No question – in terms of performance and value for money the Rock Shox Pike is certainly one of the best forks on the market. Those who need even more performance, however, can only get this through individual tuning. Our long-term tester Daniel found out whether it is worth investing in a FAST damping cartridge.
What is tuning exactly? What changes are made to the internals?
Before you send your fork to the German distributor MRC-Trading, you have to send a form with personal details as part of the ordering process. This is meant to help tune the fork to the exact requirements of the rider.
At MRC Trading a completely newly designed compression piston is fitted with a shim stack tailored to the rider and another “high speed” spring from FAST suspension. The modified shape of the piston is designed to let the oil flow better and the tailor-made high speed ports should result in better rider feeling. As well as the compression piston, the original rebound piston plus shim stack is replaced with one developed by FAST suspension. The optimized
interaction of the two pistons is designed to create more grip, higher sensitivity and better feedback.
On the trail
Although the fork comes back with the cartridge already built in and is therefore not visible, the finish of the CNC-machined dial is impressive and the sensitivity is soft as silk from the off. A noticeable improvement can be felt over the original Charger damper cartridge from Rock Shox. As well as the small bump response, the lack of 3 position compression damping on the cartridge is also noticeable. The LOCK position of the Rock Shox cartridge is an advantage here, but if you don’t stand up to pedal all the time and don’t put much pressure on the fork on the uphills, you won’t miss it. Even with more pressure, like when standing, the fork remains higher in its travel than the original PIKE.
Downhill, the FAST cartridge is way better than the original Charger cartridge. The sensitive reaction to small bumps is far superior. Even after over 15 minutes of non-stop descending in the Alps (e.g. the qualifier of the TREK BIKE ATTACK), there was no soreness in my hands. The stiffening felt during repeated hits with the Charger cartridge was completely gone. The grip on the front wheel was also increased considerably. In terms of feedback, the balancing act between response from the terrain and the smoothing out of bumps seems to be successful. There is no pain and intended riding maneuvers are carried out with precision. Big hits are reliably absorbed with a bit of fine-tuning using the guide book. The handbook may seem laughably simple and child-like at the start, but it is nevertheless an efficient way to recognize and solve any problems which might occur!
The price of 229€ including installation or 299€ with service seems very high at first sight. However, it is completely justified because of the nice finish, the amount of developing and testing involved and the perfect downhill performance. If you are not happy with your PIKE and value top performance, spend a lot of time on your bike or are fighting for precious seconds in races, this is definitely for you!
More information: mrc-trading.de/FAST-3-Way-Factory-Kit
Words: Daniel Schlicke Photos: MRC-Traiding/Sportograf