Tested: Quarq ShockWiz

Suspension tuning made simple

Quarq is a company that makes electronic widgets for cycling. It’s best known for its power meters that measure a rider’s power output, but Quarq has taken on a new form of data acquisition that’s specific to the mountain bike world—suspension tuning. The mission for the designers is pretty simple—make reliable, lightweight and aesthetically pleasing or “invisible” electronics that can deliver useful information all while remaining durable enough to hold up to different riding conditions.

Quarq was acquired by SRAM back in 2011. Since then, the company has developed several products that simply did not exist in a compact and sleek package. This includes the ShockWiz. Sure, there have been suspension data acquisition systems out there for years, but, until now, they were expensive, clunky and really only designed for professional engineers. Quarq has taken that same technology and put it into a package that fits in the palm of your hand and zip-ties to the back of your fork inconspicuously. We strapped a couple of these little wonder squares to one of our test bikes this month to see if they could truly deliver the “wizard tune.”

Tech info: The ShockWiz is a gadget that records and evaluates suspension performance and relays data to your smartphone to offer suggestions on improving your suspension setup. It works with nearly any air-sprung shock or fork and can benefit any rider, whether a cross-country weight weenie or downhill gravity junky. The ShockWiz works by monitoring air pressure 100 times per second to detect problems in your setup. The ShockWiz has algorithms to detect poor setup characteristics such as pogoing, pack-down or bob. Basically, this thing is designed to give you suggestions on how to dial your suspension to get the most out of it.

The ShockWiz is available from the Quarq website, as well as through bike shops worldwide. It’s a nifty add-on that weighs a scant 45 grams and costs $400 for the standard version.

The setup: The setup of the ShockWiz proved to be quite simple. This system installs with a pair of zip-ties and hoses to fit nearly any suspension setup. Once the ShockWhiz is connected to the bike, you can sync it to your smartphone or other Apple or Android device. The free app profiles your bike suspension, terrain and conditions and then gives you a score from 1 to 100 on your setup. It then offers suggestions from the data to improve your settings.

Additionally, the ShockWiz takes into account your personal riding style preferences with four different setup options— efficient, balanced, playful or aggressive. While we appreciate the ability to tune, the names of these different modes are somewhat misleading. The aggressive tune initially led us to believe it would be the stiffest for hard-core riders. In fact, it’s actually the most plush and designed for long-travel gravity bikes. The names of these settings should be something more like “extra firm” to “plush” to make them clearer to the user. Changing this setting is essentially telling the system how plush you want your suspension on a scale from 1–4.

THE DATA DELIVERY

The ShockWiz does three things very well. First, it monitors your suspension travel by measuring the air pressure, used travel and how quickly you are using that travel. Suspension nerds call this “shaft speed,” as it describes how quickly the damper shaft is moving when hitting obstacles.

Second, it offers suggestions for improving your suspension setup once the data has been collected and downloaded to your device. This can be done either mid-ride, if you have your device and a shock pump on hand, or afterwards in the garage. ShockWiz stores all data to be downloaded, so there’s no need to ride with the device if you don’t want to.

Third, it gives some very fun statistics to watch, including total number of jumps, total time in the air on any given ride, average “dynamic sag,” and number of deep compression (bottom out) instances you had. Bottom line, this little gadget gives you the ability to actually see what you’re already feeling in the form of digital readouts.

All that data comes via Bluetooth technology right to your smartphone and the ShockWiz app. It’s always monitoring and always judging your shock tune. Use the info to dial it in if you want.

THE TEST RESULTS: THIS IS A FINE-TUNING TOOL

Our first ride resulted in a score of 86 for our test fork and 92 for our shock. Both scores indicated our initial setups were pretty spot-on. The app suggested that we add a bit more rebound damping and remove a volume reducer. Now, if we had paid $400 for a shock system, we would have expected a little more than a suggestion for two clicks of rebound and to remove a volume reducer. Seriously, that’s $200 per click; however, we were impressed with the ShockWiz and its ability to fine-tune our already dialed setup. So, we set out to see if we could mess with this thing.

THE WONKY EXPERIMENT

We set up our bike with the absolute worst suspension setup we could think of. We pumped the fork until it was about to explode like a pipe bomb, and we let all the pressure out of the shock until it was gasping for air. If you blindfolded a monkey and gave it a shock pump, it could not have come up with a worse setup than we did. Then we tossed our bike to an unsuspecting test rider and told him to have fun. We wanted to see if the ShockWiz could actually get us back to a normal and effective suspension setup after what we knew would be a terrible first ride.

The rider came back with a score of 38 for the fork and 32 for the shock. The ShockWiz gave us suggestions that essentially put us back to a normal tune, despite our efforts to thwart the diagnosis. After only a couple rides and quick tuning sessions on the trail, the ShockWiz was able to offer suggested settings that were not only reasonable but exceptionally dialed.

SO, WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

This is a question we found ourselves asking constantly during our testing. While we loved the features and ease of use, we can’t understand who would want to pay $400 for a suggestion of two extra clicks of rebound. If you’re savvy enough to want this, you probably don’t need it.

That said, we can think of a few pretty great scenarios where the ShockWiz would be worth the $400 price of admission.

—Bike shops could use this as a tool to help dial in new bikes for their customers to ensure they are hitting the trails with the best possible setup.

—Shops could also take advantage by renting out the ShockWiz. After a weekend on the trails, riders could know their suspension is dialed. After a few rentals, the shops could recoup the $400.

—Riding groups could chip in to buy one for several people. After all, you only need to use the thing a few times before you have your ideal setup.

—Demo programs could use it to gain a leg up by showing their “optimized” suspension to their customers.

—Rich guys could have another widget to play with and brag to their friends about.

THE VERDICT

The ShockWiz is an impressive tool to dial in suspension. Riders who may otherwise simply pump their fork and shock until it “feels good” could seriously benefit from this. It takes the guesswork out of suspension tuning and makes the data it acquires very digestible and useful through an easy-to-use app. It also makes tuning your suspension fun and into a game of sorts, where you are chasing the elusive 100 rating for your setup. We never got there, but we’re still trying, and our suspension is working better in the process. www.quarq.com

HITS

• Easy to install

• App works seamlessly with Bluetooth devices

• Tuning suggestions are on point and helpful

• It’s lightweight

• Fun to use. Turns your suspension setup into a game

MISSES

• You only need to set up your suspension once

• The price is too high for most riders


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