Editor’s Note: With c_g’s finish to the carbon rigid fork testing, (Found in the following posts: #1, #2, #3, and #4), he now moves on with some suspension devices. Here is the first, an unusual fork from German Answer.
On Test/ Out Of The Box – GERMAN:ANSWER Xcite Criterion 29″er Fork: by c_g:
Have you ever heard about the German high-end suspension manufacturerGERMAN:ANSWER? (No, there is no connection to ANSWER products)
If you haven´t …. then for one you have not read my coverage of Eurobike 2010 (but you can get to it here) and secondly you are probably with the majority of biker all around the world –
GERMAN:A are small and highly innovative but no global players. Being German I have known their products for ages but only when in 2010 GERMAN:ANSWER presented two 29″er forks (based on their proven 26 inch designs), did the brand shift into my focus. Those two designs are the telescoping (thus superficially conventional looking) XCITE and their multi link ultralight KILO.
Mostly in the media spotlight is the multi link design of the KILO, with a (claimed) weight as low as 1139 g (for the 29″er fork this is the world record for now!!). Having ridden parallelogram-type forks in the past I believe there can be some noticeable benefits to this design, be it the small bump sensitivity or the lesser bake dive. To me it is an indication of free thinking that GERMAN:A as a small manufacturer holds on to this nearly extinct design concept, gives it a very modern interpretation and keeps on refining it.
But even the more conventional looking XCITE is a unique interpretation of the telescoping suspension fork design. GERMAN:ANSWER claims the following: “The Xcite is the perfect synthesis of uncompromised weight reduction, maximum stiffness plus innovative and genuine design.” Being given the opportunity to ride a GERMAN:ANSWER 29″er fork I chose the Xcite for the following reasons:
Other than most telescoping forks the Xcite utilizes 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 forced 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, reducing wear considerably. (They still use aircraft grade super low friction bushings to get the best of both worlds.) Optically the fork sure looks different on the bike with its forward angled design and no offset dropouts but if it really brings the promised benefits, then I am more than happy about it. The fork further features 36 mm diameter stanchions for additional stiffness and precision. The lower fork legs are made of a specific carbon layup to reduce the weight even more – the outside does neither have the typical weave structure, not the UD matte finish but a coarse grain-like appearance – kind of like nickel plated only more coarse Another interesting feature are the wing shaped fork brace and fork crown (called “MUSCLE DESIGN” for the crown and “FLAP Design” for the brace), both cast alloy and stress optimized which are supposed to further enhance stiffness while reducing weight. They sure add a fast looking touch. The straight drop outs are elaborately and beautifully CNC machined (with plenty of sharp edges all around ).
But the innovations don´t end with the external design. GERMAN:ANSWER is a company that besides doing bicycle suspension also designs and constructs hydraulic damper units for therapeutic and other purposes. Talking to the company head Thomas Kamm, he told me that the requirements are similar in nature and so the two branches complement one another well. Being such experts on damping characteristics I am highly curious to experience what their interpretation of the perfectly damped bicycle forks rides like. Somewhat nostalgic to look at is the externally adjustable rebound damping on the bottom of the left fork leg that comes standard on the XCITE. This happens in a pretty wide range via an open screw that pushes a damper control pin.
As an optional upgrade, with an up charge of € 99,- and a weight penalty of ~ 60 g, there is an externally adjustable compression damping on the top of the left leg (executed in a beautiful machined gold anodized knob), which can go from fully open to a full lock-out by a turn of 180°. To avoid damage to the internals when forgetting to open on rough grounds, there is a internal blow-off valve. Interestingly my unit was installed reverse, so the locked position was actually the open one and vice versa.
The 29″er XCITE fork is usually produced in a 100 mm (X-Ray) or a 120 mm version(Criterion or Criterion+), which was what I opted for. This was one reason for me to choose the XCITE
over the KILO fork but there was another one sitting obscured in the right fork leg: – simply called “TRAVEL ADJUST”, a standard feature of the Xcite that let´s me set the fork´s travel from 120 mm to 20 mm with infinitesimal increments. This can be very handy to modify a bike´s handling, to make the fork adaptable to different bikes or as an effective climbing aid. I still have fond memories of my last 26” suspension fork, a Marzocchi Z1 (boy that was long ago ) that had the first generation ETA, which I would frequently use to assist in steep climbs. In my version you need to push a pin in, that sits on the underside of the right leg and push down on the fork to the desired length. Of course this means I have to stop & dismount to change the travel setting. There also is a remote lever available for an extra of € 89.-.
So far all aspects point to a pretty stiff and universal fork that should cope with XC as well asAM duties. Only the maximum disc rotor size of 185 mm is an obvious tribute to the light weight. The disc brake adapter is PM style and fixed to the alloy dropouts with 3 screws – two in line with the baking forces, one perpendicular. The forks come standard with 9mm quick release dropouts, but 20 mm through axle versions are available on order from May on (€ 39.- extra). GERMAN:A gives a AC length of 515 mm (100 mm travel) and 525 mm (120 mm travel) but my fork measures closer to 540 when fully extended, so it is on the taller side of forks which is important to know when retrofitting to a frame.
Currently there are only 1 1/8” steerer tubes available (either in carbon or in alloy) but there might be a tapered version coming. I was more interested in the fork´s performance than
getting the lightest possible and so my testing sample had an alloy steerer tube which with the additional lock-out gave me a complete fork weight of 1480 g – pretty cool I´d say.
In the lightest version the 29″er Xcite can be as low as 1362 g. Prices for this fork, that is produced in Germany upon order (so give it about 2-3 weeks time for delivery) start at € 999.- for the all alloy XCITE CRITERION and can go up to € 1199.- for the top end (carbon steerer) X-Ray. The testing sample is a standard 120 mm Xcite CRITERION with an additional lockout and would sell for € 1098.-.
While the fork is actually intended to go on another bike project (hence the 120 mm option) that is delayed due to some missing components – it will undergo its initial ride time on the
On-One Carbon Race 29″er – after all the rigid ride time on this bike I am curious how I´ll like the fork´s performance on that frame.
Stay tuned for my first ride impressions and more on the GERMAN:ANSWER Xcite 29″er fork, soon here.