Elka Stage 4 Fork Cartridge - Initial Impressions

Dec 17, 2010 at 0:05
Dec 17, 2010
by Dunbar Cycles  
 
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Elka's new Stage 4 fork cartridges just arrived at the shop and we wasted no time installing them into our personal forks to see what the fuss is all about. We have high hopes for these new units after being very impressed by their rear shock's performance. While it's still early days, you can read our initial impression of the Stage 4 inside. Were they up to the task or did the cartridges spontaneously combust, causing a cataclysmic reaction destroying the entire north shore?

Photos and video inside!



Elka Stage 4 Fork Cartridge


<span style='font-size:19px'>The lowdown from Elka Suspension:</span> <br><br>
The lowdown from Elka Suspension:

"The Stage 4 is a nitrogen-charged, sealed and pressurized fork cartridge featuring a moto-style piston and shimstack design that is fully serviceable and tuneable internally. This product has been developed and made in collaboration with Fast Suspension (France) and produced under license by Elka Suspension. This pressurized design provides a very responsive ride and faster damping action upon transition from compression to rebound. It is very easy to adjust and can be set to further reduce front-end diving upon braking, g-outs and hard cornering without losing small bump absorption. It reduces harshness and vibration over choppy terrain and rough conditions which helps reduce rider fatigue by providing smoother absorption of big impacts and square-edge obstacles. It also provides increased consistency and reliability while extending intervals between servicing." -Elka Suspension
The Stage 4's rebound adjustment knob located at the bottom of the cartridge
The Stage 4's rebound adjustment knob located at the bottom of the cartridge
Low speed compression adjustments are made with the aluminum dial atop the fork leg<br><br><br> <span style='font-size:19px'>Elka Stage 4 cartridge details:</span> <br><br> - Nitrogen-charged, sealed and pressurized fork cartridge (40 psi pressure)<br>- Moto-style piston and shim stack design, serviceable and tuneable internally (by a qualified suspension technician)<br> - External low-speed compression (21 clicks)<br> - External rebound adjustment (23 clicks)<br> - 3 base valvings available: Hard (for World Cup level racers only), Medium (racing and performance), Soft (recreational)<br> - All parts are CNC machined and hard-anodized<br> - Product developed and made in collaboration with Fast Suspension (France), produced under license by Elka Suspension<br> - $495 MSRP<br> - Cartridge weight = 446 Grams (weight gain and loss was +/- 10 grams depending on spring weight in stock BoXXer Team.)
Low speed compression adjustments are made with the aluminum dial atop the fork leg


Elka Stage 4 cartridge details:

- Nitrogen-charged, sealed and pressurized fork cartridge (40 psi pressure)
- Moto-style piston and shim stack design, serviceable and tuneable internally (by a qualified suspension technician)
- External low-speed compression (21 clicks)
- External rebound adjustment (23 clicks)
- 3 base valvings available: Hard (for World Cup level racers only), Medium (racing and performance), Soft (recreational)
- All parts are CNC machined and hard-anodized
- Product developed and made in collaboration with Fast Suspension (France), produced under license by Elka Suspension
- $495 MSRP
- Cartridge weight = 446 Grams (weight gain and loss was +/- 10 grams depending on spring weight in stock BoXXer Team.)
The Stage 4 cartridge is a sealed, but serviceable, unit that completely separates damping oil from the fork's lubrication oil, thereby increasing reliability and maintenance intervals. The internal floating piston is backed with a factory set nitrogen charge at 40 psi to keep the oil from foaming under hard use while compensating for the extra volume of the damping rod entering the cartridge. Elka recommends dropping the spring rate of your fork if you are going to use the Stage 4 due to the IFP pressure. The high flow piston uses shims to control high speed compression and rebound and as you'll hear Pat tell you in the audio below, there are basically limitless combinations that can be used to fine tune to the stroke to your liking. Elka does a lot of suspension for motorized vehicles and they employ the same level of seals in the Stage 4 cartridge to keep the oil in and the nasty out. Internals are hard anodized as you would expect to see on a product such as this.
The Stage 4 cartridge is a sealed, but serviceable, unit that completely separates damping oil from the fork's lubrication oil, thereby increasing reliability and maintenance intervals. The internal floating piston is backed with a factory set nitrogen charge at 40 psi to keep the oil from foaming under hard use while compensating for the extra volume of the damping rod entering the cartridge. Elka recommends dropping the spring rate of your fork if you are going to use the Stage 4 due to the IFP pressure. The high flow piston uses shims to control high speed compression and rebound and as you'll hear Pat tell you in the audio below, there are basically limitless combinations that can be used to fine tune to the stroke to your liking. Elka does a lot of suspension for motorized vehicles and they employ the same level of seals in the Stage 4 cartridge to keep the oil in and the nasty out. Internals are hard anodized as you would expect to see on a product such as this.

