Best rigid 29er fork

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Review: CarbonCycles eXotic rigid carbon fork breathes new life into a classic lightweight mountain bike

Chalk this one up, not to new tech, but rather to the almost limitless options available on the internet in a mature cycling industry that’s been cranking out carbon forks for decades. Earlier this spring I gave new life to a bike I’ve ridden and loved for a long time – ditching a mm fork, for this CarbonCycles eXotic rigid carbon fork – shedding almost two pounds in the process and opening up new monstercross, insanely wide dropbar off-road adventures…

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon rigid 29er fork

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

So what’s so special about this eXotic carbon rigid fork? Probably not a huge amount at first glance. But it is worth a closer look. The design & construction is pretty much standard catalog fare that you could find in the mountain bike industry for several years now: forged alloy dropouts and one-piece crown are connected by a couple of bonded-in 34mm diameter 3K-weave round carbon tubes, and finished off with a alloy steerer tube. None of that is revolutionary, nothing high tech, and there are surely lighter & stiffer methods of construction if that’s what you are going for. But its a EN/DIN tested fork that’s easy to get ahold of in either Europe or North America. And it is exactly what I was looking for.

Fitting a rigid fork to a classic mountain bike – Selection & Tech details

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

What I was actually looking for were the specs. Lets’s start with the Moots Mooto-X YBB cross-country mountain bike that I built up in From its origins, this was a bike to run either with a Rohloff or singles speed hub in the back, depending on my trail riding mood. With the undeniable ride of American titanium, this has always been a bike that I imagined would outlast any components I put on it. And it was time to ditch the mm XC fork that had been on it since day one, and shed some weight for a new outlook on life.

So, I needed a mm axle-to-crown length so I could drop it in without altering my geometry – replacing the mm fork that sat at mm with sag. I needed a straight 1 1/8″ steerer & disc brake tab to fit my year-old Moots. I wanted mm QR dropouts so I could use existing wheels. And even though I was looking to save weight & complexity over the old RockShox Reba SL fork, I wasn’t looking to spend many hundreds of dollars/euros in the process.

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of options that really fit what I was looking for. For some time I picked over the internet, but wasn’t even super happy with what I found. But then comes CarbonCycles that has 75 forks on offer (55 in carbon) in tons of different, mostly off-road configurations. Their basic online Fork Selector tool let me pick the key attributes I was looking for (I started with length, then steerer size). And it spit out this affordable option…

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

The selector picked the very romantically named F0E90 fork with a mm a-c length & 42mm offset. (There’s also an alloy-legged version with the same crown & dropouts, and a carbon one with a 15mm thru-axle.) Plus, without a fork brace, tire clearance became huge. There’s plenty of extra space beyond the biggest 29 x ″ tire I’m ever likely to put on this bike (that ″ was essentially the max for the old Reba, but now I get more more room.)

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

Beyond the fork itself, UK-based online retailer CarbonCycles & their sister brand DiscoBrakes (who also have US warehousing & delivery) sell a number of other accessories – like these eXotic 4D carbon bottle cages (which held bottles surprisingly well on the trail, so far), carbon top cap & spacers, plus new mechanical brake cables & Avid mechanical replacement pads that all got replaced when I decided to install this new rigid fork.

eXotic carbon fork – Actual weight & weight savings

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

The result is this glossy $ / € eXotic Carbon Rigid MTB fork that weighs g (just 4g over claimed weight). That’s almost half the weight of the g Reba SL fork that had been on the bike since Matching specs with what I was looking for, it was a trouble free swap. The only spec I wasn’t % sure of was how the 42mm offset would compare to the Reba’s 46mm. But I deemed it close enough to try (it lengthened my trail by 4mm in the end.)

So, how does it actually ride?

Review: Riding impressions on the eXotic carbon fork

Well, you could have already spotted the CarbonCycles fork & bike a month back as it has been the platform I’ve been riding to test out the monstrously 75cm wide Curve Walmer flared dropbar. For the past few pandemic months, I have been riding the now more rigid Moots (it’s a YBB so there’s 30mm or travel in the back) in three modes: monster gravel bike, XC singletrack bike, and slow-speed trail riding with my small kids. In every mode it has felt like a real upgrade over the suspension fork which never felt super necessary for these types of riding.

