NAILD r3act stem and fork front suspension for commuter cyclocross road and gravel bicycles

Imagine if you could all but erase not just bumps, but vibration, too, from your commuter, road, cyclocross or gravel bike. That’s the promise of the new NAILD R3ACT front suspension.

It’s named for Newton’s third law that says every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and this particular prototype is made for flat bar road bikes, but designer Darrell Voss has bigger plans for it. It’s not really a stem suspension or a fork suspension, it’s both, and it requires a rider’s weight to be on the handlebars for it to work.

Voss explains that in the auto industry, they want about 10x the weight of the wheel:tire combo in the structure immediately surrounding it in order to properly deaden vibrations before they reach the driver. On a bike, that ratio isn’t practical, so he faked it by isolating the handlebars from the fork via a leveraged connection between the stem and the steerer tube. Press down on the frame and it barely moves. Put your weight on the bars and it absorbs bumps smoothly and easily…

NAILD r3act stem and fork front suspension for commuter cyclocross road and gravel bicycles

There have been several options over the years, including Softride’s parallelogram design, the recent Redshift Shockstop, and the very old Klein Mission Control (which Voss helped design and clearly inspired this one). He says traditional suspension stems have been designed to soak up big bumps, but this one’s made to handle big bumps just as well as killing road buzz by also incorporating fork movement into a carefully controlled system.

The design is capable of 40-60mm of travel from handlebar to ground. Or it could be less, say 30mm for a pure road bike. The parallelogram design keeps the handlebar level as the suspension moves through it’s travel, which becomes more important the longer that travel is, otherwise it could end up rolling around enough that your hands lose some grip. It’s pressed in as part of the arm reaching down to the parallel link, and it rotates on large headset bearings.

NAILD r3act stem and fork front suspension for commuter cyclocross road and gravel bicycles

While it looks simple, it’s actually quite an engineering feat. It uses a double steerer tube – an outer one that is the actual steerer tube fit into the headset bearings, and the inner steerer tube is pulled upward as the stem is compressed. It slides inside a large bushing at the bottom and is constrained by the pivot points at the top, so friction is minimal. You could think of it as the fork pushing up and causing the handlebar to sink a bit, or the handlebar’s travel causing the stem to pull the fork upward. While not an exact analogy, think of a floating suspension where the rear shock is captured between two moving links (like on the new Trek Top Fuel) and you start to get an idea of how this feels.

NAILD r3act stem and fork front suspension for commuter cyclocross road and gravel bicycles

The actual suspension is provided by an elastomer that’s pressed into the frame and can be changed for body weight. The top of it is recessed into the head tube, so the lower headset bearing sits about a centimeter or so higher than normal inside the head tube.

NAILD r3act stem and fork front suspension for commuter cyclocross road and gravel bicycles

All in, Voss says it’s only a 200g or less weight penalty. Because it’s an entirely integrated front end, this will be more of an OEM offering than aftermarket upgrade. And Voss already has OEM customers lined up for flat and drop bar bikes from well known bike brands. It’ll be a premium addition to the bike, not a cheap upgrade at first, but as the fork legs and handlebars switch from carbon to alloy, it’ll come down.

If it seems like an overly convoluted system to add just a bit of cush to a bike, you’d be missing the point. The action is incredibly smooth, and incredibly controlled. Standing and hammering doesn’t create any unwanted bobbing under your shifting weight. And on my test rides, it cut vibration and rattling over storm grates by at least 2/3, and when riding directly into a 2-3″ curb (about what a nasty pot hole would be), it just absorbed it completely. The effect could be far less rider fatigue from the drastic vibration reduction and safer commuting on rough streets. And for gravel and ‘cross? It might just be a dream come true.

NAILD-flat-mount-brake-mounts-with-cooling-fins02

He also showed off new flat mount versions of his ICEIT brake mounts, which integrate with the fork to create a firmer mounting platform that dissipates heat better so it can’t affect the resins used in carbon forks. Check out the originals along with the new NAILD locking quick release thru axle system in this post.

