is it really that special
September 5, 2009 1:25 AM   Subscribe

what is the best designed rear suspension mountain bike on the market, and why. particularly from an engineering point of view. including, what is the best inertial shock design, and is carbon fiber really an appropriate solution for mountain bike frames?

today i had a really good look at a high end mountain bike that thinks it's really special. but i'm not so sure. i have always had a problem with that brand using such small bushs without bearings. it is a design that is destined to get dirty, loose, and potentially squeake and flex. in a mountain bike that is extremely expensive, i dont think it is good enough. also, why i dont see why their different high end models all have such different linkage systems. i spoke to the sales guy, who basically knew nothing, and had no useful opinion. i dont mean that in a bad way, but becauise most dealers here only trade one or two brands, they tend to show little interest in competitive products. so my question is really what is the best designed rear suspension mountain bike on the market, and why.
posted by edtut to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you want to get anything close to a realistic answer, I think you'll have to refine your question. What do you mean by 'best'? Do you value simplicity and light weight, or bump response under braking? And when you say mountain bike, do you mean a 4" cross-country bike, a 6" all mountain bike or a 10" downhill rig? The concept of 'the best design' can only ever mean 'the best design within certain parameters'.

As to your sub-question why there are so many different designs... A number of the leading solutions eg the Horst 4-bar link, the DW link are protected by patent law. Specialized, for example, own the Horst link, and strictly control its use through licensing fees. Similar designs eg the Kona and Turner 'faux bar' linkage are designed to approximate the performance of the Horst link without infringing on the patent. Whether or not it does approximate the performance is a matter of some debate.

Carbon is a versatile medium, and is just as capable of building a strong, stiff, durable bike as it is of building a feather-light and fragile one. I've seen a number of carbon frame failures in ultralight race bikes, but then I've seen ultralight aluminium and scandium frames fail as well.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of good suspension frame designs on the market. They all do what they say on the packet, to a greater or lesser degree. Personal preference counts for a lot.

You may well get a more informed, and certainly a more opinionated response by posing this question on instead.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:28 AM on September 5, 2009

Your question confuses me. You want a very specific type of answer, but you aren't forthcoming about the brand or models you're talking about. You use a bit of jargon, and you seem to have an opinion about some design aspects, but you aren't really sure why, apparently.

My approach to bikes -- going back to the 1970s -- comes from Richard Ballantine. There is probably no possible way to objectively answer your central question, because how good a bike is depends on how you use it. The bike must fit you. I would say that any off-the-shelf bike -- no matter what level you're talking about -- is going to be inferior to the bike that you assemble yourself from the components you want, need, and trust.

It is surprising that you went to an LBS that had a sales guy who couldn't answer your questions, but if they were this vague I'm not sure he could. Try a different shop, for one thing. Or a different guy at the same shop. Start discussing the objections you have with regard to the bearing and linkage issues, but if you don't have real substance (the former yes, the latter no), then it's going to come down to personal preference. The best inertial shock design is the one that works for you. And carbon fiber -- most people focus on the weight, but its real versatility is in how shapable it is. You can create exactly what you want to support the load you need to. You aren't limited to various grades of tubes and how few ways they successfully attach to each other.

As Ballantine notes, the strict UCI rules never applied to mountain bikes, so all the innovation has taken place there -- including carbon fiber. The stuff is used in fighter jets and jumbo airliners, after all.

If you do go over to mtbr with this, you should probably present yourself in terms of functions you intend to perform rather than a platonic ideal "best". For x should I get y or z? is going to be the best way to get a concrete answer.
posted by dhartung at 11:40 PM on September 5, 2009

both answerws were not particularly useful. i bought a scott spark, which is absolutely marvelous. it is light and responsive, but the rear end is quite versatile. i still need to play around with settings, but the trigger lcoking system that scott uses is, to my surprise, highly commendable.
posted by edtut at 11:06 PM on July 14, 2010

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