For those who’ve been riding a singlespeed for a while, Spot Brand needs no introduction, as they’ve been making high performance sans-shifters bikes for more than a decade.
Until recently, Spot was focused on perfecting the use of belt drive on commuter, cyclocross and mountain bikes, creating the CenterTrack design for the Gates Carbon Drive system. But since Spot is a family-owned brand comprised of dedicated riders, the company had selfish reasons for developing a capable carbon fiber trail bike that could climb well. They wanted their own bike for riding the big Rocky Mountain terrain west of their Golden, Colorado, headquarters.
The result is the Spot Rollik 557, an innovative 150mm travel trail bike sporting 27.5” wheels and full carbon-fiber construction. You can read more about the nuts and bolts of this bike in our Sea Otter Classic report here. In a nutshell, the Rollik features an innovative suspension design called the Lumpkin Living Link, where there is a composite plate situated at the lower pivot. This is an 180-degree shift for Spot, and to match this change in direction, the company re-branded itself with a new logo and more technology-focused image.
How strong is the updated composite Living Link? According to Spot engineer Andy Emanuel, he fatigue tested the link on a cycle testing machine to simulate rider load. There was a failure result, but not with the link; it was with the testing equipment. Every bearing, pivot, roller, and gear on the machine wore out before the Living Link did. In fact, Emanuel said the link survived more than 3 million cycles with no failure – that’s more than 10 years of riding, 365 days a year.
So why this Living Link? Aside from its machine-breaking durability, Emanuel cites the link’s stiffness, using a metal ruler as an example. “A metal ruler is easy to bend up and down, but extremely difficult to bend side-to-side,” he said.
Another advantage to the Living Link is that it does away with traditional pivot bearings, bearings that can develop play over time and eventually wear out. The degree of rotation at the lower pivot is so small that the flex characteristics of the Living Link accommodates the movement in a much simpler, stiffer and more durable way. But according to Emanuel, dialing in the performance of the Living Link wasn’t easy. It took many hours of fine tuning, clocking the spring at different angles until they found the optimal position for the Living Link.
While the Rollik is equipped with a three-setting Fox EVOL shock, Emanuel, who formerly worked as an engineer for Maverick said the Living Link wasn’t designed to work specifically in open mode or closed mode, but rather, “kick ass” mode, to use his exact words. Considering Maverick suspension designs have always been about kicking ass, I knew Emanuel meant business. At this point it was clear I had to ride the Rollik and get a feel for Spot’s full suspension version of kicking ass, since they’ve done it so well with singlespeeds.