dave-weagle-in-workshop

Following Ibis’ recent release of the all-new Mojo HD3, which uses a fifth generation dw-link suspension design, I got to thinking: How exactly does Dave Weagle go about improving a suspension platform that’s already so well received?

So I asked him.

His answer is long because there’s so much to it, and it’s different for every bike. After all, his companies have licensed or designed suspension systems to Ibis, Pivot, Turner, Evil, BH, Devinci, Salsa and others, all of whom make very different types of mountain bikes. So we started out talking generalities before diving in to specifics, using several different bikes as examples.

Weagle’s designs go beyond the popular and more widely known dw-link and Split Pivot. He also developed the Delta System, which is owned by Evil, a brand that Weagle started with friends, then sold and now consults for. Split Pivot and dw-link are technologies he created, and are both run as separate corporations who have their own customers.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your role with the companies you design for?

WEAGLE: Sometimes it’s limited to suspension licensing, sometimes it’s consulting on geometry and sometimes I get to develop a complete bike’s geometry and suspension as a whole package. It’s not often I get to do all of it together, but it sure is fun! Of course, if everybody let me do that, everyone’s bikes would look like mini-downhill bikes! So, variety is good, because not everyone wants the same thing.

Although I license technology for each of my partner’s bikes, I really enjoy the design aspect, so one licensing requirement is that I personally develop all suspension kinematics for all of my partner’s bikes. It’s a great creative outlet, and one that I get a lot of enjoyment out of. I like to say, “No one product can be everything to everybody.” I like mocha and you might like vanilla. That only means that we are both right, and we both like ice cream. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with having a preference and it’s a lot of fun helping such diverse brands actualize their preferences through the technologies I’ve developed. I pretty much have the best job in the world.

Evil Uprising Linkage Non Drive
The Evil Uprising trail bike using the Delta suspension technology.

BIKERUMOR: Where do you start when it comes time to update a design or suspension technology?

WEAGLE: I’m constantly trying to improve my products and my processes. I’m my own worst critic, and I’ve always tried to be as critical as possible of my own products, test riding on dirt, running a huge amount of data acquisition on both my products and my competitors’. To support that, I have a huge investment in infrastructure – with an EMA shock dyno and lots of other testing equipment. I’m always trying to learn, trying to find the holes, and trying to find how people are riding differently. People are riding way differently now than they were five and ten years ago. And I’ve got to think a minimum of two years forward.

BIKERUMOR: How does that work with a company like Ibis?

WEAGLE: For Ibis, let’s go backward in time a bit. The Ripley was an interesting project. Back in 2005 or 2006, after the design of the Mojo was done, I looked at dw-link in relation to other suspension platforms out there. There’s a lot of creative marketing in the cycling world, and there’s some suspension physics claims that make me cringe. But I looked at the dw-link and thought this was the only platform at the time that could actually make a really light, high functioning full suspension road bike. A fatter mountain bike tire can mute suspension feel or fool the rider a bit, but not the stiffer tires on a road bike. So I approached Ibis and started a conversation with a few concepts, more variations than just what you see on current products. Ibis liked the idea and played with it and it ultimately became the Ripley.

There, they told me what the geometry would be, they knew exactly what they wanted, so I developed the suspension and the basic visual layout of the bike. Those two items are typically necessary to develop concurrently in a project this complex. I think that the end result was awesome and it’s a unique bike and suspension concept that I’m really proud of. (Ed. – check our Ripley review here)

The Ripley's concentric pivot system is totally unique.
The Ripley’s concentric pivot system is totally unique.

BIKERUMOR: And that bike (Ripley) took a record amount of time to actually come to market, going through three or four complete overhauls and redesigns as trends changed during its development! But with the Mojo, it was already using your dw-link, so how did you improve upon it for the new model?

WEAGLE: Every iteration builds on the last. For the Mojo HD3, it wasn’t Ibis coming to me dictating what they wanted to improve. Rather, I looked at it and said ‘Here’s what I think we can do better.’

