According to Darren Murphy, owner of PUSH Industries, to maximize the performance of modern suspension designs, you need to develop the rear shock to work with the design of a bike’s suspension. So last year, Niner handed over the redesigned RIP 9 RDO and invited the PUSH engineering team to do their thing. What you see here, is the result of hours of testing and riding and testing and riding.
A week or so ago, we sat down with Darren to talk about this project, and what it means to him and to PUSH. What we learned was a whole lot more about PUSH’s approach to suspension than we could imagine.
NINER: What has this project meant to you?
MURPHY: For me, I was excited about this bike when I first heard about it. When I saw the first prototype, I supported it. I told you guys I think you should make this. I told Chris when I saw him at some event outside of work that you could 100% sell this thing but you have to build a really cool trail bike, which your guys successfully did. I like it. I prefer it in 29 but I’ve ridden it in 27 plus. I personally much prefer the 29er. It rides great. I was excited about the concept from day one. Getting to ride the prototype, even though it wasn’t the right size for me, was like, “Oh wow! This thing is a way different bike [than the previous models]”. The suspension characteristics, the stiffness, everything made for the right recipe for this long travel trail bike.
I knew it was going to be light, snappy, efficient, compliant, have good bottoming resistance – all the things you want out of a do-it-all type bike. And then I finally got this demo that was sized right and after I rode it I immediately hit up Niner and said, “ I want one of these.” I wanted one for myself because it’s just a really good bike. I think it’s the right recipe for today’s trail category. It ticks the boxes of, y’know, lightweight, performance, stiff, durable. It’s a good bike. I really like it. And this is the category I ride.
I have other bikes that are in the 150 – 160 mm category. So, when I look at the characteristics of a couple of other bikes – one that comes to mind climbs great but doesn’t have great bump sensitivity. The other has great bump sensitivity but you don’t want to be going anywhere uphill on it in a hurry. This bike is a great blend of the two. So coming from someone who spends a lot of time in this travel category, for me, that is a bike that you can buy as a “one bike”. It’s a good balance. This for me can legitimately go up against other bikes in this category.
NINER: So tell us about the process of putting an ELEVENSIX together for the RIP. What did that look like?
MURPHY: The valves that we use on other bikes are different than the valves we machine for the RIP. So it’s not like we’re just adjust one valve. We machine them differently for each bike. We use different port volume so that the flow rate is different on each damper.
When we looked at the RIP, we put data loggers on the bike. We put kinematic analysis on it and we actually figured out what the linkage was doing. We asked, “What’s the wheel force? What are these loads? Y’know, what is all this movement doing to the shock throughout the stroke?”
As we were testing, we measured what we call the instantaneous motion rate. We looked at every millimeter of wheel movement and compared it to what the shock was doing at the same time. We tracked it through the entire curve. We figured out mechanically what this bike was doing so we could figure out what’s the best damper to build to complement what the bike does.
We do that with all the bikes. In fact, another manufacturer’s bike takes the same size shock as the RIP, but the flow rates are entirely different. In fact, you can’t revalve a RIP shock to work on another bike because we’ve actually put different components in there. For us, when we talk about building a RIP specific shock, that’s really what we talk about. We work to figure out how to build a shock to complement that system.
Once we’ve done that, we’ve gotten the bike 85% there. Then, once you put the right spring rate, we’re 90-95% there. And then it’s up to the rider. If you want the next level, you want to field test to really get the nuances. But that amount of effort really only gives you a small amount of margin. In fact, we need people to understand that we build the shock for the bike, not for the rider. And yes, its custom and the rider needs to put the right spring on it, but before the rider ever gets on the bike, we’ve gotten it 85% to where it needs to be. It’s customized for the bike.
And that’s the meat of the story. This PUSH shock works with this RIP and understands it kinematics. We (PUSH) know this bike inside and out. We know its mechanics. And because of that we are able to come up with a shock that is fully complementary of that without compromises.
The ELEVENSIX allows you to actually experience the true potential of the bike. That’s what it does. The ELEVENSIX on a RIP really allows you to feel what it’s truly capable of. It’s because, if you need something that’s less aggressive, you can flip the paddle on the shock. But if you want to go hit some bigger lines, ride more technical trails, you flip the paddle the other way and you’re ready to go. We’re actually able to give the rider the maximum experience out of that bike.
NINER: How long has the ELEVENSIX shock been on the market?
MURPHY: Since May of 2015. The second generation came out in September of 2016. And the cool thing is, everything is backwards compatible to the first generation.
It’s funny, when we started PUSH, one of the things we said we’d never do is make suspension. And now, here we are making suspension. We really are transitioning into suspension manufacturing.
NINER: What else should we know about PUSH or the ELEVENSIX?
MURPHY: Our biggest fear with the ELEVENSIX is that someone will get on it and then go, “Umm, yeah, it’s pretty good.” That’s not the effect we’re looking for. That’s not why we put the effort in. When people get this shock, we want them to go “Whoa. I have never ridden anything like this before.” It’s a different ride. And a lot of time they can’t put their finger on what makes it so different. We get, “Wow. The traction this thing has is like nothing I’ve ever ridden.” We get that a lot. Traction, traction, traction.
NINER: What’s the weight penalty for putting this coil shock on the RIP?
MURPHY: 400 gram weight penalty compared to a competitor’s air shock. People say that it’s heavy, initially, and then they ride it and forget about the weight. And overall, riders in this trail category don’t care that much about weight. They do care about performance. People who will buy the RIP with the ELEVENSIX just want to get the most they possibly can out of the bike. And we offer that to them. The shock is durable. It’s reliable. It’s the ability to have that uncompromised ride characteristic because you have that dual overhead valve. That’s the big selling feature.
If you really want to get behind the scenes with PUSH Industries, check out their website. They go into detail about their manufacturing process and their engineering more than we have space for for this article.
WATCH THE LATEST INTERVIEW WITH DARREN MURPHY AT THE 2017 SEA OTTER CLASSIC