Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Exotic carbon rigid MTB fork review

Posted by Lee | February 16, 2010 | 13 comments so far

Exotic Carbon Rigid MTB fork in detail
So, the credit crunch is cutting deeper than Lorena Bobitt’s sharpest kitchen knife and Christmas lingers long in the pocket. You’ve had previously ring-fenced budget for a new singlespeed project diverted into a ‘domestic black hole’ but are still itching to get some sort of steed trail-ready for the winter gloop.

Your only option is to compromise or block-book time with a Relate counsellor. You compromise. You’ve sent off your old mobile phone and sold all the gold you own and with the resulting £9.43, you put it towards a carbon fork. But not just any old carbon fork, oh no, an Exotic carbon fork.

Whilst I would have loved to have decked out my new project with a nice ‘bargain’ £250 Rock Shox Reba fork, after taking into account a combination of some of the factors above and more importantly, the frame it was going to be plugged into, I opted for a 42.5cm Exotic rigid carbon fork from Carbon Cycles instead.

At £85 the carbon fork won’t break the bank, my marriage or hopefully, going forward, the frame as I’m replacing a very old skool set of Marzocchi Z1s with—for their time—a market leading 63mm of travel! The old Scandium frame is realistically corrected for no more than 80mm of forkage at best anyway.

Retro styling is all the rage in the bike world at present. If we are honest, retro styling has been the thing for the last few years, it’s just that each year or so the industry seems to seek inspiration from a slightly different period of time gone by, whether it be from the worlds of fashion or design. Adding a carbon fork gives you that retro look, whilst giving you a very low maintenance front end, not to mention a very light one too. And it’s the latter that you will be quick to notice.

Exotic Carbon Rigid MTB fork

OK, so it’s not rocket science. I’m removing a fork that by today’s standards is a set of damped scaffolding poles for a fork that weighs in at just 750g (for the disc only version). That suddenly makes you quite capable of pulling wheelies, regardless of whether you can control them thereafter or not!

Going down the rigid route is certainly an eye opener (or re-awakener at least to the misty-eyed days of early MTB-ing), especially if like me you have been used to 140mm of travel soaking up what normally passes under the front wheel. Yet, quite quickly it all begins to fall back into place. I’m transported back to the early/mid nineties riding my trusted rigid Claud Butler alongside my posh mates with their new-fangled RST 281s, and my really posh mates on their 381s!

It’s fair to say you quickly adjust your riding style on a rigid fork. Your body becomes the damping and rebound settings so obviously absent from the hollow pipes of carbon below you. Yet, like baby turtles who, when they hatch, know they need to hot foot it towards the sea, it would seem your body quite instinctively assumes the various positions to survive a run down a classic root and flint strewn North Downs descent.

Elbows out and soft hands probably sums up what is required in the upper body, but you also learn to ride a lot lighter than before in order to ‘float’ over whatever is beneath you. That is something that is just instinctive and quite difficult to describe. Of course, instinct is somewhat aided, subconsciously at least I guess, by the sight of what is before you so I have had a few unexpected big hits on a night ride. Queue the bar trying to take your teeth out.

However, so far I have been largely impressed with my carbon fork. As we’ve discovered it’s light, it’s tough and probably best of all it’s maintenance free. If you are of a nervous disposition it’s probably best not to look down at the legs on a rough descent (generally looking forward is always a better plan anyway), as there is noticeable flex, but just like aircraft wings, they flex for a very good reason. So your teeth don’t start spilling across the bridleways of the Surrey Hills.

When I was researching carbon forks online, it would seem Pace’s classic RC31 would take some beating (if indeed you can find a pair for sale), but for half the cost of the Pace, I would have to say the Exotic fork is pretty damn good value for money and an entrance ticket to a by-gone world of simplicity I had so quickly forgotten.

Filed under Forks, Reviews in February 2010


About the author

As Baz Luhrmann said in his Sunscreen song: look after your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone. Well, until they do finally give up the will to live and screech to a halt like a knackered bottom bracket, I'm just going to keep riding because that's what I love.

Whilst I'm more full time parent and part-time biker these days, I still make the best of the time family life affords me, even if the fitness yo-yos massively.

I ride a Cotic Soul, which is currently single-speeded, and also a 2010 Trek EX-8 for drier times.

We are a pretty lucky bunch to live in such close proximity to the Surrey Hills, which gives us an embarrassing amount of trail choice. Some of my all time local favourites have sadly now been 'decommissioned', but with the likes of BKB, Summer Lightening and China Pig, there's still plenty to smile about whichever way you turn.

There are 13 comments on ‘Exotic carbon rigid MTB fork review’

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  1. Dave says:

    I’m a big fan of this type of fork having had carbon forks on my 29er SS since it arrived. I’m also, likewise, amazed how comfy they can be unless you happen to find a rooty descent at just the wrong frequency.

    As I sit here stroking my beard I’m also taken back to an early Marin Muirwoods with RST381 forks. Now there’s a fork to make a rider…

    Finally, I think the yellow forks were Marzocchi Z2 BAM and not Z1!

  2. Matt says:

    ‘Stroking my beard…’ … Never heard it called that before… ;o)

    I also had a set of RST 381s. I remember thinking how easy everything would be now I had suspension forks. Also remember Dave saying he’d bought some Marzocchis and I wondered if it was in fact a type of pasta.