Audio Loading...

We installed the Stage 4 cartridge inside a BoXXer chassis and hung it off the front of a 2011 Devinci Wilson for testing<br><br><br> <span style='font-size:19px'>Claimed benefits:</span> <br><br>- Pressurized system provides very responsive ride and faster damping action upon transition from compression to rebound<br>- Easy to set with wide range of adjustment to precisely dial in the front/rear weight transfers<br>- Can be set to further reduce front-end diving upon braking, g-outs and hard cornering without losing small bump absorption<br>- Reduces harshness and vibration over choppy terrain and rough conditions<br>- Helps reduce rider fatigue by proving smoother absorption of big impacts and square-edge obstacles<br>- Provides increased consistency and reliability while extending intervals between servicing
We installed the Stage 4 cartridge inside a BoXXer chassis and hung it off the front of a 2011 Devinci Wilson for testing


Claimed benefits:

- Pressurized system provides very responsive ride and faster damping action upon transition from compression to rebound
- Easy to set with wide range of adjustment to precisely dial in the front/rear weight transfers
- Can be set to further reduce front-end diving upon braking, g-outs and hard cornering without losing small bump absorption
- Reduces harshness and vibration over choppy terrain and rough conditions
- Helps reduce rider fatigue by proving smoother absorption of big impacts and square-edge obstacles
- Provides increased consistency and reliability while extending intervals between servicing


Adam's initial impressions:

Bike Set Up:
• 2010 Evil Revolt w/ Fox DHX RC4 Compression knobs almost all the way open with a 400lb. spring
• 2010 RockShox Boxxer Team Fork, initially with a Medium Spring
• I'm 195lbs. w/ gear

Fork Set Up #1: Soft valved cartridge / medium spring (red) 30% sag
First thing I noticed was how much smoother the fork felt on fast, small bumps compared to my used, stock set up. The Elka cartridge really calmed the trail chatter. On the Medium to big hits the fork would ramp up smoother, however on a trail in which I train on all the time I was noticing that I was bottoming out in spots in which I never had before.

Fork Set Up #2: Soft valved cartridge / stiff spring (blue) 25% sag
With the stiff spring the fork felt perfect on all the medium to big hits. I was using all my travel, but never getting a harsh bottom out. It never felt like my fork was even moving through the fast rough stuff, it was just effortlessly smoothing out the trail. However the super supple feel on the small bumps was lost with the stiff spring.

Fork Set Up #3: Medium valved cartridge / medium spring (red) 30% sag
With this set up I was hoping to combine the amazing feeling of the small bump tracking of the soft cartridge/medium spring with the medium to big hit damping of the soft cartridge / stiff spring. With this setting the fork performed perfectly. It was buttery smooth through the small bumps, but would ramp up just the right amount on all of the medium to big hits. I found on my stock BoXXer that it was very hard to get into the last inch of travel no matter what spring I ran. With this set up I was using all my travel, but it never felt like the fork bottomed out.

