Rapha has launched a new flagship road shoe, the Pro Team. It’s described as the brand’s first shoe designed specifically for road racing and, most significantly, features a woven upper said “to deliver year-round comfort, power and performance.” Rapha says these shoes have been in development for two years and the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted the Pro Team race slippers on the feet of EF Education First riders through the early part of the WorldTour season. The Pro Team shoes join the Classic and Explore shoes in Rapha’s range – both were released last year and were the first shoes designed in-house by Rapha (the original Grand Tour and Climber’s shoes were developed with Giro). Whereas the Classic is an all-rounder and Explore is designed for gravel (or exploring, if you’re a multi-terrain rider who would rather not be pigeon-holed), the Pro Team is wholly focused on performance. Best cycling shoes 2020: top-rated shoes reviewed by BikeRadar Rapha’s Explore shoes are gravel-ready and not insanely expensive The Pro Team’s upper is made from a proprietary woven fabric called Powerweave. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media Rapha Pro Team shoes | key features One-piece, seamless Powerweave woven upper Boa retention system Carbon sole with heel and toe bumpers External heel cup Microfibre in-sole with adjustable arch support Purple, black and light grey colour options 267g (size 43) £260 / $355 / AU$450 / €310 Go, go Powerweave Knitted cycling shoes have been around for a while now – Giro launched the Empire Knit back in 2017 and a host of other big brands followed suit, including the likes of Fizik, DMT and Bontrager. While, at first glance, it may look like Rapha has followed the crowd by launching the Pro Team, this isn’t another knitted shoe. The upper is made from a woven polyester – not a knit – and that, according to Rapha, makes all the difference. Rapha worked with fabric technology company Avery Dennison to develop the Powerweave fabric used on the Pro Team. As you’d expect of any self-respecting product launch, this jacquard woven fabric is said, in Rapha’s words, to “set a new benchmark for cycling footwear”. What’s the difference between a knitted fabric and a woven fabric? In a knit fabric, one continuous yarn is looped repeatedly to create a braided effect; in woven fabric, multiple yarns cross each other at right angles. Rapha claims the Powerweave fabric provides a “glove-like fit” and improved stiffness over a microfibre or knit shoe. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media Closure comes via two Boa dials. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media The external heel cup wraps around the rear of the shoe, apparently reducing weight and providing a more secure fit. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media The Pro Team is described as Rapha’s first shoe designed specifically for racing. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media The Pro team is available in three colours: purple, black or light grey. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media And what does that mean when it comes to cycling shoes? The key difference is the amount of stretch, according to Rapha. Knit is inherently stretchy, particularly along its width. However, while a weave still has some stretch, it’s a lot less flexible. This, along with the low-profile of the upper, apparently helps produce a sculpted, “glove-like” fit, while offering significantly more strength and stiffness than a knit. It’s also enabled Rapha to create a rather jazzy jacquard finish. The weave on the upper is very dense – much more so than that of a knitted shoe – but Rapha says it will still provide some natural air conditioning in warm weather. It’s also received a hydrophobic treatment to add water resistance, although how that truly holds up in bad weather is to be seen. These look like racing slippers for fast summer rides, not the depths of winter. Box-section sole and Boa dials The upper may be the main talking point here, but let’s take a look at some of the other details on the new Pro Team shoe. Most significantly, this is Rapha’s first shoe to use Boa dials – the firm’s shoes have typically used laces or Velcro straps. Boa dials are extremely common on top-end shoes and offer the kind of on-the-fly micro-adjustability that you just can’t get from other closure systems. The heel cup wraps all the way around the back of the shoe – this, according to Rapha, ensures a more secure fit and reduces weight – while the top of the heel is pretty narrow. In fact, the back end of the shoe looks a lot like the Specialized S-Works 7. No bad thing, it’s a very good shoe. The sole is a full carbon fibre affair, as you’d expect, and Rapha says the trapezoidal cross-section is inspired by box-girder bridges. Whether you’re a box-girder or suspension bridge kind of rider, you can expect the sole on these shoes to be extremely stiff. The psychedelic styling of the purple Pro Team is sure to turn heads, but black and light grey versions are also available. