How do you set up your bike’s suspension so it’s balanced perfectly for the type of riding you do? John Casebeer, founder of Motool, faced that same question when he rediscovered riding motocross bikes some eight years ago. Motool makes the Slacker, a digital suspension tuner that helps you evaluate the sag on your bike and set the suspension just right for your weight, added luggage, and the sort of riding you plan to do.
Coming back to motorcycling after a 26-year long hiatus, John realized something was off. “I started riding bikes and racing motocross back in 1991, but after graduating high school, life got in the way; I began studying computer electronics, toured the country with a punk and hardcore band playing bass and guitar, and created a computer business. In 2012, I finally got sick of touring and partying and decided to go back to bikes. That’s when I bought a 2012 YZ450F and hit the motocross track”, John told me. However, it just didn’t feel quite right.
“At first, I thought I was just out of shape and it was a big adjustment to get used to a four-stroke. Still, I kept struggling with corners, and I had no idea what the problem was. I ended up relocating the motor forward and it fixed the issue somewhat, but the front end still wasn’t turning well. Because of that, I had a big crash and fractured two ribs in seven places; I was so sick of it I figured it had to be a suspension problem, but there were no reliable tools available to work out what the correct set up should be. So, I decided to create a tool that would do this”, John shared.
For the next weeks and months, John got to work. At first, he tried using lasers and sensors, but none of it worked. Finally, he came up with a simple solution: the Slacker prototype.
“It took me about three weeks to build the prototype, and from that point, I felt like I was on the right track. I invented Slacker in October 2012, and in January, I sold my other business and jumped into this full-time founding Motool. Man, has it been a struggle! It was a very wild six-month period, I went from an IT guy to an inventor trying to manufacture a completely new product in China, and trying to source a product in Asia is brutal. The engineering part was pretty straightforward, but at the time, the biggest challenges were getting the product just right – it needed to be simple and functional, but also hard to replicate – and manufacturing. I ran into some serious trouble with a New York company that was supposed to be sourcing a factory in China for me but who ended up disappearing with a large chunk of money instead of paying the factory. Later, I found out the guy had cheated lots of other people out of their investments and funds. Luckily, I managed to track the factory owner down and figure it out, but I came very close to losing it all because of trusting this mediator company. Then, once I got the design and manufacturing up and running, I needed to sell the tool, and it was tough going at first because I had no credentials in the industry and nobody even knew they needed something like this”, John shared.
“Initially, I started sharing Motool on social media, did some Facebook campaigns, and reached out to some racing teams to promote the Slacker. I spent money on getting booths at supercross events, and little by little, the word spread as more racers started using the Slacker and saw the benefits, I finally gained momentum. Suspension companies got on board, road racers followed, and I began making suspension tuners not just for dirt bikes, but working across the board”.
In 2017, things finally started to take off, and currently, Motool makes suspension tuners for a wide range of bikes from motocross, enduro, and ADV to road and sports bikes. “Suspension is everything: if it’s not right, the bike isn’t going to steer well, and that’s especially important for ADV riders who often ride with a pillion passenger, add luggage, and often get off the road. Taking the exact measurement and adjusting the suspension can be a game-changer because, with adventure riding, the load changes all the time. Some of the most common mistakes are either not measuring the sag at all, or measuring in the wrong place, and that’s where Slacker comes in. For racers, the right suspension adjustment can actually make a difference in their timing; for adventure riders, it can make a difference in handling and safety. You want the bike to be balanced and stable all the time, on all surfaces, and both when it’s loaded or unloaded”, John said.
These days, he is working on a Slacker app to make the suspension adjustments even easier, and an additional tool that will help riders get to know their bikes better and maintain them easily. “Look, I ride because it’s fun, and I love making bike and suspension maintenance easier for other riders so they can have fun safely, too. That’s why I do what I do!”.
Editor’s note: A while back I asked Motool if they could send us Slacker to test. They kindly did so but the wildfires hit Californian and our reviewer Dave, who lives in rural CA, has been unable to film it.