Editors' Choice: Our Favorite Parts From the Value Bike Field Test

Apr 28, 2022 at 13:31
by Mike Kazimer  


VALUE BIKE FIELD TEST

Editors' Choice




After putting lots of hard desert miles in on the four hardtails and five full-suspension bikes we had on hand for this year's Value Field Test it was time to pick some favorites. We decided to highlight the components that impressed us the most, the ones that we'd happily run on our own bikes, and that perform well above their 'budget designation.

Value Field Test 2022

Fork: Fox 34 & 36 / Grip damper

Fox's Grip damper equipped forks are simple and effective – a dial is used to adjust the amount of low-speed compression, and there's a very useable range of settings. It doesn't have the high-speed rebound and compression adjustments found on the higher end Grip2 damper, but honestly, for most riders this fork is going to be perfectly fine. We were all able to find settings that worked well for us, and didn't have any issues with 34 or the 36 on the unforgiving Tucson trails.

It's worth mentioning that there's a sizable price difference between the RockShox 35 forks that we weren't as impressed with – the 35 retails for around $500, while a 34 Performance is $800, so pitting those two against each other isn't exactly an apples to apples comparison. Still, the Grip damper forks deserve the recognition, and would be a great upgrade for riders who are on more entry-level suspension.

Honorable Mention: DVO Diamond D1

Somehow Fezzari managed to spec a DVO Diamond on a bike that retails for less than $3,000, an impressive feat in itself. The Diamond has all of the features you'd expect from a high end fork, including DVO's OTT feature that makes it easy to adjust how sensitive the fork feels during the beginning of its travel. The Diamond retails for $1,000, which means it's not going to be the way to go for riders on a budget, but its performance and adjustability earn it an honorable mention.



Drivetrain: Shimano Deore & SLX

Shimano's Deore and SLX drivetrains continue to impress, delivering quick, consistent shifting time after time. The fact that all of Shimano's 12-speed drivetrains, from Deore up to XTR, all use the same freehub body is added bonus plus. That means that riders who want to upgrade to a lighter cassette in the future won't need to buy a different freehub body at the same time.

Brakes: Shimano MT500

For less than $100 per wheel, Shimano's MT500 brakes offer a very good price to performance ratio. There's plenty of power for general trail riding, and we didn't experience any consistency issues with the sets that we had in for review. The MT500s typically show up on bikes spec'd with resin pads and less expensive resin-only rotors, but if you're buying them aftermarket making the upgrade to metallic pads will improve their wet weather performance (something we didn't need to deal with at all in the Arizona desert).

SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger

There's nothing worse than shopping for a derailleur hanger only to find out that it's going to cost $60 to replace it. SRAM's been working on changing that for the last few years with their Universal Derailleur Hanger, and it's great to see them showing up on less expensive bikes. A replacement hanger is only $16, and they're readily available from brick-and-mortar and online stores.



Tires: Specialized Butcher / Purgatory

Specialized revamped their tire compounds, and the new rubber is better than ever in the wet and the dry. The higher the number the stickier the rubber, so rainforest dwellers will be best suited by the T9 compound, and the desert denizens will likely prefer the T7 option, as least as a rear tire for more longevity on harder packed trails. Either way, at around $60 - $70 each, Specialized's tires are less expensive than many of the options from the likes of Schwalbe and Maxxis, and are a solid option for any bike build, budget or not.

Grips: ODI Motion Lock-On

It's not uncommon for value priced bikes to end up with grips that look similar to the more popular option on the market, except that they use an extra-hard rubber, or the dimensions are just different enough to cause discomfort. Luckily, two of the bikes we had in for testing arrived with ODI's Motion Lock-On grips already installed. They use a simple one-bolt design, with a relatively thin profile and a knurled pattern in the rubber for extra traction. That rubber is soft and very comfortable, a welcome feature when you're pinballing down a rocky trail on a hardtail.
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These tests take a lot of time and money to make happen, and we genuinely try to give riders useful, honest feedback about the bikes we review. We appreciate everyone's support!

Saddle: Specialized Bridge

Saddles are obviously a matter of personal preference, but the Bridge's shape ended up working well for all of the testers. The rounded edges keep it from leaving bruises on the descents, and the depression in the middle helps keep blood flowing where it's supposed to. The Bridge is available in 143 and 155mm widths, and in a $60 Sport model with steel rails, or a $140 version with hollow Cr-Mo rails and Specialized's Mimic foam for even more comfort.

Trans-X Dropper Post

Dropper posts are no longer an optional accessory – they're a necessity, at least if you're planning on doing any proper mountain biking. That's why it's great to see simple, effective posts from Trans-X showing up as standard equipment. The travel-adjust feature on their +RAD post also deserves kudos – it allows the post's travel to be changed a few minutes, no tools required.

Trans-X doesn't have their full line for sale aftermarket, but if you're shopping for a new bike and it's spec'd with a Trans-X post there's a very good chance it's going to work exactly like it's supposed to right out of the box, and there won't really be any need to upgrade it in the future.



Frame: Commencal Meta HT AM

In many cases, companies only offer their lower priced models as complete bikes, rather than offering a frame only. Building a bike from the frame up can be a time consuming, tedious affair, and many riders just want to walk into a shop, pick something that fits their needs, and roll out onto the trails. However, for those who want to start from scratch the $650 Commencal Meta HT AM frame is a great starting point. The aluminum frame is very nicely finished, with internal cable routing, plenty of chainslap protection, and geometry that makes it extremely versatile.