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media There’s a full carbon sole, of course. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media The heel and toe box are protected by bumpers. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media The branding is typically Rapha, but we like it. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media The Pro Team shoes are provided with three options for arch support. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media In fact, Rapha describes the sole as “incredibly stiff”. At least there’s not the arbitrary, self-defined ‘stiffness scale’ conjured up by most shoe brands. There are also bumpers on the toe and heel to provide a little extra protection when walking or putting a foot down at a junction. The heel bumper looks like it’s replaceable via a screw under the in-sole. The in-sole itself has some typically Rapha branding on it – inspiring or not, it adds a little interest – and has an antibacterial, microfibre top which feels soft to touch, almost like velvet. The fit is customisable via three arch supports supplied with the shoes, with neutral medium and high options that Velcro onto the bottom of the in-sole. Claimed weight for the Pro Team is 220g per shoe for a size 42. We weighed our size 43 sample at 269g. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media Price, weight and colours The final questions are, how much do the Pro Team shoes weigh and how much do they cost? Claimed weight for a size 42 shoe is 220g per shoe but our size 43 sample weighs 267g on the BikeRadar scales. That’s the best part of a 20 per cent difference – not insignificant, even bearing in mind the single step up in size. As for the price, a pair of these will set you back £260 / $355 / AU$450 / €310, and if this purple colour doesn’t do it for you, there are also black and light grey options.
Hullo all you Flow Frothers, and welcome to the first edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce for the year 2020! Consider this a slightly belated Happy New Year from Mick & Wil here at FlowMTB, and we hope you all had a marvellous break over the Xmas holidays! For those of you enjoying your summer riding trips, we’d really rather not know. But we still hope you’re enjoying yourselves. Happy (belated) New Year from Mick & Wil! Please don’t judge – we’re athletes after all. Yes, we’re just a little tardy with our New Years wishes, but has anyone else noticed just how massive the start of 2020 has been so far? Because it’s been humongous! If you’ve been following us here at FlowMTB, you’ll no doubt have seen all of the new bikes released over the past couple of weeks, in what is traditionally the ‘off-season’ for all the big brand launches. After the last few weeks though, we’re not convinced there’s actually an off-season anymore. Not when we’ve had Specialized launch its new Levo SL lightweight e-MTB, or Pivot Cycles bring out its second generation Switchblade. Of course you’ll no doubt be aware that Santa Cruz has also finally decided to jump into the e-MTB game with the amusingly-named Heckler, which has caused quite the stir. And just this week Norco decided to unveil the brand new Sight VLT, which is very, very different to the previous version. We’ve had the chance to ride and rate all four of those bikes, so be sure to check out the reviews right here if you fancy. Wil testing out the impressively lightweight Levo SL from Specialized. Mick piloting the zingy Santa Cruz Heckler – the brand’s first e-MTB. Beyond all the bombshell bike releases, there’s been scads of other stories and reviews we’ve been busy beavering away on in the New Year, including Mick’s colourful feature on all the bikes & tech from the Cannonball MTB Festival. And if you’re looking for any inspiration for a riding trip this year, be sure to read Imogen’s Top-5 reasons for mountain biking in Alice Springs – some lovely photos and inspirational words in there to get you yearning for some outback adventures. Now that we’ve gotten through some of those early bike launches, we’ve had a moment to breathe and go through all of the new kit that’s turned up at Flow HQ for testing. And there is A LOT! So grab a cuppa, settle in, and get ready for a heady dose of shiny new kit. As always, give us a hoy if you’ve got any questions about any of the products you see