New RockShox Flight Attendant first ride review

by and 5

RockShox Flight Attendant takes real-time information from numerous on-bike sensors and adjusts the suspension circuits as it deems fit.

This is the latest version of RockShox’s auto-adjusting suspension. You can find out all about the earlier incarnation – and the whys and wherefores of Flight Attendant in general – by reading our RockShox Flight Attendant review from April 2022.

Fundamentally, RockShox Flight Attendant takes real-time information from numerous sensors on a bike (now including power meters and AXS drivetrains) and adjusts the bike’s suspension compression damping circuits as it deems fit. At its fastest, the system can be tweaking things every 5 milliseconds. The latest version of Flight Attendant also learns as it goes. It claims to learn how you ride, how your fitness and speeds/skills are developing, and makes changes accordingly.

Flight Attendant-enabled forks and rear shocks essentially switch between three levels of compression (Flight Attendant does not adjust rebound damping). The three levels of compression are Open, Pedal and Lock. The Open position is for “big hits and rocky, rooty descents”. The Pedal mode is “supportive […] for optimal traction”. Lock is er, locked out.

Unlike cable-tied adjustment systems, Flight Attendant can treat the fork and the rear shock totally separately ie. it may choose to run the fork in Pedal mode whilst having the rear shock running Open, for scrabbling up rooty climbs.

It’s Flight Attendant’s lack of cabling, multi-level compression settings and its ability to learn how you ride that argubaly give it a trio of USPs compared to rival intelligent-suspension systems.

Some interesting things we gleaned from RockShox’s product information pack:

  • When Nino Schurter broke the record for all-time World Cup wins (34!), Flight Attendant automatically made 1,325 suspension changes in just under 90 minutes of racing.
  • During a testing session with their internal test team, RockShox found that Flight Attendant rider’s average speed was 1.8% faster when compared to those same riders using a manual system, so in a 90 minute World Cup XC race Flight Attendant could give you an advantage of 96 seconds.

There are a couple more aspects to the new Flight Attendant that we should go over: Bias Adjust and Adaptive Ride Dynamics.

Bias Adjust gives the ability to fine-tune how Flight Attendant reacts while in Auto Mode; you can push the system to favour the Open or the Lock positions.

Adaptive Ride Dynamics (ARD) requires a power meter, and a SRAM Quarq power meter at that. ARD collates data from previous rides to work out calculate your personalised Effort Zones.

What does this mean on the trail/race course? When your effort level reaches Sprint Zone, ARD encourages the system towards Lock position. When your output heads into the Medium Effort Zone, ARD trends toward a balance of comfort and efficiency. In your Low Effort Zone, ARD trends toward comfort and compliance.

RockShox models using new Flight Attendant

Fork: SID Ultimate Flight Attendant, SID SL Ultimate Flight Attendant, Pike Ultimate Flight Attendant, Lyrik Ultimate Flight Attendant, and ZEB Ultimate Flight Attendant.

Rear shocks: SIDLuxe Ultimate Flight Attendant and Super Deluxe Ultimate Flight Attendant.

Flight Attendant First Ride Review notes from Amanda

I haven’t got any previous experience of Flight Attendant, and prior to this release I didn’t really see a need for it. But for XC race bikes, it makes a lot of sense, and it would give such a huge advantage at race level that I wouldn’t be surprised if the UCI banned it. It’s extremely clever.

I only spent one day riding the new Flight Attendant but I got a pretty good example of its behaviour by riding in the two most extreme settings of -2 bias (for comfort) and +2 bias (efficiency). In -2 you have more travel more often, and it doesn’t take much bumpiness to unlock the suspension and it will stay open unless you’re ascending; for flat sections of trail it tends to leave the suspension open in this setting. The +2 setting makes the ride quite harsh on fast rough terrain and requires a bigger ‘hit’ to react. Those are the extremes, so -1/+1 would be a finer tune.

Translating that to ride quality, this quote from my Specialized Epic first ride review is mostly down to the Flight Attendant:

“Obscenely fast and responsive, with the Flight Attendant actively finding traction by shifting to pedal mode through the technical terrain that isn’t delivering really hard hits. You basically feel as though you’ve got the right bike for every section of a trail in a really enhanced way. It’s made to climb up steep ramps efficiently, it’s made to power through long slogs uphill at low gradient, it’s made to skip down the descent and soak up the small bumps whilst giving you the confidence to jump, or rail a berm, or ride through the roughest section of a rock garden because there’s someone in the way on the smooth line.”

Flight Attendant doesn’t seem to function based solely on what you give it (power/torque), it seems to be reading your intentions. It’s got my bike ready for a descent before I’m ready myself. I tried to trick it by shifting up on the approach to a climb, making the Flight Attendant believe I’m about to go downhill and open the suspension, but it would very quickly realise before I even began climbing, and locked the suspension back up. This behaviour in a racing format is going to give a huge advantage, it simply makes your bike so efficient.

The only negative in terms of ride quality is that if you have AXS gearing, the ‘zzpp’ sound from Flight Attendant matches your shifting sound, so in time I basically forgot to shift because I heard that noise and thought it had been done for me. I got very lazy, very quickly, and actually got to the point where I expected automatic shifting!

sram.com/rockshox

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Review Info

Brand: RockShox
Product: Flight Attendant
From: SRAM
Price: N/A
Tested: by Amanda for 1 day

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • New RockShox Flight Attendant first ride review
  • sillyoldman
    Full Member

    Oh God – make it stop!

    pnik
    Full Member

    @sillyoldman so you want ai brakes too?

    it’s very clever and all but not for me, even if I had the money. So many batteries

    t0mislav
    Full Member

    Why? Mechanical bikes are my reprieve from unnecessary electronic complexity. I would need serious delusions of racing greatness to consider marginal gains at this kind of cost.

    sillyoldman
    Full Member

    @pnik 😬

    folnjir
    Full Member

    I’d like to try it just to see what it’s like, but like you I have deliberately kept my bikes  battery free.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)

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