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Test Logbook: This is a preliminary look at the fork after a week of riding in what can only be described as unseasonally perfect conditions. Dusty sandy hardpacked trails won’t exactly stress the seals on the air cartridges, but plenty of blunt ruts, exposed routes and rocks have provided a full range of lumps to charge into and over. We’ve also made a point of shoving it into those narrow little wheel ruts that appear at this time of year to see how it copes with the twist and twang of most forks’ least favourite obstacle.
We’ll have a longer term test on seal and cartridge reliability after Alex has been thrashing them round Eastway on his new Giant XTC for a while.
First things first, these forks have nothing to do with American boy bands although the white finish is rather pop-tastic. InSync have been round for a while, but you’ll rarely see their forks on bikes above the £300 mark, so it’s interesting to meet a top end air fork at £325 alone. We’ve got two of their forks currently on test, the top of the line air sprung Echo 735 and the cheaper 728.What?
The Echo is a conventional but neatly finished single crow fork with single piece magnesium lower legs and brace, slick coated stanchions and alloy crown and steerer giving an all up weight of 3.57lbs (1620g). Stance, crown and leg diameters are all also on par with this year’s latest lightweight forks which keeps the forks stable enough under heavy braking or cornering loads.
The suspension is provided by a pair of Englund Air cartridges – one in each leg – which give 85mm of travel as well as rebound and compression adjustment. However, as the adjusters (and retrofit plastic valves for significantly slower or faster damping) are buried deep inside, you’ll have to strip the cartridge down every time you want to play with it.
ISO disc mount bosses are ready and waiting and you even get a threaded brace mount for your front reflector.Does it work?
Englund Cartridges were born back in the mid 90’s when Rock Shox Judys used to explode with sickening regularity. You threw your old heavier springs away, screwed in the air cartridges and rejoiced in your new springiness.
Forks have moved on since then though with most manufacturers now using longer travel lengths controlled by high capacity free range oil baths and separate damping circuits, even in their lightweight ‘race’ models. The Englund cartridges have remained essentially unchanged in the way they operate since 1998 though, and to be honest it shows.
The small diameter air cartridges are smooth and fairly responsive from the box, with only slight stiction but there’s a hefty top-out thump after big hits. Keeping bottom-out thump at bay was also a case of careful air pressure setting.
Prolonged use doesn’t do the small chamber air damping any favours either, with long downhills causing big heat build up and increasingly erratic performance. The fact that Englund advise that you top up the air pressure every couple of weeks confirms that the cartridges need regular cleaning and maintenance to survive conditions this side of the Atlantic.
The short piece of pipe they supply to lock the fork out if both cartridges blow up on a ride, doesn’t instil massive confidence either.
As we’ve said before the chunky stance and mid-sized brace creates a reasonably tight steering fork, but it’s slightly twangy if you get really aggressive.Should I buy one?
With 85mm of air sprung travel and a reasonably stout structure the Echo 735’s are definitely a contender. The weight is also on par with competing forks such as the Marzocchi X-Fly / Atom Race and Duke series. We’re slightly concerned about longevity, damping performance and adjustability though.
Keep watching this space for a test on their cheaper Echo 728 brothers shortly.