DOWN THE TRAIL – Softride’s Catapult Bike

ISoftride’s Catapult Biket

It was no secret that the Softride crew hated the MBA crew back in the ’90s. When we tested the first bike from Softride, we griped about the bouncy beam, lack of standover height and undamped, spring-loaded suspension stem. So, what brought us back to test the new Powercurve? The engineers told us that the new bike wouldn’t raise our blood pressure this time, thanks to a better-tuned and mountain bike-specific beam with a sheer damping elastomer, a new seat clamp to improve standover and a new parallelogram-designed stem, which Softride partnered with Control Tech to build. Nevertheless, we went into the test with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Did it work? The beam took some getting used to, but it had its advantages. For racing, we would have preferred to stick with our hardtails; however, we mentioned in the test that the best part of the Softride was its simplicity. The bike worked, albeit not nearly as well as some other suspension bikes. If anything, the Softride is a reminder that in 1996, real suspension designs had yet to come into their own, and there were still plenty of crackpot ideas like this floating around.

Why the Softride was different: Softride’s engineers were daring. They liked to begin designing their bikes with a clean sheet of paper. Their goal was to build a small, rigid frame that could transmit the rider’s energy efficiently to the ground. Suspending the rider, not the bike, was their strategy for offering some of the comfort of suspension while maintaining the efficiency of a hardtail.

What’s the theory? Devout Softride owners claimed that while completely suspending the rider in the “passive cycling mode” seemed weird at first, the brain could easily handle the task of switching between “active” and “passive” suspension modes. This was a fancy way of saying the beam worked when you were seated, but when it got hairy, you were on your own.


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