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An Interview with Alchemy’s Sine Suspension Designer

Joel Smith

A full-suspension mountain bike is really only as good as its suspension design. And although there are many different systems on the market today, the real advantage to owning an Alchemy is our exclusive Sine Suspension system.

Sine was designed by one of the most experienced and knowledgeable engineers in the business: David Earle. Earle has been working on suspension kinematics since the early days of mountain bikes.

As you’ll discover below, Earle feels the Sine Suspension system offers the ultimate in overall suspension performance. Without further ado, here’s our interview with Sine Suspension designer David Earle.

 

Q: Where were you born and where do you live now? 

I was born in Palo Alto, California (when it was still a small, laid-back town) and have spent the majority of my life in the Bay Area, primarily in Santa Cruz. I split my time now between Taiwan, Santa Cruz, and a new house I’m working on near Salida, Colorado.

Q: How long have you been mountain biking? 

I bought my first mountain in 1982. Before that, I was riding all the trails in the Bay Area on my Dawes road bike. So yes, a long time!

Q: Where is your favorite place to ride? 

I still really love Santa Cruz and all the trails around Crested Butte, Colorado.

Q: Which version of the Arktos are you riding?   

I have both an Arktos 27.5 and the longer travel Arktos 29. The Arktos 27.5 is one of the US-made versions that we used to launch Sine at Interbike in 2015.

Q: What is your favorite mountain bike product? 

Beer and bike frames, in that order.

 

Q: What do you consider the most significant product ever made for mountain bikes? 

The first big advancement was suspension that worked, first up front, then rear after that. I also think wide rims have made a big impact on tire performance, which has benefitted how well you can ride a bike off-road.

Q: Is there anything you would consider strange or different with your current bike set up? 

Aside from the rider, not really [laughs]. Typically, I’m riding some unpainted cobbled together thing that hopefully represents something that will happen in the future. 

Recently, I’m just really happy riding bikes in general. My Arktos 27.5 has no Shimano and no SRAM on it, which I think is pretty cool considering how ubiquitous these two brands are today. 

Honestly I’m just happy to ride anything these days. As long as I’m riding…

 

Q: How long have you been designing bikes and where did you start? 

It’s hard to say exactly. I was building crazy bikes out of parts I found at the dump when I was like 14 years old, so it’s always been part of me I guess. 

As far as when I started officially designing bikes, I would say that was when I was about 25 years old working at Bontrager in Santa Cruz.

Q: Any interesting projects that you are working on currently? 

I’m building an off-grid house outside of Salida, Colorado. It’s a big project and something quite new for me.

In bikes, nothing really new right now. But I am planning on a 2-wheel-drive e-fatbike with a chainsaw-rack. I do have a few other projects that are in the patent review process, so I can’t talk about those!

Q: What led you to design Sine Suspension? 

After leading development of VPP at Santa Cruz Bicycles, I left to start my own company (Sotto Group and Praxis Works). Sotto specialized in suspension design. I’ve have worked on about every system out there for a large number of customers. 

At one point, my partner Luke Beale (now Level One Engineering) and I wrote a list of everything a suspension system should do, including shock rate, anti-squat, and other kinematics properties. And then we did another list that included things like stiffness and weight, link lengths, etc. 

From that list, we started developing different ideas of how we could check off each item on the list. I was living in Taiwan at the time, and Luke was in the US, so we basically worked around the clock for about a year. 

Sine Suspension came out of that. At that time, it was licensed by Yeti as Switch. But now it’s an exclusive for Alchemy.

Q: Why are the advantages of Sine Suspension?

Sine really optimizes shock rate for every area of travel: small bump, mid-range, and big hit. It also optimizes anti-squat for all areas of travel. Related to those two are things like pedal feedback, traction, and braking performance.

When we developed the Sine Suspension system, we considered not just general overall performance, but got into making sure that the performance in every range of travel and every set of riding conditions was optimal. 

We kept all links in the frame as small and stiff as we could, which lowers the weight and increases stiffness. Finally, Sine was designed with the ability to make the bike look good.  


 

Find Your Ride

Alchemy offers four different models of the Arktos with Sine Suspension:

Think of it as a different flavor for each type of riding you intend to do.

Regardless of which Arktos you choose, know that with Sine Suspension system, you’ll be getting the best climbing and descending performance that’s offered on the market today.

Learn all about the Alchemy exclusive Sine Suspension system >

 

Alchemy’s Joel Smith has been riding mountain bikes for over 35 years. Starting out in the dirt on a converted Laguna-brand cruiser in the mid-1980s, his immediate love of the sport turned into a lifelong career. Smith raced both XC and DH in the 1990s (in the now defunct NORBA National Series) and has worked on nearly every aspect of bike development over his nearly 30-year long career.

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