11/08/2013 | 16 comments
Steve Jones got the chance at the Val Di Sole World Cup to sample the fruits of Specialized’s new collaboration with the Swedish masters of suspension, otherwise know as Ohlins. Over to Steve to tell the story…
Specialized partner up with Ohlins to ditch the excess damper adjustment on their gravity range of bikes
Back in 2005 Cane Creek introduced the Double Barrel. It was an exceptional shock. Its twin tube design came with Swedish Ohlins heritage, a company that had worked with the very finest motocross racers for many decades. I have clear memories of watching the brilliant Russian Gennady Moiseev and Swede Hakan Carlqvist win world titles back in the late seventies when they used Ohlins on their Ktm and Husqvarna’s.
Back to bicycles, and there’s a part of many riders connecting the two sports, it still took many years for the Cane Creek Double Barrel catch on – its superior performance was failed to be recognized by many company’s and a certain disconnect emerged between riders and the shock in their ability to either know what they wanted or how to achieve it even if it is the case with most other dampers too. More than this many bike designs simply didn’t work with the brilliant damper.
This Ohlins/Specialized partnership sees a marked shift over the cane Creek connection in several ways. First they have removed a large part of rider decision making to a certain extent and also have the unit dialed into the bike. On this occasion the Demo, but it also becomes available for the Enduro Evo too.
What makes this shock special is that it removes any unwanted areas of damping, extremes whereby it is quite normal to be able to slow rebound down to almost zero movement or speed the unit up to an undamped wild spring like behaviour.
As much as many company’s shout about a shock being tuned for the suspension design the bikes – and yes many of them do have a reasonable middle setting – most bikes still come with a massive amount of unwanted, unnecessary dial adjustment. In the past decade we’ve been dumped with a crazy amount of decision making on the dials out of nothing more than laziness, cluelessness or money counting from many companies. It’s not uncommon to now see twenty clicks of high speed, a similar number of low speed plus the same again in rebound. When you add in boost valves and the pressures inside that it becomes a game of chance for many. The new RockShox Vivid air and coil is a step in the right direction.
As much as the Ohlins is high end engineering lets not get too carried away here on internals, it is after all oil and washers – but that might missing the very subtle element of magic that an unit like this brings. It doesn’t offer a monster difference in performance but if you tune into the grip and control that such dampers offer then the difference is VERY significant. How much value do you attach between control or failure?
If you could simplify the sensation then the feeling is weighted more towards a hydraulic feeling than a spring sensation. The Ohlins introduces a level of grip and chassis stability better than a stock unit. We’re dealing with tolerances here.
Spring rates – 26lb increments/High Speed Compression – 3 settings/Low speed compression – 20 clicks/Rebound – 6 clicks
Sensitivity with support characterizes the Ohlins ride dynamic. It delivers a ride that always feels it’s working on hydraulic, the sensation seldom too hard. First run on the Demo was given a full middle setting, three rebound, middle (2) HSC and ten clicks low speed. The ride was brilliant and I didn’t really know where to go from that point in the set up. But I did.
In the hardest (3) HSC setting the TTX still operates effectively but is at its best in different conditions, those being the bigger faster breakers where the bike now skips over the tops a touch more than the middle setting. Rebound was the adjuster that was a marked improvement than other dampers in that it pretty much eliminates the crazy extremes. It still livens up the ride but does not lead to ridiculously poor chassis stability.
The softer compression setting offers a weaker and livelier ride character but is still a workable solution and will certainly still work for different speeds and conditions. For me at 14 stone it will be a real wet weather option. For riders new to damper settings they will quickly learn the benefits to what a change in settings brings when conditions change quickly from hard to soft.
All said and done the Ohlins can still be dialed into a less than optimum by way of going for the harder or softer setting in the wrong environment on the compression particularly but crucially the adjustment is at a very rough guess about 15% off optimum compared with say 80% possibility found on many shocks. This is a massive benefit for any level of rider.
The new Demo bikes will be available in July/August and the shock will be available aftermarket, which will fit on all current versions of the Demo (model year 2012-2014) and Enduro EVO (2013-2014) so should be a sweet upgrade. Prices will be set by the individual markets very soon and you will be able to buy from Specialized retailers only.
Dirt had a chance to ride the new Ohlins damper out in Val Di Sole World Cup but unfortunately the large Demo became unavailable. Still I managed to get some reminiscing in with Torkel Sintorn from Ohlins about the seventies and managed to stash some yellow gold back to the UK.
We also managed to catch up with Brandon Sloan, Director of High end bikes at Specialized, for a chat about where things were heading. Read the full story with him in Issue 138 which will be out in a few weeks…