Updated: Oct 14, 2022
The Activist is Dawley Bikes' first full suspension frame. We're displaying a prototype at the Bespoked show this weekend.
The frame is a steel single pivot with a few extra features which differentiate it from other frames in both appearance and ride.
Having been less than fully satisfied with the ride of a simple single pivot design I set out to improve the ride while maintaining simplicity and serviceability in the structure of the frame.
Because of the linear leverage ratio inherent of single pivot frames, they can become less sensitive in the top stroke, especially if you favour a firmer setup. There's not a lot we can do to actually increase the sensitivity without involving linkages and that's something I'd rather avoid. The great thing about Dawley Bikes is our versatility and adaptability. Designing and building all our frames from scratch in our own workshop means we can move quickly with change and work with our clients flexibly. If we were to rely on a lot of external suppliers for linkage parts, etc. then as operations become more cumbersome our agility is lost. Not to mention all the extra complexity and weight that comes with linkages.
And so, I set about brainstorming ideas. Having set aside linkages in order to reduce complexity and increase versatility and hardiness I wondered if manipulating the axle path could improve the feel. Perhaps a higher pivot could be used to at least give the feeling of more sensitivity in the top stroke - could we use the rearward axle path to help smooth the trail buzz?
There was only one way to find out! And the Activist is the result.
I'm using what I refer to as a 'mid pivot' design. Simply because it's not as high as some designs out there. This was an immediate decision. I didn't want a wildly exaggerated axle path. A very high pivot is great when you want the rubber on the ground, but I wanted more all-round ability, an intuitive response from the bike on lips and to retain a little agility and 'playfulness'. The axle path never gets any shorter than it begins and is rearward enough in the top stroke that it provides just enough of that magic-carpet-ride that higher pivots are known for. And crucially it does deliver a ride with more 'float' and a feeling of sensitivity in the ride.
As soon as I started to sketch out the design it was clear that there were other benefits to the high(er) pivot. Clearances were easily achieved, potential for a lot of travel was unlocked, I was able to match the geometry of our Eponym frame at sag and this all meant a small, stiff and strong rear triangle. At the front end the pivot is placed in a vertical section of seat tube which produces an effective seat angle that's very close to the actual angle and also keeps things versatile for testing or adaptations in future.
To fit the big shock we needed a kinked downtube which I braced to the pivot point. It turns out this structure is incredibly strong!
At this point I was getting dangerously stoked, everything just worked. It all fell into place.
I knew I wanted this to be a burly bike. Our hardtails are so capable that a short travel ripper is somewhat redundant. I wanted to build a bike for bikepark laps, holidays in the Alps or just hucking daft things in the local woods. But I needed it to pedal well because we don't have a lot of uplifts in the UK! And the simplicity of a well-made steel frame would make it an excellent companion for race weekends too.
Using the idler position, I prioritised steady pedalling from the saddle and reduced the anti squat to a level just slightly lower than the average (of a study of similar travel bikes available in 2022). This in turn allowed for slightly lower kickback which should help keep you fresh for another lap on long days barraged by braking bumps. It's active.
The Leverage curve is as linear as it gets. But, as I've come to understand, a progressive LC is just not that necessary. The Activist has buckets of mid stroke support and bottom out resistance. And with fewer variables it's very easy to dial in the shock.
There's a lot yet to do before I can make the Activist available but I'm super excited about what we can do with this design and what the bike itself is capable of. It's a full suspension frame fitting of Dawley Bikes. If nothing else, I think I've created my dream bike here. As my own worst critic that is not something I say often.