Review: Cane Creek's New Helm MKII Fork - The Extra-Adjustable Alternative

Jun 8, 2020
by Mike Kazimer  
Cane Creek Helm MKII


Cane Creek's Helm fork debuted three years ago, and since that time a 29” version and a coil-sprung option have been added to the mix. For 2020 the fork has received several significant updates to ensure that it can continue to hold its own in the competitive trail / enduro segment of the market.

The chassis and overall look remain relatively the same (other than the limited edition hot pink option); it's on the inside where the bulk of the updates took place. Those include a new compression and mid-valve circuit, lighter weight damper oil, and a redesigned air piston, all changes intended to help the fork achieve the ideal balance of buttery smoothness and support.

The Helm MKII is available for 29” or 27.5” wheels with between 130 – 160mm of travel that can be adjusted internally. It's priced at $899 USD, or $950 if you want to snag a hot pink one.

Helm MKII Details
• 140 - 160mm travel (internally adjustable)
• 35mm stanchions
• Air sprung (coil sprung options available)
• 29" and 27.5" versions
• Externally adjustable rebound, low-speed compression, high-speed compression
• 15 x 110mm spacing
• Offset: 44 or 51mm
• Weight: 2,040 grams (actual, 29", air sprung)
• MSRP: $899 USD
www.canecreek.com

Cane Creek Helm MKII


Damper Adjustments & Internals

On the damper side, the Helm has 12-clicks of low-speed compression, 10-clicks of high-speed compression, and 10-clicks of rebound adjustment. The damper itself still uses a sealed cartridge with an expanding bladder system to compensate for the oil that's displaced during compression, but SKF now takes care of the seals, and 2.5-weight Motorex oil is now used, which is a lighter weight than before.

Air Spring

It's the air spring design that sets the Helm apart from the likes of RockShox and Fox. Instead of a self-equalizing system, where a bypass port or dimple on the fork's stanchion would allow air to pass from the positive into the negative chamber, on the Helm the positive and negative air chambers need to be equalized manually, a step that adds an extra minute or two to the setup process. The positive chamber is inflated first, just like you would with nearly every air-sprung fork on the market, and then a valve at the base of the fork needs to be pushed in to allow air to move into the negative chamber. Make sure not to weight the fork during this step, or you risk inadvertently reducing the travel.

It makes setup take a little longer, but the manual equalization does allow for an extra level of fine-tuning – it's possible to run slightly more pressure in the negative spring to make the initial part of the fork's travel extra-sensitive. Take care not to go overboard with the negative spring pressure, though, or you'll reduce the amount of available travel.

Cane Creek Helm MKII
Unthreading the gold nut allows the valve to be pushed in. Its action is similar to a Presta valve, and it allows air to pass from the positive chamber into the negative chamber.

Cane Creek Helm MKII
Compression adjustments are found on the right side of the fork.
Cane Creek Helm MKII
The Helm MKII uses a bolt-on, four-sided thru-axle.


End Stroke Ramp-Up Adjustment

The Helm's end-stroke ramp-up can be altered by unscrewing the air cap (let the air out first, obviously) pulling out the upper assembly, and then unthreading a wing-nut. Once that's loosened, the air volume piston can be slid to a different position on the aluminum rod to increase or decrease the amount of progression as the fork nears the end of its travel. It's a clever system, and the fact that it's self-contained eliminates the need to rummage through your toolbox in a search of the right size plastic spacers.

Travel Adjustment

Cane Creek's internal travel adjust system is incredibly easy to use. It uses clip-on spacers rather than requiring a completely different air spring, and in less than 30 minutes you could shrink a 160mm fork all the way down to 130mm. My test fork was set to 140mm, which meant that it had two 10-millimeter spacers installed.

If the legs are removed carefully with the fork held horizontally, there shouldn't be any oil loss, barring any moments of clumsiness. I've definitely spilled my fair share of fork oil over the years, but in this case, I was able to pull the lowers off and access the travel spacers without losing a drop. The air spring seal head is no longer threaded, which means that all it takes is the removal of a retaining ring and it can be pulled out enough to swap travel spacers.

Cane Creek Helm MKII
No plastic pieces are required for air volume adjustments.
Cane Creek Helm MKII
The red spacers are used to adjust the travel in 10mm increments.


Setup

As I mentioned, setting up the Helm is a little more time consuming than it is on a fork with a self-equalizing air chamber. I experimented with running a few pounds more pressure in the negative chamber than the positive, but I ended up preferring how the fork felt with equal air pressure in both.

At 160 pounds, I ended up running 70 psi, slightly above the 40% of body weight that Cane Creek recommends starting with. I started with the volume spacer in the highest (least progressive) position, and after some experimentation settled on positioning it two slots down. As far as compression settings go, I typically ran 6-clicks of LSC and 4-clicks of HSC, both numbers from fully open.


Cane Creek Helm MKII


Performance

Many of the changes that Cane Creek made to the Helm were done to make it feel more responsive and less over-damped compared to the original. The previous generation received praise for the support it delivered, but it worked best at higher speeds and under bigger riders. With the new version, there's a very usable range of compression adjustments, and the overall ride should suit a much wider range of setup preferences. It's still possible to make it extra-stiff and supportive – the high-speed compression adjustment is very effective – but it's now easier to get it moving into its travel, and it does a good job at smoothing out small bumps on chattery sections of trail.