The titanium bike is a singlespeed, so it was already decently lightweight. But dropping g off the front end with the swap to new rigid fork made the ride feel especially lively. With the relatively large volume (for cross-country) of the recent ″ Hutchinson Kraken tires, I still have plenty of room to work with lower tire pressure to take a bit of the edge off of most trails. So, I’ve never really missed the suspension fork since its been gone.

I have piloted the new fork through a few rock gardens and into some rooty sections of trails, and it seems to handle at least as precisely as the Reba before it. Watching carefully through washboards or stutter bumps, I can see a bit of the fore-aft flex of the fork. But never have I had the sense of any compromising flex by the time it makes it to the handlebar, suggesting that the carbon legs are likely doing a bit of damping.

CarbonCycles eXotic carbon fork, aftermarket affordable lightweight rigid 29er mountain bike fork

All that said, this is a budget rigid carbon fork, and I’m unlikely to ever put it through any high-speed technical enduro paces. There are plenty of more appropriate full-suspension mountain bikes for that.

What this fork has done, is breathe some welcome fresh new life into a classic mountain bike that I’ve ridden for 15 years, and that I feel re-energized to ride for a long time to come. At a time when it’s become increasingly difficult to even try to replace an old high-end suspension fork with something on par with its original performance, the rigid eXotic carbon fork makes the Moots feel fast & sprightly once again. And it helps remind me how fun this bike is to ride.


You Should Ride a Rigid Fork

If you are a pro, you ride the fastest thing you can get. If you aren’t, then you can ride anything
that suits you.” – Keith Bontrager*

Sideways Glance

It always starts with a sideways glance. “WTF” plainly communicated with the incredulous lifting of an eyebrow. Most folks leave it at that. Some don’t. Often enough I hear “I used to ride a rigid fork, I’m glad those days are over.”

Oh yeah, how long ago was that? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that last rigid bike had a stem longer than mm, bars narrower than mm, a head angle steeper than most road bikes are running these days, and a pair of ″ or smaller tires. Panaracer Smoke & Dart combo? Maybe some Scratch-and-Sniffs? WTB Velociraptors?

Bikes have improved in a lot of ways since the late 80’s and early 90’s. Yes, suspension is amazing now. But don’t forget about Geometry. Tires. Disk Brakes. Dropper Posts.

Rigid Fork . Phil Rohrer

Wide Rims; Mean Tires; Dropper Post; Wide Bars; Disk Brakes… something’s missing? Stooge Cycles designs ‘modern’ rigid bikes that can be run geared or single speed. Photo: Phil Rohrer

There are hundreds of different examples to highlight the progression but one of my favourites is Rocky Mountain’s Element lineup. You can trace its history bike by bike all the way back to right here on their website.

The Element name-plate still serves exactly the same role it had twenty years ago. Depending on the build it’s a short travel trail bike you can race or an XC race bike you can ride anywhere your skill set allows.

The point being that no one would pit a Element T.O.  against a in a single track cage match. The same applies when thinking about rigid bikes.

Rigid Fork

They were built to serve the same purpose but no one is going to pit a Element T.O. against a in a single track cage match. Rocky Mountain.


Wait, is that a double-hardtail?” – Anonymous Rider on Mt Seymour

I’ve been accused of being a glutton for punishment, a whimsical traveler longing for a simpler time I don’t remember, and even of simply being contrary. It’s all true.

While I’ve owned and ridden a fair number of rigid bikes on the North Shore since the early two thousands, I’ve almost never ridden a rigid bike exclusively. At least not for any length of time. I’ve always owned a full suspension bike as well and generally also a suspension fork for whatever bike I run rigid.

Rigid Fork

Two of my former flames. Over time my tires have grown bigger, my stems shorter, my bars wider and higher, and I’ve moved to running dropper posts on all my bikes. I’ve also spent time on suspension forks on almost all the bikes I’ve run rigid.

My point is that I’m confident I can isolate different advances in bikes over that period of time and state unequivocally that suspension performance has progressed exponentially and so has everything else.

I can ride the Intense Primer or Santa Cruz Nomad on a technical descent one day. And have fun. And then next day I can ride a rigid bike on the same technical descent, albeit slower. And have fun. Thanks to geometry, tires, and brakes, it isn’t a matter of life-and-death but simply relative speed and comfort.