The 2022 Value Bike Field Test was made possible thanks to Visit Tucson and Norrona clothing.






156 Comments

  • 118 1
 What? No Alhonga brakes?
  • 108 0
 "ALHONGAAAAAAAAAA"
  • 15 1
 Nope but never say never, the sleepy uk market town I call home now serves bubble tea so anything ridiculous is possible
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: This probably means "Hold on tight" in maori Wink
  • 3 7
flag b-roc (May 8, 2022 at 9:24) (Below Threshold)
 I took one of the P134's we have on the rack for a burn around the block yesterday to see what the fuss was all about on these brakes. Pointed down a steep hill and...they work fine. They are not 4-piston Deores or Code Rs to be clear and if that's the bar, then yes, they are crap.

But compared to the entry level, 2-pot Shimano or Tektro that come on other economy models, they function just fine. Would 4-pots be nicer on this build? Yes. Kona would agree too. But they sourced a plan B and it's fine. Want to upgrade? We'd do it for $100 a corner on the new build and then the rider gets nice, 4p brakes.

I'm starting to feel like @mikelevy can't dial down his bike-part-snob settings below 9 anymore to give things an honest go. Wink
  • 7 0
 @b-roc: Glad yours worked better, but our Alhonga brakes were terrible. Bike snob? Guess you missed the video where we gushed about lots of value parts that we like, including a set of inexpensive Shimano brakes that impressed us all Smile Our Alhonga brakes were terrible next to Code Rs… of course. But they were also terrible compared to some of the cheapest hydraulic disc brakes out there.

We review what we’re given, and these sucked. I’ve talked a lot about how inconsistent MTB brakes are these days, and it often seems like a bit of crap shoot as to what will work well. This doesn’t only apply to value minded bikes stuck with brakes that suck due to Roni supply issues, but also high-end bikes with high-end brakes.
  • 5 1
 @b-roc: You went around the block and
down a steep hill?

Yeah you definitely have more of an insight than people who spent a whole heap of time riding, testing, reviewing, on actual rough dusty mountain bike trails.

It's a shame you can't dial down your review-reader-snob settings below 9 anymore to give things an honest go.
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy: Maybe you got a bad set...? We did have one come back that needed a bleed right away due to too much fluid in the system. But we've sent a few into the wild now and I feel like we would have heard about them if they were systemically as bad as reviewed.

I won't vouch for Alhooonga's quality, and I'm not that serious about your (good or bad) judgement - that's your job! JUDGE IT ALL MIKE!!! haha. My shot at your bike snobbery is partly a shot at my own. It's easy to forget the privilege that comes with a steady diet of XT and AXS Wink Entry level parts today are way better than when I started riding 20 years ago...

I just felt compelled to offer some counter narrative as since your review was published, the "crap brakes" are all I heard about from the boyfriend that was playing bike expert for his girlfriend that wanted a nice, entry-level whip. She's on the bike, she loves it, he's like "nope, don't buy it - brakes are horrible"... argh...

I'm sure you know this, but your words have great power, and as they say - with great power comes great responsibility. ha. Keep up the good work.
  • 1 1
 @Larkey1: correct, I can't. However to be clear, my setting is always at 11. Wink
  • 80 1
 I really appreciated the content in this article. It seems like a simple enough topic but it was informative - confirming a few of my opinions AND considering a few new options too. Great stuff.
  • 31 0
 Definitely worth skipping the Efficiency Test for, but I might be a little biased...
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: Maybe a dumb question, but why not just do the efficiency test at lower power? Seems like you could do ~250W, maintain more consistent riding form, and amplify the efficiency losses without killing yourself on the hill. Obviously not all efficiency losses are power-independent, but it seems like the results would be close enough for PB-level science.

I personally really liked the efficiency test and was genuinely surprised at how much the results varied between bikes. Those tests have made me think much more carefully about tire and tire pressure choice.
  • 18 0
 @airdonut41: It's not the watts, it's the time and effort the ET video requires. The last one from Pemberton took something like six or seven hours to film, and we're pretty efficient (yeah yeah) now that we've done so many. Then it's gotta get edited etc etc. There would likely be no difference in the results between 250 and 300w, but I want to know what the bikes feel like when I'm not pedalling perfect circles and maybe pushing a bit Smile

I've liked a lot of the ET videos we've done, especially the one from the XC/DC Field Test with the dust and logging trucks, but I also think viewers might get more out of the above video than me chugging up a gravel road a few dozen times.
  • 7 0
 What I wanna see is a better impossible climb, just count how many dabs it takes to reach the top rather than say every bike sucks at it except the one the climber managed to get past the really hard spot on. Who puts their foot down once and calls it a day? Other than Levy Razz
  • 19 0
 @DizzyNinja: Finding Impossible Climb locations is the biggest factor, especially when we're out of town and somewhere we're not familiar with. Tucson had an amazing one and Matt is a goddamn monster. When I do them, I actually turn the tension down on my silly HT pedals so I can exit and not eat shit 20 times on camera.
  • 4 1
 @mikelevy: The ET is a lot of work for sure, but it is the only test out there using some more objective facts to compare the efficiency of the different bikes. So I think it is worth the effort.
  • 52 3
 Synopsis, don't buy cheap sram.
  • 12 1
 Yup. Now we just need all of those parts on the same build kit on whatever frame we want. The value Pinker build! Would make a great listicle "10 bikes where the only parts you'll have to change are rotors and pads!"
  • 16 0
 @racerfacer: If I were to build up a (trail) bike from scratch, it would probably be something like:
DT Swiss 350, either as a complete DT Swiss wheelset, or laced to Spank rims (I'm heavy, so beefy wheels and rear hubs that can handle the torque are key)
4 piston SLX brakes (I've been running Zees for a very long time, but if I had to replace them, my wife's SLX seem to work really well and it's basically the same caliper)
12sp Deore or SLX (maybe splurge for an XT cassette)
36 Rhythm or Bomber Z1
Not sure about shock...

