Pinkbike Awards 2021: Nominees for Suspension Product of the Year

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Nominees for Suspension Product of the Year

Last year being a competition for the strongest single crown fork, 2021 was the time for brands to revitalize their staple suspension parts and fill in the gaps in their product lines. It wasn’t an easy task to follow, but the nominees for Suspension Product of the Year each have a strong hand in the game. Fox and RockShox each still had an ace up their sleeves, and once the dust settled. , Manitou and Cane Creek got drenched to show off familiar looking products.

For 2021, the nominees could not have been more dispersed in their genres. Just when the enduro craze seemed to be leveling off, RockShox revealed its take on electronically controlled suspension to take long-travel bikes to new heights, wirelessly. The downhill suspension product line seemed to be well established, but Manitou then ditched a refreshed Dorado with multiple trim levels, also not lacking in features on the higher specs. The Cane Creek Kitsuma Air Shock has all the adjustments you could possibly need, in a slim design. Finally, Fox’s 34 Grip2 is at the head of the trail suspension fork category, succeeding the 36 and 38 with a rounded arch makeover.

Four competing products made it difficult to pick just one from the team, as all the technical writers weighed in on the nominees.


Why he is nominated

The Dorado has been a long-standing icon in Manitou’s catalog and turns heads with its looks and performance – there’s no doubt about this fork upside down. Carbon feet and chrome accents give the updated Dorado Pro a chic and boutique look, but it’s not all smoke and mirrors.

Cult Manitou followers preach TPC + damping tuning, Infinite Rate Tuning air spring tuning and hydraulic bottom, while ignoring the negative chatter about torsional flex in the USD chassis. In fact, it is often revered as a positive attribute to maintain consistent front wheel tracking.

This arrangement, more common in the motorcycle world, leads to a lighter unsprung mass and Manitou has managed to lose 238 grams compared to the Expert and Comp models. 37mm aluminum stanchions slip into wide carbon feet that can accommodate 27.5 “or 29” wheels, changing crowns, not to mention that travel can also be set to 180, 190 or 203mm. The Pro weighs 3003 grams, which isn’t light, but its track performance belies those stats.

Based in the steepest riding area in the Alps, Champéry, Switzerland, our tester Dan Roberts knows how to ride a bike on suitable trails and is a real, not an armchair, engineer. His first impressions of driving and his ease of getting along with the Dorado Pro are why it is a worthy contender.

From the first round:

… it was a cinch to set up with Manitou’s guide and so far it has shown the same flexibility that provides good support deeper into the journey. All of this combined with good control and use of the movements that allow you to forget your bike a little more, look up the line and focus on the track. Its reduced weight, some 210g, is also noticeable. It’s not up front and in the middle, but it’s a chunk of less weight to pull on whenever you need to. Dan Roberts

Why he is nominated

One word to describe the 2021 Fox 34 Grip2 would be refinement. The 34 fork isn’t a recently added item to Fox’s menu, nor is the Grip2 shock, but it’s now packaged in a thinner, redesigned chassis. This combination of features has made it possible to increase the number of more powerful, but lighter, products intended to reset the “mountain bike”, unrelated to a specific category. The 36 was once the strongest single crown model in the lineup and the 34 was considered an XC fork. This is no longer the case.

Perhaps it was the addition of the 38 and 34 StepCast that further widened Fox’s fork platforms and gave the Regular 34 wider application. The 1,820 gram set is available in 120, 130, and 140mm travel lengths and is front and center on Specialized’s classic Stumpjumper model, neither a downhill nor an enduro bike. Being less “upcycled” is the name of the game with the 34.

Direct 180mm post-mount dropouts, with the option to go up to a 200mm rotor, inform the user of the intended applications: long days in the saddle on any terrain. Along with the quality Fox is known for, a new air spring has been engineered to provide more mid-stroke support with a more consistent boost.

Before, the FIT4 cartridge held back 34mm stanchions, but now at the heart of the fork is the Grip2 damper. This new lower cast with a narrower crown has achieved a Goldilocks level of stiffness / weight ratio. Reliability and performance make the 34 an unpretentious, yet remarkable performer on the track; up, down, but mostly through.

