In depth post #2: buying a fork in my pajamas


I’ve now bought my frame, and it’s time to start throwing parts onto it. The road to completing my bike is going to get progressively harder from here, since now I have to be concerned with making sure that every single part on my bike will work well with the others. If one part is a different size, it will be like throwing a gorilla into what used to be a civilized and productive work space. The end result: an extreme loss in efficiency and many, many, rustled jimmies. To prevent this, I will have to investigate the dimensions of each individual part, and compare them to ensure that my bike fit together properly.

I’m going to start by buying the biggest, generally speaking most essential parts of my bike. These will be the ones that will make it rideable, just not fine-tuned. The first part to buy is the fork. The fork is not used for eating, if it was, you would get oil all over your food. The fork is what many ill-informed people would call the “shocks”. It’s the piece on the front of your bike that attaches to your frame and wheel, it is also connected indirectly to your bars. The fork is one of the pieces that will take a massive beating, which is why it’s solely designed to do just that. On a mountain bike, the fork has a hydraulic or air based suspension system, which is used to absorb impacts as you ride over rocks, roots, and other obstacles. On many other bikes, such as road and BMX, the fork has no suspension, so it’s just made to hold to wheel on, not to be taken over rock filled trails.

Mountain bikers can generally choose between two standard types of forks, single crown or dual crown. The crown is the piece that holds your fork to the frame, and holds the two stanchions together. Stanchions are the metal rods that move through the fork “lowers”, these two pieces move together and apart to create a suspension system. A single crown fork will only have one crown, which is located at the bottom of the head tube. This means that the stanchions can only extend to where the crown is. Because of this, the fork isn’t as sturdy, which means the suspension cannot travel as far, or else it would risk snapping. A dual crown for has on crown on the bottom of the head tube and one on top, which allows the stanchions to extend to the top of the head tube. Because of this extra support, dual crown forks can have more travel in the stanchions. However, they are much heavier, and because the stanchions extend up the sides of your frame, you cannot turn as sharply since the stanchions hit the side of the frame and block you. For downhill riding, dual crown forks tend to be preferable. For all mountain, single crown forks are more popular.

Within these two categories of forks, there are a few variations that can improve performance and reduce weight. A very common one is called a totem fork; a single crown fork with thicker stanchions. These thicker stanchions allow the fork to have nearly as much travel as a dual crown, while still retaining the full turning capability. However, they do add a significant amount of weight. Another variation of the single crown fork is the lefty fork, where there is only one stanchion on the left hand side. These forks are produced by Cannondale, and they reduce the weight of the fork by a significant amount. However, this ends up with them being less sturdy, and they are often the punch-line of some terrible jokes. Possibly one of the best fork variations is the Manitou Dorado. Manitou is one of the fork making giants, and they are often considered to produce some of the best quality forks today. The Dorado is no exception. The Dorado concept is simple enough, it follows the standard dual crown shape. However, the stanchions on the bottom of the fork, protected by two bash guards. Having the stanchions on the bottom can be much better, since instead of the oil pooling at the bottom of the fork, it is sitting right next to the stanchions. These means that when the stanchions are compressed, they get properly greased each time so that they can slide smoother. However, the Dorado is expensive, so I’m not getting one just yet.

Because this fork is so important (and expensive), I decided to make it my first priority piece to buy. Usually, a new dual crown fork would cost around $1000-$1500, and used forks tend to cost around $400-$500. However, I was going to try to find one for $300 or less. But the first thing to do would be to decide what dual crown fork I wanted. After some searching, I narrowed my results down to the Boxxer Team, which is the highest end coil fork (spring-loaded not air), or the marzochi 888, which is cheaper and more durable, but heavier. I was eventually able to track down a guy on Pink Bike who was selling a Boxxer World Cup for $300, which is the air version of the team. After contacting him and arranging a date, I was set to go buy. At least until he messaged me saying he sold it to a friend. Needless to say, my jimmies were rustled. I also had the exact same experience when trying to buy a marzochi 888 and an uncut answer protaper handlebar. Both of these had great deals on them, but the sellers bailed out at the last second. From this, I have learned that internet salespeople are incredibly flaky, and never to be trusted. However, I need to just keep trying, and eventually I’ll be able to find someone who is actually willing to sell.


Mentor questions:

  1. What learning challenges emerged?

Last week I went out to my mentors, Troy, shop to check out my own bike, and do some work around his shop. Everything seemed okay when I first got there, but within around an hour I realized that the whole thing wasn’t working out all that well. Troy was not able to stay the entire time, so he left me with some tasks to complete. They all seemed simple enough: put the chain back on an exercise bike, clean this old bike and take the brakes off, and put this bike rear wheel and derailleur back on. I knew how to do all of these tasks, so it seemed simple enough. However, after removing the cover from the exercise bike (which was a task on its own), I discovered that the chain falling off was the least of my concerns. The entire bottom bracket had come off, which meant I had to replace it. Bottom brackets are not something I have ever worked with, and this one was a weird bottom bracket as well. After fixing it with the help of some other employees, I moved on the cleaning the old bike. This task was simple, and I completed it quickly. Putting the back wheel and derailleur back on the other bike was harder, since it was an odd shifting system that I had never seen before, and once again I had next to no idea what to do. By the time I got the wheel half on, it was late and I needed to leave. I hold myself slightly accountable for these issues, since I should have checked out the tasks beforehand, but I don’t believe it was entirely my fault, which brings me to the next question.

2.   What logical challenges affected your communication?

There is only one challenge that affected communication, and it is a very simple one. Troy was a rather unorganized with getting together with me to do some work, and he ended up bringing me in on a day where he really didn’t have any time. Instead he ended up having to leave around a half hour to an hour in, which left me completely to my own devices. This completely severed any means of communication, and I was left with a nearly impossible task and one that was extremely confusing, and my mentor was not there to, well, mentor me. Because he had to leave, we could not interact or communicate.

3.   What three strategies could improve your mentoring interactions?

I believe that to improve my mentoring interactions, I must communicate with Troy beforehand to make sure that he is completely available on the day that I come in. That way, I can ensure that there will be no interruptions or mishaps that will cause my mentoring experience to fall apart. I will also arrange with Troy before I come in on some things that I can do, to ensure that I do not get stuck with tasks that are far beyond my level. If I do this, it will ensure that I am doing and learning the right things, instead of just making mistakes until I get it right. For my third strategy, I am also considering keeping Troy as a mentor, but getting a second one as well. That way I will have more options for places to go, and I can ensure that I will have someone to go to if I need any help.


One thought on “In depth post #2: buying a fork in my pajamas”

  1. Thank you for taking us through all the important parts and purposes of the “fork.” You are very good at explaining it to someone who knows very little about the parts of the bike, even though she learned how to ride one at a very young age and used it daily to get to school. You are also very insightful and realistic about your recent mentoring interactions and what you can change for next time. I look forward to learning about the next bike part.

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