In this article, we’ll be discussing a Bicycle Suspension by Lane, US publication 20200377169. The publication date is Dec. 3rd, 2020 and the filing date is May 29th, 2020. This patent is related to provisional application 62/853,893.
On my ‘Intent’ page, I make an explicit note that I don’t publish anyone’s name. In this case, the inventor, application, and the company name are the same. I can’t really get around it on this one, so I’m just using a last name.
Brief Summary (tl;dr)
This invention introduces a new bike suspension system, where the rear triangle and front triangle are connected via a shock and a link. One side of the shock is attached to the rear triangle with a pivot and the other side of the shock is attached to the frame without a pivot. So one side of the shock has a pivot and the other side is fixed. The link is attached to the lower area of the front triangle and the lower area of the rear triangle. In the example below, the shock is actually integrated into the frame.
In bike design, there are numerous types of suspension systems. Horst, VPP, Single Pivot, etc. All perform differently under different circumstances, but they all perform the same basic function; they push a shock.
In a typical shock system, shocks are located inside the front triangle and some kind of bar system is connected from the rear axle to the shock. One end of the shock is attached to the frame somewhere in the front triangle with a pivotal shock mount, containing bushings and a bolt(s), among other small items to secure the shock in place. The other end of the shock is attached to a pivotal linkage, where the suspension system can get a bit more convoluted and complex, which is then connected to the rear axle on the other end. Below shows a Commencal Meta with a shock system as described.
One of the best looking bikes I’ve ever seen is the Resistance Insolent. The system employs a shock inside the top tube and a pivot attached to the other side of the shock. This design is very similar to what we’re looking at in this patent.
Additionally, the DW Link suspension system utilizes a link that connects the bottom of the front triangle to the bottom of the rear triangle. The suspension system in this patent also contains a link that performs a similar function. The image below shows a Pivot Firebird with a DW Link system.
The intended novelty appears to be the that rear triangle is attached to a shock, with one end of the shock attached to the rear triangle and the other end of the shock with a ‘fixed connection’ to the frame. Additionally, another part of the rear triangle is attached to the front triangle via a link. So, in the end, the novelty is the combination of the rear triangle is (1) attached to a shock with one end of the shock fixed to the bike and (2) attached to the front triangle via a link. Figure 1 shows the complete system.
As with any manufacturer creating a new suspension system, the goals are always the same: improved grip, pedaling efficiency, improved pedal bob, better anti-squat values, etc . Why would anyone make a new suspension design if they didn’t believe the kinematics would provide improved performance? In the case of this patent, Lane doesn’t explicitly state what the advantages of this system are or what problem is being solve. But it’s important to note that he doesn’t have to. A patent document only needs to state what the inventor is doing or how they’re doing something.
Lane is proposing a system where one end of a shock is fixed to the body of a bike frame an the other end of the shock is attached to the rear triangle. Additionally, there is a link attaching the rear triangle to the front triangle just above the bottom bracket. In Figure 3 below, the shock is fixed to the frame and also inside the frame itself, though Lane doesn’t actually claim any novelty with the shock being inside the frame.
This design uses only a few pieces to make the magic happen. Shock absorber 4 is attached to the rear triangle via first connection 11 and is attached to the frame via second connection 12. Second connection 12 is fixed to the frame, without a pivot. It doesn’t rotate. Link 3 has a first pivot axis 13 and a second pivot axis 14. First pivot axis 13 is attached to the rear triangle and second pivot axis 14 is attached to the front triangle.
There are also numerous other examples of this system. Figure 5 shows a system very similar to figure 3, but the shock body is not inside the frame, but the shock is fixed to the frame, without a pivot. Figure 6 shows a sliding shock system.
Figure 9 shows a similar system, but with a rotating link similar to the Sotto patent from back in the day. Figure 13 shows another system with the link and bottom bracket encompassing the same linkage, like the GT bikes from a few years ago.
This is a cool design and seems like a pretty straight forward and simple design. I would love to try a shock that is integrated into the frame, but how would the servicing process go? I’m also wondering if this would help drop some weight.
This design is similar to both the DW Link and the AMP bike from years ago, though Lane’s design has the pivot and fixed sides of the shock flipped so it is NOT the same as the AMP bike. And it’s also similar to the Insolent, but the Insolent doesn’t have a solid rear triangle or a link connecting the rear triangle to the front triangle. In my brief search and from great input from some readers, there’s a good chance this is a novel design as it sits. The patent office will probably apply a 103 rejection on the 1st go (motivation to combine), but a good lawyer should be able to get an allowance without changing much language.
Added 8/31/21 from Ryan Rasmussen:
This design is what an AMP MacPherson strut design a co-rotating twin-short-link is to a Horst: flexibility to add rapid changes to the kinematic parameters, though not as much as with two short links.
I can see this being a way to produce a light, short-travel bike, but if I had to choose one parameter over which to have detailed control, I’d choose motion ratio over anti-squat. Thus, I see little advantage to this design over a flex-pivot Horst design with a linkage-driven shock. Combine a flex pivot with a structural shock and you have Trek’s new Supercaliber. To be honest, I see this patent as the worst of both worlds, though that probably won’t stop some company seeking a unique design.
To me it doesn’t look like something new but a combination of older ideas. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course, to use trusted methods. My only issue is that I believe there would be a considerable load acting sideways on the part of the shock which slides into the outer part. This could cause striction and wear. It might not move as smoothly as a shock with pivots at both ends where the forces are therefore just compression with no sideways pressure. This criticism is also valid for telescopic forks to a large extent, but it’s hardly held them back! Except in my case where 3 of my 5 bikes have linkage forks.