Riding Bluto - Sea Otter 2014

Apr 15, 2014
by Mike Levy  
Fat biking is quickly going from being that socially awkward kid who eats by himself at lunch to being the same socially awkward kid but now with a circle of friends to hang out with. It's no longer a fringe splinter of our sport that only those who own winter survival suits or live in the Sahara desert take part in, with more and more people discovering just how much fun it is to goon around on a bike with less than 10psi in its 4" wide tires. It was bound to happen - after all, people just want to have fun - and it was also only a matter of time until major companies devoted resources towards it. RockShox debuted their new Bluto fat bike fork at Sea Otter this year, and while it might not have the pizzazz of the recently released RS-1, it's important for a few different reasons.

RockShox Bluto

The Bluto is built around a new and obviously much wider chassis that offers clearance for up to 4.8" wide tires, and RockShox has invested in an entirely new fork mould to make that a reality. The Bluto's ultra wide crown is also solid in order to provide enough torsional rigidity for the fork's wide stance, unlike the hollow crowns elsewhere in the RockShox lineup, and a massive 150mm wide hub is clamped in place with a 15mm thru-axle. A Motion Control DNA damper is used to control the 80, 100, or 120mm of travel, and you can fiddle with the external rebound speed and lockout functions. Control over the fork's air spring rate can be tuned by way of adding or removing Bottomless Tokens, much like in the Pike or new RS-1.

RockShox Bluto

Completely unnecessary manuals and stupid faces are mandatory when on a fat bike.



Mountain biking is serious business and there is no room in your garage for a machine that looks silly, is less advanced, and goes slower than the latest and greatest wonder bike. At least that's what an outsider who's new to the sport might assume if he or she was to read the comment section of most fat bike-related articles that are online. Is that actually the case, though? I sure as hell hope not. I've had a chance to ride a few different fat bikes now, and while they are all guilty as charged on the above counts, they're also guilty of being ridiculously fun. Like, more fun than a rope swing into a swimming pool full of gummy bears.
bigquotesDo you want to be pretentious about these bikes, or do you want to have a go on the rope swing into the gummy bear pool? I love gummy bears, so I know my answer.


Onto the Bluto, then. Does it offer the paradigm shifting performance of the Pike? What about the futuristic appearance and possible advantages of the new inverted RS-1? You're likely tempted to say no to both of those, I know I was, but the key point to keep in mind here is that, up until now, there wasn't really a viable off-the-shelf option when it came to a suspension fork that could fit a full sized fat bike tire. Sure, there are modified Leftys out there, and some riders have been running older Maverick forks, but there isn't anything to choose from when it comes to being able to fit a fork from the top three or four suspension manufacturers. Now there is, and it doesn't need to come equipped with a Charger damper or feature an inverted carbon chassis to make an impact because it's the first and only off-the-shelf fork for fat bikes. That means that fat bike frame manufacturers can now design bikes with a suspension fork in mind, with the new Rock Mountain Blizzard, the Split-Pivot equipped Salsa Bucksaw, and the carbon fiber Borealis that I rode here being some of the first examples.

The trails around Sea Otter are, to be honest, about as far from being ideal suspension testing terrain as one could imagine. Picture smooth singletrack with a few hints of braking bumps and a light dusting of kitty litter over top - in other words, about as exciting as watching Matlock reruns if you're aboard a modern full-suspension bike. Ride the same lap on a fat bike, though, and you'll want to ride that gummy bear rope swing all damn day. These bikes are
simply fun as hell, and the addition of a suspension fork from a major manufacturer transforms them from feeling far from from normal to a lot closer to normal (but still not entirely normal), and will let a rider jump on their first fat bike are ride it like the closer to normal mountain bike that it really is. And that's what makes the Bluto an important fork despite it not being the most advanced thing out there.