bigquotesThe Installation was extremely easy thanks to the closed cartridge that just slides right into your current fork. I was fortunate enough to be able to try out both the Soft and Medium Valved cartridges. The difference between the two being how much damping kicks in when you hit a high speed compression. Judging by how the medium cartridge valving performed I would be very hesitant to advise someone to run out and grab the World Cup Valved Cartridge. To the average rider the damping would probably feel extremely stiff for your every day trails. Overall I was super impressed at how smooth the fork felt. Once set up properly, it was buttery smooth through the fast, small stuff then soaked up all the big hits. I found the low speed adjustment knobs very noticeable with every click. I personally found that the fork felt best with about 12-15 clicks of low speed compression turned on. With this setting it allowed the fork to track well without diving too much under braking and cornering forces. I personally liked the rebound adjustment at one click in from fully open (really fast) - Adam Mantle

Check out the video to see the Stage 4 in action:

Views: 10,573    Faves: 28    Comments: 7




Rob's initial impressions:

Bike Set up:
• 2011 Devinci Wilson w/Fox DHX RC4 275lbs spring
• Fork: 2010 RockShox BoXXer World Cup
• I weigh 185lbs w/ gear

bigquotesOver the past few weeks I have tried out a few different setups with the fork air spring and compression settings on the cartridge. I started out with 47psi in the fork and the compression set to about 12 clicks from fully open (Elka recommended for my weight). Felt great, tracked really well, but I was riding a little deep into the travel for my liking. I ran a bunch of different combinations of settings until finally settling on 55psi in the fork and the compression set to 8-11 clicks from fully open with the rebound two clicks from wide open (fast). This setup seemed to offer the best balance of small bump compliance and big hit absorption for my riding style. Keeping the compression in the middle of the adjustment range allowed me to easily make quick adjustments for different types of terrain. After a few days on the new cartridge I really started to get a feel for what it could do. I was able to hammer through sections with a little more confidence than before knowing that the fork was going to smooth out whatever was in front of me. I only have two weeks on the new cartridge, but so far I'm pretty stoked. - Rob Venables



Visit the Elka Suspension website for more details
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45 Comments

  • + 13
 Now we need this on the 40s. Aside from that, it is a kick ass alternative. Instead of getting a team, get the elka and a race for almost the same price. Or even for repair but i highly doubt that the right leg (rebound/compression) stock internals can get damaged...
Pinkbike needs to get their hands on CR1 products next so we can see who is king of custom cartridges!
  • + 1
 i was thinking the exact thing about instead of getting the team and just getting a race and the cartridge but the elka only replaces the low speed compression and rebound. you're still sitting with(on paper) an inferior product. without the beginning and ending stroke rebound and high speed compression i really doubt the boxxer race w/elka would feel better than the team. i'd love to hear feedback if i'm wrong, because if i am...i'm calling elka tomorrow
  • + 8
 You are wrong. The Elka cartridge replaces the entire damping system. So if you got a race and put the Elka cartridge in it you would have the exact same damping as if you got a team and put the Elka cartridge in it.
  • + 2
 so...if you wanted the elka system, it really makes no difference which fork you buy, so you may as well get the cheapest one. Sounds like a sell to me!
  • + 1
 That's the fork I've been riding all summer (Boxxer race + Fast/Elka cartridge)... it's just brilliant! The other benefit of getting a Race instead of the Team, is you don't get the silly/useless bumper system. No reliability issues as well, get one!
  • + 3
 They are available for the 40's. www.elkasuspension.com/?q=stage4
  • + 1
 im def throwing one of these in my boxxer when i get my 2011 demo 8 in the mail
  • + 1
 @oceen246 - Pinkbike has already tested the CR1. See here: www.pinkbike.com/news/cr1-test-2010.html
  • + 1
 @demo - 250 Thank! I've missed than one.

Cheers
  • + 2
 I'm not sure how you guys have been running this setup all summer since the ones rob and adam got are the pre-production cartridges and the full production models aren't going to be released until like january or sometime early 2011
  • + 5
 Curious to see how it plays out,
nitrogen charge =s progressive ramp up and preload
Lots of seals means initial sticion matched with the charge so atleast 7-10 lbs to get it moving
serviceable by a trained tech leaves me to think at the races without a nitrogen tank or a elka truck your kind of screwed at the races cant see fox popping it or marzocchi as a favor...

