Let's get straight to it: The linkage suspension on the front of the SCW feels impossibly smooth throughout its travel, almost enough to make me think conventional forks are filled with a 50/50 mixture of sand and maple syrup for lube. And it's not just at the top of the stroke where we think it matters, but throughout the entire range of travel. That's leverage at work, with a telescoping fork being one-to-one and this, much like your bike's rear-suspension, definitely not; the friction of the shock's seals seems close to non-existent.
The sealed bearings help, of course, and the result is, as much as it irks me to say that Structure wasn't stretching the truth with their claim, a lot like the damn thing has an extra 20 or 30mm of travel. It's implausibly smooth and frictionless, delivering the sort of ground-tracking action that I doubt any telescoping fork could ever match, regardless of pricey clout-coatings and fancy seals.
You know when you try something for the first time and you end up kinda liking it even though it weirds you out, but you're also more uncertain than before? That's how I feel about deep-fried brussels sprouts, gravel riding, and the Structure during the first week I had it. Here's how that played out... The first few rides:
"Hhhmm, either I'm too fat or the fork's shock - ugh, did I just say that? - needs more air in it. If I'm honest, it's probably both, and it's time for me to be honest with myself... I really hope no one sees me riding this thing." Much like when I first rode the Trust Message, I had to remind myself that this isn't a conventional fork and won't feel like one, either. We're not used to front suspension like this, and my first thought was that it needed more air. It didn't. When the front wheel hits something and moves up and out of the way, the way the fork lets that happen effortlessly makes it feel like it's way under-sprung. The fork doesn't use more travel than it needs to, though, and there's enough bottom-out resistance in stock form to keep me happy.
I'm still not sold on those deep-fried 'sprouts, and I certainly wasn't sold on the Structure right out of the gate. It was doing some neat things, no doubt, but it also felt unfamiliar. The next few rides:
"You know what really gets my goose? The people coming way out here to smooth out the singletrack. It's supposed to be bumpy and rough, so stick to Zwift if you don't want to deal with that. Keep the mountain in mountain biking, bruh! Then again, I am going faster than usual... " Wowza, whatever it's doing, it's doing it well. Smaller impacts and the chattery stuff that you might feel but don't think much about are dealt with quietly; it doesn't seem like the front tire left the ground, almost like it went through
the root rather than up and over it.
Was it a ghost root? Probably not, but the way it absorbs those small, high-speed impacts is otherworldy. Cool trick, but there's more to a suspension fork than just being slick and forgiving.
Does it matter what it looks like if it works well? The fork's ability to smooth out the ground while also providing calm, consistent handling simply can't be matched by bushings and stanchion tubes.
Riding a fast, rough section of trail back-to-back on a dialed-in conventional fork and on the SCW 1 highlights the differences between the two. In comparison, the normal fork acts as you've nearly closed the high-speed compression, while the Structure's linkage front-end does a far better job of dulling impacts. It does it so well, in fact, that the entire bike seems far less concerned about what's going on, although I suspect that's where some of Structure's geometry voodoo is coming into play. Anti-dive isn't no-dive, though, and the fork will dip into its travel in the same situations that a telescoping fork would, just far less.
The SCW 1 isn't a long bike by today's standards, and there's nothing about the geometry, and especially that 66-degree head angle and the chainstays, that screams stability and "Let go of the brakes" to me, but that's exactly what ends up happening. It stays remarkably composed during those I'm-just-hanging-on moments, a lot like it's a few feet longer than it actually is. When the fork goes into its travel, the head angle gets many degrees slacker, the trail increases, and the front-center length grows substantially, but it never comes across like there's that much going on while it's happening.
Instead, it's like both your handlebar and the bike's handling are simply calmer than you might expect.
The SCW 1 is solid and overbuilt, especially at the front of the bike, with it feeling as torsionally stiff as a dual-crown downhill fork.Many rides later:
"The trail hasn't been smoothed out and I don't know what I believe anymore. If this fork is real, maybe Lazar is telling the truth..." I hope he is, and the fork's performance is very real.
All that calmness that I talked about above applies in the berms and switchbacks, too, and especially when they're choppy, worn-out corners that the over-maintainers haven't "fixed" yet; the rougher the ground and higher the speed, the more the fork and geometry changes felt like an advantage. And it'll only get better if Structure lengthens the SCW 1's rear-end. Then again, the fact that it's not an overly long or slack bike, and has very efficient rear-suspension, means that it's pretty quick when the corner is so tight you're more worried about tipping over than losing traction. I love a bit of slow-speed, mega-awkward jank, the kind where you're thinking so much that 30-minutes goes by in only 5-minutes. The big black linkage bike feels the exact same way, despite the small-diameter wheels not helping matters.
On the handling front, it's almost like Structure has been able to double-dip by creating a bike that doesn't feel too long and unwieldy at slow speeds by using conservative head angle, reach, and wheelbase numbers. Then, when it's time to drop your heels and hang on, the head angle relaxes and the wheelbase doesn't shrink, which is the opposite of a conventional mountain bike that gets steeper and shorter in length. Even so, I'd like to see them add 10mm-ish to the reach across the board, which would take my G2/medium from 460mm to 470mm, as well as 10mm to the chainstay length - the front-end feels so planted and easy to live with, but it was a party behind me sometimes, regardless of if that's what I wanted. More length and more active rear-suspension should help. Speaking of that...