It’s already been four years since RockShox unveiled the Pike fork that we recognise today. In that time, it’s won more than its fair share of accolades and for many, it’s set the bar when it comes to what you should be bolting to the front of your trail bike.
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But since relaunching the overhauled Lyrik back in 2015, the Pike’s position in the market has caused some confusion and is something RockShox was keen to address for 2018.
We met the guys from RockShox over in the sunny Forest of Dean to find out just what the future holds for one of the most favoured trail forks out there, and just what it feels like in the hills.
Time for a diet
When it was released, the Lyrik offered a boost in performance for just a little extra weight. Why not slap a Lyrik on instead of a Pike, then? That appeared to be the question quite a few bike manufacturers began to ask, and something that needed addressing by RockShox. But, what exactly did Pike need to be? Up until this point, Pike had been used for a wide variety of things, spanning the categories from dirt jump to enduro, as it seemed to be good at most things. But once the new Lyrik arrived, it was clear that a little more focus wouldn’t do the Pike any harm.
Working to just one axle standard is, according to Cancellier, one of the main contributing factors in how they’ve managed to shave 150g off compared to the old Pike fork (Boost equivalent).Critically, this reduction in weight doesn’t affect the new fork in terms of stiffness.
The Pike’s upper tubes – like that of its bigger travel counterpart, the Lyrik – do get beefed up a little internally, so will now only accept the smaller diameter grey Bottomless Tokens from 2018 onwards.
Like the rest of the RockShox line-up, the new Pike comes ready to house SRAM Torque Caps. These larger diameter hub caps are claimed to improve the wheel/fork connection, which in turn ups stiffness levels.
Naturally, the US brand wasn’t ever going to settle with changing just the chassis. The 2018 Pike gets the new DebonAir air spring – a name many will recognise from the company’s rear shocks. Cancellier explains, “We started down this path with Lyrik. We increased the negative air volume to get that more coil-like ride. More small bump sensitivity, more mid-stroke support. With Pike I knew I wanted to go down that route, but I didn’t want to make a trail fork or lighter weight fork that rode like a big travel fork such as a Boxxer or Lyrik. We wanted something a little sportier, somewhere in the middle.” The new DebonAir spring curve used in the Pike sits it somewhere in the middle, between the old Pike and Lyrik. This means it has increased negative air volume over the old Pike, but not as much as the bigger travel Lyrik. According to Cancellier, “It has a couple of benefits. It gives you better small bump sensitivity because it has that additional negative air volume but adds mid-stroke support, so, deeper in the travel, the fork will ride higher. Basically, it’s just trying to take the curve and flatten it out.”
In reality, this means the new Pike should feel easier to get moving through the beginning (0-50mm) of the stroke, and respond better when rolling over chattery surfaces. In the second half of the stroke (80-160mm) it should feel more supportive, and feel more like a coil shock.
While the famed Charger damper continues to win praise throughout the cycling media, RockShox was keen to improve upon it. After two years of hard graft, the Charger 2 damper is the result, and was first used in the recently overhauled SID.
“It’s the same basic concept as the Charger you know today, but we’re doing things a little bit differently,” says Cancellier. ”The main goal behind the damper was knowing that I wanted to have remote options.”
The new Pike (and Lyrik) will come in the familiar RCT3 and RC versions, alongside the new RCT Remote and RC Remote options for an extra fee. Of course to add remote options meant some changes to the Charger’s design. In its current guise, the large dial used to toggle between the three modes (open, pedal and lock) takes quite a bit of force to turn and simply wouldn’t work with a remote.
In terms of maximum travel, the 27.5in Pike will be available in 120mm through to 160mm travel, in 10mm increments. The 29in version of the fork will be available in 120mm to 140mm travel options.
Capping things off
The keen-eyed among you will have spotted the new dials atop each leg, which are now much lower and neater. Why? It’s all about clearance. Lower profile dials mean more downtube clearance, which is something bike brands are constantly battling with now we’re all riding bigger wheels.
The Pike RCT3 and RCT Remote costs £825-£940 / $875-$1000.
First ride impressions
Our short two days riding aboard the new Pike fork was, usefully, on trails we’re very familiar with. While the weather might not have been exactly great, the trails, for the most part at least, were still running pretty well and offered a nice variety of wet root, slippery cambers and some seriously unforgiving landings.
A quick roll down a battered, braking bump-riddled trail centre descent certainly highlighted just how forgiving the new fork was. Through the constant chatter, the Pike managed to soak up all but the worst of the vibrations before they reached the bar, which felt like an obvious improvement over its predecessor.
As the terrain became more technical and the hits harder, the improvements – in particular the revamped air spring – felt more noticeable. At no point did it feel like the Pike lacked sensitivity when tackling slippery root-riddled sections. Nor was it necessary to add more air pressure to increase support when sliding into steeper, high load turns. I did stray slightly from the pressure chart, adding 5psi more than recommended as well as adding three clicks of low-speed compression adjustment. This resulted in a fork I felt confident thumping into bumps and slapping in flat landings.
Of course I’ve not tried it back to back with the fork it’s replacing, but as soon as we get our test sample, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. So stay tuned for a full review in the not too distant future.