It's the Helm MKII's composure when faced with repeated sharp impacts that impressed me the most. Even with only 140mm of travel, it stayed right in the sweet spot, comfortably sucking up those potentially jarring hits without blowing through all of its travel. There wasn't any harshness, and if anything it feels better the harder it's pushed into obstacles; it felt nice and open in those moments, able to suck up whatever got in the way next.

Let's take a moment to compare the Helm to a RockShox Pike, especially since I've spent time with both forks on the front of my Optic. Compared to a Pike, the Helm's low-speed compression range isn't as wide – it's possible to get a slightly firmer or slightly softer setup on the Pike – but on the flip side the Helm has a wider high-speed compression range. Given the overlap between those adjustments, I'd call it a draw. I didn't notice any significant stiffness difference between the two, but I'm also on the lighter side of the spectrum.

Honestly, other than the fact that the Helm weighs 150 grams more than a Pike, there isn't one standout feature that elevates one over the other on the trail – it's possible to get a very similar feeling setup on both forks. The prices are nearly identical as well; I'd say that at the end of the day it really comes down to personal preference. If I was going to nitpick, I prefer the feel of the Pike's compression dials over the Helm's, and the Pike is also slightly quieter during rebound, but those are minor details.

With the Helm, you do get the nifty volume adjustment feature, and the ability to independently tweak the negative and positive air pressures, something that riders who are extra-finicky about their setup will appreciate.


Issues

I did run into an issue partway through testing – the fork developed a knock at the beginning of the stroke during compression. Luckily it was more noticeable in the parking lot than on the trail, but it still wasn't ideal. I sent the fork back to Cane Creek for a diagnosis, and they traced the noise down to an out-of-spec part in the rebound circuit. With that part replaced, the noise was eliminated. I'll update this review if the issue arises again, but so far that fix seems to have worked.





Pros

+ Wide range of effective adjustments
+ Changing travel doesn't require a whole new air spring
+ Very good responsiveness to bigger impacts

Cons

- Slightly more involved setup process




Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesCane Creek's updates to the Helm make it a more viable option than ever, whether you're building up a burly little trail bike or a longer travel all-mountain rig. The ability to easily adjust the travel and the fact that the air volume adjustments don't require any additional parts only add to its appeal.  Mike Kazimer









173 Comments

  • 59 5
 The Helm is the best single crown fork I've ever ridden. The more aggressive you ride it the better it performs.
  • 31 137
flag scary1 (Jun 8, 2020 at 8:12) (Below Threshold)
 Oh sweet! Bike stuff to look at on a bike site! Stoked!
  • 15 1
 CaneCreekCyclingComponents keep it up. Good stuff. Your forks & shocks seem to be on point and headsets are the industry standard IMO.. Wildly overpriced crankset & thud-buster aside, you have my interest for my next build.
  • 18 12
 @E-ROG: absolutely not overpriced. I’d argue that your plastic frames are overpriced. W/ the money I saved on a custom steel hardtail I was able to spend on bling cranks. To each their own.
  • 6 17
flag Explodo (Jun 8, 2020 at 8:52) (Below Threshold)
 @E-ROG: You say the headsets are good, but I have two Cane Creek 40s that are nearly the same age(less than 2 years) that have both developed creaks and pops. Are the 100s a lot better? I've never had a Chris King headset go bad, so I think I'll go back to using them after this failed experiment.
  • 15 16
 It might ride well for awhile but if you have warranty issues you'll be shit out of luck. Customer service is terrible at Cane Creek. I had a bunch of their shocks that kept breaking under warranty and they kept trying to sell me new ones or different ones instead of replacing the broken ones. They will not take care of you. I will never buy Cane Creek crap ever again and I hope you don't either.
  • 11 1
 I'm actually surprised they are selling them for so reasonable... We're talking about a Cane Creek Helm, are we not?... Your almost in Suntour land, at that price.
Well done CC, took an already incredible fork, and made it even better, and not charging an armload at that. It's always awesome when a top level company get's it. Listening to your customers get's you a double thumbs up.
Fork just went on my future upgrade list, and that's over RS, Fox, SR, DVO, ect. Can't wait to see them on the used market, in a few years...
  • 15 0
 @Explodo: You're comparing a $50 headset to a $150 headset. Yes, both should work but I imagine the $50 headset may need a bit more TLC, no?
  • 2 3
 The bottom valve feature probably similar to DVO OTT. Not surprised with the rebound related knocking sound. DVO has them too.
  • 7 0
 @wcr: CC Helm and Formula Selva are SC forks we need to see more of.
I’m waiting on the EXT fork now.

