What are your recommendations for the best suspension platform?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum What are your recommendations for the best suspension platform?

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  • #206990

    Here’s a question we received via our Helpdesk, that I thought could make for a good discussion here:

    I am looking for a versatile trail bike. I will be riding in the Tahoe and Santa Cruz areas. Budget is $5k.
    I think the Trek Fuel EX looks like a good choice, but I’m not sure if its suspension platform is the most efficient (given its re:aktiv technology and abp), kinematic are most advanced, and components and properly fit for the bike. I’d be really open to hearing suggestions you have. For example, does Yeti’s Switch Infinity, Canyon’s Shapeshifter, Rocky Mountain’s ride-9 provide a better ride than Trek and are their tech advantages in another league than the Trek?

    I guess I’m trying to find a suspension platform the works as independently from the rest of the bike as possible, kinematics that are most optimal for trail riding, and geometry that kicks ass.
    What are your thoughts?
    So, what would you recommend to this guy?
  • #207023

    I’m afraid comparing specific sus designs yields a less-than productive conversation. Opinions on this topic will vary as much as there are riders of each of these bikes. Since the OP mentions the importance of geo, I would first start off by saying geo comes before ANYTHING!

    No matter how superior a platform is (even if proven, which will never happen), if I don’t like the geo, I’ll go with something else. It’s like buying shoes – may be the best platform for running, but if it don’t fit right, the better platform is useless. Case in point, the DW link on the Mach 6 is supposed to be one of those efficient platforms, but the seat angle and reach is horrible IMO. The Yeti also has an amazing platform (i rode an SB5 for one year) but I wanted something with a shorter chainstay. Geo and bike fit are important but I think the way geo effects bike handling is far more important than a sus platform.

    Now, if you’re a snob about geo (which you should be), once you decide exactly what geo you want, there’s probably only 4-5 bikes you’re looking at.

    I’ll chime in again later… curious to see where this goes.

  • #207025

    IMO, almost all mountain bikes are created equal today. You won’t really find any “bad” ones.

    Choose a bike based on geo, fit, local bike shop support, price, heck even color, and you really can’t go wrong.

  • #207043

    While I would agree that it’s hard to go wrong with most modern-built bikes that at least put some thought into suspension kinematics, I understand what the OP is getting at. Even a well-built single pivot with a good shock will perform reasonably well and be more maintenance-friendly than multi link bikes, but my guess is this person wants a more supportive platform that is more than often found in anything but a single pivot. Not having ridden EVERY bike, I can only speak to those I’ve tried.

    Bikes like Niner, Pivot, Santa Cruz, BMC, Turner, Ibis and others employ short links nearest the bottom bracket in addition to a bell crank (most often referred to as a rocker link) connecting the shock to a solid swing arm. These are bikes that supposedly “decouple” pedaling forces from the bike and maintain active during braking. They pedal well and usually do not rely on damping (think FOX CTD) to enhance their pedaling characteristics. A single pivot’s rear end, on the other hand, tends to wallow if you leave the shock open and stand up to pedal.

    Of course there are variations of Horst Link just as there are variations of Split Pivots and DW’s own design for the bikes they are found in (Turner, Evil, Ibis, Pivot, Devinci). Keep in mind, many bike companies don’t want to pay royalties to a sus designer so they all end up using very, very similar designs with just enough difference to stay out of court (do a search of Trek vs. Dave Weagle circa 2013 to see what I mean). I’ve demoed a Trek Remedy and found it very efficient while being a blast going down so I wouldn’t say at all that Trek is out of anyone’s league.

    • #207070

      Of course there are variations of Horst Link just as there are variations of Split Pivots and DW’s own design for the bikes they are found in (Turner, Evil, Ibis, Pivot, Devinci). Keep in mind, many bike companies don’t want to pay royalties to a sus designer so they all end up using very, very similar designs with just enough difference to stay out of court (do a search of Trek vs. Dave Weagle circa 2013 to see what I mean). I’ve demoed a Trek Remedy and found it very efficient while being a blast going down so I wouldn’t say at all that Trek is out of anyone’s league.

