Stiffer, slicker and shinier than a frozen porpoise, the new RockShox Pike had us frothing with delight only moments after a bounce and a boing around the workshop floor. How could just one fork make us so impressed?
Well, you know that feeling when you lift your front wheel up into the air, let it come down hard and the front end of your bike goes ‘boinngggg’ with a little flex, a shudder and that jarring feeling in your wrists? That simply doesn’t happen with the Pike, we would slap the front wheel back to earth with careless brutality and all we got was a solid and composed thud as the impact is soaked into the blackness of the Pike with no negative twanging at all. We knew from then on, that this was going to be a good fork. Fitted to our Yeti SB66 Carbon, it took our riding to the next level of hard charging.
The name Pike isn’t new. For those that have been around for a while, the Pike was a popular 140mm fork with the big 20mm axle launched back in 2005 and was a winner for hard riding. Now it’s back, in black (or white) and re-designed from the ground up. You could say that this is RockShox’s answer to the venerable FOX 34 fork which has captured a lot of marketshare and spec in 2013 with its burly construction yet lightweight physique. The Pike is $200 cheaper and 100g lighter than the FOX 34 26″ variant, very impressive.
The Pike will be available in all three wheel size options 26”, 27.5” (650B) and 29”, and in variants of travel – 140mm (29er only), 150mm and 160mm – to suit the fast-growing realm of long travel and lightweight trail bikes that we especially love. It fills the gap between the RockShox Revelation and Lyric, aiming to keep weight low and rigidity high with a heavily sculpted chassis. Damper performance is given a boost to match the fork’s potential for hard riding, with the new Charger damper controlling the action – more about that below.
The new Charger damper with Rapid Recovery is an all-new system found inside the Pike’s right leg. The Charger damper is a big step away from what we’ve seen from RockShox over the years with their Mission Control and Motion Control systems. The Charger Damper is a sealed unit, containing the damping oil inside a rubber bladder. With no air mixing in with the oil, a more consistent action is achieved, as its free from inconsistencies.
This is not necessarily a new design, just new for RockShox; FOX employ the bladder design in their FIT fork too and it’s also seen in the motocross suspension world. Some SRAM elite list Blackbox riders have also been spotted prototyping this damper in the BoXXer fork, so we can expect it to expand out to other models in the future.
Rapid Recovery is a rebound damping circuit that helps the fork to return to the top of the stroke as fast as possible to allow the soft and supple initial part of the stroke to be used more often, giving the fork its remarkably smooth feel. We definitely noticed how well the fork reacted through repetitive braking bumps for example, and resisted packing down in the bottom of the stroke well.
One thing that impressed us a lot was the new Maxle Light axle, a far easier and simpler system for quick release wheel removal. We always felt the Maxle needed simplifying, and the new system takes the cake of any 15mm axle fork with its ease of use and ergonomics.
The black coating on the legs polarised many people we came across. Some were reminded of cheap Manitou forks of a few years ago, some thought it looked great. We love it, and fitted to a black bike, they look hot. It’s only an anodised coating though, not like super slippery SRAM Blackbox forks that Sam Hill and company ride. That coating is for slick performance, not looks, but at this stage it’s too expensive for production.
The Pike uses beefy 35mm diameter legs, like the BoXXer downhill fork. You will find 32mm legs on the SID, REBA and Revelation etc.
Two air spring Pikes are available, the Solo Air which is featured here, or the Dual Position Solo Air. The Dual Position gives 30mm of adjustability, to help climbing by lowering the height of the front end of the bike when inclines get steep. The Solo Air fork is also supplied with a pair of red plastic spacers named ‘Bottomless Tokens’ that are for installing into the air chamber (a very simple process) which reduces the size of air volume for a more progressive feel. We didn’t feel the need to use them.
Though most of our testing was conducted on a 26″ bike, We have also ridden the Pike on 29ers, including the long travel Specialized Enduro with the Pike at 150mm travel. Even with the longer legs of the 29er fork, it felt very precise when steered through rough trails.
RCT3 stands for rebound, compression and threshold. Or as RockShox put is Open, Pedal, Lock and is adjusted via the big switch on top of the right leg. The little dial in the middle is the low speed compression, which effect the forks reaction to pedalling, braking and slow compression forces. We dialled it in a third of the way, and were happy with the way it helped counteract the fork from bobbing when sprinting hard out of the saddle.
Off the top the suspension stroke of the Pike feels remarkably soft and supple, far more so than the RockShox Revelation we tested recently. The new seals, with only one lip not two, and a slotted bushing system in place of the solid bushes, allows for more oil to move up and around the internals to keep things moist and slippery.
To date, our best experience aboard the Pike was at the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro at Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra. Race day came and it was time to really let the brakes off and push hard through the turns to try and beat our mates. There was one long right hand corner with particularly rough braking bumps leading into it that made both hanging on very hard, and the use of brakes tricky as the tyres just skip about wildly. The natural reaction would be to wash off speed and take it easy through the turn to avoid a total wipeout, but there was racing to be done and we hit the turn hard and fast. We did the opposite, we pushed the front of the Yeti right into the bumps and let the brakes off. The fork resisted packing up, and was noticeably active through each individual braking bump, allowing the tyre to track along fine. We came out the other side astonished at how well the fork dealt with what would typically be too much to handle.
The Pike offers phenomenal support when deep into its travel, we never felt like we were diving through to the lower part of the stroke unnecessarily and it had a very positive impact on our riding style. We began lining up rocky or rutted trails and hitting them hard, pushing the fork into them with reckless abandon, simply to see how well it handled it. We found ourselves booting off water bars excessively high, and landing hard on purpose, relishing in our new favourite forks hit-soaking ability. It felt like we were riding a fork of much more travel, it felt like we were riding a BoXXer.
We’d go as far as saying that the new Pike is RockShox’s finest long travel fork yet and the new technologies that they have applied are clearly working in their favour. It’s so very smooth and supple, stiff and precise, adjustable and ergonomic. The weight is impressive, lighter than the FOX 34, the we think the shiny black legs look hot to trot.
This would be the most amazing upgrade to your bike, or keep an eye out for the Pike specced on bikes in the upcoming season. It really is a killer fork, lifting your speed and control in the roughest trails.
This is going to be one very desirable product.