Project 321 Lefty Update (Salsa Spearfish)

Oh, she’s soooo hot.

The Superfish was my mount for the recent Night Bison gravel ride detailed here.  It features the Project 321 Lefty conversion detailed here.

The original installation was a 100mm 2013 Carbon Lefty XLR fork, to match the 100mm of travel on the stock Fox fork.  I love the feel of the Lefty.  However, in practice, while the “measurements” of the two forks were close to identical, I wasn’t thrilled with one aspect of the Lefty: it felt shorter.  The steering felt faster and more nervous.  On descents and sharp transitions, the bike felt too short up front.  Going over the bars happened more than I’d like to admit.

I talked to the good folks at Project 321 about extending the travel, and they advised that they could do a no-cost extension of travel from 100mm to 110mm.  They also said that they would want to try 110 before being more extreme and going longer.  I popped the Lefty off and shipped it in to them.  While they had it, they also changed the fork oil, and gave it a once-over.

Now having the fork back for about a month, I’ve been putting it through its paces, and can say with confidence that the 110mm travel is GREAT.  The bike is still clearly XC, but the extra length had a palpable influence on bike handling and made it much less nervous.  If you’re contemplating going Lefty on a Superfish, go 110.  I haven’t tried 120, but I’m very happy with 110.  Handling and stiffness are great–it’s a significant improvement over the stock fork, not to mention the significant decrease in weight.

I frequently get asked if I “notice” the Lefty in an adverse way.  People seem to think that a rider would notice the “missing” right side of the fork.  I can honestly say that I’ve never noticed that.  Not once.

So are there any downsides?  Well…there’s one.  If you look at the mounting, you’ll note that I have a couple of spacers under the stem.  That is as low as the stem can go.  I prefer a short stem/wide bar combo.  If I try to remove spacers, the bars hit the top of the fork.  I could go to a (muuuuuch) longer stem, but it would take a lot to clear the fork.  So the downside is that I cannot get the bars quite as low as I’d like for aggressive handling.  (In the pics above, the bike isn’t perfectly flat, so it’s a bit deceiving…but it’s still an issue).  In a perfect world, I think I’d have perhaps a 5mm spacer above the stem  Instead, I have quite a stack there.  See update here.

As I’ve gone forward with the bike and gotten more confident in my mountain biking, and as I’ve grown accustomed to more aggressive riding positions on the Madone and Moots, I’m looking to develop a more aggressive position on the Superfish.  However, the Lefty keeps me from doing so.  I love the weight reduction and incredible handling of the Lefty.  However, I do regard this as a significant concern with regard to the positioning of the stem and bars.  I’ll keep looking for solutions to this issue, but at present, I do have to say that this problem does give me a bit of reservation about an unconditional recommendation of this setup.  If you’re comfortable with a bit more of an upright riding position, by all means, I think this is the way to go.  For pure XC, it’s hard to beat.  But if you’re looking for a do-all bike, this is a fit issue to be aware of.

In terms of my mountain bike plans, the Superfish is pretty hard to beat.  Light (around 23 pounds) with stiff, ENVE wheels, a solid 1×10 drivetrain and XTR brakes, plus full suspension, makes a killer Midwest mountain bike.

15 thoughts on “Project 321 Lefty Update (Salsa Spearfish)

  1. From the photos, it looks like the upper bracket from the steerer to the Lefty is longer than the lower bracket. This is especially apparent in the second photo, where the Lefty does not appear parallel to the head tube. Perhaps it’s just an optical illusion due to the tapered head tube, but if true, this would cause the steeper feeling that you describe.

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