Two days of travel for two days in another country may seem a little excessive, but there were rumours of a star raised from the grave, a dethroned hero brought back to former glory. The bait was enough and I packed my bags and headed for the good old US of A.
The world famous Pike, ladies and gentlemen, is back in town.
The Pike is alive – SRAM Trail House part 1
Known as the hardcore trail rider’s fork, the objective of the original RockShox Pike was to fulfil the needs of riders who like to ride a bit of everything, to pedal up and thrash back down without destroying their bikes. So it was pretty much aimed at being a fork for real mountain bikers who rode in real terrain.
The first Pike was released back in the early part of the 2000s and it found its way onto plenty of bikes in its time.
Traditionally each year there would be developments and the Pike always stayed a little ahead of the field with innovative features and all the right intentions for a breed of rider that was emerging, someone between a downhiller and a standard trail rider, who liked to get some air, smash through turns and race their mates on the descents.
As with all products there were a few issues along the way as various incarnations of the Pike emerged but generally problems were minimal and easily repaired. Hell, I know plenty of ‘hardcore’ riders in the Alps who still have a set of Pikes on their everyday bikes now.
Alas, RockShox laid the Pike to rest a few years ago.
However, the aforementioned emerging breed of rider has suddenly started to flourish with the current enduro racing revolution, and there couldn’t really be a better time in the sport’s history for a fork with the intentions of the Pike. For 2013 the hardcore trail rider’s fork is back, albeit in an entirely different guise (“17 new heads, 14 new handles in its time” – remember that classic from Trigger in Only Fools and Horses?)…
What’s new with the 2013 Pike?
It may have had an entire overhaul – an internal redesign and the facelift of all facelifts (in SRAM’s words, it’s been “murdered out”) – but in keeping with the original Pike ethos, the 2013 model is “designed specifically for new-school trail riders”. The modern rider demands a lot of his/her equipment and a fork must be buttery smooth, strong, stiff, reliable and not too heavy. We MTB public do ask a lot of our equipment but, having ridden with them around the unforgiving Arizonan trails, I think it’s fair to say that so too do the SRAM staff, and if the new Pike can stand up to their punishments then it is surely set for success.
The 2013 Pike puts all of RockShox’s top selling points into one package. All the buzzwords are in there: Rapid Recovery, Charger Damper, Maxle Lite and plenty more. Marketing tags aside, there are some really neat features and I actually have to commend the designers on one or two moves that should help the consumer in the long run.
Impressions and the stuff that makes the Pike’s world go up and down
The idea of RockShox’s Rapid Recovery is that the fork sits high in its travel for the majority of riding. Over successive bumps the wheel tracks the ground efficiently and the plusher initial part of the suspension stoke is utilised as much as possible. So in a nutshell, the fork doesn’t pack-down under repeated hits – they’ve sorted the damping out then. There’s nothing worse than a bike that pitches over the front, lowering confidence, so for the idea behind the marketing tag RockShox score points. It’s a little more advanced than ‘fast rebound’ (as some riders have tagged it), although giving it the car park test there is a notable difference to a ‘normal’ fork. I wasn’t entirely convinced at first but having been reassured by the SRAM crew I headed out on a ride.
The trails around the test location of Sedona, Arizona are plentiful and combine wonderful flow with brutal tech. Sedona is also officially in the desert and, less officially, a site of many power ‘vortexes’, so strange things can happen and slightly unhinged people will likely jump out on you every now and then*. The least bizarre part of the first ride was the feel of the bike I was riding (a Devinci Dixon carbon) which, sure enough, didn’t bounce and squirm as I half expected the ‘fast rebound’ suspension to, but in fact provided a stable and controlled ride. The Rapid Recovery does do its thing – forks riding high and yet still getting the most out of the travel when needed.
I spent a couple of days pounding the bike through rock gardens and doing my best to hit some turns at relative speed in-between accidentally exhaling the odd lung (with extremely low humidity, a touch of altitude, a little jet lag and a local beast by the name of Lars leading the charge, the uphills got a tad out of hand at times leaving all us Euros struggling). I feel like it’s such a cop-out telling you that the Pike performed flawlessly, but I genuinely didn’t have any issues with jumping on the bike and just riding – there was never anything unexpected and that can only be a good sign. Time and a further test will tell how the reincarnated Pike fares against such terrors as mud, braking bumps and long-term riding.
