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Ohlins File Patent for Electronic Control of Suspension Damping & Seat Post Position

May 16, 2024 at 6:38
by Jessie-May Morgan  
A recent patent filed by Swedish suspension brand, Öhlins, indicates an intention to develop an electronic system for control of suspension damping and seat post height, specifically for XC mountain biking.

RockShox, Fox, and SR Suntour have had such systems under development and in production for a number of seasons. The systems have seen mixed success, but notable from last season was Tom Pidcock's World Championship win aboard the Suntour TACT system on his Pinarello Dogma, and of course Nino Schurter's 34th World Cup win on the RockShox Flight Attendant system.

Tom Pidcock was the real crowd favourite here in Glentress
SR Suntour told us Tom Pidcock's TACT suspension was adjusting its settings between 150 and 200 times a lap at the opening World Cup round in Nové Město, something that would be quite the task if being done manually. Here he is on his way to winning the 2023 World Championships in Glentress, Scotland

It feels it's only a matter of time before we see Öhlins enter the fray. As a well-established manufacturer of motorcycle, car and powersports suspension systems, it would be the understatement of the year to say that their engineers have the knowledge and skill to implement a high-end electronically-controlled system for mountain bikes.

photo

The proposed system from Öhlins describes use of Inertial Measurement Units, aka sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscope or magnetometers to report on varying ride states of the bike. These are labelled as 400 on the diagrams in the patent, with the positions of the control unit (300) and actuators (500) also shown.

In fact, the patent describes an intention to take the technology a little further than the aforementioned competitors.

"Further, since the system of the present disclosure is not limited to only adjust compression damping, which is normally the case in the previously known lock-out systems, all, or at least most, parameters of a bicycle suspension may be adjustable by means of the present system. For example, high and low speed compression damping, high and low speed rebound damping, ride height, spring preload, spring rate, bleed valve adjustment, blow-off, etc."

Interestingly, it sounds as though they intend to develop a system that perhaps doesn't react quite as quickly as the electronic suspension systems from competitors. Why? For reduced power consumption. If the system demands a significantly smaller power supply, it can make use of a much smaller battery. And, in a sport where grams really do matter, reducing system weight with smaller batteries can only be a good thing. For your factory team World Cup XCO racer, at least - who doesn't have the responsibility of remembering to charge it.

photo
I don't know about you, but I'm parched all of sudden.

Roughly, the patent explains that by reducing the sampling rate at which the various sensors send data to the control unit, a process that consumes battery life, they can reduce the energy demand of the system. A relevant excerpt below, and I have highlighted the section where the inventor addresses the elephant in the room.

"In comparison with a system which constantly evaluates sensor input and sends out suspension setting signals in response to such sensor input, considerable power saving is achieved with a system according to the present disclosure, thus achieving longer battery life and/or reducing required battery size and weight. At the same time, it has surprisingly been established that even though the system of the present disclosure does not constantly react to the current ride situation, which may be seen as the way to go when creating an active suspension system, the performance, both perceived and measured, of the suspension does not suffer, or at least only to a negligible amount, from this creation of events having a minimum duration in time".

<Photo is private>
<Photo is private>

Of course, we are yet to see any electronically controlled suspension components from Öhlins, aside from Loic Bruni's and Finn Iles' Specialized Demo DH bikes, that is. Last season, they introduced all-new suspension components for XC; the RXC34 m.1 fork and the TXCAir shocks. Could 2024 see them add electronics modules to these in a bid to give their sponsored riders the edge? It's hard to know at this stage, but you can be sure that we'll be keeping a close eye in Nové Město na Moravě - specifically at the BMC Fourstroke of Jordan Sarrou, Titouan Carod, Steffi Häberlin, and co.

Interestingly, their bikes feature a proprietary 'self-dropping' dropper seat post that does not require any weight atop it to depress it. It's not so difficult to imagine an electronic actuator automatically controlling the seat post position, though I can imagine Öhlins having a hard time convincing their riders to trust it. In reality, the system would more likely use the rider-determined seat post position as a key piece of information when making decisions about suspension settings.

Finally, I'll leave you with this intriguing paragraph from the patent in question:

"It may also be possible to apply the disclosure to other parts of a bicycle, such as a suspended steering bar or a suspended or moveable seat post. Further, even though the examples disclose front forks having two legs, it is also conceivable to have a front with only a single leg or more than two legs.'

Öhlins has provided the following comment:

bigquotesAt Öhlins, innovation is in our DNA. It drives us to develop new technologies that give riders the confidence to go faster and achieve a higher level of performance on their bikes. Whether it’s the professional chasing seconds on the racetrack or the weekend warrior who just wants a bike with better handling, we offer cutting-edge solutions for every type of rider.