RockShox Bluto

www.rockshox.com
Photos by Adrian Marcoux


112 Comments

  • + 160
 What's an "unnecessary manual"? IMO manuals are always necessary.
  • + 78
 "Unnecessary Manual"... isn't that an oxymoron?
  • + 48
 "fun as hell" that would be the actual oxymoron in this article. Everytime I read that phrase I wonder if anybody realises what they're saying anymore....
  • - 16
flag iscariot1 (Apr 15, 2014 at 12:31) (Below Threshold)
 No manual's aren't always unnecessary. See whoop-de-doos. Manuals are the fastest/most efficient way through them.
  • + 45
 Ahh... Wouldn't hell be where all the fun people go?
  • + 38
 Seraph - an unnecessary manual are those owner's booklets that come with each new bike in a box...totally unnecessary lol. On the other hand, wheelie Manuals - so necessary!
  • - 17
flag SENDIT1122 (Apr 15, 2014 at 13:02) (Below Threshold)
 A-2WD - I think torque specs are extremely important. I consider a nice torque wrench and the manual pretty vital to safe, optimized mtbing
  • - 17
flag SENDIT1122 (Apr 15, 2014 at 14:13) (Below Threshold)
 okay i guess i'll throw my manual out and just tighten everything, like my thru axle, so it feels tight enough. that's right, right?
  • + 17
 It's worked for me for a long time...
  • + 14
 "Fun as hell" makes sense. Hell is probably awesome. Much cooler than hanging out with God. That dude thinks he knows everything. So annoying.
  • - 2
 There's a sucker born everyday. The mtb industry counts on it.
  • - 3
 Yep, pretty sure everyone rides fatbikes in hell...
  • + 4
 pretty sure everyone rides skinny chicks in hell
  • + 2
 Pretty sure this guy feels the same about manuals. www.pinkbike.com/video/357009
  • + 55
 I think I found my Red Bull Rampage bike
  • + 2
 Oh hot dam is that ever cool! Good luck on any peddling on an incline of any sort though. lol
  • + 6
 It's not bade by Santa Cruz, it's just the front triangle, everything else on the bike is made by Phil components. Its a high mod bike.
  • + 2
 Riiiight, my bad, just remembered seeing a Santa Cruz frame that had the fatties on it!!
  • + 1
 Pretty sure the fork on that Santa Cruz triangle is a Risse Racing "The Champ" dh fork.
  • + 19
 BRING ON THE 8 INCH FATBIKES!!!!!!
  • + 3
 There is a Santa Cruz V10 Fat bike
  • + 1
 I've seen it, and i wonder how great it is
  • + 2
 I wonder what bike brand is going to make the first lap band for a bike....
  • + 12
 People turning their nose up at fatbikes remind me of the same people that ask why I like bikes in the first place. "Why ride a bike when you can ride a motorcycle or drive a cool car or truck"?
I also feel sorry for those same people.
  • + 10
 I want one, but this fork doesn't come in a 1-1/8 version which makes upgrading most current fat bikes impossible. They should have named it the Fat-pike though.
  • + 3
 So other than being fun as hell how did the fork perform? Was it super flexy, or did the 32mm stanchions and 15mm axle provide enough stiffness. I'm curious how it compares to the USD forks out there, I'm currently running a carver trans fat fork and torsionally it's not that stiff. Fore and aft it's stiff but some torsional rigidity would certainly clean up the already sloppy steering, I wonder if the bluto is better in this regard?
  • + 1
 Ummm. ... what about stanchion size...where in any article does it spec that?
  • + 2
 Ummm.... are you calling me out on something? I read on nsmb that it most likely has 32mm stanchions, while not confirmed it looks to be so, what I'm asking is if the fork is flexy or not, 32mm stanchions do flex more than larger diameter stanchions, that's not me saying that it's a flexy fork though, Mike Levy tried it so why not ask him. Considering he didn't give much detail in the article on how the fork actually performed it seems like a viable question to me. By the way I'm super stoked about this fork, and can't wait to try one.
Here's the link
www.nsmb.com/rockshox-fat-bike-fork-100mm-bluto-rl
  • + 1
 "INDICATES".. that doesn't sound very confident
  • + 0
