Throughout mountain bike history there have been plenty of product ideas that flopped, and plenty of others that have become so commonplace we hardly stop to think about who created them.
Game changers, like ODI lock-on grips and SRAM’s X-Sync single front chainrings, made slipping contact points and dropped chains a thing of the past. When we do take a moment to reminisce over how tough we had it “back in the day,” no one will admit they want to endure the pains of pulling a chain out from the depths of a granny ring when it lodges in between the bottom bracket shell.
The term “copycat” loosely applies, but we see that in all other aspects of life. Whether it's cheering for a sports team on a hot streak or a company working around the parameters of a patent, bandwagoning isn’t such a terrible practice, because it’s made mountain biking a lot more enjoyable. If you scour bike shops and brand websites these days, you’ll find numerous examples of products that mimic or build on the framework of the originals.
Lock-On Grips - ODI Grips, 1998
Before this system was around, regular rubber grips were slid onto the handlebars using a variety of substances and then glued or wired in place to keep them from slipping. Even if those measures worked, most of the brake or shift levers from the 90s were a single clamp, requiring the removal of the grip. That job wasn’t as convenient when you have to slice the grips off to replace a handlebar or control lever.
ODI simplified the installation and removal process by molding the rubber around a plastic sheath with tabs that snap into two metal collars at either end. They’ve evolved the design for some models to use just a single clamp on the inside for additional comfort for those who run their hands at the outer edges of the grips.
The system has been copied by dozens of companies, but ODI will still be the original innovator and continues to make their products in their USA factory
. There’s a reason you’ll see more pro riders choosing to run these grips, even if that means hiding the ODI logo.
Narrow-Wide Chainrings - SRAM X-Sync front chainring, 2013
Ditching front derailleurs has to be one of the most influential moves that SRAM made to transform the modern mountain bike over a decade ago. It’s hard to believe that we used to put up with the temporary, yet frequent, loss of such an integral part of a functioning bike. All it took was a chainring with a tooth profile that matched the alternating chain link widths.
Often copied, and better known as “narrow-wide” chainrings, SRAM's X-Sync pattern on a single front chainring offered security
, but lost the range a front derailleur offered. The chain-capturing ring kicked off a new arms race when they introduced a wide-range, twelve-speed cassette (10-42T), and freehub body standard for that matter.
Other companies worked around the tooth-profile patent and came up with their own takes on the narrow-wide chainring until anyone with a CNC machine was pumping these out.SRAM battled it out with Fox/Race Face for years
and finally waved white flags to dismiss all claims and counterclaims, cover their legal fees separately, and let the dust settle.
Shimano was reluctant to ditch the front derailleur, eventually releasing single-ring groupsets with 11-46 teeth one-upping SRAM. Now, single-ring drivetrains exist up to 520% ranges. You’ll be sure to hear an archaic front derailleur and chain bouncing down the trail, but sightings are rare in the wild these days.
Pliable Fenders - Marsh Guard, 2013
Jason Marsh, Greg Minnaar’s former mechanic, created a product with one of the best price to performance ratios in mountain biking. For less than $20 USD, you can zip-tie a low profile fender to your fork to keep the mud out of your eyes. They’re cheap, elegant, and simple. It doesn’t get much better than that. Oh, and they're virtually indestructible.
The original Marsh Guard started making its way around the World Cup pits in 2013. Moto-style fenders still existed, but weren’t as effective, since they sat so far from the wheel. Back then, the next best thing was the “Aussie fender” - a tube sliced and stretched between the fork arch and crown, that is, until the Marsh Guard appeared. If you couldn’t get your hands on one back then, it’s likely you traced the shape, found a similar material, and cut out your own.
These days, imposters are a dime a dozen, but the Marsh Guard-style is still more prevalent, even more so than purpose-built, brand-specific fenders, due to their versatility.
Tire Inserts - T.H.E. Eliminator, 2006
From pool noodles to expensive proprietary foams and even raised PVC rim strips, solving the dilemma of flat tires is still an ongoing battle. In the world of off-road motorcycles, tire “mousses” (soft foam or rubber liners) appeared back in the mid-80’s to tackle that problem, but it wasn’t until twenty years later that a mountain bike brand tried to solve flat tires with another solution.
