Specialized has recently been granted a patent application which indicates a new suspension comfort concept will be applied to Specialized road bikes.
A set of patent drawings discovered by BikeRadar indicate a top-tube-mounted damper, allowing for both vertical and fore-to-aft movement of the seatpost.
The design places this damper completely within the top tube, concealing it. Specialized’s accompanying patent documents describe the seatpost’s dynamic movement in rather more detail.
“An upper portion of the seatpost is movable relative to the frame between a static first position and a stressed second position. The damping member couples the seatpost to the frame to dampen movement of the upper portion of the seatpost between the first and second positions.”
Those riders who are experienced with hydraulic dampers will wish to know how a concealed unit would be adjusted and serviced. A clever seat clamp mechanism allows for full removal of the seatpost and protective boot, which covers the entire aft seat tube and seat stay juncture. The damper can then easily be removed for servicing or re-configuration, as it features a low-speed rebound adjuster.
In the technical details of Specialized’s patent application, it clearly describes an oil-filled damper, which means this is not an elastomer type shock absorber. The idea is to use the seatpost’s movement to significantly increase seated rider comfort. A choice of different bushings would account for rider mass, in terms of the system’s seatpost compression characteristics.
This is not the first road bike designed with some form of suspension or damping action applied to the frame of a bike. Trek’s Domane has featured the patented Isospeed decoupler for the past two iterations, and Pinarello’s Dogma FS features a traditional soft-tail design, with a damper connecting the chainstays to its seat tube.
The Specialized design is not a conventional suspension configuration, actuated directly by the wheels rolling over terrain changes and transferring those forces directly to a damper. It keeps a unified rear triangle, with all the inherent stiffness and durability that entails, merely conferring an element of increased compliance via the seatpost.
It is unclear which road or suspension frame would benefit from this integrated top tube damper, connected to the seatpost, but the comfort-enhancing Roubaix endurance bike is the obvious primary candidate, with the Diverge a potential second benefactor. The patent images show a dual-chainring bike, which makes the Roubaix the most likely eventuality.
As mountain bikers have learnt on extremely long descents in warm conditions, a rear oil damper’s performance can fade, as it heats. This would be even more applicable to a tiny damper mounted inside a top tube without any cooling airflow, if you were to roll down a long gravel road descent, in the seated position. One of the possible solutions could be adjustable cooling ports in the head tube or top tube.
We’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled for more information and share details as soon as we have them.