None of that stuff is light or flashy, but all of it's proven, works, and is sort of in the sweet spot of value for money (i.e., not cheap, but solid performance for a reasonable price).
  • 4 0
 @g-42: I just did this with a hardtail, and I'd just swap out the SLX brakes for the deore m6120 (they even came with metallic pads!) and toss an xt shifter in the mix. The only thing I see as different between the SLX is the toolless reach adjuster, but who really needs that? My pads were contaminated, so I threw these in (mtxbraking.com/product/gold-label-brake-pads) and its great. Heck, go a bit further and snag a brand-x ascend XL dropper post and lever for cheap and massive drops.
  • 9 7
 Recent XT, SLX, and Deore is just so good. I went from full 21 XO1 to a mix of Deore and SLX, then I finally ended up on a full XT setup. Even the cheap Deore/SLX setup put the XO1 group to shame, it is orders of magnitude better.
  • 2 0
 @dreamlink87: Oh yeah, dropper. Yep, that Brand X seems pretty reasonable; we've had good lucks with the OneUp.
  • 2 0
 @g-42: I’ve had a oneup for years and it’s great, but I’m really impressed with this brand x I’ve got.
  • 4 0
 Or just don’t buy SRAM.
  • 7 0
 @oregontrail67: Exactly. Their cheap stuff doesn't work, and their expensive stuff is too freaking expensive. The End.
  • 1 0
 @oregontrail67: their chains are the best. Though,if you are on 12 s shimano,that's no option
  • 2 0
 What if I like sram brakes Blank Stare
  • 4 0
 @g-42: Microshift advent/ advent X is another good drivetrain option too IMO.
  • 8 8
 @Afterschoolsports: There’s that upside down world of pinkbike again. In the real world not even XTR comes close to the quality and performance on X01 / XX1 but here’s another random pinkbiker who’s managed to get their cheap monkey metal deore groupset to out perform that vastly superior and vastly more expensive X01 groupset… your your just being a standard pinkbiker and talking absolute rubbish.

youtu.be/LlDVpl6m7Hk

There’s another video where he films both going through the gears in slow motion which is well worth a watch also.
  • 1 1
 @Newfaces: Brakes are a totally different world from drive trains. There is more personal preference there. Drive trains either work well or don't. Wink
  • 1 0
 @mybaben: Totally. I will say my last bike was GX and I never had an issue for the two years I ran it. I’ve got an XT drivetrain now, which I prefer, but gx was just fine for me.
  • 1 1
 @Newfaces: I have experience with a GX drivetrain also, and I swapped the shifter for an X1 (11sp), which was a much better shifter than GX. Anyway, I'm a huge Shimano fan, but I also found the GX/X1 to work perfectly fine overall. Given the choice I will always take Shimano though, because I do think it works better and it's much cheaper.
  • 2 1
 @oregontrail67: Honestly everything GX or higher (drivetrain, brakes ect) is better than shimano. Sram chains wear better, Sram cassettes have a better coating, Sram brakes and shifters are preference, reverbs are just dumb though.
  • 21 1
 I just put a Diamond on my bike and after a couple rides I'm pretty blown away at how good it feels over chatter/ repetitive roots.
  • 13 0
 Yup. I'm a DVO fan for life now. The OTT just feel so much better than any previous Fox or RS I've had....
  • 4 0
 @Marky771: Can you elaborate on the sensation difference?
  • 9 0
 @honda50r: Initial stroke is just soooo plush with OTT. Feels like a coil. To get that feeling from Fox I lost mid stroke support...
  • 6 0
 @honda50r: I 2nd what mark is saying.
It's not in my opinion a very easy thing to explain, but it just seems to smooth out so much small chatter/bumps/square edges.

You still feel stuff, but it is so much less pronounced, it simply feels like the fork is just flowing around in the top 10 or 20 mills without trying.

I admittedly have not ridden a current top of the line 36/38/Zeb/Lyrik. The fork that got replaced by my 160mm Diamond D1 was a 160mm Fox 36 Rhythm with the grip sweep style damper. I never had one single complaint with that fork, honestly felt like it was pretty great. Looking back on it however it just sends much more feedback and chatter into your hands. Not to the point where I'd call it shitty, but in comparison, the DVO is just very very good. I would assume a Fox Factory or Rockshox Ultimate fork would be closer if not equal to the DVO.