For a mix of downcountry and trail running, a 120mm Fox 34 Grip2 has found its place at the front Kazimer’s personal bike, a Transition Spur.

Criticism:

quotation marks The regular Type 34 goes under the radar, sandwiched between its sleeker and more rugged StepCast sibling 36. It shouldn’t be overlooked, however, especially given its suitability for the latest generation of modern and fun machines for travel. shorter. It hits well above its relatively light weight on the track and is an outstanding option in the 140mm and under racing rack. Mike Kazimer

Why he is nominated

With zero threads in sight, the RockShox Flight Attendant gear is arguably the cleanest presentation of electronically controlled suspension. While it does require an entirely new bike due to packaging constraints on the fork and shock, as well as a sensor in the crank axle, the whole ride becomes a supernatural way to deal with the energy loss. of the suspension. RockShox has decked out six bikes ranging from the Canyon’s 130mm Neuron to the specialized 170mm travel Enduro. Reaching for one of those bikes would seem like you’re walking fine in the future – almost like you’ve been given a microchip, but instead your suspension has the major upgrades.

I can hear the moans about more drums in the comments sections, but it’s one or the other; add more energy cells or don the deer catchers. The idea behind these separate flashing units is to power small motors that automatically open and close the low-speed shocks on the fork and shock, depending on the articulation of the bike and the cadence of the rider. Basically, this means that a raise switch is activated hands-free, on the fly, at the right time and at the right doses.

Hidden inside are also features we’ve never seen before from RockShox. Rubber bumpers on the air spring and damper rods dubbed Buttercups provide an even smoother ride, and pressure relief valves have made their way to the rear of the lower strut casting.

The level of integration, sophistication and performance works wonders for bikes of all travel lengths, however, it’s clear that long-travel enduro bikes will benefit the most. This changes things around to counter the “upcycling” problem, as the locks associated with modern geometry have no limits on pedaling performance when it comes to the amount of suspension a certain bike has.

Mike Kazimer was lucky enough to get his hands on the Specialized Enduro 170mm of travel with this equipment and found it natural and efficient on the track.

Criticism:

quotation marks Electronically controlled mountain bike suspension isn’t exactly new – I’m old enough to remember the 9-volt battery-powered K2 Smart Shock from the late ’90s. Fortunately, there have been massive technological advancements. since that time, which has allowed RockShox to cook up the best execution of the concept to date. Flight Attendant has the potential to turn more gravity-oriented bikes into powerful all-rounders, or make the mid-course options more cross-country focused on the climbs, all without sacrificing anything on the descents. Mike Kazimer

Why he is nominated

First on the block with an air shock offering both high / low rebound and compression with the Doubler Barrel Air, Cane Creek set the bar high. Others have followed suit and recently the North Carolina brand unveiled a revamp of the old classic. The Kitsuma Air builds on Cane Creek’s experience with the Double Barrel and features a tapered shape to fit more frames. It wasn’t just a pinch and a pullback.

Designed for convenience on the track, all adjusters have been evolved to eliminate the need for hex keys. The four shock absorber dials can be turned without tools and there is a three-position raise switch with open, close, and full lock modes. Like most air shocks, volume spacers can be added, however, the process on the Kitsuma is very straightforward. Simply release the pressure, remove the o-ring and remove the air cartridge.

Between the four-way adjustment, air pressure and volume adjustment, as well as the three-position raise switch, the Kitsuma ticks all the boxes. The adjustment range is wide enough for a variety of riders and bikes and provides a heavily cushioned feel.

In terms of performance, it is also very close to its competitors. Mike was able to bring the Kitsuma closer to its ideal setup and Cane Creek made some changes to address the tuning range more.

Criticism:

quotation marks The Kitsuma does a great job of smothering bigger hits, especially on high-speed and bulky terrain, and it offers a wide range of efficient, easy-to-access settings. For constant tinkerers, having all of these potential settings close at hand will be a big plus. Mike Kazimer


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