Would like to see a split crown race on the 110 headsets.
  • 9 0
 @Explodo: Never had an issue with the 40's or 100-series headsets. Big difference is the bearing they use in them. You need to pull your headset anyway and clean/re-grease every so often...pops and creaks go away when you do that. It's just particles of dust or debris that work their way in there. Will happen to any headset. That being said, buy a 40, upgrade to the 100-series bearing if you want. I've never had a 40 bearing fail on me though after years of abuse on my DH bike(s). If the bearing starts to get gritty, see if you can pull the seal out gently with a pick. Blow it out with some compressed air and cleaner, and repack the bearing. Usually feels like new after that. I just got done doing this (seal pull method, clean, re-pack) on all of my linkage bearings for the DH bike. They feel brand new again. Pretty sure in my entire riding life I've only needed to replace 1 set of bearings on a bike that was beyond refreshing (linkage or headset).
  • 6 2
 @krashDH85: I have bikes I've ridden 5+ years in horrible conditions without needing to service the headset. Just a typical FSA headset too.
  • 5 0
 @Explodo: 40's use mild steel and are subject to corrosion if the grease isn't carefully monitored. In general the 110 is on par with Chris king who both use stainless steel for corrosion resistance.Additionally the 110 uses 7000 series aluminum whereas the 40 uses 6000. That's not to say chris king isn't great, just that the 110 is good, the 40 is considered budget or entry level.
  • 5 5
 @Explodo: You should have asked somebody if they thought a $39.99 Cane Creek 40 with a 1 year warranty is going to be equal to a Chris King at $138.99 and a lifetime warranty. Friends don't let friends not go Chris King.
  • 7 0
 @Explodo: Probably just needs the bearings removed and cleaned (and cups) then put back together with fresh grease.

Usually solves it.
  • 1 0
 @Superboost: The 40 didn't last for me but I'm now almost 3 years on their slamset with no issues. I went slamset over ck because my steertube was a bit too short. They told me slamset has their 110 year warranty.
  • 1 0
 @captaingrumpy: nice, but what's longer, 110 years or a lifetime? I NEED ANSWERS. The slamset looks like a great option for folks in your situation, or to address bikes with silly long head tubes.
  • 3 0
 @bulletbassman: the good ol fsa orbitz!!!
  • 3 3
 @scary1: spot on mate!
  • 1 0
 @Superboost: Meh...My wife bought me a Ripmo and it came with 40 in it. I figured that if Ibis was willing to spec a 40 for a headset on such an expensive bike maybe things have changed in the many years since I started exclusively using King headsets. I was wrong. I'll be buying 2 King headsets for my bikes now.
  • 3 1
 Amen to this. I got a Helm this year and it's more supple than my 36, the 36 before that, and the Pike before that. What an amazing price. And all machined in the USA.
  • 4 3
 @BudGreen: @BudGreen: Opposite experience for me. Some of the best customer service I have had. Unlike RockShox/SRAM.... who are trash... Cane Creek replaced my leaky shock with minimal questions. Even let me ride it until the new one showed up. Shipped it to me free. Now that's what I call customer support!
  • 1 0
 @BudGreen: Sad but true.
  • 1 0
 *Cane creak@Explodo:
  • 2 0
 @Explodo: Chris King is like bike candy, respect. But for straight value I salute Cane Creek, and their top tier stuff I think now keeps up with CK...but I've never tested them side by side. I do a headset rebuild/clean/grease at the end of each season, pretty quick winter project and I get no creaking.
PS: I still have a straight 1&1/8th external bearing Chris King headset in my parts bin just waiting for a worthy retro MTB or BMX build...winter 2020 project.
  • 1 0
 @E-ROG: I think it's good that Chris King doesn't do a "budget" line that compromises quality. They only make high-end parts.

I don't ever do headset "maintenance." If it's creaking, I buy one that doesn't creak, which is how I started using King headsets back in the late 90s. I've never had to replace a King headset and the only time they've ever gotten any thought at all is that when I move them to a new frame I put new grease on them.

Chris King parts are worth the money because you don't have to replace them...in my experience.
  • 5 1
 @Explodo: Except for the years that Chris King refused to use a proper compression ring and we rode around with knocking King headsets. How the hell is an o-ring in the upper bearing cap supposed to provide proper bearing preload?! They didn't want to pay Cane Creek $0.50 per headset then charged us all $$ to fix the issue.
  • 3 0
 @filmdrew: Now that's something i didn't know about them... They actually still make stuff in the good ole u.s. of a.
Man, i'm totally sold (fistpump).
  • 3 1
 @chyu: What? OTT is literally a spring. Has nothing to do with balancing air.
  • 2 0
 @BudGreen: they have been awesome to deal with for me actually upgraded stuff for nearly nothing. That's unfortunate that your experience wasn't the same.
  • 2 0
 @SkullsRoad: DVO uses a coil in lieu of an air chamber for the negative spring. By turning OTT you are increasing the preload in the negative spring just like you can do with air pressure on the Helm.
  • 2 1
 @Shredthenoob: Those who down prop me never trial and error with DVO OTT.

OTT when you dial in too much with low pressure on positive chamber. Will suffer travel suckdown as well.
  • 1 0
 Yes, I run a diamond and it works as you say, ott has a specific range of turns that works for a giver pressure, you don't get to wind it up to max with the psi set for a 140lbs rider, the fork will suck down and with a harsh transition from mid travel and up@chyu:
  • 1 0
 @filmdrew: Is that correct - the Helm is machined in North Carolina?