It wasn’t hard to make it better. After all, I’d made several iterative steps in the dw-link design since the first Mojo was introduced somewhere around 2006. And you could even think of the original Mojo HD as a second or third generation product since it built on what I’d done before with other bikes. They pretty much gave me carte blanche given my track record.

So, for this one, I looked at today’s riders. Riders are putting so much more energy into the bikes on every day rides today, so the bike has to be able to handle that. And drivetrains have changed, with almost everyone riding 1x groups now, so the suspension could be optimized around that. We still make it work with a double up front because there are those extreme use cases, but for most people why would you ever put a front derailleur on there?!?

2015 Ibis HD enduro mountain bike DW link suspension
The Mojo HD3 with the fifth generation dw-link design.

BIKERUMOR: OK, so what in particular is better about this latest version of dw-link?

WEAGLE: Hmmm…How can I answer this without telling the competition how to make their products better? (laughs all around).

To get specific: Some of the major improvements go around the interplay between different dynamic suspension characteristics that you feel simultaneously. It’s how things work together while your pedaling or braking and hitting bumps, because none of that stuff happens separately. These are things that every rider on every bike feels, but would be nearly impossible to isolate without expert analysis. Using all the data at my disposal, I could find refinements that reward the way riders are using product today. Not only are they global system improvements but real improvements for the rider, things that you can feel and use on the trail. Let’s face it, everyone likes more traction.

BIKERUMOR: And it’s continually iterating…you’re already working on tweaks for other customers. You were out testing bikes with another brand last week when we first spoke.

WEAGLE: Yup, rider testing is a huge part of product evaluation and refinement, and an area where I have a great deal of experience. It’s a critical step in making each product the best that it can be, but that’s not to say one brand’s bike is better than the other, it’s about refinement. That could mean optimizing the system as a whole, or to make it work in a special way for my licensee’s goals for a particular model. That way there are dw-links, Split Pivots, or Deltas to fit every type of rider’s styles and preferences. It’s nice to be able to cater to such a wide cross section because it only makes the riding experience better for more people.

BIKERUMOR: And for Split Pivot?

WEAGLE: I’m always thinking about continuous improvement, and Split Pivot is its own company, with its own technology used on different products and licensed by different brands. In terms of partners, one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed is some additional consulting work done with Devinci to develop Stevie’s World Cup race bikes. That work is something that you’ll probably never see on a production bike, but it’s a heck of an opportunity! It’s so much fun working on bikes for that level of riding!

dave-weagle-orion-suspension-technology-motox-1 dave-weagle-orion-suspension-technology-motox-2

BIKERUMOR: What’s next?

WEAGLE: I’ve been working on a couple of really exciting new things, but what’s next is something that’s been in the design process for some time now. Orion is a 4 bar linkage design that’s enjoyed patent coverage for a while now but that I haven’t offered in mountain bikes. I originally developed it for motorcycles and didn’t really want to license it in cycling to keep my options open in the motorcycle industry. I felt like Orion was close to moto implementation a couple times, but projects stalled, as is the case sometimes with such radical innovations in companies who are established players in longstanding industries. The Orion design does some impressive things with a single front sprocket drivetrain (chainring in bike terms), and with the prevalence of 1x drivetrains in mountain bikes now, the time may be right for a roll out in the mountain bike market. I can’t talk about the timing or potential licensing partners quite yet, but it’s definitely something that I’m evaluating and talking with people about.

BIKERUMOR: Exciting! So, what really motivates you to get out there and create new designs?

WEAGLE: To me, suspension is at its best when it’s most transparent. When you don’t have to flip a lever. Or it’s not throwing you off a line, or bottoming out, or anything else stupid that’s avoidable. When you can make a climb or a tricky off camber that has stymied you in the past, that’s where it gets good.

Ultimately, I love that I can use physics to improve a sport that I love. I love that I can put my mind to helping people to be out there having fun and being healthy. That’s the goal here. So every new version has to be better than the last, to improve the experience for the rider, myself included.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Something tells me Specialized wouldn’t allow him as much creative freedom as he gets from smaller, high end companies…

  2. There are many rigs out there that are using short dual links to success. I have become a huge fan of Banshee’s KS-link over the past year and I think it’s interesting that the new HD-3 is most similar to it albeit a clevis mount is driving the shock instead of the swing arm itself. I have never liked the feel of any DW-link bikes (I have ridden multiple iterations of them), but love the Banshee. Maybe with the new Ibis resemblance to Banshee, I’ll dig it more. Then again, why spend the extra dough?

