WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
My own background is actually in industrial chemistry. I studied chemistry to degree level and then took further qualifications in a variety of areas. I spent many years in the cement industry where amongst other things I specialized in X-ray fluorescence, X-Ray diffraction and in particular, laser diffraction particle size analysis. I led some pretty interesting projects and I always loved trying to figure how to make use of new technology. So, lots of data, charts, and graphs!
When I had children, I wanted more time off and less time travelling so I actually became a teacher and have spent the last few years teaching the sciences up to A-level. I love teaching the scientific processes but if I am honest, it is not the dream. Budget limitations make it a very frustrating job. Rewarding though, at times.
Mountain bike-wise, I live near Llandegla in Wales. When the trail center opened 15 years or so ago it really did start a scene in the area. It was also a sport that I could more easily fit around my family. I have had a go at just about everything from XC marathons to enduro and downhill racing. I have even racked a fair few road cycling event too. I will not even try to make out that I am a good enough rider to race at the highest levels though – I am more of a social rider. I have run a club for local youth riders and through that got funding to take bike mechanic qualifications.
In 2017 I started working at Revolution Bike Park and worked there up until the covid pandemic earlier this year. I just drove the uplift, but I loved being part of it and getting some cheap uplift days was certainly a bonus!
HOW DID DIALLED TELEMETRY COME TO BE?
I am a huge World Cup fan, and I was aware that top riders are using telemetry to get their bike set-up specifically to the rider, track, and conditions. I had just lost my job at Revs and taken a demotion in work, so I had a bit of time available. I listened to Podcast with Rob from Motion Instruments and it seemed a no brainer to use this to get my personal bike set-up. I looked into it and there was really no one offering the service, so I began looking into systems and had a chat with Rob about doing it myself.
At the same I also did some calculations using my own DH bike as an example and I think I found that there were over 67 million possible combinations of ‘clicks’ without even starting with volume spacers and air pressure. I had spent a lot on the bike but never really felt like I had got it set up very well. With this number of possible combinations, it seemed impossible without some extra guidance.
Anyone can collect data, but doing it well requires experience. I spent a lot of time running trials on my own bikes and then started on friends. When I was confident, I was starting to get a good grasp I called on some contacts from my time as an uplift driver. The first takers were Stacey Fisher and a young local rider called Alex Storr (he should have raced his first EWS season this year). They were both blown away with the results – Alex thought I had swapped his fork out! It just started growing from there.
WHAT DO YOU OFFER, AND FOR WHO?
The idea of the service I offer is that any rider can book me and get the kind of detailed and person-specific bike set-up that a pro racer gets. Just because you are not racing World Cups or EWS does not mean that you are not passionate about riding. We spend a lot of money on bikes these days and to me it is a no brainer to have it running the best it possibly can. Getting the bike set up well will make it climb better, descend better and generally handle better. Put simply, you are going to enjoy your bike even more when it is set up right!
For most people I offer a set-up day. We will take the bike from your settings/factory setting and through the process until we get to a point where the bike uses the full range of travel and has balanced compression and rebound speeds when comparing front and rear. When the bike is all balanced it really comes to life.
This is best done at a bike park because long runs are good for generating data and plenty of runs gives us plenty of opportunity to make adjustments. In my opinion you really need a minimum of 10 runs to get it pretty good.
For pro/semi pro riders I may do this over 2 days to get a detailed tune. I offer a service where we can fine tune a bike to a specific track, too.
I also offer the opportunity to run whatever experiments you like. At the moment I am looking to devise a series of experiments to look at the pros and cons of the mullet bike vs a full 29er with a World Cup team. We can break the data down and see how the bikes perform on specific parts of the track. You can use it to look at the advantage of running inserts, tire pressure changes on much more.
WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOUR SERVICE FROM THE LIKES OF SHOCKWIZ, OR AN ONLINE SUSPENSION CALCULATOR?