I was under the impression that SR Suntour manufactured the fork components for Cane Creek and they assembled the forks in NC. Curious to learn how it's actually done.
  • 1 0
 @BudGreen: I've got a Helm and a DBAirIL and had a warranty issue with both. The fork had undersized bushings which wore the stanchions away, got a new fork in return. The shock though was another story. It had issues that looked like side-loading but that's not an issue that bike suffers with so despite me getting in touch with the bike manufacturer (shock came on the bike new) and them stating my frame was fine Cane Creek did nothing so I had to pay for a rebuild. I have recently had a message from the bike company that there were issues with my batch of bikes that Cane Creek supplied the wrong bushing kit to them and it led to shocks wearing prematurely, just like mine did, due to the shock not being able to move freely and causing top and bottom loading that looked like side loading. Debating what to do about it as the cost to me was the same as if they had both been fine (fork and shock service would have cost £230, the free replacement fork and rebuilt shock came to £228 ) so I didn't actually lose out but it has made me decide that any new suspension I get will most likely not be from Cane Creek.
  • 44 1
 No 1.8" steerer... It's practically obsolete already.
  • 11 1
 Nah, 1.8" is already obsolete. Get with the 4" steerer club
  • 7 0
 @JaiB1: and to 38mm stanchions. i mean, its 2020 right? you are not enduro enough if you don't ride 38mm in 2020.
  • 5 0
 @JaiB1: that's a lot of girth
  • 29 1
 1.8 is too much. SRAM/Rockshox will determine next year that 1.79 is optimal.
  • 14 0
 @JaiB1: if you aren't riding the new Cane Creek Maglevset headset with zero contact magnetic field bearings you may as well ride a Roadmaster.
  • 7 2
 1.5 tapered steerers are getting overhelmed at 170mm of travel.
  • 1 0
 @dockboy: I think that's the April Fools 2021 product. How'd you hear about it?
  • 7 4
 @Ron-C: Diameter isn't the only variable in the equation. If you have a 170mm travel fork intended for burly bikes you can make the aluminium steerer thicker to make it stiffer and stronger, rather than changing the standard to 1.8 and f*cking everybody's life up
  • 2 0
 @tom666: you must be new here....to the bike industry that is....
  • 3 1
 @tom666: pun, noun - a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings.
  • 1 0
 @vemegen: Are you serious? 38mm stanchions are for tiny little kids bikes. 69mm is where it's at these days.
  • 5 0
 @Ron-C: Didn't spot the pun dude, my bad Salute
  • 1 0
 @tom666: do you ride e bikes? I don't think you have to worry unless you do.
  • 2 0
 @Ron-C: the issues isn't that 1.5 is overwhelmed, it is that weight is so crucial to sell bike parts that the CSU and steering tube is on the hairy edge of durability. My trailer uses two 1" spindles to support 2000lb. Keith Bontrager used to argue that there was no reason to go beyond 1" and I've heard Both Paragon Machine and Paul's components gripe about how unnecessary 1.5" is. A lot of it has to do with aesthetics and the need to sell new parts and new bikes.
  • 1 0
 @Ron-C: damn... Missed the pun... D'oh.
  • 2 0
 @tom666: but how's the mtb pleb going to visually tell they're moar stiffer?
  • 1 0
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: "My trailer uses two 1" spindles to support 2000lb"

Apples and Oranges here man. Can't compare your trailer to a steer tube. For one, your trailer spindles are likely solid steel. Second, the load case scenarios are completely different. It's all about wall thickness and material that's going to determine shear characteristics. I'd put money that if I ran a few calcs on a steer tube, it's not on the "hairy" edge of failing. You can bet the engineers that design these things build in a safety factor. But, they are optimizing for strength to weight.

The 1.8 that just came out though, laughable. Last thing you want is your bearings to have to get smaller. Already happened with 1.5!
  • 23 0
 Love it! I always appreciate the brands willing to let the consumer fiddle with their setup.
  • 23 0
 Wait, I thought they'd have sent the pink fork to pinkbike.
  • 4 0
 I am also disappointed PinkBike didn't show us nice photo of the pink fork.
  • 4 0
 @drpheta, it's not in the article, but you can look at the pink fork here: www.pinkbike.com/photo/18809695
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: Ohhhhhhh, that's so hot. If i didn't have my Pike Ultimate, this would go perfect with my hot pink Honzo.
  • 6 0
 Would also match my wife's frilly underwear. Maybe she will let me get one so we can match? No harm in asking.
  • 2 0
 @Waldon83: his and her frilly pink underwear eh?
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Woa! You’re going need to be able to pull all the carpark jibs if that’s on ya rig!
  • 9 0
 My current Helm Air is by far the best fork I've ever owned. Super stiff and stable, perfect mid stroke support, great adjustability, all metal internals, zero creaking after over a year under my 230lbs. No Fox or RS product has ever managed to do any of those things at once for more than a few weeks.
  • 3 2
 Omg Rockshock creaking. What a nightmare. I've owned 4 Pikes and each one developed creak in no time. CC actually applies pressfit locking compound to stanchions and steer before pressing into the crown, when being assembled in their NC facility. I've seen it in person. Small touches like that make a big difference.
  • 9 1
 @privateer-wheels: Well my Helm developed this exact creak and also two of my friends had this happen as well. Amongst other things like constantly loosening rebound adjust, exploded compression bladders, knocking on full extension etc. etc. . It was all covered by warranty in about a week so nothing to really complain about. Just do not pretend it does not happen to CC.
  • 9 0
 Or you over fork by 10 extra mm and run a bunch more negative air to end up somewhere around where you need to be with travel loss
  • 2 0
 I'm only three rides in, but trying this on my 1st gen Helm. It's set to the full 150 but I only wanted 150. It'll be a few back-to-back rides before I'm sure what I like, but even if that doesn't work out, I can just travel-adjust it down to 150 and run even pressure in the pos and neg chambers.
  • 1 0
 @big-red: yea I had it 170mm with more neg it came to something like 164mm for a 160mm bike. Absolute butter. I had fond visions of my old Marz 888 free ride days where I bounced back like rubber from crashes. That’s not included with this fork
  • 1 0
 Don't forget "lost travel" at full extension may still result in your sag measurement being the same when under load... As in 170mm of travel that's dropped to 165 under neg pressure may still end up at the same sag point as a 170 fork, so you don't "lose" anything
  • 1 0
 @blitz66: sag isn't just about ride height, it's about negative travel to maintain contact with the ground. If pneumatic topout is occurring 5mm before mechanical topout then you have lost 5mm of negative travel.


