Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

What happened with carbon road forks?

Hi Folks,

apologies already if this bores you. Feel absolutely free to read something else instead. Plus, I'm old and grumpy;  don't say I didn't warn you.

OK, I'm building a lightweight endurance road bike (NOT a gravel bike:  not even an 'occasional' gravel bike), with a Ti frame (haven't even decided which yet), hydraulic discs and mechanical shifting. The idea is to replace my summer and winter bikes with a single frame, two sets of wheels, no corrosion and more comfort.  Aiming for about 7.25kg to 7.5kg overall (summer weight) for a 54cm.  Also, a disc Ti frame is going to need thru axles.

With very few exceptions (Firefly, the gorgeous but eye-wateringly expensive Tom Sturdy frames) lightweight Ti road frames come with carbon forks.  I'm OK with that, except that I'd like a slightly curved/tapered fork to give my wrists an easier time,  and proper mudguard eyelets at the end of the fork. 

My old summer bike (an ancient but lovely aluminium DeRosa Planet) has Columbus Minimal carbon forks. Curved, tapered, elegant, really light (350g).  No eyelets, but I don't ride it in the wet.

Most pure road Ti frame/carbon fork combinations have ugly straight forks (yes, I know, it's subjective) minus eyelets. The few that can take mudguards are essentially using gravel forks: over engineered, much too wide (why would I want 50mm tyres on a road bike?) and thus heavier than necessary, and pretty uncomfortable to ride (I'm old, I got old wrists...) for long distances. They soften things up with less steep frame angles and supposedly 'engineered fork compliance'.  I don't buy that: with a straight fork,  virtually all the forces end up at the fork crown, which ends up looking like a trucker's forearm.

I can't believe there isn't a market for a proper lightweight (400g? 425g?) and elegant looking road disc fork that includes mudguard eyelets for winter riding.  There seems to be an absolute assumption that anyone who wants a lightweight road bike is going to be happy with clip-on guards (or none at all); I've tried them and have not been impressed.  And no, I'm not bolting P-clips to my forks.  

This isn't a cry for help;  it's just a polite rant.  I've looked around, and I don't think anyone (yet) makes the fork I'm describing.  It's really not a big ask,  and I'm sure a lot of winter-riding roadies would appreciate the option.  

Take care all, watch for those close passes...

John M.

 

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

Add new comment

24 comments

Avatar
HoarseMann | 1 week ago
1 like

How about a lightweight-ish suspension fork? Like a Lauf or Roxshox Rudy?

Avatar
S.E. | 1 week ago
1 like

There are very strong and efficient rim brakes, I'm still not convinced that disc brakes are better for the road, they incite us to take more risks, and in emergency situations I feel it's easier to lock the wheels... They come from MTB, where forks have suspensions (and so straight legs, even before CF).

You can build curved carbon forks for disc brakes, as shown by Pinarello in Matthew's post, they even have S shaped forks if you like that... but that's just not the most obvious way to achieve different structural engineering requirements.

Compared to rim brakes, forces are at least 5 x greater with rotors (shorter lever arm), they impact a much weaker part of the fork, and last but not least they act asymetrically... all 3 reasons that require much stronger legs, this is obviously the main reason behind these ugly and massive beams - and the loss of the shock dampening traditional shape of old steel forks, because you don't want flexibility at this level!

That said, I also get weird vibes when the profile of my bike is appears on my desktop backround wallpaper, i am stuck, like fascinated... it's both so close yet so different than the century old archetype of a bike...

Avatar
matthewn5 | 2 weeks ago
1 like

What about some Pinarello Onda forks? Not quite the classic forward curve, but certainly not straight. You could (cautiously) drill the 'wings' to mount mudguard stays...
//cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0038/7806/0144/products/P1510554.jpg)

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to matthewn5 | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

Drill?  No disrespect, but you gotta be kidding me...