here. Enjoy! Fox Speedframe Helmet Fox has completely overhauled its trail lid, which is now called the Speedframe. Drawing from the Dropframe, the Speedframe is an open-face trail helmet with loads of rear coverage and a clever dual-density EPS shell. The Fox Flux is dead! Long live the Flux! In its place, Fox has introduced a brand new trail helmet called the Speedframe. We like the new name, which helps to better align it with the full-face Proframe and the half-face Dropframe. The Speedframe maintains an open-face shell and is designed with trail riding in mind. There are 19 vents in total, including three vents over the brow, which kind of gives it a slightly ‘Specialized’ vibe. There’s a big ol’ visor that offers three firmly-indexed positions. Set it in the highest position, and you can stow your goggles up there too. Inside the helmet you’ll find the latest version of the MIPS protection system, as well as anti-microbial padding that can be removed and washed if your microbes are simply too powerful. Fox offers the Speedframe in two versions. We’ve got the more expensive ‘Pro’ model, which gets a snazzy FidLock chin buckle that uses the wizardry of magnets to bring it together. More importantly though, the Speedframe Pro gets the Varizorb shell, which combines two different densities of EPS foam into the one shell. You can spot this in the photo above – the light grey EPS foam is a softer density and is placed closer to the rider’s head, while the black EPS foam is a firmer density and is placed on the outer part of the structure for better impact strength. For $70 less, you can get the standard Speedframe helmet, which comes with the same overall shape and MIPS protection system. However, the standard Speedframe does miss out on the dual-density Varizorb foam though, and it also skips the FidLock buckle. Both helmets come in a tonne of colour options and in Small, Medium or Large sizes. From: PSI Cycling Price: $269.99 Ride Concepts Transition Clip Shoes Ride Concepts is still a relatively new name in the mountain bike footwear world, but the fledgling brand is having a red-hot crack at the big hitters with a solid line of both flat pedal and clip pedal shoes. The Transition is RC’s flagship clip pedal shoe designed for trail riding and enduro racing. You get laces and a big Velcro strap to tie it all down, while D3O inserts in the footbed and around the ankle provide impact protection. The 40mm wide cleat box is designed to accept all modern 2-bolt mountain bike cleat systems, and it’s surrounded by a textured rubber outsole that uses RC’s mid-density DST 8.0 compound. From: Lusty Industries Price: $274.95 Dynaplug Racer Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit For repairing a tubeless tyre puncture on the trail, we’ve found it hard to go past the quality and effectiveness of a Dynaplug. The US brand makes a host of different solutions for plugging a hole in your tyre, including the lightweight Racer option we have here. This double-ended tool is beautifully machined from solid billet 6061 aluminium and weighs just 23 grams. It’s slim enough to fit in a saddle bag, jersey pocket, or with your tube strap on the frame. You get three of the pointy-tip plugs and two blunt Megaplugs included. From: KWT Imports Price: $64.95 Dynaplug Megapill Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit Compared to the original Dynaplug Pill, the Megapill is, err, more mega? It’s bigger, that’s right. And it holds more plugs too. And it comes with a Megaplug in it – that’s the thicker tubeless plug that has blunt, rounded tip for sealing up particularly large punctures. Also inside the Megapill is the world’s tiniest shank for cutting off the rubber tail that’s left behind after you’ve done your plugging. And all of that comes inside a texturally-pleasing machined alloy case. From: KWT Imports Price: $99.95 Dynaplug Megaplugger Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit If you’re not so fussed on carrying a zillion plugs or you don’t need the fancy alloy case, the Megaplugger uses a lighter plastic housing. As its name suggests, it comes with the bigger Megaplug applicator, along with a couple of spare plugs in the box. Plus the cutest little yellow pipe-cleaner. Spare plugs can be bought separately in a 5-pack for $19.95 (pointed or bullet-tipped), and you can get a 3-pack of the XL-sized Megaplugs for $22.95. From: KWT Imports Price: $59.95 DHaRCO Tech Tee DHaRCO has a fresh season of riding apparel for 2020, including some snazzy new Tech Tees. Aussie mountain bike apparel brand, DHaRCO, has got a new season line of riding jerseys, tech tees, baggy shorts, and gloves. We’ve got one of the new stone-coloured tech tees, which are made