Review: my first four rides on the Trust Message fork
The internet has been exploding with news of the Trust Message linkage fork. I’ve been riding one! Here is a quick review.
Disclaimers: 1) Trust sent me the fork to try. 2) I like bikes a lot, and I use them to transcend consciousness. Any thing that helps me slip into a peak Flow state, I’m gonna like that thing.
Here are my initial impressions of riding the fork. If you want to read the technicalities, check out the Trust website and do a Google search for “Trust Message fork.”
This past weekend I did five rides at the Soquel Demonstration Forest in Santa Cruz. This is my favorite place to ride in the world, and I’ve been riding these trails since 1993. The Demo has a full mix of high speed smooth, high speed chatter, medium-phase bumpy, alarmingly tight, roots, braking bumps, drops, jumps, convolution, and all the other yumminess. The route was up the road, down Ridge, down Braille and up the road to the parking lot. I usually do this ride on an Enduro Coil.
The Trust Message fork went on my 2016 S-Works Stumpjumper. I’ve been riding this bike for three seasons on a range of trails, bike parks and even lift-served downhills. It’s a fantastic, versatile bike. It’s worn 27.5×3 tires, 29×2.3/2.5 tires and now 27.5×2.8 tires. The stock fork is a 150mm FOX 34 Factory. The shock is a FOX FLOAT Factory DPS with 135mm of travel. Brakes are XTR with 203/180mm rotors. This bike is built for business.
The Trust Message fork looks crazy. We installed it. It looked insane. Around my neighborhood it felt … uh … different. I packed the bike for a weekend of riding, but I brought the stock fork as a backup.
Forget what you think you know about front suspension. Just ride it. That’s the advice from the designer Dave Weagle. Once I got on my bike, I focused on riding and, of course, I wasn’t looking down at that crazy front end.
If you crave attention, this is the fork for you. Almost everyone we encountered asked about it. I, of course, got to be super cool and tell them about it.
My head angle is a degree steeper than before. This is because the 130mm Message has a 20mm shorter axle-to-crown distance than the 150mm 34. I rode a proper steep, gnarly trail, and the bike didn’t feel steeper, or sketchier, or any of that. That might seems surprising in this age of Go Slacker Bro, but the setup just plain worked.
The fork is very firm. Because the wheel doesn’t track along the steering axis, when you push down into the fork it barely compresses. This applies to climbing out of the saddle, loading for a hop and smashing into a turn. In these moments the fork feels like it has very little travel. Another way to put it: You have a very efficient, connected attachment to the ground.
Yet the fork is very plush. Here it gets interesting. The axle path is backward and upward. When you hit a bump, the fork is very responsive. I was riding a 130mm air fork on a trail I usually ride with a 160mm coil fork, and it felt smoother. Yes, smoother. Especially in the mid-sized, high speed chatter.
This conundrum — firm and plush with no apparent compromise — is a huge part of how the fork rides. We’re conditioned to either having plush or firm suspension, and we’ve always sought the sweet spot via damping. That’s been fine because bikes are rad, and the 34s and 36es of the world are really good.
But there’s this duality on the Trust fork. I was loading the bike in turns — efficiently as if I’m riding a FOX 831 or a Brain fork — yet the fork was tracking insanely well through the bumps. I was riding really fast, and it was easy, and it was natural.
A technical detail: The fork’s offset changes through the travel, so the trail (Weagle calls it “caster”) is the same whether you’re skimming along roots or plowing into corners. I was really tripping out on this. What does that feel like?
The separation of loading and tracking, the consistency of trail, the separation of the fork’s structure from the damping, the overall burliness of the fork, and the tune (plush off the top, generous through the middle and controlled at bottom) … these all create a unique riding experience.
Trust calls it the trust effect. I think they’re struggling to express, in words, a completely kinesthetic experience. We’re all riding great equipment. Yet we’ve become accustomed to a certain amount of inconsistency and sketchiness. I’m talking about forks catching on bumps, geometry changing dramatically when we hammer through rough sections, suspension becoming less effective when we load our bikes. This has all become normal. The Message is not normal.
Compared to the past … uh … 25 years I’ve been riding these trails, I found myself feeling more comfortable, looking farther ahead, braking less, jumping into and out of turns, and connecting shapes I’d never noticed. Saturday’s descent was the best I’ve ever done.
On Sunday I swapped bikes with Lars from Trail Head Cyclery. He rode my Trusty Stumpy. I rode his Yeti SB5 Lunch Ride. This bike has premium everything including a 160mm FOX 36 Factory fork with the RC2 damper — the best suspension money can buy, right? I’m running 2.8 Minion/Rekon. He’s running 2.8 Minion/Minion. I was curious to test the 36 back-to-back with the Message. The comparison:
Lars was carrying so much freakin’ speed it was insane. He wasn’t feeling fast, though. He said everything felt easy and controlled.
