate, dont come in the yard (or complain that you dont have access to the yard). But having the fork lock and rear lock out on long climbs is just so nice. And then when I do want to put power to the pedals, the rear end isnt a pillow absorbing all my watts.

Every single friend that rides my bike wants it.

So yes, it really does make sense for the big bikes too. Its so clean and easy to use. Thanks Rock Shox. Incredible product!
  • 1 1
 What bike are you riding? Have you tried riding with the system off for comparison?
  • 1 0
 agree, I tested in a specialized enduro and works excellent, now I have it in my slash and for pedaling is excellent
also not having cables is awesome Smile
  • 12 5
 This is just great, more electronics on our bikes . I am starting to feel like I need to replace my helmet liner with tin foil to block all the axs signals from damaging my brain out on the trails.
  • 2 0
 Just take some Focusyn and you'll be fine.
  • 8 0
 1.8% in a 75min race is still 1min and 21seconds. I can so beat Nino now...
  • 10 0
 Maybe not Nino, but it's enough to beat Fred, that guy who finished 1 minute ahead of me last race.
  • 8 1
 And the slower you are the more seconds you safe!
  • 2 0
 @SleepingAwake: Sorry mate, I wanted to upvote!
  • 7 0
 :skull: its got more batterys then i have watts :skull:
  • 4 0
 I have a flight attendant trail bike. It's a blast and I hope more people try it. The best thing is the bike goes full lockout on flowy jump trails
  • 8 2
 What's really wild is that you can do that without spending any extra money at all with the knobs they provide to you already!
  • 1 0
 @therealmancub: The problem is that no one remembers to use their knobs and levers after a climb/before a descent. I'm usually surprised to see how my fork and shock were set. I am going stiffer in all situations these days - it's faster for me and I don't miss the squish. I don't want electronics so it works for me.
  • 3 2
 @suspended-flesh: I don't want/need them as well, but I am not in the camp of forgetting where my knobs are set. If I'm riding flow, I generally have different compression and rebound settings than I do for aggressive trails...I would also assume that if you're racing and intend to do well, you're also adjusting your compression and rebound for different tracks/courses (or if you're good enough, someone is doing it for you). As I understand it, this tech is only good for quickly going between a few different settings, so it likely wouldn't benefit the type of riding I'm doing anyways.

Ultimately, I feel like with this tech you're getting less with less, at a weight disadvantage, and a throatful of marketing.
  • 1 0
 1.8% compared to adjusting manually from on the bar is a big margin.
What is the gap compared to not adjusting at all?
The technology sounds really interesting for trail riding.
Bruni had his little light on his handlebars and it seemed to make a difference on certain tracks. I could imagine Fort William would be a great track for technology, BMX track to Dh track to Jump track where different settings are needed for the best time.
This technology may be pay a significant roll in racing from XC to Dh!
If its great for racing its got to be great for the weekend warrior that can afford it.
Cant wait to see it on trail bikes rocking the wrong tyres for the trail (probably the biggest advantage may riders could achieve is changing their tyres for what they ride over a fortune on tech)...
  • 3 1
 Seems really cool. I'd be interested in hear the input from a pro racer if the 220g weight penalty is worth the 1.8% time savings.
  • 5 2
 If something makes a pro racer faster, they’ll be all over implementing it. Since the goal of racing is to be the fastest, who wouldn’t?
  • 3 0
 @Murphius: I think the question is more about whether 220g is more important than the claimed 1.8% time savings for some riders. 220g is a lot in the XC world
  • 1 1
 @Murphius: Sorry, I should've specified better. I meant if the weight penalty cancels out the 1.8% time savings or not. I'm sure it is worth it.
  • 2 1
 @font style="vertical-align: inherit;">font style="vertical-align: inherit;">Murfiusz/font>/font>: Zawodowiec wdroży to co każe mu sponsor.
  • 8 0
 Presumably the times were for back to back runs with the same power output from the rider so the 1.8% includes the weight penalty.
  • 4 0
 @hi-dr-nick: and if you add on the extra heft of a Transmission drivetrain (for SRAM athletes), the weight penalty becomes very real.
  • 6 10
flag hohmskullkrishten (Mar 12, 2024 at 8:23) (Below Threshold)
 Skip the 220 gram dork add-on, go 5 pounds heavier with an e bike, and you'll have a 300% time savings on the climb.
  • 2 0
 1.8% is a massive time savings, I kinda doubt that claim. If true it’s obviously worth the weight penalty. Realistically it’s going to depend on the course what the savings is.
  • 1 0
 @xciscool: that 1.8% number is meaningless without supportive details. No doubt it was cherry picked from a course that maximized the benefits of FA.
Going less than flat-out race pace as Dario suggests, and on routes that don’t maximize the benefits might just mean that the weight penalty is simply not worth the cost to non-sponsored riders.
  • 2 0
 @g123: also on courses that are longer climbs and descents and less undulating terrain I doubt there much benefit over a regular lockout.
  • 1 0
 This is just an updated version, flight attendant has been around a while and is already a common sight at the highest levels of XCO racing. I think that means at least some top riders believe the answer is "yes". Nino Schurter uses it for example.
  • 1 0
 @tacopop: dont they just use what their sponsors want to sell?
  • 1 0
 @dtheio: That's what I was thinking about when I put in the wiggle words "at least *some* riders...". I have no insider knowledge of athletes contracts, but I would imagine there's at least one person who has to ride what he's told. I don't believe that would be true for every single rider though, and almost certainly not true for someone with the famous name and reccord to have a lot of power in their relationship with the team. I really don't see Nino agreeing to make his bike slower on purpose to please a sponsor at this point in his career. Also he didn't just ride it, he won with it.
  • 1 1
 It literally makes them faster. Go ask a driver in Formula 1 if they would rather have the weight savings of removing the wings.
  • 1 0
 How much is saved in cables and levers?
  • 1 0
 It's actually only 81g heavier if you consider removing remote and cables. And if you already have a powermeter, which most xc racers have
  • 4 1
 Can it get ripped off in a crash? Will the fork continue to function if that happened?
  • 19 1
 It's part of the damper, so probably not - if you crashed hard enough to tear it off you'd have bigger issues than your fork not locking out.
  • 17 0
 Can you stand on it like transmission derailleurs is the real question
  • 5 0
 @dariodigiulio: it kind of just sits on top of the damper. At least the zeb one. You can definitely take it off, and probably ride it still. All it does is turn a “knob” down in there.

