Chalk this one up, not to new tech, but rather to the almost limitless options available on the internet in a mature cycling industry that’s been cranking out carbon forks for decades. Earlier this spring I gave new life to a bike I’ve ridden and loved for a long time – ditching a 100mm fork, for this CarbonCycles eXotic rigid carbon fork – shedding almost two pounds in the process and opening up new monstercross, insanely wide dropbar off-road adventures…
CarbonCycles eXotic carbon rigid 29er fork
So what’s so special about this eXotic carbon rigid fork? Probably not a huge amount at first glance. But it is worth a closer look. The design & construction is pretty much standard catalog fare that you could find in the mountain bike industry for several years now: forged 6061 alloy dropouts and one-piece crown are connected by a couple of bonded-in 34mm diameter 3K-weave round carbon tubes, and finished off with a 7075 alloy steerer tube. None of that is revolutionary, nothing high tech, and there are surely lighter & stiffer methods of construction if that’s what you are going for. But its a EN/DIN tested fork that’s easy to get ahold of in either Europe or North America. And it is exactly what I was looking for.
Fitting a rigid fork to a classic mountain bike – Selection & Tech details
What I was actually looking for were the specs. Lets’s start with the Moots Mooto-X YBB cross-country mountain bike that I built up in 2006. From its origins, this was a bike to run either with a Rohloff or singles speed hub in the back, depending on my trail riding mood. With the undeniable ride of American titanium, this has always been a bike that I imagined would outlast any components I put on it. And it was time to ditch the 100mm XC fork that had been on it since day one, and shed some weight for a new outlook on life.
So, I needed a 485-490mm axle-to-crown length so I could drop it in without altering my geometry – replacing the 100mm fork that sat at 486mm with sag. I needed a straight 1 1/8″ steerer & disc brake tab to fit my 14-year-old Moots. I wanted 100mm QR dropouts so I could use existing wheels. And even though I was looking to save weight & complexity over the old RockShox Reba SL fork, I wasn’t looking to spend many hundreds of dollars/euros in the process.
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of options that really fit what I was looking for. For some time I picked over the internet, but wasn’t even super happy with what I found. But then comes CarbonCycles that has 75 forks on offer (55 in carbon) in tons of different, mostly off-road configurations. Their basic online Fork Selector tool let me pick the key attributes I was looking for (I started with length, then steerer size). And it spit out this affordable option…
The selector picked the very romantically named F0E90 fork with a 490mm a-c length & 42mm offset. (There’s also an alloy-legged version with the same crown & dropouts, and a carbon one with a 15mm thru-axle.) Plus, without a fork brace, tire clearance became huge. There’s plenty of extra space beyond the biggest 29 x 2.4″ tire I’m ever likely to put on this bike (that 2.4″ was essentially the max for the old Reba, but now I get more more room.)
Beyond the fork itself, UK-based online retailer CarbonCycles & their sister brand DiscoBrakes (who also have US warehousing & delivery) sell a number of other accessories – like these eXotic 4D carbon bottle cages (which held bottles surprisingly well on the trail, so far), carbon top cap & spacers, plus new mechanical brake cables & Avid mechanical replacement pads that all got replaced when I decided to install this new rigid fork.
eXotic carbon fork – Actual weight & weight savings
The result is this glossy $195 / 170€ eXotic Carbon Rigid MTB fork that weighs 854g (just 4g over claimed weight). That’s almost half the weight of the 1697g Reba SL fork that had been on the bike since 2006. Matching specs with what I was looking for, it was a trouble free swap. The only spec I wasn’t 100% sure of was how the 42mm offset would compare to the Reba’s 46mm. But I deemed it close enough to try (it lengthened my trail by 4mm in the end.)
So, how does it actually ride?
Review: Riding impressions on the eXotic carbon fork
Well, you could have already spotted the CarbonCycles fork & bike a month back as it has been the platform I’ve been riding to test out the monstrously 75cm wide Curve Walmer flared dropbar. For the past few pandemic months, I have been riding the now more rigid Moots (it’s a YBB so there’s 30mm or travel in the back) in three modes: monster gravel bike, XC singletrack bike, and slow-speed trail riding with my small kids. In every mode it has felt like a real upgrade over the suspension fork which never felt super necessary for these types of riding.
The titanium bike is a singlespeed, so it was already decently lightweight. But dropping 840g off the front end with the swap to new rigid fork made the ride feel especially lively. With the relatively large volume (for cross-country) of the recent 2.3″ Hutchinson Kraken tires, I still have plenty of room to work with lower tire pressure to take a bit of the edge off of most trails. So, I’ve never really missed the suspension fork since its been gone.
I have piloted the new fork through a few rock gardens and into some rooty sections of trails, and it seems to handle at least as precisely as the Reba before it. Watching carefully through washboards or stutter bumps, I can see a bit of the fore-aft flex of the fork. But never have I had the sense of any compromising flex by the time it makes it to the handlebar, suggesting that the carbon legs are likely doing a bit of damping.
All that said, this is a budget rigid carbon fork, and I’m unlikely to ever put it through any high-speed technical enduro paces. There are plenty of more appropriate full-suspension mountain bikes for that.
What this fork has done, is breathe some welcome fresh new life into a classic mountain bike that I’ve ridden for 15 years, and that I feel re-energized to ride for a long time to come. At a time when it’s become increasingly difficult to even try to replace an old high-end suspension fork with something on par with its original performance, the rigid eXotic carbon fork makes the Moots feel fast & sprightly once again. And it helps remind me how fun this bike is to ride.