21 Oct 2021Fabio Strufaldi
The new RockShox Flight Attendant suspension: a revolution in Enduro
Early in October 2021 the new RockShox integrated electronic suspension, called Flight Attendant, was launched on the market. With a justified expectation from the world of bikers and the press, we finally have the feedback on a product that, although not the first to use electronics, is also innovative in technology and concept. Only history will tell if it is enough to revolutionize the MTB market, surely the top Enduro models will be more attractive.
A concentrate of technology
The RockShox Flight Attendant is an integrated suspension system which, through microsensors housed in the fork, crankset and rear shock, is able in real time to adapt the suspension parameters to the terrain being traveled. First of all, it is wireless, greatly reducing the complications of maintenance and breakdowns. But the big innovation compared to existing products is that the Flight Attendant behaves in a "predictive" rather than "reactive" manner. This is a function of algortithms created on the basis of thousands of km traveled in each condition in the research and development phase, which lasted 7 years: the system is able to decipher and read the terrain in 5 milliseconds and adjust the suspensions for the situation. Every little bump, hole, wrinkle, jump, change in ground will be predicted and the shock and fork will be adjusted in real time. This translates into maximum performance efficiency, especially in climbing. When the path flattens, there will obviously be a proportional hardening of the suspensions, while if the sensor detects the descent, there will be a softer setting, but always adjusted according to the surface of the ground.
But how does the RockShox Flight Attendant work? The system is connected to an App equipped with a useful tutorial and step-by-step instructions. The initial operation is to calibrate the system according to your weight: it can be done from a standstill and once registered, it is no longer necessary to do it. From this moment on, the system is manageable with the buttons on the fork itself: the three possible settings are Open, Pedal and Lock, going from the softest to the hardest. As we can imagine and as specified in the introduction, the “intelligent” system prevents or adapts in real time to the conditions, so it is capable of loosening if a deep hole is encountered in a compact terrain, or vice versa. Furthermore there are three modes: the Auto in which the computer is free to automatically change the settings during the ride, the Manual in which it is changed by the rider, and the Override. An excellent additional option is to be able to fine-tune the system: if by default the bias is 0, we can set it to +1 or +2 towards the Open position or -1 or -2 towards the Lock.
For the moment, RockShox has not published the prices of the product that can be purchased as a separate part. The manufacturers who will be using this system are for now Trek, Canyon, YT and Specialized and on average they will have a surcharge of about 2000 € compared to the equivalent model without the Flight Attendant. The Enduro models are favored, in the belief that the new electronic system will be more useful for long and varied trails, where maximum performance in all conditions is important, both uphill and downhill. The models equipped with this system will be the YT Jeffsy Uncaged 6, the YT Capra Uncaged 6, Canyon Neuron CF SLX LTD, the Canyon Spectral 29 CF LTD AXS, the Trek Slash 9.9 XX1 AXS Flight Attendant and finally the Specialized S-Works Enduro, the latter equipped with SRAM AXS drivetrain and AXS Reverb Dropper Post.
Advantages and disadvantages of the new system
First of all, many practical tests show that the performance is increased. Bikes equipped with RockShox Flight Attendant have a suspension system that works perfectly in all conditions, but especially on undulating terrain with short, challenging punches. Secondly, the ease of use and adjustment, with a very wide range. It takes time and practice to find the right set-up, but we believe this is an opportunity rather than a limit.
Moving on to the critical points, the first is the price, even if it is largely justifiable given the amount of technology and research used, and in any case destined to decrease over time. Weight might be a small negative, although around 300g doesn't impact too much on vehicles that are quite heavy in nature. The electronic buzz that distinguishes the change of setting while driving (in Auto mode) can be a bit annoying. Finally, a minus is the amount of batteries: as many as three that are respectively housed in the fork, in the crankset and in the shock absorber. This requires additional time in charging them.
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