Component: RockShox Pike RCT3 Fork
- 150mm travel
- Adjustments: External rebound, low speed compression, 3-position compression (Open/Pedal/Lock)
- Available Springs: Dual Position Air, Solo Air
Stated Weight (for 26” wheels): 1835 grams / 4.05 lbs.
Blister’s Measured Weight: 4.05 lbs.
MSRP: $1,005 (other models: $980 – $1085 USD)
Tested on: 2012 Turner 5 spot
Duration of Test: 3 months
By this point you’ve probably heard quite a lot about the new Pike forks from RockShox, unless you’ve been living under a rock on Mars, frozen in CO2, with earplugs, with a do not disturb sign at your cave entrance.
I’m little late with this review due to a few injuries and some misguided attempts at screwing around with the fork to make it into the dual air model. With all the different configurations between wheel size, air springs, and travel amounts, RockShox has a good number of these things to assemble; it’s been very tempting looking at the parts that make them up and find out what can be mixed and matched. But I’ll get to that later.
First let’s just address the fork that RockShox sent us. The Dual Position air versions weren’t available at the time, so we got a 150mm solo air version for 26” wheels.
The first thing I noticed when taking the fork out of the box was that it felt like it weighed almost nothing, so I threw it on a postal scale and got a number. Then I went to the RockShox website to see what they claimed its weight was and was amazed to see exactly the same number I got: 4.05lbs.
This was literally the first time I’ve measured a weight that is exactly the same as those published by the manufacturer. Whatever is going on at RockShox, even with the little bit of lube oil sitting in the lowers, they’ve obviously gotten to a point of awesome production consistency that’s rarely seen in cases like this where somewhat subjective fluid volumes are in play. So you can trust their published numbers on the Pike. It really is that light. To be honest, I was kind of nervous it might break. I hadn’t ridden a fork this light in a long time. And even when I had, they weren’t 150mm-travel forks.
The mandatory tapered steerer tubes on all models and 35mm stanchions make these forks look and perform much tougher than you’d think judging by the weight alone. Our test fork is as burly as any Fox 36 or RockShox Lyric I’ve ridden. And considering the ‘trailbike’ category it fits into, it’s much much stiffer than any Fox 34 chassis.
The Pike comes with a newer 15mm maxle design that’s pretty trick. There’s a spring-loaded skewer mounted inside the main maxle body that spins the whole thing. It acts like a solid unit until it’s time to flip the lever. No matter how tight you get the maxle itself in the fork lowers, the amount of effort it takes to flip the lever to lock it in place never changes. (See the video below for an more in depth look at the maxle.) Riding in the approaching winter with cold, painful fingers, removing the wheel was never an issue, which is not something that can be said of most ‘quick release’ style axle bolts.
The only damper option across all models is their RCT3 charger damper. This is a closed cartridge system with an expansion bladder to take up the oil displaced as the damper compresses. The bladder setup is similar to some forks that Fox has made. The damper has a 3-position knob on the top that allows three different quick adjust options for low speed damping: Open, Pedal, and Lock. These setting work similarly to the CTD system that Fox uses, with the one glaring difference: when the threshold gets breached on the Pike, the fork doesn’t drop out from underneath you. Even in Lock mode, there’s a smooth transition into the travel, even if it is much more damped and harsh than on the Open setting. It works.
The charger damper also has a separate low speed compression adjustment meant to fine tune the Open setting. To be honest it works so well, I haven’t seen much need for the other two quick adjust settings.
The first glaring performance characteristic of the Pike is how ungodly smooth and frictionless the fork moves through its travel. I don’t know if RockShox has a team of interns on bumpy treadmills breaking these things in, but I’ve never felt any fork—coil or air—that felt this smooth right out of the box. I’ve rebuilt forks for years that have never felt this smooth.
The solo air system is pretty simple. It’s just rod mounted to the lowers that hold a piston in place up inside one of the stanchions. As the fork compresses, so does the air chamber on top of that piston. RockShox makes available some ‘volume reducer tokens’ that thread into the air spring top cap to make the fork more progressive. They also thread into each other so you can stack them. What people have done for years dropping fork oil into air chambers, RockShox achieves with a ready-made modular system.
RockShox has a chart of rider weights and spring pressures on a sticker on one of the fork legs, and while I’ve grown to despise bike components with directions printed on them, at least it’s a sticker. I’d pull it off and stick it on your shock pump. But the recommendations are pretty spot on. I ended up within about 3 psi of the recommended pressure for my weight.
On Trail Performance
My first few rides on the Pike were done on some trails behind my house that I know extremely well. The charger damper and volume tokens are the truly unique aspects of this fork, so I did a lot of single laps, changing things between them. The first three or so were all air spring runs with the compression damper settings wide open.
The solo air spring isn’t magic. It’s still an air spring. While the Pike is insanely smooth off the top without the characteristic initial firmness, it still has a bit of fall off in the middle of the stroke. At a pressure that maintained a good riding sag point for me, I was getting full travel and, even though I tried, I couldn’t get a hard bottom out.
The manual that came with the shock stated that the forks come with one spacer token installed. I was surprised to open it up and find none. I thought we’d just go the other way then, so I put one in. Some of the midstroke dropoff was reduced, but there was a solid ¾” of travel I wasn’t getting now with the same air pressure. Dropping the air pressure just screwed up the sag point, so I ended up removing the one token and just ran the spring ‘empty’.