Aug 10, 2021
Exclusive interview with SRAM's Chris Mandell discussing the new XPLR line of product for gravel. We dig into the SRAM XPLR components, the RockShox REVERB AXS wireless dropper post and finally RockShox's new gravel suspension fork, Rudy.
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Full automated transcript (please excuse the typos):
SRAM - Chris Mandell
Dalton: Craig Dalton.
Hello and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host, Craig
[00:00:08] We've got a big show for you this week. So I'm
going to keep the intro short. I'm welcoming Chris Mandel from
[00:00:14] To the show to talk about the new explore
series just launched today, August.
[00:00:19] This is really three shows in one, as we talk
about grupos dropper posts. And suspension forks.
[00:00:25] I'm super excited to dive into this
conversation. I've been testing the products a few weeks down here
in Topanga, California. And really excited to bounce my ideas off
[00:00:36] And get his insights about the new XPLR
[00:00:39] So with that, let's dive right in.
[00:00:41] Chris, welcome to the show.
Mandell: Thanks for having
me. I'm real excited to be here.
Dalton: This is a
conversation that I feel is eight or nine months in the
Mandell: Yeah, for sure.
That's that's generally how these things go, your word developing
and working on products for quite a long time before they actually
make it out into the world.
Dalton: So yeah, I'm
really excited for this discussion and I'm super stoked that this
is on the day of the big launch. So if you're listening on August
10th, which is when this podcast is first released, SRAM has got
some things to talk about today. But before we get into that, I
always like to get a little bit of information about you as a rider
where you're living and how'd you get into the sport.
Mandell: Yeah. Thanks for
that. I've been a passionate cyclist for a really long time, my dad
did a bit of road racing back in the day and we always had bikes
around. Yeah. But I got distracted with American football in high
school, and then ended up going to college to play American
football and found really quickly in college that I did not want to
keep playing at that level.
[00:01:44] And so I stopped that and was really lucky in
that the town that I lived in McMinnville, Oregon had a small but
strong mountain bike scene. And the people there took me under
their wing and I started mountain biking with them. And then
eventually started working at the local bike shop Tony's and just
fully embraced it and was obsessed with it.
[00:02:02] And then after I graduated from college, I got
a job working full speed ahead, which took me up to Seattle which
was great. Cause there was ton of really good cross country riding
outside of Seattle, but there was also. A lot of like free side and
downhill riding. So at that point I branched and was, writing a
commuter to, and from work riding and racing cross country, race
bikes, and then also going up to the Whistler bike park and riding
that as much as possible kind of fast-forward became a product
manager at Kona bikes and developed full suspension bikes at cone
bikes for a long time.
[00:02:38] And then eventually made the jump to become the
rear shock product manager at RockShox. Which had me moved from
Bellingham where I was working for Kona, Bellingham, Washington to
Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had a great four and a half years
living in Colorado Springs, Colorado being really detailed, focused
on full suspension, mountain bikes and what it takes to.
[00:03:02] Tune shocks and developed shocks for OEM
customers like specialized or Santa Cruz. And then at a certain
point, unfortunately, due to some family reasons my wife and I
needed to move back to Bellingham to be closer to her family. And
so we, when we made that shift I switched over from working in
product development, to working on the PR side of things, which is
what has me on the phone with you.
[00:03:25] But in this, in a similar timeframe, we also,
I, had a child and I was getting a little bit older and I'd always
like commuted and like dabbled in, in rode bikes a little bit, but
I'd never really rode bikes. Never really grabbed a hold of me, but
gravel bikes started to grab a hold of me.
[00:03:42] And it was about that time about when I had,
when we had our child that I got a gravel bike and really started
riding one pretty consistently. Fell in love with a lot of what,
the early days of cross country riding, where for me, which was
exploring your local area and like finding the different nooks and
crannies and gravel roads and going to the places that you hadn't
been to before.
[00:04:07] But also really being able to like physically
push myself, on, on a mountain bike on one hour mountain bike ride,
you go up and then you come down, but on a one-hour gravel ride,
you're basically peddling your brains off the entire time. So like
the fitness side of that was really helpful for me.
[00:04:22] In addition to connecting with the original
spirit of what caught me in the cross country, mountain biking back
in the day. So yeah, and so now living in Bellingham and I started
that gravel journey in Colorado. Which is a really excellent place
for gravel riding, but now living in Bellingham, Washington, which
we're obviously very well known for our mountain bike trails and
the mountain bike trail network is super expansive between,
Galbreath mountain, which is the hill with a lot of mountain bike
specific built trails, right in town.
[00:04:52] And then the Chuck nuts, which is a little bit
south of town, which is more hiking trails with some bikes specific
trails, but a much bigger, longer area. But there's actually quite
a bit of graveling to do here. This area I'm actually mountain bike
got started here in, in logging terrain.
[00:05:07] It's all working for us in this part of the
country. And in order to have a working forest you have to have
fire roads. And so there's just fireworks roads running in every
possible direction. And then a lot of those thyroids have single
track connections to them. So you can really get out and go quite
far on your gravel bike from your door and have some pretty, pretty
amazing adventures and get to be able to see some pretty big
Dalton: Amazing. What do
the climbs look like in your neck of the woods? Are they long hour
long climbs? Are they short and punchy stuff?
Mandell: Yeah, it really
depends what really depends what you want. There's definitely like
hours long, slow grinding climbs, and then much to my
[00:05:48] Dislike. One of my favorite climbs around here
is this climate called pine the theater. And it's basically just
straight up the hill for about 25 minutes. And you're pretty much
searching for traction on your gravel bike the whole time. Cause
it's the climb. So Steve, so yeah, it's all of that.
[00:06:03] It's long slow slogging fire roads, and then
there's also just straight up the hill hiking or single track
Dalton: Nice. It sounds
like a great place for gravel riding. Cause it sounds like you can
pick and choose whether you want just a logging road that doesn't
have a lot of technical requirements, but you can also push your
limits on the single track and mountain bike style trails.
