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The Future Shock is a revolution in smoothness, delivering 20mm of travel without degrading speed, handling, or comfort. In fact, it does quite the opposite. Through a focus on axial compliance, it breaks the mold of what we thought was possible in bicycle design. Find out how we did it.
For many, "smoothness" is a term that's replaceable with "comfort," and likewise, it's been historically treated as a variable that's in the way of speed—you either have a fast bike or a comfortable bike. With the Future Shock, however, we set out to find just what happens when smoothness is treated as a component of speed. It was complicated, but our testing clearly proves that "smoother" is indeed "faster."
By creating greater vertical frame compliance, or smoothness, we've been able to enhance the multiple facets of speed across all of the major touch points—fatigue reduction, power input, and traction. But instead of just saying that we did it, let's address them individually.
Reducing fatigue is a pretty obvious factor in speed, given that the more comfortable you are, the less tired you're bound to get—especially after a long day over rough terrain. Over the long haul, this also contributes to power, but we've found that a smoother ride also increases your ability to apply constant power. As smoothness increases, while power becomes less stochastic and more constant, time savings increase significantly.
Increases in smoothness also aid in traction, which in turn aids in speed, as it keeps the tires better seated to the ground. This not only provides an obvious advantage in inclement weather, descending, and cornering, but it also optimizes your effort.
Smoothness acts as the glue that brings all of this together, and it's why we can confidently proclaim that Smoother is Faster.
Unlike weight, or even drag, compliance is hard to quantify, and this is why we worked with McLaren Applied Technologies to truly understand what "smooth" actually means. From lab protocols to fully instrumented bikes, we worked in tandem with McLaren to understand how riders and road surfaces interact—because, after all, you can’t engineer for what you don’t understand.By translating their testing model to the bike, we were able to quantify smoothness. And by treating the bike as a whole system, we were able to find the best tangible explanation of smoothness—vertical excitation/acceleration of the system. With quantifiable data in tow, it was now time to take the concept of smoothness to new heights.
When it comes to compliance, there are two competing schools of thought. In one corner, there's splay. In the other, there's axial compliance. Essentially, splay is the fore & aft movement of the front axle, relative to the frame, as a result of any bending of the frame and fork. Meanwhile, axial (or vertical compliance) can be characterized as the movement of the handlebars, relative to the front axle, as a result of fork, frame, and stem compliance.
We tested both along all of the critical performance metrics, and what we found is that, while splay certainly excels in the comfort department, it's neither the smoothest or fastest. Vertical compliance, however, was off the charts in relation to all of the aforementioned criteria, and thus, we had a runway to create a revolution in compliance: The all-new Future Shock.
The Future Shock features up to 20mm of travel, and it's positioned above the head tube in order to move in a vertical path. So when the front wheel encounters rough terrain, the bike moves up towards your hands and preserves your forward momentum without slowing you down. Another important fact is that, because the Future Shock is positioned above the stem, the bike's wheels are held together rigidly by the frame. In other words, because the wheelbase isn't changing throughout the suspension's travel, like with traditional systems, you get the added benefit of extremely predictable handling.
The Future Shock is designed for road riding, not off road trails, so the system needs to be incredibly active. We've found that springs offer the best solution to absorbing the frequencies you encounter on the road, and to grasp why, you just have to look at what's already out there. Other suspension systems with damping are just too heavy for road riding, and because of stiction, they require too much force to initiate their travel. And because of this, they’re pretty ineffective at smoothing out road chatter.