Here’s a quick test to determine whether anyone actually wants your big brand’s proprietary OE suspension product, like autosag, RE:aktiv with thru shaft, Twinlock, Lefty, Brain, DRCV, or countless others. For that matter, you can probably apply this same test to your house brand OE parts, like Bontrager carbon handlebars or Giant wheels with Dynamic Balanced Lacing.
Giant Dynamic Balanced Lacing. Like this guy at Giant HQ, you’ll get really good at replacing spokes.
The question: Do you see a demand for your product in the aftermarket?
If you answered yes, congratulations! You’ve used the resources available at your company to add value for your customers. An example: instead of building another 150mm dual crown trail fork no one wants, Specialized outsourced to the smarter, better suspension nerds at Ohlins and were able to build a product people actually want. The market has embraced the Ohlins shock, and now you see their shocks and forks on bikes outside of Specialized OEM.
If you answered no, then you’re only cluttering your customers’ lives with difficult to service or replace bullshit. No one wants the product you’re selling, and your misguided attempt to differentiate from the competition is only begrudgingly accepted by your core customers, not willfully embraced. There’s a good chance you’re actually hurting sales, because a chunk your potential customers would prefer to buy from one of the big brands with a lifetime warranty from their local bike shop, but won’t do it because they can’t get the shock they want in a 210×60, or a shock that fits in your weird yoke mount thing, or one that you can’t put volume reducers in like a normal person.
A quick scorecard:
And please don’t come back with, “It’s protected by patents, Charlie. How could an aftermarket company steal and resell a proprietary suspension idea?” I don’t know, go ask Raceface how they stole X-Sync and changed it just enough to skirt SRAM’s patent. Or ask Fox how they made a Double Barrel without infringing on Ohlins’ patents. Or ask Dave Weagle how easy it was to defend DW Link in court, or Split Pivot. When people thought platform damping was the shit, we had platforms from Fifth Element, Manitou, Fox, and Curnutt within two years, regardless of patents. The point is that eventually, somehow, the people always get what the people want.
Why does this matter?
Sticking sub-par house brand wheels on your bikes is bad, but at least wheels can be replaced. Proprietary suspension is like the little brother who always tags along. You put up with him because you have to, but no one’s ever sitting with friends thinking, “How much sicker would it be if my little brother Dylan was here?”
No one wants to hang out with Dylan. He’s the worst. You have to explain why he’s there to your friends, or even worse, to girls. And the only reason he’s even here is because Mom said he had to come. I hate Mom. She said she was gonna buy more Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but she never did.
“Hey Jarrett, I was reading ridemonkey and I think I could fit a Lefty on here.”
-no one ever