The question has to be, is this a case of massive technology overkill??
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I’m not going to beat about the bush here, and you guys are more than welcome to shoot me down if you don’t agree, but as this new Fox Float iCD system stands I reckon it’s a case of massive technology overkill. What is it? Well essentially Fox have taken (under agreement) Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting technology (as seen on their Dura Ace and Ultegra road groupsets) and used to to control the lockout on their Float forks and rear shocks. Yes, that really is the crux of it. All that extra weight and complexity (and surely cost) just to be be able to lock your suspension out. The system can either be used with just a fork where you simply have the option of ‘climb’ or ‘descend’, or it will control both your fork and rear shock, and in that case you can have ‘descend’, rear shock ‘climb’, or both fork and shock ‘climb’. Personally I have never felt the need for remote switches to control these things, and if I did need it I would much prefer just a simple cable doing the job. I also find it strange that it’s only recently that Fox launched the new three position (climb, trail, descend) Float rear shock, and yet this new system takes us back to just two positions. More technology yet less options.
It also has to be said that this system doesn’t exactly look that pretty, and that’s even when it has been mounted to a bike which has integrated the cables as much as possible. It’s actually making me mad just thinking about it. As for the ‘PC Interface’ which allows customization of the remote switch and diagnostic tools, call me sceptical but I wouldn’t be that surprised if it ends up not being much more than a way to work out what has gone wrong with all the electronic gubbins.
So yeah, I am clearly not a fan of how this system stands at the moment, but I do think it brings up a few interesting questions about this kind of technology in future. I think the main reason why I don’t get what Fox are currently offering is because it doesn’t seem to really offer anything more than what we already have, but surely this kind of technology does have great potential. Imagine if it had full data logging capabilities, and you could have pre-sets for different tracks and conditions. Maybe that’s going over the top, but basically I think to warrant the extra complexity etc then the system has to offer much more.
I’ve kind of got a feeling that Fox are testing the water with this electronic stuff, but is this the best way to do it? I suppose if it proves to be very reliable then maybe it will help pave the way for better stuff in future. I remember when people thought the idea of using hydraulic brakes was ridiculous, so maybe we’re at a similar point now? It should also be said that the Di2 groupsets that Shimano make are pretty incredible, and I would eat my hat if they haven’t had an electronic version of XTR working for quite some time, so maybe by letting Fox use the technology first in the world of mountain bikes (and before you say it, I know other people have used electronics in the past, but not in recent years, or with the clout of Fox) they’re getting Fox to try and clear the way for a smooth launch of Di2 XTR. Of course, all this is my speculation, but if this system proves to be a complete flop then I’d be very surprised if Shimano release electronic mountain bike gears any time soon. Of course if the opposite is true then I am sure Shimano won’t hang about.
Anyway, you’ve probably got it by now that we’re not at all convinced by this new system, but then maybe part of that is because we’re not out and out XC racers. Maybe for those guys being able to instantly lockout all your suspension from your bars is an absolute must. In that case I suppose you have to decide if a few cables are better than some wires, a battery, and a bulky looking box fixed to your rear shock.
In the mean time though this new iCD kit will be available around September time and here’s the full marketing speak from Fox themselves…
FOX 2013 Product Update: Float iCD
For 2013, FOX has taken on a more systematic approach to ride dynamics. Through testing and riding, we have learned to develop the front and rear suspension together as a unit to provide the most balanced feel. With that in mind, FOX has developed innovative concepts that design the fork and shock as a system to offer the best performance and control.
Intelligent Ride Dynamics (iRD) is FOX’s categorization for electronic products employing non-traditional solutions to help customers improve their ride experience. Items under the iRD umbrella will directly address a rider’s individual needs, be very intuitive and provide features beyond what has traditionally been offered.
Integrating FOX’s systematic approach to suspension tuning with iRD, Float iCD takes cross country and trail riding to a higher level. Float iCD integrates an electronic actuated system into FOX’s proven Float fork and shock designs to adjust between Climb and Descend modes. The system offers fast activation and effortless operation.
Working with Shimano, Float iCD shares features with Shimano’s E-Tube electronic shifting technology. Float iCD uses Power-Line-Communication (PLC) that allows data and power to flow along a single wire. This permits minimal wiring and ease of set-up, using only three wires for full suspension bikes and two wires for front suspension bikes. The system also has a PC interface option that allows customization of the remote switch function and provides access to diagnostic tools, switch operation counting and firmware updates.
Float iCD offers improved performance over standard remote and non-remote systems. The front and rear suspension are controlled with a single remote switch and activation requires minimal hand movement from the grip, allowing the rider to quickly adapt to sudden changes in trail conditions. The ease of use and very low remote activation force equals less rider fatigue and encourages increased use over other systems. Float iCD is also easy to setup, has improved reliability over mechanical cable remote systems and offers long battery life.
Fork features: Internal actuator unit, Factory series with FIT damper and Kashima-coated upper tubes, 100mm or 120mm, 26” or 29” wheel, and 9mm or 15QR axle options.
Shock features: External actuator unit, Factory series with Kashima-coated body and air sleeve, 6.5×1.5” to 7.875×2.0” sizes, and standard or large eyelet air volume options.
Remote Switch: Right or left mounting option, two or three position rotary switch, non-contact operation and integrated battery low feature.
Full Suspension System: System includes fork, shock, battery, battery bracket and remote switch with three cables linking the system together, left or right remote mounting options, three mode positions – Climb, Climb (Rear Only) and Descend.
Front Suspension System: System includes fork, battery, battery bracket and remote switch with two cables linking the system together, left or right remote mounting options, two mode positions – Climb and Descend.
Battery Life: In excess of 2.5 months (results may vary)
Actuation Time: 0.25 seconds for fork, 0.45 seconds for shock
Full Suspension Weight: Starting at 1860g / 4.10lbs
Front Suspension Weight: Starting at 1555g / 3.43lbs