Let's be honest here: Linkage forks look pretty damn kooky, and I'd guess that one would need to perform considerably better than a Pike, 36 or any other top-tier telescopic fork for most riders to consider one. Matthieu Alfano, the engineer behind Motion Ride's linkage fork, swears that his design does exactly that, and all it will take is a ten-minute test ride to convince nearly anyone. Oh, and it uses a single carbon leaf spring, carbon legs, and a thru-shaft damper of his own design.
But there's been a load of stillborn linkage forks over the years, so what makes Alfano's different? Physics, he says.
The big promise with linkage forks is the anti-dive characteristics that, in brief, keep the fork from blowing through its travel due to weight transfer when you grab the front brake. Go fast in a straight line on your traditional telescopic, yank the front brake hard, and it'll gobble up a lot of its stroke just from your center of gravity getting pitched forward shortly before you get tossed out the front door. And while all that's happening, you're left with less travel to absorb bumps like, you know, it's supposed to be doing.
But we're all just fine with the above, largely because telescopic forks have many decades of development behind them, and it's simply what we're used to. Linkage forks, however, sure as hell aren't what we're used to.
We're not in Kansas anymore, Pinkers.
Alfano says that his linkage fork is the only one out there that truly offers real anti-dive abilities because it's the only one that his its pivots in the correct places. The others have anti-dive properties, he clarified, but how effective they are depends on the rider's weight, braking force, and terrain.
The location of the pivots on his Motion Ride linkage fork work for everyone, on any terrain, and any riding style, he continued. Bold claims.
While not exactly ready for sending it, Alfano's first proto proved that he was onto something.
Alfano started his linkage fork project back in 2013 with a homemade proof of concept that, while admittedly rough looking, showed promise. It employed a RockShox damper, was designed for 26'' wheels and looks more than a little bit sketchy. But it was enough for Alfano to follow it up a year later with a prototype that put his other ideas to use: Carbon leaf springs that are pulled rather than pushed, and a damper on one side. He actually used a steering damper from a dirt bike that turned out to be a great off the shelf solution. This prototype had carbon legs, a whole load of huge steel bolts holding everything together, and a bunch of extra aluminum everywhere.
But it worked. In fact, it worked really, really well, Alfano said.
It ain't light, but the second prototype used carbon leaf springs and a steering damper from a dirt bike.
With the critical part dialed - the exact location of the pivots - and the leaf spring idea proven, the third prototype was all about Alfano designing and manufacturing his own damper. But not just any damper; this is a thru-shaft pull-damper.
Why thru-shaft? Because it doesn't require an internal floating piston that would introduce friction into the system or a bladder that adds complication. It worked, too, he said, which brings us to the pre-production fork pictured here.
The thru-shaft pull-damper is designed and built by Alfano, and you can adjust its low-speed rebound and compression simultaneously by rotating the large collar on its body.
The fork's carbon fiber leaf spring is pulled rather than pushed because, Alfano says, that motion provides a much more useful spring rate than if the leaf spring was compressed. It's said to start relatively soft off the top before ramping up much as an air spring would. Only there's obviously none of the seals or complication that comes with an air spring.
It's also remarkably adjustable, too, with the standard leaf spring using a preload screw at the lower mount that, according to Alfano, allows it to be easily tuned for rider weights between 50 and 100kg. If you're out of that weight range, Motion Ride can make you a suitable leaf spring as well.
A hex bolt at the leaf spring's lower mount lets you adjust the preload. Apparently, it can be adjusted to work for a very large weight range of riders.
Here's a surprise: There isn't a single sealed bearing used at any of the fork's pivots. Instead, Alfano presses in high-end bushings that are precisely machined to match the aluminum axles that run through them. There are weight savings to be had from this approach - around 100-grams apparently - but Alfano explained that he went the bushing route not for gram cutting but because they last much longer than sealed bearings while also offering a bit of vibration absorption.
He also said that he has a test fork with well over 100,000 kilometers on it and the bushings are still running smoothly with zero tolerance issues.
Bushings are lighter than sealed bearings but, more importantly, they provide more support and are said to last an impressively long time.
Motion Ride has forks for both 27.5'' and 29'' (and 27.5+) wheels, with the former able to run up to 170mm of travel and the latter topping out at 160mm and at a claimed weight of 2.1kg, or 4.61lb. For reference, Fox's new 160mm-travel 36 with the Grip2 damper weighs 2.06kg or 4.54lb. You decide how much travel you want when you order the fork, so you can certainly go with less, too.
And speaking of ordering one, at €1,580, these things ain't cheap - I'll let you do the conversion to whatever your local currency is. Those who order a fork before the end of July will get a 20-percent discount if they do the whole brand ambassador thing as well, which sounds like it'd be worth a few social media posts.
The Canyon that I pedaled around had a 170mm-travel linkage fork on the front of it.
Alfano is obviously a very clever guy, and he's well aware that his biggest challenge will be getting people on his fork and convincing us that there's a different way to get the job done. I started off my conversation with him by saying that it almost doesn't matter how much better the Motion Ride fork is - if it is better at all - because we're all used to telescopic forks and how they perform. He agreed, but also said that his design is so much better than a traditional bushing-based design that having people ride the fork will be all it takes for some. I'm not so sure about that.
I absolutely had to go for an extreme, long-term, in-depth three-minute 'First Ride Review' in the parking lot of the Eurobike hall to see what would happen when I got up to speed and jammed on the front brake. But nothing
happened when I did that... The fork pretty much didn't move at all, no matter how hard I braked or how forward my weight was. And then I did the same thing right into a curb, half expecting to end the first day of Eurobike with bloody knees, but the fork erased the curb while also not diving. It also squeaked like a MF'er from the pivots, something that Alfano said is due to some dust but easily fixable with a spray from the hose. Pretty neat stuff, and a review will be a must when the production version is available this September.
I've always been a fan of linkage forks - they make so much more sense mechanically than a traditional bushing system - but liking them and actually owning one are two very different things. I mean, tell me the Motion Ride fork looks good and I'll tell you that your nose is getting longer. But what if it turns out to be just as good as Alfano claims? What if it doesn't dive at all, has way less inherent friction, and is more torsionally rigid than a telescopic fork to boot?
If all of that checked out, would you consider the Motion Ride fork? Or does the fact that it looks a bit kooky immediately strike it off your list of possible fork options?