Does The Industry Need Disruptors? – SBC Collab

Does the industry need disruptive innovation?
What is a disruptive innovation?
Who the hell is being disrupted?

In the latest SBC collab video, I ramble on about topics I barely understand in a shed with far too few cups of tea.

Is Your Clutch Mech Affecting Your Suspension?

You know that little switch on your clutch mech? That magic little mute button? Well does that clutch affect your suspension?

I had a hunch that the clutch on my mech was inhibiting the initial movement of my rear suspension. We already know that anti-squat (pedalling) and anti-rise (braking) affect the suspension ability to do its job properly. So it is only a small leap of logic to assume that the clutch inhibiting your mechs movement, (thus affecting chain growth) is adding to that mix.

I’d proposed this question a few times and was always met with two responses;

“Yeah probably.”

and

“There are bigger influencing forces, like rocks on the trail! The clutch exerts such a small amount of force that it makes no difference!”

So with no way to prove or disprove my hypothesis the debate always ended there, that is until I had an extended loan of a Shock Wiz. The Shock Wiz is a suspension setup aid, it plumbs into the air valve of air forks and shocks, monitors them on the trail and offers setup advice and feedback. With the latest update to the app, this little unit now offers a far more nuanced tool for suspension tuning. It also offered the opportunity to experiment and get some data to further my curiosity on the subject.

Time for the science bit.

The experiment was simple, I had gotten my Shock Wiz score to 88% and I was feeling pretty happy with how it was all feeling. I would do a control run of a fairly typical piece of natural Scottish single track, then again with the clutch switched off. This direct comparison would show if the Shock Wiz detected a difference in the shocks behaviour.

Screenshot_20180603-123930

The test track was a lovely little ribbon of prime condition singletrack on the southern edge of Aberfeldy. Comprising of fast and pedally sprint sections, drops and root matrices, so providing a good variety of trail conditions to test on.  After a few runs it was time to consult the app and see if the Wiz had noticed a difference.

My prediction was that the Shock Wiz score would decrease and the low speed compression would need increased by a few clicks and maybe a few more PSI in the air spring. My thinking being that the clutch would inhibit rider induced movement and would be more active to small bump input.

 

So in short, yes the derailleur clutch does impact the suspension,

Whilst the suggestion after the first run was that with the easier breakaway more air pressure was required, however after successive runs it settled back to the green. So, my prediction was partially right, the compression was affected, but it was in the high-speed over my predicted low. So in short, yes the derailleur clutch does impact the suspension, now the question was, how much of an impact does it actually make?

Well the initial suggestion, with the mech activated was that the high-speed was far too firm, listed fully in the red. So by the apps measure, it needed adjusted by three or more clicks softer. Now the Cane Creek Inline, has an adjustment range of four full turns on HSC. So if we take one half turn to equate to one click of adjustment, three or more clicks is a significant tweak that the app is looking to make.

However with the clutch turned off the app was only looking to make an adjustment of one to two clicks, so maybe a single half turn. That is more or less in the right ball park in my view.

Something that I did find interesting, is the lack of a braking shudder feedback that I experienced with the clutch turn off. With the clutch on, when I was at full chatt through a rock garden I had significant shudder from my rear brake. My reckoning was that this was my shock and clutch fighting it out due to brake jack. With the clutch no longer fighting the HSC the shudder didn’t occur. Shock was able to do its job and the bike just monster trucked along.

Conclussion:

Did it make a difference to what I experienced as a rider? In some circumstances.

Was the bike louder? Well, yes.

Did I drop a chain? No, I have a chain guide and narrow wide front chain ring for that.

Did the the app measure an improvement with it turned off? Yes, the tuning score improved by 5%.

Will I run the mech with it switched off form now on? In some circumstances, yes I will.

Will this be a definitive answer to this question on STW? HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAAA, sorry was that a serious question?

Standards, huh, What are They Good For?

Absolutely nothing!? maybe? I don’t know, lets talk it out.