The T.H.E. Eliminator was created by established BMX racer and mountain biker Toby Henderson. The alloy rim used an integrated, round plastic strip to reduce the surface area that might pinch the tire, or at the time, a tube. The idea didn’t quite catch on, mostly due to the weight of the system and the difficulty of installing a tire.
Jumping ahead a decade, Schwalbe’s Procore looked promising. The system was a low-volume, inflatable bumper that was installed before the tire - basically, a mini tube in a regular tubeless setup. Cost and complication seemed to be limiting factors, plus some rims didn’t handle the additional forces well.
Finally, an influx of foamy mousse-style inserts came from brands like Flat Tire Defender, CushCore, and RimPact, to name just a few in the sea of pool noodles. Henry Quinney conducted a test with six of his favorites on a test rig back in July, 2021
. Who did it first is tricky to say since they exist in various iterations and originally stem from the moto world.
Integrated Frame Storage - Specialized SWAT box, 2015
Back in 2015, Mike Kazimer tested a 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper
, which was the first mountain bike to feature in-frame storage. Specialized has been working on their SWAT (Storage for Water, Air and Tools) for some time, with products like their Conceal Carry tool that hides allen keys in the steer tube, but this took frame construction to the next level.
In recent years, we’ve seen a whole rash of companies take advantage of the properties of carbon fiber to cut away portions of tubes in favor of storing goods inside the frame. Unfortunately for Specialized, they only hold a patent on how the door to the compartment functions, and are no longer the only company to offer this feature. Competition is healthy, though, because they now offer the same feature in the Stumpjumper EVO alloy frame.
Clutch Derailleurs - Shimano Zee
It wasn’t Shimano’s XTR or Saint that first introduced the clutch to the derailleur cage, but their more affordable Zee family. The 10-speed derailleur started calming down chain oscillations back in 2013. They may detract from the sensitivity of the rear suspension, but holy moly, did they ever make your bike quieter.
SRAM wasn’t too far behind in this game either and also released their take on the derailleur cage clutch in 2013.
A few years later, TRP entered the drivetrain market. Through the rigors of World Cup racing, John Hall, Aaron Gwin’s mechanic, took the idea of fixing the derailleur in place and created the “Hall lock” - a switch that clamped down on the derailleur’s B-bolt where the derailleur mounts to the hanger.
Like front derailleurs, you’d be hard pressed to find a bike that doesn’t have a clutch derailleur - even road bikes have them now.
Sinusoidal Chainstay Protectors - Specialized, 2019
As one of the largest mountain bike brands on the planet, you’d expect Specialized to bring a few “firsts” to the table. Although a padded chainstay protector isn’t the wildest innovation, Specialized sunk time to research exactly where the chain contacts the frame. Wave patterns form as the chain whips up and down, landing frequently in the same place, hence the peaks and troughs introduced to the protector on the 2019 Stumpjumpers.
Soon after, tons of other brands followed suit and added their variation on the protector. What resulted was quieter bikes all around, something that any rider will tip their hat for.
Vertically Oriented Bike Racks - North Shore Racks, 2004
Unless you’re rocking a flat-deck pickup truck, hauling more than two bikes can be a challenge due to ground clearance and handlebar interference. North Shore Racks found a solution for both almost by chance. By draping the bike over a neighbor's fence, the idea to hang the bike from the fork crown was born.
That proved to be highly effective, and since that eureka moment vertically orientated racks have taken off. Some brands go about mounting the front wheel in a basket, while others reverse the bikes’ position and hang them by the handlebars.
Whichever way works for you, we can all be glad that we don’t have to clamp them by the top tube on those old-school racks.
Lightweight/Convertible Full-face Helmets - Troy Lee Designs Edge
Most people would recognize the flashy paint work and logo that promptly lets you know that this could only be the work of Troy Lee, but the helmet is also a product of TLD’s as well. The Edge debuted in 1997, just a year before Giro’s iconic Switchblade. It wasn’t a motorcycle helmet repurposed. This bucket featured a removable chin-bar for any style of mountain biking at the time.
Fashion comes in cycles, and so the detachable chin-bars met their fate, and increased coverage at the rear of half shell helmets began with the Giro Xen. What led to this was possibly the evolution in bike design; as trail bikes become more capable riders wanted more coverage than a typical XC lid.
