As you all know I had a little 'off'' in September and while I am now fully recovered, it turns out that my spine is in pretty poor shape. The off that broke my clavicle, also gave me a compression fracture of my T12 vertbrae. A scan shows that this is not the only fracture I've suffered to my spine and so the prognosis from a bike riding radiologist friend of mine is to stop riding a hardtail. So the ti hardtail is sold but I wanted to then lighten the AM so that I still have a relatively light bike to ride. I thus switched out the CCDB for a BOS Vip'r and decided that I may as well go with the Devile fork as well (well I had the funds from selling the hardtail )
The AM now weighs a shade under 29lbs and feels wonderfully lively. I'm still running it with the -7mm shuttle mount, so the BB is a lot lower (spot on 13" as far as I can measure it) and the static HA is 65.5 degrees. But, the Devile is a 545mm A2C so I am running it a little softer to lower the front a touch and am running more LSC and HSC to balance the ride.
So, the BOS units. I've only managed to get out three times so these are still early impressions and I've not yet put the bike through a full workout. I've done some of the smaller drops around here, but bear in mind that I'm still trying to be a bit circumspect given what I'm coming back from.
Having said that, the conditions have been pretty atrocious on the times I've been out so the ability of the suspension to control the bike and give grip has been very well tested.
There are two things that immediately strike me.
The first is that the set up and way that these units work is really different to anything else I've ridden; they just don't 'feel' the same when compared to the RP23BV or the CCDB that i've had on the AM in the past. That is perhaps not wholly surprising given that there's no logical reason why they would, except that I suppose I was anticipating the way the CCDB worked to be a benchmark for what 'good' felt like and so therefore partially expected the Vipr to resemble that. But it doesn't by quite a long way.
It has its own definition of 'good' and it feels very different in that sense.
I have the CCDB set up to be quite 'dynamic', to allow the bike to pop when you want it to and thus give quite a lively ride (something to do with the amount of pressure behind the low speed circuits - as it was explained to me - and the way the LSR works to give the bike a pop when you load up the suspension and then unweight the bike; it has the ability to feel like a launch control button).
The CCDB is also a game changed in its ability to control the bike over fast, rocky ground. It feels very 'plush', very smooth, controlled, grippy etc. It's not that the way it works is dramatic or 'theatrical', but it is very engaging; I have had a sense of being 'entertained' by the bike when the CCDB is bolted on, all still in what I've previously described as being still a very neutral way. That neutral character though, is very much how I would describe the AM regardless of what damper you've got strapped to it.
Now the BOS Vipr, if it were at all possible, adds another level of neutrality to the bike's ride characteristic. It doesn't have quite the same dynamic feel as the CCDB; the LSC is very good and the bike sits very nicely in its travel as a result and it doesn't blow through the mid stroke like the RP23 would do at a moments notice. That's a big plus because with the shorter shuttle mount, the bike is effectively sitting about 18% into its travel even before you sag the bike. With the RP23, that meant the bike either had the right air pressure for the initial part of the travel with a tendancy to get really progressive very quickly (i.e. the suspension ramped up a lot and you could feel this through the pedals) or it was all baggy and saggy and blew threw the mid stroke but felt good at the end stroke. Now the bike feels well balanced, with the right degree of progressivity and a wonderfully supple initial feel.
It still feels more on the firm side than the plush side and the LSR isn't quite as dynamic as how I've got the CCDB set up, so the bike doesn't pop quite so readily, even if there is a very useful firm feel to the unit when you load the suspension up. Incidentally, that feel gets even more noticeable/better (depending on the terrain) when you switch on the, well I'm not sure what BOS call it, but it would be analogous the propedal lever on Fox units and adding more LSC on the CCDB. I'm still not sure how this system works though. The BOS literature says it works in the same way as the TRC does on the Devile fork, which is to say it limits the air chamber and shuts down the travel a little, giving an overall firmer characteristic akin to more LSC.
I have to say, that it is really very good indeed. It's very controlled, very measured in how it works and I think it's this measure that gives you so much bike control. As I said, if it were possible, it actually adds a further degree of neutrality to an already very neutral bike. It doesn't in any way divorce you from what's going on under the contact patch; far from it. You get bags and bags of feel, you just don't have the same 'theatrical' sense as the CCDB does when it's doing its thing.
I do really like it so far as a result of that, partly because I still have almost as much control and grip as I do with the CCDB, but mostly because it drops a chunk of weight whilst still maintaining that control.
So what is the second impression? It's that actually, the very best feature of the Vipr is how well it works in conjunction with the Devile.
I have heard that other people have had difficulty setting up the Devile and ended up with it feeling way too firm. I've ridden a friend's bike a few times as well and I've often felt the same thing. What I think it came down to was that in order to get the fork to feel supple enough for general riding, I ended up with such a low air pressure that no amount of LSC or HSC prevented the fork from blowing through or diving like submarine. However, I've never really made the effort when riding my friend's bike to really set it up correctly having read the instructions.
First time on my fork and I ended up feeling the same as when I had tried Adams. With the right air pressure, the fork felt just way too stiff (incidentally this is story I've read of elsewhere and when I loaned my bike to someone else who was thinking of the BOS set up as well, they came back and said the same thing; just way too stiff and over damped even with the right air pressure).
Then I read the instructions more carefully and took note of Roger's (UK importer) direction that it was vital to equalise the air chambers when setting the fork up. All you need to do is gently cycle the fork after the initial set up and that does the trick. The difference having done this is night and day. The fork suddenly feels right; it's incredibly supple, better than you would ever believe an air fork could be; it has Marzocchi coil like plushness. It is also amazingly controlled and measured in the way it works and it perfectly mirrors the Vipr in that respect. It's undramatic, controlled, supple and stiff. In conjunction with the Vipr, the bike has an overall balance far better than when I had the CCDB and Fox 36 Float on there.
I am not sure I'm good enough to reap the benefits of that balance though; I can feel what it feels like for the bike to be better balanced (if that's makes sense?) but I can't feel how where that adds an advantage in anything more than about 5-10% of the most extreme terrain. I know that balance would allow me to carry more speed, but I think there are other aspects of my skill and ability that are greater hinderances to carrying that speed than the bike not being as well balanced as it could be.
Where I did feel it was in two sections of local trails. The first one involves a steep drop in over some roots, left hander then right hander and into a fairly rough, blown out section where there's also quite a lot of mud. On that section the bike felt so balanced, no pitching forwards or backwards, just nice level and stable attitude that meant the bike was easier to control.
The other section is the rooty drop with the fast flowy section of turns then fast over the roots and into the two steeper drop sections. Again, the bike felt well balanced fore and aft.
The fork then seems to be working just brilliantly, easily better than the Fox 36 and not at all how I had experienced it on my firend's bike. But overall, I think the real value to either of these two units, is to run them together. I think there is a synergy there that makes the sum of the parts greater than the individual units.
I am going to try and get the bike into the Peak District to give it some welly over big rocky tracks and see how well that works. Ironically, it might be the case that the Vipr is as good as the CCDB over big rocky terrain, but looses a little of faster flowing and pumpy single track, where the dynamic feel of the CCDB allows you to carry more speed. That would be ironic because it would mean the CCDB is better over less demanding ground!
So, hope this is helpful and interesting. It is just my experience of it and I'm by no means an expert in this field!
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