So there is this perennial myth in mountain biking, that “big MTB” is creating new standards to devalue our existing bikes and force us into buying new product.

142X12, Boost, Super Boost, Plus tires, 29er Plus, BB30, PF30, 1.5 straight Steerer, Tapered Steerer, 20mm, 15mm, 12mm, 10mm and good old QR axles to name but a few. It can become pretty easy to look at all of these new “developments” and start believing that the Illuminati has been confirmed.

I just don’t care, I really don’t

Now I am no “industry insider“, I don’t own a shop, I’m not a frame or component manufacturer, I am at the consumer end of all of this. Frequently however, it is the consumer end of the chain that has been the most vocal against new standards. You do not need to wade far past the “looks like a session” comments on Pinkbike to find the hate for any fresh standard.

So here is my opinion on the proliferation of new standards. I just don’t care, I really don’t. Whilst that sinks in, let me illustrate why this is with a story.

I had a Honda HRV, I loved the car, he was called Henry. Henry Snapped a drive shaft pulling out of my drive one day.

Was my reaction;

“Thank goodness for industry standards! I’ll pull the RH drive shaft from my wife’s Citreon and go and get a replacement from my local autoparts shop.”

No, of course not, that would be ridiculous. I as the consumer, sourced and ordered the correct part, based on the manufacturer, model and the year of my car. It arrived, and I repaired my car.

Henry Honda 10 under the ben.jpg
What a machine.

In almost all of our consumer goods, we accept that component parts are not interchangeable. The heating element for my Kmix coffee maker is not interchangeable with any other drip coffee maker for example. So why as a consumer, do I expect that of my bicycle?

Arbitrary standards based on what was historically available or what is used on road bikes makes no sense. The width or length of an axle should be based on what a bicycle requires to be a better bicycle.

But we have a problem, a bicycle manufacturer does not make bicycles, they manufacture frames. Even with the big box brands that have their own branded components on their build kits, rarely do they actually own the factories making those parts.  Component manufacturers produce the parts that engineers at Trek, Spesh et al have to conform their designs too.

DT Swiss make the hub, the engineer and product managers at Trek see what is available from the catalogue. They then make a choice as to what is most appropriate for the frame design and target price point.

Sometimes, an engineer at for example, Trek, has a hunch. Increasing the axle width will lead to a more evenly dished wheel, a straighter chainline and a stiffer rear end. Trek speaks to DT Swiss, they explore the possibility of making a hub that will fit this new standard. Trek wont tell Specialized whats happening, but DT Swiss will, after all they now have this new hub width to sell. Before you know it, Boost is a thing.

There have even been occasions when a bike brand has co-invested with the component manufacturer, lessening the initial outlay in bringing a new product to market. Trek payed for the molds for the Reba 29er lowers to be produced for Rock Shox’s. That is a 100K investment. Arguably, without the Reba the 29er wheel size concept could not have been proven. It kick started the development and growth of the wheel size, and introduced another new standard to the world. Another debate for another time perhaps.

There are also times when brands have genuinely made their own components, with varying degrees of success. Specialized Future shocks anyone? Trek however do not make suspension or cranksets. They may own Bontrager, but they don’t make everything a bike needs. So product managers still have to rely on other component manufacturers to complete their bikes.

This is one of the major differences between the bicycle and automotive industries. Whilst some car makers do use OEM parts made for or by other manufacturers, they still manufacture and sell the entire car. Bike companies frequently only make one part of the puzzle.

Component manufacturers also want (and need) to sell to as broad an after market as possible. This goes without mentioning that more experienced riders are just as likely to buy a new frame instead of a complete bike from their LBS. These riders are typically the most vocal when it comes to the adoption of new standards. They bemoan having to buy new hubsets and cranks when upgrading their existing frame. Or how they can not simply transfer all of their existing components to the new frame of their choice.

