Getting to ride all the latest and greatest kit first before it hits the shops is definitely one of the biggest perks of working here at MBUK. So, when the guys at SRAM asked if we wanted to try out the new RockShox Boxxer downhill fork and SRAM X01 DH transmission, the answer was pretty bloody obvious.
We headed down to meet them at Aston Hill Bike Park in Buckinghamshire. OK, it’s not the biggest, gnarliest hill in the UK, but the SRAM guys were on a tight schedule and heading back to Germany that very same day. Still, Aston Hill’s mix of steep hillside and root riddled tracks made for some interesting riding.The new Surface to Air track, Black Run and Root Canal are great fun and surprisingly unforgiving, especially when the speed picks up. More details can be found at www.rideastonhill.co.uk.
The new Boxxer is equipped with a fully sealed Charger Damper cartridge – as used in the popular Pike trail fork – comes in versions for 650b and 26in wheels, and is claimed to weigh just 2,585g (for the 26in version), making it the lightest production downhill fork on the market.
SRAM’s new X01 DH transmission is available as a standard 10-speed set-up with carbon crank arms, X-Sync narrow-wide chainring and shorter caged, X-Horizon parallelogram equipped rear mech. More interesting though is the lighter weight seven-speed version – which we rode – with a new Mini Block X-Dome cassette and seven-speed shifter. Check out BikeRadar's first look article for more details.
Our test bike for the day was one of Germany’s finest – the Nicolai Ion 20, complete with 650b wheels and a healthy 205mm (8.1in) of rear wheel travel.
On an unfamiliar bike and unfamiliar trails, it’s hard to get an accurate impression of how a product truly performs. To really get a feel for things, we’d need to bolt it to one of our own bikes and ride it on trails we know inside. What these test days can do, though, is at least give you a good idea of how things feel, initially at least.
Aston Hill's steep hillside doesn't require much shifting through the sprockets, but many of the tracks do have flat top sections where you have to hammer through the gears. The feel through the shifter paddles was clean, crisp and accurate, with a light action even under power. The jumps between the gears felt like they’d been gauged well – nothing too large, yet nothing so small it felt out of place on a downhill bike. How the transmission will hold up, only time will tell, but as soon as we get test samples on our long-term test bikes, we’ll let you know.
We got an insight into just how supportive the new Boxxer is on some of Aston Hill's steeper, root and step riddled runs, where the fork was heavily loaded as we navigated our way through tight slow-speed turns.
On the faster, heavier hits, things remained smooth and composed throughout the entire stroke. No matter how hard we pushed into the long rooty sections or manmade rock sections, we were unable to unsettle the fork. That supple initial stroke we’ve praised the Pike for in the past felt even more apparent on the Boxxer, dealing with the smaller bumps and lumps impressively, and keeping the front wheel tracking the trail well.
Once we’ve received our test sample Boxxer and bolted it on to one of our long-term test bikes, we can really start getting into more detail, and as soon as we do, we’ll let you know.