Cane Creek's New 29er Helm Fork - First Look

Apr 9, 2018
by Mike Levy  
Cane Creek Helm


There isn't exactly a shortage of snazzy, high-performance suspension to choose from in 2018, with all sorts of options from the usual players that first come to mind. But if you want something that's less common, Cane Creek might be at the top the 'different list.' Best known for their range of Double Barrel shocks, the relatively small North Carolina-based company released their Helm fork in 2017 with a 27.5'' chassis that, as expected, left many riders asking when a big-wheeled version would be available. Well, here it is.

The 27.5'' Helm has been available for the better part of a year now, and it's quickly earned a rep for its supportive, well-controlled damping that suits hard-charging riders right out of the box. A big reason for this is the tuning of the Helm's damper that, unlike what you might expect to see given the twin-tube layout of their shocks, is actually a simpler mono-tube design. And guess what: the internals of the 29'' Helm are the same, of course, so riders should expect the same supportive stroke.
Cane Creek Helm 29er Details

• Intended use: trail / all-mountain / enduro
• Wheel size: 29''
• Travel: 100-160mm (air); 130-160mm (coil)
• Spring: air or coil
• Mono-tube damper
• External adjustments: low-speed compression, high-speed compression, low-speed rebound
• Stanchions: 35mm
• Steerer: tapered only
• 7'' post mount
• Axle: 'D-Loc' 15mm QR Boost thru-axle
• Color: gunmetal grey
• Weight: 2,080g (air, 160mm); 2,340g (coil, 160mm/55lbs spring)
• MSRP: $1,100 USD
www.canecreek.com


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Cane Creek uses a mono-tube layout for their damper with an expanding bladder to both compensate for displacement and to provide back pressure.


External damper adjustments are also identical, with riders able to tinker with low-speed compression, high-speed compression, and low-speed rebound. No, you still can't have a Helm with a pedal-assist lever that would firm the fork up for smooth climbs; Cane Creek says that they decided not to include one to avoid sacrificing any damper performance for a climbing aid.

If that doesn't underline the Helm's intentions, I don't know what would.


Cane Creek Helm
Cane Creek Helm
Low and high-speed compression are tuned at the top of the fork, while low-speed rebound is found at the bottom of the leg.


Just like its smaller-wheeled brother, the 29er Helm can be had with either a coil or an air-spring. Balancing the air-sprung fork's negative pressure calls for the same multi-step setup process, too. Here's how it's done: after pressurizing the positive chamber, you unscrew the aluminum cap that protects the equalizing button at the bottom of the leg, back out a small threaded collar that allows you to depress the valve, and then give it a push to instantly equalize the positive and negative air chambers.

Rather than use volume-reducing spacers to tune the ramp-up, the air-sprung Helm's progressiveness is adjusted by changing the height of a fixed piston that sits underneath the top cap. You'll need a 30mm socket wrench to get inside the fork, but the piston is held in place via a wing nut that can be loosened and tightened with your fingers, allowing for eight different positions.

The coil-sprung 29er model sees the same movable spring perch found in the 27.5'' fork that lets riders adjust travel between 130mm and 160mm in 10mm increments, while the lighter air-sprung version can be set between 100mm and 160mm of stroke by adding or removing small, clip-on spacers to the air rod. I've done this job a handful of times now and, if you're comfy using a few wrenches, it takes about ten minutes.

Externally, the 29'' chassis is essentially the same visually as the 27.5'' Helm, other than being longer, of course: 573mm axle-to-crown when it's at 160mm. The same clever 15mm D-Loc thru-axle is used, and there's enough room for big rubber, as well; even 27.5+ if you want to go that route. There's only a single, 51mm offset available right now, but expect to see a lesser offset version available down the road to work with the new-school, longer and slacker geometry that's becoming more and more prevalent.
Cane Creek Helm


Cane Creek Helm
I bolted the 29'er Helm, set at 120mm of travel, to the front of Santa Cruz's new Blur. It's been a fun combo on Squamish's rooty and slab-filled singletrack.


Alright, enough tech; how does the Helm 29'er perform? I'm not about to review the same thing in a different wheel size, but there are a few differences worth mentioning. The first, and the most notable, is that this thing is silly supple, even more so than the other Helm forks that were as smooth as anything else out there. There are a few reasons for this: first, the 29'er Helm sports a slightly larger negative air spring chamber compared to the 27.5'' fork at the same travel setting. That helps it feel slippery, no doubt, but the fact that my test fork is sitting at 120mm means that its negative chamber is much, much larger than it would be at 160mm.