If that 5mm is significant or not is a different discussion.
  • 21 17
 Come on Cane Creek, let's get reliability, tolerances, and factory assembly dialed. My 2016 CCDB Coil was really good. Way ahead of its time and head and shoulders above everything at the time. You lost me with two imploding CCDB Inlines. I want to believe...give me reason to believe.
  • 27 1
 Your Inlines - were they the old version, or the new? I would imagine old. I had one old and one new, and both were flawless. I've owned no less than less that eight CCDB coils since they came out, all worked perfectly. One air, perfect. Two inlines (one old gen/one new gen which is still on one of my bikes) both perfect (even the old!), and four helms, three air and one coil, (still have three of them on my bikes) all units been flawless.

Far as I can tell, they had one product that had issues, and they fixed that years ago. I've been in the Cane Creek assembly factory for a tour last year and the place was great. I can tell you with the forks, they go though steps RS and FOX don't, like using proper press compounds on stanchions crowns and steers, so forks don't develop a creak. Everything gets dyno'ed. Those guys have a great operation going.

The CCDB inline failures were a blip. CC is past it, as far as I can tell. Way past it!
  • 7 0
 @privateer-wheels: Yep, first run of Inlines. The second was a warranty replacement that failed on a big mountain bike road trip in Southwest Utah. I can admit I was pretty bitter about that so I've stayed away. I hear good things about the Helm and IL Coil from friends so I may give their products another go.
  • 7 0
 @OriginalDonk: I can't blame you for being bitter. But the guys at CC are good people. They had what seems to be a fairly substantial issue with one legacy product, and I know that really did hit them hard, and they felt it. So did their customers. But they definitely doubled down and put the work into their current product line, which in my opinion (not that my opinion matters) are fantastic. And I'll say it again, they employ really good people, and those guys definitely care.
  • 4 0
 @OriginalDonk: i had a first gen inline too, it kept failing (damping circuit; airchamber and what not) after my third warranty case the German distributor did not anwer my mails anymore. I thought i ll never buy cc again, but they were pretty transparent about the inline desaster and my current frame does not accept a lot of coilshocks so i remembered the times when my inline actually worked ( best performing airshock i ve ever owned) and gave the ccdb coil cs a try. Best coilshock i ve ever owned -period ( i havent tried an EXT yet). The streetprice is pretty reasonable too as you can get one for 550 € in Germany. They deserve more customers.
  • 3 0
 CC redesigned their seals and seal heads for the inline to be larger and stiffer so they dont blow constantly.
  • 7 0
 @OriginalDonk: meanwhile, I had a second-hand 1st-gen inline that gave me probably close to 1000 trouble-free miles, and a brand-new fox x2 that failed on the 2nd ride. It sucks, but sometimes shit breaks.
  • 4 0
 I've been running a helm since around October, - lots of gnarly wet north shore riding and it's been totally faultless, as well as performing great
  • 1 1
 @optimumnotmaximum: comic sports is often a reason not to buy Cane Creek in Germany, unfortunately. My first gen inline started feeling wooden after 2 or 3 years and I upgraded it to the IL with a service. Works flawlessly since almost 2 years and the new air spring is a game changer with the added mid stroke support. I had to run the old one with too much pressure/not enough sag to get the most of it.
  • 3 0
 I picked up a stumpy ST 29 right after launch, immediately put a helm on, but the shock size wasn't being supported by many companies so I reached out to Cane Creek and they offered to custom make me a DB Inline Air. I was nervous at first remembering their first gen issues but they were super cool and transparent so I went for it. I've mobbed that 120mm rear end through more shit than I should be able to. 2 years later it's still the best rear shock I've ever ridden, no issues at all. They had a problem with the initial shocks, took responsibility, and fixed the issue. When I got my Enduro it took a while to get the rear with the Ohlins shock to feel anywhere near as good as the inline. I'll be getting one for the Enduro soon enough. Helms on both bikes already, once I got the first one, no other fork compares on my trail bikes.
  • 3 1
 1st inline lasted 3 months, upgraded to the new internals lasted 10 months. They didn't charge me even though I was outside of the warranty period, though it took some choice words to get them to waive the fee, there was supposed to be an offer for specialized customers to upgrade to the dbair for a fee but they refused that. Too many other options for me to bother with them again despite how good their products supposedly are.
  • 2 0
 @privateer-wheels: the fact that they doubled down and made sure to resolve a design or production issue is awesome. That's more than you can say about Fox and the fact that they have been screwing people over with creaking forks for more than a decade.
  • 2 0
 @catweasel: I dunno how many hours a week you ride, but for me 10 months would be 2-3x the 100hr service interval of the shock. You can do that, but you shouldn't get mad if it blows doing that.
  • 3 0
 @privateer-wheels: I wouldn't say CC's reliability problems are a "blip". I had to send a first gen air Helm back 6 (!) times to be repaired and have parts replaced, and four of those times was a clunk on compression which made it feel worse. And now Kaz has got the familiar clunk and failure on the second gen fork.