      I just want to address a couple of things in your above statement. First, while the bikes you mentioned (Turner, Evil, Ibis, Pivot, Devinci) all have Dave Weagle designed suspensions, the Evil is in a category all it’s own and has little to do with the others (DW-link, Split-pivot). I am big fan of DW-link bikes and personally think the best examples are with Ibis. That said, Dave was able to mimic the pedaling qualities of his more complex designs in a simple package with Evil’s DELTA system. This is a new take on an old idea (Santa Cruz APP (these ripped, but had to be over-built/heavy to withstand the side-loads), Sunn, Turner’s early DHR, Transition’s TR500, etc.), but extraordinarily well executed. Demo one if you have the chance (easy to do in Georgia via Blue Mountain Bikes).

      Lastly, regarding the Trek (and many bikes) it’s not that tough to create a bike that is “a blast going down”. If that was the only thing that mattered we’d all be riding DH bikes. The trick is to couple that with one that doesn’t feel like you’re trying to rape a goat going up. Party.

  • #207058

    This is my 30th year mountain biking and 19th year on full suspension bikes. I have ridden, owned and/or demo’ed pretty much every suspension platform you can think of. I know how to set up suspension pretty well at this point and have an acute perception of how a bike is behaving due to changes therein. My friends and I were some of the first to ride the Cane Creek Double Barrel and spent time doing a number of rides with one of Cane Creek’s suspension guru’s at the time. I will provide some overall musings on suspension design, comments on the bikes mentioned and then speak about what I actually like and why.

    First of all, I prefer things be as simple as possible. The more complicated designs are, the moving parts you have, the more things can/will break down and at the least the more maintenance issues you will run into. I am a set and forget (well, I have my settings actually written down or memorized, but whatever) type of rider. I have no desire to futz with levers, buttons beyond my brakes, shifter (only one) and my dropper post.

    Second, I hate flexy, floppy bikes. I am a big guy and I ride aggressively. I want the maximum amount of effort I put into the cranks translated into forward motion. More importantly, I notice readily when bikes deflect in hard corners, g-outs and the like. That’s okay if you weigh under 150 pounds and are mellow, but that isn’t me. No thanks.

    Lastly, and as I already have hinted at above, I want the suspension to do it’s job. I want to be able to blast through gnar, jumps/drops, have maximum traction and remain comfortable aboard a bike for hours. I think lock outs are stupid. You want your suspension locked out, then ride a hard tail and get over yourself. I believe that the best suspension bikes should not ride anything like a hard tail. Soft tails…seriously?!? WTF was that about? Sorry to digress.

    Onto the specific bikes mentioned…

    • Trek ABP: I guess it’s okay, but back to my less complicated design mantra it just has not blown me away. I’ve ridden a number of ABP bikes and they all felt that they needed more involved shock systems, lock-outs, high air pressures to achieve a okay feel, uninspired at best. Kind of like a mid level Hyundai…good and reliable, but nothing that you’re gonna have naughty thoughts about.
    • Yeti Switch Infinity: Good pedalers, but felt choppy on ledgy and square edged hits. I’ve ridden the SB6 and the 4.5. They possess a very connected on the gas feel and rocket forward when you stomp on the pedals. As a modified single pivot bike this makes sense. Unique for sure, but seems like Yeti might have overthought it.
    • Canyon Shapeshifter: These are not available in the US…yet. The bike is in essence a Horst-link with some fancy geometry mod system though. I have never been a big fan of Horst-link bikes, dating back to the first ones I rode in ’99. They have all to varying degrees felt flexy and floppy to me and had to have their suspension in need of lock out levers, super high air pressure and/or both to dissipate this phenomena. This has improved greatly over the years and I recently enjoyed a ride I took on a Stumpy FSR, but I still noticed those issues. Just not my thing, chicken wing.
    • Rocky Mountain Smoothlink: Ride 9/Ride 4 are just names for RM’s adjustable geo systems. I’ve ridden the Thunderbolt (great name!) and the Altitude of late. These are basically link driven 4-bar bikes that originally used their pivot placement to get around the big S’s Horst-link patent. That ran out a couple years ago and everybody and their brother now has Horst-link bike including RM with the new Slayer. RM’s bikes excel at what they are designed for, but personally the couple I’ve rode just were not my thing. They both felt way too XC in feel (upright, choppy pedalers) to me.

