VitalMTB is currently the odds-on favorite for “Best Suspension Review of 2014” for Evan Turpen’s no-holds-barred appraisal of SR Suntour’s new downhill fork in the original Suntour Rux review. While the review has since been polished and spit-shined after numerous emails from the boys at Suntour, and has been replaced with an entirely new review including a test of some all new, not-yet-available-to-the-public-and(or)-we-just-finished-making-these-new-parts-because-Evan-Turpen-provided-the-best-and-most-specific-product-feedback-we’ve-ever-received-to-date-and-we’re-still-trying-to-play-catch-up-here 2015 intervals in the fork, the original review will be remembered for
A) using a knowledable, experienced racer who is notoriously picky about parts and setup as your lead test rider, and
B) printing said reviewer’s actual thoughts about the product
That review included several statements that seem almost unthinkable to an avid reader of bike reviews:
“The air spring itself has a decidedly “air” feeling to it – stiff off the top, wallowy in the mid-stroke, and rampy towards the end.”
“I found myself having to run minimal amounts of high-speed compression, low-speed compression, and rebound to get the fork feeling at its best. I usually run much firmer spring and compression settings than your average Joe so this worries me a bit.”
“Unfortunately when I tried to dial in more low-speed compression to combat brake dive the RUX would become too harsh at higher speed square edged hits as well as small bumps.”
“Throughout the entire test I was wishing for a much suppler feeling off the top of the stroke and more support in the mid-stroke.”
With this new MRP fork review, Vital is also in the running for the coveted “Worst review of 2014 that should never have made it to print except that they had a deadline and were hurting for original content and hey it’s the web in 2014 everyone’s standards are down and we’re just trying to get hits” award.
This new review hails from Laramie, Wyoming, and our test pilot is, you guessed it, some guy you’ve never heard of from Laramie, Wyoming. If you watch the 30 second “Raw Edit” that’s included in this review (in this case “Raw Edit” is code for “boring iPhone video with no music”), the trails around Laramie Wyoming look reasonably fun. They also look unreasonably flat, straight, and smooth, aka perfect for fork testing.
“Do your local trails include zero harsh g-outs, braking bumps, or violent direction changes? Are they flat and predictable, and are there so few bumps that you’ve memorized every one of them and can hold a pretty good pace on a full rigid?”
“Perfect, let’s have you test this new fork.”
But don’t worry, you may never have heard of dudebro suspension tester and you may never have heard of Laramie, Wyoming, but our unknown tester does plenty to back up his chops. Just look at the quality composition and lighting of his photos, or his bike setup:
Because when you want to know how a new product works, you talk to some guy in Wyoming who rides Hayes Brakes and Kenda Tires on his Cannondale. It is, truly, the discerning rider’s setup. To his credit he’s not running Nevegals, but that’s like asking who’s worse: Pol Pot or Hitler? Correct answer: they both seem pretty bad. I’ll give him some credit, he’s got some spacers under the stem, wide bars, and it looks like a properly sized bike for him.
Like the state that our reviewer hails from, I’m betting there’s a large degree of rugged, tough-guy, Wyoming pioneer spirit involved here.
“I’m just here for the ride, and just like the tough, rugged state I live in, I don’t care what you West Coasters think about which brakes I ride or which tires I buy. They were cheap, they allow me to ride, and that’s what matters most: the riding, not the stuff.”
I know lots of riders who embody this pioneer spirit, and more power to them. I spend a lot of time getting caught up in tire PSI or compression adjustments, or how long or short my top tube is, and riders like this always remind me that there’s a time to forget all that and just get on with riding your bike. Brant Ness comes to mind. So does Gary Paasch. But for the same reasons I find this attitude endearing, they would also be the last guys I would ever ask to test product. If your attitude is “the bike don’t matter,” then probably you’re not going to provide the most specific or useful feedback about, you know, the bike. And even Lewis and Clark chose their rifles and the few tools they could bring along carefully.
“Hey Meriwether, should we choose the longer service range of the Long Land Pattern Brown Bess or go with the more available and reproducible ammunition of the Model 1777 Charleville? We’re going to be out there a while.”
“I don’t worry about the equipment, Bill, I’m just here for the adventure”
An aside: maybe our test pilot is “broke college student who’s stoked on whatever parts he can get his hands on.” Broke college student riders are romantic, admirable, and “real,” but being “broke college student baller-on-a-budget” is also another instant disqualifier for product testing. Clap-if-you’re-clapped, two bald-tires-guy is not likely to wax eloquently about the different brake knob siping featured on the old vs. new Highrollers.
But I don’t think we’re dealing with broke-college-student, and I suspect tough guy Wyoming attitude isn’t the only factor at play here. There’s another key Wyoming element that’s easy to brush past, one that’s directly related to living in a state with only one city over 50,000 people. I’ll bet 10 to 1 that our trusted suspension tester is in the “fastest guy he knows” camp. I don’t know this, and I’ve never met the guy, but there are a lot of clues that steer me to this conclusion. First clue: Wyoming. I’m pretty sure their entire population could fit in my local Denny’s. Second, he’s running no visor, Answer bars, a C-dale, and Hayes Stokers. This tells me that he doesn’t have the benefit of that out-of-body conscience we call “riding friends,” those friends that mock and belittle every decision you make, tearing you down for small unimportant decisions while shaping you into a less-retarded version of the half-blind newborn infant you were when you started riding.
Being “the fastest guy you know” is another way of saying “I don’t have any good riding friends who bust my ass and tell me when I’m being a retard.”
There was a time when every blue zero-rise handlebar you saw at your local shop looked like a puppy at the pound: cute, adorable, and perfect for you. You thought you would be a bad person if you didn’t buy that blue handlebar and take it home. You made up excuses for why this blue handlebar would be different, and come on, it was right there looking up at you. But your riding friends were older and wiser, and while you were too close to see clearly, they had the time, experience, and distance from the situation to see what you couldn’t: that handlebar was a bad crossbreed. It was part Canadian and part Californian, it was bred for freeride flicks and bad dubstep edits, and the most painful, unescapable truth of it all: through no fault of it’s own, it was a bad handlebar from birth, and it was going to bite you.
Sure, it was still lovingly made and anodized alongside other better, more well-behaved handlebars in Taiwan. There was nothing in it’s aluminum that would point to defects or a series of bad behavior. You could try to love it, and try to trust it, but one day you’ll be on a steep trail somewhere, lightly riding the front brake, and when you hit the tiniest soft patch of duff while turning, your seemingly innocent blue flatbar is not going to behave like a cute puppy any more, and it’s going to lash out and throw you over the bars, maybe into some rocks or a big tree. After you break your collarbone or separate your shoulder your riding friends will have to pick you up, dust you off, and get you down the hill while you’re crying like a schoolgirl, wondering what happened. But they told you about that blue, flat handebar. They told you so.
The best thing to do is let the blue handlebar go. Maybe someone else will buy it from your local shop, but probably not. The harsh truth is that after weeks or years on the discount rack, with discount after deeper discount, it’s time in the shop will probably end like so many other hacknied, ill-conceived products before it, and it will be led out of the store in a crate full of other unwanted parts to the UPS truck, to visit the bike industry equivalent of the Animal Shelter executioner, Chainlove. But remember: this blue handlebar is not your battle.
You can’t save every blue handlebar.