First ride: Rock Shox RS-1 inverted suspension fork

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Nowadays, when technology seems to have reached its peak, you don’t hear too often about the launch of a completely new product. Usually, all we get these days are iterations, improvements or innovated components, but from time to time, something truly new emerges, like Rock Shox’s RS-1 inverted fork, which employs a different concept than the rest of its kind – the inverted stanchions.

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On the other hand, the RS-1 fork isn’t at all a new player, actually it’s one of the oldest, and Rock Shox’s first such component. With such a pedigree, it had to keep its reputation and that’s why it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the fork features the manufacturer’s brightest ideas in terms of technology.

But first, let’s deal with some technical data. Maybe a little heavier than expected, with a weight of 1.66 kilograms, RS-1 is available in 3 different travels (80, 100 and 120mm), and includes the X-Loc hydraulic remote lock-out which literally runs inside the left arm, entering through its upper part. Furthermore, only 29er mountain bikes can support this fork, and only riders willing to pay the roughly 1.300 euros price can take it home, while the inverted structure is composed out of an upper carbon body, with the arms and steerer made out of the same material.

The manufacturer recommends RS-1 for cross-country riding, but it reckons it can do a pretty good job in the service of trail enthusiasts, up to the border with the all-mountain segment, since a 29er paired with 120mm suspensions is the equivalent of a 140mm 26-inch full-suspension. As for us, we had for testing the 120mm version, which we took over rather difficult trails in order to push it to its limit.

Smooth gliding can easily be the hallmark of this fork, since you notice it from the very first meters of your ride, and this feature remains constant throughout the entire adventure thanks to the inverted mechanism that makes the lubricants grease the stanchions under the simple action of gravity. We didn’t expect small bumps on the trail to challenge the fork, and they didn’t, and we were pleased to find out that bottom-outs don’t appear in this fork’s case. Rock Shox mentioned with every possible occasion the effort it put into reaching a high stiffness level, so discovering that they told nothing but the truth scored the RS-1 some extra precious points. However, magic comes with a price, in this instance the awesome results being achieved thanks to a specially designed hub that relies on a 15mm-thru axle system and a bunch of other interesting construction methods.

Even if stiffness is a chapter where RS-1 rules, it’s also true that the edge over its competitors is marginal. In fact, maybe only critical situations in top-level racing will really make use of this feature, so mere mortals will have to make do just with the great experience of riding this fork. It’s obvious that RS-1 belongs to the ultimate component roster, and not only its performances confirm this, but also its price. Maybe Rock Shox relied a bit on the theory of conspicuous consumption when it conceived and manufactured RS-1, which won’t work in their favour when budget-constrained buyers will discover alternatives that offer roughly the same performance for a lower price. One such example is the Lefty fork, which costs about 200 euros less, and that uses a special hub also cheaper than the one needed for the RS-1.

Finally, our take on the iconic Rock Shox RS-1 which has now been completely revamped is that eventhough performance gains are marginal, it’s the kind of product that appeals to riders, including us, for a reason not yet very clear to us.

 

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