The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 84 - Explaining RockShox's Computer Controlled Suspension

Oct 5, 2021 at 16:07
by Mike Levy  
Pinkbike Podcast
Art by Taj Mihelich


If you've been on the internet at all this week, you've probably seen a load of articles about RockShox's new computer-controlled suspension system designed to add efficiency to your enduro and trail bike on the fly. Rather than you reaching down to flip the pedal-assist switch, Flight Attendant manages the fork and shock's compression in real-time, constantly adding or subtracting damping as required and, importantly, to varying degrees depending on how you want your bike to behave and the terrain you're on.

If all that sounds complicated, that's because it is. There's a lot to unpack, which is what today's episode is all about; Mike Kazimer, Sarah Moore, Henry Quinney, and I talk about what Flight Attendant is like on the trail, what the heck Bias Adjust does, how the fork now adjusts the shock's low-speed compression (seriously), and whether ten batteries is enough or if Kazimer should use two GoPros.

What's your take on Flight Attendant?





THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 84 - EXPLAINING ROCKSHOX'S COMPUTER CONTROLLED SUSPENSION
Oct 7th, 2021

There's one in the shifter, one in the dropper remote, one in the fork, one in the front TireWiz, one in the shock, one in the spindle, one in the seat post, one on the derailleur, one in the rear TireWiz, one in your computer, one in your GoPro, and one that powers your eMTB.





RockShox's just-released Flight Attendant system automatically adjusts your bike's suspension as you ride, using sensors and motors to quickly add or subtract compression damping on your fork and shock, all without you having to reach down to flip a pedal-assist switch. More importantly, it automatically cycles through Open, Pedal, and Lock modes depending on what you need at that moment, while also offering a new level of tuning, called Bias Adjust, that might make your long-travel bike far more versatile.

Oh, and the entire thing is wireless, powered by the same AXS batteries as SRAM's electronic drivetrain.
Fight Attendant Details

• Intended use: 130-170mm of travel
• Auto adjusts fork and shock's compression damping
• Manual adjust low-speed rebound, Bias
• Wireless, uses AXS batteries
• Availability: OE only (for now)
• Weight: approx +300-grams vs equivalent non-Flight Attendant system
• MSRP: TBD
www.rockshox.com


Featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.