We first ventured into electronic suspension with MotoGP back in the nineties. though our technologies were soon banned due to the advantages they provided. Moving forward, we set our sights on developing applications for high-performance road bikes instead, focusing on solutions to maximize safety while enhancing speed, traction, and control. The patent in question marks the natural next step in our journey, using our insights and experience from other business areas to improve products in the MTB segment. However, at this point, we haven’t yet set a launch date for commercial products.
Öhlins


Author Info:
jessiemaymorgan avatar

Member since Oct 26, 2023
91 articles

34 Comments
  • 18 0
 3 legged fork? Is it going to be called the lefty-righty-righty or the Ron Jeremy?
  • 1 0
 Mandingo
  • 1 1
 Dildo means.
  • 1 0
 @mokydot: for SRAM ??
  • 15 2
 These illegitimate patents make me extremely angry. Not just at the ones that apply for them, but also at the patent offices.

How the f*ck can you patent what every engineer learns in their first semester at uni? Denying such patents is a core task of every patent office. This is just another example of our legal systems being abused to gain an unfair advantage on the free market.
  • 2 0
 "free" market monopoly
  • 2 0
 Exactly, how are these concepts suddenly patentable just because you add the word "bike" to decades old technology?
  • 13 1
 How is this patentable? Low sampling rate is somehow a novel idea? I'm sick of big corps trying to drown the little guys with frivolous patents.
  • 3 1
 Meh, draw your rectangles vertically, call your sensors and actuators ABC and you'll circumvent the patent
  • 2 1
 I don't know it's weird everyone has a patent in this business but nobody should be able to file one.
  • 9 0
 Friday fail ejector seat vid coming soon
  • 3 0
 When I was first getting into mountain biking I saw a magazine ad for a 3-position dropper post where two dudes were riding and the guy with the infinitely adjustable post got whacked in the crotch and ejected OTB. We all seem to have figured out the nuances of the infinitely adjustable post, excited to see what new challenges this technology introduces.
  • 1 0
 How long ago was that, you figure?
  • 1 0
 @rocky-x: 12 years ago or so
  • 2 1
 Wow amazing. It wasn't until the last 10 years that you could get 6 axis IMU-informed electronics on motorbikes like suspension modes, cornering ABS, slide control, wheelie control, etc. Would be incredible to see it trickling down to mountain bikes.
  • 4 3
 interesting, friend of mine at a bike brand said Ohlins is "rethinking their interest in the bike market"-whatever that means.
  • 1 3
 I highly doubt that's true. Maybe he meant moto.
  • 1 1
 @onemanarmy: Moto is the only thing profitable for them.
  • 1 0
 @yakimonti: Curious if you've actually seen their financials or not.

Ohlins is part of a $5b company. Profits are down in the entire bike industry. Ohlins has only been in it for 10 years. They have tons of OE placement and they're carving out percentages of the market all over the place. You don't shut down something that's gained that much traction in such a short amount of time. Especially when they've got millions of dollars in tooling to offset still. It makes zero sense.
  • 1 1
 @onemanarmy: Not ohlins specifically, but, I am well aware tenneco if actually around 15bn revenue and apollo has upwards of 500bn in assets but is private equity. You seem to not be savvy around how private equity works in the real world. Apollo acquired tenneco for a 3yr flip, bought it in better times now its time to flip so clean, lean and mean on the portfolio and they start to clip unprofitable parts of the portfolio. You mention "tons" of OE placement? compared to Fox, Rockshox and even Marz and SR/Suntour, your definition of 'tons' might be different than mine. They also had to wheel and deal to GET spec with the OE's and probably arent even profitable. Lesson here, no one wins in PE, except PE, this a known rule of life no matter what a PE person tells you.
  • 1 0
 the BMC XCO athletes are already using an electronic version of their suspension.
en.brujulabike.com/new-electronic-suspensions-ohlins-bmc-mtb-team
  • 2 0
 Looks like a 2015 SC Nomad in the diagram....
  • 2 0
 i'd argue it was one of the most beautiful bikes ever designed. made all the bikes with bended tubes and support braces look just poorly designed and outdated. no wonder someone used this as example bike in a patent application. just looks good and kinda timeless.
  • 1 0
 @vemegen: It sure did... that's why I got one lol
  • 2 3
 Awesome. They should make the system use gps data and sensors to automatically raise and lower my seat at the appropriate times. That seems even more tricky to get right, but I’d love it.
  • 5 0
 I thought this was irony until I saw the "I'd love it."
  • 3 0
 No thank you.
  • 1 0
 Copious amounts of swearing was heard coming from the Scott headquarters shortly after this news broke.
  • 1 1
 I sent this idea to @sacki @Bikeyoke at Christmas time... I hope the r I didn't get a response. A Bikeyoke / Ohlins colab could be cool
  • 1 0
 I sent this idea to @sacki @Bikeyoke at Christmas time... I hope the reason that I didn't get a response is that they were feverishly writing up the patent Smile . A Bikeyoke / Ohlins colab could be cool.
  • 2 3
 Ultra short dropper posts for DH bikes coming soon? 50mm and 75mm
  • 4 2
 In a sport of marginal gains, why not?
  • 1 0
 Gravel dropper and a shim lol. Really fits the lugged frame aesthetic of late
  • 1 2
 That's pretty neat







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