Mandell: Yep. Yeah, that's
exactly. I think that's exactly the case, like from my house is
about 12 minutes to Galbreath on a rails to trails, an old railroad
grade that they've converted to an inner urban trail. So I can take
that over to golf. Which is crisscrossed with fire roads and then
[00:06:42] And so I'll generally climb up single track and
then descend down the fire road on my gravel bike, because, my
perspective is a lot of the times like it's capable as a gravel
bike is do do having my mountain bike on the single track a lot of
the time, but it's like a great in terms of options and my
[00:06:58] And I'll always joke. Cause we can, you could
look down at the dirt here cause we get quite a bit of moisture in
a normal time and you can see how many people are starting to
gravel bike on the hill because you can tell the gravel bike
Dalton: That's amazing.
Yeah. I love that. I If you're in the fortunate position of having
both the gravel and a mountain bike and live in a place where you
can take all these different, make all these different choices,
it's so much fun.
[00:07:22] Cause you just pick and choose your own
adventure. I could go on and on talking and learning about
Bellingham, because it's an area that I've heard a great things
about, but we've got so much ground to cover with Schram's
announcement today about the Explorer series. And I'd love to get
[00:07:38] I think we'd look at the componentry first and
the wheels, and then we get into the hotly debated stuff that we'll
talk about later.
Mandell: Yeah, totally.
Yeah. I I think the round out the gravel side of things, the last
thing I'd add there is I think the other thing that's nice about
having a gravel bike and a mountain bike is you can get so much
more out of your mountain bike if you spend time on your gravel
bike, because your fitness just goes through the roof.
[00:08:02] And that's one of the things that's been, I've
been loving about having a gravel bike alongside the mountain
Dalton: Yeah. And I also
imagined, from, if I go back to my origin story and mountain
biking, riding orig rigid bike, there's a certain skill level you
acquire by learning how to pick your lines when you're riding a
[00:08:19] Or a lightly suspended bike as it were versus
when you jump on a full suspension bike, you can start off being
Mandell: Yep. For
Dalton: Yeah. So let's
talk about explore.
Mandell: Yeah. So this is
pretty exciting moment for us. It's really three, three of our big
brands coming together.
[00:08:40] In a way that we think is really going to allow
the gravel rider to have more complete experiences on their bikes.
So from the Zipp side we're bringing a gravel specific wheelset
from the SRAM road side of things. We're bringing a gravel specific
drive train, and then most new to the market would be on the
RockShox side of thing.
[00:09:06] We're going to bring a fork and a seat post
that are gravel specific into the market. And I think it's really
cool that these three brands were able to come together and make
this specific explore products collection. But I do think it's also
important to note that we still think our entire product line is
totally relevant in the gravel sphere.
[00:09:29] So we have this specific collection of products
that we designed for gravel use, but we have a ton of other
products that will end up on gravel bikes. And we don't think that
those parts shouldn't end up on gravel bikes. It's just, these are
the ones that we've specifically designed for.
[00:09:48] I'm sure there's someone who immediately heard
the word suspension on gravel bike and is already hitting the
internet to start a debate. We won't get into that listener. Don't
worry. I'm super excited. I've been riding the fork and I have my
opinions on, it's a super excited to talk to Chris further about
it, but Chris, why don't we start off with that?
[00:10:06] We'll set.
Mandell: Yeah. This has
been in the gravel market for quite some time with the product line
that we offer today, specifically the 303 S and the 303 Firecrest
both of which are excellent products for gravel riders to use like
their light. The internal width are appropriate for a larger size
[00:10:30] And they provide a good balance of
aerodynamics. However, we recognize that there's like a full
spectrum. Travel experiences out there. And there are people who
are going to push the limit a little bit more on the aggressive
riding side of things. And for those riders, they're looking for a
different setup in terms of, like balancing comfort and control on
the trail with aerodynamics.
[00:10:58] And so that really pointed us to what we're
already doing with zip on the mountain bike side of things, where
we have the zero three Moto rim, which is a single wall, not Mike
Ram that was designed to allow the rim to have what we call ankle
compliance. So the rim is able to work with the tire to provide the
rider with more control and conform to the ground better.
[00:11:26] As we have that have had that wheel in the
mountain bike side of things for a long time, we have a lot of
customers and a lot of interest in like bringing something like
that over into the gravel side of things. And so that's what we're
doing with with the 1 0 1 wheel set and really what it gives the
rider is the ability to have a wheel set.
[00:11:44] That's going to decrease their fatigue when
they're out riding because the rim is gonna work the terrain with
the tire in a way that allows the rider to keep the bike going in
the direction they're going to want and isolate the rider from a
lot of the vibrations and other like hits to the rider that are to
the overall bike system that would create fatigue.
Dalton: So is there some
sort of suppleness built into the rim? Is that what you're
Mandell: Yeah, totally. So
the way that the rim system is able to work is that the spokes are
run through the center of the room. And because it's not a box
section, then it's a single wall run. The rim is able to use what
we call ankle compliance.
[00:12:27] So when it sees a hit say on the left side of
the rim is able to move up and out of the way a little bit and
allow the front axle and the whole bike to continue to carry
forward, but give a little bit in a way that provides more comfort
and more control and becomes less fatiguing to the right.
Dalton: Gotcha. And that
27 millimeter wide internal profile is that wider than the 3 0
Mandell: Yeah. We've
actually got like really nice steps from the 300, three S all the
way up to the one-on-one. So the 303 is 23 millimeter. The 303
Firecrest is 25 and then the one-on-one is 27 inner. And really
that's just optimizing for those different sizes of tires that
you're going to have on there.
[00:13:15] You're able to use quite a small tire on the
one-on-one. But it's also going to give you a lot of good stability
on the larger side tire.
Dalton: Yeah. We've had a
discussion about that on the podcast before, and it seems like this
trend towards that 27 millimeter is really beneficial for the
gravel rider in terms of the contact patch of the tire and just how
the overall rim performs.
Mandell: Yeah, totally.
And I I think it's, it's preference in tires and it's there's so
many factors that go into what tire pressure you run with tires you
run and all that stuff. And I think, having options is good in that
space. And we really look at like the one-on-one.