I am worried maybe I'm a little biased and I don't want to dickride DVO too hard, but at this point I feel comfortable that my assessment is pretty good. I paid 800 bucks for the fork new 2 years ago and it sat in a box for a future build I never did. So at that point I was just bored and installed it on a rainy weekend a couple months ago, I wasn't super exited over shiny new stuff, honestly figured the fox would be better. Now I don't think I'll run another fork lol.
  • 2 0
 @Marky771: definitely, and I only understand the praise for the $800 Fox 34 Performance when comparing to other Fox and RS forks. My 34 Performance can't hold a candle to my Mattoc Pro and from what I've read, Suntour makes great performing forks as well. I personally would never pay $800 for anything less than a 36 GRIP2, and since that's not going to happen anytime soon, the smaller brands seem fat more attractive than the Big Two.
  • 4 0
 DVO for the win! All that smoothness soaking up the little bumps with their bladder design quite simply results in a more comfortable ride w gobs of traction. It may not be the best big hit fork, but for my type of riding, it rocks. Nobody talks about the Beryl fork, because they no longer make it, but is what I have. DVO Diamond on the inside, more basic on outside, and like $600 new w warranty. The Topaz shock is smooth too
  • 2 0
 @MountainBored: The Beryl is still available. It was just upgraded a bit and is now called the Diamond D2. Awesome fork for the money.
  • 21 1
 Levy's BETA subscription plug is absolutely hilarious... well done
  • 8 0
 I'm still absolutely loving my a-few-years-old SLX group, especially for the value. But the performance is great even ignoring price. I've also used mid-grade Shimano brakes (like the MT-500s) for commuter/townie bikes and they did a great job; not DH-worthy but totally functional and reliable. I keep discovering that I like the upper-middle part of Shimano's lineup for MTB and road. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 5 0
 Shimano refuses to sell deore/105 and upper parts that will have negative impact on the brand. And I love that aspect.
  • 5 1
 @Notmeatall: Agree, but SLX = 105, Deore is mostly made in Malaysia, SLX and 105 are predominately Japan.Deore is more like Tiagra.
  • 4 0
 I just built up a Stumpy Evo, and after trying 4-pot brakes on other bikes (Zee, MT Trail, Guides, G2s) none of them felt as good as my old bike with 6 year old SLXs. So I got a set of new 2-pot SLX, and well happy. With 203mm rotors and metal pads, they perform well enough for enduro racing, AM as well as XC. At least for my skill.
  • 11 2
 I really hope the UDH gets adopted across the board. Wheels and Steve Flag can f*ck right off with their $40-60 hangers
  • 10 0
 This content is good
  • 5 0
 Tranz-X posts are also the #1 OEM maker of rebranded dropper posts. The specialized posts found on a large number of models the past six years were just relabled Tranz-X posts. I've gotten easily a thousand hours of riding on the one on my 2016 Specialized Fuse 6Fattie and its never leaked oil or air, and never needed to be serviced.
  • 1 0
 I think they make the Bontrager ones too.
  • 4 0
 Currently running a butcher black diamond I bought for next to nothing when the new compounds were released. Love the tread pattern would love to try the new compounds but can’t keep the rear tyre on without burping it at least once a ride or tearing it. Would I be wasting my time with the new casings?
  • 1 0
 What is your pressure and how much to your weigh?
  • 1 0
 @CFR94: I was running 5 psi more than I usually would to the point the tyre was bouncing of stuff like a basketball. It was worse than an exo for burping and tearing and it’s meant to be an enduro tyre. Compound wasn’t the best on anything damp ether but that tread pattern is a real winner.
  • 8 0
 @thenotoriousmic, the new tires are definitely better than the previous Black Diamond ones. I've had good luck with the Grid Trail casing and T9 compounds, and there's also the Grid Gravity casing for an even heavier duty tire.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: for reference I weigh170lb and ride pretty fast rough stuff in socal with 30-31psi rear and 25psi front. Both grid gravity T9 Butchers
  • 2 0
 Maybe try an extra layer of tubeless tape. Sounds like a tire/rim interface issue, not just the tire. I run 23 psi in Black Diamond rear tires (Butcher and Eliminator) on 30mm internal rims, and at 100 kilos I'm still not burping it, and not for lack of trying. Roval Traverse (with Spesh rim strip) and Spank 350 (with Spank? tape) rims both have a nice ridge in the rim that holds that tire on tight.
  • 1 0
 Specialized tires seem to run a bit less tight than some other brands - I like them on Stans rims since stan's oversized bead seat diameter is a total PITA with real tight tires (Conti, WTB, etc). Haven't tried newest T7/9 generation, but surprised if they would have changed BSD.
  • 1 0
 @justinfoil: Yep I’m roughly the same but I’m having to go as high as 30 psi in the rear to stop it burping. I’m using 30mm wtb rims. I’ve not had any issues with Maxxis, wtb or schwalbke tyres. I’ll think I’ll retire the black diamond and try the new casings as I really like the butcher tread pattern.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: thanks. I’m going to try them.
  • 1 0
 I had that issue with the previous gen Specialized tires. My rear tire wouldn’t even stay on the rim at 30+ psi.
Got a set of the new Eliminators and they’re very good. Ran 16 in the front for a ride and had no problems.
  • 4 0
 What does the Commencal Meta HT frame ($650) have over an Octane One HT frame (under $270) that makes it worth the extra cost? The Octane One Prone seems to have similar long and slack geo, and I read an article that said that it used to even be on sale for 150 (GBP maybe?).

