Interview: Chris Porter – ‘The bicycle fork is so close to its design limit’

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Chris Porter recently made the trip up to Singletrack Towers to deliver a bike for the bike test of Issue 123 of Singletrack Magazine. Since he’d come all that way, we thought we’d make the most of his time, so after a  quick lunch and discussion which ranged through politics to celeriac and the best veg to grow at home, we sat down in front of the cameras for a bit of a chat. You can watch the edited interview here, or if you prefer to read your words rather than watch them, read on…


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Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

Comments (21)

    Dual crown 36?

    Specialized e150, anyone?

    I think you could usefully do a whole magazine issue around this gentleman’s thoughts on the industry.

    Interesting stuff- thanks.

    CaptainFlasheart: Reminds me of the “Firestarter” upgrade kit for the Judy DH a million years ago

    So we’re all riding dangerously over-engineered forks? I don’t know anyone that’s snapped one recently.

    Always an interesting read. If only more people who have influence over products had a similar take on quality and common sense design.

    I agree with him. The survival of the telescopic fork is amazing.

    A bit like the derailleur – a triumph of refinement over logical design.

    And both are very good these days, but just imagine if the same amount of resources had been devoted to other suspension designs.

    “So we’re all riding dangerously over-engineered forks? I don’t know anyone that’s snapped one recently”

    He said the opposite of that, forks are under engineered ie flex, binding and creaky. I can verify this having had the CSU of all 4 of my last forks creak badly.

    I could listen to Chris talk all-day
    Often misunderstood as being arragont instead I see him as being passionate about what he believes in
    I’ve never met him but would love to meet and chat to the guy
    I serviced a pr of 36,s belonging to a pmba ambassador and I found a custom shim stack in there .I didn’t know who had done it .I then rode them and they blow me away .when I returned the bike and commented on they were the best forks I’d ever ridden .the ambassador replied oh yeah they’ve been fettled by Chris porter .

    He is misunderstood but he always seems to talk pure sense to me. I have always found his customer service to be exemplary and he goes out of his way to get your bike to feel right. Often he has fettled things for me or sold me new stuff at well under what he could charge.

    I wanted a Geometron. So I went and saw Chris to talk things through and look at sizing. As has been said, he is passionate! About bikes, about suspension and about life. I was there for over two hours, and could have stayed longer. I’ve now got a Geometron G16 with the EXT shock in it, and the rear end is incredible. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to go back to an air can shock, it really is that good. I’ll be interested to see how Barney gets on with the test bike.

    I suspect a Geometron would not be the bike for me, but this interview made me want one anyway As for telescopic forks I have heard the arguments replayed time after time in the motorcycle world and they make a lot of sense – but there have been numerous atttempts at an alternative – Elf, Hossack, Yamaha and loads of others, but after forty odd years of development almost every production motorcycle still uses telescopic forks…

    Always worth stopping and listening to Chris Porter. Great interview

    I met Chris up at ard Rock a few years back and our group of riders got chatting away, he is oppionated about a lot of subjects but boy does he know what he is talking about. I ended up buying a second hand mojo g16, it took a good month to get use to the bike (as you have to change your riding to the bike) but I am so impressed, wished I had of bought new just to get a day setting up it up properly with the guys from mojo/mojo uprisings

    ““Speed sensitive damping that will give you a plush initial stroke but ramp up to resist bottoming out. So ramp up how? Is it a more progressive damper curve in terms of generating disproportionally higher forces at higher speeds, typically not because that will give you something that becomes quite harsh and very unsupportive initially or is it something that ramps up towards the end of the stroke, obviously that is impossible (for speed sensitive dampers)? You cannot use any combination of shimstack that actually gives you less resistance at the start of the stroke than at the end of the stroke (you can of course use other types of damping setups to do this, eg internal bypass shocks”.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7veBt1Maj8

    So who is right? Porter, or Steve an Vorsprung?

    I love my geometron, and despite the no pannier mounts on a geometron, I’d find them pretty useful for bikepacking 🙂

    @raybanwomble I think Chris is commenting more on frame design than dampers, saying that all bikes should be designed with a progressive leverage curve, the dampers themselves can have basic predicable speed sensitive valving. A progressive frame linkage design will create disproportionately higher spring and damping forces later in the travel (i.e. for a given shaft speed there will be more damping force closer to bottom out). Contrast that with a linear frame design, sure you can throw some spacers in the air chamber to create a progressive spring feel, but regardless the damper forces for a certain shaft speed will be the same at the sag point as at bottom out.

    I think Chris talks a lot of sense, but I do have a few issues with some of his thoughts. I think a lot of his reasoning is based around big, heavy riders. Being 5’9 and 65kgs I’ve never really had a problem with forks flexing, and I ride quite a bit of technical stuff. Ditto with really long bikes. It’s always seemed to me that bikes have been typically too short for taller riders, but not proportionally so for those lower down the height spectrum. Having ridden Mondrakers, I find the long reach a bit cumbersome, especially when jumping and riding tight stuff.

    As has been said, if there was some sort of silver bullet answer to solve the problems of telescopic forks then why is this not being used in the highest levels of two wheeled motorsport? (As an aside, I can’t recall riding any bike and thinking ‘wow, the rear (linkage suspension) feels so much better than the front (telescopic)’.

    JP

    A GeoMetron isn’t just ‘long’ though. A Mondraker is very different with a long Front centre, shorter rear and much steeper HA. Yes Geometrons are longer but also much slacker which changes the steering characteristics with a different front rear balance to typical geometry, even the more progressive end of them, the CS is typically longer, your body is placed in a different position naturally which again affects how the bike handles.
    They are also not just for tall or heavy people, I was very involved in the project and am also only 5’10” and 67kgs, my daughter is 5’2” and 45kg and riding one happily, to the point ‘typical’ bikes feel less intuitive and less ‘safe’ to her.

    All that said, and yes of course I’m a fan, it doesn’t mean to say you will like it or that they are defacto better. Just that it helps to understand why we arrived at the design when you ride them to get the best out of them, particularly if you are used to more typical designs and geometry….
    But you still might not like it. That’s ok

    Hello
    I’ve recignise a guitar
    it’s seems acoustic yamaha-cgs102a
    https://musiety.com/yamaha-cgs102a-review-half-size-full-value
    Am I right?

    People who don´t get the telescopic fork argument, he didn´t say you cannot design good telescopic fork, just that there isn´t one. Why? Because manufacturers got their priorities wrong (to be honest, it´s mostly what market wants what they make, lighter and lighter forks with more and more travel, more stupid design standards that no one needs or asked for and are not solving any real design issue). Chris obviously wants every part of bike to work as good as it possibly can, what´s wrong with that? So many people seems to complain that their extremely overpriced forks creak, yet if someone made fork which would have all the features needed to work very well, no one would buy it, because it would weight I don´t know, 500g more than what FOX or RS markets as the best fork out there… Forks are getting lighter mostly because we are using very small amount of oil in them, using air springs instead of coil(both of those means modern forks need more maintenance than older forks needed and still when it comes to sensitivity, most people who tried old school marzocchi forks with coils and open bath dampers would say they worked better and lasted years without having to service them, not that they wouldn´t benefit form service obviously) . Running magnesium lowers on pretty much every single performance fork out there is another easy and cheap way to make forks lighter. But…Magnesium is just too soft material to allow sliding bushings, so we have fixed ones. So yeah, it´s not that it isn´t possible to make damn good telescopic fork, it is, but no one would buy it, people are stupid like that sadly, Oh, and as far as I remember, his favorite fork of all time is telescopic fork, USD Mojo X1.

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