Review: Rockshox SID Long Travel RLT Ti with 15mm Thru Axle
Previously, I’d had two older SID forks, one with the alloy crown and one with the World Cup carbon crown/steerer, both with the anemic 28mm stanchions.
Several years ago, Rockshox brought the SID up to 32mm stanchions so it could compete with the Fox forks that were seemingly taking over the XC scene. I’d heard good things, but this was my first chance to actually spend some time on one…and I was excited to see how the new thru-axle combined with the thicker stanchions would compare. Being an avowed weight weenie that’s matured enough to appreciate a slight weight penalty in the name of reliable performance, the new SID seemed like the perfect mix.
I tend to imagine such things as dating a supermodel, diet sodas that claim to have no aftertaste and superlightweight parts that are also stiff and strong are damn near perfect, making it awfully hard for such things to actually live up to expectations. Read on to see if the new SID LT managed fulfill the dream…
OUTTA THE BOX:
The SID LT comes with two crown versions, an alloy one with either straight 1-1/8″ or tapered steerers or the World Cup with a tapered (only) carbon crown and steerer. Since the Blur has a straight 1-1/8″ steerer tube, we tested the RLT Ti with the alloy crown and steerer. As for internals, you have three models, the RLT, RLT Ti and World Cup. The main difference between the RLT and RLT Ti is going from regular Motion Control to Blackbox Motion Control (Motion Control is a fancy way of saying the fork still compresses a bit even when locked out).
The RLT Ti upgrades to Dual Flow compression rebound damping (separate high- and low-speed) versus just low-speed, and a titanium sleeve rather than thermoplastic for Motion Control. They both have Floodgate For a complete technical breakdown of how all that actually works, check out this post. A full rundown on all options in the SID line are in this post.
All versions are available with either 9mm QR or 15mm Maxle Lite, and all have 80mm/100mm or 100mm/120mm travel options. Their website lists it as 120mm only, but they are internally adjustable down to 100mm and have the sag markers for both travel distances. Our test fork was actually a 120 brought down to 100mm and was tested at this travel setting for the duration of the review period. We will be testing it at 120 this summer and will report back if there’s any discernible performance difference.
One of the great features of the new SID is the integrated cable holster, which stays attached to the cable when unscrewed so you won’t lose it.
Rockshox’s Maxle Lite comes with the fork and works with any 15mm thru axle hub. It’s super easy to use and it’s light.
The fork’s lowers are Magnesium and have been trimmed down for 2011 from previous models. Sag markers are printed on the stanchions and make set up a snap. Indicators are printed for both travel settings and have sag markers at 10%, 20% and 30%.
Our test fork weighed in at 1.55kg (1,550g) or 3lbs 7oz, which is about 60g more than claimed…but that could be because we weighed it with the Maxle Lite installed and an uncut steerer tube, or it could be for the 9mm QR model. Rockshox claims it gets down to an even 3lbs with the carbon crown/steerer (and probably without the Maxle Lite on it).
ON THE BIKE
Our test SID came in, got weighed and photo’d, then was packed in with a shiny new Santa Cruz Blur XC and shipped off to Shimano’s XTR press launch last summer. Its first ride was on the Downieville Classic course, a mix of XC climbing and serious descending. Shimano said bring an all-mountain bike with plenty of travel, I brought this set at 100mm travel to match the Blur XC’s rear end. You know what? It blazed the trail right alongside 140mm and 160mm bikes that all the other journos brought to the camp, and it did it without a wimper.
The SID uses Rockshox’s Dual Air with the positive air spring filled from the top left and the negative from the bottom. On the right is the damping controls. This is what it looks like with the (uninstalled) remote lockout option. The blue part would be replaced with a flat lever on non-remote-lockout equipped versions, which would provide the external low-speed compression rebound. On the Blackbox Motion Control models, high-speed compression is fixed internally by a shim stack.
The abundance of tapered steerer tube bikes on the market today, even in the XC category, makes the straight 1-1/8″ headtube and fork look skinny by comparison. Fortunately, it’s plenty stiff.
Dual Air settings are stickered on the leg with air pressures corresponding to body weight. Despite some muddy riding on various trails across the country, the stanchions appear unmarred.
The underside of the left leg has the negative air valve. Called Dual Air, this lets you fine tune the initial compression feel of the fork. Run more air for a softer feel over small bumps or less for a firmer fork that takes a bit more to get it moving. Under the right leg is the rebound speed adjustment, which is set using a removable tool that comes with the fork (see below).
The Maxle Lite is super easy to use, secures the wheel well and lets you angle the lever anywhere you want it. The only issue we had was the slot edges where you put the lever to tighten it began to curl up because they’re so thin.
Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the Shimano XTR press camp, the cable guide’s mounting screw had been sheared off and the guide nowhere to be found.