Naild.it

27 COMMENTS

  1. All that complexity for at most 60mm of mostly un-dampened hand suspension and a very slight movement of the fork. Honestly you’d be better off lowering tire pressure or adding another layer of bar tape. It’s cool to see innovation, but this isn’t really new. That 30mm Lefty makes more sense than this.

  2. @AlanM: considering my boxxer won’t absorb it completely, I also have a hard time believing that claim. I guess adjustments are going to be different because a 3″ curb is probably the worst case for this, where a bike with actual suspension would have to deal with worse…

    Still, I’m probably “missing the point” but I have a really hard time seeing what this is going to do that a short travel suspension fork wouldn’t do better. The only upside I see is cost and/or weight, and it says this isn’t going to be cheap (and in the bike world, when someone actually says that, you know they mean it)

  3. @Biff – Indeed. I can’t for the life of me see how this is be superior to Lauf’s system when purpose-built into the same bike. I guess I’m part of the ‘missing the point’ crowd mentioned in the article.

  4. The point is that at such a small weight penalty, this actually provides detectable movement and shock absorption that’s properly isolated. Sounds perfect for Paris-Roubaix. Obviously, this is the first complete iteration that the public has seen, so there’s still room for improvement. When a system like this is sold to OEMs, there’s a lot of possibility for change.

    If a fluid damper and air spring were used instead of an elastomer, I think it’d be a bit better. With modern steerer tubes, there’s certainly room for it.

  5. i like the elastomer solution
    my car has ‘topout’ bumpers that look like the same stuff … and definitely take the edge off while i drive!

    compared to a lefty other ‘road’ suspensions … this looks relatively less complicated.
    bushings and elastomers need very little upkeep.

    sign me up for a test ride … way more informative than an armchair quarterback’s perspective

  6. “i like the elastomer solution
    my car has ‘topout’ bumpers that look like the same stuff … and definitely take the edge off while i drive!”

    Wow

    Just wow…

  7. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO >>> suspension stems belong in hell ! i still have nightmares from when my original girvin flex (pox) stem let go while hitting a speed bump on the road and i did one of my most awesome face for brakes landings.

  8. How does a system with 40-60mm of travel completely absorb a 2-3″ curb? I’m optimistic that this could be sweet, but c’mon… That math doesn’t even work.

  9. OR…..
    Install two independent parallelograms attached to either side of the stem. Then both hands could be vibration free independently.
    OR…
    If the jolting is that bad so regularly use a different trail
    OR
    Stay at home.

  10. Pros would have to be seen using this, and / or, a few huge bike companies would have to make this a stock item on high-end bikes, in order for it to sell. Whether it does what it is intended to or not, a cleaner look would make it more appealing. As it is, I do not see this taking off.

  11. All – FWIW, I rode the stem over all bumps I could find, including a 2″ curb (both directly into it and off it), over sewer grates and other road imperfections and it was very impressive. The big bump absorption isn’t complete -you still feel it- but it takes a big chunk of the load before it reaches your hands, which can be the difference between losing control or not, particularly if that bump catches you off guard because you’re looking around for traffic and such. The biggest plus I noticed was in the vibration damping…those storm grates and other bumps simply melted away. Worth a try if/when it makes it to a bike near you.

  12. I think a lightweight, 40-60mm travel, suspension for rough gravely race courses would be really nice. The Redshift stem looks nice too (actually its looks are a lot nicer), but I think the extra travel of this Naild stem/fork combo would be useful if you’re going fast on a choppy course for hours… otherwise, just soak it up with that wonderful suspension in your arms and legs.

    Also, I’m guessing it’s significantly lighter than the Cannondale Lefty Oliver road suspension fork –and it looks a mighty lot better more elegant that that thing (though the Lefty is cool in a pogo stick meets bicycle kind of way).

    I’d like to test ride one of these.

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