Previous Pinkbike Podcasts
Episode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?
Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?
Episode 3 - Pond Beaver Tech
Episode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?
Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?
Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?
Episode 7 - Wild Project Bikes
Episode 8 - Do We Need an Even Larger Wheel Size?
Episode 9 - Why Are We Doing a Cross-Country Field Test?
Episode 10 - Getting Nerdy About Bike Setup
Episode 11 - Are We Going Racing This Year?
Episode 12 - What's the Future of Bike Shops?
Episode 13 - Are Bikes Too Regular Now?
Episode 14 - What Bikes Would Pinkbike Editors Buy?
Episode 15 - What's Holding Mountain Biking Back?
Episode 16 - Who's Your Mountain Biking Hero?
Episode 17 - XC Field Test Insider
Episode 18 - Electronics on your Mountain Bike: Good or Bad?
Episode 19 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 20 - MTB Conspiracy Theories
Episode 21 - Stuff We Were Wrong About
Episode 22 - Does Your Riding Style Match Your Personality?
Episode 23 - Grim Donut 2 is Live!
Episode 24 - Why Even Buy a DH Bike?
Episode 25 - Fall Field Test Preview
Episode 26 - The Three Most Important Mountain Bikes
Episode 27 - The World Champs Special
Episode 28 - All About Women's Bikes
Episode 29 - Freeride or Die
Episode 30 - Would You Rather?
Episode 31 - Wet Weather Riding Tips & Tricks
Episode 32 - What Needs to Change in the Bike Industry?
Episode 33 - Behind the Scenes at Pinkbike Academy
Episode 34 - Grilling Levy About Field Test Trail Bikes (and His Bonspiel)
Episode 35 - Story Time - Stranger Than Fiction
Episode 36 - Grilling Kazimer about Field Test Enduro Bikes
Episode 37 - The 2020 Privateer Season with Ben Cathro
Episode 38 - Editors Defend Their 2020 Best-Of Picks
Episode 39 - Predicting the Future of Mountain Biking
Episode 40 - The Pinkbike Awards!
Episode 41 - Racing Rumours and Team Changes
Episode 42 - Mountain Biking's Guilty Pleasures
Episode 43 - Dangerholm's Wildest Custom Mountain Bikes
Episode 44 - Mountain Bike Suspension Decoded
Episode 45 - What Makes a Good Riding Buddy
Episode 46 - The RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38 Deep Dive
Episode 47 - High Pivot Bikes: The Good, The Bad, and The Why?
Episode 48 - Rides That Went Horribly Wrong... & Why That Made Them So Good
Episode 49 - What's the Best DH Bike?
Episode 50 - Are Bikes Actually Getting Less Expensive? (Value Bike Field Test Preview)
Episode 51 - Should MTB Media Post Spy Shots?
Episode 52 - Our Most Embarrassing MTB Moments
Episode 53 - Should Climbers Still Have the Right of Way?
Episode 54 - Best and Worst MTB Product Marketing
Episode 55 - Big Dumb Rides & Staying Motivated
Episode 56 - What Were the Most Important Inventions in Mountain Biking?
Episode 57 - What Were the Best (and Worst) Trends in Mountain Biking?
Episode 58 - Debunking Mountain Biking's Biggest Myths
Episode 59 - Value Bike Field Trip Surprises & Spoilers
Episode 60 - What Kind of Mountain Biker Do You Want to Be?
Episode 61 - Athlete Pay, Lycra, Equality and More from the State of the Sport Survey
Episode 62 - Editor Preferences and Why They Matter
Episode 63 - Our Best (And Worst) Bike Buying Advice
Episode 64 - Who's On Your MTB Mount Rushmore?
Episode 65 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 66 - The Best and Worst of Repairing Bikes
Episode 67 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham
Episode 68 - Who Are Mountain Biking's Unsung Heroes?
Episode 69 - The Good, Bad, and Strange Bikes We've Owned - Part 1
Episode 70 - The Good, Bad, and Strange Bikes We've Owned - Part 2
Episode 71 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham - A Pinkbike Podcast Special, Part 2
Episode 72 - Hey Outers!
Episode 73 - The Details That Matter... and Some That Shouldn't
Episode 74 - The Best Trails We've Ridden and What Makes Them So Special
Episode 75 - Things MTB Brands Waste Money On
Episode 76 - MTB Originals and Copycats
Episode 77 - Interview with Outside CEO, Robin Thurston
Episode 78 - Modern Geometry Explained
Episode 79 - What's the Future of eMTBs?
Episode 80 - The Best Vehicles for Mountain Bikers
Episode 81 - You've Got Questions, We've (Maybe) Got Answers
Episode 82 - Behind the Scenes at Field Test
Episode 83 - Does Carbon Fiber Belong On Your Mountain Bike?