Suspension rigs come by the dozen
That ain’t nothin’ but bike store lovin’
Rigid little thing, let me grip your handle
‘Cause mama it’s sure hard to pedal, now, hits the ground” ~Otis Redding**

Riding is believing. On my local trails saying there has been a hardtail resurgence is an understatement. On some level riding a ‘modern’ hardtail is glorious and exactly the same thing is true of a rigid fork.

It’s Simple. De-stressing. Lower maintenance. Cheaper. Direct. Skin-to-Skin.

Trade-offs? Less speed, less comfort, less saving-you-from-yourself factor.

Rigid Fork

Less-Tech not Low-Tech. Disks, Dropper, and Slack Geo as the Carver meets the trees. Yes, the Garmin is ironic***. Photo: Michael Cassibry

Curious? For anyone who has an aggressive 26″ or 27″ hardtail, a rigid fork is a relatively cheap thing to try. The ground-to-crown height of a mm travel fork + 27″ wheel with sag is approximately the same as a 29’er rigid fork adjusted to mm travel and a 29″ wheel.

Running either 27+, 29″, or 29+ is recommended when you run a rigid fork. Surly is a good place to start your fork search for a combination of moderately stiff under braking, well priced and with a relatively compliant ride.

Rigid Fork

My personal rigid-rig is a stock 27″ Kona Explosif with a 29’er Waltworks rigid fork and 29+ wheel which matches the stock geo with a 27″ wheel and a mm fork.

Rigid Fork; Rigid Trails

There are a lot of places in North America, and I’m sure all over the world, where rigid forks aren’t strange on mountain bikes. To generalize they are locations where riders measure rides in distance instead of time. Niner sells a ton of carbon frame and rigid fork combos and I know plenty of people with sublb rigid bikes happily ripping around on XC rubber.

At the risk of being discourteous, I’m not talking to those folks. I’m talking to guy with the Honzo, Chromag, Ragley, or similar.

VolkerTi frame. 66° head tube angle. 29 x 3" rubber on custom carbon rims. Photo: Vince Delaughder" src="/media/original_images/Rigid-NSMB-AndrewM-VDjpgw" alt="Rigid Fork" data-recalc-dims="1" />

Ride ’em anywhere rigid bikes. Volker Ti frame. 66° head tube angle. 29 x 3″ rubber on custom carbon rims. Photo: Vince Delaughder

Install a rigid fork and go ride it like you didn’t. Hell, go on a regular group ride. The group will wait. The group will laugh. The group will be surprised how much you ride. Most likely none of them will be convinced to try it.

At the end of the ride there will be unfamiliar soreness. There’ll be thoughts about tire pressure and bar stiffness. Frame material! There will be a sense of how quickly a rigid bike, even a slack one, responds to inputs.

Braking is surprisingly good even with the reduced traction from a lack of suspension.

Rigid Fork

Don’t shirk; go ride the rigid fork wherever a hardtail normally takes you.

It is generally not a question of keeping up to riders with suspension. Some days it takes everything just to hang on the back; on slower more technical trails however, I am consistently surprised.


I hear a lot about the ‘vibration damping’ characteristics of carbon fiber and it certainly isn’t a quality I’d attribute to any of the carbon rigid forks I’ve ridden. Light? Yes! Stiff? F*ck Yes! More Comfortable? Umm…

For smaller tire widths on aggressive trails I think steel is the way to go. Once a bike has larger 27+, 29+, or Fatbike rubber a carbon fork is a great call to keep weight in check.

Rigid Fork

Lyle’s sweet Suzi-Q with 29×3″ Minion DHF tires and a dropper. Long and slack  (for a rigid bike) stock geo. A carbon rigid fork is light and stiff but best used in conjunction with big rubber. Photo: Ken Perras

Within the world of rigid forks there are three considerations. Weight, fore-aft stiffness under braking loads, and ride quality. Carbon forks like Niner and ENVE easily accomplish the first two. Steel forks will never touch the weight savings but can be built for great stiffness under braking while providing more flex.