The other two failures were the threaded air spring seal head flaring the stanchion. There's a big warning in the manual about not overtightening it, however the first fork that failed hadn't been touched since leaving the factory and the second had such severe expansion of the stanchion with the correct torque that it was difficult to assemble and needed to be pulled HARD to get it to move to full extension. This was solved by.... getting the coil version of the fork instead.
  • 2 0
 @AgrAde: have not seen many reports on Helm issues/failures.

And speaking from owning 4, they have been much more reliable than either of the RockShoxs we have had in our stable over the last 5-6 years.

Every company has a lemon or two. I've gotten too many from pretty much every brand but CC. That's just been my luck.
  • 1 0
 @privateer-wheels: I've had failures and used warranties from both Fox and Rockshox, and have had failures of every Rockshox product I've owned or spent considerable time on bar a stalwart vivid coil, so wouldn't consider them a good benchmark, but I've never seen a clusterf**k like these Helms.

Unfortunately, this review kinda shows the problem with reviews. Mine were a review set too, and within the review period of around two months, I had the damper issue which I said was small and was repaired quickly. Just like this one. I otherwise gave them a great review because I REALLY liked the performance. I bought the review set, pulled it apart for a lowers service to find the destroyed stanchion thanks to the air spring, and then proceeded to have either a broken fork or no fork for a while after that, with the fork either being DOA or developing the damper issue within a small handful of rides.

I'm very aware of my personal bias towards Fox, because their stuff has been considerably less of a pain in my arse than anything else I've owned. Luck? I dunno. I do just kinda wish that stuff was more reliable so that when my stuff doesn't break it's not called "luck".
  • 2 0
 @AgrAde: Agree. RockShox is not a good benchmark. Same here, between myself and my girlfriend, every set of brakes, every dropper, and every fork as locked up, imploded, exploded, or creaked to death. Over a dozen products over the last few years back and fourth to warranty.

I haven't had any Fox failure like Rockshox. Have had some creaking 34's, girlfriend has creaking 32's, but at least they didn't spew oil out of the damper, or have an exploding air spring like RS. Fox tolerances seem to be much better than RS.

MRP and Cane Creek have been good for me. Fingers crossed the continue to be!
  • 1 0
 @clink83: I work away from home 6 months a year, no riding. Had only ridden my DH bike for most of the summer so it was only just coming up for a service interval. Regardless not saying don't buy their stuff, just saying I won't be
  • 1 0
 @jzPV: what reasons are there to not buy, because of the german importer?
  • 1 0
 @catweasel: ah. I think there is a contingent of riders that ride a lot but don't maintain their shocks, which is a bad idea with twin tube shocks, and the DB inline specifically.
  • 8 1
 I love my helm, but it had this annoying tendancy to back out all of the compression knobs while riding.
  • 6 1
 Same here. Had to check the compression setting a few times during every ride and wind them in again.
  • 3 1
 Same here too. not a big problem for me because i usually run full open
  • 3 1
 same
  • 4 0
 Hmm, I haven't had that happen with this latest version - Cane Creek did mention that the knobs were revised a bit, so hopefully that did the trick.
  • 3 0
 Same. Called tech and they advised that its a issue of the knob and bearings being at opposite ends of their allowable tolerances. They acknowledged that it was a janky fix but told me to put a small bit of blue tape on it to hold the knob in place while the bearings wore into the detent. It worked after a weeks worth of riding, no more backing out knob.
  • 9 2
 Disappointed. You should've asked for a pink one and tested it with the Grim Donut.
  • 4 0
 @mikekazimer Just curious if you notice a stiffness difference between a Pike and Lyrik? Only asking because we are about the same size/weight and I do notice a stiffness between a Pike/Lyrik. I also happen to find the CC Helm to offer comparable stiffness to a Lyrik.
  • 4 0
 I’m a very heavy rider and I’ve had a pike and currently own bikes with a lyrik and a helm.