The Rockshox SID RLT Ti fork comes with the rebound control adjuster (left), which pulls out to double as a small hex wrench for adjusting the Maxle. This is used on a number of their forks, including a Reba 29er we’ve got on another bike, and hasn’t ever fallen out during riding. Of course, once you’ve got your rebound set where you want it, you can save 12g by leaving it in your gear bag.
One thing we didn’t test is the PushLoc remote lockout that came with our fork. You can get the SID with or without a remote lockout. Without it, you’ll have the slow-speed compression knob on the top of the right leg; turn it all the way and it locks out the fork. With the remote lockout option, you lose the low-speed compression adjustability. Seeing as how I like my suspension to, you know, suspend, I rarely rarely rarely use a lockout, so I saved 55g plus the weight of cable housing by not installing it. Seriously, that’s like two ounces when you add it all up!
With the remote, the lockout lever simply locks out the fork, leaving the Floodgate knob to control the amount of force required to bump the suspension into movement when locked out. Not installing the lockout will leave the fork wide open. Honestly, if you don’t plan on using the lockout, buy the fork without the remote lockout.
However, I do have the hydraulic X-Loc installed on my Reba 29er and, while the lockout levers differ, the effect is the same: With Floodgate closed, it’s a pretty firm lockout that only budges a bit over rough terrain unless you really nail something hard. With the Floodgate open, it acts sort of like a platform in that the amount of force required to bump the suspension into action is minimal, but it’s still firm on flat ground. There’s a decent range from closed to open in the Floodgate control, letting you mimic a platform fork and kinda-sorta feel like you’re still controlling the slow-speed compression (in actuality you’re not moving the internal compression flow ports at all. Again, this tech article will better explain how it all works inside).
HOW DID IT PERFORM?
In a word: Flawless. In more words: Better than I could have expected, especially having come from the older SID forks. Even with the carbon crown on the older World Cup models (which were quite stiff compared to the alloy crown models!), they felt noodley in comparison. In fact, the SID LT’s stiffness and steering precision is on par or better than any XC fork I’ve ridden. Keep in mind I tested the 15mm thru axle model, and given the prevalence of that standard anymore, I’d strongly recommend choosing that option even if it means a wheel upgrade.
Downieville, CA, put the fork through its paces right out of the box. Break in period? Hardly. The descents were screaming fast with plenty of technical drops, rock sections, logs, etc. The SID LT blew me away with how effortlessly it handled all of it.
The next big test came at the Breck Epic. I rode the Blur for three of the six days and this fork saw a ton more rock gardens, extremely technical, wet-root-laden descents, drops, high speed corners and more. Again, flawless performance.
Both of those adventures had their fair share of climbing (particularly the Breck), and that’s where the lightweight side of SID sealed the deal for me. With a good wheelset, it makes the entire front end of the bike feel weightless. I tested it with both the new XTR Trail wheels and Ellsworth’s XC wheels, both (obviously) with the 15mm thru axle.
Back home on our normal XC trails, the fork’s solid handling and reliable tracking showed through. Push it into a corner and there’s no longer any hint of the errant wheel yaw or understeer that plagued older models.
From a performance standpoint, I like Rockshox’s Dual Air. I like to run my forks at the right air pressure for my body weight, but I want a fork to be supple. Simply putting a bit extra into the negative chamber lets me do this without resorting to softening up the compression damping so much that it blows through the travel. On their forks with the compression control knob and Dual Air, you can really dial in the performance to suit your riding style and terrain quite well. I’ve heard some people complain about RS’s compression damping compared to a Fox, and, truthfully, perhaps the Fox F-Series does feel a slight bit more controlled. But it’s not apples to apples. Their compression damping is entirely different, so if that’s what you’re most concerned with, demo some bikes with each fork and see what you like best, just be sure to get them set up correctly for your weight. If you want one of the lightest suspension forks out there (Lefty excluded) that will eat up terrain well beyond its XC heritage, the SID RLT is a solid choice.
For another point of view, Daniel used to borrow my old Trek Fuel with a 2003-era carbon WC SID. Once he rode the Blur, he immediately commented on the improved stiffness and control, too. Another friend who typically rides a Cannondale with a Carbon Lefty fork rode the Blur and was impressed, also.
Really, there’s nothing not to like. Well, maybe the price; full retail on the SID RLT Ti is about $950, RLT is about $720 and the carbon WC model with carbon crown is almost $1,200. But like anything that’s been out for more than a month, you can find it cheaper, and those are only suggested retail prices. From a performance standpoint, the SID has proved it’s got what it takes to handle today’s longer travel XC and trail bikes, and it easily lets you build up a 120mm bike that’s 25lbs or less (we’ll prove it this summer) or breath new life into an older frame. Everyone that rode it here has been very, very happy with it, so we’re giving it a full Five Thumbs Up.