[00:13:53] If you're looking to take on more challenging
terrain, if you're going to be spending long, long periods of time
in the saddle over, not so great conditioned paved roads or rough
gravel roads that extended period of time, but one-on-one is really
going to bring a lot to you because it's going to save a lot of
energy and it's going to, it's going to stop the vibrations and all
the things that fatigue you on a gravel ride from getting up to
Dalton: Nice. And for the
listener, I'll just note that it's available in 700 C and six 50
Dalton: Did you want to
talk about the G 40 exploratory?
Mandell: Yeah. Yeah, we
can mention that one real quick. So the G 40 is a tire that we've
offered for a while now, but we are rebranding it explored to fit
into the rest of the collection.
[00:14:45] And it's a pretty sweet tire. It's sitting
right there in the middle at 40, which is I think a very common
tire size for people to be using. It's got a nice center line
rolling tread, which is really great for efficiency, but then it's
got good, not too aggressive, but just aggressive enough cornering
[00:15:04] So you've got the grip in terms or when the
ground gets soft, you're still able to dig into those cornering
lugs and hold align really well. And then the thing that as a
mountain biker I really appreciate it is it does have a robust
sidewall, so you're not looking at getting getting flat tires that
Dalton: Yeah. Nice. Let's
move on to the driver.
Dalton: So tell us about
that. XPLR, drivetrain, and how it fits in you gave a little bit in
your opening about it, but just contextualize it a little bit
further and talk some of the details about what you guys are
Mandell: Yeah, totally. I
think if we look at where we're at with drive trains today, we
offer a 10 36 1 by drive train, and we offer and through the access
ecosystem, we're able to take our road hoods and connect them to a
10 50 mountain bike drive, train to provide, two pretty good
experiences for the gravel rider.
[00:16:05] The one by gravel rider looking to have either,
very lightweight set up with the 10 36 and tight gearing stuff. Or
with the 10 50, bigger gear steps, but a huge range which is
greatly beneficial when you're like waiting the bike down or living
in a place where there's really steep climbs.
[00:16:22] And you're looking to just go straight up the
hill, but for sure, we recognize that there's space in the middle
of it. And for us, the one by experience is really what makes it
makes the most sense on a gravel bike, where you're just looking to
keep things clean and simple and straightforward.
[00:16:40] Maybe he's got a dropper posts on your bag too.
That's a whole lot of thing, different systems that you're managing
on the bike and for the gravel rider, the one bike is a really good
solution a week, but we saw that gap in between the 10 36 and the
10 15. We knew that there were writers who spend time in the
mountains and need range, but also spent a lot of time on the
tarmac and the tight gear steps.
[00:17:04] And that's what brought us to this. 10 44
cassette and as well as a derailer that goes along with it and
allows you to have a one by specific trailer, which will shift that
10 44. And we're offering that trailer hat red force as well as
rival. So you can get in all three of those access price points and
really be able to complete your experience from pavement to
Dalton: Gotcha. So these
ones with the explore moniker on it are exclusively one by correct.
Mandell: are exclusively
one by, and a good way to think about that is when you're
developing a derailer, you've got to optimize it for the cassette
that it's running across. And then like how much chain it needs to
[00:17:50] So when you have a front derailleur system,
you've got to think about the chainring moving between two pretty
big sizes. So we changed the way we developed the cage and where we
placed the pulleys. So it helps us provide a better shifting
product and a lighter weight product. If we are able to divide
those up a little bit.
[00:18:08] So for this derailleur, we did end up making it
one by specific, and we specifically built it to work with a 10 44
cassette, but it does also shift a 10 36
Dalton: cassettes. Gotcha.
And for clarity, you mentioned this before SRAM’s other group PO's
are mix and match compatible. So for my friends like Jason at the
Gravel Cyclist who rides to buy all the time, you've got a two by
[00:18:35] That's totally suitable for the gravel
Mandell: Yep, exactly.
Yeah. And if that rider wanted to switch to one by specific setup
or maybe like dabble in it. Yeah. You could take those same
controllers and you could add one by rear derailleur to them and
they would work just fine. It would just be a matter of repairing
it to the new derailleur.
Dalton: Yeah. It's been
interesting. The demo bike that you provided to me, which is a
canyon Grizl, we've set up with a mullet setup. And while I've been
on SRAM on my personal bike for many years, this was the first
access bike that I've had for a prolonged period of time. So it was
fascinating to play around with the app pair, the different things
that were on the bike in the app, and just understand that system a
little bit more.
Mandell: Yeah. And it
seemed like it was pretty straight forward and working pretty
easily for you. And that's really what we're going for with this,
like we want to make this as user-friendly and. It just things like
the shift log logic, like it's very easy for you to understand in
[00:19:39] Oh, I pushed the left shifter to get the chain
to move left forward on the cassette. And I pushed the right
shifter to get it to move right on that cassette and all those
little details and all that little, like ease of use stuff adds up
to a better experience for everyone in the channel, from the person
who's ending up riding the bike to the bike shop and setting it
Dalton: Yeah, for sure.
And the fact that, and we'll get into the dropper post later, but
the fact that the dropper post and the rear derailleur are using
the same battery just gives you that comfort. Should you ever get
caught out of pocket? You can swap the battery around and give
power to the rear derailleur and take it away from your dropper
posts, for example.
Mandell: Yep. Yeah. And
that's a perfect example. I actually, probably because I was
driving around with my bike on my car the other day I had to do
that exact thing and it was totally fine. Took two seconds and I
was back out on my bike and riding again. And to, like the
batteries are real small.
[00:20:33] And so you can actually just get an extra one
and throw it in your pocket.
Dalton: The other fun
thing you told me, that was a mixed sense, but I didn't realize it
right off the bat was that there's a mini accelerometer in all the
componentry, so that it wakes up essentially when it's, when you're
moving and goes to sleep if it's in your garage.
Mandell: Yeah, exactly. So
the way all the access systems work is they add little, as you
mentioned, little accelerometer in them and to save power they go
to sleep, but they're like checking in and. When you grab your bike
and, move it out of the stand or wherever you have it set, those
components are able to wake up and immediately respond to whatever
you're trying to get them to do.
[00:21:15] And that allows us to save a lot of battery
life so that you're not wasting battery when the bike is just
sitting in the garage, but also allows us to immediately respond to
your needs as a rider.
Dalton: Yeah. And the
additional pro tip you shared with me is if you've got it on the
back or top of your car, take the battery out, put the little safe
plastic piece in there.
