Review: Outsider Bikes Adjustable Offset Crowns
Whoever decided what number the offset would be for their brand's 29" XC fork generally copied and pasted it across to all the forks in the range, partly because it was easy, and partly to meet OEM supply demands from bike brands. As far as my research goes, this was always aimed towards bikes that might want increase agility around an XC race track (or bike shop car park) rather than modern bikes looking for stability, speed and being leaned into corners rather than steering around them. There are several other things to consider, including the fact that bikes of the past had high bottom brackets, slack seat angles, steep head angles, narrow bars and long stems. There has been a lot of change over the last five years, not only with bikes, but the riders and what type of terrain they want to attack. Some of the things that offset may have been used to correct may have been improved in other ways. For example, steepening seat angles can massively improve your front wheel steering precision as your center of gravity is moved forwards between the axles.
A few years ago, experimenting with shortening fork offset to tune trail and handling was relatively unheard of outside the workshop of Chris Porter's Mojo Rising (formerly Mojo Suspension, UK Fox Distributor), but his work has since led to Whyte Bikes and Transition working on the shorter fork concept simultaneously, with Whyte releasing their S-150 and Transition's range-wide Speed Balanced Geometry shorter offset and geometry combination. Nowadays, talk of fork offset is commonplace, with most companies' enduro and trail bikes using shorter offset forks than a year ago.This Outsider Bikes adjustable offset crown for the Rockshox Boxxer (up to 2018 model) and Fox 40 is one of the first methods for adjusting fork offset to hit the market, and it promises -10mm / +8mm of adjustment in 2mm increments, using 4 different sets of inserts, at a weight similar to the stock crowns. The top crown also gives -8mm, 0mm, +8mm adjustment in stem length thanks to extra direct mount holes.They retail for $235 USD for the Boxxer and $285 for the Fox 40 version.
Ride ImpressionsLike mentioned above, offset and trail are part of a wide-ranging subject that has numerous factors that depend on head angle, wheel size, fork length, and the dynamic chassis angle of the bike. The test in this instance used a Saracen Myst 29" downhill bike, with a Fox 49 (standard offset = 58mm), and a head angle on paper of 63º, a 50mm stem, and 800m handlebar.For the purposes of testing, we used the most extreme red inserts to test the outer limits, with the initial runs using the long position to give a 66mm offset. Secondly, we flipped these inserts to test with a 48mm offset, and then, for the sake of testing, rotated the crowns 180º and the inserts again, which reduced it to 28mm (interestingly, similar to an MX bike). The following are generalizations of what I found on the trail:• The longest offset made the bike the most unstable and twitchy, and I could feel the contact patch moving forwards and backward along the tire when turning the handlebar. It was also harder to lean the bike over and keep it leaned over in the corners. In addition, the front wheel was easier to start understeering or washing out on flat corners.• The medium 48mm offset was more stable, the contact patch of the tire seemed to stay in the same place and felt more 'normal'. I could lean the bike over more easily and keep it there, and while leaned over there was a smoother arc to the turn and less micro-adjusting of the steering. I could push harder into turns before starting to lose traction on the front wheel. This actually felt more similar to some of my enduro bikes with downhill angles (Nicolai Geometron / Pole / Raaw) with sub-50mm stems, and the 44mm / 46mm of offset that I find to offer a more confident front end than most of the current downhill bikes.
• The following is not recommended: The silly reversed crown setup that gave a 28mm offset was interesting, but couldn't be tested to its full potential as my steering lock (the Myst has a chunky headtube area and frame bumpers to protect from the fork) was reduced to the point of danger and there was a risk of the crown hitting the headtube. We also had issues with the direct mount stem hitting the steerer tube spacers, and the bike was getting too short for me at this point, which made riding it more difficult. But, it was super stable at speed and seemed to deflect much less off angled wet rocks and roots; it also leaned into corners like a champion but slowed the steering response at lower speeds.
|Desperate to adjust your fork offset? You won't go wrong with these crowns from Outsider Bikes; they offer a level of fine tuning adjustment and some future-proofing protection against ever changing standards.— Paul Aston|