Downhill specific helmets, inspired by motocross, became impossibly heavy and hot to wear trail riding and their high-impact tests were questionable for the lower speeds of downhill racing.
A shift occurred again with the resurrection of lightweight or detachable chin-bar helmets, along the lines of Bell’s Super, and Giro resurrected the Switchblade. One could argue that the introduction of dropper posts changed where and how trail bikes were being ridden. Today there's no shortage of options, with more lightweight full face helmets and extended coverage half shells on the market than ever.
Short Fork Offsets for 29ers - Chris Porter/Mojo RisingNever afraid to speak his mind, Chris Porter of Mojo Rising
, the reason Geometron bikes exist, is also to thank for the evolution of short offset forks. As head angles became slacker, wheels also got larger around the same time.
Fork offsets got longer for 29ers. Wheelbases grew at either end of the bike and head angles for trail bikes crept into 65-degree territory. Of course, the bikes that Chris was riding were much slacker. He was paying attention to industry folk on the fringe, like Fabien Barel and Cesar Rojo, who were playing with extreme geometry.
“You actually have to go out and ride it in three dimensions. That's the basis for everything that we do. It's all about experience; looking at a drawing and saying, 'This amount of offset and this amount of trail is correct for handling,' is complete bullshit, because when you lean it over, it gets a lot more complicated than that.”
That led companies like Transition to follow suit
, after catching on to what Chris was preaching about. Nowadays, nearly every bike company with a relatively slack 29er bike is specifying a 44mm offset fork, along with a short stem.
Tires Through the Decades - Panaracer Dart/Smoke, Michelin Comp 14, DHF, Assegai
If you ask most top riders, tires are the most crucial component on our bikes. Looking back through the ages, when a brand develops a winning tread pattern, they're often copied - straight up.
First, it was the classic Panaracer Dart and Smoke. The arrow-like front tread and square blocks on the rear were ripped off by other manufacturers and left unbranded.
Next was Michelin’s Comp 16 in the late 90's and early 2000's with its brutally soft compound that was miles ahead of the competition. That tire used an openly spaced 2-1-2 pattern, and Maxxis followed up with the equally popular, but marginally different High Roller. Then came the Minion DHF, which recently celebrated its twenty-year anniversary. You’ll find look-alikes everywhere of the tire that Sam Hill made so popular.
It might be fair to say that Maxxis now dominates the tire market in the second decade of the millennia with their Assegai and Minion DHR II if you’re looking for all-out grip. The popular 2.a-3-2.b tread patterns have been adopted by pretty much every other brand out there: Bontrager, Continental, Michelin, Delium, Teravail, Vee Tire Co., …the list goes on. And for good reason. There's no shortage of good tires these days.
What would you add to this list of often imitated innovations? There are obviously multiple other examples of product trends that started small and then became widely accepted. Let us know in the comments below.
Their normal headsets already have poor reliability, so why not add drainage holes on the top?
(I saw it on a brage vestavik bike a few months back where i worked it out)
Though I think the real game changer is the bigger coverage, arch-mounted front guards from Mudhugger, RRP etc. that actually stop mud hitting your face. Who was first with those?
Enough to make me not consider their competitors until they come out with something similar.
Next would be the Hite-rite .. (I’m sure that’s spelt right!) circa mid 80s.. modern version the Dropper post
Then Shimano Hyperglide. SO underrated.. copied by every component manufacturer going
(Troy Lee edge, still got mine, it’s date stamped inside July 1996. Flaming eyeballs n all)
Shimano SIS ..
12 speed only came with Eagle which was 10-50 out the gate.
I always though 1x was a response from manufacturers to something riders were already doing and not necessarily something that was invented by sramano.
Yeah I agree. I had an old specialized Pitch (circa 2009) that I used to run 11-36 cassete, 32 chainring and full on Sixpack chainguide. The drag on that thing was huge and most people said I was crazy. The insane thing to me was the ordeal to have a front derraileur. A few years after came narrow wide chainrings and cassete conversions. I was an early adopter and never looked back. 1x for life.
Sam Hill, Brendan Fairclough and a young Troy Brosnan were testing custom made 9-24 cassettes based on Shimano Capreo and Hill won the 2010 World Championships on one.
At the same time, Curtis Keane was testing a custom 9-36 cassette in Enduro racing.
