(Left) NK’s original prototype set of air
triple clamps show how the bar mounts
double as shock absorber shafts. The
black rubber ring on the left shaft is used
to indicate shock shaft travel. Full travel
(Right) KTM’s Ryan Dungey embraced
the air triple clamp concept way back in
October of 2013 and KTM spent the next
two months dialing in the settings, while
NK ironed out any issues.
The beginning. The next day, the MXA gang of
Jody, John Basher, Daryl Ecklund, Dennis Stapleton and a
select group of special test riders, including KTM offroad
racer Ivan Ramirez, met at Glen Helen. In a typical
triple-clamp test, MXA would send each rider out to race
with the stock clamp, take individual test reports from
the riders, swap the triple clamps, rinse and repeat,
eventually returning to the stock clamps for a check run.
With the NK SFS air clamp, we didn’t have to do that.
The NK clamp had the same offset, bar position and
setup as the stock clamps, and the ability to mimic the
stocker when we put 120 psi of air pressure into the
small, cylinder-like air shocks. With this much air
pressure, the NK clamp had rigid bar mounts. Each test
rider would ride our stock KTM 450SXF with 120
pounds of air pressure, come back in and have the
pressure reduced to 65 pounds, and then go back out.
We also had each test rider select either more or less
air, depending on their personal preference. It was the
easiest triple-clamp protocol we have ever run—and we
cycled through test riders several times. Each test rider
raved about the difference he could feel between rigid
bar mounts and air-suspended bar mounts.
The technology transfer. At the time, Neken’s
Beaumont said that he only had two SFS triple clamps
with him and that he could only let MXA test the clamp
for one day because he needed it as a backup for Ryan
Dungey. It was obvious that it was designed for the
50mm WP forks, because we had to install CNC-machined
spacers to allow it to fit our 48mm production forks. So
after spending a couple hours at the track, we were
prepared to remove the SFS clamp from our test mule
and give it back to NK—then Benoit changed his mind
and said, “Why don’t you keep the clamp and test it more
thoroughly.” We jumped at the opportunity.
The test cycle. In a way, MXA was in an unusual
position. We had a works part off of Ryan Dungey’s bike,
but no assurance that Ryan would actually race with
the NK SFS air clamp. DeCoster and Dungey were still
testing, and they had to be sure there wouldn’t be any
high-profile air leaks, as had happened with the WP air
shock. In a catch- 22, we had Ryan Dungey’s trick part,
but if he didn’t race with it, all we had was a very
inventive triple clamp that didn’t have the marketing
hook that would give it instant credibility.
We didn’t want to tell anyone, apart from other MXA
test riders, what we were testing. To protect the project,
we lowered the cone of silence and quietly began racing
with the NK SFS clamp. It was an easy secret to keep,
because apart from the Schrader valve sticking out the
side, nothing set off any alarm bells for casual onlookers.
Our plan was to treat the NK SFS air triple clamp test as
a regular MXA product review, giving it however many
stars it deserved. We would worry about what Roger and