Bold Unplugged: The Original Hidden-Shock MTB

The 2022 Scott Spark blew minds with its hidden shock, but the origin of this suspension design goes back further to a small brand called Bold Cycles and its groundbreaking Unplugged enduro bike.

Bold Unplugged: The Original Hidden-Shock MTB

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Bikes

It was 2018 when I first saw it. I was sitting in TPC's break room, flipping through Freehub Magazine when I landed on a strange ad: a rider on a full-suspension mountain bike without a rear shock. Several of us passed this image around, incredibly confused. What we were seeing … Or not seeing? 

This was my introduction to Bold Cycles and its innovative enduro bike, the Unplugged Volume 1. The Unplugged appeared to have no rear shock because it was cleverly hidden inside the frame using Bold’s “Internal Suspension Technology.” I was impressed and fascinated by this small Swiss mountain bike brand. I filed it away in my memory as just another eccentric Euro brand I’d never see stateside, unfortunately. Boy was I wrong.

Nino Schurter 2021 XCO World ChampionNino Schurter winning his 9th world championship on the all new Scott Spark. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool.

Fast forward to 2021, and a much larger Swiss brand, Scott, released its latest XC race bike: the Spark RC. This speedy new bike would be raced by world champions Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney, and it looked familiar. Scott had acquired a majority share of Bold Cycles in 2019 and revamped its world-dominating Spark with Bold’s Internal Suspension Technology. Some commenters were skeptical of the bike’s racing potential, but later that year, Schurter rode it to his ninth cross-country world championship title.

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The stunning new Spark rekindled my interest in Bold Cycles and its unique suspension design. And as luck would have it, a rare 2019 Bold Unplugged Volume 1 has landed at TPC. So I had to take a closer look at this revolutionary bike. 

2019 Bold Unplugged Volume 1

In 2016, Bold’s founder and designer Vincenz Droux created the Linkin, the first bike to feature the hidden shock design that would come to define the brand. The prototype for the longer travel Unplugged appeared in early 2018, and as it made the rounds at Sea Otter, riders took notice. It eventually entered production as the 2019 model you see here.

Bold Unplugged Volume 1Bold Unplugged Volume 1 Details

Rear travel: 164mm
Fork travel: 160-180mm
Head angle: 63.3-65.9° (based on 170mm fork)
Seat angle: 76.5-78.3°
Reach: 458.3-474.9mm (Medium)
BB drop: 8.4-27.5mm
Chainstay length: 432.8-443.6mm

With a full carbon frame, 164mm of travel, ultra-slack head tube, and long reach, the Unplugged Volume 1 is a downhill-dominating enduro race bike. (If it’s a bit too much, the Unplugged Volume 2 tones things down to 150mm of travel.) Its two standout features are the Internal Suspension Technology and Variotec Custom Geometry. 

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Internal suspension technology

Bold Unplugged Volume 1 hidden shockThere's a shock in there somewhere.

The Unplugged’s hidden rear shock is neatly tucked away inside the frame. It is oriented vertically, with the air valve and rebound knob at the bottom. To access the shock, you remove a large cover on the underside of the down tube that’s held on by two large thumbscrews and a pair of magnets. Beneath this cover, you have full access to the shock. 

This Unplugged came equipped with a RockShox Super Deluxe. To set sag, there are handy markings etched onto the rocker link. It’s tough to picture how everything is put together just from photos. Fortunately, Bold made this handy animation that breaks it down: 

The suspension is a traditional 4-bar design, a.k.a. Horst link. But, because the shock is inside the seat tube (rather than in front of it) the rocker link is significantly shorter, making it both stiffer and lighter. 

The shock configuration also puts the shock in the lowest possible position inside the front triangle. This means you get a lower center of mass for stable handling. Behind the cover, it’s protected from dirt, water, mud, and of course, crashes. There are vents so the shock can “breathe,” preventing it from heating up in the enclosed space.  

As a final benefit, the compact internal design allows the Unplugged to use stiff, straight tubes for the top tube and down tube. Without shock mounts, these tubes can be made much lighter, and it gives riders more space to fit water bottles and an emergency kit inside the frame. The Bold Unplugged omits seat tube bottle cage mounts so it can accommodate longer dropper posts, but the Scott Spark it inspired can easily fit two bottles.  

Bold Unplugged lockoutLove it or hate it, the Unplugged uses a remote lockout.

Because the shock is out of reach while riding, the Unplugged employs a remote lockout on the handlebars. For some, this is a convenient way to quickly lock or unlock the shock. For others, it adds unnecessary cables and complication to the cockpit. The Swiss seem to love them though, as it’s also a common feature on Scott bikes.

Variotec custom geometry

The trick shock isn’t the only thing that the Unplugged has going for it. Take a close look at the geometry numbers and you’ll see that the Unplugged is one of the most adjustable bikes on the market. 

Bold calls its custom geometry system “Variotec.” At the front, it uses a custom headset with cups that can be flipped 180-degrees between slack and steep options. A second set of headset cups provides a middle option. For riders looking for the slackest set-up possible for the gnarliest terrain, a 180mm fork gives you a wild 62.9-degree head angle! 

Bold Unplugged Volume 1 Variotec flip chipThe rear flip chip is just barely visible behind the pivot bolt near the rear axle. Remove this bolt to gain access.

At the rear, The Unplugged uses a flip chip located inside the chain stay pivot that has four different positions. This lets you optimize the rear end to fit 27.5” or 29” wheels, and tune the chain stay length and BB height for your preferences. All this adjustability means the Unplugged can be set up to perfectly suit your body, riding style, and terrain. 

Final thoughts

2019 Bold Unplugged Volume 1So, now that a Bold Unplugged Volume 1 is here, am I going to swoop in and buy it? Unfortunately, no. I do want it, but it’s a large, and I need a medium (the large has a super long 498-513.7mm reach). But that just means some tall rider out there is going to be very, very happy. 

The Unplugged Volume 1 is an incredibly rare and special enduro bike. When you take it out on the trail, you’re guaranteed to be only rider on one. Be ready to answer questions from all the curious onlookers! 

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