- RockShox Tora 318 U-Turn forks
- Fisher Outdoor Leisure
It wasn't all that long ago that all the suspension forks on the market cost £350. When "budget" forks did appear, they were markedly inferior to the spendy stuff. These days it's a very different picture. Entry-level forks have got cheaper, high-end forks have got more expensive but if anything the functional differences between the two have got smaller.
RockShox's 2006 Tora is a fine example of this. We're looking at the Tora 318 U-Turn here, which costs the princely sum of £169.99 (the ones in the shops will be a blue/grey colour - there's also an air-sprung model that comes in black for an extra £40). And it's got, well, everything. The left leg has a coil spring and RockShox's U-Turn travel adjust system offering anywhere between 85 and 130mm of travel. The right leg has Motion Control damping, as found on RockShox's high-end forks - the only difference is that you don't get an adjustable Floodgate blow-off valve. There is a valve - ride about with the fork locked out and hit something hard and it'll give way - but you don't get to choose how hard you have to hit something.
Locked out? Yes, the Tora 318 has a compression adjuster dial that's effectively locked out at one end. Thanks to the Motion Control guts you get a tiny amount of firm travel even locked out, just enough to tend to make the fork ride over things rather than try and skew round them. Our test fork arrived with a sprung compression dial and a remote Poploc lever for the bars, but the aftermarket 318 has a regular clicky dial so you can run a little bit of compression damping. There's also a rebound damping adjuster at the bottom of the right-hand leg.
So you're getting adjustable travel, adjustable rebound, adjustable compression and a lock-out. You're also getting a pretty beefy chassis. Not only are the stanchions 32mm in diameter, they're also 4130 chromoly. That lets RockShox give you a stiff fork for very little money, helped along by the chunky lowers and hollow forged crown. The steerer tube is aluminium.
In use it's almost ludicrously good for the money. After a few hours running in it's super active but controlled - it doesn't get all out of shape up climbs, it's composed under braking and it chews through the bumps as well as you could wish for. It doesn't twang, it doesn't twist, it just sits there and gets on with it. If it wasn't for the occasional gasping noise from the rebound circuit you'd probably forget it was there at all.
There have to be downsides, right? Well, we're struggling to think of any. At 2.2kg (4.8lb) it's a little on the heavy side, but considering its travel, stiffness and price it's hardly offensive. The obvious rival at this price is Marzocchi's MX Comp Air, which is a little lighter but will only give you 105mm of travel and lacks the adjusters of the Tora. Other than that, it's just a question of how well it holds up. The damping system is mechanically simple and we wouldn't anticipate many problems there, not much can go wrong with a coil spring so really it's just down to the seals. We'll let you know how the Tora's doing the other side of winter...
Positives: Feature-laden, superb action, adjustable travel, simple, solid, cheap
Negatives: Blue/grey colour won't go with everything, ever-so-slightly portly
Verdict: We're bemused by these forks. We have to keep reminding ourselves that they're only £170. And it's not the cheapest Tora, either - the 302 model does without Motion Control and compression adjustment but retains the U-Turn and only costs £140. We reckon MC's worth paying the extra for, though. The 318 punches way above its price point - if you can live with the weight you won't be disappointed with the performance.