TECH TALK: Giant Factory Off-Road's Dave Garland on Data Acquisition and Bike Set Up 11

Dave Garland is a bike wizard. The Giant Factory Off-Road mechanic uses his latest piece of tech to help refine his World Cup DH racers' set-ups and bring to light feel versus reality on course. Bike nerds rejoice!

TECH TALK: Giant Factory Off-Road's Dave Garland on Data Acquisition and Bike Set Up

It’s not a reinvention of the wheel so to speak, but rather a re-application of a long-standing technology. Telemetry and data acquisition have been a staple tech in motor sports for decades, and while it seems new to mountain biking, it has been in use for years in our sport.  Nico Vouilloz was famous for his use of passive electronic systems to measure the forces and factors affecting his bike.  The Sunn Chipie team had actual telemetry on their race bikes in the 90's. A team of engineers would be in the pits, watching Nico’s runs live, working to best assess how and where he would gain or lose time. Modern DH racing hasn’t seen anything quite on this level, but the increase in use of data acquisition is moving away from novelty to requirement.  As the racing gets tighter than ever, athlete fitness evens out, and bike performance becomes even across brands and models, the time to be had is left up to immaculate race machines and razor-sharp race runs. It only makes sense to squeeze the most from bikes by outfitting them with accelerometers, force gauges, heat sensors, and any other tech gizmo that will give quantifiable feedback on the harmony between bike, rider, and the track.

- by Zach Faulkner

Jack Roure of Specialized Gravity unveiled his custom-created data bike when he and Loic Bruni were still racing under the Lapierre banner a few years back.  Since moving over to The Big S, the rods, wires, and gauges have become a regular sight between the tape, no longer reserved for just private test sessions on closed tracks.  Loic now regularly takes multiple runs a weekend with the “robot bike.” He likes that the minor nuances measured give him a literal translation of what he feels, and allows him to optimize his set up.

Santa Cruz has their own wires-in-a-box set up, as do Commencal and Trek.  FOX uses their own proprietary set up with select riders like Neko Mulally and Aaron Gwin, as well as Greg Williamson and Matt Walker.  The technology for data gathering has become smaller in size, more user-friendly, and more reasonable in price. More so than ever, being competitive not only in speed on track, but with data in the pits, is crucial in the process for winning races/improving race development.

The difference in all of this comes down to the metrics being tallied and how those numbers are translated and applied.  Gathering data isn’t easy, but it’s far from the biggest hurdle: if you can’t read the graphs being rendered on the screen after upload, there is no point in even attaching the sensors.  It comes down to the race mechanics to interpret the numbers and graphs.  The use of GoPros mounted to the bike (and rider) in various places have become a secondary necessity in the process of analysis.  With a visual representation of the graphs, it becomes possible to pin-point track features and their corresponding effect on the bike and rider, while comparing riding footage in relation to the graphs when considering line choice and bike set up.  When advantages on track become less and less about bike design and rider fitness, and more about minute changes in set-up and riding style, going to extreme lengths to get hard numbers makes perfect sense.

 

Dave Garland of Giant Factory Off-Road and Special Alloy Racing Springs invited Vital along to a morning test session with Jacob Dickson. We had a look at the set up they use to analyze their Glory Advanced race bikes in relation to the team riders and terrain.  This was Jacob’s first time testing with this technology, and Dave has been refining the system for the past few years.  In the off-season, Dave and Eliot Jackson spent a great deal of time working with the system and answering questions via numbers that arose during Eliot's test runs. Seeing the graphs in person and how they relate to what Jacob (and Eliot) and the bike were doing on track was a treat.

Dave Garland discusses his data acquisition equipment as well as the nuances of general bike set-up. Don't blame all performance on your suspension set-up.

 

The mock-up of the race rig outfitted with the data acquisition system.
The system sits mostly on the left side of the bike.
Perhaps thanks to this system, an actual plate with a #1 might appear here.
A mock number board keeps prying eyes at bay, rewarding only the most eagle-eyed of bystanders.
The colored wires are a fair giveaway that something isn't stock about the bike.

It's a hard work, but testing is also fun work.

