Duke Race £350
We’ve only been riding the Race for a few days but we’ve ridden various Duke SLs (slightly longer travel but otherwise pretty much the same) for a long time now without problems. As it was these Races got the kind of shitty gritty North Yorkshire baptism that reduces forks to rigid wrecks in minutes, and they’re still going fine.
Rock Shox new ‘Aggressive XC’ fork. Tougher than SID but not as long travel and heavy duty as Psylo, and less expensive than either. Still gets air springs, aluminium steerer XXX seals and PTFE coated sliders on the top (Race and SL) versions.
The Race uses the same lower leg architecture as the rest of the range, but gets a lighter scalloped crown and a thin walled aluminium steerer. Rock Shox quote 1.5kg, and our sample was 1.57kg with an uncut steerer which is close enough. Buttress webs on the dropouts, fork brace and seal housing look great, as does the cast DUKE logo up each leg but we had a bit of trouble with the Rock Shox stickers falling off, until we the got proper glue out.
Internally the Race only runs 80mm of travel but you do get a tuneable negative air spring, not just a positive spring unit, so you can set it up as responsive or solid at the start of the stroke as you like.
The Duke is smooth and active straight from the box, but the fork is relatively pressure sensitive, with + / – 10 making big differences. With no negative pressure it’s a big hit only unit, with about 40-50% negative pressure it’s working over small bumps but still progressive enough for small strikes, but much over that with negative pressure and you start eating into the overall travel. Full credit to Rock Shox for supplying a decent shock pump with the fork, which makes fettling a lot less trouble. TOP TIP: Turn the fork upside down before releasing negative pressure, or it’ll spit out a load of oil and pink grease too.
The rebound damping is also really sensitive, taking in all the adjustment you’re likely to ever need in just over quarter of a turn. Tortoise and hare logo’s make multi-lingual adjustment easy and were liked by everyone who saw the fork. Compression damping is internal adjustment only though, and none of the Dukes get the Climb-It Lockout lever of the SIDs and Psylo’s.
Despite the lighter crown, the shorter travel keeps the fork well within the bounds of accurate tracking, (definitely feeling more precise than SIDs), with enough feedback to work the tyres in dubious conditions.
We’ve been really impressed with all the Duke’s we’ve met so far, and the Race is no exception. With a more tuneable spring set up than the others in the family, it can be set up to handle hits however you want, and the 80mm stroke is progressive enough to make even prolonged, thumping rock sections controlled and survivable.
It’s not the plushest fork in the world – compared to say Marzocchi coil units – but it’s tough, widely adjustable and reliable with a decent weight. It’s also an impressive price for the performance, considering how much we had to pay for SIDs with the same technology a few years ago.