 Are you serious! Dude the bluto has been listed on the rock shox website now for days, all the specs are there, and guess what it has 32mm stanchions!!! I find it funny but you're also pissing me off, I suggest you inform yourself before you argue, I don't know why you even replied to my first comment, other than to be a smart ass. Feel free to further beat this dead horse, but I don't have time to argue with people I don't know.
  • + 1
 Wow. Seriously, lay off the caffeine or just get over yourself. They hadn't even posted tech specs on the sram site when I was looking it up. It is funny tho how seriously you take your own opinion and the posts on this site... maybe you have cabin fever or something and you need to get on your bike and ride. Happy hunting ya big nerd
  • + 0
 You don't know me whatsoever, my first comment was mainly in hope that someone who's ridden the fork might actually have some info about how it rides, you see my intent? I am considering buying this fork and it's always nice to know how something works before you buy it. What I wasn't looking for was smartass responses, I mean honestly you started this whole bullshit trying to call me out like I don't know what I'm talking about and then continue to argue about specs that are actually listed. What did you expect, i was actually pretty polite with my first response and even sent you the link so you could check it out, and you respond by being a total douche, which is what you are a big stinky douche, oh and by the way the specs have been listed on the rockshox website since sea otter, which is well before your wrote your smartass know it all comments.
  • + 2
 Wow. I take it back yer not a nerd . Yer a Nancy boy
  • + 2
 A "big stinky" Nancy boy... lol
  • + 1
 Ha! Good one, seriously though I'm done no need to continue this bullshit, feel free to keep making yourself look bad.
  • + 5
 I want to know what the fork does when cold. I also want to rent one next winter to ride down the slopes.
  • + 7
 True, Sea Otter isn't the best to see what happens when it gets down to freezing or lower.
  • + 5
 The socially awkward kids are the ones that do something cool or something crazy. So, Which is this????
  • + 3
 Do you want to be pretentious about these bikes, or do you want to have a go on the rope swing into the gummy bear pool? I love gummy bears, so I know my answer.
  • + 1
 All I can think about is the robot chicken gummy bear screaming with her foot in the beartrap. ...
  • + 2
 at QBP Frostbike this year one guy with a snow shovel built a really fun track with tall berms and pumpy bits... imagine the possibilities in your front yard with each new snow!
  • + 1
 Will the fork arch clear Surly's 29+ tires? According to Surly's tire geometry page the 29"x3" Knaard tires are only 13mm (half inch) grater in overall diameter than their 4.8" fatbike tires. Did the fork look like it had half inch clearance on that ~5" tire? This fork would be pretty cool on a 29+ bike especially for big riders (I'm 6'-7") that dwarf 26"/ 650b setups.
  • + 0
 Wouldn't matter. 29 x 3s are not as good in snow/sand (nor the new 650B x 2.8 that WTB has made) as a 26 x 3.8 (or wider). Sand/Snow makes everything smoother, don't have to roll over rock/root so really the shallower approach angles are moot, its volume/floatation and that's all that matters.
  • + 1
 I've seen folks put 29+ knards with rabbit hole rims on Fox 34 29 forks with no problems
  • + 1
 I agree 3" width tires will not be as good as 4-5" tires in snow and sand. I am looking into building a BIG bike not a fatbike hence my interest in 29x3" format.
  • + 3
 German-A and Sandmanbikes have been selling of the shelf suspension forks for a couple of years now...
  • + 7
 Ah yes, the "German Answer Flame" USD fork... I'm talking about a fork that you'd be able to to walk into a shop anywhere in the world and order, as well upgrade, adjust and have worked on by any service center.
  • - 1
 I service forks in my garage, and send it to a national center if any bigger problems develop. Why would you need anything else?