from a fabric called Drirelease. Made up of 85% polyester and 15% cotton, Drirelease aims to provide the softer feel of cotton while better wicking moisture for vastly better breathability. You can get these tech tees from Small through to XXL and in a bunch of colour options. From: DHaRco Price: $59.95 DHaRCO Gravity Shorts To go with the new jerseys and tech tees, DHaRCO has revamped its Gravity Shorts with a new cut that supposedly fits truer to size than the previous version, which was known for being on the small side. Using a 4-way stretch fabric, the Gravity Shorts get a couple of zippered pockets and an adjustable waist with a Velcro cinch-strap on each side. Available in Small through to XXL in Black, Blue and the Camo we have here. From: DHaRco Price: $125.00 DHaRCO Connor Gloves We dig the jazzy patterns of DHaRCO’s full-finger gloves, including the flowery print on these Connor gloves. These have a streamlined fit and a minimalist construction for comfort and summer riding breathability. The synthetic palm is free of padding for a close fit on the grips, and the the thumb and index finger are supposedly smart-phone friendly. There are four other colour options, and all gloves come in Small through to XL sizes. From: DHaRco Price: $36.50 DHaRCO 3/4 Sleeve Jersey You too can look like Connor Fearon. Standing still anyway. Inspired by Connor Fearon’s race kit, the Fast Tropical print on this 3/4 jersey is an obvious match for those dazzling gloves. With an over-the-elbow length, the 3/4 jersey offers a touch more abrasion and sun protection than a regular short-sleeve jersey, but keeps things light and breezy. Quick-dry polyester helps there too, as do the side mesh panels, which are kept black for tasteful discretion. Like the Tech Tee, this bad boy goes up to a XXL size. From: DHaRco Price: $69.95 DHaRCO Gravity Pants An entirely new product for 2020, the DHaRCO Gravity Pants were designed in collaboration with Connor Fearon to provide full-length protection while still maintaining a close-fit for less flapping in the breeze. Not just for DH racing, these Gravity Pants are built light and stretchy enough for winter trail riding. These get the same 4-way stretch fabric as the Gravity Shorts, but that fabric runs all the way down to the ankles, where they taper in above your shoes. There’s room for knee pads underneath, and you get three pockets and an adjustable waist band. Sizes go from Small up to an XXL. From: DHaRco Price: $179.95 ODI F-1 Vapor Grips Lighter than a lock-on grip, and with more squish for added comfort. These are ODI’s answer to the popular silicone foam grips from the likes of ESI. Utilising ODI’s own A.I.R.E compound, these provide a nice squishy feel that’s supported by millions of tiny air bubbles trapped inside. ODI says you get a slower rebound for more control and more comfort, while a textured and dimpled surface gives you more to hold onto. As for weight? These come in at just 74g for the pair, which is a good bit lighter than a lock-on grip. From: Lusty Industries Price: $34.95 Lezyne Digital Shock Drive The Lezyne Digital Shock Drive is without doubt one of Wil’s favourite tools, which explains why he was absolutely distraught when he lost his 3-year old pump on the trail a few weeks ago. Thankfully he didn’t have to endure too many sleepless nights, as we’ve just had a replacement Shock Drive turn up at HQ to satisfy his trailside-tuning needs. A very compact digital shock pump, this little doohicky is small enough to fit into the stealth pocket of a pair of bib shorts. It has a nice, big display that reads to the nearest whole number, plus there are gold bits, which look sweet. If you want to tune your fork and air pressures accurately, ditch the bulky analogue pump and get one of these. From: PSI Cycling Price: $119.99 RockShox PIKE Ultimate Fork Mick’s custom-build Tallboy has just received a fork upgrade in the way of a new Pike Ultimate. One of the biggest stories so far in 2020 has been on this bike here – Mick’s custom-built Santa Cruz Tallboy 4.0. Equipped with a SRAM AXS drivetrain and Reverb dropper post, along with Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels and a Deity cockpit, it is one seriously good-looking piece of trail shreddery. If you haven’t read that article already, you owe it to yourself to check it out right now. The only part of the puzzle that Mick wasn’t totally happy with was the fork. To begin with, he built the Tallboy with a 140mm travel Fox 34 fork that had a 51mm offset. However, the new Tallboy is significantly longer and slacker than its predecessor, and is also optimised around a reduced-offset fork between 120-130mm of travel. While the Fox fork worked fine, the handling