    Out of those four that the OP mentioned, I’d lean towards the Yeti for the riding they are looking to tackle. Maybe a Rocky Thunderbolt thereafter.

    Finally, what do I really like and actually ride? My daily driver is a Banshee Rune V2. Banshee employs their own suspension design called the KS-link. The closest most well known design to it is the DW-link. I like that design as well and think the ones employed by Ibis are fantastic. The Banshee is more bomber though and easier to maintain. These bikes (the Banshee in particular) blows everything I’ve every ridden away with it’s pedaling ability. It pedals up through the nastiest chop like it was nothing and maintaining mad traction. Downhill for these is a gimme…they demolish everything, but it’s their climbing that will amaze you.

    More recently, I will add Santa Cruz’s VPP version 3 to my “likes” list. I used to despise the VPP design as it hung up terribly due to it’s excessive anti-squat and resultant pedal-feedback. Great if you wanted your bike to pedal like a hard tail, but you know already how I feel about that. The new VPP 3 doesn’t do this nearly as much and I was impressed with it’s overall feel aboard the Hightower and the Tallboy.

    One final addition is the Evil’s DELTA system. A extraordinarily simple design with links that modify the shock rate of a big a$$ single-pivot. These pedal great and are closest in overall performance to my beloved Banshee. Also like the Banshee’s the Evil’s have the most aggressive geometry.

    Out of my personal fav’s for the OP’s terrain I’d go with an Ibis (Ripley LS or HD3…expensive, light and sexy), a Santa Cruz Tallboy (put a taller front fork on it…fast bike!) or Hightower if you want more burl. If you really want unique, lower cost and super burly then get a Banshee Phantom or Spitfire. If you want unique and want to spend more money then get an Evil The Calling. Party.

    • #207547

      Raymond I am not sure what you do for a living but I think I know what you should be doing.  Probably the best short review and write up of suspension that I have read.  Thanks.

      In regards to your comment “I am a big guy and I ride aggressively”, I would like to comment.  I am the opposite in the sense that I am very small (5’5″/120 lbs) and I ride very technically.  Unfortunately almost all bike reviews are done for guys who are 5’8″/160 lbs.  Are you able to provide any comments on any of the suspension platforms for smaller people?  I have never experienced a flexy/floppy feeling bike simply because of my size.

    • #207587

      Raymond I am not sure what you do for a living but I think I know what you should be doing.  Probably the best short review and write up of suspension that I have read.  Thanks.

      I am dentist by trade. I write (and have written) quite a bit and have had some bits published over the years. Glad you dug it.

      Suspension for a lighter weight rider…hmmmmm??? My vote would go to scoring the lightest weight bike you can afford and as nimble as possible. As for the previously mentioned bikes, I think a Ibis Ripley LS or the HD3 would be great. Both can be built very light and they pedal/handle great. They are more Katanas versus the Falchions I favor.

      Some other possibilities…I recently demoed a Santa Cruz Tallboy and was impressed. This is…well, impressive due to,  A. considering how much I thought VPP’s sucked before and B. I’ve mostly detested 29er’s until very recently. It was very fast and pretty nimble. I would not hate owning one. You can build them silly light too. However, if that isn’t your cup of joe, the Santa Cruz 5010 would be similar, but with smaller wheels. I haven’t ridden one, but I know a bunch of people around here that really like them. Again, 5010’s can be built feathery as well.

      At the end of the day, the world is your oyster. You can ride pretty much anything with a properly tuned suspension…and now I must kill you.

  • #207071

    Raymond obviously knows far more about suspensions than me, but I can personally attest to the performance of the Ibis Mojo.  The DW-link suspension is such a joy to ride with such small bump compliance, big hit performance, and yet climbs like a goat.  The only potential drawback on the Mojos is that they are not very long in the reach measurement.  So for fit you either need to have a relatively short torso, or put on extra wide handlebars or go a size up.  I’m 5’11” plus riding a large, but I have put on 790mm (31″) handlebars.  I have ridden a couple of XL Mojos and felt the fit seemed that much better.