76 Comments

  • 29 2
 Words cannot express how uninterested I am in having any type of battery on my bike.
  • 3 0
 On my ohlins I flip my hsc from open to closed for climbing, then open again for decending. I use alot of energy riding up and down. I think I can handle flipping little levers.
  • 3 1
 At some point before long, I have to imagine that all of these things will be powered by a dynamo hub...
  • 17 2
 Microchipping my suspension? No thanks. I don't need Bill Gates to know how I'm riding. I'm switching to a hardtail with a rigid fork.
  • 10 0
 Good to hear Sarah back! Felt like the podcast was turning into dudes-only shuttle van for a little while.
  • 8 0
 It’s so smelly in here.
  • 2 0
 Paused the podcast to come here and say the same thing. Missed you @smooresmoore!
  • 5 0
 Just a thought, given the success of the podcast, pinkbike academy, buyout, ect... might be cool if you all were to branch out a bit more and made a few top-gear/grand-tour style "specials".
Maybe something like:
- Everyone each has $1500 to spend to put together a complete bike (new/used/whatever), who can record the fastest time down a-line with what they come up with?
- Everyone has a [insert name of some "challenging" bike] (fully rigid/singlespeed/whatever), and we're going to take them out on [insert name of some super tough trail].
  • 3 1
 We've got plans! The Donut is part of it, but there's plenty in the works.
  • 4 0
 @mikelevy: I hope this includes a fat bike field test. There may only be 7 of us who would be interested, but it would be worth it to see you do an efficiency test on 5 fatties in fresh powder
  • 4 0
 I am sure it is a very nice and interesting product, which will not be worth the price for 99% of people. Bu rich guys on Yetis will be delighted.
But seriously, in my opinion it has potential to stop designing bikes with stupid amount of AS and focus on downhill performance instead. Electronics will then make the bike climb reasonably well. Now this is something I would pay for, but this requires prices to go down and a solid mind shift in bike and suspension design.
  • 4 0
 For sure, there's more to this than just a new battery power shock and fork. If it works, it could result in some really interesting bikes.
  • 4 0
 Sounds like a pretty rad piece of tech that I am going to allow to trickle down to my price range and get a round or two of updates for a few years. I do have some questions from a crazy week I had in Moab last week though....
I have always ridden a hardtail, but we rented full sus bikes in Moab for the week to try out and they were nothing like I expected. I was on a Rocky Mountain Instinct and on day one I had more pedal strikes than I've had over the last 5 years put together. It was awful and messed with my rhythm all day. I also felt like there were times when I was getting bucked by the suspension, which was another new sensation. I think it felt more tiring too despite being in better shape than previous trips. I had ridden Moab a few times on my hardtail in years prior and remember having a great time, same trails even. My riding partner had an easier time with it, but I was super frustrated. On day two I switched the shock to as firm as it would go and that helped a bit. Did the shop set my bike up wrong? Am I just used to riding a different style of bike? Is the RM instinct just not for me? Definitely made me feel like I could keep waiting to upgrade to the full squish life.
  • 2 0
 Sounds like you might have been running too much sag, but it's hard to know without seeing the bike as you rode it. Too much sag / too soft of spring rate would mean the bottom bracket sits much lower than intended, which could cause your pedal strikes.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: that's what I've been assuming, the guy at the shop had me stand on it and do a test before we left, but maybe I'm just a heavy pedaler? I'm so used to the static rear end at home too. I think I was just disappointed that it didn't feel like I was riding 3000 dollars more bike
  • 1 0
 That's just hardtail vs. full sus.

I have both, and the full sus feels "normal". I get occasional pedal strikes. I NEVER get a pedal strike on the hardtail, because I think I'm used to preventing them on the full-sus as much as possible because the BB moves more on a full-sus. The hardtail's BB is almost always higher than the full sus.

