MRP “Stage” 29 Fork: Final Review- by Guitar Ted
The MRP Stage fork, a new model from MRP for 2014, has been worked over for the entire Summer and with all the trail rides I’ve done on it in the Mid-West here, I can give you my final verdict on this black, long legged 29″er suspension device. The Mid-Term update can be found by clicking HERE, by the way.
It wasn’t all that long ago that having a 140mm travel 29″er fork was unheard of. Now we have several choices, (and new ones being introduced at Eurobike ’14 as we speak): however, these forks seem to get swept under the radar a bit due to all the push for “enduro” and the requisite 27.5″ wheels that come with that territory. It would be certainly understandable if companies simply skipped anything longer than 120mm for 29″ers, but we’re glad that isn’t the case, and super glad since we would never have had a look at the MRP Stage fork.
Throughout the developmental years of 29″ers, I have had the chance to ride a lot of suspension forks. It is not a stretch to say that 29″ers have now reached the pinnacle of suspension tech available today. That wasn’t always the case, but that also means that new entries to the 29″er market have to step up their game to differentiate themselves from the proven players. I can say without hesitation that MRP have done just that. This fork is definitely a step in the right direction, and with the unique Ramp Control, the Stage fork is not only different, but better than many choices out there today.
Throughout testing, it was the Ramp Control that I found the most useful feature on the fork. To be able to tweak the spring curve, on the fly, is really a good tool to have available. Maybe I was over-simplifying things by not engaging the other controls on the fork, but I felt no need to when the Ramp Control really did all I wanted for my needs out on the trail. I found it interesting how this control could not only stiffen the end stroke of the fork, but it also affected small bump compliance, and I actually could play with that control to give the Buzzard a different feel during aggressive maneuvers. Things like preloading the fork for a jump, (mid stiffness), or climbing, (stiffer feel), or for plusher feel on roots and rocks and pushing into corners at speed, (less stiff) all were affected by using more or less Ramp Control.
The Good: The main features besides the Ramp Control, (and by connection, suspension feel), that I liked were the things I didn’t have to think about at all while riding this fork. It was quite stiff laterally. The previous fork was not, and the brake rotor could easily be caused to rub on the pads, (same wheels and tires as seen here, by the way), but this was never heard while using the Stage fork. Steering precision and cornering feel were always precise feeling and secure. Nothing rattled, came loose, or did not work as advertised. This is a well built component.
The Not So Good: Let’s see…… It’s hard to criticize such a nice product when most everything is really working. I only will say two things against the Stage Fork. One- The fork still exhibited a sharp hiss while absorbing a sudden impact that moved the lowers quickly into the mid-stroke. Annoying? Maybe a little. It didn’t always do this, depending on where you set the Ramp Control- Less Ramp, less hiss, or so it seemed to me. Finally, the through axle. I know that every company feels the need to have their own through axle design, and the MRP design isn’t bad, really, but when Fox and Rock Shox have such dead simple, lightweight, and effective through axles, it really is tough to beat them at their game. A tiny criticism, but there it is…..
Final Conclusions: The MRP Stage 29 fork is definitely a contender. As has been talked about, the feature set is unique, the performance is solid, and the build quality of this fork is certainly on par with anything from the “big boys”. The 51mm offset is smart with this fork which is likely to find its way to a slack angled trail bike or AM hard tail like the Buzzard here. Steering feel is enhanced by that for sure. The suspension action is tunable in feel easily and in a wide range which should cover any terrain type and rider style. For an out of the gate product, MRP has a dialed fork here. Could we sweeten the deal? Maybe ask for a travel adjust feature? It could be one of the best, if not the best, long travel 29″er forks out there if it had such a feature, but that not withstanding, I can highly recommend this fork for any 29″er worthy of longer travel suspension.
Note: MRP sent over the Stage 29 fork for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.