Just taking a few minutes to offer my early impressions of the Whisky Parts Co. NO. 9 Carbon Fat Bike Fork
First off…why consider a rigid on your Fatbike? Listen, I don’t doubt that the blogs and boards are chockablock with quips and comments about this topic. I don’t intend to retread, so how about I just give you my two cents?…
First off, I ride and race on a Grower Nitro Stout with XO1 Eagle drivetrain, Carbon hoops to i9 hubs, Magura MT7’s for braking, and all the expected carbon bits. Yes it’s very fast, yes it’s very light, and no you can’t borrow it. I run a Bluto for XC MTB and Endurance races, and I run rigid for Cyclocross, FatBike (winter snow races) season, and Gravel Grinder season. There are plenty of reasons for this, some of which will become apparent if you keep reading.
I grew up racing XC MTB on rigid hardtails, initially steel forks on really stiff aluminum frames. It was the go-to rig of the time. I later switched to an aluminum rigid, and eventually to a headtube unishock with aluminum fork legs that offered total on-the-fly lockout. To be honest, I was very late to the suspension fork party and only in very recent years added a conventional front suspension fork.
Now, spending most of my saddle and race time on a Fatbike, I have come to really appreciate the trail compliance, forgiveness and endless traction and braking that condition appropriate and properly inflated high-volume low pressure fat tires can offer. When I go suspension, I go Bluto. And now, when I go back to rigid (which is a lot) I go Whisky Parts Co. NO. 9. The swap out is painless, and only takes a few minutes once you have a handle on the process, and both forks interface, behave, and beautifully compliment the geometry and handling characteristics of my bike.
Here’s why I really like the NO. 9…
Weight savings: The swap to the NO. 9 saves very close to 2.2# of weight. My size Large Growler Nitro comes in at under 25# now. Yes it’s a tradeoff (weight -v-shock absorption) but there are many races and conditions that it’s a VERY good trade-off. The NO. 9 offers a surprising amount of vibration dampening, and dare I say plushness, that no stock aluminum fat bike fork can offer. Under the right conditions, with the proper tires and inflation, I don’t much miss the Bluto’s 90-100 mm of real world travel.
Lighter front end: This is different than overall weight. A lighter front end completely changes the way your bike handles and can increase line precision while minimizing bike handling fatigue. It also radically improves the overall balance of weight across the bike, which is really important to me, especially when a course involves dismounts, run-ups, barriers (cyclocross), etc.
Zero bobbing: Even with the best tuned suspension fork, a certain degree of power-robbing front-end bobbing is a reality. This is another reason I love the NO. 9 with absolutely no bobbing, and nothing but direct transfer of power to the rear wheel with climbing and sprint efforts.
Increased bar sensitivity: This is a finer point, but one that has been completely lost on many that came up riding suspension forks. There is a rubber-trail interface folks, and you should be able to feel it. Suspension forks have gotten better and better, and many riders have forgotten what this is all about, at the expense of bike handling skills, body position/mechanics and rider absorption. This has been reflected in the race scene as well, with totally gonzo sections finding their way into citizen XC races…sections that historically would have only been found on DH World Cup Courses. Suspension forks (and disc brakes) have been a game-changer for sure, but they have made many of us soft and sloppy. Every rider really needs to spend at least some time riding rigid. Additionally, a rigid fork will find you lighter on your handlebar, with better weight transfer and bike position. You can really notice this as your traction, handling and efficiency improve…priceless skills that will transfer to any bike that you ride.
Cornering: The Whisky NO. 9 corners like it is on rails. There is a ton of traction, zero fork dive, the perfect amount of compliance, and a very definite lack of any unsuspected front-end washout. You can feel every bit of the turn, and as such have plenty of opportunity to correct your line if you have under or overcommitted on the turn radius.
So, in a nutshell for those of you still reading…as you’ve gathered I am a fan of rigid forks under the right conditions…and a big fan of the NO.9. I don’t think you’ll find a better rigid carbon fork option for your Fatbike than the Whisky Parts Co. NO. 9
Ride hard, love life, and I’ll see you out there somewhere!