I was hauling ass too, but I was working harder. Lars usually outrides me on the straights and I catch him in the corners. On this day Lars was cornering so fast I was pedaling to catch up.
I felt the hugeness and depth of the 36, especially when taking bigger hucks to silly landings. That felt good. Confidence inspiring.
Yet the bike was … noisier. The front wheel was catching more in the bumps. The fork was collapsing into corners. I was feeling more buzz, and I was braking more often. I was having fun! Let’s not forget that. But the 36 and Message are different.
What’s negative about this fork?
Price is an issue for most riders. Retail is $2,700. There’s that.
At first, the fork feels unreceptive when hucked to flat. I think part of this is the relatively low travel. The other part is the axle path: It’s optimized for bumps, not for falling out of the sky. That said, by my third ride I was hitting all of the line options with impunity. Keep in mind I was riding a 27-lb 130/135mm air-sprung bike instead of my normal 35-lb 160/165mm coil sprung bike. I’m not sure what adjustment I made in my riding style, but I made it. If you have low skills and yet you need to go huge, you might prefer the squoosh of a premium telescopic fork like the 36.
Going huge bro! Lars got full travel:
Suddenly my rear shock sucks. Well it doesn’t really suck. It’s very nice. But it wasn’t keeping up with the fork. I’ve already installed another spacer in the air can, and that’s helping. The next step is to upgrade the shock, or to step up to the 2019 Stumpy. Damnit! I love this bike! But the Trust is outperforming it.
I left with Message with Lars for a couple weeks. We’ll hear from him soon, and I’ll keep reporting as I ride the fork more.
Have fun out there,
Thank you for a fantastic write up. You succeeded in explaining the differences in comparison to traditional telescopic forks. Very informative and helpful.
Thank you Vance.
Nice initial review by someone I know and “Trust”!
To me the thing that falls short, more so than the travel, is the A/C.
I assume you’d of rather thrown it on the Enduro?
The A/C is indeed 20mm lower than stock, yet the bike is riding fine. I don’t notice the difference. That might be because this fork uses travel differently than a telescopic fork.
When Trust makes a longer-travel fork (and it seems like they would, right?), I’d love to put that on my Enduro!!
Thanks for this, Lee. This is an excellent preliminary review, I’ve heard much the same from some others, and when the sales are sufficient to justify a cost-reduced version I’ll surely try one … but $2700?? That’s more than I paid for my Canyon Spectral, or for my good used Subaru Outback. Sounds great for good all-mountain riders who are also retired venture capitalists! Regards, …
Ride one and you will probabably sell your kidney to get one…they are that awesome
Nice review Lee! I’m curious to try one of these, they sure look interesting! How did torsional stiffness feel compared to the 34 and 36?
It seems to be stiffer than both.
Nice and very helpful write up for us mere mortals who probably would never come close to such an interesting piece of engineering. This is as close as we can get to imagining riding the Trust.
very insightful write up thanks.
any further updates or insights from your riding time over the holidays?
If you were building a bike today would this be on your wish list?
I’ve been toying with the idea of putting this on a santa cruz high ball.
Currently running a fox 32 which is flexes a lot and frankly sucks under hard braking.
I was thinking that this fork might make that bike a lot more fun.
of course for the cost I could just buy a new frame
I haven’t ridden over the holidays, but I rode the hell out of this fork before that, and it was fantastic.
Yes, this fork is on my wish list. As a matter of fact, I’m inclined to build a bike around it.
In the next week or so I’ll be trying the fork on a hardtail (Specialized Fuse). I’m excited to see how it feels. My guess is the firmness when loading will match the rear end really well, and the plushness in the bumps will be next level.
I appreciate the quick response!
It will be interesting to see what you think of the fuse.
I was thinking this fork may be a perfect application for a hardtail.
I look forward to you next blog posting, thanks for sharing the stoke for all things mountain biking.
Great write up! I have one question for ya and it might just be an illusion due to the odd angle that the fork legs come out at but by chance did you measure your wheelbase before and after install?
Just curious because it looks like the Message adds some length to the wheelbase.
The fork looks funky, but it doesn’t change the wheelbase.
Awesome! Thanks for the quick reply.
Lee…you also have great review writing skills. maybe yur too busy to do reviews for pinkbike…but they could benefit from your perspective/writing style.
Yeah, the fork seems awesome, but with that linkage design and a $2000+ price tag I would hope the manufacturer replaces bearings no charge. You rode a newish fork.
I wonder how the torsional flex would feel after 2 years. So do a review of a Message thats been actually ridden steady for a couple seasons. I’ve found that after 2 years a rear suspension or fork give me a different impression than a demo or someone’s newish rig.
did you like this fork on the Specialized Fuse?
Or have your expectations for this fork crashed like some other reviewers out there?