But, yes, Bluto should be a nicer fork. I think other ones do not clear 5" IIRC.
  • + 2
 Last i checked, an 800 euro fork with 90mm travel wasn't better than a 572 euro fork with 120mm travel.
  • - 1
 But the german one is an USD design that is why it is superior. Tracking is better.
  • + 0
 We do not know that yet.
  • + 1
 Axxe, let me give you a lesson in Pinkbike Public Relations. Under the article on Rockshox RS-1, the commitee has established that USD forks are more advanced than standard forks, mianly due to tracking. You may be loosing serious performance increase possibilities by not acknowledging that fact. Furthermore the USD forks were highly anticipated, basicaly to the same level as the germbox, ekhem: gearbox. Join or be prepared to face the consequences. Here, you already earned a negprop from me for doubting and lack of being up to date which opinion is trendy on PB - slap!
  • + 2
 So this fork makes a "far from normal" bike feel more "normal" so what's the point getting one of these bikes if you gonna make it feel like a normal mountain bike.
  • + 2
 Live long and prosper, admiral spock
  • + 4
 Just wait till the new "RS-1 Bluto" fork debuts... A real game changer !
  • + 1
 Every time I read that fork's name, I can't help but think of a 90's cartoon with Mickey Mouse being excited to see his dog. "Plutoooo!". He always pronounced it like "Bluto!" as well...
  • + 2
 bluto was pop eye's evil sailor nemesis...
  • + 2
 I don't like the fact it uses air spring instead of coil spring. Coil spring is way more reliable in cold temperatures, in which, I expect, it's supposed to ride.
  • + 4
 I will put a fatbike fork on my 26" trailbike.
  • + 3
 I thought running a 2.35 nevegal up front with a skinny 2.1 out back on my hardtail was excessive...
  • + 1
 "Paradigm shifting" Mike..... There's a game changing comment if ever I saw one. I look forward to seeing how many alternatives you can come up with for the rest of the year!
  • + 1
 I realise that, what im saying is I thought the reason for the big tyres was to act as suspension, adding a fork negates the need for the big tyres doesnt it?
  • + 7
 Big tires at low pressure = crazy traction and some smoothness, not suspension. You're right, though, because I don't think I'd want to ride a 6" travel fat bike.
  • + 6
 i quickly realized that fat tires arent suspension last year at Bootleg Canyon... the tires offer incredible cornering grip but NO damping... which was almost a very bad scene as i rallied down boy scout feeling invincible in the corners only to begin to have the tires start bouncing like basketballs even at very low psi... i imagine that the front fork does wonders.
  • + 2
 I am selling fat bikes like crazy in my shop its good to have a good fork like rock shoxs for the bikes.
  • + 2
 Nice one just sneaking in a mention of a Salsa's new FS fat bike. That thing looks schweet. A real monster truck bike!
  • + 2
 So, we're done with issues like weight and wheel size then?
  • - 2
 I like the idea of this fork, but seriously? 15 mm axle? Ridiculous. Who wouldn't want the stiffness and breakage resistance of 20 mm? It's not like weight is an issue.. Bring on the who breaks an axle comments, but stiffer at the axle = less breakage other places.
  • + 14
 I don't think that "breakage resistance" is an issue... why was the last time you broke a thru-axle? I suspect that a 15mm axle is enough given that the bikes are usually going slower than a proper mountain bike, and existing lower leg mold tech may have also played a part.
  • + 7
 Seriously Foghorn Leghorn- I say I say think these things through! There is more than just the axle supporting the hub. The dropout also supports the hub, so there is one reason a smaller axle can work. Another reason (probably coincidental, since I doubt any engineer designed this. Just weight weenies) is that given the same torsional or side load on the wheel, a wider O.L.D. will experience less of a shear load at the axle. Draw a free body diagram if you don't believe me. Google free body diagram if your engineering experience doesn't give you any exposure to them.
  • - 4
flag the303kid (Apr 15, 2014 at 12:18) (Below Threshold)
 20mm through axles will soon go the way of the 26" wheel... oh wait too late, already happened.
  • + 2
 Bowen, thanks for adding to the discussion. I have never heard the acronym O.L.D. so I cant make an informed reply. Can you dumb it down some for me?