The larger the negative spring, the more eager the fork is to go into its stroke, and this thing is damn eager to do exactly that. But it still has that controlled, supportive feel that Cane Creek's fork is well known for.


Cane Creek Helm


And speaking of damping, there's also a less obvious difference between their older and newer forks. ''The damper changes we made only pertains to the rebound. We went from 15 clicks down to 10,'' Sam Anderson, Cane Creek Product Manager said before explaining why. ''But in the process, we made each of the clicks have more influence, with more maximum rebound damping than the previous version.'' So less clicks and a wider range, with more damping available.

I've only managed to squeeze in a handful of rides on the 29'er Helm and it's been impressive, but the next thing to do is to bump the fork up to 160mm and bolt it onto the front of the Orbea Rallon test bike I have in rotation to see how it feels at full length. More to come soon.


122 Comments

  • + 128
 With all these high end suspension/wheel options and boutique frame, I feel like some people's garages must be like wine cellars. ..."and over here I have a very rare 2018 Chateau Shredder with a Diamond fork and Gold coil shock, and Fromage Swiss carbon rims. Only 5 of these were ever produced and sold...."
  • + 25
 Or you can just keep your bike for a few years and then ride it. Ah, a vintage Trek Top Fuel 9.9 26" with XTR 10spd and pre-Kashima forks. Or perhaps a Kona Stab Dee-Luxe with a 888VF2 and Fox DHX 5.0 with Pro-pedal and D.O.P.E system. Funny thing about bikes is you don't have to have high-end for it to be rare.
  • + 25
 Give you a 100 bucks for mentioned 888
@raditude:
  • + 3
 Haha. This is gold.
  • + 2
 @slayersxc17: I miss mine dearly.
  • + 4
 Dibs on the name Chateaux Shredder
  • + 0
 2002 RM Vertex Team SC hand painted, limited team edition and signed by the welder HERE Wink
  • + 1
 Fuck yeah, that's what my garage looks like. I need a collector's barn.
  • + 6
 hey, your rims look really gouda!

