Jude Monica, Magura's resident road warrior and master of all things race pit, was sighted in our parking lot a few days back, his diesel Sportsmobile van idling almost imperceptibly while he brewed morning coffee. Monica is an ace wrench and all-around nice guy, and his tales from the road immediately got us desk jockeys salivating for something other than desk jockeying.
The story of Monica's previous several days on the road included breaking down in Green River, Utah, witnessing a fight (between his tow truck driver and his prospective mechanic), getting hauled to Salt Lake City on a flatbed to get outfitted with a new transmission and then charging west through a massive snowstorm. Just a day or two before arriving at our sleepy SoCal digs, Monica's rig was encased in several inches of aerodynamic ice as he pushed a virgin transmission through snowy mountain passes.
So it seemed Monica was really digging this quiet morning puttering about his souped-up home on wheels. But after coffee he pulled out a prototype shock he had just been sent for testing.
At first glance the MX165 doesn't look much different than any other air shock. But a closer look reveals that this is unlike anything else on the market. It's most unique aspect: The air shock uses a rubber bellows and plunger system and relies purely on air damping.
"From a durability standpoint, the idea is that there is no friction of sliding or moving parts. There are no seals and no oil, and therefore no wear," Monica says.
The 195-gram "bellows-style" shock, called the MX 165, is bleeding-edge new technology for the bike business, but the concept has been used in the automotive world for years. Monica says the shock takes its cues from technology used on M-Class and S-Class Mercedes and Porsche's Cayanne SUV, but it's also commonly used on 18-wheelers.
The cone that fits into the bellows can be changed to create different spring curves and fine-tune performance. The MX165 (so-called for its 165-millimeter eye-to-eye length) sports 35-millimeters of stroke; 190- and 200-millimeter eye-to-eye versions will be available with closer to 50-millimeters of stroke, making them a viable option for a 4-inch-travel bike with a low leverage ratio. With no oil in the system, the shock relies purely on air damping. The shock's air valves and rebound controls swivel 360 degrees so once the shock is mounted, riders can position them as needed.
Monica says the shock has been in development for two years, and production units won't be available until the summer at the earliest. On his way to come see us, he stopped by Garageworks Suspension for a quick visit. When he put the MX 165 in Garageworks' lever-jig Monica says the rebound control seemed to work surprisingly well, variably "thucking" the shock back to full extension after a simulated hit.
Of course the real test will come only on a bike, and we hope to get our hands on one a test sample soon. In the meantime we'll keep ourselves occupied surfing the Sportsmobile web site.