@mike levy, the farther those stanchions are apart, the more stress on the arch and axle. I'm just saying some of these might break at the arch if ridden with sustained zest.
  • + 5
 We already ride 135mm O.L.D. front hubs with 9mm axles and don't break them on rigid forks, no reason a 15mm axle is going to break instead just spanning across 15mm more dropout spacing. For that matter, think of the weight supported by rear axles... and they're smaller still. A DH bike with a 12 x 150 hub is the same span, smaller diameter.
  • + 0
 I was under the impression that the big wheels and tyres of the fat bikes acted as the suspension, ergo, you didnt need actual suspension.
  • + 7
 The big tires certainly help to smooth things out but there's a big difference between a 2 - 3" of undamped "suspension" in your tires and a proper fork.
  • + 3
 This, I would like to know how it operates in temps down to -20/25 C as this is what we get to deal with in the Calgary area.
  • + 1
 I would think that a suspended front fork is more of a summertime fatbiking thing. Which it seems a lot of people around here do. In winter, just lock it out.
  • + 1
 In winter most riders will pull the suspension fork probably unless rockshox got the air seal material perfect (cold shrinks many rubber varieties, and a little shrinkage leads to a lot of air spring leakage). Also the oil would thicken so the damping settings would be messed.
  • + 1
 What.. you don't have boxxers on yer element 70, zer0?
  • + 7
 Cold environment = shrinkage... we've all been there.
  • + 1
 Silicone shock oil will not change with temperature. I guess you could try running R/C shock oil in the winter. You can get it in almost any weight you can imagine for fairly cheap at any good hobby shop with a R/C "pro shop". Although I am not sure how it will affect other parts within the fork. The oil is designed for shocks that are usually not sealed with a bladder, so I don't think that foaming would be an issue. R/C shocks use similar seal o-rings, so it doesn't look like leaking would be an issue either. As for quality, it is excellent, you would be amazed at the level of technology in the R/C car/truck universe.
  • + 1
 This assumes rockshox was clever enough to use silicone shock oil, and really, if they didn't use the proper seals in the first place, I don't think I should have to go looking thru R/C part catalogs to find equivalent size seals to work at -20C that fit the Bluto.
  • + 1
 I feel more informed about the RS1 than I do about fat forks. I see what you did there!
  • + 2
 unnecessary manuals...never heard of it.
  • + 1
 I'm all out of sarcasm... goodnight
  • + 0
 26"?, not cool Rock Shox. Don't fat bikers know that 26" is dead? Dead Horse
  • + 10
 with FAT tires close to 5" in size the 26" wheels are actually bigger than 29" Smile
  • + 8
 Right, now think about a 29" 4.8" wide tire. Mind blown!
  • + 3
 oh shit here we go again
  • + 1
 26 is pretty much dead unfortunately but i'll just run an old 26er until the bike industry sees sense.
  • + 1
 I am going to have "the talk" with my bikes today… I don't think they know they are dead yet
  • + 0
 Sorry... Hold up, stop right there, no need to talk to your bikes. I must have missed the memo to remind me that the internet has sarcastic immunity.
  • + 1
 Fat bikes and 26" bikes.... the most fun you can have!!!! Big Grin
  • + 1
 The first sentence made me think the article is about hipsters.
  • + 1
 I thought they would have used bigger upper tubes
  • + 1
 These might be cool,...with a battery pack!
  • + 1
 sorry
  • + 1
 Why*
  • + 1
 Why though? Just ehy
  • - 3
 So if a 26" fat bike is roughly the same size as a 29er, why not just ride a 29er? I guess if you ride in snow or the beach a Fatbike would be sweet, however I live in AZ. What am I missing here?
  • + 9
 fat bikes aren't meant to be interchangeable with 29ers..i don't know where you got that idea. completely different ride characteristics. fat bikes provide insane traction but at the cost of increasing rolling resistance considerably
  • + 5
 Because 2.4" inch tire is nowhere near as useful as a 5" tire in snow and sand and what not.
  • - 2
 WHAT?!?!??! NO 650B option?!?!?!? NO SALE?!?!?!?!? Wink
  • - 1
 there is a 29er though
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