Evaluations of Full Suspension Mountain Bike Designs
Understanding how a design works will make you a better rider on the bike. Use this information and our unique experience to help you know the bikes we sell. After you have had your fill of reading the evaluations below, be sure to check out our DREAMRIDE F-SERIES
Here at Dreamride we offer four distinct rear suspension design philosophies. We carry YBB softail designs from Moots that are quite effective without any pivot at all, and 29ers that roll over obstacles that small wheels have to deal with by resorting to suspension, but since we do specialize in long travel for the rougher terrain here in Moab, Utah, we offer the best pivoting linkage designs we could find. After more than a decade, we favor classic four bar linkage and the Moots M-Arc system and here is why:
First, Take a Good Look at the Bottom Bracket Yoke
Below is information on how various systems operate, recommendations and warnings about the various quirks, advantages and disadvantages of different designs, but even if a suspension design looks and feels OK and works well enough for your needs in the parking lot, it may have an obvious flaw that you haven't considered. For example, if you look in front of the rear wheel behind the crank and see a bunch of suspension parts resting right behind the bottom bracket (Pivot bikes come to mind), you can expect problems from mud, sand or anything the rear wheel might deposit on that shelf of moving parts. You will understand after you ride it in nasty muck. You will have a clean up job ahead that will have you spraying water at high pressure onto your pivots, or worse still, spending time on the trail trying to claw the mud out of voids in the aluminum struts. So, you bought a light bike that now weighs a few pounds more every time you ride through wet sand or mud.
Four Bar Linkage
The best four-bar variation comes from Ventana. Instead of the more vertical mild to extreme S-shaped axle paths of Horst Link and VPP designs, a well designed 4-bar rear axle moves in a perfect arc around the bottom bracket pivot. There are advantages and disadvantages to an arcing axle path. The first feature of the arcing axle is that it is easier to damp an arc with a tuned shock stroke. The rear axle pivot in a four bar system is on the seat-shockstay above the axle. On our Dreamride F-Series bikes, which utilize the Ventana rear suspension design, the rear axle is directly connected to a quad bearing bottom bracket pivot via a stout swingarm. This creates an impressively rigid pedaling platform that takes full advantage of current "stable platform" shocks on the market.
Horst Link and Parallel Beam Systems
An interesting trend in mountain bike manufacturing has come about by the expiration of the patent for the Horst Link pivot design. Even before the Horst Link became public domain, manufacturers using it began to move to traditional four bar linkage. The reason? Marketing! Specialized's patent was supported by ream upon ream of magazine ads and the influence that those ads purchased. Any manufacture wishing to piggyback onto the Specialized band wagon got a boost, if not a free ride. For many years I have watched the magazines tell you that Horst Link suspension works best, but it was a farce from the start. A ton of marketing money each month for a single magazine tends to get their attention. Horst Link was originally marketed to hardtail riders, telling them that the rear wheel actually dug into the ground on the power stoke. In other words, it bobbed like crazy in the small chainring. One man's power is another man's bob. A Horst Link, especially the Specialized variety, flexes, bobs and breaks on a regular basis. Eliminating the seattube eliminates triangulation. Using a pivot on the chainstay puts a lot of mush between the power source and to where the power hits the ground. Horst Link is but one design in the parallel beam pool, but they all share the same flaw: Flex!
This is the category which has benefited most by recent rear shock design developments. There are good reasons to consider a single pivot frame over a linkage bike. The best are simplicity and strength. The origins of the best front pivot location were the Santa Cruz Hecklers and the Pro-Flex bikes of the early 90's. The single pivot location is most important in controlling pedal and braking forces into the rear suspension. If you are thinking single pivot, make sure the frame carries weight low and has geometry suitable for your intended purpose. Stiffness is a prime concern in single pivot designs (see the pictured Superlink). Expect some pedal kickback on impacts and stiffening of the suspension during hard pedaling even with the best single pivot designs. Avoid bikes with high or very low pivot points and any single pivot that does not reinforce the swingarm with solid design. Brent Foes does the best with this design and includes floating rear brakes on most models, eliminating harsh braking effects of the simple pivot design.
Moots M-Arc Suspension
The Moots M-Arc, our favorite at four inches of travel, is a 4-Bar/Single Pivot hybrid. It is a Goldilocks system for XC racers, and is especially suited for 29 inch wheels. At four inches of travel there is really no need for more sophisticated linkage designs. The real reason for the arc is to manage the shock location without creating problems associated with S-curve stroke designs. M-Arc consists of a pivot behind the bottom bracket and a top rocker system that guides the rear section in a perfect arc and drives the shock with a perfect progressive stroke. Because it has no rear section pivot, it is amazingly rigid. The M-Arc design keeps the frame triangulated and puts weight low on the frame. It also pedals extremely efficiently. Four inches of travel is the maximum amount of travel for the M-Arc. The Moots Zirkel models use the M-Arc design with the Mooto-Xz being the best example of just what this system works best for. No other system is more attuned to the use of the Fox RP-23 rear shock.