Avatar
JL77 | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I've been told that fork compliance for comfort lies mostly in the steerer tube. For this reason (and because of the offset/rake) I went for an Enve fork that is tapered 1 1/4 to 1 1/8 instead of 1 1/2 to 1 1/8. With a headset to suit. I think that Whiskey and Ritchey may also offer similar forks. Btw, do not take a different offset for comfort. Offset combined with head angle are for determining trail (in combination with front center; the latter affecting weight division and toe overlap).

Avatar
David9694 | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

You may well be able to address your wrist issues in the gym.

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to David9694 | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Hi David,

thank you;  but I really don't have wrist "issues" (never had them over 40+ years of rock climbing).  I'm just used to riding a nice (but heavy) steel frame that irons out road buzz.  Ask yourself why there are so many 'wing' style carbon handlebars now that so specifically address soaking up road shock.

The perfect solution would be Ti disc forks, but I can't get a second mortgage...

Cheers

Avatar
mtbtomo | 2 weeks ago
0 likes
Avatar
quiff replied to mtbtomo | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

OP wants something that will take disc brakes.

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to mtbtomo | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I did specify disc forks:  the Alpinas look a lot like my columbus Minimals.

Cheers

Avatar
Richbeck | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Not curved, but very nice looking - a pal has these on his handbuilt steel - lots of compliance https://woundupcomposites.com/product-category/gravel-x-forks/

Avatar
OnYerBike | 2 weeks ago
3 likes

As mark1a says, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a good reason for this, rather than just fashion. Given the proliferation of all-road and gravel bikes where comfort is important, I would have thought if curved carbon forks offered an advantage, you would see them more often. 

I had a quick look and suspect found the same as you. Ritchey do a lovely light, carbon cuved fork but alas no eyelets. If you want eyelets, I've found the Whisky No9 RD fork or else you can buy the "Anraed" fork from Fairlight (the fork they use on the Strael) - but neither has the curved aesthetic you desire. 

If you want further comfort, could you consider one of the suspension stems on the market (e.g. Redshift Shockstop or Cane Creek eeSilk)?

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to OnYerBike | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Thank you for the advice:  I'll do some more digging. 

The reason for straight forks (especially) on gravel bikes?  Could it be that they're easier to make?  When you're encouraging people to ride 45mm tyres (yes, I know folk use skinnier ones), you don't gotta worry about the fork design so much.  Never underestimate the power of mass manufacturing to force choices on consumers.

And curved forks aren't just an aesthetic.  I'm certain the reason carbon forks are so over-engineered (aka thick and heavy) at the fork crown is because that's where most of the shock/bending forces end up.  Steel forks could have been made straight, way back in the day (and they'd have been cheaper to make), but they weren't (and still aren't), and there was a reason for that - to soften shocks from the road.  My Columbus Minimals feel great;  but they are taking the conventional approach to disc forks.

I'm still planning on lightweight, so suspension stems are out.  Also,  if you think about it,  they are just trying to compensate for a failure to design decent forks in the first place.  Have a look at the reasons why people like well designed Ti frames (or steel) as opposed to carbon.  It's down to the feel, and I don't think straight carbon forks can ever offer that.

Best

JM

Avatar
Sedis | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Not especially cheap but Aera do gravel, all-road and road carbon forks with mudguard options

http://www.rideaera.com/

Avatar
mark1a | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

I don't think I've seen a disc brake compatible road fork with the aesthetic you describe, I'm not sure but it could be that the thin, curved design does not lend itself to the increased structural requirements that a disc caliper needs on a fork.

Also, I'd be careful with putting a curved fork onto a bike head tube angle designed for straight forks, it's possible that any small difference in trail and rake measurements could adversely affect handling. I'm not an expert on this, but it might happen.

Anyway, good luck with your search, I scratched the Ti itch a year or two ago, with a Vaaru MPA. It's not quite what you're looking for as it has a straight carbon fork (the Ti fork option is also straight), but as my winter hack it's a lovely bike to ride.

[cue yet another gratuitous photo opportunity...]

 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to mark1a | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

mark1a wrote:

I don't think I've seen a disc brake compatible road fork with the aesthetic you describe, I'm not sure but it could be that the thin, curved design does not lend itself to the increased structural requirements that a disc caliper needs on a fork.

