Rockshox RS-1 Review

Hopefully, you’ve seen the full photoshoot of my Project One Trek Fuel 29er.

I haven’t gotten around to writing a full review of the bike yet, because I hadn’t put in enough time riding it to be able to confidently talk about it.  I now have a handful of rides under my belt under varying conditions, including one trip to Ray’s MTB park, where I learned how ridiculous it is to ride a 29″ FS trail bike on a jump track.

I’m starting with a review of the RS-1 because that is the part of the bike that receives the most questions, and that seems to have the least information available.  This is a 120mm travel RS-1, which is among the more elusive ones (most seem to be shorter-travel XC versions).

The RS-1 has the new maxle design, with a ‘predictive steering’ hub.  In short, it’s like having a beefy thru-axle, with a removable, even beefier axle over that, inside of the hub.  The reason that this design is required is simple: with the inverted fork design, the lower ends of the fork need something beefy to tie them together, to keep the fork rigid.  In fact, when you take the axle out, the bottom end of the fork will spin freely in a circle.  Unlike a Lefty fork, for example, there is no groove or keyway that the lower rides in to keep it from spinning; it is just the rigidity of the two sides linked together that keep the fork together.

(When you remove the front wheel and have to reinstall it, getting everything aligned is a bit of a pain in the ass, until you get used to it.  Honestly, the easiest way is to flip the bike over, and insert the wheel without the bike’s weight resting on it).

Setup left me scratching my head a bit.  I tried to set the fork for sag, and got ridiculously low pressures.  To set up for reasonable sag, I was running 50-60psi.  On the other hand, if I followed the recommended pressure range for riders by weight, as listed on the lower, my sag was super-low (doing the standard ‘bounce and sit’ method of setting sag).  I ended up following the manufacturer’s recommendations, and starting at the lower end of their PSI for the posted weight range.  I am running pressure in the lower-mid-range of their suggested pressure, and it is perfection embodied.  (If I recall correctly, they suggest 95-110psi for my weight, and I’m running at about 100psi.)  The end result is that the fork works perfectly when I’m riding, but if you do a static check of the sag, it looks like I’m only running about 10% sag.  I can’t explain that part, but it works, so I’m not asking questions.  (Of note, when actually riding, the fork rides a bit lower in the travel, where I’d expect to see the sag at).

I’m a light rider–figure 155#.  That said, this fork is more precise in terms of steering than anything on this side of a rigid fork.  In fact, the steering is more precise than some rigid forks I’ve ridden.  The front tire goes exactly where you place it.  Any error is solely rider error.  There is no noticeable deflection of any kind; the front wheel is exactly where you place it, 100% of the time.  Of course, I’m running Sapim CX-Ray spokes and an ENVE XC rim, so the wheel itself is very rigid, but the fork is amazing in that regard.

I’m not a huge reviewer of mountain bikes, so when I had read all of this stuff about ‘small bump compliance’, I didn’t know what to make of it.  I now know what it means.  The RS-1 is the most progressive, linear fork I’ve ever used.  When you hit bumps, large or small, it reacts in an appropriate fashion.  I use “appropriate” here intentionally.  On big hits, it is controlled and confidence-inspiring.  On little hits, it is plush.  It seems to always know how to react, in an amazing fashion.  At Ray’s, I hit one of the log-pile climb-overs at an awkward angle and ended up stuffing the front wheel off the edge, down a 2′ drop when I wasn’t anticipating it.  I stuffed myself into the bars, in a condition that should have resulted in my going OTB and landing in front of the bike.  The RS-1 sucked up the hit smoothly and allowed me to keep a modicum of control, riding out what should have been a wipeout.  Similarly, when riding outside, it gives me so much confidence as to be game changing.  I can ride faster and brake less because I have trust in the front end of the bike.

I haven’t had a lot of cause to play with the rebound settings on the fork, because in the stock position recommended by Rockshox, it’s about perfect on everything from big hits to washboard, at least at my weight.

I follow the Stan’s formula for tire pressure (weight / 7, -1 in the front, +2 in the rear), and hence I run pretty low pressure with my tubeless Bontrager tires.  I wanted to make sure that the small bump compliance wasn’t just the tires and low pressure, so I used the (very convenient) fork lockout.  The effect was immediate, and confirmed the effectiveness of the shock.

Also, a note on lockout.  I rode the pump track at Ray’s for quite a while, and the fork, when locked out, is truly locked out unless you hit a BIG hit.  The lockout is easy to use and effective.  That said, on the kind of climbs we have in Illinois, I did not find myself having to lock out the fork under any real ‘riding outside’ circumstances when mountain biking.  The fork doesn’t bob under climbing.

I’ve ridden a pretty wide variety of forks in the 100-120mm travel range, from a range of manufacturers.  I can say that, without question, the RS-1 is the best fork I’ve ridden in that travel range.  It’s not a bomber DH fork, but if I needed 120mm of travel or less, the RS-1 would be, unabashedly, the best fork for the job.  Adjustments are easy, action is perfect, stiffness is unbelievable.

That leaves one last question: price.  When people see this fork, they ask, “how is it”, and then “is it worth it?”  That’s an individual decision.  Certainly, this is a premium product at a premium price.  On my bike, the upgrade was worthwhile, for me.  I do not regret this spec at all.  Is it worth retrofitting this to an older bike?  I don’t know how much you’re in love with your fork.  If you ever look at upgrading or replacement, you should look at the RS-1 very seriously.  And if you’re looking at a new bike and the RS-1 is available as an option…well, don’t ride it unless you can commit to getting it.

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