  • #207080

    Raymond, thanks for the input. I was in a hurry and guess I was just throwing in a quick 2 cents about my short time on a Trek which I enjoyed. By “blast going down” I should clarify that, for me, it rode the way I like bikes to ride when descending. It was in Copper Harbor that I demoed a Remedy for 2 days. CH doesn’t exactly have the most tech descents. In fact, most of it is machine-built flow style so many, many, many bikes would be a blast there. It sat deeper in its travel on descents yet never bottomed out and demonstrated good support in the final third of its travel. It was plush versus that racier feel you might get on say, a Yeti.

    Question for you, Raymond: Looking at the Banshee Rune, it appears to have a very similar suspension design to the Canfield Balance/Riot (CBF). The Balance is high on my list of “next bikes” which also means Banshee might, too, especially after your experience on one. What are your thoughts on similarities vs differences? Are you familiar with Canfield? Have you spent any time on one?

    Sorry for high jacking thread here!!

  • #207094

    A great post, Raymond! Very informative but I do have one question: Have you done a lot of racing? More so the XC variety than enduro/downhill.

    I think lock outs are stupid. You want your suspension locked out, then ride a hard tail and get over yourself. I believe that the best suspension bikes should not ride anything like a hard tail. Soft tails…seriously?!? WTF was that about? Sorry to digress.

    I have two racer friends that love their lockouts (Trek and Scott riders) and a third racer friend looking for a new FS race bike and looking at lockouts.

    I’m more of a spin to the top and enjoy the descent type of rider so I’ve never given the lockouts much thought, but the racers in our group LOVE the lockouts for the start of the race (big rollouts on paved/dirt/gravel roads) and for any fireroads/non-techy climbs they have.

    • #207105

      I have two racer friends that love their lockouts (Trek and Scott riders) and a third racer friend looking for a new FS race bike and looking at lockouts.

      I’m more of a spin to the top and enjoy the descent type of rider so I’ve never given the lockouts much thought, but the racers in our group LOVE the lockouts for the start of the race (big rollouts on paved/dirt/gravel roads) and for any fireroads/non-techy climbs they have.

      Sure, I get this. If you are racing on a ultra light full suspension bike and starting out on a flat/smooth(er) surface, then by all means. That’s not me and doesn’t sound like the OP either. What I am referring to is the effort of having “lock the suspension out” to improve the bike’s pedaling ability on an ascent. Great suspension designs do not need this at all.

      Case in point, both on my bike and on several DW-link bikes I’ve ridden lock-out levers (or the “climb switch” with Cane Creek shocks) are present. Going up smooth sections of trails I perceived no difference in efficiency at the pedals and on the contrary on the rougher ascents both bikes climbed better with the shocks wide open. When I first put a DB Air CS on my own rig, I tried the climb switch as mentioned. I didn’t notice the bike feeling any better, but what I did notice was how sh*tty it felt on the descent when I neglected to turn it off, d’oh! I certainly do not think I have the smoothest pedal stroke, but on my bike and other great suspension designs, I can sit, spin, stand or mash and the bike doesn’t wallow at all while pedaling. Does the suspension still move while I’m pedaling? Of course, but at such a tiny amount it’s negligible. The Climb Switch on my shock is for decoration at this point.

      If I may go further, much of cycling efficiency often boils down to perception. A locked-out rear suspension feels faster, but isn’t. Recently, I demoed a SC Tallboy. I rode it back to back on the same trail as my Banshee. I used Strava to track everything. The Tallboy felt faster, but actually I was significantly faster on my Rune. A lubed chain that is quiet seems faster than a squeaky one, but there is no measurable increase in efficiency from using the lube. I’m sure you can think of some.

      Whatever turns everyone on is fine by me.

    • #207599

      @Jared13 A great post, Raymond! Very informative but I do have one question: Have you done a lot of racing? More so the XC variety than enduro/downhill.

      I re-read this and noticed that I did not directly answer this question…thus: Yes, I have done a lot of racing. Mostly, it was for comic-relief. That of my competitors and myself. The only thing I take seriously is my lack of seriousness. My goals in every race have always been and remain to A. make someone mad, B. make someone laugh, and C. not finish last. Any combo of these is a win for me.

      I have raced intermittently since ’99 doing XC, Super-D, Enduro, DH, Single Speed, Alley Cats, Gran Fondos and Cyclocross. Despite my goal achievements the biggest surprise for me has actually been getting in the top 20 in some races and in fact stepping on the podium occasionally. Mostly over the last couple years I have been mostly volunteering with local races, but I am now kinda thinking about going for some Enduros in the 50+ class and Masters in CX. It will be hilarious.

