Recently, The European Bike Project
directed our attention to the hand-made inverted forks from Italian micro-brand, Bright Racing Shocks. In particular, their 100-120mm travel XC/Marathon fork, the F929 xCO. It looks like a work of art and has a claimed weight of just 1,630 grams. For context, the RockShox RS-1
weighs 1,666 grams.
On the other hand, the (right-way-up) RockShox SID
weighs 1,537 grams, or 1,326-grams for the 100mm-travel SID SL. That is, you know, less. However, Bright's founder and designer, Pablo Fiorilli, claims their fork offers "better precision and rigidity than a top traditional fork." Big words.
Bright Racing Shocks F929 xCO Details
• Intended use: Cross-country / trail
• Travel: 100-120mm
• Wheel size: 29" only
• Stanchions: 35mm
• Upper legs: 46mm diameter carbon-fiber
• Crown: CNC Aluminium
• Weight: 1,630-grams (claimed)
• MSRP: 1,780 Euros
• Bright Racing Shocks
Upside-down (USD) forks have a patchy history within mountain biking. The Marzocchi Shiver, Manitou Dorado
and RockShox RS-1
all had die-hard fans but didn't exactly see mainstream adoption. The appeal of USD forks is that the wiper seal and bushings sit at the bottom of the fork, meaning they stay well-lubricated in bath oil, and the stanchions and wiper seal aren't in the direct firing-line of debris from the tire. The larger-diameter upper tubes generally result in superior fore-aft stiffness too, although the lack of an arch tying the legs together above the tire makes them typically flexier when it comes to lateral or torsional (twisting) forces. This usually results in either unpredictable steering or a significant weight penalty to try and engineer-out the flex.
Pablo says they achieved this competitive lightness and stiffness thanks to 46mm-diameter carbon-fiber upper tubes and broad (for cross country) 35mm stanchions, plus a crown machined from high-strength 7075-T651 aluminium. The thru-axle is the familiar 15x110mm standard (no over-sized thru-axle intended to add stiffness), but there is the option to use SRAM's Torque Cap hub interface for extra steering precision.
The CNC machining marks are visible on the crown.
The crown is said to weigh just 310g and is machined down from a 2.7Kg billet. Presumably, the other 88.5% of the material is recycled. Other details include a replaceable 160mm brake mount, 35mm lower legs (stanchions), a highly-progressive air spring and what Bright calls their Sensitive Lockout damping, which apparently does away with the need for a remote lockout as it minimizes bob thanks to a three-way compression valve.
But the boutique rarity of the brand is perhaps its biggest appeal. "Think about a hand-made frame builder but for suspension," Pablo explains. "Our business is to make something where you can find real hand made care together with high performance. We deliver a fork tuned expressly for the customer, assembled for him in 2 months."
You'll have to really want to stand out to pay the 1,780-Euro asking price, however. And as always, I'd view the stiffness and performance claims with a grain of salt. After all, the inverted mountain bike fork is a graveyard for promising claims that never quite worked out. Nevertheless it's great to see small manufacturers finding new and innovative ways to get around the same problems. The exclusivity which comes with such a niche brand is appealing and we'd love to get our hands on one in future.