There are a couple of set screws that hold it onto the top (the hex flats you use to take the damper out like normal). So it’s fully external. It’s like a fancy top cap.

It’s super protected where it is. I did tweak mine once, but it wasn’t a big deal, kinda just spun a bit. I actually take it off now when I put it in a bike bag for travel because that’s actually the riskiest position I put it in (overlaps with the tire in the bag). It’s very easy, just a set screw.
  • 1 0
 @litany: thanks for the first hand info. Just from the pics it looks like it could take a knock and appeared to be held on by a set screw. I recently blew a berm and scraped that particular part of my fork up pretty bad.

By blew a berm I made a miscalculation and slipped over the top while pushing hard. I’m not cool enough to truly blow a berm.
  • 3 0
 "...because: 1. That's bullying"
Got a good laugh from me Smile
  • 2 0
 Imagine riding at night with that HUD flashing and beeping through the forest.
  • 1 0
 Is adaptive ride dynamics coming to the current FA stuff for those of us already riding with the quarq? I have that setup so would really like to know!
  • 1 1
 I test rode this on a Specialized Epic S-Works today and it truly is incredible. Not for all riders but what this can do it truly incredible. If I have $15k to spend on a bike I would purchase this in a heartbeat.
  • 2 0
 This is what Flight Attendant is for. Not enduro bikes. Good on ya RS.
  • 2 0
 Hate to say that Fox is falling behind here.
  • 2 0
 Live Valve still reacts faster. FLOW guy confirmed.
  • 2 0
 But, in the end grams only will matter for those who can choose and race pro. Or forced sponsorship **cough cough maxxis/sram everywhere**
  • 3 1
 @raceabikeraiseafamily: yet publicly jesse said the Flight attendant was better(while he was on fox)
  • 1 0
 Besides bleeder valves when are they not?
  • 1 0
 Who can tell RockShox in proper English that the ergonomics of their pods / holders does not make sense?
  • 2 0
 Should be called Shredmatic
  • 1 0
 As a customer, I don't want all the crazy clever shit just an electronic remote lock out for front and rear.
  • 1 0
 Of course, everyone had a crash on his ex flight attendant. The high times
  • 1 0
 It should be upside down.
  • 2 5
 It would be cool if the system would pre map the settings based on gps track and rider could customize it further as needed, then when on a track the suspension behaved according to terrain
  • 2 1
 btw rockshox i am open to job offers to make this happen Razz
  • 1 1
 I will ask my dentist about this in my next appointment
  • 1 0
 I like it!
  • 1 3
 Why no video pb? Cmon
  • 5 0
 They had one but the audio was unusable with the constant zzzt-zzzt of the FA
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