Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Price For "Real" MTB Parts?

Rock Shox 30 Gold
I've worked at a bicycle shop for many years now and I often scratch my head when I see what passes for "mountain bike" parts spec on models that are definitely intended for use off road. The rigors and types of riding styles one sees these parts put through mean that parts are going to be abused to some degree, and that those parts need to be up to the task.

Yet time and again I see a bicycle spec'ed with poor brakes, poor drive train gear, and especially poor wheels and forks. It is why I often tell potential riders on a budget that one bicycle is a "mountain bike shaped object", while another is actually an off road-able machine.

I recall one particular bicycle model put forth by a well known company a few years back that came out of the box, brand spanking new, with fork bushings that displayed so much slop I wouldn't consider it for off road riding of any type. In fact, now that I think about that, there are two bicycles from two separate manufacturers that stand out in that way to me. Bad stuff.

That's why yesterday I was heartened a bit by a press release I got saying Rock Shox was making a fork available which would be lighter and less expensive than some of their other offerings and yet retain the high performance features that the upper end forks are known for, just with less bells and whistles attached. To my mind, a decent suspension fork, along with competent wheels and drive train bits, go a long way towards building customer satisfaction, and maybe a life long rider that will upgrade some day.

I think Rock Shox got something right here. They are providing a product that potentially is simple, durable, and requires minimal maintenance.That's what entry level to casual level mountain bikers need. Something that "works" with minimal fuss and input on the part of the owner. Hopefully Rock Shox gets this model right, and that's exactly what folks will experience with this fork. The fact it says "Rock Shox" on it doesn't hurt matters any either.

While "halo" models and high end, new technology parts are a lot of fun to check out, the reality is most folks are on a "beer budget". Big, fancy models that fetch astronomical prices, ($10,000.00 per bike is not unheard of now), are one thing. Forks that cost $700.00+ are one thing, but the focusing attention on all of that by the marketing guys and gals is a bit heavy handed. This news is a bit of fresh air in those terms, and I welcome more of this sort of thing in the future.


Fred Blasdel said...

But 30mm stanchions and a 9mm QR on a 120mm 29er fork?

Would seem to put it squarely in the "fork shaped object" pile

Rob said...

But it should perform better than the Dart series forks and similar, correct?

I agree that bike prices are outrageous for new folks (and to me as well, but I'm quickly heading for curmudgeon-dom), and forks are ridiculously expensive (gotta love a steel rigid fork!).

G-ted, is there such thing as a complete MTB that passes the muster for less than $2000? $1500?

Guitar Ted said...

@Fred Blasdel: I disagree with you here. This fork isn't going to be for "that" crowd, if you catch my meaning. As I stated in my post, this is the fork someone might see on a bike that is what? Around 1000 bucks? An FS bike around 1500? Bikes that are "first time" entry points for folks that are seeking experience and seeing what mountain biking is all about, I would think.

I will also say that for the majority of the time that modern mountain bikes have roamed the earth, QR's were used, and also that I, on a fork with 28mm stanchions, rode the 1994 Worlds DH course and lived to tell about it. (Specialized Future Shock fork with 63mm travel!!)

In my opinion, the internals, the quality of construction, that is paramount. That is where you should not compromise on a component such as a fork, but sadly, many do.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rob: The Dart is a steel fork with a lower end damper than this 30 Gold. I am thinking this new fork is an evolution of the current TK Gold fork, which is a Reba with heavier chassis. This new fork is basically that fork only lighter and with no options for lock outs, thru axles, etc.

I think there are some good values at the 1200 buck level, and hopefully this fork will bring even more value to the 800-1200 range, where I would like to see this fork spec'ed.

S.Fuller said...

@Fred - Riders have beat the hell out of QR based suspension forks for years. I don't see any problems with that on an entry level fork. QR hubs and wheels are going to be cheaper as well.

Maybe I'm not "epic" enough, but I haven't had any issues with my QR based fork on my Dos Niner.

Zeroack said...

It is good to see RS making an effort to free the little man(or little pocket book). I think it's genius. They have looked at the market and hmmm where does the gap exist? Good form RockShox.

I also agree that there are a few good bikes out there right now for just over a grand. My oldest son who's a road rider, just bought a new road bike. However he wants to do Odin's with me. So he needs a I started helping him look and I think we'll end up going with a Airborne Goblin. Pretty decent build for the money.