“I… showed up for a group ride on the Shore with the Plus, feeling like I’d brought a knife to a gunfight. The pace was relentless and when it came to choosing trails, no accommodation was made for my unconventional bike. I was forced to push myself not to get dropped – and to my surprise and delight, the Plus not only allowed me to keep up, but proved to be both incredibly capable and a blast to ride on the edge.” Omar Bhimji, Jones Plus Review. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

Old trails are new again. Easy trails are hard again. For anyone who already owns a hardtail a rigid fork is one of the cheapest**** component experiments around. Oh, and unlike that new handlebar it’s absolutely guaranteed the difference will be immediately felt.

You have to be happy racing yourself. And getting beaten. It is absolutely necessary to laugh. At yourself. And to Smile.

*Retrobike, March 5th,
***“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.”  – Oscar Wilde
****Warning: ‘High-end Rigid Bike’ is not an oxymoron. If you get hooked there is nothing “cheap” about them. Welcome to mountain biking.

When was your last full-rigid ride?

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Best rigid forks for mountain biking

Rigid forks for mountain bikes have been around for as long as the bikes themselves as the original mountain bikes, which started the off-road cycling revolution, did not have any suspension. Like road bikes, they featured rigid steel forks even though off-road motorcycles of the era, the s, had rudimentary suspension forks and rear shocks. 

As the dual-suspension mountain bike frame evolved throughout the s to its current level of sophistication, the rigid mountain bike has still remained in production. For purists, the weight-obsessed and those riders who revel riding in the worst winter conditions, a rigid mountain bike still holds a great deal of appeal. For instance, a rigid fork requires no servicing or maintenance, significantly reducing your bike’s cost of ownership over time. If you live in an area with wide-open terrain or very smooth trails, the rigid fork can also deliver a unique riding experience. 

Unlike the original s mountain bikes, which only had steel forks with cantilever brakes, modern rigids ride a variety of steel or composite forks and are compatible with disc brakes. They also have a rigid front-end with a geometry that never alters. This means that when you are riding down a steep bit of terrain, or speeding into a succession of berms, the rigid fork will give you a truer and more predictable steering feel – as it never compresses or shortens under load. This constant and predictable steering feedback, which is something unique to a rigid fork, can actually improve your riding skill. 

Rigid forks for mountain bikes: How to choose

Riding a rigid fork might, in principle, be an uncomplicated mountain bike component choice, but as with everything in cycling, there are a multitude of factors to consider. 

With a rigid fork you forego the terrain absorption and ride comfort of air- or coil-sprung suspension, but this does not mean absolute punishment. Much like a frame can have specific ride quality attributes, damping trail vibration and allowing for necessary flex, so too can a fork. 

Steel has traditionally been the rigid fork material of choice, due to its inherent durability and material memory, allowing for an amount of elasticity. The ability of a steel fork to flex fore-and-aft, makes chromoly the ideal mountain bike fork material. 

Although riders feel that they absorb most of the rigid mountain bike’s punishment through their hands, the fork is, in fact, absorbing a great deal more. Steel can survive an enormous number of impact and vibration cycles, without fatiguing or failing. This is the characteristic which endears it to rigid riding mountain bikers and frame builders. The issue with steel is its weight. An average steel rigid fork has nearly three times the mass of a composite structure of similar size. 

This weight issue segues us into the realm of carbon forks. Mountain biking’s premier performance material is stronger per gram than steel, which means you can have the same category of strength, at a much lower mass. 

Rigid forks for mountain bikes: Carbon vs Steel

Carbon forks and frames have created a category of rigid mountain bike which is incredibly light and capable of surprising ride comfort, despite the absence of traditional air-sprung suspension. 

Thanks to intricate composite engineering, the fibre orientation and layup of carbon frame and fork structures yield excellent vibration absorption. If you are going to grind out hundreds of miles on your rigid-forked mountain bike, having a front end which can dampen trail chatter is invaluable. 

The benefits of a carbon fork – its low mass and structural vibration fatigue mitigation – do come at a price, literally. Rigid carbon mountain bike forks are notably more expensive than an equivalent steel component and prices can range in the realm of suspension forks. 

Rigid forks for mountain bikes: Size

A final consideration with your choice of rigid fork, is its size. Although rigid forks don’t compress and alter size, like suspension forks do, their fixed axle-to-crown height is important.

