Tuning suspension is one of the most important aspects to getting a mountain bike to ride at its optimum, but adjusting suspension can often be seen as something of a black art — especially if you’re not sure what you’re feeling and what you ‘should’ be feeling.
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There are plenty of shock tuning guides out there, but very little hands-on help. At Eurobike this year we saw two products that aim to change this: Suss My Ride and ShockWiz.
ShockWiz is an electronic gizmo that plugs into the air spring on your fork or shock. It will fit on most units, but exceptions are detailed later on.
The Shockwiz works by analysing the changes in pressure in your fork/shock as you ride at around 100 times per second, connects to your phone by Bluetooth and then provides set-up suggestions to help fine tune your suspension via an app on your smartphone.
ShockWiz was a Kickstarter project which SRAM took under its wing and helped to deliver, and is available to buy now. We got our hands briefly on a set, so read on to see our initial impressions.
ShockWiz set up
The first thing to do (once you’ve downloaded the ShockWiz app) is to attach the unit to your fork or shock. There’s a hose that screws onto your air chamber’s valve and into the small unit, which zip-ties onto the suspension unit. Once it’s paired to your phone, you’re pretty much ready to go.
This first requires you to calibrate the ShockWiz, either by entering detailed info on the suspension’s air chamber or simply by letting the air out of the shock and cycling it through its travel, following the simple instructions on the app.
This process takes all of a minute or two. You then enter the type of riding you like to do most, thus the character of the suspension should benefit: Efficient, Balanced, Playful or Aggressive (loosely tying into XC, trail, all mountain and downhill riding)
Next we took the Shockwiz for a 6-7 minute spin with reasonably varied terrain to get some data. This ShockWiz collects data on how you ride and takes into account how the suspension handles low and high speed inputs, how it rebounds, whether it bottoms out and how linear it feels.
This wasn’t quite enough time however. Once we got back from the ride the app told us that a few areas of analysis were lacking enough data to get a full picture — going out for another spin isn’t too difficult though, so we reckon a good 10 minute varied loop should be enough to start with.
Whether you have enough data or not is indicated by the ‘Detections’ tab in the app. It tells you which bit of riding data is lacking .
Shockwiz data analysis
Once you’ve collected data, it’s time to look through the app’s analysis. The app’s interface is very intuitive and easy to use. The information is easy to digest and seems to give a good balance between enough information for relative suspension geeks and newbies.
First you need to check the Detections tab on the app, which tells you how the suspension is performing. For example, your fork might be bobbing too much when riding out of the saddle or it might be bottoming out too often.
Then it’s a case of looking at the Suggestions tab. This is where the different tuning aspects can be checked and acted upon. If we assume that the Detections tab has indicated that the ‘Bobbing’ performance is poor, then the Suggestions tab will suggest that you need to add low speed compression damping to sort this. By tapping the sliding scale, extra information on what low speed compression is, what you should be feeling and how much you should change this by is displayed.
If there are multiple things to change in the Suggestions tab, you should work from the top down, adjusting one at a time as prior adjustments can affect how following aspects perform — this is unless one of the areas is so bad that it has a red warning and this should be addressed first.
Once you’ve adjusted it, you need to start a new session, moving on to the next section. Once everything is in the green, your suspension should be pretty well set up. From there, fine tuning should be done to get it perfect for you (if you’re particularly fussy).
ShockWiz first impressions
Our first impressions of ShockWiz are pretty positive. From a usability point of view ShockWiz has it spot on. The app is clear, easy and intuitive to use, with simple set up instructions that guide you through the process with little ambiguity.
The information given at each point of the process is easy to understand and tapping on the individual suggestions gives you a nice and clear impression of what you should expect from your suspension unit, along with a guide as to how much adjustment is needed.
We tested our unit on a pair of RockShox Pike RCT3 forks, giving us plenty of room for adjustment. Prior to testing the ShockWiz we purposefully set the rebound with no damping, but set the rest of the fork up as we usually would. As we’d hoped, ShockWiz told us that the rebound was far too fast and recommended 3+ clicks of damping.
So who is the ShockWiz best for?
SRAM was keen to point out that its utility is to get the suspension to near perfect, without necessarily being totally spot on — there’s room for individual tweaking for personal preference. This means if you’re a real stickler for suspension set up, you can play around with your fork or shock to get it just-so. That said, if you’re already at that level, you probably have a good grasp of how to set up your suspension.
As such, it’s perhaps more useful to those who want to get more out of their suspension, but are a bit baffled by all the different adjustments that can be made and what effect making them will have.
For example, you may have the sag set up perfectly for your weight, but still never get near full travel. ShockWiz may well suggest that you remove volume spacers from your shock. It’s then an easy job to go and get this done.
