Fork Offset Explained by Chris Cocalis
Over the past year or two, we’ve heard companies advertise about the short offset forks used on their bikes, claiming to enhance cornering performance. So, what exactly is a short offset fork? We decided to reach out to Pivot CEO and Founder, Chris Cocalis to see what in the world fork offset is and if you need to care about it.
Most 29-inch Trail bikes have come with 51mm offset and now there is a trend towards using a reduced 42 or 44mm offset. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a shorter fork offset depending on the bike. When the reach starts to get super long on a bike, it’s more difficult to keep the front end weighted. The reduced offset helps compensate for this. The front tire gets more traction without having to ride quite as aggressively over the front end at all times. However, there are downsides to this. On bikes with slacker head angles, decreasing offset affects the neutral steering feel of the bike. The combination of a slack head angle and a short fork offset make for more of a flop in the front end. The bike turns off-center very quickly, which for some may be a benefit, but for less experienced riders can result in a feeling of the bike turning too sharply. This is why the 44mm offset fork is most applicable to the longest, slackest bikes as the benefits outweigh the downsides. For example, we use the 51mm offset on the Trail 429. It’s a great all-around bike. The reach is very competitive with current trail bikes but it doesn’t push the limits too far and it has great front end traction for a wide variety of riders with the 51mm offset. When we tested it with the 44mm offset, the additional front end bite did not compensate for the overly quick turn in off-center. Even our pro riders did not like it as much as the 51mm offset. However, on the Firebird 29, the benefits were immediately apparent. The feel was more precise and had more bite in all cornering situations. We also updated the Switchblade to a 160mm fork with 44mm offset for this year. That combined with the upgraded DPX2 shock ups its game for enduro racing and more aggressive (steeper) descending. On 27.5” bikes, the stock offset is already at 44mm. We have not found a situation where a shorter offset provided enough benefit to overcome the overly quick turn-in and the feeling that the front tire was just going to knife in on corner entry.