Actually it’s only the front fork which is homemade but the bike has been transformed. I’d rather think of this fork as hand engineered or some similar epithet, it then sounds much safer and like something you’d actually want to ride. I confess I was slightly nervous before my ride and contemplated as I walked the dog. I’d assembled the now painted fork early today so when Freddie and I got back, I had to bite the bullet and get out on the bike.
I took the Proflex for 3 laps of Healey Nab to the east of Chorley. I ride there a lot since it’s only a 15 minute ride. There have always been trails on the hill but around 2010 a series of red and black graded trails were built, initially by well known designer Rowan Sorrell. The surface is almost always worth riding and after a good few days of dry weather was going to be fairly dry. It’s typical man made trail riding. Virtually every corner is a berm and there are plenty of jumps, a few rockier sections and no massively steep climbs. I decided to be cautious and only ride the red trail. It’s a circuit of 1.3 miles starting with a short climb to the trail head then a downhill of just under 2 minutes. The action continues with a section of 8 jumps followed by an undulating segment with plenty of interest. The main climb to the trail head is only interrupted with a short, sharp downhill and has varying gradients. A fast, flowing downhill returns you to the start. Before any of this, according to Strava, I’d set a second and a third fastest time on 2 road section on my way to the Nab. It may just represent my enthusiasm to ride a bike with a home made fork but it may also suggest that the narrow Velociraptor tyre at nearly 40psi count for more than the extra bulk I’ve added. I noticed that over the stoney climb to the trails there was not a hint of bobbing when I pedalled. That’s one aim ticked off. I’d decided to run the shock at 90psi with 50psi in the other chamber. There’s then a rather stiff bump stop for the last 20% of travel. It’s a DNM which cost me £65 but was sitting in a drawer unloved until now. The bigger rocks were rather more intrusive than on any of my 3 other bikes. The rear is more like a soft tail than a full suspension but was easily outperforming the Rockshox Quadra 5 on my only other off road ride. 3 inches of travel at the front was never going to glide over rocks the size of half bricks, so a bit of shifting of body weight helped.
Since I arrived at the back gate I thought I’d go into a full red route lap and not go too mad. On early corners things just felt a little unusual. It was taking a bit of force to get it into the corners and on a fast kink where the gradient goes from a gentle but fast down to a rising, bermed right hander I found my self running wide. As I continued the lap I realised that I needed to push the handlebars down into the turn and give it more force than I’m used to. The very narrow 560mm bars can’t be helping here but at least they’re original. After a short climb there’s a new and fabulous section of jumps and turns. Down and turning left I lined up for the first big hump and forced myself to take a bit of speed off since I didn’t know how it would jump. I always stand up on the approach and absorb the first one to keep it on the ground for the table top which follows straight after. I still was going quick enough to get some air. The series of twists which follow are sublime and with no noise, flex or feeling of danger I caressed the limit of grip. Nice. I’m thinking the back will let go first in this kind of terrain.
As I completed the 3 laps I kept making sure I steered in the “modern” way, leaning the bike but with my upper body staying fairly upright. This seemed to get the bike round without it wanting to run wide. I’m imagining that there’s probably a tad too much offset in the fork after recent adjustments but with a little practice I have to say that the handling is safe enough. I can honestly confirm that the front now outperforms the back suspension. A lower pressure might make things better over the smallest of ripples but nothing needs fixing. I broke the chain on lap 3 but looking at the sprockets they’re like new so a new chain should sort it out. I took the damaged links out, pinned it back together and finished the ride. I dropped in at the Bike Cabin to show the owner, Benji, the fruits of my labour and ask about a 7 speed chain.
A really good ride which I’m sure I’ll remember forever. I’m delighted with the finished article and will ride it occasionally. As I get more used to it I think it will be very entertaining to use and the anti bob feature is something few other forks can boast.
My downhill times were a few seconds down due to my caution but the climbing was good. My full red route time of 15 minutes 28 seconds was 6 seconds quicker than when I rode my Boardman 2 days ago though the trails are a little drier now, so this isn’t statistically significant. What it suggests is that I’ve made a fork which is perfectly seviceable and gave me a lot of satisfaction to ride. I was so confident on later laps that I was riding at my usual speed, I just wasn’t feeling I needed to be any more cautious than usual.
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