I just rode my Fuse .. and I LOVE this fork on it.
There’s a bad review out there. I do not share that writer’s experience.
so did you notice the difference in Axel to crown length from the original fuse fork to this fork?
I think the stock fork was 120mm
The bike feels very, very good like this. Stable, snappy, fun.
I was riding the Soquel Demonstration Forest, which I usually ride on an Enduro or Stumpjumper, at full attack and high speed. I’m judging speed not by perception, which is high on a hardtail, but by the fact I was following/leading fast local riders.
takes some skill to ride demo fast. Certainly beyond my abilities.
It also takes skill to do it on a hardtail.
I’ve lived in the area since 89.
When I’m in shape I like to ride up from soquel and do the flow trail loop.
Makes for a long ride. It would be good to have an E-bike on those days.
Unfortunately it will be awhile before I get to do demo again.
I’m moving to Longmont CO
thanks for sharing your experience.
I hope you have fun riding demo.
For those concerned by the 20mm shorter A/C, if the steerer tube is cut long enough, you can add a 20mm extended headset race to bring the head tube back up to it’s normal position. They can be had cheap in any length from 5mm to 25mm from MTBTools on e-bay. I use one to bring my bb back up to where it should be when I switch from 29 to 27.5 x 2.8.
Brilliant. Thank you.
hey Lee, great write up. it will be interesting to see how these evolve and hit the market. maybe change the market even.
2.8 tires seem to have fallen out of favour to some degree. i gather they aren’t slowing you down any! why do you choose to run them on this bike and is there any drawbacks in your experience.
Upsides of 2.8es: Traction. A bit more plushness (my shoulders have no cartilage). It feels more quick and precise than 3.0s.
Downside: It feels very slow on pavement.
I don’t understand why the big tires fell out of favor so quickly. I also dig the Minion 2.6es on my Fuse. The difference in size is marginal.
This was a good review to read. I’m interested in this fork however it would replace a new Fox 36 (150 travel) on either a SB130 or Evil Offering. Trust says the longest application should be 140 so it’s interesting that you were ok with this fork given you ride a 150 as well. I’m not sure I’m willing to go down on the travel AND spend $2700.
I’m thinking pairing this fork with a Evil Offering (OEM 140 fork) would be about perfect and a little stretch for the SB130 (OEM 150 fork)…
My buddy Lars, who owns Trail Head Cyclery in Cupertino, CA, replaced the 160mm FOX 36 on his Yeti SB5 Lunch Ride with this fork, and he is stoked.
I think it would be killer on the Evil. I think, too, that the Evil’s axle path will be a good match.
It will be interesting to get your longer term review.
There have been a couple of bad reviews of this product so it seems that it is not just the 2700$ that some riders don’t like.
I was really hoping this would work for a Santa Cruz Highball that I have that currently has a Fox32 110mm fork but with very limited chances to demo the equipment it is pretty hard to want to spend the money.
I realize that reviews are not everything but the trifecta of bad reviews + Cost + lack of demo makes this pretty much a non-starter purchase. At least until a good demo can be had.
Regarding bad reviews: It seems that tuning can be an issue. I talked to Trust, and they told me to 1) run the air pressure at body weight and 2) to reduce the amount of compression damping. The fork is feeling good.
Excellent review, I often get bored reading them, especially the wanderingly wordy ones, but yours held my attention from beginning to end, in fact I teared up a bit when I realized it was all over – lol
So I’m thinking of trying one either on my 27.5+ Switchblade or on a new 27.5″ Revel Rascal, I’m just not sure I’d see much improvement switching bikes, though I AM very close to purchasing a Message, I’m wondering if the new Shout might not be the better idea, then I could lose the 20mm bottom headset spacer and still end up relaxing the 67.25° head angle a bit.
I’ve been riding a Shout since before it was available to the public, and it is DAMN GOOD. 178mm of travel with a very plush/accepting/forgiving tune. It’s a completely different animal from the Message — if your bike is made for a 150-180mm fork, the Shout is the way to go.
Just picked me up used shout on pinkbike for 1100$ cant wait to rip it.
Sweet!! I’ve been on the Shout for 6 months. It is so good!
Lee, Can you do an updated review now that you’ve been on the Shout for a few months? You review of the message was awesome and the way you described how the fork felt was spot on to what I was thinking.
BTW- I have a Shout and love it, but I’m also a newb and would love to hear more from a seasoned veteran.
Great timing. I’m working on my long term review. I have almost 1.5 years on the Message and ~6 months on the Shout.
No sense waiting.
The Shout does all the things the Message does, just bigger and better. It’s smoother and handles roughness way better. Cornering is still next level.
I think we’re about the same height and weight 5’9″ 180 ready to ride. Any advice on setup? Do you recall spacers or PSI?
I suggest stock spacers and follow the setup guide, then go from there.