Tech update – March 1, 2002

Edited by John Stevenson

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SRAM buys Rock Shox

The biggest news of the last few weeks is the acquisition of RockShox by gear maker SRAM, though it looks like in the short-to-medium term nothing will change in the product lines of the two companies or the way in which they do business.

It's no secret that RockShox has had problems for a while. Last year an expensive recall and the legal costs of patent litigation (RS was sued by Answer for infringing some of its patents and had to shell out $750,000 in license fees) put it into a vulnerable condition. RockShox main creditor, Wells Fargo bank, was threatening to pull the plug if RockShox didn't meet certain obligations in terms of the company's net worth.

To the rescue came SRAM, with a buyout deal that merges RockShox with a wholly owned subsidiary of SRAM, and -- more importantly -- injects a couple of million US in cash into the fork maker.

Australian SRAM guy Rob Eva told Cyclingnews there'd be no immediate change to the two companies' distribution set-ups -- no surprise, as SRAM expects to take until June to have a full integration plan finalised, though the deal is expected to be complete by the end of March

Trade and US websites have been full of the story for the last week (while the Cyclingnews tech desk was rather busy with things like the Australian MTB nationals). Over at, Zap Espinoza posed the crucial question: 'What now for Greg Herbold?', concluding that the former world downhill champ, who is sponsored by both companies, would no longer have to rememnber which shirt to wear when giving presentations.

UK trade site had an amusing slant: Rock Shox founder and largest individual shareholder Paul Turner was in the UK when the news broke, for the 34th birthday party of UK MTB journalist Chipps Chippendale.

"As he was tucking into his chicken Jalfrezi in the SuHag Curry House in Rochdale, Paul got a call, via my mobile phone, from a RockShox employee telling him to expect a call from the US in a short while," Chippendale told

"When the call came, Paul retreated into the loo because the Indian music was too loud to hear the financial deal being offered."

Biz details aside, the deal opens up the possibilities of some interesting tech synergies. Here's a screamingly obvious one: tidily integrated shock lockout. For the last few years shock makers have been adding devices to shocks to stop them moving for climbs and like that. Handlebar controls for lockout widgets always involve yet another clamp round the handlebar. RockSRAMGripShoxShift could create a nifty lockout lever built into either a twist-grip or trigger shifter. Down the track, maybe we'll see ways to adjust shock action on-the-fly from the handlebars. Then your suspension could always be set up wrongly…

Vale Ibis

Another of the mountain bike industry's Cool Little Guys vanished from view last week as Ibis closed its doors. The company, formerly owned by MTB trials maestro and all-round smartass Scot Nicol was bought in April 2001 by a team including general manager Roger Salameh, with Nicol taking a back seat role as advisor.

However, since then the new incarnation, Ibis LLC, has been unable to make production targets or pay some suppliers. On February 21 it filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy, owing Roseland Design, formerly Ibis Cycles, more than $700,000.

Back in the day, when the high end of the mountain bike landscape was dominated by names such as Salsa, Bontrager, and Fat Chance, Ibis was known for Nicol's unique sense of humour, with frames that included bottle openers and a fist-shaped cable stop called a Hand Job. The company was one of the first to build a unified rear triangle suspension, as well as innovating pivotless 'soft-tails' such as the Bow Ti.

Answer licenses Progressive 5th Element shock tech

Answer Products has licensed the right to use Progressive's 5th Element damping technology in its suspension products. Progressive's claim to fame for the 5th Element damping used in its coilover rear shocks is that it is easily tunable to soak up bumps and hits while ignoring transmission input from the rider.

Answer will begin immediately working on implementing the technology with a plan to introduce and test new suspension products in the 2002 racing season.

K2 spreads the wealth

K2 has added three teams to its sponsored roster for 2002. According to the inevitable release, from K2's Steven Westover, "As some companies are starting to downsize their sponsorship role in the arena of bike racing, K2 Bikes has decided to increase its funding due to the tremendous success of its current programs and sponsorship."

The beneficiaries of K2's largesse are Team DEVO, the Ford No Boundaries Women's Cycling Team and division III road squad Jittery Joes/ Choco Andean Eco Coffee.

A common theme here is a 'cause' either within racing or in the greater community. DEVO is all about bringing on young racers, and in 2001 won the NORBA National title in the under 23 cross country and junior cross country, then went on to take the cyclo-cross under 23 US.

Ford No Boundaries has an aim of "encouraging young girls and women to participate in cycling by promoting a positive image of women as athletes; women who are strong, healthy, and happy in mind, body, and spirit."

Jittery Joe's has perhaps the most direct link to good works. Sales of coffee from the team's website help support the team and also benefit the Andean rainforest.

Rotor wins

We mentioned the ROTOR crank system a few months ago, and now comes proof that, at the very least, it doesn't slow you down: Antonio Colom of RELAX-Fuenlabrada was using ROTOR cranks on his bike when he won the Vuelta a Andalucia on Friday.

To refresh your memory, the ROTOR uses a cam device to speed the pedal over top dead center, and is therefore claimed to increase the amount of power a rider can deliver, with a resulting increase in speed, number of race wins and attractiveness to the opposite sex (okay, we made the last bit up).

The history of cycling is littered with devices intended to have this effect, one way or another, and often they did just the opposite. We've been promised a Rotor of our own and we'll bring you a full run-down when it arrives.