Pace RC31 XC Rigid Carbon Fork
Price: £169.99 (Disc only) £199.99 (V-brake)
Weight: 670g (disc only, uncut steerer)
Contact: Pace 01751 432929
Features: Carbon lower legs with steel stub stanchions, Magnesium dropouts, Hollowbox crown and cold forged steerer tube.
Test logbook: Still working on these but, approx 7 hours full winter filth riding. Snowdrift buried bridleway through to rooty singletrack, washed out wooden step sections and totally gratuitus stone step and wall hopping.
Pace have been building their steel legged RC30 rigid fork for over a 12 years now and the RC31 is it’s ultralight XC replacement.
Whereas the old RC30 used butted steel legs, the RC 31 uses oversized carbon handlaid specifically for maximum lateral tracking accuracy but in line compliance and shock soak. Bonded onto the wheel end are the same cast magnesium dropouts as the on Pro Class II and Air Force II suspension forks – super light and International Standard (ISO) bossed for disc brakes.
At the top end, small butted steel stanchions are heat shrunk into the hollow CNC’d crown. The carbon legs are then bonded onto these spigots with a small elastomer ring between top edge of carbon and bottom edge of crown to allow movement without chafing and provide a little extra damping of the whole structure. The 420mm leg length (dropout / axle to bottom headset race) is designed to mimic a medium travel ssupension fork and keeps modern bike geometry happy. There’s also a small screw blocking the ‘glue hole’ which we have to say looks like an MFI kitchen cast off, but luckily it’s hardly noticeable once on the bike. Before you ask, every second phrase of the instruction manual (yes we did read it) says “don’t even think of adjusting or removing the screw”. And before the hoppity boys ask, no it’s not a trials and jumping fork, there’s a heavy duity RC30 version for that kind of leg snapping caper. If you’re running V’s a shiny new two piece CNC clamp can be bolted into place front or rear, but if you’re discing it the forks can be supplied without (£30 cheaper).
The hollow CNC crown and cold forged steerer is the same as that on the new Pro Class II and Air Force II forks and at the moment only comes in 1 1/8″ diameter. However, after a regular stream of concerned callers trying to save their 1″ headed bikes from extinction Pace will now be building short batch runs of forks with a 1″ steerer, making them the only remaining choice for retro riders.
We jumped straight off and old set of Pace’s RC30 and onto the RC31’s and the difference was immeadiately noticeable. Where the old forks fed through trail feedback with abusive, wrist worrying force, the RC31’s are super smooth but even more accurate in tracking under heavy braking, with none of the twang that could occasionally be provoked from the older fork. Feedback was superb to the point that you could feel the tyre carcass deform and individual knobs slide and bite through corners, but roots and rock edges were muted in their impact rather than jarring and snatching at the bars. Obviously anything significant comes through with a thump but the ultralight weight has you hoiking the front wheel up round your ears until you’re used to it, so cutting and pasting throught technical sections is a joy. The sweetest thing about the fork is it’s ability to smooth out all the buzz and irregularities far better than most “suspension” forks whose overall structure is too stiff even if they’re run very soft. Plugged into a supple pedigree hardtail like the De Kerf we used, the front – rear “sinewy smoothness” balance is superb. Running up against the other rigid option – Kona’s Project II – the fork is lighter but more importantly far less twangy under cornering or braking / impact loads. Thanks to the carefully woven carbon and elastomer steel top end it’s also more compliant where you need it while still leagues ahead on deflection stiffness.
Verdict: If you’re a smooth, light riding technician you will absolutely love this fork. It plumbs trail feedback straight into your cerebellum with total accuracy but filters out all the real jarring headache inducers. Ultralight for effortless pick and place performance, with laser accurate tracking in corner or off camber situations to wring the most from your tyres. Thanks to the cunning weave it’s still impressively calm and floated through the chatter and buzz that standard forks are too slow to catch, working like an ultra smooth ‘micro suspension’ fork. It’s a lot of money for a non suspension fork but if you fancy the challenge of riding with skill rather than spring assisted forgiveness then this is the finest rigid fork we’ve ever used by a long chalk.