  3. Drive him away from the “big red S”!

    The Orion concept really sounds and looks interesting. Seeing as the “single chainring” setup is here to stay (at least for a few years) it would really make a difference. And thinking a little bit outside the box, Orion would likely promote cleaner, more moto-like bike designs. That would be awesome!

  4. Too much marketing hype and pseudo-engineering mumbo jumbo. He makes decent designs, but they are not magic, and all the self promotion is annoying.

  5. Can anyone explain the difference of the DW Link compared to my Trek Remedy suspension and am I missing out on a great ride not being on the DW or other (what does Santa Cruz use).

    • I’ve ridden Trek, Specialized, Scott et al. Currently using Turner Sultan Dw Link and so far the best suspension design for my type of riding. To describe the ride with rear shocks (Fox Float) full open all the time.
      Seated pedaling: flat/ climbing
      -hard with heavy gear= no squat/bob, feels like hardtail.
      -high cadence with light gear= minimal to almost no bob.
      -traction is AMAZING on technical climbs with roots, rocks, roots due to its active suspension.

      Off the saddle pedaling/ sprinting/ clearing the steep climb:
      – bobs more than when seated, but I realized this bob shows that the suspension is active and is very important for the amazing traction on climbs.

      Summary:
      The suspension works best when seated, no bob even with rear shocks open but still very very plush. I can really notice the firmness while pedaling, it’s almost like a hardtail. But amazes me how it can be uber plush and pedals without that dreaded bob at the same time. No more flipping levers to lockout.

  6. To sum it up.
    Expect an Orion based bike soon.

    BTW- If you go to the patent website and look at the Orion patent. You’re head will explode.

  7. If you ever get the chance to hit the dirt demo at Interbike, you can ride them all. I’ve done this a few times and DW link bikes seem to me to be one of the best. Go ride a Santa Cruz or Intense then ride a Pivot. To me all the bikes climb great and descend great but there was something about the Pivot that was more fun to ride… hard to explain but it manualed better, etc… Seemed more active and playful w/ no penalty to climbing. This is a good example of a DW link design that has been through many revisions. Each design seems to get better each year. However this my option and my riding style so yours might be a different conclusion.

  8. @Matt,
    Trek uses a single pivot swingarm that drives the shock with linkage. The rear wheel swings a constant arc based on the main pivot location.

    DW uses the two links attached to the rear triangle. The links create a virtual pivot point. The location of the pivot moves throughout the suspension travel. The trick and advantage is to adjust that point to control forces from pedaling and reduce bobbing.

    Research ‘four bar linkage’ and ‘instant center’ to lean more.

  9. second Von.
    Ride a bunch and determine what works for you.
    Nobody is being handicapped by any modern, decent mtb, properly fit and sorted (and designed for the intended riding).

    I have a DW Turner Sultan. I like it. But there are other bikes I’d like just as much. (a main component for me was supporting US manufacturers where I can)

    I’d have loved a blind test where one can’t see the make or suspension design. I think the results of that would surprise many.

  10. Not sure who he is working with on Orion, but that rolling chassis in the mock up is clearly a KTM/Husqvarna chassis. Just saying.

  11. I take issue with the comment that front derailleurs are for extreme circumstances. Not here in Colorado. Everyone I know that rides has at least 2 chainrings. You need them for the big all day rides.

  12. Mindless sees Weagle as I do. His shoulder mist be sore from patting himself on the back so much. Also, I’m with Jeff and Greg, double chainrings are for people who ride big.

  13. Dave is a super nice guy if you knew him. Maybe someday if you meet him you see for yourself. Also he has a business and business’ need promoting. Either way he’s one guy making good for his career, brands who work with him and people who ride the designs.