i'll show myself out... Frown
  • + 3
 Boutique?? when mas produced made in china become boutique
  • + 46
 I’m just gonna come out with it, that looks one helm of a fork
  • + 8
 It is pretty damp nice looking, isn't it.
  • + 7
 Not sure it cane be better than MRP .
  • + 5
 The puns just slide out. I'm sure we'll get more on the rebound.
  • + 60
 there was a song about a soldier who carried a pike under his helm. Can't remember the lyriks very well though...
  • - 3
 Hey Waas Sappening? Go Raiders!! Reminds me of Cheech and Chong movie.
  • + 25
 @WAKIdesigns: Yari funny guy.
  • + 19
 But what does the Fox say
  • + 8
 @Turnburn36: It doesn’t FIT here
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: That's what she said... just add Slick Honey.
  • + 21
 @Turnburn36: Please do TALAS, we're all dying to know.
  • + 21
 Any thoughts on how it would perform poaching trails that are closed to bikes in Kananaskis?
  • + 11
 Can someone explain, I don't get it Rolleyes
  • + 2
 what were the repercussions from that vid, if any? (honest question)
  • + 3
 @snl1200: Password protected Frown
  • + 1
 @greglikesspecialized: I have no idea on the specifics- just trying to post the link to put @racerfacer's comment in context for those that missed it or don't recall. I'm assuming there was some backlash and perhaps that's why the video was locked. Although, there was similar controversy around this video shot in the same area: www.pinkbike.com/news/mark-matthews-kananaskis-explore-more-video.html and it remains up... but hey that was last year and while companies should be held accountable for their products and everything in the wake of their bottom line, the fork looks nice and it's nice to have more options on the market.
  • + 11
 "the Orbea Rallon test bike I have in rotation' = Is there a Rallon review coming? Pretty please?
  • + 18
 Yep, there sure is.
  • + 0
 @mikekazimer: i am sure it will be dope! awesome bike that rallon
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: brilliant, look forward to it...
  • + 7
 Any one still waiting on their Cane Creek jersey? It was the “ consolation “ prize that I purchased after not winning the Helm in that winter contest. I’ve emailed them 2x and only received one email saying it was going to be delivered late February. Still waiting. Come on Cane Creek !
  • + 70
 The jersey isnt worth it. You cant wash the cane creek jersey yourself, you have to send it in for factory cleaning
  • + 18
 No, but I'm still waiting on the Canyon Spectral I won in the Advent calendar in Dec. Supposedly was being shipped the end of Jan/beginning of Feb.
  • + 8
 I'm also waiting for Fabric to deliver my advent calendar prize too. Sounds like maybe pinkbike wasn't forwarding winners info to each company.
  • + 9
 well this got awkward lol
  • + 6
 Looks sick, minus the large helm branding.... Gray, black and gold anodizing is a slick look. Just clean up the cartoony helm lettering and we're good.
  • + 2
 Yep. @CaneCreek - hit me up, I'll trade branding for a fork/shock! (joking, not joking)
  • + 1
 Ah man, I could have had a monochrome HT LT if had waited another month...the bike industry is f*ckd!
  • + 7
 Damn, I wanted this thing to go up to 180mm....
  • + 5
 Party on beerandbikes!
  • + 2
 Love my 650B Helm. I have the privilege of knowing all the people at Cane Creek. Everyone from shipping and receiving to engineering are awesome people that care about their product and love to ride bikes. Worth mentioning is that each fork (and rear shock) is assembled and tested by hand. Each fork is placed on a dyno three times. Pretty rad.
  • + 2
 Helm yeah, man!
  • + 1
 @Subwizzll: yeah dude hope your foot/leg is healing up!
  • + 2
 @Sugarbrad: It's gettin there, I'm walking around now so I'm close!
  • + 1
 I see the discussion above regarding the desire for adjustable offsets, etc, but I spoke to Santa Cruz and they claimed that the 120mm fork with a "regular" 51 offset would "dramatically change the characteristics of the Blur (yes, I realize I should maybe have posted this under the Blur review, but I got this far and am lazy). With that being said, I want an XC weight bike with a little more oomph, and a Tallboy is more than I want for this bike as I have a beefed up Hightower already...replacing a Kona Honzo carbon with a 130 pike, for example....Thoughts anyone (especially Mike Levy)??
  • + 1
 I would not recommend short offset forks on steeper head angle bikes to begin with. It gives the feeling of the wheel tucking under you. It might work for what the Santa Cruz guys are trying to get out of the bike but I am confident the 51mm offset will not make the bike feel bad at all, the rest of the geo is quite conventional.
  • + 1
 Why doesn’t a fork manufacturer figure out how to make the fork offset adjustable with a flip chip system? Allow the user to adjust offset from 51mm to 44mm, etc. Shoot, you could even make one fork that would work for all she’ll sizes. Gasp!
This shouldn’t be too expensive or too much of a weight penalty, and would allow users to adapt one frok for mulptiple frames or for different riding styles.

Let’s get this done!
  • - 4
flag knightey (Apr 9, 2018 at 12:16) (Below Threshold)
 Fork offset is adjusted at the crown, not at the axle.
  • + 1
 Because it wouldn't pass crash and strength tests. On top of that it would be the noisiest CSU ever.
  • + 6
 @knightey: certainly doesn't have to be, though does it? (see Enve rigid MTB fork)
  • + 4
 @knightey: Actually it can be adjusted at either the crown or the axle. Just in most instances, manufactures do it at the crown since I would assume the crown is a less costly part to make multiple options of. I believe SH did it at the axle for their new 29er DH fork with the longer bosses on the lowers.
  • + 0
 @knightey: You could do it at the axle, but you would also have to adjust the brake post mount. I agree tho, its a terrible idea.
  • + 1
 @jackp: increasing offset at the axle increases the leverage of the forces from the axle twisting the lowers/ stanchions in the uppers, not ideal for smoothness/plushness
  • + 1
 @wildedge586: I never stated which I think is better, I was merely stating that there are options beyond the crown. I do agree that keeping the offset at the axle to a minimum is preferred, but I tend to think the change in offset considered here is likely not going to significantly change the forces acting on the stanchions and lowers. I do also think that making the offset adjustable is likely challenging at best to do without significantly impacting the rigidity and performance of the fork and adding weight, but with an open mind, maybe someone will come up with an innovative way to accomplish this.
  • + 2
 @wildedge586: I had an adjustable front axle on a KX450F dirt bike. After 3 seasons it was fine, I'm sure someone could make one to survive a 30 lbs mountain bike
  • + 1
 It not something you would want to switch on a given bike in all likelihood. It effects the steering feel more than you might think. You can always buy a new CSU for your fork if you are switching bikes although it is obviously not the cheapest option.
  • + 2
 You have already reviewed the 27.5 fork with air suspension. Why don´t you test the 29" fork as a coil version?
There are almost no reviews of the coil helm jet.
  • + 1
 I've seen tons of Helms (maybe cause I'm in NC...) buutttt I don't any longer consider them an exotic or unconventional. It is different because I've heard the performance of the damper is fine indeed.????
  • + 2
 I loved the feel of my Cane Creek shocks but I'm going to wait on a few production cycles before I risk my hard earned $$.
Had too many issues.
  • + 3
 Had big problems with their DB Inline - however, they fixed the issue and I took the fixed DB Inline to Trestle and it was perfect. I also have the new DB Air and that is perfect.
  • + 1
 Hi Canecreek,

