RockShox quietly releases budget ’35’ fork

RockShox may have blown the budget fork market wide open

Gently slipping on to RockShox’s product page is a new fork, the 35 Gold RL. While details are scarce, I managed to pick up a few details, largely thanks to Bird Cycleworks, who published a blog post about the forks recently.

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The 35 Gold RL is a budget fork, sitting below the Revelation in the range. It’s called the 35 because it broadly shares the 35mm stanchion chassis with forks such as the Revelation and Pike.

Details are scarce, however there's travel from 100–160mm, and 27.5in and 29in options
Details are scarce, however there’s travel from 100–160mm, and 27.5

RockShox 35 Gold RL details

The 35 has 35mm stanchions, which should mean that chassis stiffness is comparable to the Revelation and Pike trail forks.

Much like these forks, the 35 comes in 27.5in and 29in versions, with both wheel sizes getting a choice of fork offsets (37mm and 44mm for the 27.5in fork, 44mm and 51mm for the 29in fork). BikeRadar has a handy guide to fork offset and frame geometry to explain all of that.

RockShox will be offering the fork in travel options from 100 to 160mm across both wheel sizes.

The 35 seems to be very similar to the previous generation Revelation, which now comes with the Motion Control RC damper or Charger RC damper

The 35 relies on the tried and trusted DebonAir air spring, which has consistently impressed BikeRadar in testing — there’s an increased size negative air spring and lower friction seals, which help keep forks nice and supple early in the stroke.

Damping is taken care of by the Motion Control damper (this controls the speed at which the fork moves through its travel). This is an older damper, so it’s no surprise to see it on this new entry-level fork. It is, however, still a really competent unit, which offers a lock-out too — either fork or bar mounted in this case.

The Post Mount brake interface is designed to allow the use of 180mm rotors without adaptors, and we believe the forks will be rated to 220mm rotors — something we’re yet to see on the trail, but could make sense for electric bikes.

A hex key operated Maxle Stealth axle keeps the front wheel in place, and the stanchions look to have the slippery Fast Black coating on them, as is the norm from RockShox.

In many ways, the 35 seems to be very similar to the previous generation Revelation, which now comes with either the Motion Control RC damper or the new Charger RC damper, and so could be assumed to be a slightly cheaper replacement for the most basic Motion Control Revelation, now discontinued.

What does this all mean?

A Motion Control damper is joined by the DebonAir spring
A Motion Control damper is joined by the DebonAir spring

Big ticket suspension forks dominate the mountain bike press, with their up-to-date technology, lairy colours and eye-watering prices. Over time though, these technologies trickle down and the ‘budget’ forks we see now are as good as top-line forks from five or six years ago.

RockShox’s Motion Control damper might not feel amazing when run head to head with a Charger RC or RCT3, but there’s still far more control and composure than a budget fork from a couple of years ago

I would suspect that RockShox is using a thicker grease and less sophisticated seals and bushings in the 35 to keep the cost lower than the Revelation. This will have some impact on the sensitivity of the fork, when run back to back with its pricier siblings.

However, when it comes to the world of budget forks, I suspect the 35 could be a real step up in performance. The Motion Control damper, DebonAir Spring and that 35mm chassis are all features I’ve praised in the past.

So where might this lead the industry?

Having a truly competitive budget fork, with competent damping and a decent, stiff chassis is something that’s largely been lacking in the market, especially if you’re a brand that wants to supply bikes with suspension from the two major brands: RockShox or Fox (and there’s certainly some caché in doing this).

Structurally there are 35mm stanchions, a Maxle Stealth and 180mm Post Mount for brakes
Structurally there are 35mm stanchions, a Maxle Stealth and 180mm Post Mount for brakes

Potentially, this means that we’ll start to see more ‘aggressive’ trail bikes being built at yet lower prices, because there’s now a fork to give the performance on both the trail and in the pocket.

If the aforementioned Bird Cycleworks blog post is to be believed, Bird will be offering its Aeris full-suspension bikes for under £2,000 in the UK when the 35 is available, and I suspect other brands will be plugging these in to bikes below £1,500 very soon too — a price below which forks can often hold back a bike’s performance.

This could be good for consumers in another way too as RockShox’s effectively shared chassis’ are easily upgradeable. If you’re able to buy a bike with a 35 fork up front, I suspect it’ll be perfectly feasible to upgrade the dampers, for example, to a more sophisticated version down the line for a few hundred pounds. And, for a lot less, upgrade the seals and fluids to ones with lower friction relatively cheaply, giving improved sensitivity.

RockShox 35 Gold RL prices and availability

I’ve contacted RockShox for global pricing, and will update when I have this. At the moment, I’m told (by Bird) that in the UK the forks will be priced at £495, though the UK distributors ZyroFisher will only be bringing the 27.5″ forks with the 44mm offset, and the 51mm option for the 29er.

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It is possible to pre-order a Bird with the 35, with delivery from May this year.