Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Product Review: The Rinsten Spring Shock Absorber for bicycles


The Rinsten Spring on a Bike Friday

 Pros:

  • Simple device, fits on any bike
  • Accommodates riders up to 150 kg (330 lbs)
  • Appears to work, good on small wheeled bikes
  • Minimalist aesthetic
  • Relatively Inexpensive

Considerations:

  • You can’t as easily carry your bike upstairs on your shoulder
  • Gets in the way of your toolbag
  • You may need to cut down your seatpost to make it the right height
  • Some may not like the “oscillating” sensation
  • Adds 392g (0.85 lb)

VIDEO: A glimpse from the road



I WAS recently contacted by a mysterious person on LinkedIn, asking if I’d test a new bicycle shock absorber. The contact had a rather long, rather foreign-looking name, and I confess my first reaction was to dismiss it as a scammer from Russia along with the zillions of emails I get from factories in China asking if I want to order some traffic cones (yes, I’m the inventor of the Traffic Cone Bag). 

But since I was heading out of the New York tundra and into a perfect Australian summer, I said, sure, beam it over!

When I arrived in Sydney and the package landed on my mother’s doorstep I hesitated to open it, wondering if I should wave a bomb detector over it - is this what ‘merica has done to me?

What is the Rinston Spring? 

5 easy pieces - and no, it doesn't go on the handlebars like this. 

The Rinsten Spring fitted to my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro with Terry Ti Men's Fly saddle

The Rinsten Spring a heavy duty, U-shaped metal loop with a 4-piece clamp that functions as a kind of “leaf spring” -  it claims to absorb shock on any kind of bicycle. The “upper tier” of the loop clamps to your seat rails, and the “lower tier” clamps to your seat post, supposedly isolating your butt from any vibration traveling up the seat post.  “The bump stops here” could well be its slogan…

The company

The inventor is engineer and inventor Iurii Kopytsia, who hails from Kyiv, Ukraine. That’s all could find on him. The Kickstarter campaign lists the company location as Redwood, CA, but Iurii tells me it's where they decided to launch - perhaps to appeal to 'merican viewers who might find a Ukranian zip code a little too um, exotic.

The video on both the website and Kickstarter campaign explains the product very clearly, though unfortunately in the same kind of infomercial voiceover they use for a miracle salad spinner or Dyson knock-off vacuum cleaner ... thankfully this is relieved towards the end of the video the charming team speaking in their delightful Ukrainian accents.  
  

Absorbed with shock absorbers

There are many doohickies you can buy that attempt to absorb road shock: suspension seat posts like the Cane Creek Thudbuster, suspension forks, sprung saddles, hammock saddles (like the Brooks), split saddles (like the Selle Anatomica), and suspended frames like the Softride, Bike Friday’s Air Friday and the Moulton.

They all add weight and/or complication and/or goofiness, so an advantage of the Rinsten Spring is its relatively minimalist aesthetic. However, some weight weenies may not like having a bit over half a pound of metal added to their frame.

I ride a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro, a 20” wheel performance folding bike. I've ridden this kind of bike for years, across countries with boneshaking roads like Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica and across Route 66 - not least because I worked for the company as a card-carrying Customer Evangelist for 9 years.

Small wheeled bikes have many advantages, but one disadvantage is a potentially harsher ride; big wheels do absorb more shock. It's just physics. Adding shock absorption helps reduce bodily fatigue - so you can ride longer.  

Cane Creed Thudbuster

Bike Friday Air Friday with suspended titanium beam - the company's spin on the Softride


Fitting the spring

The spring consists of 5 parts: the U-shaped thingo, a 3-part anodized aluminum clamp for attaching to the saddle rails, and a large central bolt that sandwiches it all together.

The 2 open prongs of the U shaped thingo point towards the back, much like two tiny rocket blasters. Once you manage to juggle the 3 clamps into place and bolt it through, you can slide the saddle back and forth along the rails depending on how springy you want it. It does take a bit of fiddling to get it all right, and if you have had a professional bike fit you’d want to make sure you adjusted it to match. There are helpful calibrations that also give it the spring a seriously techhy look. 

View from a tailgator. You could hang a cell phone charm off that lower loop...

Being 5' nothing, I had to slide the spring to its limit on my seatpost and it was JUST low enough; any further and I would have had to get my beautiful Thomson Elite seatpost cut down. The website suggests that some may need to do this. 

Bummer alert: your toolbag faces eviction from its cozy home under your seat – I managed to sandwich mine in the Spring's open maw by lashing it to the rails with velcro. 

