DJ fork for 40something rider?

Hi Lee,
I’m 44 and have spent the last two years ripping up the local trails on my Kona Coiler (Your book has helped a lot).

Recently I aquired a single speed Santa Cruz Chameleon for off road commuting, the local BMX track (I will manual properly even if it kills me), street and general trails — and the last couple of weeks have been fun but the bike feels nose heavy, notably it’s really hard to lift when I’m doing jumps or drops.

Guys at the LBS thought the RS Argyle was the go, but I’m interested in the Recon 351 … What sort of things should I be looking for in a fork? FYI the current fork is 2005 Dirt jumper 3.

Look at the goofball in this photo. He’s running a standard Fox XC air fork with a standard quick release. If it’s good enough for Lopes …

Hey John,

Welcome to the wonderful world of DJ hardtails. They are super fun and versatile. I love my P.3 — as a matter of fact, it’s the bike I ride most often: for commuting, errands, coaching, Pump track Nation, jumping, skatepark and some trail. If, God forbid, I could only have one bike, a long could do the trick.

OK, let’s break this down:


2005 Dirt Jumper 3 – An older-school, burly 100mm fork that uses a standard QR axle. I’m gonna say, as long as it is properly serviced and tuned for you, that fork will not hold you back. It uses coil springs with an external air preload, so you can make it as firm as you need for braaap. The damping isn’t as intricate as modern forks, but that won’t make the difference between you manualing and not. (I started 2004 on the trickest Manitou DH fork money could buy; after several failures I switched to the super-basic Marzocchi 888 — and that fork took me the rest of the way through an awesome DH season, and it’s still going strong for one of my buddies. Simple can be good.)

Rock Shox Argyle – A modern, burly DJ fork that uses a 20mm thru axle. The guys at PUSH love these forks, and that’s all you need to know in terms of ride quality. Argyles are about a pound heavier than your DJ3. You are 44 and just getting into this type of riding; unless you are going big and sloppy, I doubt you need the extra burliness/stiffness of a full-on DJ fork.

Rock Shox Recon – A modern XC fork that uses a standard QR axle. An air-sprung Recon is almost a pound lighter than your DJ3. Probably a better choice for you than an Argyle.

What I think – If money is an issue, get your DJ3 serviced and rock it. If you decide to upgrade, go for a light XC fork with a standard QR hub. 1) You don’t have to buy a new wheel. 2) You probably DO NOT need the extra stiffness of a 20mm hub. Jared Graves races 4X on the same Fox F100 I run on my That XC fork is not holding Mr. Graves back. It’s certainly not holding me back either.


His Weirness on his own personal pump track. Rocking the Fox F100. Again: If he doesn’t need a 20mm thru axle, do you?

As you might expect me to say:

Given limited money and time, focus on your kung fu. That will gain you more than any new fork.

Whenever someone says they’re having trouble lifting their front end, it makes me think they’re trying to pull it up with their arms. While that’s the natural instinct, it just doesn’t work very well.

– To lift the entire bike off a jump, load into the lip and let Earth push you upward. Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

– To lift the front wheel for a drop or manual, shift your weight back. Lee’s Third Law of Braaap.

To sum it up

1) Run a standard-QR fork, and make sure it’s tuned for you.

2) Invest in your skills.

3) Have fun!

— Lee (40 this year)

Know more. Have more fun!

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10 replies
  1. Smooth and Tricky says:

    My bike of choice is a 2007 single-speed, Santa Cruz Chameleon as well. I started out with a 2003, 100-mm Marzocchi Marathon (coil) fork, and the bike never really felt right. Last year I switched to a 140-mm Fox Vanilla and it completely changed (for the better) how the bike felt and handled. The Chameleon is built around an assumed 140 to 165 mm fork, so I would recommend getting a fork with more travel and see if that works better for you.

  2. MW says:

    I ride a Chameleon as well and jumped on a freinds Black Market ( almost an inch shorter chain stay) what a difference it makes manualing! Then again I watched Nathan Rennie manual a 100 yards on his DH rig so its all about the fu!!

  3. lizard says:

    I’m 39 and into DJ for about 1 year. I’m also running a Chameleon with a Rockshox Pike coil front end. Love it! If your considering an upgrade, definitely get a 20mm thru. It may not be necessary, but I am sure it has saved me in some situations where I landed wrong. From a safety standpoint it also gives me piece of mind. The cool thing is I can use all 140mm travel when out trail riding and then drop it for jumping. Right now I am running it at 120mm for DJ but will probably try lowering it some more soon. The coil version is also reasonably priced comparatively. At 140mm the thing is a wheelie machine. A dedicated DJ frame probably manuals more easily. The Chameleon really does live up to its name. Cheers!

  4. Lou says:

    I have a medium chameleon single speed with Fox F 100 that I built up for pump track riding and general fun. I have ended up riding it on trails when the all mountain rig is over kill too. Great bike. Never tried it with a talas but that might be a good way of getting the best of both worlds. It seems to handle well with a firm 100mm Fox fork for me though. I really like the bike and it is not hard to lift the front end at all with a 32:18 gear ratio and 90mm stem.

  5. MW says:

    I know QR has worked for years ( I’m still rocking it) but so did V-brakes. I think the new Fox 15mm would be a sweet upgrade. Need it, no, want it sure.

  6. dan says:

    Pike set as low as it will go is my prefernce. Many experienced DJers refuse to ride any thing higher than 100mm. I know quite a few who have modified argyles to run 75-80mm. I got lazy and did not read the entire post, but I HIGHLY recommend a 20mm thru axle for jumping.

    Lizard lower your Pike it will change your life.

  7. Jay H says:

    The lower the better. I have an Azonic steel head single speed it has a 2009 fox vanilla 140 RLC. Lowering it to 100 is one the best decisions I ever made. The bike feels so much better, I thought the lower front would effect my ability to manuel but it had no effect in that area and just makes the thing pump so much better. I am even thinking about adding yet another spacer and getting an even shorter spring to take it down to 80.

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