Is the expectation that you can transfer any mid to high end wheel/crankset/brakeset to a new frame unrealistic? Yes. Does it suck if you dropped £600 on a new wheelset, only for them to not be compatible with a new frame a year later? Yes. But please acknowledge that the rider who spends that level of cash on parts and who also changes their frame on a regular basis is the minority within the market. Stop your whining.


So who in the bicycle food chain do new standards really harm?
The consumer!

I don’t buy that argument. If I am upgrading or building a bike, I just order the correctly specified part for that bike or frame. Just like when I repaired my Honda. When 650B came on the scene, did my 26 inch wheeled bike explode in a puff of small rimmed obselance? No. The bike still worked as a bike. “The industry” did not force you to upgrade, you chose too.

The LBS!

Yes and no. Now I don’t work in a bike shop, so my views here are from the outside so may be inaccurate, please correct me in the comments. but I don’t see many expensive top tier big ticket items sitting in glass cabinets anymore. Sure they have some more common standard wheelsets in stock. for example, 135mm QR rear hub wheels. But I have seen a set of those wheels sit unsold in one shop for several years.

If I wanted a custom wheelset made up, I would speak with my shop wrench and we would work out the best mix of hub/spoke/rim for my needs. I would tell them what I frame had and they would order the parts they required.

In the same way I do not expect my independent garage to have the driveshaft for my Honda in stock “just in case” why would I expect my LBS to carry every conceivable spare or upgrade? That, I feel, is unrealistic and unreasonable of me as the consumer. My LBS is a service centre and knowledge base, not amazon prime. That is not to say that the proliferation of standards is not a right pain in the ass for the LBS. I am sure there where more than a few eyes rolled and groans at the news of “Super Boost”.

Distributors!

Here you go, this is who I think is really harmed by shifting standards, importers and distributors. Distributors bring product into a country and distribute it amongst their dealers (LBS and online retailers), they are typically a B2B business.

Now when I go to my LBS and we look at the big Saddleback pornographic catalogue of components whilst discussing that dream wheelset build. They will order the CK hub from the aforementioned distributor. It is then the distributor who has to make that initial investment in inventory. It is the distributor who has to hold an ever diversifying inventory when new standards emerge. It is also the distributor who is left with dead stock taking up space and tying up cash-flow when the world forgets 142×12 hubs.

The Consumer Again!

Sort of, I have no way of knowing other than what I would do in that business. But if I was a distributor with a damaged balance sheet due to redundant stock. I might try and increase prices elsewhere in the product range to try and mitigate that loss.


Imagine,

Now what if we thought about this whole question differently. What if we as the consumer re-wired our expectations and what if the component manufacturers became consolidated with the frame builders into one holistic business.

The engineers could build the best bike they could build, not being restricted by the need to conform to a limited series of standards. Being able to base decisions such as hub width on the engineering, not what products were currently available. knowing that the suspension division could build the right fork for the application, the correct drivetrain for the suspension kinematics. No more off the shelf forks or shocks with a “modified tune” fitted to every bike at the same price point.

A bike where each element was designed as part of a whole. You know, like the automotive industry. Imagine what that bike would look like.

Why I Didn’t Choose a Carbon Fibre Frame

A recent article on Pink Bike has gotten a lot of attention lately.

The piece was essentially a press release by Pole Bicycles about why they wont be making a carbon fibre bike anytime soon. They had various reasons, but one of them struck a cord with me as it was the same reason why when choosing my new trail bike, I went with alloy and not fibre.

metal is infinitely recyclable,
carbon fibre is not

I would be naive to think, that in some point in the future, that my current wunderbike will not be essentially worn out beyond use. It may suffer from metal fatigue and be no longer safe to ride, it may simple outlive me and have no use once my need to ride has past.

Sobering thoughts, but lets not be blinkered about this. All consumer goods (bikes included) have a life span and when that time is up we need to consider how we safely dispose of and reuse the materials they are made of.