[00:21:33] So it doesn't think it's awake for your six
hour drive to a ride.
Mandell: Yep. Yeah,
definitely take that step.
Dalton: You mentioned. The
sort of mixed compatibility of explore group a with everything
else. And I definitely appreciate it as running the mullet setups
and having some components from the mountain bike side of your
lineup, everything visually works together.
[00:21:56] There's no standing out of the explore versus
the mountain bike side of things.
Mandell: Yeah. So we
definitely feel like the full suite of products that we offer
should all be able to come together and work cross-functionally as
much as they can. And one thing you'll notice on all of the explore
products is the explore.
[00:22:18] Call-out is pretty small and pretty subtle. And
I think your bike is a good example of that is a gravel bike. It
doesn't feature the 10 44 cassette. For you attend 50 was a better
solution, but you could actually have a 10 44 set up for that bike
and very easily just remove the cassette and the derailer and the
chain, and then add a 10 44 set up to it with the trailer and the
chain and the cassette, and then repair your shifters and go out
and ride that 10 44 setup.
Dalton: What's the
difference between the chains in those two setups?
Mandell: So the Explorer
10 44 drive trains use the flat top chain that we have on the
roadside. And then the mullet drive train that you're using the 10
50 and the Eagle rear derailer use a standard 12
Dalton: Gotcha. And not to
get too much in the weeds, but I was curious about this the way
SRAM’s, what are referred to as a magic link works to put the chain
[00:23:19] Is it true that you can pretty easily pop those
off and take the chain out?
Mandell: Yeah. So you can
pop those off and take the chain out. The one thing to keep in mind
with that is we don't recommend that you reuse that quickly. And
the reason we don't is if it's a press fit and that's what holds it
[00:23:36] And when you break that link, you will, you do
wear that pressed it up a little bit. So we don't recommend that
you reuse that quick link, but it is like a really easy way to be
able to take your drive, train apart without making your change
shorter or anything like that. And in fact, park tool and a few
other tool manufacturers actually make a tool that's specifically
designed to, install the quick link, but also on installed the
Dalton: Ooh, I might have
to take a look at those I, one of the things that tripped me out, I
was on a trip with some of the guys from VeloNews and saw that one
of them was riding access and in his bike bag, he had taken the
chain off and just remove the derailer. And it was just, he, in
fact, he traveled with the derailer in a separate bag, which was
just a trip to me when he pulled it out of the box and was putting
back all together.
[00:24:24] And it's just such a handy, protective way of
transporting the bike.
Mandell: Yeah, totally. I
do the exact same thing when I travel, just because, even with a
mountain bike, flying with a mountain bike that derailleurs like in
a vulnerable place and those bike bags, and it's not supported by
the rest of the system.
[00:24:42] And I actually do the same thing and take it
off the ticket off the bike. And, I'm able to put it in inside of a
bag somewhere else inside of my bike bag, which is a great way
Dalton: Yeah let's get
let's shift gears and let's start boiling some of the listeners
blood by talking about dropper posts and suspension.
[00:25:01] Let's start with the dropper
Mandell: One, one not to
jump ahead to our not to pull us back. But one thing I do want to
mention really quickly is we will we, in addition to the 10 44
cassette and the 10 44 specific red forest and rivalry trailers
that we'll offer for, with XPLR we will also offer a one by
[00:25:26] So same crank arms at the red enforce and rival
level, but it has a new lighter weight single ring, and it's
available on 38 through 46 sizes. So yeah, just quick touch
Dalton: way, jumping in
the suspension. Yeah. So let's talk about the access reverb dropper
[00:25:47] Yeah, so draw, look, this is no surprise to
anybody who listens to this podcast. I am pro dropper all the time
for almost every situation.
Mandell: And what do you
feel the dropper gives you when you're out riding your
Dalton: when I'm
descending and this descending is not just oh, I know I'm going to
be bombing downhill for 25 minutes.
[00:26:13] It's basically anytime I'm going downhill,
being able to lower the saddle ever so slightly and create a
greater area of space in my, underneath my undercarriage between my
undercarriage and the saddle enables me to corner with greater
confidence. Pretty much do everything with greater
[00:26:36] Yeah. And that's the same. That we would, when
we would speak to what you get out of a dropper post on the
mountain bike side of things it's the same situation because you're
able to move wherever you need to move from the front of the bike,
to the back of the bike without being obstructed by your seat post
or your saddle rather lends a huge amount of control to you because
you can waste the front tire as you need to, you can weight the
rear tire as you need to without worrying about catching yourself
on the satellite as you're making those motions.
Dalton: Yeah. And I like,
go ahead, Chris,
Mandell: you got
Dalton: When when I talk
about using the dropper post, I'm talking about it in not the
extreme mountain biking style stuff exclusively. I use it all the
time. So descending on the road, like I think the advantages are
there. When you do get into the hectic stuff and a local rider here
in Southern California tipped me off to this trail called horse
drop, which I finally hit the other day.
[00:27:39] And as the name would dictate, there was a
bunch of drop-offs. It was truly a hectic trail for a gravel bike,
but a ton of fun. And there's no way, I shouldn't say there's no
way it would be super challenging to do those drops with your
saddle fully extended and even using the 50 millimeter drop
[00:27:59] REVERB I had, it was plenty of space to get the
bike underneath me and allow it to come up to me as I was handling
Mandell: Yeah, that makes
total sense to me. And I think circling back to even in less
extreme terrain, it still makes a huge difference. Like you imagine
hitting the apex of a road corner.
[00:28:23] You're going to want to be in a different
position on your bike versus the way you entered the corner. You
have to move your center of gravity and your body weight around to
get the bike, to track well through a corner. And like any flat
corner on a gravel bike where you're trying to use a little bit of
subtle body English to move the bike through the turn.
[00:28:45] If you have to, all of a sudden, move from the
front of the bike, to the back of the bike and then raise your
center of gravity up to move your body up and over your saddle,
that's going to disrupt your grip on the ground. And I think it's
one of the advantages of having a dropper
[00:29:01] Yeah, a hundred percent. I think in my mind,
it's the number one upgrade in terms of how it will affect your
performance on the bike that anybody can do. So this post,
obviously rock shock has been making. Dropper posts for the
mountain bike sizes for a long time and has a full range there.