Dave and Jacob swapped over some of Jacob's preferred cockpit pieces from his personal bike to the test sled.
It's hard to say who is more particular about the numbers...
It would be cool if this button made the bike go faster, but it's actually just the start/stop button.  Blue hue keeping the cockpit sleek.
Keeping the rider's mind off of the data being gathered and focused on just riding hard is accounted for with the whole unit neatly fitted under and next to the stem.

The names are there to remind you who just flew by on track!

Time to get to work.

Y is the fork doing that? This little box will help you figure that out.

This is where the movement of the rear end is measured (and it's relation to the braking).

Measuring braking force and time/place is a critical piece of the puzzle.
The various points of measurement are all compact and out of the way, making it easy to really push the bike without worrying about the different pieces.

Jacob is a really invovled rider who is keen to learn about the ins and outs of the whys and hows.

The different gizmos are compact but pack a punch.
There is a lot of information coming out of this unassuming chunk of metal.

It's not guess work, but it's definitely a learned skill to read the graphs and understand how they corrolate to what is happening on track.

It'd be easy to miss the special additions to the bike.
The extra bundle of wires running the length of the frame are neatly organized and strapped down or tucked away.
Many measurements come out of this little guy, including ride height, which helps determine if the rider input is creating a certain affect, or if perhaps the spring rates and shock tunes need a re-think.
Internal cable routing helps keep the important numbers coursing through the wires out of harms way.

TECH TIP - Less compression damping as speeds and hits increase?

Stay tuned for the follow up as we discuss the data acquisition system and how it's impacted the riding of Eliot Jackson and Jacob Dickson.

11 comments
  • sspomer

    6/28/2017 10:26 AM

  • Scrub

    6/24/2017 9:53 AM

    These riders on the team get to experience what only a few get to with the data acquisition systems. So lucky and privileged to have a bike tuned and logged for each race at that caliber and have someone who knows how to utilize the data.

  • onenerdykid*

    6/24/2017 9:14 AM

    Yeah, Zach! That was sick!

  • glazedHam

    6/24/2017 9:13 AM

    One of my take aways is that ride height and balance are critical first steps. I assume ride height should be set as low as you can get away with without too many pedal strikes as this will corner better, I'm confused on balance though. What's a good balance between front and rear? Is it dependent on what you're riding ...down hill verses level terrain? How do you measure it --two bathroom scales technique? How do you adjust it? What if you have radically different balances when seated verses standing?

  • fabdemaere

    6/24/2017 1:31 AM

    Great article Zach!
    Although, when talking about the resurgence of data acquisition in modern times in our sport, I would bring up Remi Thirion in Andorra (2013) before talking about Loic. Manufacturing a new air can overnight because the data suggested more progression was needed in the shock is as close as we've been to Vouilloz levels of nerdyness in recent times.
    Pretty much on the other end of the spectrum from Minnaar's garage bounce tests

  • sideshow

    6/25/2017 2:38 PM

    Dang, helluva memory! Just googled that up, and you're quite correct - that was something I hadn't recalled and slipped through the research cracks. Olivier Bossard was the man behind Nico Vouilloz's suspension while Max Commencal was the Sunn team manager, and a decade later the same guys were the ones behind the overnight air can volume increase for Remi's bike after the data showed the need for more progression.
    Great insight Fab, thanks for the reminder!

  • MGilbertson

    6/23/2017 7:46 PM

    Loved this. More like it, please!

  • bikeboardorblade

    6/23/2017 3:51 PM

    On a follow up article, how about some simple If/Then tips? Ex If you keep getting bucked on the same jump, then try increasing rebound compression on the shock/decreasing compression on the fork?

  • CuddlyToast

    6/23/2017 10:34 PM

    Yeah, that would be rad.

  • sideshow

    6/24/2017 12:59 AM

    Dave reiterated many times, it's not always your suspension which is to blame. And while tech tips are great, this is a focus on specific tools and how they are applied to improving the rider/bike/track harmony.

  • Sheppy Wong

    6/24/2017 7:28 AM

    I think the takeaway from the podcast for me was bike setup and the interplay with riding style is that it's too complex to lend itself to simple if/then advice.

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