wasn’t quite right. To rectify its handling, Mick has just plugged in a 2020 RockShox Pike Ultimate fork with 130mm of travel and a shorter 42mm offset. Compared to the 2019 Pike, the latest model gets the revised Charger 2.1 damper, low-friction SKF seals and Maxima Plush damping fluid to provide smoother performance for greater traction and control. Currently this fork has the RCT3 damper, which offers adjustable low-speed compression damping and a 3-position lever to offer open, medium and firm settings. However, we’re about to get our hands on a Charger RC2 damper for even greater high-speed control. Stay tuned for an update on that one! From: PSI Cycling Price: $1499.99 Fox Flexair Lite Shorts Super lightweight and minimalist baggys from Fox, the Flexair Lite. For those who want the lightest and breeziest kit available, Fox has the Flexair Lite short. Built with TruMtion 4-way stretch fabric, these shorts have a very light and soft feel along with in-built ventilation via laser-cut perforations on the outside of each thigh. There’s a single zippered mesh pocket to keep your mobile phone or keys handy, otherwise everything is stripped back to the bare minimum, with a single ratchet closure system on the waist. A padded liner is included, but can be removed if you want to wear these with your favourite bib shorts. From: PSI Cycling Price: $149.99 Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post Flow’s Fresh Produce | The Ultimate Pike Fork, Fresh DHaRCO Kit, Dynaplugs & Fox’s New Helmet appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
There’s a general theme that runs throughout the road cycling world: aluminium is good, but carbon is better. From framesets to wheels, groupsets and finishing kits, if we can afford it, the temptation is nearly always to go for carbon. But that’s doing other materials a disservice, and there are plenty of times aluminium has proven itself equal to, or better, than its composite counterpart. Sit back and feast your eyes upon five products that prove carbon isn’t always best. Trek Emonda ALR Trek Emonda ALR frameset. Immediate Media The Trek Emonda ALR is proof that alloy bikes should still be taken seriously as an alternative to carbon. It’s prettier than many carbon frames, particularly in this sensual metallic purple flip paint job, which changes colour according to the viewing angle. The Emonda ALR is easily mistaken for carbon until you spot the welds at the bottom bracket, and it’s light too. We weighed a 54cm frame at just over 1,200g with all its hardware, and built it into a bike weighing 7kg ready-to-ride with alloy clinchers. There’s a disc version of the Emonda ALR too, but we have a particular affection for the rim brake model. This takes direct-mount calipers, the best rim brakes you can get. The Emonda ALR isn’t as good as a five grand carbon bike, but it’s a hell of a lot closer to one than you might imagine, and so much cheaper. If that doesn’t convince you, our very own senior writer, Matthew Loveridge recently reviewed his 2019 Trek ALR long-termer. Matthew has ridden a lot of bikes, and has a lot of opinions about bikes, so you can be assured that if he thinks it’s good, it’s going to be one of the best around. Any alloy handlebar Is carbon really the best choice for your handlebars? Immediate Media There are many easy wins when it comes to saving weight off your overall ride. We’re talking wheels, tyres and, obviously, the rider. However, one place you’re not likely to save much weight but are guaranteed to add a lot of expensive, and even risk, is with carbon handlebars. Sure those carbon bars look cool, and brands claim they’re stiffer, but does having marginally stiffer handlebars really make that much difference? Have you ever heard someone say, ‘I would have won that race if I’d had stiffer and marginally lighter bars?’ Well, we haven’t, and we doubt you have either. Pros have also often been seen forgoing carbon bars for their peasant-like aluminium cousins. This is because any tiny difference in weight is totally offset by an aluminium bar’s ability to survive a nasty crash. This particularly makes sense with pro bikes because they can now easily hit the UCI’s minimum weight limit of 6.8kg, so adding a bit of strength and security with an alloy bar is a no-brainer. Finally, if this point hasn’t enraged all the full carbon finishing kit aficionados enough, we think you could say the same about carbon stems. Just remember to let us know how angry that makes you in the comments. Aluminium cranks Carbon isn’t best when it comes to cranks. Immediate Media As we’ve already mentioned, the conventional wisdom within road cycling is that carbon is always better, but in the case of aluminium