''Imagine being able to boost your chassis performance at the push of a button - this was the idea behind Project Dis\Connect,'' reads the words on the wall above what appears to be a shock-less but otherwise normal looking Canyon Sender downhill bike. It's anything but normal, however, as the bike is equipped with a novel system that allows the drivetrain to be disconnected from within the hub in order to completely free the bike's suspension from chain-induced forces. Check the video below to see it in action.
The video above shows the system in action. The first time the suspension is activated, when the drivetrain is engaged as it would be on a normal bike, you can see the cranks rotate backwards as the Sender's suspension goes through its travel. The rider's weight on the pedals would keep the suspension from working freely; this is what happens on most full-suspension bikes to some extent. Next, the rear hub's clutch is disengaged when the remote lever is pushed; when the Sender's suspension is activated, notice how the cranks no longer rotate backwards. This means that the rider's weight on the pedals will have zero effect on the bike's suspension.
Why would you want to remove the chain's influence on a bike's rear suspension? To allow the suspension to work as freely as possible, especially in this day of clutch-equipped derailleurs. You can't simply say that removing a drivetrain's influence on suspension is a good thing, though, as a mountain bike's rear suspension has been designed to work with, and often to harness, chain induced forces and to use them to the rider's advantage.
Project Dis\Connect Details
• Intended use: downhill
• Shown on Canyon's Sender DH bike
• Decouples drivetrain influence from suspension
• Controlled via bar-mounted button
• DT Swiss' Star Ratchet clutch
• Availability: maybe never
Bikes whose suspension is firmed up or extended under pedaling loads, usually referred to as having anti-squat, are often thought of as lively, fast accelerating machines. Bikes with less chain induced suspension influence, aka low anti-squat, are usually considered to be more active, forgiving, and possibly able to provide more traction over a wider range of conditions. Those are some pretty wide generalizations, of course, but that's the general idea.
A bike's designer must strike a balance regarding how much they want their bike's suspension to be affected by the drivetrain; downhill rigs will often be less affected as the spotlight is on outright suspension performance with less consideration to pedaling performance. Cross-country and trailbikes will usually take a more balanced approached. Why not just design a bike with suspension that's totally impartial to drivetrain forces? Because it'd pedal like total shit, and even the most downhill-focused riders out there still need to pedal sometimes. The interactive display in the Canyon booth shows the difference in how the suspension is affected by the chain, and also how it works when chain forces are removed.
Canyon's Project Dis\Connect allows the bike's drivetrain to be instantly disconnected from its suspension with the push of a button, thereby keeping chain forces from having any effect whatsoever on how the Sender downhill bike's suspension performs. Neato. Canyon says that this allows the suspension to work ''precisely as it was intended to,'' although I'd argue that the Sender's suspension, and any other bike's suspension, was designed to work with chain forces, or at least be designed with such forces in mind.
Regardless, the idea is that a rider could be approaching a section of track or trail where they won't be pedaling, so why not decouple the bike's drivetrain to give it total suspension freedom.
Who remembers that time Aaron Gwin did that trick where he won a World Cup after breaking his chain right out of the gate? That momentous race run of the ages raised a few questions besides what planet Gwin comes from; mainly, just how much better does a bike's suspension perform when it doesn't have to deal with anti-rise, anti-squat, pedal kickback, or any other words you'd use to describe what a drivetrain does to a bike's rear end. For the record, Canyon says that they were four or five months into development of Project Dis\Connect when Gwin took that chainless win, but also that it certainly did highlight the possibilities.
How does the system work?
The display bike in the Canyon both was rigged up to show looky-loos how Project Dis\Connect works, so Canyon had a repurposed shifter attached to the setup to make things easy. Pushing on the shifter's thumb paddle pulled a cable, just like normal, only instead of the cable being attached to the derailleur, it tugs on a plunger that runs down through the center of the bike's rear axle, very much like how an old Sturmey-Archer internally geared hub is activated only with a different outcome.
The bike's modified hub is home to a DT Swiss Star Ratchet clutch, and the two Star Ratchet wheels are moved apart by a complicated system of three movable pawls that extend outward from within the special axle. Picture a Swiss watch, only inside a bike hub and a lot more interesting.
Once the thumb paddle is pushed, the Star Ratchet wheels separate and the freehub and drivetrain have zero influence on the bike's suspension - pedaling will result in nothing, and it's as if there's no chain on the bike at all.
Pushing the thumb paddle a second time will retract the three pawls back into the axle and allow the Star Ratchet wheels to re-join again as if everything was normal. Now you can pedal again.
Canyon says that they're working with Fabien Barel, the legendary mad scientist of downhill and enduro, to develop the Project Dis\Connect system. Will it ever be raced or see production? Canyon was coy when it came to answering that question, as you'd expect them to be, only saying that they're evaluating the system and learning from it. It obviously makes the most sense for downhill and enduro racers, and what it could do is allow for the performance window of a bike's rear suspension to be larger because designers won't have to compromise as much when it comes to balancing drivetrain and suspension performance.
Cayon is known for doing things differently - take their Shapeshifter suspension and geometry adjustment system, for example, and whatever does come of Canyon's Project Dis\Connect system, you can't argue that it isn't interesting.