Another bummer: because the rails extend under the nose of the saddle, I was not be able to hoist my bike on my shoulder to carry it upstairs etc.  This is probably not as much of a problem for people with "real" bikes - they can use the top tube.

I managed to stuff my toolbag in Rinsten's mouth...


On the road

I joined BikEast’s ride out to Watson’s Bay which is by and large paved but with some rough stretches. I got a real sense that the spring was doing its job as advertised – bumps were simply not as noticeable. I tend to ease up off on the seat when roads are bumpy, and I notice I did not need to do that “stand on the pedals” thing at all. 

The spring in action

Over the course of several days riding, however, the seat started to feel like it was oscillating more and more.  Coming loose, even. I kept reaching behind to check it, asking my companions of all was well back there; the seat seemed secure. Then, suddenly – and fortunately at low speed - my seat slid backwards off the rails and onto the road.  Holy helmet! I guess I hadn’t used enough elbow grease to tighten that critical bolt...

So, that's an absolutely, positively must do… tighten it good, and check it now and then.  Perhaps a pair of rubber stoppers on the tip of each prong might be a good peace-of-mind modification. They could be screaming pink to match my bike!

Notice how the seat worked its way to the end - minutes later the saddle was on the road. So tighten that bolt hard! 
I checked with the developer who said they originally included threaded ball ends to prevent this very thing from happening. But after testing it in the Ukraine with cyclists riding hundreds of kilometers, no one's seat came loose – so they dispensed with it.

Well, as a once-was system software tester who can break anything, I think I've persuaded them to put those balls back, with appropriately drafted legal disclaimer language. Basically, you can’t trust people do the right thing, and in a litigious society...

The verdict and alternatives

For my Bike Friday it felt like an improvement, and I will probably experiment with putting it on my 16" wheel Bike Friday tikit where road shock is even more pronounced.

The newer model has more sex appeal, available in 3 colors: gold, silver and black. 

So why not just get a Brooks, I hear thousands of Brooks butts chorus?  Well, not everyone wants a Brooks. I have an ultralight Terry Titanium Men’s Fly on all my bikes. The extra length of the men’s version gives it the hammock-like quality of the Brooks, while being slim and sporty as opposed to tractorseaty and curmudgeonly. But that’s purely aesthetic taste – and weight - we’re talking here.

Lighter weight people might like to try the hammock-like Selle Anatomica.

Brooks B17

Terry Men's Ti Fly

Selle Anatomica

I wondered if the Rinsten Spring could be made of different materials for different rider weights and so forth - carbon fiber and titanium “sprang” to mind.  Iurii said it would break,  but that “the research continues.”

You can get a Rinsten Spring on their March 21, 2017 Kickstarter campaign - at the time of writing it's already halfway to meeting its goal after barely a day in action. The website says, "There will be be 3 colors: gold, silver and black. And every backer only on Kickstarter will get with “Kickstarter Edition” engraving. Pick yours!"


7 comments:

Newton Dixon Jr said...

Nice photos! Like the setup on your Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro. Lot of good useful information

Invisible Hand said...

Funny ... while I like Brooks saddles, I never thought that they could replace suspension. Perhaps a sprung Brooks saddle. The other thing that crossed my mind is that some folks need more setback. This could also do that as well.

statrixbob said...

Hmmm...I noticed that my pakiT is a wee bit harsher than my NWT - probably because the 1 1/4 16" Kojaks don't have quit the cushion of the 1.75" Marathons, and definitely not the 2" something or others stuff on once, but hey, it might be worth a try. I haven't ridden the pakiT far enough yet (30 miles longest ride) for it to be a real problem, still...

Lynette Chiang said...

Thanks for reading guys! Like I said in the article, it's not for weight weenies but if you appreciate the following anecdote you might like this product: Q: How to you carve an elephant? A: Take a block of wood and carve away anything that is not elephant.

Lynette Chiang said...

The Pro is a dream bike, in my opinion, one of the best models ever. Especially for smaller gals like me. :)

Lynette Chiang said...

Hey Bob, I'm def gonna put one on my 16" wheeled Speeding tikit...

Lynette Chiang said...

People love the Brooks and it does the job for many. It has to be broken in though, and while there is more than one way to do that (one unofficial way that Lon Haldeman does his is to soak it with a hot wet towel the ride it for a day - instant break-in) there's more than one way to do suspension! Plus not everyone can afford to invest in a Brooks.