Changing stock travel: Enough already!

Hey Lee,

I love reading your book and it has helped me a ton on my skills. But i
have a question.

I have an 06 Rocky Mountian Flow 1.0 which I’m looking at putting a new fork on for dj/fr/dh and i want to pack on the most travel possible … [it goes on from there] …

Thanks Brook

The more you click, the more I can post. Lee Likes Groceries dot com!


Leave your bike alone. Feel free to upgrade to a better fork, but don’t mess with the stock geometry.

Putting on a much longer fork slackens the head angle and raises the bottom bracket, which can jack up your handling. Oh, and a longer fork usually voids your frame warranty.

The people who designed your bike know more than you do. Let them spec the bike. You … just ride the dang thing.

I get this question every day. No more!

— Lee

8 replies
  1. Jesse says:

    Point well taken, especially your previous article about changing shock length. But just to play devil’s advocate…what about frames that are warranted for a range of fork lengths? I have an 06 Santa Cruz Heckler that shipped with a 130mm travel Rockshox Recon. After about 6 months I swapped the Recon for a Marzocchi All Mountain that has the same amount of travel but is about 20mm taller. There’s a noticeable difference in handling, but to me it’s a positive thing. The frame itself is warranted for anything up to 160mm travel, I think, and I see plenty of people riding Hecklers with 36s up front. The same thing seems to be true of a lot of “AM” type frames these days; they ship with 4-5″ forks, but are supposed to be able to handle 36s and the like as well.

  2. jimmy says:

    Lee has a valid point most frames have an optimal geometry for the bike to peform at it’s best. The fact that a frame may be warrantied to a longer fork just means the frame has been beefed up.

    The new Heckler published geometry is based on an axle to crown height of 511mm or a 140mm fork. You can put an 170mm and still be under warranty. I can tell the bike will handle like crap with the 170mm. The Nomad on the other hand is design around a 170mm fork and will handle great.

    Been there done that. I’ve put longer forks on the front and I have to hang over the front handlebars like a gorilla to get the bike to turn.

    If you just plan to huck the bike and the fork length is covered by warranty then handling point is moot.

  3. Clay says:

    Bad example, i know a dude who won multiple sport dh races on a heckler with a 7inch fork. The fork is going to screw things up a lot less than changing shocks in my opinion (having ridden an all mtn bike with a stupid long fork for a couple of years).

  4. Chris says:

    My Talas fork has one inch travel adjustment and the difference it makes to my 4.2 inch travel Trance is huge. Astounding. It’s like having two different bikes.

    Now, I think that adding two or three more inches of travel to the front is just crazy talk. Unless one is running a frame with 8+ inches of travel, I’d keep the front and rear within an inch of each other.

    And for DJ, less is more. You aren’t improving your bike for DJ by putting on a longer fork. Unless you are using travel as a safety net.

  5. Sean says:

    Clay, I think your example says a lot more about the guy riding the Heckler, than it does about whether the fork changed the geometry to a bad end. Or maybe it says more about the kinds of courses on which the friend won multiple sport class races. For sure it doesn’t dis-prove the wisdom of Lee’s point.

    People win on whatever bike they’re comfortable on. It’s pretty weak to say the bike is the major factor. One of many factors, yes. But not the only one. Not even the most important one.

    I agree with Lee — my experience is that over-forked bikes ride like crap compared to bikes that have a frame designed for the fork’s travel. Of course that assumes the design is a good one, resulting in a bike that works well, doesn’t present two different halves joined into one imbalanced bike.

    All other things being equal, I’d wager that sport class race winner friend of yours would have been fastest on those days even if he were on a hardtail.

  6. jimmy says:

    Actually good example. An over forked bike pointing downhill automatically shifts the weight forward so the bike will corner well.

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