    I’ve got the Exotic Carbon forks on my Muirwoods now which has seen much less action than I hoped.

    They definitely make it very light and the ride is actually pretty good although I’m using V-brakes (super-retro) which tend to snatch the wheel making the fork twang a little. But only fore/aft, not side to side.

  3. Bazza says:

    Hi Lee

    Yip you are quite right about the riding style and quite interestingly put! I managed to find a pair of RC31’s on eBay for £75 in great condition, however I did not know they were in such demand etc.

    I only searched for rigid carbon forks, as I liked the idea of low maintenance and thought with the soft gloop of the winter I may be able to manage without suspension for a while.

    I did see DaveC’s bike had OnOne’s er! on and that gave me my idea to get some for the OnOne frame I bought with single speed etc. and thought it was definitely worth a go for the winter, after I had many things go wrong in a short space of time riding my Trek in the crappy conditions, late October/November time.

    So when I get back after a ride, it’s a quick hose down and a quick lube (that is my bike!..) then straight in the garage, job done. I have just bought a pair of Reba’s to put on when the weather breaks!

    I am currently perfecting the art of smuggling gear in to the garage, after reading a book on how the POW’s smuggled allsorts in and out under the noses of the Germans in Colditz!… I would recommend it, it’s worked until now, however I must be careful publishing this on the website in case the Mrs starts reading it (gulp) then I may be in the cooler for many many days!…

  4. Andy661 says:

    Bazza, i feel your pain!

    I was recently betrayed by my own children a la girl with the bunch of flowers in Where Eagles Dare or similar.

    Had smuggled in some decent Topeak crap catchers! All installed and got thru the inspection parade. “oh yeah, always had them…”

    first thing they say…? “They’re new Daddy, when did you get those?” Doh!

    No chance of smuggling in a full suss to replace the hardtail…

  5. Matt says:

    LOL @ Barrie and Andy!

    I’m actually trying to smuggle stuff out of my garage I’ve got so much crap in it!!

    Gearing up for a fleabay session some time soon…

  6. tony says:

    Different problem here. Missus buying stuff for her bike! Where did those gloves come from etc….

  7. Andy C says:

    I find my wife & daughter whispering and sniggering and manage to get them to divulge that the topic of conversation is my apparent mid-life crisis that they have diagnosed.

    Obvious symptoms are glossy magazines in the toilet, hiding of credit card statements, and rushing to intercept the postman in an attempt to ensure that my latest purchases are not revealed.

    Of particular amusement has been the recent acquisition of shin guards and a full-face helmet, along with 3/4 length trousers.

    “Why can’t you act like all my friends husbands?” my wife adds despairingly, “It’s embarrassing when I tell my friends what you’re up to.” I think she’d prefer it if I spent my cash on Pringle sweaters and G&Ts at the golf club.

    I keep telling her that mtb’ing is cheaper than buying a Harley or a Porsche, but after my recent bout of serious ‘bike bling’ I’m not so sure !

  8. Muddymoles says:

    A week on the Surrey trails

    Riding to work with a fixed route along the North Downs in Surrey means you need different bikes to provide you with some contrast!

  9. TIMMY says:

    ive got a old carby vertex with pace 40ml sus that need new seals ,im looking at the carbons to replace them , theres a few out there an these ones from cc get good reviews an seem a decent buy there are others that caught my eye an lighter ones i see the hylix is 540g horrible stickers tho , i did see a pair looking the same with no stickers they look a bit roady tho , very light hmm , but anyway
    i think stiff is more important seen as i am 95kg or more like 100 ha , an should i keep my xt vbrake up front or ad a disc ?

    ive got a carbon front hub for my vs if i switch to a xt or xtr disc on the front how much more weight will that be over a vbrake only setup/version (cc vbrake only with xt vs cc disc only with xt disc) im not goner rush into it i like both options vs are ok if you set them up right an they must be the lightest surely
    but if its not that much of penalty then the discs do keep the front end looking newer an more sexy(old frame rear is vbrake only) im always a slug to decide which is good bcoz u end up sticking with good kit for years, poo stuff soon gets the boot an means paying again in these harsh times at the hands of money mafia :).

  10. Ben says:

    Do the forks have a slot under the crown where a fender style mudguard can sit?

    I want to upgrade an MTB to a commuting machine and these forks seem to be the best. Just need to know there are mudguard fixings per say.

    • Dave says:

      Hi, not in the road bike sense no. There is nothing on the crown to fit a traditional mudguard to. You could use a mudguard that “plugs” into the bottom of the steerer tube such as an SKS Shockboard/blade but it will sit much further away from the tyre and hence won’t be as affective as a “proper” set up.

      Exotic do also do an aluminium fork which is cheaper but does not have any different fixings. If you are converting a 26″ MTB then there isn’t much more you could do unless you look for a 26″ hybrid fork (search “26” rigid fork” on eBay)

      Good luck

  11. Gary Kovarik says:

    I have had many carbon forks with no failures. I ride rugged single track. I have owned niner and white bros , and surly and vassago steel forks. The carbon forks have a nicer ride. The fork I have now is a 490 axel to crown exotic its a great fork. I had it on my ti frame and cracked the ti head tube but the carbon fork keeps on going. I have the model with the straight carbon tubes and aluminum steerer , I am looking forward to buying an all carbon model.

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