The Evolution of XDreamTrail (XDT) and ClimbMAX
We expect all bicycles to be able to climb efficiently, even longer travel bikes. It is important to be able to get to the top without fighting the machine, and you need to be able to pedal through and over obstacles without the bike feeling top heavy. We have found that 5.5 to 6 inches of rear wheel travel is where Goldilocks lives. All of our bikes pedal well, and if they didn't, we would not offer them. We try to balance the capabilities and energy-saving effects of long travel with needs of bike to handle the terrain and speeds required by the individual rider. On the way up, the bike must pedal. On the way down, even when it gets really rough, it should allow you to relax and get back some of that oxygen. While shorter travel bikes bounce around, the longer travel steads put power and braking forces to the ground. The difference between 5 and 6 inches of travel on the back of a mountain bike is pretty drastic. The difference between 6 and 7 is minimal. A well-built long travel full suspension bike with that magic 6" of travel takes less energy and, as the terrain gets rougher, it forgives your mistakes, . . . to a point, of course. The bikes are built to slam obstacles, pedal, point, and shift, smoothly over rough stuff.
Dreamride currently uses the following frames exclusively for testing component formulas: DREAMRIDE FULLY; DREAMRIDE F-69; DREAMRIDE MUTANT; VENTANA EL CHAMUCO; MOOTS MOOTO-XZ; MOOTS VAMOOTS; PEGORETTI MARCELO; DREAMRIDE WHITE RIM 69ER. The Dreamride F-69 gets most of the attention nowadays due to its amazing superiority in performance. Some manufacturers used Dreamride testing data and input to design frames currently on the market, or to market their product effectively. For our own Dreamride frames there has been a lot of attention given to finding effective ways to massage geometry and wheelbase for longer travel bikes for a range of purposes, from cross country to freeride. Ultimate results of testing can be seen in the current model year Dreamride F-Series.
About pedaling longer travel bikes:
The way a bike feels is effected by the bike you were on before. It goes like this: If you are coming from other designs that are less plush (hardtails, short travel and poorly designed full suspension bikes that beg you to set the bike with little or no sag), you will have to concentrate on pedal stroke. To get started, sit down and spin. Concentrate on the power of the pedals moving you forward. After over a decade on four bar linkage bikes, I now stand and chug on a smooth climb, adjusting body position to counter shifts in weight or effects of chain torque in upper gear ratios, but the real secret, at first, is to sit and keep a steady spin--torquing the rings evenly all the way around, scraping that dog crap off the bottom of your shoe, and pulling up on the back stroke with your quads. This is not such a good way to push a heavier bike up a steep climb for long, because your knees will suffer, but once you get the feeling of where the bike likes to see your weight, you can stand up and pedal in any gear.
BACK TO EQUIPMENT EVALUATION PAGE
Good news for whitey: 6" is enough!
Because we ride for a living, better equipment is a necessity. We invest in product testing as others invest in advertising. We produce two state-of-the-art full suspension bikes at what we consider to be a perfect 6" of travel. The Fully is for XC/All Mountain Use. The Mutant is Hardcore All Mountain/Light Freeride. Dreamride Fully
If you are looking for the best and are prepared to pay for it, we have it. A Dreamride Fully is the ultimate trail bike for you, because it is full custom for each client from the ground up by a master at fit, form and function. It doesn't get any better, and maybe never will again. Dreamride Mutant
The Moab-bike project in the works for 5 years with names like Rattler, Moment and Pagan, comes to life for consumption in 2006 as the Dreamride Mutant. The Mutant blends experience in downhill racing, slickrock freeride, years of testing and guiding. It is designed to pedal efficiently at speed over rough stuff and in fast turns, a state-of-the-art machine for technical trails like Porcupine Rim. The Mutant is available direct-only from Dreamride. This is NOT a mass produced frame or bike! Each is built custom for one person at a time. Only the best with no compromise.
If something breaks, we toss it. If it is not a classic, we laugh. If quality drops, we run away. If something works perfect and the manufacture is consistantly tops in customer service, we work to improve performance and cosmetics, and lessen warranty issues through careful parts combination and product testing. In the Dreamride paint box are frames from Pegoretti, Moots, Ventana and Dreamride, matched with Chris King, Marzocchi, Magura, Thomson, Moots, SRAM, Shimano, Answer, Easton, and FSA parts. We are licensed dealers and/or distributors for all products we carry. We love tough trails and rough roads.
Our trail bikes are inspired and assaulted by the rocky and extremely varied terrain of Moab, Utah, our home. We wear stuff out in a hurry if we want to. We know what breaks, what creaks, and what fits your needs. Dreamride began as a stunt coordination service for the film industry.
In the early 90's, while running film schools in the Rockies and on the East Coast, Lee Bridgers started a mountain bike film, photo and video service. In 1996 Lee took his maps and bike smarts and began offering remote, solitary rides in Moab, Utah along with versions of the bikes he built to scout, ride and guide on. Lee's builds are recognized for their rugged, flawless function, attention to detail and stunning beauty. Skill + Commitment = Elite Services
Those who invest in the highest level of equipment, who demonstrate a level of dedication to our high end tour operations and possess advanced to expert mountain bike skills, gain access to the ultimate in full charter mountain bike vacation support services. Skilled Elite clients may lock out our facilities, staff and gear for access to rides up to 200 miles from our Moab homebase. If you crave our most guarded vacation secrets and access to our toys and joys, the best place to start is with the purchase of a bike marked by the jumping coyote.