I’ll admit that we’re a little late in getting a writeup on the site about Rock Shox’s new Flight Attendant electronic suspension, though I did go deep on it with RockShox’s Chris Mandell in Ep. 102 of Bikes & Big Ideas a little while back. But now I’ve started spending some time riding with the system, and while we’ll have a full review to come, it’s now time for a more detailed writeup and a Flash Review (which Blister Members can check out now).
So what is Flight Attendant? The short version is that it’s an electronic suspension system that’s all about making your bike pedal more efficiently. It goes about that by adding an electronically-controlled module to the damper of both the fork and shock that can automatically toggle between one of three compression damping modes on the fly. A sensor in the crank spindle lets the system know when you’re pedaling to help the fork and shock decide what mode to be in at any given moment, and all three communicate wirelessly. Currently, Flight Attendant is available on the Super Deluxe Ultimate Air rear shock and Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB Ultimate forks, but only on complete bikes — there’s no aftermarket version, at least for now.
Fox has had their Live Valve system on the market for some years now, and at a high level, Flight Attendant is similar — they’re both electronically-controlled suspension systems that firm up the compression damping when appropriate, with the goal of improving pedaling efficiency. But the details are pretty different. For one, Flight Attendant is wireless, whereas Live Valve requires wired connections between the fork, shock, the main control unit in the middle of the frame, and a couple of extra sensors. And Live Valve toggles the fork and shock between two modes, Open and Firm; the Flight Attendant fork and shock have three basic modes: Open, Pedal, and Lock.
Open is essentially the descending mode, the same as a conventional fork, and a rear shock with the climb switch disengaged. Pedal mode firms up the compression damping considerably, and Lock does so even more. It’s not quite a true lockout, but it’s pretty close, especially in the rear shock. And the Flight Attendant system toggles the fork and shock between all three modes depending on whether or not you’re pedaling, how the bike is pitched (i.e., how much it’s pointed up or down hill), what kind of bumps it’s experiencing, and what kind of bias toward open vs. closed the user selects. There’s also a manual mode if you want to override the electronic overlord, but the real magic is in how Flight Attendant operates in the automatic setting.
The fork, shock, and crank sensor need to be used in conjunction with each other; there’s a bit of extra functionality you get (more on that in a minute) by pairing the whole system with a Reverb AXS dropper post and SRAM AXS drivetrain, but they’re not strictly required. But at least so far, the complete bikes that feature Flight Attendant come with the complete package of RockShox / SRAM wireless wizardry.
The fork and shock modules are each powered by a standard SRAM AXS battery, which will be familiar to anyone who’s used an AXS dropper post or rear derailleur before; the crank sensor takes a single AAA battery. Pair all that with an AXS dropper and derailleur, plus the controller modules for both, and you’ve got a total of seven batteries to power the whole shebang, which, [consults abacus] is… a lot. RockShox says that the fork battery should last 20-30 hours of ride time, and the rear shock one will handle 30-40. Both are easily removed for recharging; swapping the pedal sensor battery is slightly more involved, but that one’s good for a claimed 200 hours of ride time. If one of the batteries dies mid-ride, the system reverts to open mode — so you’ll lose the efficiency gains, but your suspension will still work normally. Hardly the end of the world.
The control unit on top of the right fork leg is the brain of the system and the primary interface through which you set up and control Flight Attendant. The SRAM AXS phone app gives you a few extra features for fine-tuning things (more on that below, too), but it’s not necessary to get you on your way. All the really important stuff can be handled by the three buttons on top of the fork leg — a mode selector and plus / minus toggles to change settings — while a set of five LEDs around the perimeter indicates the details of the setup.
Setup & Settings
The suspension setup procedure for a Flight Attendant-equipped bike is only slightly more involved than a conventional one. After setting sag per usual (best done with Flight Attendant set to open mode, to get an accurate reading), there’s a quick calibration procedure to run through.
(1) Sit on the bike on flat, level ground such that the bike sags roughly as normal.
(2) Press and hold both the plus and minus buttons until the middle LED flashes white, then release the buttons and hold that position until the white LED flashes faster. If a red LED flashes to either side of the white one, lean the bike slightly away from that side until the red light disappears and wait until the white LED flashes quickly.
(3) Once the white LED flashes quickly, a red LED will light up to its right. Lean the bike to the left until the red light disappears, and then wait until the white light flashes quickly again.
And that’s it for the calibration. Your next setting (accessed by a quick press of the menu button) is the “Bias Adjustment”, which sets how aggressively Flight Attendant seeks out opportunities to take the suspension out of Open mode. The default is the middle setting, which RockShox calls “0”’; +1 and +2 will select firmer settings more quickly, and -1 and -2 bias the system more towards Open mode. Magenta lights indicate that you’re setting the Bias Adjustment; with that displayed, press the plus or minus buttons to change the setting. An additional press of the menu button brings you to the low-speed compression setting for the fork (blue) and then shock (teal). Each has 10 settings, with each of the five LEDs able to display half-brightness or full illumination to indicate the chosen settings. A long press of the menu button will exit out of the settings mode, or you can simply wait for it to time out on its own.
That might sound like a lot of stuff to figure out, but it’s all very straightforward and intuitive once you’ve spent a few minutes playing with the system. If you prefer, you can also make all the same adjustments through the SRAM AXS app, but it’s not necessary to get on the bike and ride. The only things that you absolutely need to use the app for are programming which AXS control buttons you want to do which action (e.g., which shifter paddle shifts up vs. down). If your bike is equipped with an AXS dropper post and the version of the remote with two paddles, you can also program that extra paddle to set Flight Attendant into the suspension setting of your choice (Open, Pedal, or Lock) with a long press of that paddle. The app also gives you more detailed battery status information and is used to perform firmware updates, but it’s not going to be a regular part of the day-to-day Flight Attendant experience for most people.
Currently, Flight Attendant is available on a limited range of bikes: the Trek Slash, YT Capra, Canyon Neuron, Specialized Enduro, Canyon Spectral, and YT Jeffsy. The Slash gives the best insight into pricing of those models, since it’s the only bike to offer an otherwise-identical build with and without Flight Attendant — and in that case, the electronic suspension bumps the price up by an even $1,000.
Flight Attendant also adds a bit of weight — roughly 300 g, according to RockShox — and also does away with the high-speed compression adjustment on the fork. But the new Flight Attendant-equipped forks get a couple of new features, beyond just the electronics. First, there are pressure relief valve buttons on the back side of each lower leg — just like what Fox has been doing for a few years now — and there are also new rubber isolators at the connection between the lower legs and the spring and damper shafts. RockShox calls them “Buttercups” and the idea is to mute certain frequencies of vibration that would otherwise be passed up through the fork to the rider. I’d bet we see both of those features on a new generation of RockShox forks sooner rather than later, but they’re Flight-Attendant-only at least for now.
Blister Members can read our Flash Review of Flight Attendant for our initial on-trail impressions. Become a Blister Member now to check out this and all of our Flash Reviews, plus get exclusive deals and discounts on gear, and personalized gear recommendations from us.
Bottom Line (For Now)
With Flight Attendant, RockShox has joined Fox in offering an electronic suspension system that’s focused on improving the pedaling efficiency of longer-travel Trail and Enduro bikes, and it’s a very intriguing offering. We’ve got a YT Capra Core 6 with Flight Attendant in for testing, so stay tuned for a full review soon.