Ever been out riding on your bike, and the terrain has suddenly changed drastically, and you’ve thought, 'What I really need is an AI system that could automatically and intuitively adjust my suspension and seat post'?
Probably not, but Shimano may be hoping they‘re developing a solution to a problem you never knew you had, and that in a few years time all cyclists will be wondering how people ever coped before AI suspension. After all, if AI can help you to run and hike, why shouldn’t it help you ride?
It may be a way off yet, but a recently published US patent application from Shimano (seen by pinkbike.com) reveals details of learning software for mountain bike suspension systems that’s designed to take control of compression, rebound, damping and seat post height on the fly, depending on where and how riders are riding.
According to the patent, Shimano's proposed system will make use of an array of sensors to detect speed, torque, acceleration, cadence, incline and pneumatic pressure to inform the neural network, so it can make adjustments.
The patent also seems to suggest that the software can ‘learn’ courses for automatic adjustment.
It’s not clear quite who this software would be aimed at, initially. As any benefits appear to be incremental, you’d assume only riders involved in racing would find much use for it – but would they trust it?
On the other hand, software designed for specialist use often finds more widespread use in the long run, as sometimes unexpected benefits materialize.
But as pinkbike.com points out, Shimano doesn’t actually make suspension systems, so it’s a bit curious why it's registered this patent, and it seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing it on the market (or even being adopted by race teams) soon, if ever.
For the moment, then, it seems that AI bike suspension is the stuff of sci-fi not because it can’t be done, but because there’s not really a sense that it needs to be done.
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