I reckon that's what's happened - they build the forks for disk brakes and maybe a curve in the forks makes the handling a bit iffy whilst braking.

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to mark1a | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Lovely bike;  one of the frames I'm considering.  I suspect one day he might do a curved Ti fork as well, like Sturdy's.

Remember, I didn't say they had to be thin: just not over-engineered.  I fully appreciate that disc forks are going to be heavier.  But they don't have to look like girders either.  The Ritchey cross (?) fork mentioned by OnYerBike is getting closer to the mark,  but there's a lot of spare material on it.

Also, I really wouldn't just swap a fork without considering exactly where the axle was going to be, relative to the head tube.  As you imply, you might end up with something unrideable.

It's just that if my **ideal** fork existed,  it would really be the only choice of disc road fork that would suit summer and winter riders;  and weight weenies.  And I guess frame makers would manufacture frames to suit it.  They would be called "road frames".

Cheers

JM

Avatar
Mr Hoopdriver | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

You're basically doing what I did but have done it with much more research.  I learned after I'd built the bike that the forks were too straight and I now have a toe overlap with my front mudguard.

I used a Lynksey Viale frame for my build and used the standard fork.  If I was doing it again I'd get a fork with more toe clearance (I'd not put SRAM on again but that's another learning experience).

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Hi Mr H,

funny thing;  Lynskey used to (I think) make Ti forks,  with a nice curved taper:  too easy for them to go for mass produced carbon now.

I might not have the foot overlap issue,  as I have very small feet,  but it's a very useful reminder to check.  That said,  I think a carefully chosen fork should put the axle far enough forward to avoid the problem, albeit a straight carbon fork won't look right on a classic Ti frame.

I spend my free time these days writing to carbon fork manufacturers urging them to fill the gap in their range with my preferred design. In my dreams...

Cheers

JM

Avatar
jaymack | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I have a now rather old set of Kinesis carbon forks which take mudguards, the only thing simillar in their range that I can see nowadays are these:  https://kinesisbikes.co.uk/collections/road-forks/products/kinesis-fork-...

Whether these tick the 'elgant' box is a subjective matter. Kinesis may well do the bike/frameset you're after; good luck with your search. 

Avatar
JohnM16 replied to jaymack | 2 weeks ago
1 like

Hi Jaymack,

thank you, yes, Kinesis do make a couple of gravel forks (ATR and Range) with all the gubbins, but they're straight,  so not going to be so good at soaking up road buzz.  Plus they're designed for (up to) 45mm tyres, so not gonna look pretty on a road bike (a 28mm front tyre is going to look lonely).  Spa cycles put a Kinesis ATR on their Sabbath AR2 disc.  Attractive, affordable and well designed bike, except for the forks.

I'm hopelessly optimistic for even considering this, but I think if you're planning to spend upwards of £5K on a bike,  you shouldn't have to compromise about both the practical requirements and also the appearance of the thing.

Best,

JM

Avatar
jaymack replied to JohnM16 | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

You're absolutely right but I suspect that carbon forks are staight 'cos their designers are stuck with the short comings of the material with which they're working. Should you manage to satisfy your heart's desire please say as I'd be delighted to know before I look to buy next year's big-birthday present to myself

Avatar
quiff replied to jaymack | 2 weeks ago
0 likes
jaymack wrote:

I suspect that carbon forks are staight 'cos their designers are stuck with the short comings of the material with which they're working.

I'm no engineer or materials scientist, but isn't it equally likely that they're working with the properties of the material, whereas introducing a curve is just replicating a design based on the properties of the older materials? I do have a curved carbon fork from 10 yrs ago, but for rim brakes.

Avatar
ErnieC replied to jaymack | 2 weeks ago
0 likes

jaymack wrote:

You're absolutely right but I suspect that carbon forks are staight 'cos their designers are stuck with the short comings of the material with which they're working. Should you manage to satisfy your heart's desire please say as I'd be delighted to know before I look to buy next year's big-birthday present to myself

I have straight steel forks on my Master and no short comings with steel as a material.  

Latest Comments