Back in July, we spotted what appeared to be a prototype electronically controlled Fox shock
on the back of Ed Masters' Pivot Firebird, as well as what looked like a wireless sensor bolted to his bike's rear brake mount. Fox didn't say much at the time beyond admitting that it's part of their RAD (Racing Application Development) program, but they did reach out a few weeks later to let us know that EWS winner Jesse Melamed would be doing some preliminary testing of this very set-up in Squamish. Not only that, but myself and Matt Beer could tag along to watch Jesse try the electronic air-sprung shock for the first time.
While Fox let us film the test session and ask too many questions, they stressed that the new suspension is still in the development phase and that they wouldn't be able to tell us everything we wanted to know. In fact, it doesn't even have a name yet.
So, what'd we learn?Rear-suspension only:
The first thing to point out is that, unlike Live Valve, this new system is entirely focused on shock performance alone and doesn't incorporate the front suspension at all. That means that riders will be able to pair the shock with any fork they like, including those from other brands. I'd argue that makes a lot of sense for enduro racers who essentially never want their fork firmed up, but also from a consumer and sales point of view; purchasing a new shock is much less daunting than having to buy and install a fork, shock, and a whole bunch of wires that may or may not play nice with whatever bike you own. Wireless sensors:
Speaking of wires, that's another dissimilarity between this system and Live Valve. The two sensors that tell the shock's brain what the wheels are doing, each bolted to the front and rear brake mounts, are wireless and powered by common CR2032 batteries, while the shock itself runs on a removable and rechargeable proprietary battery. Manual remote control:
More interesting than batteries, however, is the handlebar-mounted remote that Jesse was using to control the shock. This let him manually cycle between shock modes without taking a hand off his grip, something that was never possible with Live Valve and also a feature that might give some riders piece of mind.
After filming this video, Jesse used the new shock at this weekend's Whistler EWS (he won the Pro Stage
) where it was spotted by a photographer and posted on the homepage yesterday
. Not a bad debut, especially considering Jesse had been racing exclusively on a coil-sprung shock prior to the testing that we joined him for.