Last time I check complex things arent high on the reliable list, more stuff, more seals seperate chambers, pressurized chambers looks like a additional worry ontop of the air carts in WC forks... Or adding the worry of reliabilty issues to a good old coil fork...


Be curious to see the long term.... Looks good and Elkas has done a pretty good job so I am looking forward to seeing the overall of this product down the line...Glad to see more players coming into the market for mtb suspension... We dont totally get overlooked by MX all the time...
  • + 1
 I fully agree
  • + 2
 Doesn't the team/WC boxxer already have hi/ low speed compression, as well as hi/low speed rebound?(correct me if I'm wrong I've never owned a boxxer)
Why would someone pay $500 to have *less* external adjustment?
  • + 2
 If you have ridden a 2010 Boxxer you would understand why people would change the cartridge. My team has gone through 4 new cartridges and still feels like shit...
  • + 0
 I specifically stated I had not ridden one. Which was the basis of the question.
  • + 1
 the cart is already finely tuned to the person, so only very small adjustments are needed externally to get it set up perfect...to put it very briefly
  • + 1
 unhallowed* didnt mean it towards you like that. just a general statement to people that have. sorry for any confusion.
  • + 2
 A shim stacked damper that is externally adjustable isn't a very ideal set-up. The external high speed adjustment basically puts a pre load on the shims, and therefore affects the low speed damping. A lot of the custom cartridge designers set the high speed (shim stack) to what the rider prefers, and leaves it at that. Then the low speed damping can be externally adjusted and acts independently of the high speed.

The 2 rebound controls kind of suck to lose, but I haven't heard any one really praising that particular feature of the new boxxers.
  • + 4
 This cartridge is prety much like the air backed intrinsic (Manitou Travis)!!!
  • + 5
 lookes like my manitou travis intrinsic air cartridge Frown
  • + 2
 Yeah on a tear down they are almost identical side by side literally... Id bet theres a manitou cart in there RnD section that got copied.
  • + 0
 Has anyone installed these on a 2011 boxxer rc? I have just tried to install mine and the robound end does not fit. It looks like it needs to be drilled out. The instructions are wrong, and its pretty bad that this isnt explained at all.
  • + 2
 you have to tap out the silver top hat that is pressed in the bottom of the right leg
  • + 0
 I bought one in my Float R 36 160, very happy with the product, even if i run super low pressure (30psi front, can push fork down with one finger) and bottom out it does not feel like im bottoming out.
  • + 0
 Is it wrong to hope your Boxxer blows up so you can buy one of these? Big Grin
I love my Elka shock, it did everything the above review states. I cannot wait to try a Boxxer cartride from them!!
  • + 2
 if your in AUS and want elka, Ctn imports are the rep !
  • + 1
 To fit the cartridge into a 2010 boxxer race you need to remove the insert from the bottom of the right org.
  • + 1
 Wonder what the service interval is like? How many bike shops have pressurized Nitrogen??
  • + 1
 i like how you edit out comments because you got called out on damping vs dampening stay classy PB
  • + 1
 BTW I want a picture of the table with the tools and rotors inset into it... Thats pretty damn cool.....Original.....
  • + 2
 Why not get an Avalanche Cardridge for over 100$ less.
  • + 0
 I've heard that you need to drill and modify the fork to accept the Avanlanche cartridges. Am I right?
  • + 2
 pat, you very well know the answer to that question.
  • + 0
 That is complete and utter BS. You have to buy adaptors and you are done.
  • + 1
 For the 32mm Boxxer you do have to drill the bottom of the fork. I have the avalanche cartride on a 2009 Boxxer WC.
  • + 1
 correct, you have to drill the bottom of it out. theyll even provide you with the drill bit if you want. the adapters hold the universal cartridge in the specific chassis.
  • + 1
 Nicest Bike Workshop I've ever seen, thumbs up Dunbar !
  • + 1
 lol wtf was that at 2:08 ? Smile )
  • + 1
 thats not an evil guys.
  • + 1
 niceone
  • + 1
 Sick!!!
  • + 1
 Nice!
  • + 1
 what is the songs name?
  • + 1
 immpresive one
  • + 0
 Wow, these are NICE!

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