This REVERB AXS XPLR is in the 27 2 millimeter diameter.
[00:29:24] It comes in 400 millimeter lens as well as
three 50, the three 50 has a 50 millimeter drop. And I think the
400 has a 75 millimeter drop that. All correct, Chris?
Mandell: Yeah. The 400 is
actually available also in the 50 millimeter drop. So you can get
the 400 either in 75 or 15.
Dalton: Gotcha. And how
did you guys decide on those length drops as being what you want it
Mandell: Yeah, that, that
really came from riding these types of bikes around and thinking
about how much they needed and then listening to rider feedback on
how much they thought they needed. So it really was those two sides
of us doing our own work internally. And then listening to rider
feedback on it.
[00:30:12] And I think too, before we already get too
close to the tech side of things and, I think we just had a really
great conversation on the advantage of a C post. I can go from top
out to bottom out. When we were looking at the gravel market and
thinking about what we needed to bring to the table, we did not
think it was enough just to make a post that dropped, like for sure
that was going to be an advantage for the gravel rider.
[00:30:37] But we recognized that it was a different use
case and we needed to bring more to the table to get a gravel
rider, to understand the benefit of having a dropper post and want
them to take that leap. And so one of the things that we did with
is we actually Came up with a new internal design which allows us
to have what we call active ride for anywhere from top out to when
the seat post achieves full travel.
[00:31:06] So that means like if you move the seat post
and a millimeter, the seat post is giving you what we call active
ride, which is a bit of compliance in the post so that the rider is
able to stay seated through rough terrain and continue paddling
without having to stand up and get their butt off the
[00:31:26] So at full top out the post is rock solid, but
anywhere after full top out the C post features active ride. And
that is one of the things that we see as a huge advantage to a
gravel rider. Who's going to spend a ton of time paddling across
rough terrain, needing to stay on the gas and needing their butts
to stay on.
Dalton: that's super
thoughtful element of the design. If you think about riding across
stutter bumps or anything where you're going to be needing to
peddle being on the saddle, just being able to take it down a
millimeter, which is likely what you'd like. Anyway, you get some
advantage out of having a little bit more space there to have that
sort of suppleness built in is gotta pay dividends over longer
Mandell: Totally. Yeah.
One of the, one of the initial test riders for this post actually
set his, see post height a little bit too high, and then he would
just move the CBOs into the travel so that he was always riding in
the active ride position, which is a great way to do it for me
personally. I do having the, from top out and we think a lot of
writers are going to want that.
[00:32:34] So we actually, like just with the CBOs, you
get to have your cake and eat it too.
Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. I
think that for me, my setup's always been, I'm probably like that
rider and yeah. My I set my droppers up slightly higher, maybe ever
so slightly. So it feels comfortable early on in the day, but
oftentimes I find myself running it a little bit lower as a more
fatigued or just cruising home at the end of the day.
Mandell: Yeah. I totally
sad for me. One of the other things that I've really enjoyed about
having a dropper post on a bike too, is a gravel bike is just like
ease of getting on and off the bike because you do end up having to
get off your gravel bike in difficult terrain sometimes. And it's
helpful to be able to like, get the seat down before you finally
step off the bike.
Dalton: Totally agree with
you there. And for clarity for the listener, this is an access
product, which means that it has a wireless activation to
Mandell: Yep. Yeah. So
this lives in our active ecosystem. So again, it uses the same
battery as the drive trains. We were just talking about. And uses
the same communication protocol.
[00:33:40] One of the things that's huge advantage of that
is that it's, we leave it open to the end user in terms of how they
want to activate the system. So you can use a standard reverb
access shifter on a flat bar setup to activate this seat post on a
drop bar setup, you can use double click on the sh on the road
shifters to do that.
[00:34:05] And then if you have force or red shifters, you
can get one of our blips or multiplex and plug that into your
shifter and then use that to control your dropper posts. And then
lastly, you can also get a blood box and plug a multi-client or a
blip into that, and then use the blip blocks to flip the box, to
control the seat post.
[00:34:28] So there's a ton of options in terms of how you
interact with a post. Craig, I think you have double tap on your
bike right now. Correct?
Dalton: Yup. Yeah. And
it's, it's interesting. I was laughing with you the other day that
I found that I actually do have scenarios where I'm activating the
dropper post with one hand, which seemed crazy.
[00:34:50] Wow. We were talking about it, but I was out on
the bike again yesterday. And it's oftentimes where I am. I'd be
grabbing a sip of water while, beginning to start a downhill, not
a, on a fire road or something. And then I found myself
historically with my other SRAM bike where it's cable activated, I
would swing the left lever and drop my post in anticipation for
putting the bottle down and hitting it on the descent.
[00:35:15] So it's funny to get used to that. So I am
interested in trying the blip set up and I do think it's
interesting that the blip box exists. So if you're a writer that
maybe not be, is not on an access group oh. Today on your bike, but
is looking forward. I think. Investing in this product and just
getting the blip box so you can control it on any bike that does
not have electronic shifting is a good future proof system and
investment because when you do upgrade to the access shifters, you
can easily repair it and remove the blip box from the
Mandell: Yeah, totally
super good solution. And it's the flexibility that we're given
Dalton: Yeah. Any more
comments on the dropper posts that you wanted to relay to the
Mandell: Yeah. Yeah. I
think the last thing I would touch on there is obviously, we hit on
it's available in 50 and 75 millimeters of travel.
[00:36:12] And then three 50 and 400 millimeter lengths.
One of the other things too, to keep in mind with that C post is
that the rail clamps are compatible. I don't know a meter or
standard rounds or oval seven by nine. And then there is a separate
clamp available for seven by 10. So we have all of the rail
configurations covered in that oral as well.
[00:36:34] Gotcha. Pretty excited for the CBOs to get out
there and people will be trying it.
Dalton: Yeah, for sure.
You ready to make people really mad?
Dalton: So RockShox is
introducing their Rudy explore suspension fork for gravel bikes
Mandell: And I think, it's
interesting making people mad cause I think it's also good. I think
this is going to expire a lot of people too, if we go back to the
origins of mountain biking, there was some hesitation and even
moving to suspension in the first place on a mountain bike
[00:37:05] We kinda know exactly how that ended up not
suspension is the name of the game on a mountain bike these days.
