There’s nothing here that’s so new it’s revolutionary, necessarily. Other bike brands have experimented with minimal pivots in their suspension designs, and using struts in place of shocks (a strut is essentially a shock that also acts as a load-bearing structural component of a vehicle, not just suspension). Not very many, mind you, but, well, remember the 90s and early 2000s when bike makers were experimenting with any and all ways to add squish?
Anyway, this new bike, well, frames, from Digit is definitely not that. It’s simple, it’s clean, and we kinda love it.
Digit bikes was started by longtime bike and apparel designer Tim Lane, and it still lives in Kickstarter mode only, though it’s already funded, so these bikes will be hitting trails next year at some point. Digit is built around Lane’s suspension design, called ANALOG. Very simply put, it’s a strut that fits in the top tube. A couple pivot points attach the strut to the seat stay and the bottom bracket, with three actual pivots in total. You get 140mm of travel, along a linear path.
That means fewer rotating parts, which, Lane says, reduces chances for system fatigue and error, saves as much as a pound from traditional four-bar linkage systems, and requires less stuff to make, saving resources.
Having the strut inside the top tube keeps that front triangle big and wide, so you can fit two water bottles in there. Plus, it means the seat tube can be straight as an arrow, so you can cram as long a dropper post in there as your heart desires. The whole thing is motivated not to be a radical kinematic departure, but to make a full suspension bike more easy to work on. Actually, more than that—to make it less necessary to wrench on would be more accurate.
“As an ex-mechanic, the prior-art shortcomings which most drove me to this were over-complexity and under-reliability,” Lane said, in a review of the bike at Beta. “These are closely related – there are bikes on the market with rear suspensions that use 22 bearings and 14 pivot axles. Each offers an opportunity for mechanical lash, stripped threads, dirt ingress, misalignment, being too loose, being too tight, being f’d up from the factory, breaking, seizing, wearing, being heavy… Anyway, if you roll 22 dice, you stand a 1,100 percent higher chance of getting snake-eyes than if you only roll two.”
The strut is 12 inches long—huge!—so it has more space for oil and a larger air volume. It will also be easily serviceable, according to Lane, with tools most at home bike wrenchers will have in their workspace. It will also be easily adjustable, through dials and ports on the top tube, not visible in the Kickstarter prototype.
The frame is aluminum and it requires a 29-inch front wheel, and a 27.5-inch rear. Mullet only for the Datum. The idea is to one day have multiple frames with multiple travel lengths, so perhaps wheel size capability will also change. But first, the bike has to take off.
For now, you can order only the frameset. Lane didn’t want to saddle customers with the absurd wait times for components these days. So you can buy the frame, then kit it out with parts you have on other bikes, or can find in stores (ha). The simple suspension design is doing the real work here, so despite different forks, drivetrains, and wheels, the same experience should be had among all comers.
We don’t normally plug gear still in crowdfunding mode here, because unless we can try it ourselves, we can’t vouch for it. But this bike looks so promising, we couldn’t help ourselves this time. The Kickstarter page is also just plain fun to read. Lane’s got a crapload of data in there, and you will come away from the page thoroughly understanding exactly what it is their bike is meant to accomplish.