February 23, 2010
Dave Weagle: ‘Seven Minutes of your Time’ by Marcus Farley.
US designer Dave Weagle is one of the biggest players in the mountain bike world. Although still a relatively young man, he’s already had an incredible history that includes stewardship of the e*thirteen brand, as well as being the most prolific developer of cutting edge mountain bike suspension systems, holding the patents for both the dw-link and Split Pivot. In addition, although no longer running the Evil brand, he has provided them with his patented Delta suspension system. In an insightful interview, he discusses amongst other things his 2009 achievements, his empirical testing processes and what to expect from him and his various partners for the 2010 season and beyond. And, for the secret motorcyclist in you, he also tells about his patented Orion suspension system that he hopes will revolutionise motorbike suspension.
You’ve had a busy year, what were the highlights for you?
This year was a great one for testing, and I feel like I learned quite a bit through that dedicated testing. I spent a substantial amount of time working with new downhill chassis (Evil Revolt, Turner DHR and a Split Pivot prototype from a soon to be revealed partner). I did a lot of my own data acquisition and testing, plus plenty of XC testing with new dw-link and Split Pivot models and the next generation of air shocks. The new e*thirteen line was released this year too, and with 18 of the top 20 UCI Elite men on the systems, there was a lot of communication to make sure everyone was dialed. It was great to see Sam pilot the SRS+ to the WC overall, and of course Peaty winning worlds, especially on the LG1+, was pretty exciting.
What’s in the pipeline?
The Split Pivot bikes will make their market debut from multiple partners, plus plenty of new dw-link models including one that’s been in the pipeline for over two years and uses a pretty interesting layout that I’ve never seen before in bikes. It’s always exciting to blaze a new path, I just wish it took less time! There are a lot of exciting things happening in the dw-link and Split Pivot world with the addition of new partners, models, etc., but unfortunately I can’t talk about a lot of this stuff—it’s up to my partners to reveal their plans when they are ready (recent additions include Seven and Spooky, ed). It’s tough sometimes to keep so many secrets, but I’ve had years of training! Hah.
On the component side of things, I’m excited about the new SS+ and LS1+ chain retention systems. They weigh significantly less than the competition’s top end product and cost HALF at retail! Previous pricepoint devices on the market have been pretty poor performers, and many riders know the frustration of dealing with losing chains. Our hope is that we can help more new riders get into the sport that we love by making it more affordable to have a great time on the bike. Also, the new XCX systems for XC and Cyclocross have been really exciting along with the return of colorways chainrings and guides. Our e-mail has been going nuts over the new colors we showed recently, and they should be in stores this December.
Bicycles help us reduce our carbon footprints, how carbon neutral are your production facilities?
This is an area that is very important to me. My company e*thirteen manufactures all parts locally in the USA to reduce shipping energy waste. We use all recycled packaging, and even our products have been designed to be 100% recyclable. Also, all of our products are 100% RoHS and REACH compliant, which means that they are manufactured with no hazardous materials. This is a difficult and time consuming thing to achieve, but we felt that it was important to take the extra effort and internal cost to make this a reality for e*thirteen products. (http://www.rohs.gov.uk/). Even our building was chosen for its efficient use of heat and natural light.
Looking back on your career so far, what was your most innovative design?
Tough one, you know, overall I’d have to say dw-link was pretty big because in my opinion it really cut through the marketing BS of the early 2000’s and improved the riding experience in a way that almost every rider can appreciate on the trail. Without trying to sound like a marketing man, dw-link was the world’s first (and is still the only) suspension system to recognize the effects of load transfer and use a position sensitive anti-squat response to balance them. The end result was that it ultimately increases traction while conserving energy at the same time—all without the need for complex damping circuits or any real rider interaction. This gives riders a lot of flexibility to set their suspension up the way that they like it, plus it’s a true “set it and forget it” system, something that makes riding better for anyone using the design. The use of impact absorbing materials and designs for e*thirteen’s bashguards has to be a close second, although not as complex. When we brought the thermoplastic Supercharger design to market in 2000, we were basically ridiculed. We knew that the idea worked and stuck with it. Two years later, even Shimano was using the thermoplastic idea. The impact flexure designs that we applied for patents on in the mid 2000’s built on that original impact absorbing idea, just using flexure technology that I originally designed into prototype tactical robot wheels in the early 2000’s (I worked for the US DOD before bikes). Who says that military technology has no place in bikes?!
The coolest product you saw at Interbike/Eurobike was?
An electric motor mounted axially in a seat tube and driving the cranks through a bevel gear. I thought that it was nice packaging and industrial design to keep the bike looking like a simple hardtail design but still incorporate the propulsion system. Electric bikes are a lot of fun, but let’s face it, many of them are pretty goofy looking. This one looked simple, normal, I liked it!
If you could have developed one product (either within the bicycle industry or outside) what would it have been and why?
New ideas come to me every day, and hindsight is always 20-20. It’s easy to look back and say what-if, but I try to look forward, so currently I am working on implementing my recently patented Orion suspension system onto a motocross chassis. Linkage (wheel, not shock) suspensions are long overdue for motorcycles, and I’m going to do my best to illustrate the performance advantages of a properly thought out and implemented design. Not to mention, it looks awesome!
Have you ridden the new Evil Sovereign? how does it compare to your design, in your opinion?
I haven’t yet! Too much suspension testing I guess, but I’ve heard that it rides great, and from what I know of Tange tubing and have seen of the geometry (not to mention the glowing reviews that I’ve read) it sounds like a winner for the guys at Evil and I’m happy for them.
How much riding do you get to do a week?
Typically 40-50 miles of XC suspension testing and a day of downhill testing on Saturday. Like most of us, I’d ride all day every day if I had the time.
When are you coming to the UK next and what do you think about the UK market compared to your own or the rest of the world?
I’m not 100% sure when my next UK trip will be. I have lots of friends there that I would love to visit/ride with, but I keep pretty busy here in the USA. I grew up on the East Coast USA, lived in Boston for 10 years, and now reside on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, so I think that if there is anywhere in the world that’s as close in terrain and mindset to the UK, this is it. I think that this has something to do with why many of the products that I’ve been involved with have been so well received by UK riders. What works in the rocks and roots here in the Northeast works well in the UK also.
Where do you like to ride?
I fell in love with riding when I lived in Boston and rode the technical trails of Lynn Woods (Lynn, MA) and Vietnam (Milford, MA) regularly. The XC rides there are part aerobic explosion, part brute strength climbing, and part trials, with some twisty steep chutes thrown in if you dare—a total blast. The island where I live now has a massive trail network, hundreds of miles really, and the terrain is great for long XC rides although not as technical as I would like, but it’s perfect for suspension testing. I ride at Highland Mountain in New Hampshire all the time—that’s where I do the majority of my downhill testing—and of course Whistler is amazing. I also really like the riding out by Temecula, CA where Turner is and South Mountain in AZ (Pivot country) is a blast, although getting up at 4AM to beat the heat can be rough at times. All in all I’m pretty happy on my bike wherever I am.