And I think, from RockShox perspective and from where we're coming
to it, we look at any time a bike is getting off-road or even on a
rough road as an opportunity for suspension to play a role and to
really allow for more comfort and control and traction, which at
the end of the day can equate to more speed or can equate to more
[00:37:37] And I think, we're all really riding our bikes
at the end of the day to have more fun. However, you slice it's on
me winning a race. That's what it means, but it means you need to
go faster. So from the RockShox perspective, we looked at that and
that was really what drove us to develop this part.
Dalton: Yeah, it's clearly
a natural place for part of the market to go. And I think you and I
would be the first people to state that it's just part of the
market, just as we've seen a trend towards bigger and bigger tires,
wider handlebars, all these different configurations that riders
around the world are discovering to customize these gravel bikes
for their local terrain.
[00:38:18] No one will sit here and say that bigger tires,
wider handlebars suspension forks are for everybody. There's
certainly vast parts of the country and world that riding without a
suspension fork. And in fact, riding a glorified road bike is
totally suitable for the gravel in your backyard, but as someone
who rides mostly in Marine county or here in Southern California in
the Santa Monica mountains, like I'm really embracing this product
and seeing some huge advantages, just five or six rides
Mandell: Yeah. From our
side, we don't think there's a wrong way to gravel every time
someone's getting on their bike and taking it from tarmac to
gravel, to single track, and then back onto the tarmac, like that's
their experience. And as a components manufacturer, what we're
really looking to provide users with is the ability to tune their
[00:39:22] So the best that fits what they're trying to do
and what's fit their needs. I think one of the things that's really
interesting is with, and it's it's not totally unique to grab the
gravel space, but it is like an interesting thing that's like
pretty pure in the gravel side of things is you almost really build
[00:39:39] You can build your bike really to you. Where
you're lacking. So if you do you, aren't a good defender, but
you're a great climber, that current for today, like that would
point you to putting much bigger tires on your bike and trying to
get more traction and get more control and a dissent just by, by
putting bigger tires on your bike.
[00:40:00] After today, that rider is able to go back to a
smaller tire and use suspension and use a dropper post to get a lot
more control in those situations where they feel anxious, because
they don't necessarily have the confidence to, to be taking their
bike down, down horse drops or whatever it is but using suspension
and using a dropper post is another way to get that control back
into the writer's hand and regain calm.
Dalton: exactly. I feel
like I, the more and more that I advise people on how to get, how
to purchase a bike and how to think about what gravel bike makes
sense to them. There's all these levers that you're pulling. And it
comes down to where you're riding, as you said, what your comfort
level is and descents.
[00:40:46] I can't tell you how many people I see out
there who just are exceptional going uphill, but the moment they go
downhill, they start to get terrified and really tense up and,
white knuckle, the handlebar, and really have a bad experience on
the bike. Whereas adding some elements of suspension, whether it be
this fork or larger tires or suspension stem, like all of these
things help alleviate some of those challenges, if that's where
you're deficient as a cyclist.
Mandell: Absolutely. And
the Rudy. So the fork we're bringing is part of the Explorer
product line is called the Rudy. And it really is. Bill with the
gravel cyclist in mind in terms of providing more grip, getting
more control into the rider's hands and allowing the rider to save
their body for later in the ride and for pedaling and providing
much more control and steering confidence in Russ stuff.
[00:41:46] But honestly, even just bombing the regular
tarmac road in America, you're going to get a better connected
front tire to the ground and you're going to be able to carry more
speed through that.
Dalton: Yeah. One thing I
can say, and this is probably the least controversial thing I'll
say all day is unequivocally with this fork on your bike, you can
go down a hill faster.
[00:42:07] So if you think of yourself as a six out of 10,
in terms of descending skills, I think you've automatically bumped
yourself up to a 7.5.
Mandell: Yeah, that's
great. I love him.
Dalton: Yeah. And then I
would say that, I did play around a lot with the lockout. Totally
bombed, totally locked in. So if I was out on the road with this
fork it's pretty easy to reach down.
[00:42:29] I think just because of the geometry of gravel
bikes, it was actually easier to reach down and reach the lockout
lever than it was on the mountain bikes that I've written recently.
And very easy, obviously to swing it back the other way I tended to
climb off-road with it open because I've found that having the tire
just be able to roll over the things that were coming in front of
me was advantageous even on the climbing.
[00:42:52] And I, I did not feel like I was losing a lot
to set the stage for the listener. We're talking about 30 or 40
millimeter trout as the travel options in terms of what this fork
provides today and tire clearance up to a 700 by 50.
Mandell: Yeah. So that's a
good jumping off point to talk through some of the spec details on
[00:43:16] So as you mentioned, 30 or 40 millimeters of
travel is an air spring. And as an air spring that was specifically
developed for the Rudy. And our vision with this air spring was to
keep this air spring really supple and sensitive off the top so
that the writer's hands felt good on the bars. And they were able
to have good traction.
[00:43:36] We also knew that we didn't want to have it
bottoming out harshly at any point during the ride experience. So
there's a big bottom out bumper in this fork, which catches it in
the second half of the travel and really provides a lot of control
as you're going towards Baltimore. The other, another feature
that's really specific to this gravel and I think shows how much
attention we were paying to the needs of the gravel road.
[00:44:04] And we've got two different levels of vendor
compatibility. So we have a short fender that we make and sell that
bolt-on with three bolts to the arch of the lower leg. And then the
fork features threaded holes at the bottom of the lower leg, which
allow for standard full coverage vendors to Mount onto this fork as
[00:44:28] And so no fender, a short fender or for the
winter riders, full coverage fenders. We really tuned that in for
the gravel experience.
