The SRAM-owned brand have always been outspoken proponents of the alternative 20mm axle standard, claiming it is lighter, stiffer and all-round better than the 15QR standard launched by Fox Racing Shox and Shimano in 2008.
BikeRadar caught up with Sander Rigney, RockShox's product manager, to get the scoop on where the company stands on 15mm axles and the incorporation of the technology into their suspension fork line.
BikeRadar: Why did RockShox decide to adopt the standard?
Sander Rigney: There are a couple of reasons. First and foremost, we’re big fans of through-axles for mountain bikes. It’s something we’ve continued to try to push by introducing Rebas with through-axles, the whole Maxle Lite technology ...
When 15x100mm was introduced we had reasons why we wanted to continue supporting 20x110mm, but when you start looking at the parts that are available in the market today from hub and wheel suppliers, they really didn’t get on board with 20x110mm for cross-country trail and light all-mountain applications like they did with 15x100mm.
When you look at wheels, the biggest suppliers are Shimano, Mavic and, to a lesser extent, DT, and none of those guys is offering any sort of cross-country or trail wheels or hubs in 20x110mm [Mavic do offer their CrossMax SLR cross-country racing wheelset with a 20x110mm hub Ed]. So it kind of made our decision really easy.
We could continue to try to battle for what standard needs to come out ahead, but really nobody benefits from that. Our end game is that we want to see more people using through-axles on their mountain bikes, with the decision [of which type] essentially being made for us by hub and wheel availability.
Previously you’ve said that you can build a fork with a 20mm through-axle that’s lighter and stiffer than one with a 15mm axle. Is this still the case?
I’ll have to dance around that one a little bit because we have some new Maxle Lite technology that we haven't released yet and will not be releasing until our global product launch in May. Suffice to say, in the case of the 20mm Maxle Lite system or the 15mm Maxle Lite system, we’ll have some new technology that’s even lighter and even stiffer than where we’ve been in the past.
Can you tell us now which one will come out ahead? Which system will be lighter?
My guess will be that the 15x100mm will be lighter. It’s not a guess; 15x100mm will be lighter as ... the system is somewhat out of our control because of the hub element. 15mm is new for us, so we can’t do an apples to apples comparison between old and new, but in the case of the new 20mm system, it's lighter and stiffer than in the past [when compared to the old 20mm Maxle Lite system].
The new Sektor fork is available with both standards. What type of RockShox rider will buy the 20mm axle and which will opt for 15mm?
With some of our products we'll be offering both options. So, Sektor is one that you can see right away we’re supporting both 20x110mm and 15x100mm with. Our feeling is that there are a lot of people out there today who have already invested in 20x110mm hubs and wheels and we don’t want to write those guys off. We want to make sure they aren’t suddenly outdated in terms of their investment in products that they’ve purchased.
On the other hand, on the OEM side of things, with what I was referencing on hub and wheel availability, 15x100mm is the dominant technology. So my guess is that our aftermarket sales will be higher in 20x110mm and the OEM world will be by far dominated – upwards of 95 percent – by 15x100mm.
Where does the 15mm system reach its limit? Is there a certain travel or intended use that it tops out at?
We see 15mm being cross-country, trail and light all-mountain. I hate to use travel as the defining element. In our product line it tops out at Revelation. For some people it’s going to be a lightweight 150mm bike, for others it may be a light 130mm bike. To me there’s still a higher emphasis on weight than stiffness or downhill performance. When you cross over into what we consider true all-mountain you start to make some compromises of light weight for better bump performance, more stiffness and improved durability.
Will there be a 15mm option for the RockShox SID?
You’ll have to wait and see. We’ll do our full, comprehensive RockShox launch in Durango, Colorado in May.