Both Shockwiz and online calculators are only really intended to get you into the correct ballpark. You will not see Greg Minnaar using either of them, that is for sure. I will explain a little more:
Shockwiz has inherent problems in that it does not directly measure fork/shock position. It can also obviously only be used on an air spring. Shockwiz also attempts to tell you how you should have your bike set-up. The Motion Instruments kit will never do that, nor will I. Suspension setup is such a personal thing, and a rider’s preference for how the bike reacts to the terrain should always be taken into account.
The system directly measures shock and fork position at a rate of 200 times per second (it’s actually capable of 1,000 times per second!). From that we can get a very accurate account of where the axle spends its time. We can get a dynamic sag and see exactly how the axle position is distributed around that point. We can look at the maximum position too, but rather than having an O-ring on the fork that only tells us that it has bottomed out, we can look deeper into the data and see exactly how many times that happened during a run, and even see how long it was at the bottom for (so how hard the bottom out was). If it is a single event in a five-minute run, it is not a problem, if it is happening frequently on mellow terrain then it is. The system also outputs compression and rebound speeds. The Motion IQ software uses these speeds to quantify the balance of the bike in terms of suspension movements. We can take this into different levels of detail depending on the rider’s bike. We can for example break the data down into high and low speed compression velocities. In my opinion you just cannot tune that without a way of measuring.
To compare to an online calculator, I will give you a worked example. Let us say you and I are the same weight and ride the same bike on similar trails. If we use an online calculator then we will be given the same settings. Now consider the forces through your suspension. Weight and speed are key, it is essentially Newton’s second law. So, if you ride faster, you will put more force through the bike and your compression speeds will be higher. So, if you ride faster than me with the same settings, then you will blow the bike through more travel. That will lead to a higher average axle position; potentially more bottom outs; and higher compression speeds. That would likely lead to us adding air (or changing a spring), adding volume spacers, and adding compression damping. The additional air and reduced volume leads to faster rebound which you may want to dampen. So, two riders on the same bike at the same weight on the same trails will end up with different set-ups simply because of the speed they ride. The reality is that as you advance as a rider you also start to ride more technical terrain and hit bigger trail features. So, a faster rider requires a much stiffer set-up. That does not make it beneficial to everyone though. If I were to hop on Greg Minnaar’s bike and ride at my pace it would feel horrendous and vice-versa.
Weight is also critical and perhaps one of the reasons female riders are benefitting from my service. Their bikes have often been set-up by men hopping on them, bouncing around a bit, and saying ‘Yeah, that’s good’. Becci Skelton is sub 60kg, fully kitted up so her bike will feel relatively soft if a 90kg guy throws a leg over it.
And then there is riding style. My boy Alex Storr loves the bike to be really poppy so we run a ridiculously fast rebound that most people would hate. By contrast, Becci will straight line it through rock gardens and so the rebound damping is critical. The set up takes into account the rider’s style, with other factors like weight distribution and body position also taken into account when a bike is set up based on data.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS MOVING FORWARD WITH THE COMPANY?
It is a totally new industry, so I learn something from every bike and rider I work with. I plan to keep as busy as I can so that my bank of knowledge and therefore service is unrivaled. I love working with each customer anyway and often get a few laps in with them. So, that is cool – the more the better.
My passion really is with the racers though. I cannot reveal too much at this stage, but I have riders lined up over the next couple of months from a wide range of disciplines and levels. I will have riders representing at Welsh, UK National and EWS level enduro events. I also have DH racers from local level through to the World Cups. I would like to hook up with a serious XC racer if there is one out there reading this and maybe even look into 4X. In the long run I would like to set up a development team to help bridge the gap between the privateer and the factory teams – maybe a Welsh team? I am already in touch with some Universities in terms of supporting this concept. Who knows though?
In terms of testing there is a lot of attention around braking data. If I were designing frames or offering a coaching service it would be a no brainer, but I am not sure the equipment is there yet though in terms of commercial viability. This is why I opted for what I think is the best system for purely setting suspension up. We will see where that goes though – if the demand is there then I will do my best to cater to it.