Craig Calfee predicts that rear suspension is here to stay

Rear suspension on road bikes is hardly a new phenomenon, but is currently largely limited to cobble-eating bikes designed to provide some level of comfort over the rough terrain of the Hell of the North. However, if iconic cycling designer Craig Calfee’s latest prediction is on the money, we could soon see it extended to all of the fastest road bikes.

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Calfee, whose carbon-fibre frame become the first to be raced in the Tour de France under the steam of Greg LeMond in 1991, has predicted that modern road bike suspension system, such as the one on his own Manta bike, will come to mean that professionals no longer have to choose between a fast bike and a comfortable bike.

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“It [the suspention not only gives you a more comfortable ride, and better traction coming down the mountain, it actually gives you more traction and better efficiency when you’re climbing,” Calfee told Gizmag. “It’s such a small amount of travel, and there’s no damping. So when it comes back it gives you all of the energy back. You couldn’t get away with this with more than about 2 cm of travel – this is just 1 cm.”

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The two best-known suspension-equipped road bikes currently in the pro peloton are the Pinarello Dogma K8-S and the Trek Madone, and although Calfee says that he is surprised that more manufacturers have not built suspension into their new bikes, he thinks that things are beginning to move quicker thanks to demands from pro riders.

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“We’re one of the first to do road bike suspension in the rear end. “Pinarello is also a major sponsor of pro teams, and they’ve finally got one, and Trek has been doing it for about a year now. It’s a trend that’s just coming up and being recognized by pros.

“With the internet, things are moving faster. I was predicting five years about two years ago, and it’s already in the tour now. Not everyone, but between Pinarello and Trek, those are two major sponsors. And the riders are the ones that are driving it.”

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Whether or not this prediction turns into reality, we’ll have to wait and see, especially as we haven’t heard any rumours of any big bike brands releasing new suspension bikes in the near future. Perhaps once they’ve all got their disc brake race bikes out in the open, we’ll begin to see suspension appear on a few more designs

  • Dave2020

    Yes, the reason is, ‘all-round-independent’ suspension is the wrong design principle. It suffers from the inherent and incurable flaw of the ride/handling compromise. Stable Suspension doesn’t, so it works perfectly without dampers.

    F1 is supposedly the pinnacle of engineering design and yet anyone who knows their stuff will tell you that the tyres have more suspension than the suspension, which makes it dysfunctional.

  • linked1

    No doubt. Especially when the term is used inappropriately. Iconic bike designer? Iconic might describe a deceased Italian racing legend like Olmo, or living legends like Colnago or Lemond, but Calfee is still just getting going.

  • linked1

    It may be accurate, but it’s a nit-picking bordering on dogmatic adherence to theoretical principals when in practical terms, it’s an absurd postulation. It’s like arguing that a 1 litre water bottle doesn’t contain 1 litre of usable water because there is always evaporation, and the container stays wet inside.

  • wheelsONfire

    There has been a few concept bikes made with more advanced systems (Canyon is one of them). It seems the market is not ready for this. Sunn had this system 15-20 years ago on the Revolt (MTB) bike. I think they used a version with 20-30mm suspension in the front also. It was made for very fast XC racing (this was the first step going away from hard tail/ rigid fork). I don’t know what happened as i quit MTB in same time. A buddy had the version with this system in the rear and when we biked,… he liked it. Part from that, it seems it did not take off as Calfee expected!?

  • texstar

    Fed up with the word ICONIC !!

  • Graham Dunn

    My 2015 full suspension bike is much, much faster than my 1991 rigid one. If the bike takes more shock and you take less you will be faster. Yet again people aren’t looking outside the cycle industry. A monster truck and a F1 car both have suspension ffs!!!

  • Mark B

    And how long since you could buy a Moulton road bike with suspension? Uh 1962!

  • Stevo

    A system with no damping would surely be anything but desirable anyway. There is a reason why cars have shock absorbers.

  • Chuck6421

    Trek Madone?!?!
    And my (and Fabio’s) beloved Domanes are what, green eggs and ham?

  • Sam Hocking

    No power comes from the riders legs through the seat and chain stays or can be absorbed by this 1cm bit of rubber though. Power is transferred directly by the rider though the chain to the wheels. What Calfee means is the rider power to the rear wheel is not lost due to the 1cm spring/dampener whatever you want to call it. Its primary role is to keep the rear wheel pushed into the ground so the riders power isn’t lost due to the tyre bouncing off the ground and the rider pedalling in mid air. Look at the following video between 2:10 and 2:16 to see just how much time a tyre is not transferring power to the ground over cobbles to realise the less you can make this happen, the more efficient the rider and bike will be and the more power can be transferred. As long as any loss in energy in the spring is smaller than the benefit in the first place, no power will be lost by the rider pedalling it will be increased.

  • Nigel Rue

    He may know a great deal about bike design, but that doesn’t excuse a false statement. A spring never returns all the energy put into it as kenetic energy. Further more, it depends on what material the spring is made from as to what you get back out of it. And we haven’t even considered the contribution of frame flex. As I understand it the chainstays have to flex to give the movement. How efficient is carbon fibre as a spring or pivot?

  • Sam Hocking

    Also, Calfee knows a crap load more about bike performance than you or I. If he says there is no dampening and all energy returned, I would just believe him.

  • Sam Hocking

    It’s not a shock absorber, it’s a spring. All energy is returned apart from a minuscule amount of energy lost as heat. The heat in a 1cm bit of rubber will be so small I doubt it’s even worth measuring to find out.

  • Sam Hocking

    It’s a spring, not a shock absorber. A Spring doesn’t absorb energy it returns it.

  • Howmanyjackos

    Agree.suspension absorbs energy and does not return it.

  • Nigel Rue

    As I said, I’m not disputing that it might work. I am disputing the statement that you get all the energy back. That is just plain wrong!

  • Sam Hocking

    I think the increased amount of time the wheel is actually on the ground instead of bouncing into the air will offset any heat, which would be minuscule anyway. You probably have more friction in your saddle than the suspension anyway.

  • Alan Heath

    After disc brakes, it will probably be the next big thing manufactures will push for.

  • Lee Wingate

    A bike is only as fast as the person pushing those pedals. Wiggins and Froome would still beat me on a Boris bike!

  • Nigel Rue

    Now I’m not saying it won’t work, but saying “it gives you all the energy back” is rubbish. Rubbish that is unless he has managed to achieve perpetual motion. The suspension movement must produce heat, this takes energy you will not get back. Simple physics.

  • ummm…

    i guarantee you that the b00bs who will pay thousands of dollars for this tech will still be slower, herego my cheapo allez’s or even one of my dahon can still dust them.