At the time of its release, the XC series replaced a couple of Rock Shox’s longer serving models. The Dart became XC28, while XC32 took the place of Tora, so this is why we can consider the XC30 a newcomer plus the fact that it uses 30mm stanchions, an intermediate size between the other two. However, in terms of functionality and options, things differ a lot, for example, the XC32 also having an air cartridge version. While XC28 doesn’t perform above average, the XC30 plays the missing link part between it and the other model, offering a decent functionality at an according price.
Still, XC30’s main focus isn’t its internal competition, but rather Suntour’s XCR, a fork that offers the basics that a mountain biker needs, for an affordable price. To complicate matters even more, XCR became available also in an air cartridge version beggining with last year, also having a price point very close to that of XC30’s, which relies on a spring.
With this into consideration, I took the XC30 for a ride, the fork being mounted on a 29er. I must confess, I am still a believer in the coil forks’ capacities, and the name that echoes through my head right now is Marzocchi, that took this concept to such performances that even today their products bring only joy and fun to those who use them. It’s still a mistery to me why manufacturers ignore coil forks given their potential, or better put, keep them in the entry-level category. Untill I’ll solve this puzzle, let’s get back to the XC30 and its 100mm travel, which can be locked using a lever found above its right arm, and features rebound adjustment as well. If you need a finer travel, that reacts to small bumps on the track you’ll have to set the preload at a minimum, but you’d better play with this setting according to your weight.
XC30 takes in big bumps with a sure hand, but is still far away from what one would call comfortable. The arms do not glide smoothly despite the nickel/satin finishings so be ready to grease the stanchions every now and then. Don’t treat this fork like one which can stand abuse, and do not ride it on trails that include big drops or other such obstacles because XC30 is no stranger to bottom-outs and this will take its toll on the long run. Also, controlling the fork becomes difficult when passing over roots and rocks, so you might want to take this into account when planning your ride.
A major advantage of the XC30, due to its coil system, is the fact that servicing doesn’t require elaborate operations, and it can easily be considered a “do it yourself” task if you’re at least slightly handy in using bicycle tools. Also, Rock Shox’s product (2.190 grams) weighs less than Suntour’s XCR and is more durable, and less prone to break-down than it. On the other hand, the air cartridge XCR tops the XC30 in terms of price and performance, but given that XC30 targets recreational mountain bikers and mild off-road terrain, it’s still a great option for something simple bearing the minimum amount of functionality.