If you are accustomed to riding short-travel suspension up front, your rigid fork should be similarly short in size, to deliver a familiar steering feel. Those riders who are used to riding a longer travel front end and are considering the switch to a rigid winter bike, should seek out an appropriately tall rigid fork. 

ENVE Fork MTB Disc

Advanced carbon tech from Utah

Weight: g | Material: Carbon | Axle: 15xmm

You are buying into some of the cycling world’s most advanced carbon engineering 

You pay for the privilege and ride comfort of that technology

Axle isn’t boost width

Enve is celebrated for its carbon rims, but the Utah brand does a range of other composite mountain bike parts, including forks, and the company’s MTN rigid fork promises to deliver all the benefits of simplifying your mountain bike’s front end. 

Enve’s industrial design team have also paid attention to the details with this fork. It has a removable fender and brake hose retention/outing clip. There’s a margin of geometry adjustment, thanks to an axle flip-chip inset, which allows for rake adjustment from a 44mm to 52mm offset.

Ritchey WCS Carbon

The original steel fork brand’s best contemporary carbon

Weight: g | Material: Carbon | Axle: 9xmm

There isn’t much lighter

No 15mm axle option or boost spacing t

Tom Ritchey built some of the very first steel mountain bike forks. The Californian can rightly claim to be one of the most influential figures in mountain bike design history and even today, in his 60s, he remains a committed rigid-fork rider. 

With such a significant innovator still in control of the company, you’d expect Ritchey, as a brand, to have some of the best rigid forks available. With its WCS carbon model, that is exactly the case. 

Fantastically light but also sensibly sized, the WCS carbon has a mm axle to crown height, which gives you the riding geometry you’d have with a mm suspension fork. 

Niner Boost RDO

A carbon option for burly wheel builds

Weight: g | Material: Carbon **Axle:** 15xmm

Tall mm axle to crown measurement

Boosted axle steering

Fiddly wheel mounting

Niner’s carbon forks are quite unique, as they are a frame brand which has continued to offer its own rigid fork option. The Boost RDO features a very tall mm axle to crown measurement. Niner’s research and specialisation in the 29er wheel size have proven that the larger wheel needs an appropriate increase in axle-to-crown, to deliver the best steering interface. 

Staying on-trend, the RDO has boosted axle spacing too. That means you can build the stiffest wheels and run the widest possible 29er tyres with these forks. It’s worth noting that larger volume tyres 

Lauf Trail Racer 29/+ Boost Suspension Fork

Have your pseudo-rigid cake and eat it

Weight: g | Material: Carbon | Axle: 15xmm

Innovative hybrid fork

Blends zero maintenance with some suspension function 


Aesthetics not the purest

A breakthrough Icelandic design which has the durability of a simple rigid fork with some suspension attributes. Lauf’s forks look extraordinary, but they function on a system of glass-fibre leaf springs, delivering up to 60mm of travel. There is no traditional air or coil-sprung damper, so rebound is set to a default factory material tension. Not as good as conventional suspension, but a world more comfortable than a traditional steel or carbon rigid fork. 

If you want to ride some trail this winter but wince at the replacement cost for new stanchions or multiple sets of wiper seals, the Lauf is your solution. It does not come cheap, though – and the appearance might be too futuristic for some. Especially those who ride rigid bikes for their purity of appearance. 

Identiti XCT

Brilliant rigid option for those on a budget

Weight: g | Material: Steel | Axle: 15xmm

Cheap and durable

Steel construction with boost axle spacing 

Heavy compared to a carbon fork

At nearly three times the weight of a comparable carbon fork, the Identiti XCT appears completely out of place on our list. But it certainly deserves consideration.

Made from steel, it might not be light for a rigid fork but it is very affordable. Identiti is best known as a value trail and enduro bike frame brand and its steel forks are tig welded and heat-treated to optimise durability. With a mm axle-to-crown measurement, the Identiti XCT is a tall fork, which mimics the geometry and steering character of a longer-travel suspension fork. 

As a long term ownership proposition, it makes a lot of sense – especially for riders who are more daring. If something does go awry, you have the option of inexpensively welding a repair to your XCT fork should it get damaged – something steel offers that a carbon rigid fork does not. 

Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born media professional who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his fascination with trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. Rides: Morewood Kwela Cotic Simple 26 Pyga mm aluminium prototype

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29er fork rigid best

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