Dalton: Gotcha. And from a
visual design perspective, I found the fork to be as subtle as it
could be. Obviously it's got telescoping legs and it's, it is what
[00:44:49] But I do find as you're glancing over the bike,
it's not sticking out like a sore thumb in any way in my
Mandell: Yeah, that's
great to hear. I think we spent a lot of time and effort in the
work on this fork, refining it and making it as light and free
moving as we possibly could so that it had the best suspension
performance and the lightest weight package that we could get on
[00:45:15] But we did pay attention to the fact that it
was going to end up on mostly carbon fiber gravel frames, and it
needed to have a clean aesthetic to it. And so we did spend a good
deal of time looking at the existing carbon forks were out there on
the market today, knowing that we wanted to build this fork in a
traditional magnesium, lower leg, aluminum, upper tubes and
aluminum crown fashion, because that provided us with the most
opportunities for re refining the overall performance with four, in
terms of weight and sensitivity.
[00:45:49] And so we really spent a lot of time on that.
So it's really great to hear that from you.
Dalton: Yeah. Awesome. And
you've also got some OEM partners that are you're working with on
this today, and I'm sure more will be dropping in the coming
Mandell: Yeah, totally. So
we definitely have had a lot of OEM interest in uptake on this
product, the canyon is one of those partners and they will have
models dropping with this fork on it.
[00:46:14] And we're pretty excited that they're working
with us on that front. There will be numerous other OEMs who are
out there also dropping dropping bikes featuring this product and
the full product line. Yeah. I
Dalton: think it's going
to be important that riders are able to test and take a look at
these products and getting them out there on more bikes and
hopefully bikes that might be out there and demo fleets in the
future will be great because I think it's it's
[00:46:39] Bike performs with this fork on it. You think,
you might think certainly if you have a mountain bike background
that certain things are going to happen, you're going to experience
certain things in a certain way, but it's clear that you guys had a
ground up mentality to make this fork fit.
[00:46:54] Gravel bikes.
Mandell: Yeah. Yeah, no,
totally. I think that's an important thing here. That the RockShox
is invested in improving the rider's experience on the trail or on
the road. And we know and understand that like when we build a
cross country fork, that means that we need to be laser focused on
the needs of the cross country riders.
[00:47:18] And then when we build a downhill race fork, we
need to be laser focused on the needs of a downhill racer. And we
brought that same approach when it came to developing the Rudy and
developing the Rudy as a hyper-focused. Gravel product. It doesn't
mean that we didn't pull from our experience on the cross-country
and Enduro side of things.
[00:47:42] We definitely pulled from that heritage space,
the damper. So the thing that provides control on compression and
control on rebound in this fork is a scaled down gravel specific
version of our race day damper, which you find in our Sid and sit
FL cross-country race corks. And that was really, and we developed
[00:48:08] It was really a revolutionary, super
lightweight, but very high performance in terms of the control it
provided in open and then the way the lockout function. And we took
that damper and we scaled it down. And tuned it to the needs of the
gravel rider. Both in terms of the functionality for rebound and
compression performance, but also just made that thing even lighter
than it was before.
[00:48:32] And that's the hard work and the nitty gritty
details that we put into the forklift, into the Rudy to make it
specific for gravel.
Dalton: Nice. I want to
revisit something you commented on earlier. Cause I do think it's
important. It's going to be interesting to see over time. Just the
idea of suspension forks, helping with overall rider fatigue,
obviously as you're going down super technical stuff, like it's
immediately apparent what that looks like, but I also think it's
going to be interesting over time that as we see these forks on
beneath riders who are tackling 200 mile gravel events, et cetera,
To see how they're walking away from those rides in terms of how
their upper body feels and how that equates to their overall time
and experience on these long courses.
Mandell: Yeah, totally. I
remember a conversation that I had with Meg Fisher he's an
ambassador for us. And it was right when she found out that we were
making this product and she was ecstatic on the phone. Cause she
was telling me about how, in some of the longer gravel races she
does, she ends up with blisters on her hand from the amount of like
bumping and just like carnage.
[00:49:46] That's getting transmitted from the road up
through the entire system, to, to our hands on the bike. And she
was really excited about trying to Rudy because she felt like that
this is a way that she can isolate our hands and the rest of her
body from those rough vibrations. Even on just a gravel road, race
Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. Now
it's going to be interesting. Right. And I, I'm always encouraging
event organizers to add more sort of off-road technicality to their
courses. Cause I just think it becomes more interesting when you
see writers of different disciplines excelling in the events. I'm
always a fan of the mountain bike background guys and girls doing
well in these gravel races because of their technical skills,
because I think they should be rewarded and course designers should
continue to push those limits.
[00:50:39] So I do think it's going to be super
fascinating to see when we start seeing these Rudy forks underneath
riders and who they are, are they elite athletes trying to gain a
competitive advantage on a particular course? Or are they the rank
and file athlete who is just looking to have a more pleasurable
experience and less fatiguing experience over these long
Mandell: Yeah. I think
without a doubt, you're going to see all of that. This, what this
means for a rider is less body fatigue because you have less energy
coming up from the road into the rider and you have more control as
a rider. Your tire is going to be stuck to the ground more often.
And that increase in control will give the rider more confidence
and enable them to have more fun on their ride and allow them to
push harder, allow them to go faster.
[00:51:31] If they want to go faster or have more fun that
the speed that they're going. And then the other thing, and I
touched on this a little bit in the last one, but like more
traction means that it's going to the bike is going to predict or
is going to handle it in a more predictable fashion. And you are
going to know more often than not where the front tire is.
[00:51:54] You're going to be able to get it to where
you're going. And you actually touched on earlier. Like obviously
that plays a role in the sense, but even on, challenging climbs
being able to keep your front wheel exactly where you want it to be
is pretty important. And this fork allows for that, even on the
Dalton: the final area I
wanted to explore with you is just the use and sale of this fork in
[00:52:20] So you've mentioned a number of companies are
building kind of ground up designs around this fork, but what about
the many listeners who have a bike that was designed prior to this
date and time, and prior to the knowledge of the Rudy fork
existing, how should they think about the changes in geometry they
might experience when running one of these forks?
Mandell: Yeah, totally.
Just re I'll run through a couple they, aftermarket detailed side
of things. So as you mentioned, it will be available in 30 or 40
millimeter. The Rudy fork will be available in 30 or 40 millimeters
of travel. It will come in 45 offset. The come in two different
colorways that will come in like a gloss black or what we call
quicksand, which is which is a tan colored product that fits with
our overall explore product line.