The tech stuff
I say tech, but in actual fact there have been some pretty easy to understand decisions made in the design of the new Pike. Firstly, and this may not sound earth-shattering but bear with me, there is a new axle. Just one. Duh. Actually, that is almost a brave move by RockShox as dealers will most likely be crying out for the million-and-one axle configuration options that currently exist, but for this fork they have decided to simplify mountain biking (only this once) by only offering a 15x100mm axle, or Maxle Lite to be precise – the simplified Maxle which doesn’t use expansion to hold shut but instead just screws in and clamps down, much like a Fox axle. The steerer is one option only too – tapered. What sort of self-respecting hardcore trail rider would be riding without tapered anyway?
The real technical bit comes in when you delve deeper and go inside the renewed fork, for in the bowels of Pike you will find…Charger Damper. But what is it? It’s the new damping unit, which comprises an assembly that aims to deliver shock absorption performance as a priority and lockout as an option. What I mean by that is that instead of potentially sacrificing the damping ability of the fork in order to provide a ‘true’ lockout, they’ve gone for a ‘pretty much lockout’ and I can safely say they have achieved their objective. I cycled through the three ride settings of open, pedal and lock as I was riding but to be frank, I thought the fork was plenty stable and controlled enough to never really need to go beyond the pedal setting. I guess on long road rides you could use the lock setting, Mr Hardcore Trail Rider.
In there somewhere is a bladder, a world that RockShox haven’t entered until now and one that certain other manufacturers have had their issues with. RockShox reassured us that there would be no problems with their bladder though; it’s one solid extruded piece and is “insanely durable”. This will indeed take more testing time to prove true. The bladder gives a smoother transition for oil cycling through the system, part of the reason that these new Pikes feel so buttery and effortlessly absorb small bumps. RockShox also claim that this helps resist “damping change during extended downhills”, we’ll have to wait to find out how they perform on long European descents.
Going back to the three ride settings, one note about the damping is that the ‘efficiency’ circuits (pedal and lock settings) sit separately and behind the ‘performance’ circuit. When the system is fully open you can adjust the low speed compression, changes that won’t affect the pedal and lock settings, which cannot be ‘tuned’. All 2013 Pikes are air sprung, available in Dual Position Air and Solo Air options.
RockShox have put plenty of time and thought into the asymmetric chassis (hang on, aren’t all forks asymmetric – brake mount anyone?), they’ve shaved material where they can and bulked up where necessary. So the ‘power bulge’ extends farther down one leg than the other giving “unparalleled stiffness to travel to weight ratio”. They did feel good.
As one final side-note, the black stanchions have nothing to do with performance and the colour is purely for aesthetics. Oh and all wheel sizes are catered for and travel options are from 140-160mm.
Wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
Axle: 15mm only
Price: From £749.99
The other stuff
So the point of SRAM’s Trail House in Sedona is to get all the MTB press from around the globe and present their new or updated products for the coming season, as well as to have a good time riding dusty singletrack and drinking beers by the fire pit, of course.
What else did we find out about the 2013 RockShox range then?
(1) The Monarch Plus rear shock has been revised and now features the Rapid Recovery tagline as well as an increased rebound range of adjustability (twice the range in fact) and increased compression flow, which should go some way in explaining the smooth, controlled action of the shock and its supple nature. The adjusters have been updated (slightly) and the large lever to change through the three ride settings remains very easy to flick. I really got on with the Pike/Monarch Plus/Devinci combo and struggled to tear myself away from such a relationship of harmony at the end of the ride camp.
(2) The Reverb Stealth now has a Connectamajig! What the ‘eck is that in real money? Basically it’s a threaded connection in the hose, which enables quick assembly of the Stealth system when installing it into a frame. I was practically jumping with joy when I first heard this, but was quickly brought back down when I was told, “this is not to make travel easier”. So it’s a system to make workshop mechanics’ lives easier and can only be disconnected and reconnected a couple of times before the system will need a re-bleed. Never mind. Hopefully in the future they will develop a Connectamajig Rejigged that will allow me to easily take the seatpost out for bike bag travel and squeezing bikes into my car when I go riding. The Stealth is now also available in 150mm travel option allowing (obviously) for a greater range of height difference. 34.9mm diameter options will be available in all travels.
Available: Mid April
So there we have it, the Pike lives and RockShox continue to push the boundaries of not only suspension but also seatpost hose connection technology.
Keep tuned, as we’ll have some other interesting stories from the 2013 SRAM Trail House coming soon.
*We’ll have much more about the Sedona riding and the alternative inhabitants in a travel guide, coming soon.