So I think you're just seeing the opposite. Hardtail for you is normal, so full sus feels like a ton of pedal strikes. Ride a full sus more often and you'll become more aware of your pedal position while you're riding tech.
  • 1 0
 @rickybobby18: it's interesting I'd never really thought about that as far as trade offs between the two go. I've been saving and researching to upgrade to a full sus, but this last week made me question how I'm going about it a little. So I will probably just prefer a stiffer rear end at first? Or it just takes some getting used to pedaling on the full sus? Because it damn near ruined that first day for me.
  • 3 0
 I just picture myself in 2030 parking my bike on the wireless charging mat I have laying in the garage. Sure it might cause me some hair loss and a couple tumors. But it keeps my suspension, dropper post, shifter, saddle, grips and chain all fully charged.
  • 2 0
 It would be fascinating to see how this works on that Giant Trance X with Live Valve that was reviewed awhile back. It seems like the major complaint in that review was that Live Valve defaults to closed so it was not great at reacting in rooty sections. I wonder if Flight Attendants defaulting to open would be the perfect thing for that bike.
  • 3 0
 Agreed, I'd love to get two of the same bikes, one with LV and one with FA. To be fair to both, they're very different products aimed at different kinds of riders. I could see a more XC-focused rider wanting LV.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy:
Am I the only one that hears the Letterkenny "to be fair" routine in their head everytime you guys say it?
Next time, give it a go Wink please and thank you!
  • 2 0
 @zojdson: Letterkenny is SO GOOD.
  • 3 1
 I think it's a badass system and honestly I'd highly consider it. Yes I'm in the demographic with plenty of disposable income. What I really want is for it to be readily available on framesets and for the frame to be sold with the fork as well. Example, the Enduro build with it is great but SWorks builds are always more than what you can do on your own and they make decisions I wouldn't like a AXS Reverb vs a longer and lighter Oneup 210 post.
  • 2 0
 I'll be curious to see if EWS or even downhill allow the technology, as it would definitely have an effect on motorway sprints or climbs in EWS. Even on the transfers, riders expending less energy to get to the top. Surely that would provide an advantage being fresher for the downhill. I just can't see how all riders will have the technology, given how this is rockshox only and the expense of it would alienate privateers. Obviously other brands have similar tech, but I'm not sure it's on the same level. That being said, Pidcock had something like this in the Olympics, so its already been in races... More to come I'm sure!
  • 2 0
 Pretty sure Charlie Murray (Specialized Team) was running flight attendant at the last couple if EWS races this year.
  • 2 0
 A normal climb switch would have the same effect on smooth transfers. This electric active suspension would help with the mid stage short climbs, flat sprints, and sprints out of corners etc. It could also allow for suspension kinematics and/or descending suspension setup to be more forgiving and less fatiguing. This could give racers a definite advantage, theoretically anyhow. Most motor sport racing series have banned active suspension because it's expensive and gives too much advantage to the top teams that can afford it. I don't know if it will be banned in dh, enduro or xc. It'll be interesting to see if it does give a substantial advantage in next years races.
  • 1 0
 @kcy4130: Yea, agree with all your points! Interesting stuff.
  • 2 1
 Sram really does seem to be losing the plot lately. Concentrate on the lower tier components that have far greater market than this silly overpriced high end stuff. Sell to the classes live with the masses. Sell to the masses live with the classes.
  • 3 0
 I always love your podcasts and really enjoyed this one Smile Only one small criticism: It seemed like you hadn‘t really taken much time to select a comment gold
  • 1 0
 I definitely didn't take much time to find comment gold haha
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy: Longitme PB user but I just started listening to the podcast about 6 weeks ago. Something that kinda makes me scratch my head is the formatting of these posts on the site: because the comments like this for a podcast episode appear by SCORE by default, rather than by TIME, the ‘conversation’ is really muddied. For essentially any other post on this site, score (the proxy for comment ‘quality’) makes sense. But to follow the conversation about the podcast, including answering any questions you may pose in the show, ‘time’ seems to be a more logical default. What do you think?
  • 2 0
 @sngltrkmnd: Yup, agreed. I prefer the time sorting rather than score and usually change it via the button at the top of the comments. I'd prefer it to default to time.
  • 1 0
 Had a 2010 Marin Attack trail and it was awesome. Great suspension kinematics, proper head angle, but the largest size they made is a large, with an extremely short reach by modern standards.