To me the helm feels just as stiff as my lyrik and rides better.
  • 5 0
 @BDubs1986: I agree, but am running coil Helms at the moment. Im not that heavy only 165lbs. Loving the coil Helm, one on my hardtail and one on my Stumpy Evo.
  • 3 1
 @JDFF, yep, I can notice the stiffness difference between a Pike / Lyrik, especially at longer travel settings. Same with a 36 vs 38, etc.. In the case of this review, I had the Helm at 140mm - stiffness differences are harder to detect at the shorter travel amounts due to the decreased amount of leverage.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: thanks man. Glad to know its not in my head. Actually didn't expect to notice a difference myself, but then went from a Lyrik back to a Pike and it was clear. But with that said, its not really a problem, as they serve different purposes.
  • 3 0
 Sweet looking fork. But is it fully user-serviceable? Where I live now, the nearest cane creek authorized dealer is quite a way away and I don't speak the local language. So at the moment, I'll have to stick with my pike. 200 hour service interval and parts are available so I can do it myself. Stoked to see that they've made it more tunable to a wider range tho!
  • 3 0
 Really like my Helm Air, super controlled and supportive. Better the harder you attack, just like a BOS. Very adjustable and the travel adjust is easy to do and useful for overforking your bike for bigger mountains and not having it overforked for trail riding. I can run ST 140 at home and LT 150-160 when I want to.
  • 3 0
 I owned a 2016 enduro that came with the original DB inline. Excellent shock but fraught with reliability issues. Live to play in van fuck up the service on my shock not once not twice but three times in a row within the space of a month. I reached out to Cane Creek and they helped me out. They asked me to post the shock directly to Cane Creek in Fletcher. Cane Creek covered the postage back and fourth and upgraded the old inline to the new DB Air IL free of charge. I had two years of flawless and unreal performance on that shock before parting ways with my enduro. I also bought a hellbender PF30 that had to be warrantied due to a seal failure. They replaced it with a brand new one that has been butter smooth and bombproof for several months. Their customer service is what puts them ahead of the game. They won't get it perfect everytime but their ability to address an issue in such a timely fashion is what's important I now run the DB Air CS, Helm and Hellbender BB on my bike as well as my partner running the DB Air IL on hers I've tried other brands and Cane Creek is just better. Their customer service is fantastic. They get my business
  • 3 0
 Considering SRAM just revised their air-spring, maybe that extra setup isn't really a "con"... If they had something like the Helm, the change would have been an errata/update to the service manuals, instead of a new spring, which still is not going to be ideal for everyone. Yeah it's "easier to setup", but who cares? How often are you changing the pressure in your fork (after the initial setup, of course)? Pretty rarely, so making it 10 seconds faster or slower just doesn't matter. Rather have the better performing and more adjustable spring than save 10 seconds twice a year.
  • 5 0
 when are we going to see an updated ccdb coil shock? not willing to pay £870 for fox dhx2 no matter how good it is.
  • 4 1
 Marzocchi?
  • 1 0
 @DHhack: i like HSC on a coil, not too bad on air shock when you can use tokens in the positive chamber.
  • 4 0
 @foespower: I’d rather get the Marzocchi custom tuned for me and my bike. Cheaper and probably more reliable than a dhx2.
  • 4 0
 I'd be willing to try just for the pink color. Manual adjust negative spring is a decent trade off for being able to change the travel without replacing the air piston.
  • 4 1
 It really is incredible. You have an enduro fork and a downcountry fork on the same bike.
  • 2 0
 I've been on Helm MK1.5 Air for a couple of months and have no complaints yet, it's equally high performance and almost 1/2 the price. Negative air/rebound settings are key for gliding over the chunk and keeping a straight line. After years of Fox creaky crown replacements, it was time to move on. The 38 with the new oval steer tube might fix the creak problem, but it's 450gms heavier than 36 no deal.
  • 9 8
 Switched from a Helm to the 2020 Fox 36 GRIP2 a few weeks ago. Would never go back to CC. The Helm performed well in reough terrain when you were charging hard. Apart from that the performance was poor, not to mention the reliability issues. My Helm, CC IL Air and CCDB were failing constantly....
  • 1 0
 Looks like CC did some listening and essentially made all the changes folks were asking to see. Its too bad they didn't get this done later last year... I am sure we would have seen some complete bike builds with this fork installed and it would have been nice to see.
  • 4 0
 Can you update a v1 to the latest or is the frame incompatible?
  • 1 0
 Curious to know as well. From their website, sounds like it would be a full damper replacement. Air side is a little more vague as the air piston may be able to retrofit, but the new seal won't be as it's a retaining ring instead of threaded.
  • 2 0
 @JasonALap: Reads like that to me too - probably the damper would be the most important piece for a lot of light and medium weight riders. Of course its always the most expensive piece.
  • 2 0
 Have the coil version of the OG, unreal. MKII can only be better if that's possible. The 160mm cap on the 29 is the only thing holding it back.
  • 1 0
 Yea kinda of a bummer about 160mm max. I know lots of people selling well liked Ribbons and Helms because they are moving to a bike that needs a 170mm fork.
  • 3 0
 Loving my Helm! Next build will have this one too, imho the best price/performace ratio on the market.
  • 2 0
 While it won't go to 11....err 170mm, the Helm is one of the few forks on the markets that has a coil conversion that doesn't cost an arm and leg.
  • 1 0
 I really hate the new graphics. The typeset is absolutely awful. Last years graphics were so good. Im just glad if I ever needed new CC forks I would get a black on black set.
  • 1 0
 Sticker Kits are available aftermarket. Snag up a few! =)
  • 1 0
 @someslowguy: Any particular supplier?
  • 1 0
 @blaklabl: stikrd if you are in NA. For EU people use slikgraphics.
  • 1 0
 @blaklabl: the old ones should be on the webstore (canecreek.com) but I didn't see them. I'm pretty sure almost all colors still have stock. Extra UK should be able to get some for you.
  • 1 0
 @someslowguy: no you have to call the directly for that kind of stuff.

