Interview: Chris Porter of Mojo Suspension

By Matt Skinner, editor, What Mountain Bike | Saturday, February 18, 2012 8.00am

Chris Porter is the outspoken boss at South Wales suspension specialists Mojo, who are the UK distributors for Fox Racing Shox. Matt Skinner, editor of What Mountain Bike magazine, grilled him on the trouble with Taiwan, electronic suspension and walking downhill.

On Taiwan

"Taiwan is now full of skills for building great bicycles (cheaply) and the rest of the world can no longer build bicycles on a scale that can compete with them. We’ve lost those skills in the rush for profit. Because almost all of the world’s mountain bikes are being built there, Taiwan now dictates to a quite large extent how bikes develop and how they look. It’s almost no longer possible to build something interesting; we just have endless rows of hydroformed bikes that look the same. We don’t get new ideas, we just get new standards: same headset, different size, same bottom bracket, different size, and so on. A show the size of Interbike or Eurobike has endless displays of the same bike with different stickers."

On carbon fibre

"[It's a] great material for certain applications, I just don’t believe the off-road bicycle is that application. It makes the marketeers' and stylists' jobs easier. I don’t use the word ‘designers’ ‘cos there isn't a lot of designing going on! Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen isn't a designer, Gok Wan (bless him) isn't a designer – they're stylists, as are many of our 'celebrity' bike designers."

On common mistakes with suspension setup

"Most people complaining of a lack of ‘small bump sensitivity’ have either 50psi in a downhill-carcass 2.5in tyre or have never serviced their fork. Also, people love to ask for a ‘magic’ number to pump their rear shock to – go by the sag, it’s way more accurate and repeatable."

On setting suspension by sag or travel

"Both [are correct ways of setting suspension]. If you can’t get one without the other then you must change the spring rate or air volume of your air spring (air volume reducer kits in the case of Fox Racing Shox). When that’s dialled get the rebound damping sorted to suit the spring rate and set any compression controls to individual requirements. There is no right and wrong, different people will want different setups."

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Video: Chris Porter from Mojo

On what to bear in mind when working on suspension

"Read the manual, know your limits, be clean and tidy about it, and don’t guess if you're stuck – if you don’t know, stop. Remember, inch/lb of torque are not the same as ft/lb!"

On the potential for more electronic wizardry in suspension (following the unveiling of Fox's smart shock pump)

"You could do all sorts of really clever things with GPS or accelerometers or a combination of both to sense the terrain and the bike’s up or down attitude. Ohlins have some pretty nice electronic presets for motorcycle suspension which change preload, spring rate and damping to give settings for sport, comfort, two up, touring, etc. While we still have the rear derailleur hanging off the back waiting to be ‘designed’ out of existence, that’s just science fiction, isn’t it?"

Fox's smart pump allows you to set up your suspension using an android smart phone or garmin gps unit:

Fox's Smart Pump allows you to set up your suspension using an Android smart phone or Garmin GPS unit

On the biggest dead-end trends in mountain biking

"29ers."

On the most significant developments in mountain biking

"Tubeless tyres – when will Maxxis do the Minion DHF in LUST? Wheels which are both strong and light – everything Mavic do, especially the amazing 2012 [Crossmax] STs. 1 x 10 drivetrains. Dropper posts. And would we have believed 10 years ago that a full front and rear 6in-plus suspension package could weigh in at less than 4lb?"

On the trend to watch in 2012 and beyond

"Check out Cesar Rojo’s bike at the Trans-Provence – an interesting guy doing clever stuff for the right reasons. He wants to make bikes that ride better and are more fun, no marketing BS. 0mm stem and downhill-length wheelbase on a trail bike anyone? If anyone ever gives him free reign and a couple of million to make a completely new bike, watch out!"

On his favourite bike event of the year

"The Trans-Provence ‘cos it’s utterly, utterly bonkers! It's such a mad thing to do, to do it as a race is even madder. The trails were mental. I was off walking uphill twice in the very first stage on day one. I thought I’d left any of the fitness I’d gained in Wales on the autoroute on the way down. I was chatting to Mark Weir about my failure and he said, ‘You joking?’ He was off and walking twice too (though clearly walking much quicker!). 

"Better yet, I was chastising myself about not having the bottle to ride a particularly nasty section of washed out downhill trail on day five but even Fabien [Barel] said he'd walked it. Trails so gnarly Mark Weir can’t ride up ‘em and so sketchy Fab and Nico [Vouilloz] are carrying down ‘em! Some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. There's simply no need to fly anywhere to get any kind of mountain, we have it all and more in Europe."

On the tough economic conditions and their effect on the bike industry

"The tough economic conditions are in the imaginary money sector created by the banks. Oh hang on, they have all our money/time/property now, don’t they? People still want to buy real things but the Government’s job isn't to facilitate that – they're there to keep the money where it is, at the top. Democracy is an illusion. If your business isn’t capable of making money, don’t rely on government to help you."

On his passion for bikes

"I love anything on two wheels. The feeling of balancing and cornering a two-wheeled vehicle is like a religious epiphany every single time, totally life affirming. Cars just don’t have that."

A straight-talking northerner, chris isn't one to suffer fools lightly and he's never shy of airing a controversial view:

Related links

An abbreviated version of this article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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