We're always looking for the latest tools and techniques to improve our service, and when the Quarq ShockWiz hit the market in early 2017 we knew we'd have to add that piece of kit to our toolbox! We plan to grow our On Trail Tuning service, and this kind of tool will help us support our customers in search of the optimal air shock and fork tune. After reading initial impressions on Pinkbike and a few other preliminary reviews we had confidence the ShockWiz worth a try. Here's a short blog on some of our first impressions, the suggestions it offers and who this tool might be most useful for.
Before getting started with the ShockWiz, I recommend skimming through the User Manual and making sure you have the latest software. As of the date of this blog - I needed to upgrade both the App and the Firmware before my first tuning session. Be sure to check for both. I'll note that even at this early stage in the market the Firmware was on version 3 and the App on version 2.2.0. This is a good sign that indicates Quarq planned on software support and revisions and understands the importance of delivering quality software with a process to resolve bugs and improve the product. This takes one of the big concerns I had off of the table: that ShockWiz was a good concept with quality hardware, but poor software functionality and lack of support. On the contrary, I found the App easy to use, well thought out and comprehensive. The App has Informational drill downs on just about every bit of content and a Wizard for the initial Calibration - both of which I found very helpful.
I recommend you plan on a 20 minute exercise to compare the installation options you have with the two different hose lengths and consider the best placement for the device. You must get the device carefully positioned where it does not contact any moving parts or the frame. The Quarq videos depict these considerations quite well - so take time to watch those and think this through carefully - especially with the rear shock. Make clearance for the piggy back and position the device on where no drive train contact results. There is no 'right' place for mounting the device - it's highly dependent on the frame design and position of the air valve. In addition to getting the mounting point correct, you will need to decide on one of four 'Tuning Styles'. These styles are defined in the manual and have implications on the Suggestions the device offers up.
Here are some images of the App - take a peek at these before we dig in to how the system makes SuggestionsIf you understand these terms, you're probably more than qualified to use the ShockWiz. If terms like 'high speed compression' or 'packing' don't have meaning to you - you may want to spend a bit of time researching suspension design. There are some great videos from the folks at Vorsprung in Whistler BC.
Working With the App
After you've got the ShockWiz installed the first thing to do is open up the Calibration Wizard and get the device calibrated. This is so critical - spend your time here and do this a few times initially to get the process down and ensure an accurate calibration. There is a set of steps that is easy to follow, and a thoughtful feature that provides a timer/countdown to give you a few seconds to cycle the suspension into fully compressed and extended positions. Try that out too. This calibration process actually gives decent insight into the way the device works. In my oversimplified explanation: ShockWiz knows the compression ratio and % sag after this calibration. (Rider weight and frame design unnecessary inputs in to the model.) Those data points, combined with the baseline air pressure, and a choice on 'Tuning Style' is all you need to get started. Take a minute to look back at the previous screen shots from the App and you will see how the Detections are relevant input into Statistics and ultimately the Suggestions it makes.
Go Get Some Data!
The first requirement is to go out and find a trail that offers up the widest possible range of conditions in order to make your tuning session efficient. ShockWiz is expecting riding conditions that test Pogo, Packing, Bottoming, Bobbing, and Bouncing. So you've got to put your base tune through the paces to get enough data for a 'Shock Tuning Score' and Suggestions. One of my home trails: Brissy Ridge and Pipsissewa at Paris Mountain State Park provided very high confidence suggestions (>90%) in less than 10 minutes of riding. So in just over 30 minutes from the time I started strapping this device on my bike - I was getting useful data and could complete my first Session. In addition to Suggestions based on what the device detects, it produces useful statistics like 'Dynamic Sag' and number of 'Deep Compression Events'. I find this data combined with my experience riding the trail helps me better understand how my suspension is performing.
- Have you ever wondered how your static sag setting plays out during riding? ShockWiz answers that by providing 'Dynamic Sag' statistics.
- Do you know how to convert the things you feel into actionable changes in damper settings? This device uses data to make reasonable suggestions.
- Ever wondered what your missing out there? Shockwiz samples air pressure 100 times-a-second to detect conditions you may never notice.
