A Nanaimo engineer’s mountain bike design tackles tough terrain, but has yet to cut a trail to an assembly line.
Chris Hudec, a senior project engineer with Lewkowich Engineering Associates, started studying mountain bike rear suspensions in 2010 and discovered he could improve on existing designs.
“Riding around here you’re always climbing something,” Hudec said. “Climbing is hard so anything that makes climbing easier is always beneficial and I was pretty sure that I could come up with something that would perform very well and probably better than most of the bikes that were currently available.”
Rigid frame mountain bikes – commonly known as hard tails – have one primary advantage over their full-suspension counterparts. They don’t flex and waste energy being transferred to the rear wheel under the force of each pedal stroke. Full-suspension designs compensate for this condition – referred to as pedal bob or acceleration squat – by allowing the rider to lock out or stiffen the suspension when climbing.
“Mine doesn’t need anything,” Hudec said. “So that means the shock is open and able to respond to bumps and trail irregularities and you don’t compromise the suspension by having to slow the shock down to deal with pedalling bob.”
Hudec had two prototypes of his LJB suspension design – he won’t say what “LJB” stands for – built by Surrey-based Yess Products and has so far filed patents for the design in Canada, the U.S. Europe and Australia.
Riding on level ground the bike feels like a conventional full-suspension bike, but start to climb and you suddenly feel the bike’s rear end stiffen under each pedal stroke. Stand up on the pedals for more power as the trail gets steeper and the bike feels like it’s practically propelling you up the hill. Local riders who have ridden report similar experiences.
Jesse McGarrigle, a B.C. Cup cross-country racer who teaches mountain biking and guides excursions in Nanaimo, was surprised at the bike’s climbing performance and that it was also smooth on descents.
“When I got on it I expected it to climb like a sluggish full-suspension, but it climbed like a hardtail,” McGarrigle said. “I was amazed. It felt like it added traction to my climb. It was crazy.”
“I had it for about a week,” said Dan Brady, who has 10 year’s experience as an aggressive cross-country rider. “It’s a good climbing bike. He did a good job.”
Now Hudec needs a major manufacturer to start mass-producing the design.
“I hope somebody picks it up and puts it in production because I want one,” McGarrigle said.