Noob Clyde - inexpensive Fork Recommendations?
I'm about 280 lbs, 6'1" and have ridden more in the past three weeks than I have in the two years since I bought my bike. I'm trying to get in shape again. I have an '06 Specialized Rockhopper Pro Disc that came with a 130mm travel Marzocchi Drop OFF comp.
The fork is ok for what it is, but me being huge, I get way too much travel (bounce) when I'm trying to climb up steeper hills and have to stand out of the saddle. Also, I think my weight combined with the fork's spring may have attributed to my "eating it" a few times this week (of course over-braking going downhill into a rock-garden might have been a part of it too). Where I ride, and where my first race will be this September, there are a LOT of rocks and roots.
So far I haven't broken anything on me or the bike, but endoing face-first into nature is not good for my confidence. I am,however, super-awesome at unclipping from my pedals at any angle - even upside down in the bushes.
I'm looking for a fork that can take my weight but isn't expensive (~$200) - I have a very limited budget.
My other option - and this is a sanity check type question - is that I'm pretty sure I can fit a Karate Monkey fork and 29er front wheel up front without too much change in the geometry. As it is now, the bike is super-stable even in the mid 30's (on those rare paved downhills) so I wouldn't mind if it quickened up a bit.
Thanks for your help!
If you want to maintain the slacker head angle and use longer travel fork, I am not sure that there are many good 100mm+ options at that price range.
If you wanted to go with a 100mm fork the Tora 318 Solo-Air seems like an option that fits the bill.
You could look around for a used pre-09 quick release Fox 32 Float or Talas if you wanted a ~130mm fork.
The best option would be to swap your front hub with a 20mm TA and get some thing like a Rock Shox Pike. The stiffness improvement would make a huge difference in the rough stuff, the bike actually goes where you point it.
Well the first thing that I would do is call your LBS and see if you can get a stiffer spring...the one you have in the OEM fork is most likely set up for an "average" weight rider....or up to about 170-180lbs. When I was building up my latest XC hardtail..I picked up a DART3 pretty darn cheap ($130 w/free shipping) and then just ordered a firm spring kit. I'm still a little over 200lbs, so I kept the medium for later, so I can switch back after I lose about 30 to 40 more pounds. A stiffer spring can make your current fork a heck of a lot more user friendly and it's FAR cheaper than just buying a new fork.
While a Drop Off Comp is close to a bottom barrel Marzocchi...there are some options to tune your fork better. And considering your limited budget...I'd work on tuning this fork.
First and foremost...change out the stock oil to a heavier weight oil. Stock oil is Golden Spectro 125/150 Very Light which has a cSt at 40* of 26.40. Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF is 34.00 and would be a great (and easy to find) oil to use. This will increase your compression damping a slow down fork dive. I can't find a Drop Off Comp for 2006 on Marzocchi's web page but it looks from the Specialized web page to be similar to a Drop Off III from 2006 or a Drop Off from 2005 with external rebound. By comparing to similar forks, the oil volume should be 160cc's in each leg. You can play with this volume...too much and you wont get full travel...too little and your compression damping will suck.
Those forks should also be a coil spring on one side (2005 models had it on the left side, 2006 models on the right side...you'll need to figure out which side by pulling the top caps) with air assist. The coil side can take up to 15psi, the non-coil side can take up to 65psi so make sure you got your sag set right.
This should make a big difference in how your fork handles