If I had $650 to spend on a HT frame, I'd be saving up a little extra for a Kona Honzo ESD frame ($700). It has more aggro geo, sliding drop-outs, and is chromoly.
  • 1 0
 I think rather than calling the Commie frame a great deal, this was more a nod to the fact that they've actually made it available to purchase as a frame only, which is really uncommon for the 'lower end' non-carbon hardtails from medium to large sized brands. Just a quick scan over pictures and the geo charts makes me think the Prone looks dated, but it is a good deal if the warranty/customer service is decent. The HT AM looks better to me (stand over and geo), but not perfect.
But yeah, I'd rather have an ESD, mostly down to my tendency towards singlespeeds.
  • 6 2
 The Grip damper gets too much hate. My 36 performance with a Luftkappe was so much fun to ride. Sure it didn't have as many settings as my Mezzer Pro but I also kinda liked that. It was simple and just worked.
  • 18 0
 The Grip damper gets hate? I love that thing - it just plain works and is super consistent.
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: I will say as a lighter rider I feel like the RS Charger damper does a better job out of the box, especially for factory suggested values. I feel like suggested values from Fox for me are only for full race pace. This has been through many years everything from 40's to 32's. But once they are dialed and the 1/2 gallon of stock lube is removed they are awesome.

The Fit4 on my 34 though was awesome and fiddle free once the sag was set. tup
  • 4 0
 @mikelevy: It gets "hate" in the sense that people see the grip as what you settle for until you can afford the "upgrade" to the grip2 rather than something you choose because it works great and checks most of the boxes for most riders.
  • 5 0
 Not sure about hate, more like people thinking they need a Grip2 when the reality is they will tinker with it once and never touch it again. Or, even worse: they tinker with it and end up with worse performance than a Grip and they just think that's how it's supposed to be.
  • 3 0
 Serious question... I have a RS Recon. I have never rode anything more expensive so this fork is my only experience (the 20 year old Judy does not count). What am I missing from a higher end fork? What I am I getting if I wanted to spend 500 on a Marzocchi or 800 on a Fox? I am one of those fools these forks are made for... blissfully unaware of what's better.
  • 3 0
 I had a Santa Cruz Tallboy that came with a Recon. When I would jump off a foot high drop, the fork would flex until the wheel rubbed.
What you’re missing is a front end that can seem to plow through terrain without swapping at the bars, and using a lot less travel than your recon. You’d really feel this in a rock garden.
That being said, I’m an ex MX racer, and having bars swap in your hands is what we call racing..
  • 5 0
 Everything will just be a lot more composed and controlled. I highly recommend riding a demo with a low mid range fork on the front.

Personally if not buying oem on the front of a bike, I would be looking at Manitou Mezzer and Mattoc, as well as SR Suntour Durolux. They’re very affordable and provide exceptional performance.
  • 1 0
 - Weight
- Stiffness / quality of components.
- Adjustment. You might only get air pressure and rebound adjustment on something like a Recon. But once you get into more $ you start to get compression and rebound adjustment or even a lock out. Then even further up the chain is dividing those into low speed and high speed versions of each of those. Manitou even lets you fiddle with air chamber deltas. It all allows you to better set the bike up to your preferences, and terrain you're on.

But last summer I was on a loaner Recon Silver waiting for a fork to come in and I was pretty impressed with it's performance considering the cost of it. And at the time the other forks I rode were; Fox 36 Factory, Fox 40 RC2, and Lyrik RCT3
  • 5 0
 If you haven’t tried a nicer fork… kind of hard to describe. You get a butterier feel at the low end, more support in the mid, and better bottom out resistance. I rode my sisters bike with a recon last week and in simple terms I’d say over rough terrain the nice fork keeps me more stable and less rattled and leads to far less hand fatigue. I can focus more on where to point the bike as opposed to managing impacts to my hands and arms.
  • 1 0
 It's things like ride quality (better air/coil spring design, better quality damper, more damper settings, better manufacturing tolerances) and stiffness:weight (better materials/design). The damper is where most of the magic happens and from experience the dampers on lower end forks don't really do much. Being able to dial in the amount of support for different-sized hits when you're riding fast through the rough stuff is a huge benefit IMO.
  • 6 2
 Don't limit your self to just Fox and RS. I have never ridden a Marzo, but always had a bias until I got a Ripmo with the DVO Onyx, I totally thought it would be the first thing to upgrade to Fox(because RS just isn't as good) but now I'm totally a DVO fan. Sometimes spending the extra is worth it. Now if WAO will release the new wheels I can go into more debt getting those...
  • 2 0
 Similar boat with a RS 35 - do I like rigid bikes because the only suspension I've ever used is low-end Rockshox?
  • 1 0
 @Whataboutism: Also I'm a Cane Creek loyalist after riding their Helm MKII after several years. Feels like a dream and I get along with it much better than the 2019 RTC3 Lyrik I had before.
  • 5 0
 The main thing I notice on cheap forks is they don’t handle the whole range of impacts. You can set them up to feel good on low speed, low force impacts or set them up to feel good on high speed, high force impacts, but they rarely work well for both. It’ll use too much travel on big hits or not enough on small chatter, will spike on big hits or be harsh on small hits, etc.

A fork with a grip or charger handles all different sizes and speeds of impacts well when setup probably.
  • 2 0
 @Afterschoolsports: Right there with you. If I'm buying my own suspension I'm looking at Manitou and Suntour. I'm on a Mattoc and Mezzer and they feel so much better out of the box than RS for me. I've also have had very good customer support from when something has gone awry.
I've also had good experiences with Suntour. Pretty much the same performance as the big 2 for about 70/80 percent of the price. Just make sure you buy the mid to upper range suspension products. And I've had great customer service from Suntour as well but I also leave 2 hours away from a service center.
  • 1 0
 The thing I like most about high-end forks is how much confidence they give you, and in the case of the Fox 36 I've run it does that while giving you buttery-smooth ride over rough stuff (compared to the Ohlins I've used that is more chattery).

