By Jon Pratt. Photos by Adam Newman.
Mark Lynskey from Lynskey Performance stopped by the Dirt Rag office a few weeks ago to hang out, shoot the shit and sample some of the local trails. After a fun-filled day he needed to get on the road, but we wanted some extra time on his personal rig… the 120mm full suspension, titanium Pro29 FS-120 he had with him. So, while he was packing up to leave we used some tried and true misdirection techniques to distract him, and bam… he left the bike in the basement. Score.
What is that you say? A full suspension 29-inch Lynskey? Yep. The Pro29 FS-120 has been available to the public for about four months. Mark has been riding prototypes of the current model for the last few years. Lynskey, well known for its hardtail titanium bikes, has been interested in developing a full suspension model for a long time, but there were a few hurdles to getting started in the full suspension game.
Building a system from the ground up is expensive and time consuming. Time wasn’t something Lynskey Performance had any extra of. The hardtail design and production was absorbing most of it. In addition, before work can even be started there needs to be an in-depth discovery phase to make sure you aren’t using any patented technologies in your suspension design. Fortunately there are people like David Earle from the Sotto Group.
To put it simply, David Earle knows his stuff. David has worked for many years as an engineer in companies such as Bontrager Cycles, Santa Cruz Bicycles and Specialized, as well as with Lockheed Missiles and Space. He’s been heavily involved in developing suspension technologies like VPP and Switch, and along the way has designed some pretty killer bikes like the Nomad, VP-Free, and P3 to name a few.
Lynskey wanted the bike to be bulletproof and the suspension to work from the very first build. To borrow an old adage, "First Impressions are Lasting Impressions". So they brought in Earle who designed the suspension around Lynskey’s desire for a cross country bike meant not for the XC racer, but more for the aggressive trail rider. Earle provided the pivot point locations and the size and valving for the shock. Lynskey designed the bike around those specifications.
The culmination of this partnership is the Pro29 FS-120, a bike at home on singletrack with moderately difficult technical features. It is designed to be stable while climbing and quick but not twitchy. Limiting pedal bob while climbing is achieved through the high main pivot that sits forward of the bottom bracket. Also 50 percent of the rear travel sees the axle moving backwards, pulling the tire into the dirt.
In addition to the suspension design, Lynskey wanted a bike that was stiff but not uncomfortably so. To achieve this Lynskey pioneered Helix tubing technology. Without going into too much detail, the helix shaped down tube balances the benefits of a round tube and a beam. Beams are good at resisting bending, while round tubes are good at resisting twisting forces. Instead of choosing one over the other, the helix shape provides both, evenly distributed along the length of the tube. In addition, the large swingarm pivot, attached to the helix down tube, uses a Shimano press-fit bottom bracket bearing. Beefy.
So how did it feel on the trail? Pretty awesome. The suspension works as designed and I didn’t notice any significant pedal bob while climbing. Leaving the Fox Float CTD in trail mode seemed to tackle most of the technical lines I chose. Mark had his bike set up with a remote lock out on the Fox Float 32, which I used on several longish climbs in concert with the climb setting on the CTD shock. I did venture into some more sketchy sections and the descend mode provided just enough plushness to get me through. Pretty much anywhere I took the Pro29 the suspension systems reacted well, and there were no unwelcomed surprises.
I’m guilty of always thinking titanium and suspension won’t get along, and I took the Pro29 out expecting to feel a lot of sway in the rear end, especially in some of the more bermy sections of my favorite trails. Well… not so much. The bike reacted well to quick lateral directional changes and the rear didn’t take long to snap back to middle when exiting the berms. It was predictable. And that’s good. I also didn’t notice any significant flex while under load from hard uphill pedaling. Maybe it’s the helix down tube, maybe the huge swingarm pivot… whatever it is, it works.
After about 15 minutes of adjusting to a new bike it really started feeling at home on my favorite trails. I was comfortable pushing it through some pretty aggressive sections and it handled the smooth flowy bits with ease. Good stuff Lynskey… good stuff. I was riding the 2nd generation of the Pro29 FS-120 which has the swingarm pivot built into the down tube. Gen 1 had it installed in a Ti plate above the bottom bracket. While the current Pro29 FS-120 utilizes sliding dropouts to allow for a thru axle or 9mm QR in the rear, the next generation, slated for 2014, will be fixed and accept Shimano or DT Swiss thru axles. No other changes are planned. MSRP is $5,900 with XT components (and right now it’s on sale). Choosing the XTR kit adds another $1,600 to the build.