The RS-1 with 120mm of travel on an Ibis Tranny 29.

The RS-1 with 120mm of travel on an Ibis Tranny 29.​

The Lowdown: RockShox RS-1 suspension fork

It's expensive, proprietary, and hard to mount a front wheel onto, but based purely on performance, no other XC-oriented fork I've ridden can match the RockShox RS-1. Featuring an inverted design and new Accelerator Damper, the RS-1 is exceptionally sensitive and active, swallowing up bumps that other suspension forks don't even bother with, and its steering precision is as sharp and immediate as any rigid carbon fork. But is the performance gain of the RS-1 over a traditional fork worth the $2,000-plus price of admission? Only your wallet knows for sure.

Travel Options: 80mm, 100mm, 120mmStanchion Diameter: 32mm
Wheel size: 29-inchMaximum Rotor Size: 200mm
Weight: 3.67 pounds (1,666 grams)Fork Offset: 46mm, 51mm
Lockout: XLoc hydraulic remoteMSRP: $1865, plus $238 for Predictive Steering hub
Steerer: Tapered CarbonRating:
4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4 Chilis-out-of-5
Crown: Carbon
Stat Box


Pluses

Minuses
  • Outstanding small bump compliance
  • Expensive
  • Razor sharp steering precision
  • Proprietary hub adds additional cost
  • Incredibly stiff cornering performance
  • Heavier than expected
  • Suited for both the XC race circuit and rowdy
  • Front wheel installation
    backcountry trails
  • Not compatible with a fork mount bike rack
  • Inverted design offers better seal lubrication and stiffness

Update: April 9, 2015 - Now available in 27.5 wheel size and in white color

For 2015 the RS-1 family grows with the addition of a 27.5 model, and a new Gloss White color option.
  • Dedicated 27.5" model with 42mm offset chassis in 100 and 120mm travel options
  • 29" and 27.5" version both get new color option: Gloss White

Rockshox RS-1 is now available in  gloss white color. 27.5 wheel size is available too.

Rockshox RS-1 is now available in gloss white color. 27.5 wheel size is available too.​

Full Review: RockShox RS-1 suspension fork

Well here we go again, reviewing a product that many will think is outrageously priced: MSRP is $1865 plus another $238 for the proprietary Predictive Steering hub exclusive to the RockShox RS-1. Reactions of people to the RS-1 have filled the gamut of human emotion. Some are slack jawed, drooling all over themselves. Some are dismissive, pooh-poohing it as another needless innovation. Some are completely oblivious (my favorite reaction). And some are seriously insulted at the mere suggestion of a suspension fork system that costs north of $2,000.

The RS-1 looks as impressive as it performs.

The RS-1 looks as impressive as it performs.​

It's obvious the RS-1 is prohibitively expensive for most people. But considering some people wouldn't hesitate to drop two grand on a blingy carbon fiber wheelset, maybe the RS-1 isn't as outrageously priced as some think. The RS-1 was designed to be a no-expense-spared fork that displays RockShox's innovative evolution since it first debuted in 1989. An engineering-driven project that helps establish new technologies, that hopefully will eventually work their way down to suspension products Joe Consumer can actually afford. Just like automotive manufacturers who develop engine and suspension technologies for Formula One, those prohibitively expensive innovations eventually find their way into the cars we drive to the grocery store.

RockShox RS-1 Logo RockShox RS-1 Field

The brake cable mounts on the RS-1 are cleverly executed (left). The RS-1 is equally capable as an all-mountain fork and an XC-oriented race fork (right). Photo by James Adamson - dropmedia.tv

Continue to page 2 for more of this story and full photo gallery »



Let's get to the second most common question about the RS-1: How does it ride? Well, any fork that delivers the plushness of a Pike, the razor sharp steering precision of a rigid carbon fork, and an inverted suspension design with a monocoque carbon fiber crown, legs and steerer tube is going to ride as you would expect - damn nice. Performance-wise, this fork completely kicks ass, as it should considering the price. But at 3.67 pounds, the RS-1 is not the lightest suspension fork out there, something you'd think would be a no-brainer considering the cost.