The faster you go, the more you appreciate a higher-end fork that stays composed, because it allows you to concentrate on the trails rather than having to put active effort into keeping the bike composed.
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the responses. It does put into context the difference. So my next question is how much better is 500 vs 800. So SRSuntour/Marzocchi/Manitou vs Fox or nicer RS or DVO. It's my understanding that higher yet will get you more adjustability but similar performance. Prices and forks are in reference to 120mm BTW... Hey Pinkbike. Here is an article many of us budgeted folks need.
  • 1 0
 @ExMxEr: We called it 'wag' in your hands.
  • 2 0
 @Sscottt: 300 dollars in your pocket! But in all seriousness, the differences aren't always enough to justify the difference in price. I think it depends on your use case. If you race, the more expensive forks tend to be lighter. If you ride alot and are willing to tweak your settings for your ride, then the adjustments on the more expensive forks may be worth it. If you can, try to get rides on different fork manufacturers and forks from different price ranges. I don't like the Motion Control damper from Rockshox. I get along really well with Manitou and how they set up their dampers. I like Suntour's mid and higher price products. But Suntour also makes alot of forks to meet different price points (so does Rockshox) and I tend to not like those forks.
  • 3 0
 Just took delivery of a new Vitus for my son and it has a lot of these parts on it, including the fork, drivetrain, brakes and seatpost. The rest is mostly Nukeproof house brand stuff. The brand is good value for money when you want to step above the bare minimum
  • 6 4
 I have a bike with Deore RD, and one with a GX RD. I will say that (though not apples/apples) my GX-eagle derailleur is running perfectly tuned after over a year of pretty heavy use (including a bike-bike migration), while after a similar amount of use, the Deore derailleur is shifting less crisp/consistently. The hanger is dead-on aligned, b-tension is set to spec...it just looks like the cage is getting some play at the pivots. I happened to see a year-old SLX on the bench of my LBS that was being replaced due to similar play (though I can't speak to what hell that one went through). #JRA
  • 8 11
 I get so much hate for pointing this out in here but everyone in the real world pretty much agree’s especially when I’m waggling an slx detailer and pointing out the play while they’re asking me if I can fix it. The deore and slx mechs aren’t good enough. They literally fall to bits within months of the clutch doesn’t rot first. Feel fantastic around the bike shop car park though.
  • 7 9
 Deore competes with SX. SLX competes with NX. XT competes with GX. I'd take shimano 2 out of 3 instances. And the last one, doesnt matter.
  • 1 2
 @Notmeatall: SX is lower than NX Wink
  • 6 4
 @Notmeatall: GX competes with deore... and i wouldn't call it much of a competition, its garbage compared to deore.
  • 4 1
 @NorCalNomad: well, same hot gabage sh*t.
  • 3 0
 You know, I have to agree with the GX comment. I set everything up on the GX and I literally never had to touch it until the cassette wore out.
However, the thing that bugs me with SRAM/GX is how mediocre the cassette is and how fast it wears. I literally have only one bad gear that skips, but I have to replace the entire $230 cassette. If I want a longer-lasting cassette like the X01, I'm looking at roughly double that. Meanwhile, Shimano's M7100 and M8100 cassettes are both priced cheaper than a GX.
At this point I'm very much on the fence if I'm going to swap over to an SLX/XT setup or just suck it up and drop the money on an X01
  • 3 1
 @mattsavage: Hilarious. I’ve just given my son my 6 year old GX 11 speed groupset. Mechs absolutely solid. No play, looks like I’ve been doing feeble grinds on it. I’d have been through 6 deore mechs in the time and it won’t ever have shifted as well.
  • 3 1
 @nickfranko: Buy XX1 or X01 cassettes. Best shifting and they last for years. Expensive though.
  • 7 2
 @Notmeatall: Think you're a little off there, not a fair comparison. If we go from the high end, it's XX1 vs. XTR, X01 vs XT, GX vs SLX, NX vs Deore, and SX vs. sticking your fingers in between the chain and cassette while pedaling to manually shift gears. The more you know and all.
  • 4 7
 @TheRamma:

Deore = SX
SLX = NX
XT = GX
XTR = X01
XX1 no shimano equivalent.
  • 3 0
 The SRAM GX Eagle RD retails for $135. Can find the Shimano Deore 12 spd RD for less than half that price.
  • 3 2
 @thenotoriousmic: I won't speak to the upper end of that range but anyone who thinks Deore competes with SX is right out of their tree. SX is ridiculous garbage, so much so that I'd rather be bikeless than deal with a week of riding it and waiting 6-36 months for the warranty replacement.

