EUROBIKE part V – Components: FORK NEWS: by “c_g”
EUROBIKE 2010 has been the show with a multitude of new bike introductions by many companies new to 29er. But besides covering these, there was also some really exciting news in the sector of 29er forks. Among these there were the world debuts by X-LITE, RAGLEY, and SYNCROS, but also on some refinements by MANITOU, GERMAN-ANSWER and FRM.
But first I want to start out with my congratulations to NINER BIKES who won a EUROBIKE award in the two categories DESIGN and WEIGHT with their NINER Carbon fork – the first of the new generation full-carbon forks that was introduced in 2009. Congratulations folks.
We are having one for a long term test to proof if there will be a RIDE Award (by twentynineninches this time), too.
Let´s stay with rigid forks. I had been tipped off by rumors before but it came as a surprise nonetheless – the monocoque Carbon fork by X-LITE. You don´t know X-Lite? They were a small British company back in the 90s doing lots of neat and colorful accessories for MTB. Now that company has been revived with a bang on EUROBIKE with some neat carbon and alloy bars, one single clamp bolt seat post, a saddle, skewers, brake adapters, grips and spacers – all in a whole array of colors of course … and a rigid fork!!!
There were several exciting details given about this world premier fork that will go by the name of XF11: The full carbon rigid fork that comes with IS disc brake mounts will be offered in 3 lengths (440, 455 and 470 mm) and two offsets (38 and 45 mm). Sounds cool? It gets even better: There will be a 9 mm QR drop out version as well as a 15 mm through-axle version and if that were not enough you can get them in a rather cool finish (Carbon outside and rear, with flashy graphics on the inside of the legs).
There is some optical resemblance with the above mentioned fork (which I find humorously mocked with the inside-out graphics) that is only logical due to the general design concept as monocoque forks. I was told the design approach and structural concept were completely different, though, deriving from high performance Wind Turbine blades. Above all the fork, that has been designed by Brant Richards, the brain behind several RAGLEY, NUKE PROOF, X-LITE designs, will have no weight limit or max rotor size. Rather cool for those of us wanting to ride larger rotors than 185 mm which is the most common limit on most forks.
The exact same fork, only with a different finish (with a Kevlar covered outer side) will be sold under the RAGLEY label. Good job Mr. Richards – good for us riders.
As a real surprise and discovered only by accident was another world premier – the SYNCROS FL CARBON fork 29”, all new for 2011. This gem sat there as part of the Syncros booth with no highlighted presentation at all.
The full UD Carbon SYNCROS fork comes at a claimed weight of 580 g (with a 300 mm steeerer tube) and a rather unusual 485 mm axle to crown length. Though at the time of the show not available, I meanwhile have received the details on the FL Carbon 29er and these read rather promising: There will be no rider weight limit on it and it is approved up to 203 mm max rotor size – cool isn´t it? A bit curious in combination with the tall construction is the 38 mm offset but I am sure there was something behind it by SYNCROS (I will pick their brains to find out ).
Prices are a bit stiff at USD 529.-, or € 499.- (incl. VAT). They are said to hit the shops by January.
I really liked the understated matte finish that to me was a well done cutting edge interpretation of the Syncros forks of old. Do you see it: The straight, round fork legs, the one piece crown (make the crown silver and you´re there)… I like it. (Besides the peculiar geometry made me curious as well.)
OK, so much for rigid forks, let´s turn our attention to some non-mainstream suspension forks. I leave it to Guitar Ted to report on the news by FOX RACING SHOX and ROCK SHOX, besides these big brands do have serious presence in the print media anyway so most news have been communicated already.
That is why I want to introduce you to a highly innovative German based company called GERMAN-ANSWER (no, there is no connection to ANSWER products).
Already existent in 2010, but properly presented only this Eurobike, were two 29er forks based on their proven designs EXCITE (a advanced telescoping fork), and their KILO (a one of a kind super light multiple link design).