[00:53:10] So what do you want to consider as you're
looking to upgrade your existing bike with this fork is in most
cases, it probably will resolve and that increase in the axle, the
[00:53:24] That is something we want to watch out for, but
it's something, the thing that we think is actually a benefit.
Gravel bikes today are built around the idea that you're going to
be changing your tires around. You're going to be, maybe trying six
50 and then, or using 700.
[00:53:40] So there's a whole lot of flexibility inside of
the existing gravel frame. And there may be a result in an increase
in actual crown versus the rigid fork that you have on your bike
today. But in our testing so far, what we've seen is people
appreciate that and the handling of the bike because of the added
suspension element improved versus a rigid fork on the bike.
[00:54:04] You do want to check with your manufacturer to
make sure that their warranty covers having a suspension product to
the frame. That's a good first step to do, but really at the end of
the day, It's a matter of you decided that suspension is a good
path for you. Riding out on an existing demo bike or taking the
plunge and adding it to your friend it's available in and 1.5, our
inch and a taper to 1.5.
[00:54:29] So you're looking at needing to have that head
tube on your
Dalton: bike as well. One
of the things that we had discussed offline was, in my particular
case, I tend to run, I couldn't say off the top of my head, but a
fair number of spacers underneath my headset. And as this fork will
naturally lift my head to about higher.
[00:54:48] The very on-point suggestion you made was if
you take those spacers out and slam the stem lower down in that
stack, all of a sudden you mitigate some of the rise in handlebar
Mandell: Yeah, totally.
And that's a really easy one to do, you just take it. The actual,
the crown of your existing for today and subtract the actual, the
crown of this fork.
[00:55:12] And that's how many space or, whatever that
number is. It's 10 millimeters. You just, move 10 millimeters of
spacer from underneath your stem to above your stone.
Dalton: Yeah. That I think
on my personal ride that would effectively be completely possible.
And I think that's interesting.
[00:55:30] And I think the point around, the changes in
handling being pretty subtle, it's worth noting, but it also is
worth noting that, your riders have not really commented much on
the changes in geometry, on the bike.
Mandell: Totally. And I
think, another important aspect of that is keep in mind, like these
gravel bikes are built with a lot of this in mind.
[00:55:51] We, I run 37 C tires all the way up to 45 C I
have run all the way up to 45 C tires. The same gravel bike, so a
lot of these bikes you're switching from like pretty big changes
entire sizes. And that's what the bikes were built to accommodate.
And it's it's no different on the fork side of things.
[00:56:11] Yeah. Yeah.
Dalton: And anything else
on the fork that you wanted to share, Chris?
Mandell: I think that
covers it pretty well. You made the point about 700 by 50 being the
tire clearance. And I think we've touched a lot of the points. I'm
really excited for the Rudy. And I think it's going to be a, I
think it's going to Herald the new age in the gravel
Dalton: Yeah. I share that
enthusiasm. I think it's good for the market. I think there's going
to be a lot of debate online about the existence of this product
and what it means, but I guarantee that over time, People are going
to see the advantages of a product like this. And we're going to
see more and more bikes come straight out of the factory with
suspension built into them because the advantages are super high
for a lot of different types of riders in the gravel market.
Mandell: Absolutely. And
even with this product out there, like not every bike is going to
end up with a Rudy on it, but the bikes that do end up with a Rudy
on it is going to open a bunch of doors to a rider that would have
been shot previously. So I think, there's no wrong way to gravel.
And if this is something that makes sense to you as a rider,
because you have the defense is a place that you struggle or on
longer rides your stand start to hurt, or you just want to be able
[00:57:29] Keep up with your friends a little bit better
or drop your friends in certain instances, this is a great great
way to have a little bit of fun on your, a little more fun on your
gravel bike and add a little bit of capability. And, we didn't, I
touched on this a little bit, but this is one of those things that
can allow you to run a smaller, lighter tire because you don't need
to rely on the tire as much as you were previously and what other
doors can moving and trying suspension unlocked for you.
Dalton: Yeah. I had that
in the back of my head, cause we had talked about that earlier and
I hesitated to open yet another can of worms around tire sizes, but
point well taken like all these advances in technology. Whether
it's the fork that dropper posts, et cetera, they're all changing
things slightly and changing the considerations for any individual
rider says, you said what might have driven me to a 50 millimeter
tire previously, I may be able to draw back on that because I don't
need the suspension elements of the fork, all sorry of the
[00:58:27] All of a sudden I'm getting that in the fork.
So it's yet another thing as we've talked about time and time
again, there's this long spectrum. And I think it can, it's even
getting even longer today between a road pro plus style of gravel
bike and something that's very, off-road, iSTYLE gravel
[00:58:44] There's not a definitive solution. That is the
best for everybody across the world. But to your point, very early
on in this conversation, SRAM RockShox zips. You're trying to be
there for all those riders and give them a wealth of compatible
componentry to build the rigs that are going to make them stoked to
Mandell: Exactly. Yeah. I,
we are cyclists at strand and we are having the same writing
experiences and want to have the same range of experiences. And you
can just see that easily from our locations. The team in Chicago
has thoughts. The team in Colorado Springs has thoughts. The team
in San Luis Obispo has thought the team in Vancouver, British
Columbia has thoughts.
[00:59:30] The team in Taiwan has thoughts the team in
Germany, out of Sox and all those come together and really push us
to make products that allow writers to have full breadth of
Dalton: Chris, thank you
so much for all the time. Congrats on the explore launch. Super
excited to get this out.
Mandell: Thank you so much
for the time.
[00:59:49] And I'm really excited to hear more about your
rad experience on that bike.
Dalton: Big, thanks for
Chris for that long detailed conversation about the new XPLR series
from SRAM, super excited about what they're bringing to the
[01:00:03] Natural. I'm particularly excited about the
[01:00:07] To be an exceptional product for some. for
everyone, but I think it's going.
[01:00:14] And I'm confident it's going to continue
pushing the gravel industry forward.
[01:00:18] As always thank you for your support of the
podcast. Dot or even become a member. ride to make a one-time
www.theridership.com. I t's a free
global cycling community for adventure and gravel cyclists. Deals.
Until next time here's to finding some dirt under your