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SRAM redesigns its RockShox SID suspension fork after a 10-year run.
By Matt Pacocha
Think back to what you were riding off-road a decade ago; you’ll probably chuckle. Maybe you had a 130mm stem, a 48-tooth big ring, or a Flite saddle — all of which were probably anodized purple — and none of which have any business being on a mountain bike. If you were at the cutting edge of suspension technology for cross-country racing you were riding an elastomer sprung fork with a cartridge damper. It’s a good bet it was a RockShox Judy.
Back in 1997, I was riding for John Kemp’s RockShox DEVO team. I was a junior expert racer at the time. I had a Judy SL with 63mm of travel, and I was stoked. I remember the NORBA National at Park City that year. The techs over at RockShox, the team’s main sponsor, hooked-up a few of us juniors with three-inch-travel kits for our Judys, keep in mind that’s only 80mm of travel — we thought we were so cool. That is until we saw what the RockShox crew had put on our U23 teammates’, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Matt Gerken, bikes. It was the first time I had ever seen RockShox’s blue, air-sprung fork called SID.
My teammates and I didn’t know if SID was Judy’s brother or significant other, but boy was he sharp. The Superlight Integrated Design (SID) sure was light, those first forks were around 2.6 pounds and they eschewed elastomer springs for air. The air spring gave a better range tuning and a nice progressive feel through its whopping 63mm of travel. Man was I jealous, but it would be another year before I finally got my hands on a SID.
Fast forward to 2007. Oh how far both SID and I have come. Neither of us considers three-inches long travel anymore. I saw the light a few years ago. I rid my ride of its purple seatpost, took four teeth off of my big chainring and haven’t ridden a stem longer than 110mm in years. Along those lines, in terms of suspension, I upgraded my cross-country race bike to 100mm (or 4-inches) of travel — front and rear.
This year, SID too embraced that magic 100mm number, making its Superlight Integrated Design so much more appealing to a wider variety of cross-country riders and racers. Hardtail holdouts, don’t fret you can easily cut travel to 80mm with an All-Travel spacer.
The new 2008 SID and I crossed paths in the Utah desert earlier this month for Granny Gear Production’s final 24-hour series race, the 24-hours of Moab. SRAM picked the race to launch the new SID platform, likely to show the fork’s new broader reach to marathon racers and riders. In a perfect example, Trek’s 24-hour superstar, Chris Eatough traded in a Reba, not an old SID, for the new 100mm SID. His mechanic likened Eatough’s initial impressions of the new SID, as on par with Reba only lighter.
That makes sense.
The basic internal mechanisms of the entry-level SID Race that Eatough, and the rest of us attending the new SID’s launch, were riding are almost identical to Reba’s Motion Control system, a compression lockout with an adjustable Floodgate. The two upper tiers of the line have compression and rebound dampers that are massaged to be lighter, more tunable and offer a wider range of overall adjustment. I’ll give a full report of the specifics of those two forks, Team and World Cup, in VeloNews Issue 21, which will be out on newsstands December 3. Here I’ll focus on the Race fork, because it is the one SRAM officially launched and offered up ride time (or race time, if you will) on. As Sander Rigney, RockShox’s SID product manager, explained that the original SID was still called on by World Cup racers’ for a decade because of its lightweight, but that its class leading weight came with real compromises; namely lack of stiffness and travel. The new SID, he says, still delivers as the lightest fork but now without the compromise. The SID race has a claimed weight of 1450-grams (3.19-pounds) with an uncut steerer tube. It achieves this weight via a complete redesign of its chassis. The alloy steerer and forged AL66TV crown hold shorter 32mm stanchion tubes than those of old SID (whose were 28mm in diameter) or Reba. The upper tube is lighter itself but it also uses less oil in the damper and for a shorter damper shaft, both attributes that reduce weight.
The lower legs have a hollow bottom to accommodate the shorter uppers. They are forged from magnesium and feature a Power Bulge around the lower bushing to increase stiffness and to prevent the magnesium from stretching in this high stress area. The lowers have a post style brake mount and two threaded bolt holes on the backside of the arch to mount a minimalist fender.
I competed on a ‘Just for Fun’ team named the SID and Nancys for the 24-hour race and was able to ride four laps, one practice and three race laps, on the a new SID Race.
Dialing the fork in was still a bit more involved than some of its competitors, mostly because of the negative pressure chamber. Getting that perfect feel took some trial and error, but once there my pilot (not quite production level) SID felt buttery smooth and stayed that way for the entirety of my laps in the race. I set the fork’s compression damper to match the feel of the rear platform when in the lockout position and it too worked well and felt efficient on climbs throughout the weekend.
The most striking attribute of the new SID, to me, was its smoothness. I believe that this is due to the increase in stiffness of the chassis; because the fork isn’t bending, it’s not binding and subsequently it’s very smooth. Even given the pilot production nature of this fork, meaning that it was built on production tooling but some small details aren’t yet perfectly dialed in, I would say it’s one of the smoothest 100mm forks I have ridden. I seemed to be using all of the travel without bottoming out, something that was a lifesaver during my night lap when my front wheel was swallowed by deep crevasses hidden in the shadows.
Even though there were no problems with any of the pilot run forks during the event, I have to reserve my opinion on its durability and reliability after some longer term testing, but for now, I’ll say congratulations to SID. He’s a new man.