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With the development of Lapierre/RS Ei, Magura elect, prototypes by German:A and sure others I thought I’d write down some ideas and post them publicly so that manufacturers (maybe?) can’t patent some general ideas of electronic suspension listed below. I would be pretty sad if a single manufacturer had the monopoly on these broad electronic suspension ideas for years. I am not saying that these are good ideas but it's a start I cam up with, feel free to add your own (probably better) ideas.

I probably won’t be buying electronic suspension any time soon but I’d like to experiment with some of this. Some people might say this will ruin mountain biking, maybe it will, but that’s not the point. The ideas below are really straightforward but I am afraid patentable, so why not think out loud before they are monopolized. The implementation will be the hard part, and every manufacturer should patent their implementation, just not the whole broad, general idea.

These ideas aren’t necessarily feasible yet but with the rise of Arduinos/Microcontrollers and sensors this stuff is not too far off and maybe hobbyists will give it a shot soon. I am amazed by some of the work that’s been on DIY LED lights. Arduinos make interfacing electronics and servos super easy, and Quad-Core phones have processing power that rivals desktop computers from 6 years ago, an Arudiono Nano and Bluetooth module will cost you less than $20, a servo is $5, as a consumer at retail prices.


Please feel free to add stuff, let's gather some ideas.


In the following, I assume that the shock’s rebound and compression adjusters are connected to electronically controlled “actuators” (e.g. servos, …) and are connected to a “controller” (micro controller like Arduino, BeagleBone, …). More processing power could be be added by connecting the micro controller to a phone or more powerful processing device, aka “processor” (e.g. via Bluetooth).

Also, the controller would be connected to sensors on the suspension that record the displacement and other suspension-variables (shaft-velocity, x-y-z-accelerations on suspension and main frame, rider’s body-position, GPS altitude, change in altitude, … and other useful information to analyze the terrain).

The suspension can be configured via a smartphone app, it lets the user choose settings for specific kinds of terrain, pre-set terrain types or even user-defined terrain types.



* Idea 1: Location-dependent Shock settings.

A GPS/Glanoss/… positioning-device is connected to the processor and allows automatically tuning the suspension to the specific terrain at a given geo-spatial location. We can probably assume that the terrain at a location won’t change much over time or between rides. Also, additional signals can be integrated to improve the location since you probably don’t always take the exact same path down a mountain. Wider terrain features should be pretty consistent though (i.e. climbing vs smooth descent vs rock garden) even if positioning is only ~5m accurate so being a little off should not be a huge problem.

A first ride could be used to “record” the terrain. Following rides could then automatically preset the suspension to the expected terrain type. With GPS+Glonass <5m accuracy should be possible, additional sensor data can be integrated like distance travelled, altitude, … which should serve to pinpoint location on trail pretty well.

Also, this location-dependent terrain data could be shared online/cloud and downloaded by the “processor” connected to the “controller”, that means after one rider has “recorded” the terrain, other riders on the same trail would already have the presets available right away.

The suspension could automagically be pre-set by the controller for climbs, rock gardens, pedaling on a flat stage of a DH course or even lots of +HSC when you hit a drop, right after you go off the lip and the suspension extends and no more ground chatter is picked up by the sensors while you are flying.

One problem is handling positioning system failures or errors (controller thinks you’re not where you are) but that’s the implementor's problem :)




* Idea 2: Lidar/Infrared/Ultrasonic terrain recognition.

Instead of pre-recording a trail, the bike would be equipped with a LIDAR/infrared or ultrasonic sensors that scan the terrain in front of the driver and recognize the type of terrain. No recording necessary and you have the benefits right away along with better precision because you don’t rely on <5m accuracy of positioning systems.

This can be done in addition to Idea 1 to further fine-tune the suspension, i.e. suspension recognizes a rock-garden and adjusts accordingly.
 

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This is not as feasible as you think. The cost would be quite high, you still need all tfhe stuff forks currently have then add in about a 1lb of electronics in a confined space... Not easy

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Yeah!
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Automatic climbing lockout is already a feature, automatic terrain determination will be next. No need throw GPS lag from cheap smartphones in to muck that up. Expect to see wireless thumb switches with 3-5 user programmable settings for compression and rebound at some point. Needing an extra li-on battery packs for your fork will be interesting.
 

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Cleavage Of The Tetons
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It worked out so well for K2...
 

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Cleavage Of The Tetons
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Well, it SHOULD be possibly to run/charge it off of pedal power, dontchya think?
 

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Cleavage Of The Tetons
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At a competitive weight with no drag?
It's not like you would be powering a light, so yeah, I think by now something could be designed to be efficient enough for, say, 5.3 volts or whatever with negligible drag. Maybe start with DH bikes, and go from there.
 

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Bipolar roller
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Not as exciting as computers changing the suspension for the terrain, but if we are going to be using this tech, I would like to have the computer give me maintenance info. It would be nice to be told when to perform shock maintenance and what type of maintenance is needed based off of actual physical data instead of a vague chart guide that says something like "for average ridding perform whatever maintenance every 50hrs and for hard ridding perform maintenance every 25hrs" or whatever.

Since shock maintenance can keep you off the trail for a good period of time depending if you take it in or perform yourself, I would find this very useful. Also, as we all know, not performing maintenance can be very costly, but performing unnecessary maintenance can also be costly and time consuming. I have gone to change out my shock oil a few times when it really was not needed, but I had no way to really know for sure until i took the shock apart. I find the hourly chart maintenance guide to not be very accurate, but that's just my experience.
 

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Anything is possible. Engineers work wonders with everything out there. Look at the computers that put us on the moon, well that tiny hand held thingy in your hand is above and beyond more powerful and much smaller than them.
I'm definitely looking forward to advancing technology in the MTB world beyond mechanicals.


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