SRAM eventually saw the light (or perhaps they were just tired of their athletes riding Shimano) and started producing 10t and Shimano was forced to follow.
Although we will never get credit for being the 1st, I'm just trying to set the story straight.
As far as it's origins go, Hite-Rite was the first device to raise and lower seatposts back in 1986. We actually were going to re-introduce them in 1999 (with a modified part to work with modern bikes) with the blessing of Joe Breeze, but after JB talked to his partner Josh Angell, it did'nt work out. So we came up with the Elevator Shaft.
Funny you comment about the perception of dropper posts. I heard.."I'm fixing a problem that does'nt exist" it'll be too heavy" "too complex" and "why do you need to drop your seatpost?'
I wish I'd taken out a patent on dropper posts back in 2000!
Congratulations you are a product of marketing! you will be saying the same thing about high pivot design when his next patent comes out. All these linkages exist, but we use patents to fine tune them, create claims, market, license and cash in.
If I took the exact same geo bike, and tossed a Maestro, split pivot, DW, and Canfield link, and put a well tuned shock. You wouldn't tell the difference, no one would. its all nearly the same shit, but marketing is used to exaggerate the claims and engineering behind each one to make them seemingly unique but its all potato vs potato.
enjoy the blue koolaid!
Honestly I would probably ride a hardtail with a dropper post vs a FS with a rigid post.
To give Weagle fair credit, his dw*link designs tend to be particularly good, his S-shaped kinematic curves are clever, and his understanding of wheel rate is superior to most designers' focus on leverage rate, but these things are not intrinsic to his designs and can be replicated by other configurations. As @BoneDog said, a different configuration with comparable kinematics is possible and would be indistinguishable from a dw.
It took a third of a century of experimentation and a patent that spells it out clearly, but most designs have converged on good to excellent kinematic properties!
Any suspension manufacturer will tell you that S-shaped leverage ratio are not good at all. It's super hard to tune shocks properly with this kind of LR curve. How do you handle those variation through the travel on the hydraulic side?
Ideally the LR should be as smooth as possible.
Shorts links are not good neither. Long links provide a more stable design and suspension characteristics. Shorts links are also VERY sensitive to production tolerances. A very small variation of the pivot points can drastically change the kinematics compared to the 3D model.
Dave Weagle is mainly a good businessman.
While it's true a stable motion ratio (or leverage rate, if you prefer) makes it easier to design the shock, it's not necessarily ideal, nor is it the only parameter to consider.
First, the velocity of the wheel along its travel is not constant. Ideally, the shock should bring the wheel to a controlled stop, rather than an abrupt stop as the shock mechanically bottoms out. The velocity curve of the wheel starts at zero, reaches a maximum somewhere in the middle region of the impact, and decreases back to zero at the end. The motion ratio can be tuned to give additional damping and spring support near the end of the travel, acting like a very long bottom-out bumper, while the velocity - and therefore the damping force - decreases. Advanced shocks accomplish this via hydraulic bottom-out cups or, even better, bypass dampers. Until we have bypass shocks in mountain biking, a variable motion ratio is a good workaround. You can simply look at the popularity of such designs for evidence of this. We don't need to debate the theory when there's ample evidence of what people like!
It's true that short links are sensitive to tolerances. Some dw*link designs have used two eccentrics, rather than conventional links. It's not necessarily a bad design, but it's certainly sensitive to the manufacturing.
Bikes are an interesting case due to the very high centre of mass, relative to the wheelbase, and the extreme importance of drive efficiency. Pedaling occurs only in, roughly, the first half of the travel, so it's reasonable to prioritize pedaling performance in this region, then prioritize bump management in the latter portion of the travel. This can result in a motion ratio curve that's not perfect for bump management, but is the best overall balance.
Finally, I don't like to lean too hard on the "just look at what motorsports does" argument, but MotoGP and F1 both use linkages to modify the motion ratio curves, even with their simpler* suspension needs, and I'm not going to be the one to tell them they're doing it wrong!
* To preempt catching flak on this: Their suspension systems are more advanced, but they have a lower centre of mass for a given wheelbase, a smoother "engine", and operate on more consistent terrain, making their situation simpler to design for.
Thanks for the technical but digestible points- great quick read.