I normal talk to Colin Reis as my point of contact (POC).
  • 1 0
 @Happypanda1337: I spoke with Colin too, he added the Original Sticker Kits to the webstore: www.canecreek.com/product/helm-sticker-kits
  • 1 1
 Dear Mike and the rest of the pink bike crew. Can you in future when describing suspension settings state from fully (-) or fully (+) instead of fully open. It's just a little thing but it really annoys me. Thank you I can sleep now.
  • 1 1
 "Given the overlap between those adjustments, I'd call it a draw."

That's stupid. They're different adjustments, having more of one or the other doesn't balance anything.

And how do you know the damping range is greater? Number of clicks? That doesn't mean a f*cking thing about range. Did you put them on a dyno and measure damping force at each end of the adjustment for each fork for a variety of shaft speeds? No? You just counted clicks and assumed that more clicks meant more range, didn't you? Well, you're doing it wrong.
  • 5 2
 And just like that, the shiny brand new Helm on my new build is old hat.
  • 2 0
 Don't be worried about using old stuff, I'm building a bike with handlebars from 2008 and a fork from 2014.
  • 4 0
 @JaiB1: Careful with old bars. Ever had handlebars snap while riding? Very scary. I was lucky.
  • 8 5
 I asked Cane Creek to check with you personally before attempting revisions or releasing any new products. They said ok.
  • 4 0
 @ActualSize: weird, I never got the call. To clarify, I was joking around. While it's a little frustrating that my brand new fork became "mk I" before I even rode it, I understand that this is how the industry works. The fork I bought is still just as capable now that it's "old" as it was 24 hours ago. Cane Creek is usually really good about making updates compatible with the previous generation, so all this means is that instead of dreading my first factory rebuild, I can be excited about some upgrades!
  • 1 0
 Big fan of the gen 1 Helm. I wish I was sure what my next bike will be and I'd pick another up while they are at a discount.
  • 2 2
 Hey everyone the guy who's 160lbs soaking wet can't tell the difference in stiffness between the Helm and the Pike. Can we get a suitably sized tester to evaluate this please.
  • 2 0
 kinda weak they don’t have a 170-180 option.
  • 1 0
 Can see that trail from my house. Have still never gotten an invite. Sam hates me.
  • 2 0
 Who Decided to call it a helm? Where I come from helm means bellend.
  • 4 0
 The Definition of Helm for you is a slang word used as an insult or slang for the tip of a penis???? what the f*ck lol... For a country that created the English Language you guys really do a number too it sometimes... lol
``
So I just assume if you were on a boat and someone said Helm you would start giggling yeah? lol
  • 3 0
 @LDM81 when you watch Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to you chuckle incessantly?
  • 2 0
 @TheBearDen: think it’s more of a local thing than an English thing, it started with an Australian friend so maybe that’s where it’s from. People call bellends your helmet, which then became helm. It’s def dumb but I couldn’t have it written on my forks without getting a load of shit of my mates! Shame, look like rad forks.
  • 1 0
 @blowmyfuse: ‘Who’s the best Lord? Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Dance, or Lord of the the Flies?
Frankly my dear, I don’t Riverdance’ - Alan Partridge.

There’s a very British and no doubt to anyone from any other country, a very confusing reference about Lord of the Rings.
  • 1 0
 @LDM81: I just figured with helm referring to "the tip" that if every time they speak of "Helm Hammerhand" or " Helms Deep" it sounds like Beavis & Butthead with you.
  • 1 0
 @blowmyfuse: hahaha didn’t even clock that when I watched it. I’m not proud to admit it but I would probably laugh like a child.
  • 1 0
 @LDM81: Let's try it. Do you remember when Gimli placed his lips firmly up the Horn of Helm Hammerhand and did blow mightily?
  • 1 0
 OK NOW FOR THE OTHER SHOCK ON THE BIKE! IM WAITING TO BUILD MY NEW BIKE AROUND IT!
  • 2 0
 Looks helicopter God good. Would ride for sure.
  • 1 0
 Is the updated and revalved damper backwards compatible/available separately? I guess it fits as the chassis is unchanged.
  • 1 0
 I would have pulled the trigger on the first gen if it waw 170mm 29er...
  • 5 1
 This needs to be adjustable to 170 or even 180 would be sweet
  • 5 0
 @andrew8404:
Hoping they have a new bigger fork on the Horizon?!? I run a 170mm 27.5 Helm, it’s been great. I would not compare it to the Pike, feels stouter to me, but maybe that comparison is a foreshadow of things to come.
  • 1 0
 waiting for a coil/air hybrid with sprindex tech.
  • 2 1
 no 37mm offset or second positive chamber
  • 1 0
 CON. no 170mm or 180mm option for 29er,s
  • 2 1
 That Forx is gorgeous!
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