Tom Hill is a boy with the Black Stuff – carbon forks, in this particular case…
Want to replace a component (including the frame itself) on your bike with something lighter and blacker than your current parts? eXotic will more than likely be able to help you out. In a world where eBay and direct sales websites are littered with cheap carbon for frighteningly low prices and occasionally (or frequently, depending on who you ask) dubious quality, eXotic offer a middle way. For the most part, their pricing comes in below bigger brands, but buying from a UK based distributor will give a little more security than ordering directly from overseas.
There is no mistaking that the components that we received are very definitely carbon, with a glossy finish showing off the raw carbon below. I personally prefer something a little less shiny-shiny, and I’m not overly keen on the big eXotic logo on the parts, but our fork was very well finished.
Assuming you currently run a suspension fork, a swap to the eXotic rigid fork will have the greatest effect on the ride characteristics of your bike. Firstly, you’ll lose a significant chunk of weight, even from the lightest of bouncy forks – the eXotic weighs in at 720g. More importantly, riding a rigid bike (I’m assuming no one would be foolish enough to attempt a rigid front end, suspended rear set up… I’m still mentally scarred by the early 90s attempts) is a very different prospect to that of even a short travel fork to take the sting out of the bumps.
At 49cm axle to crown, the 29er version (26in and 650b versions are also available) of the fork won’t upset the geometry of bikes designed for up to 120mm or so suspension forks – I did a straight swap for a pair of 100mm forks on a Cotic Solaris. Riding any rigid bike takes a bit of readjustment – it is easy to almost feel vulnerable in technical terrain without the comfort blanket of a spring under you. Once used to the fork though, I began to appreciate the direct feel it provides. There is a precision that you simply don’t get with suspension, and the one piece carbon construction resists twisting well, despite only being QR at the axle (a 15mm option is in the offing apparently).
Over smooth terrain, it is a joy to ride. As the ground gets rougher, line choice becomes imperative for a comfortable time, but the eXotic copes extremely well when there isn’t a smooth option, or you simply get it a little bit wrong. There is some fore-aft compliance that irons out minor trail imperfections, especially in conjunction with big wheels and high volume tyres. Without the need for a fork bridge, there is masses of tyre clearance, even with a 2.4 on wide rims. I’d go as far to say as I think 29+ tyres could squeeze in, but I didn’t get chance to test the theory. With a more traditional wheel set up though, there is zero risk of mud clogging up the fork, even on the filthiest of winter days. An added bonus is of course the lack of associated maintenance when riding through the worst of conditions.
I had a couple of minor criticisms of the fork. Firstly, as mentioned, it feels a little anachronistic to offer a tapered steerer fork with only QR fork ends. While it didn’t unduly affect the ride, I did have to hunt out replacement hub end caps to convert my wheels. Secondly, there is no hose routing on the fork, so the clean lines of the leg are somewhat spoilt by a couple of zipties to tidy things away.
Neither of these little niggles detracted from me really enjoyed the simplicity of riding a rigid bike around my local XC trails, and the ride quality of the eXotic forks.
A great way to change the ride of your hardtail, and a very well made pair of rigid forks.
|Product:||Monococque UD Carbon Rigid Fork|
|From:||Carbon Cycles - www.carboncycles.cc|
|Tested:||by Tom Hill for 6 months|