Some fear the exposed lowers are susceptible to rock chips, but this hasn't been the case so far.

Some fear the exposed lowers are susceptible to rock chips, but we had no incidents.​

Because of its inverted 32mm stanchion design that emulates motorcycle suspension, the RS-1 is especially adept at neutralizing smaller, more sensitive bumps, and allegedly delivers better traction (which I can't say I noticed). It also has the advantage of better seal lubrication thanks to gravity and lower bushing placement for improved stiffness. But because of its inverted design, some may worry over the potential for rock strikes on the stanchions. Considering nearly every traditional suspension fork I've ever owned has rock chips on the stanchions, Murphy's Law states that I'll probably never suffer a chipped stanchion on the RS-1. I haven't yet.

RockShox RS-1 Commute
 
The RS-1 easily handled even the rowdiest sections of a 420-mile journey from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco - Photo Credit: James Adamson - dropmedia.tv

The astute consumer probably realizes that the RS-1 was not made for the hard charging, abusive, backcountry, service-once-a-decade type rider. It was designed for the World Cup racing circuit, and we all know how sanitized those courses can be. But it's nice to know that the RS-1 is capable enough to handle as much chunky, hearty wholesome gnar as you can to throw its way.

The first ride I did on the RS-1 was on The Commute, a weeklong, 420-mile mountain bike adventure between Lake Tahoe and San Francisco with nearly 60,000 feet of descending. The 120mm travel RS-1 on my Ibis Tranny 29 singlespeed easily handled even the rowdiest sections of Hole in the Ground and Western States, trails most people reserve for full-suspension rigs. And on big steep uphills, having the lockout button at thumb's reach gave the RS-1 efficient climbing capability like a rigid carbon fork.

The only niggles I have with this marvel of engineering are related to wheel mounting. The hub standard is proprietary, so at least for the moment you're stuck running a SRAM or DT Swiss PS hub using its special 27mm Torque Tube axle design with a 15mm skewer. Not a total deal breaker, as without the PS design, the RS-1 would not be possible. But I prefer wheelsets to be compatible across my entire fleet of mountain bikes (which is currently two). Since I'm a converted carbon wide rim guy, I'll have to build a dedicated wheel for the RS-1. That's a pain in the ass.

The Predictive Steering hub is proprietary and an additional cost.

The Predictive Steering hub is proprietary and adds cost.​

Front wheel mounting is also no walk in the park. Because a brake arch does not attach both fork legs, they twist and wander. You have to perfectly align the legs to fit the disc rotor and hub, and even the slightest cross-breeze sends the fork legs wandering. After several frustrating attempts at getting the wheel in, I finally figured out a strategy that made mounting the wheel marginally less frustrating. I don't usually get many front flats, so taking on and off the front wheel is probably not a big deal anyway. But if you have a fork mounted bike rack, you'll be needing to buy a new rack system, as the RS-1 doesn't mount up to a 15mm thru axle adapter.

Mounting the front wheel on the RS-1 can be a pain.

Mounting the front wheel on the RS-1 can be a pain.​

In summary, if I was going to explain the characteristics of the RS-1 in a single sentence, it would go like this: The RS-1 features the lightness of a SID, the plushness of a Pike, the steering precision of a rigid carbon fork, and the expense of all three. Oh, and it's a proprietary pain in the ass. Okay, two sentences. I've never been good at economizing.

There is no denying the unique inverted look of the RS-1.

There is no denying the unique inverted look of the RS-1.​

So would I buy one? Not by itself. It's just too expensive and a headache to deal with. The RS-1 performs stellar; without question the highest performance XC-oriented suspension fork I've ever ridden. But at least for me, its performance gain over a traditional fork doesn't justify the additional price and inconvenience. That's not to say I wouldn't consider one if it were already equipped on a new or slightly used bike. A complete slightly used bike with the RS-1 for around $5,000 is a much more attractive proposition than $2,100 for just a fork and hub. It's all about that bundle pricing.

For more information visit www.sram.com/rockshox.