When there's a damn coarse thread wood screw for b-tension adjustment you're on sub-Tourney territory.
  • 1 8
flag thenotoriousmic (May 7, 2022 at 0:40) (Below Threshold)
 @iammarkstewart: SX, NX, SLX and Deore are all equally as shit. Don’t waste your money on it and pay the extra for something that works and won’t fall to bits within a year.
  • 2 0
 @TheRamma: XO1 is the trail/enduro counterpart of the XX1 flashy weight weenie counterpart. Thats what Sram sponsored riders use in their categories. It really compares to XTR.
XT is better than GX, GX vs SLX and NX is destroyed by Deore. SX is plain disrespectfull.
  • 1 2
 @Notmeatall: meanwhile in the real world.

youtu.be/LlDVpl6m7Hk
  • 1 3
 Maybe people are saying Deore is Shimano's first real mountain-worthy groupset, while GX is SRAM's first real mountain-worthy groupset. SX and NX might be found on bikes at a similar price point as Deore, but they're more like a replica-grade part, similar to how big box store bikes are replicas that are styled after real mountain-worthy bikes. Their performance degrades quite rapidly if not treated gently.
  • 2 5
 @Varaxis: Standard pinkbike nonsense. Deore isn’t suitable for serious mountain biking. The cassette and cranks are fine if you don’t mind the weight but the rest of it it complete garbage. Especially the brakes and the rear derailleur.
  • 4 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Sickbiker's channel, well...but read the comments in that video. Same same everywhere. One for Shimano, one for SRAM. Pick your drivetrain and be a dick about it.
  • 2 3
 @iammarkstewart: Yes let’s just ignore the fact that one is clearly built to a much higher standard and works a lot better and just give everyone participation trophies and tell all the children they’re all as good as each other. XD
  • 1 0
 Has anyone else had problems with Deore11 speed cassette developing play? I have had a few of them that seem to come lose at the rivets on the spider that holds the 3 largest cogs on? They rattle badly down the trail when the chain is on a smaller cog.
I have had really good performance with the shifting and brakes- 4 piston w/204 discs seem to stop well, but wear quick. Brakes are relatively easy to service though. My experience with the Shifting action is that it stays light, quick, and has had above average reliability.
  • 2 0
 When is SRAM/Rockshox going to move on from Motion Control in these lower and mid-tier forks? I'm not that picky and maybe it's better than it feels, but I just don't like it on the two different forks I've had it on (Revelation and Recon).

Maybe I've been spending too much time in the Church of Manitou, but for context, the Charger 2.0 in my Pike feels great.
  • 1 0
 If they upgrade the damper on the lower end forks without raising the price there will be less of a reason for someone to upgrade to something like a Pike after a year or two. If they want to raise the price with putting in a better damper then it would be a balancing act to price it well so OEMs will still buy their lower end stuff rather than going with a basic Pike or a Marzocchi Bomber Z2.
  • 5 0
 @schu2470: I disagree. They should kill Motion Control and replace it across the board with Charger RC the IFP-backed version of the charger they’ve used on some mid-end forks since 2018. It eliminates the expense of a bladder and also has a purge port to eliminate issues with oil ingestion, just like the Grip dampers.

So, they already HAVE a better low end damper. They don’t need to replace the Charger 2.1 to kill Motion Control, even from a marketing perspective.
  • 2 0
 @melanthius: That's exactly what I was going to counter with. Maybe the pandemic messed up their plans to start using that damper in the lower end models. It doesn't make sense that it's only in Pike Select and some OEM Revelations.
  • 2 1
 I can’t help but notice that the fox forks in this price range are labelled as “rhythm” not “performance”. I appears to have the same adjustments and dampener as the performance model. If this is true, what is the difference? Just an oem model name?
  • 4 0
 Weight.
  • 5 2
 The Rhythm forks use a lower grade aluminum in the tubes and CSU assembly, so it's inherently heavier. It has the same air spring as a Performance fork.
  • 3 1
 They are made of lesser quality alluminum, as a result they weight a little more and use a different air shaft.
  • 2 0
 Heavier lowers and I think heavier uppers as well. Just less machining to remove excess material. I believe that the internals are the same as fox performance.
  • 8 0
 @plustiresaintdead: That Stanchion tubes have thicker walls, the air springs are unique to these forks as the seal head is smaller diameter.
  • 10 0
 @microwaveric: as Ajax said, the Rhythm forks do *not* use interchangeable air spring parts with Performance/Performance Elite/Factory forks. To have the same strength with the lower grade of aluminum the stanchion walls are thicker but fit in the same lowers so the inner diameter is smaller. This means that aftermarket air spring upgrades won’t fit.

That said, after a year on a Performance 34 I completely agree with the review opinion that very few people need the adjustability of the Grip2. Fork before was a Pike RCT3 and after was a DVO Onyx and I’d say the Grip damper held its own against both.
  • 2 0
 @melanthius: How does the Rhythm 36 compare to the Bomber Z1 - essentially the same thing?
  • 5 0
 @g-42: The Z1 is a Rhythm with black nail polish.
  • 1 0
 The rhythm is hands down the best budget minded fork. I have a rhythm 34 on my single speed and I love it. It's heavy as hell, but so plush and comfortable.
  • 2 0
 Really though...as cited MANY times in the recent past...this minor discrepancy is barely worth mentioning. In this current economy, it's "whatever we can get our hands on" works best.
  • 1 0
 I have yet to try a butcher, but really appreciate that the trail casing is available in the sticky compound. The only other tire I know of with that pairing is the Assegai exo+ maxxgrip, which costs a lot more. This is something a lot of us want in a front tire.
  • 1 0
 I have the ODI grips mentioned here and I'm not sure that I like them. The rubber feels very thin and the fact that my hands tend to get numb after an hour of chattery trail riding makes me want to try something else. Is the relationship between grip thickness and hand discomfort plausible or is it more likely to be something else with my setup?
  • 3 0
 I don't know if there's anything actually there but I generally get less hand fatigue with thicker grips. I wear a size medium glove and run PNW Loam XL grips. For me there's a noticeable difference compared to even the regular diameter PNW Loam grips. Probably just anecdotal though.
  • 2 0
 ODI makes a bunch of models, they should have some thicker ones. One thing I will say is their rubber is tough. I had them on my trail bike for years. Recently used some Scott OEM garbage and they cracked and the rubber was chewed up within months. Literally worse than Aliexpress grips. I recently gave the silicon ESI grips a shot. Tons of squish and like holding a paper towel roll. They are already getting chewed up though. I don't think the grips themselves make that much of a difference in terms of numbness, you're better off adjusting your riding style or suspension.
  • 2 0
 ESI grips - are good for the rider prioritizing vibration damping above all else. I like mine, but I'll probably try something like the Chromag Wax when I wear them out because they do go fast. The size of the grips matters a lot. There will be an optimal diameter for your hands and you just have to figure out what it is. The two other things I found to make a big difference were handlebar sweep and tire compliance.
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the insights!