Your explanation has more data, but basically I came to say the same: DW link as an idea may not be the be-all-end-all, but my perception is that platform and Weagle’s designs were the first to really package a system that accounted for all those variables, the way all top designs now do.
As I said, suspension manufacturers and tuners are not big fan of those curves, they are hard to work with.
Give me a bypass shock and I'll use simpler motion ratio curves in my designs!
We were DEFINITELY rocking these XTR Shadow Plus derailleurs in 2011. I remember bc I moved to another state in Feb 2012, and prior to that we were all riding the XTR Shadow Plus in Pisgah
An incredibly important innovation. But Pace a UK bike company actually invented it and was used from at least as early as 1987. DiaCompe saw their innovative RC100 bike [also had hydraulic brakes and box section aluminium frame in the 80s] at a tradeshow, took lots of photos and a year later the Aheadset came out. They did flip the bolt to top though.
I think the bigger argument here is that you couldn't throw a rock in the DH pits in 1999-2006 and miss a Hayes DB-equipped rig.
and extensivly debated in comments below article One of milestones too i think.
However I am going to put them back on for my next trip to the Alps.
Internal cabling faff is often a mechanic's nightmare.
A friend of mine meant that slide on grip do not work that well with bars which surface is structured. Glossy flat surface seem to give better results. Unfortunately, most bars have a structured surface where the grips are located.
Most BMXer do not use lock-on grips.
Oury you sure about that?
The Outland design was a four-bar system (all of which happened near the BB) with an additional linkage to actuate the shock (the seatstays and rocker). Some of its uniqueness was because no one else used such unnecessary complication to accomplish what could - and later would - be done without the superfluous linkage!
There was certainly a Mongoose rebranded Outland, and I know some of those riders were sponsored by Mongoose at or near that time, so it's certainly plausible - and if you were in that scene at the time, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt!
I always thought lock on grips were daft so always prevailed with slide on ones. The best way to make them stick is hot melt glue and plenty of blow torch action to get those bars nice & hot.
It would be like saying "8-cylinder engines are always more powerful than 6-cylinder engines". There are sixes with several times as much power as eights. The design of each specific implementation determines the performance.
@wyorider, it's interesting you mention GG and Specialized, as the trends in kinematic properties for those companies and for Weagle's designs have been rapidly converging in recent years (well, GG's kinematics have been nearly constant since the beginning, but they started in a good place, so can't fault them for that).
Also when did those intense tires get introduced? I remember riding on some supposedly grippy intense tires in 2007 and they felt bad.
It wasn't as good as the DH compounds that followed, especially in wet conditions, and it seemed particularly susceptible to hardening with age. Still, I credit Intense for raising the bar for DH compounds at that time.
Still yeah. I agree kudos to them for pushing the tech forward. I'd have probably been quite happy to have them on when I started riding DH as a junior in 2003. Those old hard tires were not fun.
The real advancement of the Intense compound was the extremely low rebound rate. It was incredibly slow. Despite not being the softest compound, fresh Intense tires had outstanding traction (for the time, especially in hot and dry conditions) due to the slow rebound. Shifting attention onto rebound rate was, in my opinion, their contribution to mountain bike tire development.
As for hot and dry - well probably why I hated those. Early seasons here (until mid may) used to be stupid wet. To the point I rode wet screams for 2 months constantly but yeah. 2002-2003 I was a kid and knew shit. My gear knowledge went up maybe around 2008. Before I just listened to my father who only had XC and road experience.
Two factors in traction are the extent to which the rubber conforms to the surface, which is mostly determined by durometer, and the stability once it's conformed, mostly determined by rebound properties. You might get similar traction from a hard rubber that doesn't try to spring away from the surface, and from a soft rubber that begins to rebound while still in contact with the surface. The slower compound may have poor rolling efficiency, while the softer compound may allow the lugs to lose their shape under shear loads - and both will have various issues with temperature and moisture levels.
Other factors can include how the material is made softer or slower. For example, compounds can have different lengths of polymer chains, amounts of cross-linking, ratios of carbon and silicon, amounts of oil, etc., each with their own pros and cons that suit different riding conditions. Rubber formulation is complex, and the durometer value is only a part of it. Unfortunately, durometer is regarded as being more important than it is because it's easily measured and easily conveyed to consumers. It's an important parameter, of course, just not the only parameter!
