Cannondale Lefty Ocho and the Future of the Lefty- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Cannondale Lefty Ocho and the Future of the Lefty

    All of this talk about linkage forks and bushing issues got me thinking about one of the few front suspensions on the market that's dual-crown, lightweight, and doesn't rely on sliding bushings - the Lefty.

    In its most recent form, the Ocho, the Lefty gets praise for revised air spring setup and a quality damper, combined with a new triple needle bearing setup, it seems like Lefty is slowly being perfected...while also dying out.

    Someone told me that a long-time Cannondale rider - Mark Weir, admitted that he thought the Lefty just didn't offer enough space inside to get a truely good damper and spring setup. Maybe that was the Lefty of old because the Ocho can be found on nearly every Cannondale at the UCI World Cup XC races - so it's obviously not holding back riders at the highest level.

    Now, as a former owner of a Lefty (SPV Max) I know that the Lefty isn't without its downside. The unique hub makes swapping around spair wheelsets in the garage a pain, the Ocho is expensive on its own ($1500+) and in dual crown form, the Lefty also had the same downsides as other dual crown forks - limited turning radius.

    The Lefty Ocho does however provide a good example of a few different industry myths proven wrong - that inverted forks are always going to be less stiff, and that bushings are a requirement of modern suspension. If modern forks rode on bearings we'd certainly see a lot of less issues of bushing bind/stiction and loosing bushings.

    If Cannondale produced another big travel, low offset, lightweight, properly tunable damper with coil or good air spring, Lefty again, I would be inclined to try it. Would you?
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  2. #2
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    I'd be willing to try it, but would some really compelling reasons to buy one.
    Do the math.

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    I think Mark Weir was talking about the long travel versions - that one him and Marco were running for EWS a few seasons ago. It was a total nightmare and they just couldn't get it to work. Too much heat generated meant leaking seals and failed dampers no matter what they tried. Re: space, you basically have to run the damper through the air spring which makes a great insulator so all the heat generated stays in the damper and they would get crazy hot!

    The shorter travel forks don't seem to have the same issues, which is why I guess they brought out the Ocho and focussing the Lefty at that market now
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  4. #4
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  5. #5
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    Dougal, are you saying that the World Cup riders on the Ocho are on a crap product?

    The Ocho can't be a big money maker for Cannondale, where as having sponsored athletes winning races is probably a big benefit for the company. I highly doubt Cannondale would put a crap product under an athlete if they thought it might negatively impact their performance.

    The reviews of the Ocho are generally favorable, with nearly every one talking about the plushness and sensitivity of the fork.

    Nearly everyone can agree the bushings can sometimes pose a problem both in quality control and stiction of current telescoping forks.

    I'm not saying a modern Lefty is the answer to our suspension woes, I'm saying that the Lefty and its bearing slider system has some advantages over bushings in traditional forks, just as the linkage forks have some advantages, and similarly, despite those advantages neither are taking over the fork market.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller View Post
    Dougal, are you saying that the World Cup riders on the Ocho are on a crap product?

    The Ocho can't be a big money maker for Cannondale, where as having sponsored athletes winning races is probably a big benefit for the company. I highly doubt Cannondale would put a crap product under an athlete if they thought it might negatively impact their performance.

    The reviews of the Ocho are generally favorable, with nearly every one talking about the plushness and sensitivity of the fork.

    Nearly everyone can agree the bushings can sometimes pose a problem both in quality control and stiction of current telescoping forks.

    I'm not saying a modern Lefty is the answer to our suspension woes, I'm saying that the Lefty and its bearing slider system has some advantages over bushings in traditional forks, just as the linkage forks have some advantages, and similarly, despite those advantages neither are taking over the fork market.
    I have no opinion on the performance of the Ocho. I haven't ridden one.

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  7. #7
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    I personally see the linkage forks and the Lefty being very specialized for certain type of riding or certain types of bikes. I have a Lefty on my Slate, and personally don't like the limited stem option vs a traditional fork set-up--but it's fine since it's a unique bike. For my trail bike, I would not use a Lefty and give up the flexibility of tuning, maintenance, configuration, etc that a traditional fork has.

  8. #8
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    Cannondale could easily make the Lefty utilize normal stems, have a tune option for the damper and utilize volume spacers in the air spring.

    This isn't a debate of the Lefty vs traditional forks, it's more a discussion of "what does the Lefty do right that can be applied to other fork designs."

    Most notably? The needle bearing setup. The most recent Lefty, Ocho included, has a round stanchion so a needle bearing system could be employed in a traditional fork with the uppers looking nearly identical.

    This is what Chris Porter was getting at when he said "traditional forks are all manufactured in Taiwan in the same factory and as a result all of them use same antiquated bushing setup" - that either requires precision quality management, too-loose bushings (ideal for initial suppleness) or too-tight bushing tolerance (good for feelings of stiffness).
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by PHeller View Post
    All of this talk about linkage forks and bushing issues got me thinking about one of the few front suspensions on the market that's dual-crown, lightweight, and doesn't rely on sliding bushings - the Lefty.

    In its most recent form, the Ocho, the Lefty gets praise for revised air spring setup and a quality damper, combined with a new triple needle bearing setup, it seems like Lefty is slowly being perfected...while also dying out.