cranks, that’s simply not true. Case in point comes from the biggest groupset player on the planet – Shimano still sticks doggedly to aluminium cranks, despite the other big players going to carbon. We suspect the smart folks over at Shimano have thought long and hard, and put lots of money into making this decision, so you can be assured there’s a good reason behind this. We can only speculate, but the improved durability, equal or greater stiffness qualities, reduced costs, and sheer good looks could all play a key part in choosing aluminium over carbon. If you’re still not convinced, then look to the WorldTour, where plenty of teams use either Shimano or Rotor’s aluminium wares. They’re not complaining about the stiffness or weight of their cranks. Alloy wheels Aluminium brake tracks are often a better choice for rim-brake setups. Immediate Media This next point has become less relevant as the relentless march of the disc brake domination on road bikes continues, but there’s no doubt that back in the glory days of rim braking, an aluminium brake track would nearly always trump a full carbon one. Carbon wheels are lighter, and you can build them into more aerodynamic shapes, but for most of us, alloy wheels are more than adequate. They’re usually cheaper and brake far better over a wider variety of conditions. If that doesn’t convince you, perhaps a chap called Geraint Thomas can. A quick look on his Instagram account shows plenty of occasions over the years where he’s been riding wheels with aluminium on the brake tracks. View this post on Instagram Not a bad spot to warm down on Zwift @gozwift @ranchovalencia A post shared by Geraint Thomas (@geraintthomas86) on Jan 28, 2020 at 1:32pm PST Someone mentioned to us that he’s the winner of a fairly big sportive around France, which takes place every summer. We haven’t tried it yet, but we’ve heard it’s quite hard, so if it’s good enough for Papa Geraint, it’s probably good enough for everyone else as well. Shimano Dura-Ace 7810 pedals Shimano’s Dura-Ace 7810 pedal. Immediate Media This product has featured in another recent Top 5 video but it would be difficult to not include Shimano’s Dura-Ace 7810 pedal on this list These pedals were produced from around 2006 to 2010, and thanks to the aluminium body, we think it’s one of the best Shimano has ever made. Along with a full aluminium body it featured a stainless steel protective plate on top, which could put up with a lot of use and abuse if you were a budding amateur racer. The wide pedal platform also gave plenty of stability for getting the power through the pedals. WorldTour pros loved them too, thanks to their aforementioned durability and solid pedalling platform. Many riders would hold on to a pair and secretly use them over the then newer composite versions. In fact, a quick trawl through the BikeRadar archives revealed the photo above of Team Ineos rider Ian Stannard’s bike from 2013, with Dura-Ace 7810 pedals attached. This was a good couple of years after the pedal was discontinued, so it goes to show how good they really were. Perhaps if Shimano did a limited-edition release, we’d see plenty of WorldTour pros snapping them up for a life in the WorldTour peloton. What do you think of our list? Did we get it right? Or should we have picked something else? As always, let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to our YouTube channel, and click the little bell icon, so that every time we upload a video, you get a notification.
There's not much better than dry and dusty summer laps in the Whistler Bike Park( Photos: 1 )
The current chassis for the RockShox Pike was first announced around Sea Otter (read: Spring) 2017. With that it saw roughly a 160 gram weight loss due to its new bones. The next year the fork’s main update was the Charger 2 damper as well as some SKF seals. Most recently, following the company’s “incremental enhancements…” motto, the Charger 2.1 was released as RockShox rolled out the Signature series suspension lineup. The main shortcoming of Charger 2 was that it suffered from a bit of spikiness and somewhat limited range in usable high speed compression damping. Charger 2.1 remedied that issue mainly by way of an updated shim stack, but the damper was also upgraded with an improved piston wearband and an SKF rod seal – both of which help reduce stiction and while making for better small bump sensitivity. The low speed compression also sees additional support via a new needle profile. Anyhow, now that we’ve had a good amount of trail time aboard the staple fork from this past Summer through our current Winter, here’s the report on long term findings. Details 27.5″ & 29″ 120mm – 160mm travel available Offsets: 37mm (27.5″), 