Still I wonder if there are any ways to test and compare tire compounds so we can push this. Granted tires are miles ahead of the plastic shit we used in early 2000s but I'm sure more is possible.
Add in the variables of casing design, tread pattern, aspect ratio, etc. present in the finished product and tire traction becomes complex.
Even if we could accurately test the rolling efficiency of various compounds, it's also important to consider the driving efficiency. For example, a slick tire with a low-friction, fast-rebounding compound would roll quickly, but it may grip so poorly that the tire slips - either micro-slippage or fully spinning out - while a chunky tire with sticky rubber may roll poorly, yet hook up so efficiently that it overcomes its hysteresis losses and is the more efficient tire in certain situations.
The complete picture of tire performance is tremendously difficult to quantify.
Umm, don't you mean "like the lack of front derailleurs".
Now days everybody has these on their bikes and they are all a little different: fancy ti spur cycle bells to rubber duckies…
I for some reason bought a transparent one which unsurprisingly got muddy on its first ride and then looked crap
Great kit. Updated many times since the 90s.
• Banshees are great bikes and Keith Scott has done good work.
• Modern geometry is great.
One of the earliest effective seat-tube angles to reach 74° was on the Niner WFO v1. The first 74.5° was the 2011 Specialized Stumpjumper Evo, and the 2012 Specialized Enduro 29 had a 75° effective ST°.
Things didn't progress much further until 2016, when Canfield, Nicolai, and Starling went with 77°, and several others were greater than 76°. Banshee was still introducing new models with 74.5° - 75.5° in 2017; it took them until 2019 to go beyond the seat-tube angles introduced by Specialized seven years earlier.
Similarly, Banshee was introducing 64.5° head-tube angles in 2017, when Specialized had used the same angle in 2014. I'm no Specialized loyalist, just giving credit where it's due!
For what it's worth, my 2007 Iron Horse Sunday has a 60° or 61° head-tube angle, made custom for Sam Hill, but with the wrong length of seat-tube, so it found its way into my garage Slack geometry wasn't completely unknown at that time!
Yes, 2009 RM Altitude, 76 deg STA.
ST° - HT° is one of my favourite geometry parameters I track. In 2009, the Spitfire v1 measured Δ6.5°. That was high, for the time, but not the highest. That value was driven by the slack-for-the-time 67.3° HT°, as the ST° was a fairly traditional 73.8° . Rocky was using a steep seat-tube angle on the Altitude, but its head-tube angle was a conservative 69°. Maybe there were some small companies making outliers at that time; my database isn't great from that vintage. These values are double what many of their peers were using, but it's clear this parameter hadn't started to take off in 2009.
Banshee remained conservative on their seat-tube angles, not exceeding 74° until 2017. (Note: since Banshee uses adjustable geometry, I use their middle values.)
In 2011, the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo was a bold move from a large company. Still only Δ6.5°, but with a "long" reach and a low-for-any-era BB, it nudged the boundaries for all geometry parameters (still conservative kinematics and shock tune, though).
Real progress occurs in 2013 (mind you, I have a lot more data at that point, so maybe I'm just lacking records from earlier). The Focus SAM had Δ9.2° and was fairly aggressive on most parameters. The Orbea Rallon was close, with longer reach than the Stumpjumper Evo and a similarly ground-scraping BB height.
Specialized blew this delta-angle parameter wide open in 2014 with the Enduro 27.5 Evo (model year 2015) at Δ12.3°. Other than a reach that's a bit short, its geometry wouldn't be out of place today. Short stem, wide bar, and even the seat-tube lengths are short enough for modern droppers. Again, the kinematics and shock tunes were conservative, but credit to Specialized for pushing boundaries. Interestingly, 29ers were still a lot more conservative, as designers were still afraid of long wheelbases and the "slow" handling of 29" wheels.
To bring it back to Banshee, the Spitfire was at Δ6.5° in 2015, Δ10.5° in 2017 with the Rune, and in the Δ11-12° range at the present. Good bikes, but the closest they came to being a leader was the 2009 Spitfire, before the revolution got started, and have been mid-pack ever since. Again, I want to emphasize that I think they're great bikes and have performed better than "mid-pack" because they haven't been sub-par in any parameter (other than weight, which I think it terribly overrated, and water bottle mounts, which they've corrected), while most competitors have missed the mark in at least one area.