    Someone told me that a long-time Cannondale rider - Mark Weir, admitted that he thought the Lefty just didn't offer enough space inside to get a truely good damper and spring setup. Maybe that was the Lefty of old because the Ocho can be found on nearly every Cannondale at the UCI World Cup XC races - so it's obviously not holding back riders at the highest level.

    Now, as a former owner of a Lefty (SPV Max) I know that the Lefty isn't without its downside. The unique hub makes swapping around spair wheelsets in the garage a pain, the Ocho is expensive on its own ($1500+) and in dual crown form, the Lefty also had the same downsides as other dual crown forks - limited turning radius.

    The Lefty Ocho does however provide a good example of a few different industry myths proven wrong - that inverted forks are always going to be less stiff, and that bushings are a requirement of modern suspension. If modern forks rode on bearings we'd certainly see a lot of less issues of bushing bind/stiction and loosing bushings.

    If Cannondale produced another big travel, low offset, lightweight, properly tunable damper with coil or good air spring, Lefty again, I would be inclined to try it. Would you?
    Previous lefties had square stanchions, that’s an example of exotic engineering, so sure an inverted fork can be stiff, you just have to go to extreme measures to get there. Other ways involve keyed stanchions, etc.

    Modern forks do run on bearings. A bushing is a type of bearing. I know what you meant, but it’s more of a function of the square stanchions. Are the stanchions now completely round or so they still have flat interfaces?
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  10. #10
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    2013 Supermax:

    Cannondale Lefty Ocho and the Future of the Lefty-2013-cannondale-lefty-super-max-130mm-pics03.jpg

    Lefty's haven't ran square "exposed" stanchions in quite some time. Pretty much all of the modern ones have round seals. The part you don't see, that rides on those aforementioned needle bearings, those are still square, or in the case of the Ocho, triangular.

    2019 Ocho:

    Cannondale Lefty Ocho and the Future of the Lefty-cannondale-left-ocho_one-legged-upside-down-fork-strut_oppo-air-spring-ramp-clamp-spacers_cutawa.jpg
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by matadorCE View Post
    I personally see the linkage forks and the Lefty being very specialized for certain type of riding or certain types of bikes. I have a Lefty on my Slate, and personally don't like the limited stem option vs a traditional fork set-up--but it's fine since it's a unique bike. For my trail bike, I would not use a Lefty and give up the flexibility of tuning, maintenance, configuration, etc that a traditional fork has.
    Project321 has a fix for that. When I owned my Slate I did their steerer conversion and it saved the bike for me. I needed a very short stem and Cannondale was on backorder of the 1.5 inchers forever.
    https://project321.com/product/1-18-...-stem-adapter/

  12. #12
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    There is another nonstandard xc fork design that also has excellent suppleness, uses a special hub, but has the backing of a large suspension company so you know you will be able to get parts and service for it.

  13. #13
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    The RS1 still utilizes a traditional bushing setup.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal View Post
    Sponsored riders ride what they are told to ride. That's how sponsorship works.
    That's overly simplistic. Sponsored riders are sponsored because of their results. The tend not to ride stuff that jeopardizes getting results and thereby jeopardizes their career. There are plenty of cases where you'll see pros riding stuff other then their sponsor's with blacked out logos. Kinda tough to disguise a non lefty as a lefty though.
    Do the math.

  15. #15
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    I count those as square stanchions, yes the exposed part is round, but the bushing interface is square, that’s what makes the whole thing work.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    Just to clarify about the Lefty 2.0. It uses cheap needle bearing strips that lock into machined flats on a round stanchion. It also uses a plain bearing at the bottom, on the round part of the stanchion just above the oil seals and dust wipers.
    The main issue they had over the years with this design was bearing migration. This required the bearings to be reset back into the correct location. On the Lefty 2.0 this was done during normal operation. The method for resetting the needle bearings is to bottom the fork. This causes the needle bearings to skid, which is how they migrated in the first place.

    A proper roller bearing setup like seen on some prototype MX forks and in race cars (primarily rally type) is both heavy and expensive. Both being a relative amount. For these type of off road dampers the 'heavy' part is not significant and for million dollar race budgets neither is the 'expensive part'. However once we are down to MX weights the weight is definitely a trade off, and for MTB it would not make sense at all due to weight.
    The expense part also does not make sense for MTB. Take it from someone who knows. Just the parts for a proper roller bearing and holder would add $300 to retail, and that is doing it cheaply.

    Then we have the issue of maintenance. Roller bearings need to be kept clean. With minimal contamination they will be worse than bushings.
    For dirty environments bushings make sense.

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  17. #17
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    What is the Lefty 2.0? All I know is that they've made a lot of Lefty's over the years, and a 2008 model can't be compared to the 2019 Ocho.
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  18. #18
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    Pre 2.0 had a boot. The 2.0 was inverted. No boot, but lots of other problems. Bring back the boot and make the Lefty ugly again.

    I have 3 bikes with Lefty Max 140's converted to PBR. They work great.
    My name is Chris and I ride a Ripmo now.

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    In the XC travel range, they had a series of booted Leftys until 2012 or so, then the 1.0 Hybrid without the boot until 2016. Lefty 2.0 through 2019 was stiffer, heavier, and had a bit less stem interference. Lefty Ocho is compatible with any frame, brings the weight back down, and they claim it has a better damper.

    I think every fork ridden in the wet should be booted.

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