The ShockWiz, as you might expect, isn't cheap retailing for £359 / $399 / €419 / AU$529. On first impressions we reckon this could be a great buy for shops, to help customers set up their suspension — a great way of adding value to a bike purchase. Hiring the ShockWiz out might be another great way of making money back from the initial purchase.
ShockWiz should work with most air suspension units on the market, but not all.
Suspension with variable air chamber volumes (DRCV, Equalizer), or those where positive and negative chambers are joined when an shock pump is attached (some Manitou forks) or filled through the negative chamber (White Bros, MRP) aren’t supported.
Forks with adjustable travel are supported, if the travel is kept constant, and units with bump detecting technology (Brain, Terralogic and E:I) won’t work as well, but will get some useable suggestions.
A few questions
During discussion among the team we ended up with a couple of questions, which we posed to ShockWiz.
First off, temperature. Shocks and forks heat up during use thanks to friction, so how does the ShockWiz account for this, as air pressure and temperature are inextricably linked?
ShockWiz inventor, Nigel Wade: “There's a temperature sensor on board the micro-controller that compensates for the heating and cooling of the gas in the suspension as you go between different environments. If you are quickly and dramatically changing elevation or riding really, really hard (or both) then there can be a bit of a thermal lag where the reported pressure (and therefore travel) can be off by a couple of percent.
"However, this doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I knew there would be a few sources of error (temperature being one, sensor characteristics another as well as non-ideal user calibration), so the algorithms were designed (as best I could) to not need super accurate data, but instead focus more on the shape of the suspension travel rather than the exact travel number.
"Of course, it is always better to have accurate data, so we take a lot of steps to have as many compensations as practical to decrease errors and guide the user as best we can through the calibration process to ensure sufficiently accurate data.”
Second, if you change one element of the suspension's characteristics to fix one problem identified it can have a knock-on effect for a different aspect of the shock’s performance. How does ShockWiz account for this — is there a risk it’ll just shift the problem elsewhere?
ShockWiz inventor, Nigel Wade: “ShockWiz will tell you every way it thinks you can fix a problem. For example, if it detects you are bottoming out too much it will often tell you to add more pressure, more ramp, more HSC and more BOC.
"It tells you about all of them as it doesn't know which adjustments are going to be convenient to the user and there is a ideal tuning order of which there is an explanatory article on the website. However, the decision logic of what it will tell you to do is more sophisticated than that, as it will know about the various ways to fix a problem, but it also knows about which adjustments are likely to induce a different problem.
"In the case where it has two options open to it to solve an issue, in some situations it will only tell you one of those ways because it doesn't want to solve one thing but introduce another. It gets kinda complicated when there are multiple things it is detecting as being wrong and it has to pick the most appropriate changes in order to keep everything in check.
"In the above example, if it saw signs that you were bottoming out, but could see that the bike might be feeling harsh in compression, then it may only suggest extra ramp and BOC to give the additional support needed at the end of the stroke, but at the same time not compromising the feel in the low to mid stroke.”
Finally, how does ShockWiz interact with characteristics that aren’t measurable by ShockWiz but do affect the feel of the bike — tyre pressure etc?
SRAM MTB PR, Alex Rafferty: “In regards to tyre pressure, or any other aspect of bike set-up (geometry, mass, etc), ShockWiz doesn't know what it is, but it doesn't need to know. It is always analysing the response of the suspension, looking for undesirable traits and trying to fix them. It doesn't care what induced the undesirable trait (most often caused by the trail, but influenced by the bike and the rider), it just wants to adjust the suspension to get the rider, bike and trail working as well as they can.
"In the development of ShockWiz, testing and modelling of the 'suspension' performance of the tyre was conducted. It quickly became clear that in terms of how the bike chassis behaves dynamically, there is no significant suspension effect from the tyre as the movement in the fork or shock dominates over the very small movement in the tyre. That doesn't mean that changing tyre pressure doesn't have a significant effect on the riding experience, it often does, but these are typically to do with lateral grip and how the bike 'feels' and inspires confidence on the trail — not things that relate directly to suspension performance.
"Because of tyre pressure, the rider may have a different amount of grip/confidence and therefore be faster/slower through certain obstacles resulting in different suspension movements, but ShockWiz will just continue to analyse this and suggest any suspension adjustments it thinks will lead to an improvement.
"In general, we say to re-run with ShockWiz whenever something has changed. This could be the mass of the rider (or what they are carrying), the rider's skill or the type of terrain they are on. This also extends to significantly different tyre type/pressure.”
We’ve got a number of ShockWiz units in to test, so watch this space for a full review.
ShockWiz pricing and availability
- Standard: £359 / $399 / €419 / AU$529
- Direct Mount (for inverted forks such as the RockShox RS-1): £409 / $449 / €469 / AU$579.