MBA Product Test: Trust Performance’s Message Fork
Sometimes You Just Gotta Trust The Message
Trust Performance Message Fork
When we think of linkage on a bicycle, we go directly to the rear end of the bike. This is also where Dave Weagle, the founder of Trust, has spent most of his career—designing innovative and efficient rear-suspension systems that have been adopted throughout the industry. Then one day his mad-scientist mind rendered up the Message fork. He partnered with carbon fiber wizard Jason Schiers—you know, the founder of a little company called Enve. With those two minds and business cultivator Hap Seliga helping lead the charge, Trust Performance was born.
Tech features: The Message is a carbon fiber linkage fork that is meant to fit trail bikes. Its best application is on a bike that would normally fit a 110–140mm telescoping fork. The Message uses two internal air springs that have independent air valves. Both are meant to be set the same, but only the right-side controls the rebound. On the left side is a travel indicator to help set sag and also aid in fine-tuning the system. When you purchase the fork, it comes with everything you will need to set it up, including a torque wrench and shock pump along with a user manual that gives you step-by-step instructions.
When comparing the Trust fork to a traditional telescoping fork, one of the biggest differences is that it has a dynamic offset. Why is this important, you might ask? Well, as a telescoping fork moves through the stroke, the offset stays static, but since the head tube angle is changing, the trail changes, too. This shorter trail change means that the bike will be more stable as you get further into the stroke.
The Message fork has an axle path that is a curve and kind of looks like a “J,” with the initial path going back then into an arching curve. This curve minimizes the offset as you go further through the travel, which allows it to maintain the same trail number and, as a result, its stability. This combined with the oversized and extremely stiff construction means you get a chassis that is unlike anything on the market.
The total wheel travel is a little over 115mm, but if you follow the path of the curve, it’s about 130mm. The fork weighs in at a staggering 2000 grams, which puts it much heavier than the competition. The fork will set you back a lot, too—$1975 to be exact, so start saving up. Trust says that it can fit 29, 27.5 and 27.5+ trail bikes.
Field test results: On the trail, the Trust Message takes some time to get used to. It has a feeling of being very stiff at the top when pushing on the bars. Since the initial axle path is backwards, this keeps you high and minimizes bob when you are climbing or even just pedaling. As soon as you hit a rock or bump that drives the tire back, the fork comes alive. While the fork does have a three-setting dial on the top right leg, it doesn’t feel like you need it due to the way the axle path travels and responds to rider input. We tried all three, and the firm setting is much stiffer. It seemed like the fork had enough leverage after the initial axle path to still be supple on bigger bumps and rocks.
We followed the setup directions, and while it rode well, it still felt a bit stiff overall for us. You definitely don’t have that plush feeling while riding it, and if you like to push with the bars through the travel, you will be disappointed. Instead, it tries to keep you high in the travel and responds to the terrain. This is the part that takes some time to get accustomed to. We tried lower pressure than recommended, and while it made it feel slightly softer and easier to push past the first part of the travel, it was then a bit too soft on bigger hits.
Cornering on the Trust Message is like nothing we have ever felt. No matter if it’s a flat, tight turn or a steep, chunky, fast berm, the bike feels as if its stability and handling never change. If the front end dives, you don’t get the sensation of a twitchy nose that wants to eject you. This was probably the biggest highlight of the fork. No matter how far in the travel we got, the stiffness of the fork felt the same, but better yet, the geometry of the bike seemed to remain static.
Sure, at 115mm of travel the fork doesn’t seem like it’s a great fit for a burly trail fork. But after only a few rides, it was obvious that many telescoping forks have to add length to compensate for elements that don’t affect the Message. What we will say is that in our opinion, if your frame has a more slack head tube angle, the Trust seems to respond better. The slack position allows the fork to actuate easier and feels much longer than it is. With that said, it’s not a replacement for 160mm unfortunately. Yes, it might weigh the same as some big, long forks, but all it shares with them is stiffness.
What it doesn’t do well is smoother transition landings, because there is little force pushing the wheel backwards. It also doesn’t respond much to landing flat, and both of those feel almost like riding a rigid fork. If you come down fast from a wheelie—same thing, a kind of harsh impact. After a few rides we had definitely changed the way we approached obstacles and our ride style, but not in a bad way, just different. Another thing to note is that the axle is inset fairly far, and we couldn’t use our normal multi-tool to get the wheel off. Before heading out on the trail, ensure that the tool you carry will indeed work, because we learned the hard way.
Overall, the Trust Message is an innovative fork that takes years of knowledge from rear-suspension designs and transfers it to the front, but because it is so different from what we all know as the norm, there is a learning curve. With a bit of patience and commitment, the fork’s ride qualities are appreciated. The real question is, are you okay with a burly, short-travel fork that will make a big dent in a bike-build budget?
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