  • #207099

    Lots of great discussion here and there’s only one thing I can add at this point — nothing beats a legit dirt demo.  Just as you need to ride a bike to see if the geo is right for you, it also really helps to put a bike on a real trail with rocks and roots to see if you like the way a suspension performs.  As all have noted, there’s no shortage of great suspension designs out there (including some of the recent single pivot designs–my main ride is a Foes Enduro Mixer so equipped), but if you’re really concerned with which one is “better,” you’ve got to try them out on a real trail.  Many people won’t notice the difference between a VPP, DW, Infinity, etc, but if you’re one who would and that difference is important to you, there’s no substitute for saddle time.

     

    In the versatile trail bike category, I found the aforementioned Thunderbolt to be pretty hard to beat:

    On Review: Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition

    Final Review: Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition

    The BC edition is above your price range, but they have less expensive T-bolt models

     

    If you have a dealer nearby, it may also be worth looking at the Breezer Supercell (19″) and Repack (27.5″) lines

    Test Ride Review: Breezer Supercell

     

    or the Orbea Occam, especially if you’re not a Clydesdale.

    Test Ride Review: Orbea Occam TR

  • #207100

    The Specialized FSR platform is renowned for its independent suspension platform. I have never experienced any brake jack or biopacing from my 2015 Enduro. It honestly feels like a hardtail when I pedal. There is a slight amount of bob too, but you get that in almost any platform. The Stumpjumper fits your requirements to a T, and the Stumpy is known for its efficiency among Specialized bikes.

    Take one out for a test ride…you’ll see!

  • #207102

    Question for you, Raymond: Looking at the Banshee Rune, it appears to have a very similar suspension design to the Canfield Balance/Riot (CBF). The Balance is high on my list of “next bikes” which also means Banshee might, too, especially after your experience on one. What are your thoughts on similarities vs differences? Are you familiar with Canfield? Have you spent any time on one?

    The Canfield suspension and Banshee’s KS-link are almost identical in movement. The Canfield uses a longer lower link that arches above the bottom bracket and allows them to have extraordinarily short chainstays.  I haven’t personally pedaled one around, but I have a friend who is a beast that rides one in Pisgah. His comments about the Balance mirror mine about the Rune. We are both big guys so take that into account. I do not think either bike would be ideal for a lighter weight less aggressive rider, but with that said, the kid (who weighs maybe 150 lbs) who won our local DH time trial series in expert and has podiumed at every SE enduro he’s entered rides a Spitfire (the Rune’s shorter travel brethren). More specifically the Canfield is a heavier bike versus the Rune, but neither are svelte. Mine weighs 31.5 pounds, with carbon wheels, cranks and a XO drivetrain (I do run Time DH4 pedals which aren’t light, but whatever). The ’17 Runes and other bikes for them this year are now using hydroformed tubing which has dropped the frame weights more than a pound in some sizes. The Rune is less expensive as well.

    Hmmm…what else? They are both tiny companies doing unique things that the big guys are still playing catch up to. That’s a plus in my book. Banshee was way ahead of everyone with the long, low, slack geometry that most have only recently figured out. The Rune’s numbers have been basically the same since ’12. I run mine with a 65* HA and 74* SA. The newer will still do that configuration which I’ve found to be ideal for…well, everything, however you can make it even slacker. The only complaint that I’ve heard anyone have with Banshee is that they are heavy if not overbuilt. The new changes to their frames should address the weight, but they are still built like tanks. I wish it had a usable water bottle mount, but otherwise no complaints from me. Ride on!

    Oh wait, one more thing…maintenance. I don’t know about the Canfield, but maintenance on the Rune is inexpensive and simple. They use non-proprietary bearings that you can find from any supplier for next to nothing and with a simple bearing press you can swap them out in an hour or less. I change mine once a season. The bike is dead silent too.

  • #207107

    I agree the OP doesn’t sound like he wants/needs a lockout for his riding. I didn’t realize your post was specifically in his case, your comment on the lockout seemed pretty cut and dry, at least to me.

    I have used the Climb setting on my trail bike a few times, but I was either on a pumptrack or dirt jump line where I wished I had a HT! 😀

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