22 November 2008 - 16:24Where do I begin?
I guess I’ll start with my first impression of the swanky new Niner carbon fork prototype. When the fork arrived, I happened to be on the phone with Brett from NIner, and we were actually talking about how cool the new fork is. PIcture two big carbon fiber flavored bars of Toblerone and you have your fork blades.
The triangular construction of the fork legs is unique, and a huge departure from the traditional round legs. I imagine that its this shaped this way for a reason. One of the many great things about carbon, is that it you can pretty much do anything you want with it. Metal is not quite as “malleable”. The result, when combined with careful engineering, is a forgiving design with both uber lightness, and herculean strength. Niner tests their products very thoroughly. Looks like I’m helping!
At first, I was a little nervous about trusting my dental work to a 530g piece of plastic. But I figure that the 2 other carbon forks with carbon steerer tubes I have in rotation, that have given me many happy and trauma free miles, it was time for me to get over that small detail. The parking lot test was good, some chatter under a big handful of front brake, but nothing that really jumped out at me that would indicate any sort of trailside problems.
Hey, guess where I went? That’s right, Town Loops in Stowe. There are a coupe of trails that are too close to houses and the main road for hunting, which made this a good place to go, as last weekend was also the first weekend of rifle season. Also, I recently found out that hunting was illegal on Stowe Town land, which means that both upper and lower loops should be relatively safe. Once you head out to Charlie’s and Zogs though, you are on private land, and are on your own…
Dr Jones and I headed out in snow flurries. Rigid singlespeed bikes have always felt the same to me, rigid. The Niner Steel fork that normally lives on the bike has a bit of give to it, but not much. I still feel that it beats me up a tad when I push things too far. This carbon fork was completely different. It felt like there was nothing there. I felt nothing. No bumps, no front wheel, yet I could go wherever I wanted to just by turning the bars. Weird! Actually, I’m exaggerating a bit, I did feel things, but not in the same way I felt them with the steel fork.
There was a level of compliancy that is only possible with carbon fiber. Steering precision was spot on. Which leads me to a couple of things about this fork that are different than my steel one. The steel fork was built on a platform with a 480mm axle to crown, and an offset of 38mm. The carbon is 470mm A-C, and 46mm offset.
The resulting change in both A-C and offset, results in an increase in steering speed, but not at the expense of being twitchy. I was very impressed. Negotiating some of the tighter turns on the loops became a lot easier. “Right NOW!” low speed turns on rooty switchbacks were a lot less nerve wracking, and there was no sign of impending tip-over.
One of the great things about single speed riding, is that it can be dead quiet. No chain chatter, no rebound noise from shocks, just quiet. My stealth was rewarded with rolling right up to a HUGE buck, which I counted six spikes on before he saw me and bolted. And no hunters in sight. That sucker had to be 160 lbs or more. Wish I was quicker on the draw with my camera…
I’m left with the impression that this fork is the real deal, and that this will certainly change things for those that like to ride carbon forks. My pre production sample weighs a scant 530g before I cut the steerer tube down. White Bros lists their Rock Solid at 700g, and the Bontrager Switchblade is 950g. We’ll see how it holds up as I’m forced to ride in the snowy cold.