Cannondale Bicycles and Analog Devices are showing off of a new breed of bicycle suspension this week. Called Simon, Cannondale’s new front suspension monitors the terrain with internal sensors and adjusts the damping rate accordingly. For racers, this could mean faster times. For the weekend warrior, it means that your bike just got a lot more comfortable and easier to use.
Designed by Analog, the Simon fork uses accelerometers to gauge the terrain at 2 millisecond intervals. If you hucked off a 10-footer (rode your bike off a small cliff, for example), Simon would be dialing in the suspension from the time your front tire hit the ground. It would, in fact, be responding and stiffening the fork while it was compressing on impact. The accelerometer is mounted in the center of the wheel, meaning you can’t just buy the fork. You have to rebuild the front end of your bike in order to bring Simon along.
The hub-mounted accelerometer gives input to a computer, which then directs an Enfield-built electro-hydraulic flow controller that regulates how much shock fluid should move and how quickly. In terms of function, this is the stuff of Formula 1 auto racing. Most automotive applications use magnetic shock oil instead of electromechanical flow controls, however.
Cannondale designs and builds high-end bikes for both mountain and road use. It is also one of the few to build bicycles in the U.S., assembling them in Bedford, Penn. The company boasts first place wins in cyclocross and has had its products ridden to great effect in the Tour de France. Cannondale’s racing pedigree and strong market presence means that Simon is probably going to become mainstream in the future. So far, though, there’s no price tag and no release date.
In the future, real time suspension tuning for the front and rear wheels is going to result in even-faster downhill racing. Cross country riders will enjoy a new sense of confidence with a fork that can adjust itself for longer travel in downhill sections or firm itself up for an uphill climb. Hobby riders will be able to buy a single high-end bike that, if heavy, will still set itself up for the conditions at hand.
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