30 August 2016

Suspending Disbelief

I started mountain biking right around the time suspension front forks were becoming a standard feature of serious off-road machines.  Back then, it seemed that designs were changing every week, and that if you bought a Rock Shox Mag 20, or a Marzocchi or Manitou telescoping fork, a year later you could get something lighter, more durable and with more travel--whether from those brands or one of the new marquees that seemed to appear every month.

Suspension (telescoping) fork advert, September 1992

By the time I stopped mountain biking and sold my Bontrager Race Lite, in 2001, new suspension forks bore little resemblance to the ones I saw and rode nearly a decade earlier.  Moreover, bikes with suspension in the rear of the frame had become commonplace, with designs that changed as rapidly as fork designs had been changing.

Even with all of that design evolution, there were some ideas that, apparently, no one ever considered.  Can you imagine how mountain bikes--and mountain biking--would be different if the first suspension system looked something like this?:

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to ride such a bike, especially on rocky ground.  I'd guess that even when I was skinnier and more flexible than I am now, I wouldn't have been able to keep my feet on the pedals for very long.



Then again, maybe the bike isn't made for spinners or sprinters.  It's called a "Flying Bike" because, I believe, it's made for riders to pedal for a few rotations before lifting their feet and "flying".  But I have to wonder whether it would feel like flying if the bike is bouncing through potholes and over rocks.

If you think the "flying bike" is weird, check this out:

 Can you imagine what mountain bikes would be like today if that had become the paradigm for suspension?


  1. Did not Mikael Pedersen have this problem sorted over 120 years ago?

  2. I like silly things just as much as the next person, but why do people keep going down this same path? I've seen that orange "flying rider" thing before and other similar notions over the years. One of the biggest issues I see on that one is the fact that it's not adjustable for size (aside from stem size, I guess). Also, you have to wedge your body between the frame? I've had broken ribs, and I don't recommend 'em, to be honest. Avoid.

    The red thing at the bottom looks huge and seems like you couldn't ride it on a MUP, or with nearly the same grace you can take a normal bike through a crowded street. Also, you'd have to hold your legs up the entire time you were riding, and I imagine that would be extremely fatiguing if you were doing any sort of distance riding. Visibility seems like it would be poor, as well.

    Trying to be optimistically-thinking: at least people care enough about bikes that they still want to tinker with them.


  3. Coline and Wolf--It seems that every new generation of would-be innovators doesn't bother to look at what has already been done. "There is nothing new under the sun," indeed!

    I do like your optimistic view, though, Wolf.

    1. This and other "innovations" of this sort were pounced on by Bike Snob NYC in his column of June 25th, 2014.

      Here comes "a Fred in a hernia truss" who is suffering from "subconscious recumbent yearning". Pure Snob, that.