How close are you guys to bringing out a trunnion metric version of the DB inline air shock? I have a non metric version which im happy with, but it wont fit on my new Transition bike. (Need 205x57.5 ) Thanx
  • + 4
 mandatory comment about the metal bottle cage and the seat bag.
  • + 4
 Goes with mandatory "Intended use: trail / all-mountain / enduro". Can we just say 'trame' now?
  • + 3
 What about the Ikon on the front?
  • + 2
 @ReformedRoadie: perfect for those lichen covered Squeamish rock slabs apparently. your reflexes best be dialed.
  • + 0
 Please do yourself a favor and don't buy this thing. I haven't ridden it but I've had 5 Cane Creek shocks. They ride beautifully for anywhere between two days and up to four months. Then they break. Customer service is less than ideal. They know their stuff isn't durable, but when you try to get replacement shocks, they always want to charge you money. Definitely the worst company I've had to deal with. Do yourself a favor and stick with proven companies like RockShox and Fox.
  • + 1
 Went through a couple of forks last year broken bladers and blown air springs Frown sorry CC....
  • + 1
 Updated bladder, quad rings and backup rings. You must have had an early one. 200 hrs on mine with updates and no issues.
  • + 3
 What’s the offset?
  • + 5
 28.99
  • - 4
flag Sugarbrad (Apr 9, 2018 at 17:59) (Below Threshold)
 @focofox37: you are either smoking crack or f'ing with us. It's definitely 51.
  • + 1
 Seems a lot of fellows nowadays pay more and more attention about their offsets.
  • + 1
 @sayrius: More and more bikes are coming out that spec shorter offset forks, Transition being the biggest lineup, but there are others here and there. Aside from Transition, I think most are XC bikes, though.
  • + 1
 @Sugarbrad: Just trolling SRAM
  • + 2
 Any estimate about when a reduced offset version is set to come to market?
  • + 1
 Great looking fork. Only bad part is that it cost's more than my bike did, but IF I had the $$, be cool to try one.
  • + 1
 Oh...I'll ride any old fork'n thing around
  • + 1
 been waiting for this fork for months now....gimme!
  • + 1
 Gave up on IFP eh. Mrp makes it work somehow.
  • + 1
 Gave up? Compression poppet instead of an IFP which has numerous benefits. You an engineer or just play one on the internet?
  • + 1
 @Sugarbrad: to pressurize the oil? i'm not talking about damper design - and i think piston/shim is arguably a better setup when done right than poppet/spool anyway.
  • + 2
 @mm732: The original design had a port to charge the bladder. If you have an early damper you will notice a port on the top cap. The performance gain is so small a charge isn't needed. The main benefit of a charged bladder would be a slight reduction in hysteresis. Plus it's a 1:1 leverage ratio...
  • + 1
 Why only in dark gun metal grey????
  • + 1
 Where am I gonna find a frame that fits that color... Mhmm.
  • + 1
 i wonder i it would look with my 26er ??
  • + 1
 Why am i feel more interesting about 29x27.5 mix...
  • + 2
 Went back, 51mm
  • + 1
 From a shorter offset? How come, what bike?
  • + 0
 Hope its seals last longer than the DBag Air
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