@office: I have also noticed that the rubber seems quite good with my ODIs - not hard, but still durable. And it's cool that they manufacture domestically. Maybe I'll try one of their models with a larger OD.
  • 1 0
 Great video. @mikelevy and @mikekazimer would be interested, if you guys chat about this stuff on the podcast, to hear you talk a little more about the differences between Fox rhythm and their higher end forks. Have considered putting a grip2 damper into my rhythm 36 but not sure of that having separate HSC and LSC is really going to be that noticeable an improvement for the cost.
  • 3 0
 Shimano Drivetrain
Shimano Brakes
Fox (or DVO) Suspension
Specialized Tires

In other words: If you're on a budget and/or want good value...stay away from anything SRAM.
  • 1 0
 I think Pike/Lyrik/Zeb is a good value from SRAM (or at least used to be) but besides it, meh. Especially stay away from RS shocks at any price level.
To be fair this DVO fork is a glitch in the Matrix, no one has and never will spec such a good fork on anything below $4k, this had to be a one time deal.
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: Are you aware of any $3,500 USD bikes that come spec'd with a Pike/Lyrk/Zeb?
  • 1 0
 Surprised not to see Microshift make the list - their Acolyte 1x8 drivetrain is amazing for the price. Tektro's 4 piston brakes are also a good choice on a budget - when I put together our family's bikes HD-M745s were about half the cost of Shimano's 4 piston offerings and are compatible with the same pads.
  • 4 0
 Did microshift come specced on any of the bikes? This is them highlighting their favorite components that came equipped on the value bikes in the field test, not picking affordable parts from the general catalog.
  • 1 0
 About tires :1 Why are tires so much more expensive in US than in Europe? I can get Maxxisbor Schwalbe high end at €40-60 including tax from e.g. Bike24. 2: Over here, Specialized isn't a budget option at all,pretty similar or higher price.
  • 3 1
 The reason you don’t see frames offered (or if they are, at a ridiculous price) is because most of the profit comes from reselling components.
  • 1 0
 +++ For XT Shimano drivetrain, Spec Bucher Grid Trail (v2020) and Tranz-X dropper currently on my Marin 27.5. Picked up a pair of Spec Butcher BLK diamond for $50 before they ran out of stock.
  • 2 1
 Diamond suspension is very inexpensive at the non-retail level. I’m surprised it doesn’t come on cheaper bike tbh. It’s not a bad thing, as the stuff they’re producing is pretty good.
  • 2 1
 It's a shame that Shimano seems to be so far ahead of SRAM these days. Hopefully we will get some better products released soon and reignite more even rivalry between the brands.
  • 10 7
 12 speed. . . Not even once. Adventx or bust
  • 3 4
 9 spd for me. Box 2.
  • 1 0
 Any thoughts on just sizing down and perhaps running a shorter travel fork on that HT AM to get a hard tail that’s a bit more well rounded?
  • 1 0
 Oh wait, I guess it’s not that long anyway.
  • 2 0
 I run mine at 120mm - yes it gets steeper, but the lower BB and HT with stiffer fork feel great for Michigan's XC style trails. Low CG, easier to stomp pedals, and shorter front end makes it a bit better behaved on climbs and skinnies. But it's still an aggressive hardtail frame so shorter fork makes it no steeper at bottom out than it was at 160mm travel.
  • 2 0
 Do the GRIP and GRIP2 dampers have any differences besides the presence of high speed compression and rebound adjustments?
  • 1 0
 Compression damper is very similar to GRIP on the original GRIP2 and completely different on the current VVC GRIP2.
  • 1 0
 Looks like Mike and Alicia have had a name swap according to the video titles.
  • 1 0
 Check out the video at 4:07
  • 3 0
 Great content
  • 1 0
 Now when you all can see how Shimano is doing in this field, tell me, where the Zee line is going to reborn?
  • 1 0
 Is it just RockShox with Motion Control that doesn't have independent systems for high and low speed damping?
  • 1 0
 Is Motion Control still the same damper as it was 10 years ago? Because that had the floodgate as its high speed compression circuit. They didn't name it 'high speed' but it was. And on some forks it the threshold was adjustable.
  • 1 0
 A note for @mikelevy : the "H" in "horchata" is silent (just like the "H" in "huevos" or "hola").
  • 2 0
 I know, but I pronounce the H in those as well
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Holy heck.
  • 1 0
 Rockshock fork and shock for my Marin
  • 1 0
 a non boost HT/Meta would be so great for me...





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