Mountain bike suspension has just been automated with the debut of the RockShox Flight Attendant

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Technology is about solving problems. Every startup investor tire puts this right in front. What is the problem your company or product is solving? What pain does it treat? Is it a vitamin or a cure? Is it a burning or mild pain? There are countless problem metaphors to meet market needs.

This is the approach I took in testing the new Flight Attendant suspension technology from RockShox, which is part of the SRAM family of brands. By cutting straight to the chase, this is an automated system that adjusts both the front fork and rear shock in real time to optimize for fun, handling and pedal efficiency. Clearly, this achievement is easier said (and written) than done. SRAM invested most of a decade in developing this technology, so it’s definitely worth exploring the mountain bike pain that Flight Attendant addresses and whether it’s worth the investment.

My stewardess-equipped bike arrived about a month ago, which was perfectly timed for the Park City riding season. In fact, the best time to ride the Wasatch Mountains runs from Labor Day to the ski season. It’s also a time when the elevators at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort are still running, as the fall colors begin to light up the canopy in a blurry breeze of yellow, red and orange. I also took the bike down to Moab, Utah, which proved to be the ideal test site for this new technology.

SRAM sent me Specialized S-Works Enduro LTD ($ 12,500), which is pretty much the biggest bike you will ever want to pedal. It is a 29er with heavy treads and 170 mm travel front and rear. The wheelbase is huge, and when I filled the Specialized SWAT compartment (under the bottle cage) with a spare tube, CO2 cartridges and tire plugs / handles, it weighed 35.5 pounds. It is not easy. To put it in context, my 200mm downhill bike (Santa Cruz V10) weighs a little over 34 pounds. Of course, Enduro LTD has a wide range of gears with AXS electric gearshift, a RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post and a few extra batteries to power the Flight Attendant suspension. It is a much more versatile bike with almost as much downhill capacity as the V10. But you’re expected to step uphill … at least sometimes.

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The Flight Attendant system consists of four or five key components, depending on how you look at it. First, the system’s brain lives in the fork and is powered by a standard AXS battery, the same as that used on the rear derailleur and seatpost. The rear shock also has an AXS battery and is synchronized with the fork. The left gearshift, which controls the drop post, has an additional handle to manually control the suspension. And finally, there is a sensor in the crank and an inclinometer. If you keep points, there are four AXS batteries for a bike with this configuration.