42mm (29″), 46mm (27.5″), 51mm (29″) Boost hub spacing with “Torque Cap” fitment Charger 2.1 damper SKF seals Maxima fluid 1832 grams (120mm / 27.5″) $929 USD For the most part, the view from above looks the same, with the high and low speed compression adjusters remaining unchanged and the same arch as the last version. The Signature series forks feature gloss finish, with Pike being available in Silver as well as Black. Lyrik is offered in Red and Black. Above are some of the areas that this iteration of the fork found its ~160 gram weight loss a couple years back. Lots of relief in the arch, plus a shorter overall damping/air spring assembly which allowed for some less excess material at the bottom of the lowers as well. The updated seal head in Charger 2.1 features is now made by SKF, who as a brand, is about as good as it gets, and more of their seals are found throughout the current RockShox forks than ever before. Above left, the new fork comes with a RockShox branded fender, which is a really nice little perk. In fact all of the new Signature series forks come with them. On the right, if you’ve been paying attention for the last few years, you’re likely familiar with RockShox’ patented “Sag Gradients” which are laser etched indicators that make it a breeze to achieve your preferred sag. Lastly, the new forks ship with bolt on axles, which save weight…These days if you’re not carrying a tool, you’re a fool. On the trail This was my first fork with the Charger 2.1 damper and the difference was pretty easy to detect early on. Compared to the last Pike, it started out as just feeling a bit easier on my hands, then more improvements became increasingly obvious as I spent more time on it. When things got hectic, the fork felt a bit less nervous – its calmer demeanor likely attributed to the improved high speed compression, which in my view is the crowning achievement of the Charger 2.1 damper. On Charger 2, if I added much more than 1 click from full open on HSC, the fork got pretty rough. While at 180 pounds, I didn’t really need to add much more than 2 clicks from full open, I dabbled with going to 4 from open and was surprised at how manageable it stayed – that indicates that its range of adjustment likely far better for a broader range of rider weights and abilities. I’d be lying if I claimed to feel a discernible difference in performance from a single upgraded seal in the damper’s seal head, but the fork’s action was noticeably smoother overall, and every bit does count. Switching gears, we can talk about Pike Ultimate’s overall performance in the broader context, with less focus on comparisons to its predecessor. While the chassis is lighter duty than the Lyrik that it replaced, I thought it was very much up for the job on my Evil Offering, a 140mm travel 29″ bike whose disposition leans toward the aggressive end of the spectrum. Having ridden a standard Fox 34, as well as the lighter duty “step cast” model, I do feel that the Pike’s chassis offered improved rigidity and thus better handling, especially compared to the lighter duty “step cast” model. That’s not to say that it blows the 34 out of the water, but I do think it’s the better handler of the two. As far as action goes, in short I’d describe the Pike as a feeling a little more plush and the 34 as feeling a little firmer and racier. There is also the fundamental difference between the two dampers with Fox featuring a lockout and RockShox featuring more tunability in its high speed compression. As far as durability is concerned, all I’ve needed to do so far is your pretty standard “drop the legs, clean and lube the seals then put some fresh oil in the lowers service”. This can be done with a couple of allen keys and a soft mallet. A fresh overhaul of the damper is more in depth, but can be with relative ease by a solid mechanic with the right tools. Generally speaking though, there’s been no indication of premature bushing or seal wear and everything has continued to work admirably from Summer dust to Winter mud. Overall At the end of the day, this is a fairly standard RockShox/SRAM story that I often find myself telling about second and third year products…The last version of this fork was pretty darn good, but SRAM found room for improvement without drastic changes involved. For those who have a 2018/2019 RockShox fork, you’re not going to be left high and dry. Should you choose, you can upgrade to a Charger 2.1 damper. They’re a little pricey, but would be money well spent if you nailed it right around when your service interval called for a full damper bleed anyway. All in all with continuous fine tuning the Pike simply remains a damn good all around mid-duty trail fork. www.rockshox.com