Fully Rigid and Single Speed (Part 2)

Okay, so I gave it a try (see my article on making my single speed Raleigh Talus Carbon Pro fully rigid).  Today I rode about 20 miles at a moderate effort today on various surfaces.  What were the pros and cons and what was the verdict?

Nearly two pounds heavier with the Fox Terralogic fork.

Nearly two pounds heavier with the Fox Terralogic fork.

Weight.  Yes, the rigid bike was lighter — much lighter.  Rigid was 18 lbs. 6 oz.  With the Fox Float FIT Terralogic 80mm fork the bike weighs in at 20 lbs. 5 oz. for an increased weight of 1 lb. 15 oz. or a hefty weight penalty of 10.5%!  Fortunately it is static weight.

Handling.  Obviously handling is a subjective thing.  Speed, on the other hand, is not subjective.  I found myself bouncing around even the mildest corners and downhills.  Cornering was somewhat slower.  Downhills were much slower.  My Terralogic fork is designed to be “smart”.  If you are out of the saddle attacking or climbing, the fork senses it somehow and locks making it ride like a near rigid bike.  No pogo stick effect, like many forks, robbing you of much needed power.  When you are riding along and hit roots, rocks, holes, or other obstacles in the trail, the fork realizes that too and allows the suspension to absorb the shock.  The net result is much more traction over rougher terrain as your wheel is able to stay in contact with the ground instead of bouncing off bumps.  And more traction translates into noticeably more speed.

Fatigue.  I like to think that I am an endurance athlete and that I can take pretty much anything a trail can send my way.  And I can do it for hours.  After riding the rigid bike for less than an hour, my hands were numb and I was having a hard time operating the brakes.  And remember, I was not riding at race pace but more like 85% of race pace.  When I was done I felt like I had been beaten with a bat.  My shoulders, neck, arms, and hands were thoroughly pulverized.  Not fun.  When it comes to fatigue and just the fun of riding, the rigid fork was not even close.  Suspension wins hands down.

After putting the suspension fork back on and cleaning it up.

After putting the suspension fork back on and cleaning it up.

Climbing. This one really surprised me. I fully expected the rigid fork to out-climb the suspension fork, not only because of the huge weight advantage, but also because of the lack of energy lost to the inevitable compression of the Fox fork. Yes, the Terralogic is somehow able to minimize that fork movement when climbing, but there is still some fork movement and that movement is power lost. I expected the rigid fork to crush the suspension fork in climbing. I was stunned to learn that it was actually the opposite: the suspension fork climbed much better. The reason is that climbs invariably follow descents. The rigid fork descended so much slower — in other words, I had to ride so much slower to maintain control of the bike — that there was nowhere close to the same momentum going into the climbs. That meant that I had to actually work harder to climb as fast, even though the rigid bike was over 10% lighter.

Final Verdict.  Before I was halfway done with the ride today, I was ready to put the Fox Terralogic fork back on the bike.  Is it heavier?  Yes — almost two full pounds heavier.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Yes, I’m a weight weenie, but this is two pounds I will gladly take.  I was also reminded just how great the Terralogic fork is as well.  So I probably won’t put the rigid carbon fork back on my mountain bike until I use it as my backup cyclocross bike this winter.