Cyclocross Magazine - Digital Edition

Cyclocross Magazine Issue 9 - Digital Version

Cyclocross Magazine - The Digital and Print Magazine Dedicated to Cyclo-cross and Veldrijden

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Page 58 of 104

WORDS BY Clifford Lee PHOTOS BY Clifford Lee, Andrew Yee FORK OFF “When you come to the fork in the road, take it” -Yogi Berra Do you want to lighten your bike, change the ride quality, change the handling characteristics or do all three? The fork, a unit that includes a steering tube, fork crown and twin fork blades with wheel attachment points (fork ends), con- tributes to the handling characteristics as much as the frame, with its various angles and tube configurations. Therefore, changing the fork can change the ride of a given bike significantly. I ex- perienced this during the Cyclocross Magazine Fork Off fork evaluation. Cyclocross fork design requires varying lev- els of rigidity laterally for cornering, vertically for compliance to rough ground, and fore-aft to counter braking forces and to avoid shudder. Too stiff, and the jarring effect over rough sur- faces will cause fatigue and difficulty controlling the bike. Too flaccid, and steering control is im- precise and the fork is prone to shudder when applying the front brake (as described in the fork chatter/shudder article in Cyclocross Magazine Issue 8). Carbon fork construction enables the fork engineers to fine tune the qualities to poten- tially yield the best of these qualities. Steering tube strength and rigidity is impor- tant for impact resistance and steering response from the cockpit. It’s typically recommended that carbon forks with carbon steerers have expander inserts to add structural integrity, im- proving safety and performance. In lieu of an expander, the Alpha Q has an aluminum alloy in- sert that is epoxied into the top after cutting the steerer to length. The spacer stack is limited to 40mm above the top race of the headset on this fork, not a bad recommendation for any carbon steerer, especially in a cyclocross application. In- deed, Edge Composites also recommends less 58 Ritchey WCS V2 Carbon Cross Fork MSRP $389.95 USD Weight: 457g uncut 300mm, 438g cut to 240mm Rake: 45mm Dropout to crown race: 395mm Warranty: 1 year against defects Notes: enormous tire clearance, includes an ex- pander plug, good brake pad clearance What’s initially most apparent on the rede- signed Ritchey WCS fork is the huge vertical tire clearance at the crown and 5mm wider- than-average clearance around the tire (above the brake bosses). Not only is mud clearance better, but so is wheel removal. This fork exhibits good compliance on rough terrain, which helps with maintaining bike control and minimizing fatigue, but shudder is poten- tially problematic with a standard wide profile brake setup, and no doubt will escalate with more powerful braking. Careful brake com- ponent choice and brake setup is necessary. The Ritchey WCS fork provides good corner- ing rigidity, but not razor-sharp handling in tight situations. At under $400 list price, it’s the most affordable of the bunch and could be a good candidate to pair up a mini V-brake for a shudder-free, compliant ride. than 35mm of stem spacers and Ritchey speci- fies less than 30mm. The Easton EC90 X fork eschews an expander, instead using an insert that threads into the internally-threaded steerer. Eas- ton claims that the carbon threads can withstand force in excess of that applied by the headset CYCLOCROSS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 9 Seven CX Fork MSRP $545 USD Weight: 454g uncut 300mm Rake: 45mm Dropout to crown race: 390mm Warranty: 1 year Notes: tight pad clearance With Alpha Q’s CX 20 fork going the way of the dodo (at least until True Temper finds a buyer for its cycling business), Seven Cy- cles’s timing of launching its own ’cross fork couldn’t be better. The Seven CX fork utilizes stout blades and a large crown to create an impressively shudder-resistant and light fork. It looks a bit like the original Alpha Q CX fork, but offers a lot more stiffness. It han- dles strong braking and hard corners ably, yet isn’t overly stiff and absorbs high frequency vibrations well. Only under extreme braking with low profile brakes did we get any hint of brake shudder. The robust legs have a downside, however. Like the Edge Compos- ites fork, brake pad clearance is a bit tighter, making wheel removal tricky with a wider tire. The Seven CX fork is a fine upgrade option for a stiffer or lighter alternative to their OEM fork, and a nice alternative to the similarly- riding but endangered Alpha Q CX 20. compression top cap, and they have the most liberal spacer stack height maximum of 50mm over the top race of the headset. I evaluated five all-carbon cyclocross forks, using the same bike to minimize other handling variables. The steerers were all cut to the same

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