Whisky Parts Co., 29er Fork (45mm offset)
Gear: Whisky Parts Co. Whisky 7 Bladed Carbon 29er Fork (45mm offset)
Cost: MSRP $345*
Use: XC, XXC, 100 mile and MTB racing, gravel riding & racing
Rider: Michael Seaman, xxcmag.com
Whisky Parts Co. is a new carbon products company located under the QBP umbrella. Currently they offer two rigid carbon 29er forks: a round tubed monocoque fork with a traditional crown and leg appearance, and a triangular legged, unicrown model. It was the unicrown fork that santa-in-a-brown-suit delivered the other day. I quickly cut the tapered carbon steerer tube to length and installed it on my aluminum Stumpjumper single-speed. The fork has a cool understated look, a simple matte finish with a subtle shadow graphic of the Whisky logo inside the fork legs and only a small diamond logo on each side near the top of the fork. It is a look that will go well with any bike, and is a nice change from some of the more colorful “Look at me!” graphics found on MTB products lately. Coincidentally this was being installed in place of Whisky’s round tubed, carbon fork.
Installing the fork went smoothly with the exception of the brake caliper. I am using a pair of the new XTR brakes on this bike, and they are designed to mount directly to the post attachment of the fork. As such, they are very sensitive to the facing on the surface of those posts. On this fork, the faces of these posts were not exactly parallel, which canted the caliper relative to the disc rotor. After some careful filing and fiddling, the caliper was straight, and the rest of the install went without a hitch. Brakes with wobbly washers would have bolted right on, no fiddling required.
Then it was to the local trail. Michigan trails are predominantly sandy and relatively smooth; this helps to explain the popularity of rigid forks on the local race scene. The Mid-Michigan Community College trail is an exception to this. A new trail that loops around a local school, the trail is extremely bumpy. The property was timbered off sometime in the past, then plowed and replanted with trees. The trail now bumps along through these ancient furrows. It has been the demise of several forks and shocks over the past three years–a perfect place to try out a new rigid carbon fork.
Right from the start, the Whisky fork was a winner. With an axle to crown of 480mm and 39mm of offset, the geometry of the fork is fairly standard, and as I swooped through the corners on the trail, the bike handled predictably and precisely. One of the advantages of a rigid fork is the precision of the steering. With no fork dive when braking and better torsional stiffness, the bike goes exactly where you point it. Whisky’s fork had these traits in spades. Wherever you point it, it goes. With slightly (15mm) more axle to crown than their other fork, the handling was identical to riding this frame with a 100mm suspension fork.
But the big question is always comfort. Rigid forks are light, simple and precise. But they are often brutal to ride, transmitting every trail irregularity directly to the rider. Eyeing the massive triangular fork blades and thick unicrown steerer tube junction, I was prepared for a bone-jarring, filling-loosening ride. But that wasn’t the case; whatever construction or layup was utilized gave the fork a lively, resilient ride. As I bounced along over stutter bumps, ruts, and roots, I couldn’t help but notice that this fork rode like a well-constructed steel fork, although with much lighter weight (577g claimed) and better dampened. Two laps later, my initial impressions were reinforced. Normally two hours is the upper limit for rides on my dual rigid single-speed, but this time I was contemplating another lap. Sadly I caved to the siren call of beer and tapas.
Since then, I have ridden the fork on several different local trails, all of them smoother than Mid-Michigan’s trail. Each time I am impressed. Whisky’s fork provides a fantastic ride, effectively combining comfort with precision, and rigidity with compliance. I don’t know if I am tough enough for a rigid 100 miler, but for anything short of that, this fork would be my first choice.
Lest this seem like a complete puff piece, I do have a couple of minor quibbles with the fork:
Brake post finishing. While I was able to hand file these into shape, it was a bit of a process. Other forks–including my other Whisky fork–bolted up with no filing required.
Mud clearance. Although we are in the midst of a huge drought, come Fall, it will rain. When that happens, I am concerned about the clearance between the tire and the forkblades. With a Specialized 2.2, tire there was only a 10mm gap–narrow enough to plug with the grass-mud glop typical of our autumn races.
Lack of forward facing dropouts. 29er wheels and modern hydraulic brakes create tremendous forces at the axle/dropout interface. Forward facing dropouts help to resist the rotational forces that want to pull the wheel out of the fork. Although the “lawyer-tabs” Whisky cast into the dropouts have a similar effect , having both would be nice.
All in all, the new Whisky fork is a terrific option for the 29er rider who is looking for a lightweight, rigid fork that provides just enough give to make longer trail rides comfortable, or for the gravel road rider who wants a simple, reliable fork for any distance.
xxcmag.com contributing editor Michael Seaman is an experienced endurance, XC, cross and road racer from central Michigan and our favorite cycling curmudgeon.
*Note: This fork was provided to xxcmag.com at no charge for review. xxcmag.com received no cash, bribes, or physical threats from Whisky Parts Co. for the review. Yes, we know that Whisky Parts Co. is an advertiser, it is this relationship that helped us get our grubby hands on the fork.