This opens the question of whether more is better. For many riders, the Δ11-12° value is plenty; I'm not saying more is intrinsically better, I'm just quantifying that Banshee has not been a geometry leader, and barely even qualifies as a fast follower. Great bikes, though.
• The Spitfire was not the highest at the time, even with my very incomplete dataset for that period. On the World Cup DH style 5-place podium, but not popping the champagne.
• Even if the Spitfire was the leader, which it wasn't, no bikes had much of an angle-delta at that time or for a few years after, so it's just splitting hairs. Those changes didn't kick off for a few more years and there's no point crediting the Spitfire for being near the lead of a race that hadn't started.
• Never has Banshee been a leader in this parameter. The Spitfire was near the front, but only due to having a slack head-tube angle. I suppose we could credit it as having nearly the slackest head-tube among mid-travel trail bikes in 2009, but that's not much of a stat., and Banshee was slower than their peers to adopt steep seat-tube angles.
Maybe it should be your turn, now. Perhaps you could show me the data that's led you to this conclusion?
First, the ST° was 73.8°, which barely deviates from the 73° ST°, which I consider the baseline ST°, since mountain biking inherited it from what was used in road bike design for decades. So, nothing forward-thinking about the ST°. The Rocky Mountain Altitude used a 76° ST° in 2008, which was the first ST° from a mid-sized or larger company to significantly deviate from the traditional 72.5° - 73.5° range. The Altitude used a more traditional 69° HT°, but its steep ST° was enough to give it Δ7°. The Orange Alpine 160 had Δ7.5°. Specialized SX Trail at Δ8.5° with ST° at 74.5°. The Rocky Slayer SS had Δ8.7° with ST° at 74.7°.
Not only was the Spitfire v1 not the first to break from tradition with the ST°, it barely did so at all. In my opinion, that's sufficient to dismiss the claim that "the spitfire was the first bike to start pushing the two angles away from each other in an effort to make a bike that could climb and descend well" because it didn't address the ST° at all. Maybe I can help salvage some merit from the statement by finding innovation in Banshee's HT° numbers.
The HT° of the Spitfire v1 was 67.3°. That was a break from the traditional 71°, but head-tube angles had already been coming down for years and 67.3° wasn't the slackest, even for it's travel. As an example, the Corsair Marque was slacker and had slightly less travel, especially front travel, which creates a significantly slacker dynamic HT°. The Orange ST4 had a 74° ST° and 68° HTׄ° on a bike with 100 mm of travel. Loads of bikes had 67° up front – even as low as 65° on models intended to be pedaled (i.e. excluding DH bikes), albeit usually with 160+ mm of travel. So, the Spitfire v1 wasn’t pushing boundaries on HT°, either. It was close to being a leader for its travel, but not quite.
To go back to the original point of the Spitfire being the first to really separate the ST° and HT°, since the v1 didn’t do it, we might look at subsequent generations. In 2015, the v2 had a 74° ST° and Δ7.5°. In 2017 it had a 75.5° ST° and Δ9.5°. And so on for subsequent generations – never anywhere close to leading those metrics.
I’ve tried to find ways in which the Spitfire was a geometry leader and the numbers just aren’t there. As I said before, the angle-delta parameter was on a low simmer, at best, and didn’t properly get cooking until Specialized came out with Δ12.3° in 2014 – a number that Banshee exceeds by a maximum of 0.25° today, and only in a couple sizes. As I also said before, this isn’t to say Banshee bikes aren’t great bikes, nor that a larger angle-delta is superior, only to refute any claims of the Spitfire – or any Banshee model – pushing boundaries on the angle-delta parameter.
Once again, I invite you to provide any possible evidence to support your claim. This has been an interesting dive down the geometry rabbit hole for me into years I don't normally include in my analyses, but I think I'm done with it for now.
While you’re technically correct, by the numbers, on the specialized sx trail and the Rocky Mountain slayers ss, if you know those bikes you’ll realize that the nominal numbers sta numbers are pretty meaningless: both bikes featured slack actual seat tubes that would have put their effective sta at full extension probably south of 70*. Of course that didn’t really matter, because they were freeride bikes, not trail bikes: you weren’t running a seatpost that could full extend because the curved/pierced seat tubes meant there would be no way to slam it when you went to hit that 10’ dorp to falt. I don’t really count the altitude, either, because its 69* head tube angle made it ride like ass. The oranges are the trail bikes I’d be willing to put in the same category wrt geometry progression as the v1 spitfire — though they were even rarer in North America back then than they are now, so I can’t say i ever rode or saw one, so I’m taking their geo and ride quality on faith.