  14. +1 for Mindless and Jeb.

    “There’s a lot of creative marketing in the cycling world, and there’s some suspension physics claims that make me cringe”.

    That’s exactly what I thought reading or hearing some of his interviews (no, not in this one thought).

  15. Dweagle is a good engineer and a fantastic marketer. He understands suspension better than most, but he understands the customer better than virtually all. People want acronyms and patents and things that are hard to understand; “it just works better!” the dentist says as he pedals away. The one thing that holds true is that if you can afford a DW designed bike, you know it will work well.

  16. I think that Weagle makes some great products and has a great attitude. A couple of you need to give the guy a break. How can he answer the questions? Say that the bikes he designs are crap? Come on, what else should he say? I didn’t really read anything that sounded like “technical mumbo jumbo” either. Keep up the good work, Dave!

  17. I’ll second my Jeff on double chainrings. Plus, I like the single front drop or shift up when transitioning to a climb or descent. Seems to put me closer to the perfect gear quicker than running up a cassette.

  18. I so would love to go work for this guy, & try glean a least a little of the wealth of design expertise he has. You can hardly buy a bike suspension that wasn’t designed by him, or influenced by one of his designs. (Big red S notwithstanding.)

  19. To everyone hating on 1x drivetrains… Weagle says it himself, every bike is different; he designed the mojo hd3 with 1x in mind as it suits it’s intended purpose.

  20. I’ll third Jeff on double. It’s steep where I live. Even though I love the idea of single front (I currently run SRAM X11), I’m going back to double front for the long grinders on my next build.

  21. Weagle was once a strong multi-ring advocate, even claiming that rear suspension may never have succeeded had it not been for the fortunate side effects of shifting rings. Now he pretends no one even uses them. According to him, 2x and 3x were crucial to suspension design.

    Of course, the unique properties of DW-Link in the original Mojo days, those which he claimed made DW-Link so great, don’t even exist in his designs today. He’s obviously a bright guy and a fine engineer, but he’s prone to the same promotional BS as everyone else. As designs evolve they look more and more like each other. DW-Link is simply a brand (and a patent), not a technology.

    It sure seems like this interview was written by DW himself. Was there really a BR guy asking these questions?

  22. Living in the French Alps, i’m also on the multi-rings bandwagon.
    I tryed a 26T front ring with XX1, wich was ok for the steep climbs, but to short for the flat to downhill valley commuting between mountains…
    Have you seen the pros at the EWS changing rings between stages ? This is ridiculous.

    I found a nice use of the single ring transmission on my light hardtail for rolling terrain, where i can climb using strenght.
    On my next “mountain” bike, where small gearing is needed for long steep climbs at altitude, i plan on installing a multiring with a single command Di2 on full suspended.

    By the way, tired of waiting for D.Weagle to relase a 130mm+ carbon 29er… i’m planning to order a Trek remedy carbon…

  23. Vincent- You are a wise man.
    Before you order the ripoff DW SplitPivot Trek or a ripoff Giant.
    Wait for a little while longer. I suspect there are several in the works as everyone realizes 27.5 wheels are a poor substitute for 29″ wheel attributes especially now that there are great high strength and stiff wheels for 29ers now.

  24. @Chasejj, one wheel size does not fit all. I’ve spent enough time on 29 to see the pros, but also feel the cons.

    29 is terrible for play riding and technical riding that borders on trials. They don’t wheelie as well and the extra moment of inertia (rolling and lateral) really slow down rapid transition moves for riding that I and many others like to do.

    I am not claiming 650b as the great savior. But since it is set to all but replace 26″ in nearly all trails bikes, it is the best option for people like me who value fun/play riding more than pure speed and the “crutch” effect that the wagon wheels allow.

  25. Chader- I totally agree on the 29er not for everyone opinion. I have and continue to put out there that 26″ are fantastic. The fact is 27.5 vs 26 argument is a non starter. They are far too similar to even bother making a move in wheel size if that is something you are considering. But as I have found 29″ is a significant change in style, efficiency and characteristics. So much so that a wheel size change is a real difference from 26/27.5.

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