The XCITE (29er version will have 100 mm travel and is claimed to weigh 1362 g only), takes a slightly different than usual approach to telescoping suspension forks by applying what they call “STRAIGHT-DROPOUT-DESIGN”. This means the fork legs and dropouts are perfectly in line while all the offset comes from the angled fork crown. GERMAN claims to have created a smoother travel action (because the bump forces are more in line with the fork legs) while reducing rider induced bobbing (because these forces now work in a different angle than the fork legs) and at the same time lowering bushing loads, thus wear considerably. The fork further features 36 mm diameter stanchions and a flap-like fork brace and comes in carbon or alloy outer tubes. Compression and Rebound damping are externally adjustable.
Lockout, a smart remote actuated infinite travel adjustment, and a 20 mm thru axle are optional features. The axle to crown length is a rather tall 520 mm. By design this fork is aimed at a wide range of riding from XC to marathon all the way to trail riding.
The other model now available for 29er is their record weight KILO No.1 fork with a claimed weight of 1139 g!! While looking rather exotic with its trapezoid design and a rear shock handling the suspension action, we all know these designs (when done correctly) are much less prone to brake dive and can be super sensitive at the same time. I have owned a few such parallelogram based forks (AMP and GIRVIN) and they rode great, if there just had not been these weak joints and loosening bushings, they may still be around. Looking at the KILO´s bearings and linkage, I´d say these problems have been addressed. The travel on the KILO is set to 90 mm with, again, at a rather tall 515 mm fork length. I am not sure how well this fork really rides (I may get a chance to ride one on an IDWORX Rock`n Rohler, where it is spec’ed as an option, though) but it sure was interesting to see other small manufacturers questioning the more common and mainstream suspension fork designs.
FRM the company that does an entire array of lightweight high end 29er components, drive train and parts and frames also hasn’t been idle in the forks department. They have updated their full range of forks with the option of tapered steerers which incorporated a full redesign of their fork crowns and steerer tubes. Interesting is the approach of utilizing an alloy/carbon composite lower section with carbon steerer which is said to maximize strength in this most stressed area. Otherwise their Carbon rigid fork called RF 29 BICARBON remains unchanged for 2011 with a 470 mm axle to crown length, a 44 mm rake and ~ 575 g weight. FRM states a maximum rider weight of 90 kg. (Left: Click to enlarge)
Not sure if it really is new (but it is the first time I am seeing it) is FRM´s 29er suspension fork AIR-WAY 85 SSV 29er in a sleek FULLCARCON version. (Right, click to enlarge) The Carbon version (only fork legs in Carbon, all other parts alloy, steel hardware, 1450 g) and the BICARBON version (fork legs and steerer tube in carbon, alloy brace, ti hardware, 1370 g) has been around a while but now throw in a FULLCARBON version with (carbon legs, steerer tube and brace). All do share the same internals with FRM´s adjustable platform system called SSV, adjustable progression and rebound and 30 mm scandium upper fork legs. The forks feature 85 mm of travel with a 485 axle to crown length and a rider weight limit of 90 kg … again, new for 2011 is the option to go with a tapered steerer configuration.
MANITOU: Their 29er forks (formerly named MINUTE like their 26” sibling) were renamed to TOWER and received a cosmetic makeover plus a redesign of the damping knob. This makes retrofitting the fork with the remote lock out MILO a lot easier. Before the damping unit needed to be removed to fit the system, now only the upper knob needs to be changed. A smart move for people like me, that really dig the MILO. The TOWER will be split in the top end PRO version (white one pictured, at 1698 g or 3.74 lbs) and the mid range EXPERT (black one pictured, 1906 g or 4.2 lbs). Both will be offered in 80, 100 or 120 mm travel and in black or white color options. Only after the show did I find out about the introduction of a MANITOU Dorado 180 mm fork – sorry folks but I really missed that one. Unless GT can get some more info on them during Interbike – I promise I will have a follow up for you .
So much for the EUROBIKE 2010 news on forks – stay tuned for more J