I take your point that progressive geometry didn’t really kick off until the 2010s, probably around the time transition bikes started touting reach measurements. But for its time, in admittedly marginal ways, the v1 spitfire represented a break with traditional xc inspired sta’s on trail bikes — it wasn’t revolutionary, as you say, but it was at the forefront of an emerging design trend: a leader for its time
The geometry revolution was a lot more than any one parameter. As we've seen from the data - well, as I've seen - there were plenty of examples of bikes that pushed boundaries on one parameter at a time, but things didn't really start to happen until it all came together: steeper ST°, slacker HT°, and longer reaches that accounted for both a steeper ST° and shorter stem. This time, I'll leave it for you to search for those things.
Another big plus is that as long as the ProCore tube is properly pressurized, even with low pressure in the tire it might roll but it won't burp. I don't think you can do that with any other system (except for maybe the DeanEasy variation of the same concept).
Perhaps also Manitou should be honored for bringing long travel single crown forks to us riders. Their Sherman having 150mm of travel (little later 170mm) was considered pretty crazy, too.
The Split Pivot (or Trek ABP, etc.) design is less clear because the wheel is precisely at the pivot. In that case, it depends whether the brake is on a frame element that's attached to the front triangle or separated by one or more elements. In the case of Split Pivot and ABP, the brake is separated by an element, meaning these designs are not a swingarm with shock linkage (faux bar); instead, they are four-bar systems, equivalent to a Horst with a zero-length offset between the wheel and the "Horst pivot".
If you're up for a deeper dive, let's look at examples of each element being given its own linkage to control a specific parameter. As a baseline, we'll use the simplest design: the swingarm, as used by Orange and many others, with a linkage to modify to following parameters:
• Pedaling anti-squat: GT i-Drive. Just a simple swingarm with a separate linkage for a floating BB. Shock and brake attach directly to the swingarm, while the BB floats.
• Motion ratio: Faux-bar, such as Kona.
• Brake jack: Early generations of the Foes DHS. Ignore the little scissor-link on the top-tube, which served only to add structural support, not modify the kinematics. Later versions of the DHS had a linkage to modify the motion ratio.
It's possible to stack these features. For example, Knolly, Outland, and Jamis (3VO) have all used four-bar systems with an additional linkage to modify the motion ratio. Floating brake kits are available for several four-bar bikes. These are not six-bar systems, as used by Felt, Atherton, Tantrum, Polygon, etc. - that's a whole different conversation!
The VPP IC moves considerably and every suspension parameter is extremely different from that of a single-pivot. It's not a detail, it's the core of the design principle and the differences are dramatic, right across the board.
VPP has a lot in common with a 4-bar. In fact, it has everything in common with a four-bar because it is a four-bar.
Often - but not necessarily - a 4-bar design with two short links moves the instant centre more than a 4-bar design with one long and one short (ex. Horst), making a typical SS (short & short link, like VPP) design even less like a linkage-driven single-pivot than would be true of a Horst. A designer could choose to make the instant centre of a 4-bar system stay in a constant location, thereby replicating a single-pivot, but that would be a waste of the capabilities of a 4-bar and is not typical.
Two things 4-bar systems can do that can't be done with a linkage-driven single-pivot: modify the axle path beyond an arc defined by the main pivot, and independently tune the brake squat (AKA "anti-rise") without a separate floating brake linkage.
2. Here's part 2 of a series by Joe Graney, CEO of Santa Cruz (who was their engineer at the time) talking about the VPP system. Part 2 discusses 4-bar systems because he's explaining VPP, which is a 4-bar. He also discusses instant centre migration to explain how 4-bar systems, such as VPP, differ from single-pivots. I don't know how much more direct we can get than this!
Deserves a mention.
Pretty sure that was 11-, or maybe 10-, speed.
I'll take a dropper post first over most of the stuff listed above.
Balfa, Canfield Brothers, maybe even before?
Tapered fork steerer?
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