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Forks
 
 
 

Off-Road Forks

Buying a pair of forks for off road use will almost certainly involve suspension, although a small number of rigid mountain forks options still exist. Suspension will significantly improve the comfort rider comfort, but mainly it will improve the bikes handling, making riding over rough terrain and descending more manageable. Selecting a fork can feel like a bit of a minefield with so much choice on offer. However the key to getting the correct product is to narrow down your choices by identifying what you intend to use the fork for.

For cross country and leisure riding a lightweight fork with a shorter amount of travel is the best tool for the job. 80-115mm fork travel is the most likely range for this type of riding, with some fork models having the ability to alter the amount of travel, even as you ride. On modern designs ‘lock-outs’ are common too, to make the fork more efficient when riding on smooth surfaces or when climbing. For a more aggressive style of riding then a longer travel fork, built to be a bit more heavy duty is preferred. A bolt through front axle is often used instead of the standard quick release mechanism on this type of fork, to add stiffness and strength. This type of fork will weigh more, but could have up to 160mm of travel. For downhill only there are forks with even longer travel, usually a triple clamp design, rather than the single crown more commonly used in the shorter travel forks. Larger fork legs that are clamped above and below the headtube, almost right up to the handlebars, mean the forks can be very strong and stiff with a huge amount of suspension travel, perhaps 8 inches or more.

Suspension Terminology
  • Travel: The amount that the fork moves when fully compressed.
  • Sag: The amount of travel used by just a riders body weight sitting on the bike.
  • Post Mount: This refers to the brake mounting point. A post mount is behind the left hand leg of the fork, with the bolts screwing into the posts themselves, from the rear and not from the side.
  • ISIS Mount: This also refers to the brake mount, also behind the left hand leg, but with an ISIS the brake caliper bolts go through from the side, not from the rear.
  • Single Crown: Forks that have a crown, below the lower part of the headset, from which the rest of the fork extends downwards. This is the most conventional way for forks to be made.
  • Triple Crown: Fork legs that extend up alongside the head tube of the bike, that are clamped above and below the frame, for maximum strength and stiffness. This is usually only found on longer travel, downhill fork models.
  • Stanchions: The inner legs of the fork that slide into the outer tubes.
  • Fork Legs: The outer tubes of the fork, sometimes also called ‘lowers’.
  • Brace: The part of the lowers that connects one side to the other, which is what keeps the legs from moving independently and keeps the fork stiff.
  • Bolt Thru Axle: As it’s name suggests, an axle that slides through the hub assembly and is clamped into each fork leg to secure the front wheel with a very stiff and strong connection.
 
Steerer Tube
Once you have decided on the right fork for you, then the next thing is to decide the correct size and fitment requirements for your bike. The diameter of the steerer tube is the first aspect to consider. Most bicycles use a 1 1/8” headtube diameter however older bikes may have a 1” and more recently a 1.5” size has been introduced for the bigger travel options. Much older bikes that use a threaded fork may have limited options and it is probably best to give us a call on 0870 165 1108 or drop in to one of our stores for advice.

Frame Compatibility
When buying a suspension fork bare in mind what your frame was originally designed for. If your bike came with a rigid fork or a suspension fork with less than 80mm of travel then you should not exceed this as it will affect the handling of the bicycle and place it under increased pressure. Bear in mind that increasing the travel of the fork also raises the front end of the bike.

Disc or V-Brakes
Decide what type of brakes you want to run before choosing your forks because many forks can be purchased as ‘disc specific’ without the brake studs, for a cleaner look. As discs take over as the most common, the choice of V-Brake compatible forks may get less, but they are still readily available.

If you are buying for disc brake use, then check the compatibility of the brake mount too, as there are ISIS and Post Mounted brake callipers.

If you are buying for disc brake use, then check the compatibility of the brake mount too, as there are ISIS and Post Mounted brake callipers.

Tyre Clearance
Decide what type of brakes you want to run before choosing your forks because many forks can be purchased as ‘disc specific’ without the brake studs, for a cleaner look. As discs take over as the most common, the choice of V-Brake compatible forks may get less, but they are still readily available.
 

Road Forks

A good fork massively improves the performance and feel of bicycle. The vast majority of modern road forks are now made from carbon fibre, this is due to the fact that carbon fibre is light, stiff and absorbs a lot of vibration. Carbon is unique in that specific construction techniques can make it very stiff in one direction but allow a little flex in another direction. This makes it perfect for forks that must be laterally very stiff, but benefit from a little flex front to back, to improve comfort. Carbon can also be shaped to be aerodynamic.

Steerer Tube
Most modern bikes use the A-Headset system, where the steerer tube of the fork is clamped directly by the stem to hold it in place, unlike the older system of threading the headset onto the fork. Check which type your bike requires. Also check the diameter. Most bicycles use a 11/8” headtube diameter however again, older versions may use 1”. If you're not sure what you have then why not give us a call on 0870 165 1108 or drop in to one of our stores. If the steerer tube of the fork is made of carbon fibre too, then it is important to know NOT to put a star fangled nut inside. This can seriously damage the carbon, potentially weakening it. Instead a specific carbon fork bung must be used, to secure the top part of the headset cap, and make adjustments.

Fork Rake
Be aware that the rake of the fork, i.e. the distance the axle is forward from the centre line can be varied. A longer rake will increase the wheelbase of the bike, which can make a bike feel more stable, and also allow the fork to absorb more vibration. This is ideal for touring. A shorter rake, will make the handling more responsive. If you are replacing forks, then it is worth checking what rake the old forks were if you do not want to change the way your bike handles.

Other Points
If you would like to fit a mudguard through the forks then check that the fork is suitable, with ample room for safe operation with the size of tyre you wish to use. A good clue is the presence of mudguard mounting points on the rear of the dropouts. If are looking to use the forks for front panniers on a touring bicycle, you will want to look for some forks with low rider mounts; these simply allow you to easily attach racks to the forks.
 

BMX Forks

BMX forks are usually rigid and made of steel for strength, although some lighter versions for racing specific bikes are also available. For freestyle there may be additional peg mounts on the fork legs.

This Buying Guide gives our customers general advice on Forks. It is a guide only and we always recommend visiting one of our stores or contacting one of the experts in our sales team on +44(0)1293 574 900 if in doubt about your needs.
 

 

This story was last updated on 17/01/2012