Riding the Trail Fully Charged
Don’t call it a comeback, because the RockShox Pike is an all-new-from-the-ground-up trail fork, despite the name that has been moved forward from the older design.
Tech Features: The Pike is available for 26-, 27.5-, and 29-inch formats and sports 5.5 to 6.3 inches of travel. It’s an air-sprung fork that’s available with either a fixed-travel SoloAir or travel-adjustable Dual Position Air spring. The 26- and 27.5-inch models are available with either 5.9 or 6.3 inches of travel, while the 29er version is available with 5.5 to 6.3 inches. The RCT3 Charger damper features external rebound and low-speed compression adjustments, as well as a three-position “climbing” mode for when the trail points uphill. The Charger damper uses a bladder system that’s designed to isolate the oil from the air. The chassis features 35-millimeter stanchions and RockShox’s brand-new Maxle Light 15-millimeter axle.
Our 27.5-inch, 6.3-inch travel test fork tipped the scales at 4 pounds, 1 ounce and sells for $1050.
Field Test Results: We had the chance to ride the new Pike on a number of test bikes, including a Kona Process, Ibis HDR, and Intense Tracer 275. Each time we set the sag to a tried-and-true 25-percent, a process made easy thanks to the single air valve, accurate pressure chart on the fork leg, and patented gradients marked on the side of the stanchions. Then we set both the rebound and compression adjustments to near the middle of their ranges and hit the trails.
Out of the gate, we immediately noticed how slippery and smooth the top of the travel range is. While many air-sprung forks have a noticeable amount of “stiction” as the fork breaks into its travel, the Pike feels, dare we say, coil-like. Coil forks and shocks are the gold standard when it comes to small-bump compliance, and the new Pike is as close to a coil-sprung fork as we’ve ever tested.
The all-new Charger damper is also a vast improvement over RockShox’s previous Mission and Motion Control dampers. RockShox has mastered a balance of low- and high-speed compression damping with this fork, something that few peers can claim. Whether you’re cruising along a rolling singletrack or pitched down a chute, the fork remains high in the travel until you need it; then it digs deep and delivers great big-hit control. Whereas other air-sprung forks can feel either sticky and harsh on small bumps or too “rampy” and firm on big hits, the Pike strikes a nearly perfect balance. The Pike truly delivers a usable travel range, and that’s our favorite feature on any suspension product.
While we rarely found it necessary to use the three-position Climbing mode, we did find it useful for long and grinding fire road climbs when we wanted to match the platform on the shock.
As an added bonus, the Charger’s damper is completely sealed, which means less maintenance for the rider. RockShox claims the Charger damper can go an impressive 200 hours (compared to only 100 for their previous designs) before it needs service. Don’t use this as an excuse to neglect service, but know that the designers have some serious faith in the long-term durability of the design. During our months of testing, we never experienced even the slightest decrease in performance that would warrant service.
Each and every time we came back from rides thinking the same thing: this fork makes whichever bike it’s on bike better. We’ve bestowed five-star ratings on other suspension products, but the new Pike raises the bar. This is the new benchmark for trail fork performance, and one upgrade that will make an immediate improvement on your bike and make your riding buddies green with envy.