Hi Lee, I have a question that maybe you can answer.
My lighter bike has 4 inches of travel (older Duke Race fork), radially laced front wheel and a 5mm skewer to connect these. Sometimes I feel that the front end is quite flexible, at least in comparison to Revelation+3x laced wheel+9mm skewer. It is when I need the front to be as stiff as possible when I discover the flex – on rocky switchbacks and descents.
My theory is that the radially-laced wheel is the most flexible part of the equation, while 30mm Duke’s stanchions are the second. However, given a choice of replacing either wheel set or the fork, I am not sure what should be the best investment to start with.
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Assuming your bike is in good shape, here’s where the flex comes from, biggest source first:
1. Your quick release. These things are super flexy!
2. Your fork. XC forks tend to be noodles. You don’t really notice until you ride a burlier fork.
3. Your wheel. This is a distant third. A radial-laced wheel is actually stiffer than a 2X or 3X. Radial spokes are shorter, and they pull straight rather than at angles. Less flex, slightly harsher ride.
4. I don’t know what you’re riding, but XC frames have a lot of flex too. The difference between, say an Enduro, Stumpjumper and Epic is very noticeable.
Add the other components — stem, bars, cranks, etc. — and you get an entire system that flexes quite a bit. Flex is an inherent part of your bike’s handling, and this flex is engineered to fit the riding style of the bike. Cruisy XC bikes are flexier than, say, 4X hardtails. You can rock a stiffer fork with a through-axle, but that will jack with the overall feel of your bike.
It sounds like you also have a bigger (AM, freeride, DH) bike. I say leave your XC bike alone. Ride it the way it’s meant to be ridden, and get used to it.
– Lay off the brakes in rocks. Slow down BEFORE the garden.
– Keep your hands light, and lean your bike into turns. Let the geometry do its thing. Don’t fight it!
– Pump the terrain. You’ll get a lot less deflection.