These are the brand new (and very posh) forks from Oval, the r911. Two models have been released that are underpinned by the same technology, the r911 (tested here) and the a911 which is intended for flat out, aerodynamic efforts such as time trials and triathlons. The r911 is the road performance model, it has raked blades for improved comfort and more responsive handling as well as being lighter for happier hill climbing while the blade shape is legal to use in both UCI and ITU (International Triathlon Union) sanctioned events. These retail at an eye watering £449.99 so do they justify the price tag?
I tested them on a Felt AR4 which, as standard, comes with Felt's own aero-ish forks so it was interesting to see how the Oval offering compared. Having ridden around 300km on them in anger I have noticed a couple of differences in the ride that are worth noting, the top end speed (on the flat about about 35kph) is more comfortable to maintain and handling seems more controlled. On a stretch of my commute that I could happily zing along at about 35kph and then fade on the climb up toward work but with Jetstream I was turning 38kph and felt like I had a turbo on the climb, only fading to 36kph (it's a mile long drag climb, not steep but steady). The weather was still on both occassions. On training rides I extended my turn at the front from 3 minutes to 5 and felt fine, on flat roads I was turning 38-40kph and dropping people off my wheel but my hr was actually slightly lower than previous rides. Make of that what you will...! I certainly dont feel fitter!!!
In terms of handling, with the standard forks on my bike the front end is a bit twitchy but not so with r911s fitted. Another plus is that the feedback from the road is more muted, not to say that the forks make the road feel spongy but they do dull the road buzz which, around here, is a godsend.
The r911 forks are designed around Oval's multi patented ‘jet stream’ technology. Now, I could go on for some time about how it works, the benefits, the spec etc for this but I will try and cut it down to easy to digest, bite sized chunks. Firstly I should say that the r911’s are using the second generation of Jetstream technology, the aero characteristics have been refined to create a better, sleeker, faster fork.
The primary aim of these bladed forks is to reduce the drag off the front wheel by channelling ‘clean’ or undisturbed air away from the spokes that otherwise would increase the drag. The air isn’t pulled sharply from the wheels, it is channelled away by the forks so as not to create too much drag before dissipating into the ambient air alongside the bike.
You may see disc rear wheels, aero chainsets, seatpost mounted bottle cages and the like but the greatest drag effect on the bike is created by the front wheel, the top of it to be exact. Oval claim to be able to reduce the drag created by the front wheel by as much as 20% over the best possible single bladed fork available (this is tempered by the need for a speed of 50kph + for this 20% to be realised). The new forks still feature the dual blade layout of their predecessors but the blade positions have been swapped relative to the Jetstream 1 forks, the forward legs are now set to the outside of the rear legs.
The fork has been designed by a group of high level engineers, scientists and designers including Dr Mark Drela from MIT in the USA, Bruce Eddington who is the head of carbon technology at F1 team Force India and Oval’s founder Morgan Nicol. With this sort of backup, the jetstream II technology needs to work and when ridden, it feels like it works.
The ride is responsive, comfortable and undeniably smooth at high speed. Most apparent to me was the ease at which I could maintain 35+ kph up slight inclines. The forks are a very good addition to any top end steed. The cost, however, means that I couldn’t justify buying a set, not unless I start performing at a very high level. A lovely set of forks for a custom build and the gloss black finish should compliment most frames but for £450 I would find it hard to justify buying these over a new set of half decent wheels. In conclusion, a really high level, technologically advanced and responsive forks but to justify £450 for a set you really need to be at the top of your game with a frame to match.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Oval r911 JetStream II forks
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Oval r911 is the road going fork aimed at high end cycle racers and cyclists with deep pockets who want the best.
Oval claim that it reduces front wheel drag by 20% over the best single bladed alternative fork. The high end efficiency did feel real but it is tough to say what percentage was saved without access to a wind tunnel.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Oval have utlisied their updated Jetstream 2 technology in the r911 forks. The changes from the preceeding fork are that the blades have been re-aligned with the front blade angled to lie slightly outside the rear blade, thus channelling air away from the spokes of the wheel into stiller, calmer air alongside the bike
As with every oval product I have used I can have no complaints. No snazzy graphics, just a simple, high quality product.
Did what it promised. There was an obvious positive difference between the standard AR4 forks and the oval r911's, the ride was much smoother, easier and calmer at high speed.
It is difficult to gauge this one without riding the forks for thousands of miles. There are no signs of stress, no strange noises, no flexing.
Morgan, the owner and founder of Oval claims that the aero benefits far outweigh the extra weight penalties that the dual bladed forks incur. These are not superlight forks but they are by no means heavy either.
The comfort and front end characteristics of my bike were altered greatly with the addition of these forks. The usual twitching that I have got used to under fast cornering was far reduced.
This too is a tough one, for the vast majority of cyclists these forks will be beyond our budgets but if you have the cash or need the performance advantage then these will perform.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The oval r911 forks did the job very well, I really have enjoyed riding on them. From the off they felt like they had improved my bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The understated looks, new technology is usually accompanied by a plethora of garish graphics but not these. They work very well and dont shout about it.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Has to be the cost, if they were £100-£150 cheaper then they would be a real option for many of us.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If it comes down in price a bit.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? A wealthy one, yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A great set of forks, the quality is what you come to expect from Oval...as is the price.
About the tester
I usually ride: felt ar4 My best bike is: i like my felt and my orbea ora tt bike equally
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, triathlon