I'm nostalgic about a time when you got name brand parts (shimano hubs, Fox float fork), shimano LX/XT drivetrain/brakes, and an aluminum frame that actually had some thought put into being somewhat lightweight, all for $2000cad ($2800 today). Imagine if they updated the geometry on those frames, 1x/clutch rear derailleur, tubeless rims. Sell for $3000. Nowadays you'll get no-name hubs, a rock shox gold fork, and maybe NX garbage if you are lucky at that price...
  • 1 0
 I think in a possible close future, if bikes compagnies are taking it in consideration, they can design suspension to be very efficient towards downhill, and the system will make whatever suspension design efficient for climbing. Like of those trendy High pivots are not very pedal efficient compare to a Vpp or DW system. Add the flight attendant, and all the sudden it pedals like a 130 bike.
  • 1 0
 Not the best example. HP bikes don't pedal well due to increased friction and possibly a rearward axle path. Suspension lock outs aren't the solution in that case.
  • 1 0
 PB Crew, thanks for covering the new tech so thoroughly. Sounds like the Flight Attendant works pretty well but it's not worth all the battery charging to me. then the weight, and lastly the cost. Sounds like it's time for RS to incorporate a single battery and wire everything to that battery.
  • 1 0
 question for the next one: would you argue a nicer fork is more important on a hardtail than a full suspension because it's the only suspension you've got, or less important because you're going to get rattled on a hardtail either way, and it'll be harder to feel what a nicer damper is doing at speed?
Edit: Third option: equally important.
  • 1 0
 I'm in agreement with Kaz on not wanting batteries on my mountain bike. I just want to be able to hop on and ride and not have to worry about my bike not working because batteries are dead. I much rather have a nice mechanical group set and suspension than the newest thing with batteries.
  • 1 0
 Mountainbiking is great because no matter if you're on a 3k bike or a 12k bike, you are generally on a level playing field.

This advancement in suspension tech does probably make you a few percent faster but at an obvious financial cost. Are bikes going to head down a path of seeing more and more tech piled into suspension performance and alternating tyre pressures that will ultimately push up the price of the top-spec bikes? Great for people who can afford it and factory team riders but what about aspiring racers?

A bridge between the top of the sport and the low end needs to be reasonable otherwise we are just following the same path as dirt bikes. Are we not in danger of turning into an elitest sport similar to most/all motorsports?
  • 1 0
 Once again, why are we so enamored why reducing fork suspension on the uphill? I sure remember the days of my 160 becoming a 140 on the climbs and never using it. I realize that the flight assistant goes beyond this for the long causal ride. At the same time though, seems unnecessary. Not to mention my lack of desire to charge one battery (aka my phone) vs a bakers dozen.


@pbgang is there a future you'll see this fitting seamlessly into? Seems like y'all think this is a cool idea but also not a required piece of equipment like everyone who skis needs heated socks...
  • 1 0
 I would love to hear a podcast talking about mountain biking as a plus sized rider.

I really appreciated when PB did a few segments last year on kits options for plus sized riders and would love hear more product testing, reviews, and stories from other plus sized riders. Guys like @nrml_mtber on Instagram or Leo Smith (@landosteezy) are really adding to the freeride scene, and Kailey Kornhauser and Marley Blonsky are doing some rad things with bikepacking and other types of riding.