Whilst carbon fibre to a certain degree can be recycled, due to the very nature of the material once recylced it is weaker and not fit for load bearing applications. The current recycling processes also require the material to be either burnt or melted in chemical baths to release the carbon fibres themselves from the polymer resin then are incased in. Both fairly damaging processes, either through the chemical waste created or the toxins released into the atmosphere.

In short, carbon fibre cannot be, safely recycled into a meaningful raw material for remanufacture. Whilst metal is infinitely recyclable, carbon fibre is not. This is not a new problem and cycling is not the largest producer of carbon or resin waste. But that does not mean we should, or rather, that I wanted to perpetuate it.

I do not judge other people for choice in carbon components, now in full disclosure, I have carbon bars on two bikes, both are second hand bars. I feel that if I were not using them they would most likely be sitting in a shed getting damp. I also grant that carbon has some benefits both in performance and aesthetics, but new carbon fibre is not for me.

The thing that first made me ask the question myself was a picture from behind a factory for high end carbon fibre road bikes. The pictured showed a pile of quality control fails dumped behind the factory that would dwarf a bus. This pile will not bio-degrade, they cannot be melted down and they will still be here in centuries to come. I considered that this was one product line of one factory. That it would likely be a similar story at many carbon bike frame and component factories. Each having a similar pile of factory fails, all waiting to be crushed by bulldozers at a landfill site.

With the large scale use of carbon fibre in the likes of aviation, renewables and the increasing growth of its use in the automotive industry, all meaning that there is a vast and growing amount of carbon that will need recycled. This creates an opportunity for a process of meaningful disposal or recycling to arise, as there is a business there and money to be made.

But I could not comfortably buy a carbon frame with that end disposal question being solved by some future what if?

We need to learn the lessons from history when it comes to materials like carbon fibre. They mostly seem to have been ignored or belittled by the mockery suffered by some of the more iconic uses of similar materials. For example, there is Duraplast and the little East German car, the Trabant.

The Trabant 601  was a car manufactured in the DDR from 1963-1990, it featured a metal monocoque body with body panels made of a material called DuraplastDuraplast is not dissimilar to carbon fibre or fibreglass, it used cotton or wool as the fibres and held them in a resin based plastic similar to bakelite.

the-junkyard.jpg

Now the problem with Trabi’s beyond their soviet obsolesce, is that once the car has died, once the chassis has rotted beyond saving, the panels will live on. East German scrap yards and country lanes have at one time or another been filled with dead and abandoned Trabant’s whos body panels will not rot and cannot be recycled.

They will outlive history and carbon fibre has the potential to do the same.

MTB POV – A Better Way

Point of View video (POV for Short),

a cornerstone of action sports video. 

Problem is, most of them are rubbish. The video is shaky, the image blurred and you can’t quite see enough of the action. If worn in the classic chest mount there is either too much bike and hairy knee going on and not enough trail or its shaking your retinas loose just watching it. If worn in the UCI bothering helmet mount, it is smoother, but still not great. The trail is flattened out by the effect of being higher and you don’t feel as “in the bike” as you do with the chest mount.

Wearable Gimbal
Feiyu Tech WG S 3 Axis Gimbal

    .

It doesn’t matter how well your suspension is set up either, unless it is a groomed blue trail, that video is going to be shaking like the camera is going through the DTs.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, enter the wearable gimbal. This little gadget mounts between the camera (GoPro Hero Session in this example) and the chest mount.

It uses a giroscope and 3 brushless motors to compensate for body movement keeping the camera stable and the horizon level, which in theory, results in smoother footage.

Does it work? The difference is night and day when comparing the two traditional mounting options against the gimbal footage. It took me a few rides to get mounting the gimbal dialed in so it was stable enough to work effectively, but once secure it works really, really well!

Would I recommend a gimbal to a GoPro user? Yes and no, they are expensive bits of kit, effectively doubling the price of a GoPro setup. So think carefully, if you are getting serious about your video then absolutely, if you just like filming the odd ride, I’d maybe spend my money elsewhere.