As you ride, organize your data collection into 'Sessions', and make adjustments one step at at time. The ShockWiz instructions are explicit: follow the Tuning Order from top to bottom and don't make damper adjustments until you have a proper Baseline Air Pressure and Air Spring Ramp. The process is easy to follow and produces noticeable improvements within the first few Sessions. I'll admit - I was surprised at some of the recommendations.
- I've always been a fan of traction and dreaded an 'packing up', so typically I run very low rebound damping (<5 clicks on a Pike/Charger). Shockwiz didn't detect packing, and on the contrary recommended increasing my fork Rebound damping. This is something I didn't expect at all, but the changes translated in to a feeling of better control and a less brutal ride on the very rocky and technical trails I was riding at relatively high speeds. I think this ability to detect 'Packing' is one of the most useful features the ShockWiz has for experienced riders
- The riding position on the Canfield Balance requires substantially lower pressures than recommended on the Pike (sticker). At my riding weight of 195-200lbs. the Pike recommends 85 psi. Not only was my Rockshox branded shock pump indicating 10 psi lower than the indicated pressure on the ShockWiz...but the ideal baseline air pressure that produced a 20% Dynamic Sag was 62 psi - more than 20 psi lower than the recommendation! I use one or two tokens depending on the trail and I knew from experience that my pressure was lower tan recommended, but this quantified it and confirmed it. This is one of the Suggestions I think will be most useful for inexperienced riders trying to get the most of our their suspension.
- I believe that a certain amount of experience should be combined with the ShockWiz Suggestions. Riders must understand the implications: if your ride statistics indicate that you only had 2 Deep Compression Events - and the Suggestion is to lower High Speed Compression (HSC) - you might want to temper the recommendations a bit and leave HSC alone regardless. This is just one example, but point is: you won't want to deal with this on every ride, and it's not economically feasible for most folks to buy two and leave them on perpetually - so put the Suggestions in context and anticipate differences from your test trail to other places you ride. HSC is one adjustment that you may have a good baseline on from ShockWiz, but need to crank up the days you plan on going big.
Bottom Line: The ShockWiz data improved my ride - even though I started out with a 'Score' of 88 percent on my Canfield Balance I was able to make some improvements in Baseline Air Pressure, Rebound, and High Speed Compression. I'm impressed, and had fun along the way.
Who Will Benefit Most from ShockWiz?
I want to make a few recommendations here because I think the ShockWiz is great tool that isn't for everyone. There will be riders with a ton of experience that can tune their suspension fairly well without this system, and the cost/benefit may not justify a $399 tool to eek out a marginally better tune. There will also be riders that aren't fond of following instructions and sequence, and those folks will probably get poor recommendations due to failure to get a good calibration and/or failing to follow the Tuning Order. I feel the folks that will benefit most from a ShockWiz fall into a few categories:
- Experienced Riders that have (at least one) full suspension mountain bike and ride in different areas with varied terrain. These folks can use ShockWiz to help establish different settings for these different riding conditions and quickly adjust as necessary from one riding spot to the next. If you're already riding on the best suspension money can buy and have another $400 to put into your sport - this device can improve your ride.
- Inexperienced Riders that have a new full suspension mountain bike, are interested in learning the details of suspension tuning, and have the patience to carefully follow instructions. This category of rider can leverage ShockWiz and make tremendous progress towards a proper suspension tune without much experience at all. I believe this tool will have a bigger impact on your riding than investing the same amount of money on weight saving options like expensive cassettes, carbon, or titanium.
- Shop Owners or Race Team Managers that can share/rent the device within a group of riders to make sure the ShockWiz spends more time on the trail than gathering dust on a shelf.
One Request for Quarq for product improvement: I want to keep this tool protected during storage. This product should come with a case or nylon pouch, and rubber inserts for the hose ends to protect them while not in use. I'm assuming it's very important to keep the hoses clear of debris. Include in the design for the hose end 'inserts' something like a small string or lanyard to keep them together. I'd also like a couple spare valve caps!
As usual - thanks for reading and please share our blog if you think it was helpful!