@mikelevy would this be possible in the future?
  • 2 0
 Yup, added to the list!
  • 1 0
 A thought on something to discuss in a podcast - cheap ways to give your tired bike a new lease on life. Given how hard it is to get new bikes at the moment it would be cool to hear your thoughts on ways to refresh your bike rather than replace, in a cost effective way.
  • 1 0
 Rather boring reply, but the proper pronunciation of AXS is "ACCESS", not "AXIS". Sooo, no worries about an "AXIS OF EVIL from SRAM"... Henry just has to worry about the "ACCESS TO EVIL" in the form of the electrical battery madness. support.sram.com/hc/en-us/articles/360017162894-What-is-AXS-and-how-do-you-pronounce-it
  • 1 0
 If you purchase all the latest and greatest and don't PR all your next rides on Strava have you just wasted money? Maybe it's not your 2 year old bike or kit that's holding you back.
  • 1 0
 Nice troll PB crew! At the end of ep 83, Levy said that the next episode will be about saving money. Surprise! This is the exact opposite! Will listen anyway because you guys are always entertaining.
  • 2 0
 Shit, I did say that, didn't I?! Honest mistake, I swear, but I wanted to talk about FA a bit more. I think next week is a Rampage preview, but we'll do a value pod soon.
  • 1 0
 I miss when there were XC races everywhere and they were full of people. I miss when you could go to a DH race and see new DH bikes of different never before seen designs that did not look like all the other bikes.
  • 1 2
 love Henry’s james bond voice, sense of humor…but fire him, he’s lost in the wilderness on his wired old 26in wheel caliper braking stoic seatpost nutbanger bike! wireless on my Colnago and my Intense….its great, better than Shimano? dont know dont care. no im not a dentist or lawyer, i just make a good living bc i work hard (and smart) and spend on kids college, wife and bikes!!
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer had a similar opinion. I get it. I want something simple to ride - nirvana = single speed rigid w/o a dropper. Jump on and pedal and don't think.
  • 1 0
 I'm still waiting to see if I can convince myself that AXS is worth it. "Flight Attendant" and "Live Valve" are not even on my radar of interest.
  • 3 1
 can I please start a petition to make @henryquinney a permanent fixture on the podcast? the man was made for them! @mikelevy
  • 2 0
 I like Henry’s contribution but sometimes find his soft voice hard to hear when driving (which is when I do most of my podcast listening). Would it be possible to hire someone a little louder to speak Henry’s words? Not sure who, maybe Ruby Wax? Thanks in advance Smile
  • 3 0
 He'll be on many more, and I'll get him to start yelling more Smile
  • 1 0
 Future -
Mtb bikes stays mechanical.
E-bikes - will be all inclusive: LV/FA, gearbox/shifiting, lights, phone settings/adjustments.
  • 1 0
 @henryquinney
Hard choices to be made between wires/cables/spartan-setup VS batteries.
Too many cables and too many batteries must be a close battle.
  • 5 3
 The advertorial continues
  • 7 0
 Not sure if you listened before commenting, but Kazimer explains why he’d rather use normal suspension than Flight Attendant. We’re definitely split on this one, but we talk lots about who it doesn’t make sense for as well Smile
  • 4 3
 @mikelevy: Question: When can we go back to having interesting podcast topics please?
  • 8 0
 @pen9-wy: Maybe next week when we do the UFO podcast.
  • 1 1
 Going to have to wait about a decade for the cost of this electronic system to come into my price range. Not a fan of Tesla's and not a fan of all this electronic's on bike
  • 1 1
 Seb Stott: “Locking out suspension doesn’t really help.”

PB: “Check out this wireless lockout!”

Amazon developer: *Add to cart*
  • 2 0
 What is the background on using the Canyon Strive as a punishment?
  • 1 0
 Maybe having just an electronic shock adjuster would be the ticket on something like the Giant Trance X?
  • 2 0
 Do a podcast on the best or most memorable events you've participated in
  • 1 0
 Added to the list!
  • 1 0
 I've never ridden a Canyon Strive but Henry's comment had me lol'ing for real
  • 2 1
 Quinney has been a fantastic addition to the past few episodes, please keep him on as a regular co-host!
  • 2 0
 Finally the answer for getting rid if the Scott Twin Lock system!
  • 1 0
 Flicking that Twinlock remote becomes second nature fast, especially since I combined it with my dropper like Dangerholm did. I'll just buy another bike for the price of this Flight Attendant luxury Smile
  • 1 0
 It's funny you could buy and E bike and another nice Acoustic bike for the same price as a flight attendant bike
  • 1 0
 I just wanna know what Henry thinks of flight attendant. He needs to ride it and give his review next podcast!!
  • 1 0
 Looks kinda clunky, version 2 should look sleeker.
  • 1 0
 this is way less clunky than the RS / Lapierre ei system from ohhhh 9 years ago that has nothing to do with this system that RS has been secretly working on for hmmmmmmm lemme see 9 years...very much different, in every way.

Have I got that right?
  • 1 0
 Hey levy whats your Strava name?
  • 2 1
 Can we use a filter to eliminate vocal fry?

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