I’ll be documenting some notable trails on my YouTube channel using this set up so make you you give the channel a subscribe to see the outcome.

Can you make Tyre Inserts?

Well yes, yes you can.

Whilst investigating a tyre system for my hardtails to help prevent flats and dinged rims. I looked at some of the options on the market and came to the conclusion that I could make that. Now the foam I used is not specially designed and formulated for MTB, but that doesn’t mean its not suitable for the application.

I used a closed cell foam, which is similar to yoga and old style camping mats, it is dense and light. It is also non absorbent, a crucial characteristic for something that will spend its life swimming in tyre sealant. I sourced some rolls online that looked like they could do the job, hit the order button and waited to see what would come.

The foam is easy to cut with a fresh scalpel blade, however, why cut it all by hand when you can use a laser to do the job for you?

A laser cutter is a computer controlled machine that uses a vector (fancy computer drawing) to guide a laser to either cut or engrave a surface.

I used Adobe Illustrator to create my design, refining and going through various drafts and iterations of the drawing. I worked through this drawing process before settling on something close to the final insert before making my first laser cuts.

I find I really need to hold a physical object to help make design decisions

When using a laser cutter you calibrate the laser for the material you are cutting, changing the speed or intensity of the laser until it cuts the material cleanly. Laser cutters are ideal for intricate designs or small run batch production, so cutting some foam wasn’t really stretching the machine.

With the machine dialled in, I then made a few test pieces. Whilst seeing and measuring designs in the software is useful, I find I really need to hold a physical object to help make design decisions. So after a few alterations to the drawings we were ready to go.

Once cut and hand assembled it was time to install and test a set.

Installation was a pain free affair, simply the normal process of setting up a tubeless tyre. The insert had the fringe benefit of helping hold the tyre bead against the rim, aiding with tubeless set up. I did use more sealant than usual, whilst the foam is non absorbent, placing the insert int he tyre did increase the internal surface area. So sealant would not go as far, hence more was required, I added 1oz more than normal.

Home made tyre insert test Stravaiging

Once fitted it was time to test it, I sessioned a rooty section of trail with some drops and sharp rocks. I dropped some PSI from the rear tyre to see how it would handle, the theory being that if the rim has some additional protection, I can run the tyre softer thus increasing grip and traction.

The tyre (a WTB Trailboss) held well on the roots and didn’t deflect, on the rocks it gripped predictably. I bottomed out my shock a few times but the rim went undinged. This gave me the confidence to try other lines, bunny hopping over roots into sharp rock sections ultimately going faster.

Throughout the tyre felt secure and didn’t feel like the sidewall was going to fold, even with lower than usual tyre pressure. I later changed the tyre to discover a few slight cuts into the foam, this would normally have been a good old ding on the rim. Now we cant say for sure that these hits would have dented the rim or punctured the tyre, but both the tyre and rim were fine.

Home made tyre insert opinions Stravaiging

You could argue that the inserts acted like a placebo, like a rock that keeps tigers away. You can’t prove its working, but I don’t see any tigers around. That said the simple piece of mind and extra confidence in a race situation is almost worth it in itself.

I don’t see how the added rim and tyre protection would be required on the front tyre. I have only installed them on rear tyres as that is where I have most need for protection, if I rode downhill I might have more need for inserts front and back.

So can you make your own tyre inserts? Yes you can, a little bit of time and work (and access to a laser cutter) and you can make a whole load for you and your friends, time rich and laser cutter poor? A steady hand and some scalpel blades will probably get the job done, although you’ll probably only want to make one.

Banshee Spitfire 200 Mile Review

200+ Miles in and the Spitfire has lived up to the promises made by modern geometry.

Thought I would share my thoughts on this bike and have a wee bike check of the build and how its holding up. To summerise, the frame is amazing and well balanced now the fork is behaving. Starting to build pace and confidence, but its still a newish bike to me and I don’t put in as many miles as I did when I got its predecessor.

That said I rarely get less than a top 3 time on any given trail I ride on it, not half bad.

 

29ers – Are we really still talking about this?

The internet has calmed down and the storm over Lourdes may have passed, but the fact is, 29ers are here in DH. Deal with it.

It was going to happen, we all knew it would, we had all seen the instagram posts teasing us with hints at what was coming. We had heard rumours of 29 inch wheeled downhill bikes at the onset of the last few seasons, but 2017 would be the season.

The components had finally caught up with the frame design and geometry lessons learned from enduro and AM bikes. And once Fox had their 49 fork, well that was more or less the last piece in the puzzle of making a 29er DH bike happen and work.

People equate the UCI Downhill World Cup to the Formula 1 of mountain biking, and there is mileage in the analogy. but in reality, it is a very different animal in many respects. F1 cars are specific custom built by the teams, and you would never, ever expect to be able to buy one. Sure the trickle down of technology will eventually get there (adaptive suspension anyone?). But you accept that they are a different species to what we own and drive.

In the nineties and early noughties, it would not be unsurprising, in fact it would be almost expected, that the pros would be racing bikes that you could never have. One off team frames, prototypes testing suspension ideas, custom made components, drive trains that were not standard and would only work on that bike. Bikes like the iconic Honda RN01 and Miles Rockwells Cannondale Fulcrum are probably the two more famous examples.

Pushing the technology and what was thought possible on a pushbike. We wanted to see the engineering, the exotica, the unfeasibly skilled riding unattainable bikes.

In all other disciplines teams have to submit any technology being used for approval before it can be used, not so in MTB. So why are all the teams running more or less stock bikes? The UCI have rules stating that bikes raced on the circuit have to be readily available to the public. Within those rules, the manufacturers have used racing as a R&D proving ground and the bikes we ride have improved dramatically over the years because of that.

So why the shit fit over 29 inch wheels?

People have been genuinely furious about the Santa Cruz Syndicate debuting a 29er at Lourdes. Some of the hate has come from within the pro circuit, the Syndicate having apparently broken some gentlemen’s agreement that all the factory teams would show their hands at the same time. But this is racing, if you intend to use a 29er for worlds at Cairns later in the season, why not battle test it for a whole season?

“But it gives you an unfair advantage”

This is not a single manufacturer race series, this is not the Specialised WC circuit. If it was, each team would have the same frame at the start of the season and may the best man win. If you want to eliminate any advantage gained through different bike designs, then you have to give each racer the same equipment.

Fabien Barel famously said that is was “70% the rider 30% the bike”. So why would you get angry if a team tried to improve the 30% that can be adjusted through engineering? Bike designers, Team mechanics and the riders who can articulate what the bike needs to do to be quicker have been doing this as long as pro racing has existed.

For the fans who see this as some kind of bike industry conspiracy to enforce “another new standard”. Get over it, I’m sorry but its true. The fact that “standards” exist in cycling for components is a minor miracle. The fact that one hub wont fit every current production bike? Not really surprising, I’ll still sleep at night and I’m sure you will too.

If we applied the same component standards concept to say, the motor car, we would not have the same range and capability within cars. Hope created an entire new hub width that is specific to the HB211 bike. This allowed them to not compromise the design elsewhere and for the hub and rear axle to be a more integrated part of the overall engineering of the frame. Like how a car is designed…

But ultimately I think as soon as someone podiums on a 29er, we can finally stop having this discussion. JEFF STEBER of Intense fame had this to say in an interview with Dirt back in 2014.

“I always think back to when Doug Henry was the first to run the YZ400 F (four stroke MX bike) during a whole season of supercross and outdoor. He roared against a field of buzzing bees (2 strokes) and he focused on riding that bike for its strengths. After that season of huge success the rest is history. 29 DH needs a Doug Henry and a team willing to take it on and prove it to the world.”
Perhaps the Syndicate is that team.