Pssst – hey you on that DH bike – wanna drop some weight and increase performance on your rig? I though so. At 5.98lbs, the BoXXer WC is probably the lightest 200mm DH fork on the market today – the next closest contender I know of is the 6.4lb Manitou Dorado MRD – so you’re looking at a good half pound off that front end of yours. The weight savings alone are huge but there are many more refinements to be had with the Rock Shox World Cup BoXXer.
Let’s start with the outside of the fork and work our way in. The BoXXer is available in 4 colors this year: red, white, and black plus the new super cool Keronite finish. Keronite is basically a very hard ceramic finish that can be applied to aluminum, magnesium, and titanium. The process is similar to that of a plasma coating except it’s far more advanced and precise. The process actually works at a molecular level, changing the base material to a ceramic surface, resulting in a super hard surface with enhanced base material properties. Having had a few of my projects treated with Keronite, I can say it is simply amazing.
Other external changes include re-tooled knobs to save weight and new graphics with the World Cup championship colors. The familiar etched graphics on the stanchions and pressure chart on the fork leg are nice touches and help with sag set up on the go. The BoXXer features post mounts to increases the stiffness of the brake assembly over older IS standards; many of the newer brakes being produced are post mount compatible.
Internally the BoXXer has a host of new features over last year’s 2010 model. For one thing, RockShox put the fork under a microscope to reduce friction (something of a bother from last year’s model). The engineers looked at everything from seals to bushings and re-designed the damper cartridge and the Solo air spring assembly to eliminate friction points. RockShox kept the 35mm 7000 series aluminum stanchions, which are hard anodized for long life and lower friction (stiction), the lower magnesium legs with the power bulge, and of course the high performance Maxle Lite DH 20mm axle.
The re-worked Dual Flow adjustment (high – low speed rebound) and the tuned Mission Control DH valving (high-low speed compression) really perk up this fork for 2011. Although it takes a bit of time to set everything just right, the effort really pays off in the end. The re-worked valving truly changes how the fork behaves over fast, rough terrain and absorbs the larger features that you’ll find anywhere. The internals sport a totally upgraded Solo unit (which can be retro-fitted into the 2010 model, though not the Race version), but unfortunately the new damper won’t fit – sorry. I checked simply because I have a few friends who own the 2010 WC and they were interested in upgrading after riding my 2011 version.
Installing the BoXXer WC (1-1/8″ aluminum steering tube) was pretty easy – it’s just a matter of measuring twice and cutting once. As always, read the manual and torque the bolts in place with a quality torque wrench. Remember spacing between crowns must be 156mm ±2mm. The minimum the stanchion length is exposed on the top crown is 2mm so before cutting the steering tube (if you’re going with a direct mount stem) it must extend 2mm from the top of the upper crown. Other than that business, all is good.
Dialing it in
Setting up the BoXXer WC took a good solid day of riding plus a break-in period. I found the fork needed a little time to get everything seated and felling creamy smooth. With the BoXXer it’s important to follow the RockShox tuning recommendations to get the fork set up right – that is, unless you have your own world-cup tech on speed dial. Get the air spring pressure set first (sag) by jouncing the fork a few times to equalize the pressures in the positive and negative chambers. I found the BoXXer-specific pump to be great – the large air volume this pump delivers is helpful – otherwise you might be there all day with a standard shock pump.
Once the sag is set it’s time to configure the beginning stroke rebound dampening (first 25% of travel). This really should be done on the trail and not on the streets. Find a familiar section of trail and session it. Add one or two clicks at a time to the small knob on the bottom (hold the larger knob to keep it from turning). You want the fork to return fast, but not so fast that it stings the hands or feels like it’s going to toss you off the bike. Next, set the end stroke rebound (for coming off bigger hits) where the travel range goes from 25% to 100%. Again, you’re looking to avoid getting bucked off the bike. Too much of either the high or low speed rebound and you get what’s called packing down – basically losing more and more travel with every hit.
Now, set up the low and high speed compression. Low speed compression allows you to to balance trail sensitivity and fork dive – basically changing how the fork feels. Too much compression and the fork tends to skip over some of the bumps and feels very harsh; too little and the fork dives when hitting the brakes and cornering. Once you get the low speed set, dial in the high speed setting for big drops, rock gardens at speed, etc. The goal here is to get maximum control over the wheel. You don’t want the fork to blow though the travel on the big hits so add more compression until you get a controlled compression. Too much snaps the wrists back and stings; too little and it feels like the bike bogs down and gets wallowy.
The final setting is the end stroke adjuster which changes the volume of the air chamber during the fork’s last 20% of travel. Reducing the volume will ramp up the spring rate, yielding a more progressive feel. This is one of those settings that is totally subjective, depending on the rider. If I was going from a drop to flat I would add more end stroke (for my 200lb. weight I’d add about 4 turns).
Ok, even though some of this might sound more complicated than a NASA checklist, don’t worry. The tuning guide that RockShox includes is easy to follow and understand and Rockshox encourages you to play with the settings. I ended up downloading the guide and printing out a few of the “My Favorite Setting” charts to remember what I liked best during testing. All the controls were easy to use except the bottom out dial – I recommend having a 2.5mm allen key handy and being prepared to remove the air from the air spring to adjust it. I did take the knob off and added a tiny touch of synthetic lube to the seal before replacing it to see if that would help. This gave me marginal improvement and was really the only small issue I found with this fork.
Hitting the Trail
I installed the BoXXer WC on my Banshee Legend II and it definitely stepped up the Legend’s game. Once the fork was broken in I spent a bit of time re-setting the dials and had a really good time. The lightness of the fork really made it easy to control the bike and on low speed, technical rock gardens and general gnar I felt consistent control over my front wheel.
Taping the powerful 2011 Code brakes would cause almost any bike to dive like a submarine but I found with the compression set midway at 6 clicks and the low speed at 4 clicks, the fork struck a good balance between traction and control. Even on taxing rock gardens where the suspension travel got a real workout I still maintained perfect control over the bike without having it pack down underneath me. On rock gardens there’s always the chance of a glance causing the bike to slip sideways; some forks will twist in this situation. On the BoXXer I didn’t notice any flex – the bike always tracked where I wanted it to go.
Big hits with the BoXXer were just too fun. The lighter weight allowed me to move the bike a bit more without a lot of extra body effort. The lighter weight also seemed to increase performance of the bike as well. A lighter fork reduces sprung mass to a degree, particularly if the reduction in mass is on the fork lowers.
Overall the BoXXer WC works very well and any racer should be happy with this unit with little worry about maintenance. So my last two cents? Try 0ne out for yourself, I’m sure you will be impressed. If you have a 2010 model and don’t want to fork out the cash for a new one, get yourself the air cartridge (fits WC and Team models only) for a nice performance boost.
Ok, so how much does this wonder of modern mountain bike technology cost? Well as far as world class forks are concerned, I can say the BoXXer is right in line at $1,700 MSRP. Now if that is a bit more than you can afford, test out the Team or Race versions. These forks are a bit heavier and feature a coil spring which can be more difficult to tune but are definitely worth a look.
A big thanks to Tyler Morland from RockShox for setting sending up the BoXXer WC for a review. Another thanks to my good friend Michael Chan for taking those snowy shots. Stay tuned for a write up on a few other exciting products from Rockshox as well as SRAM. Next up: the Rockshox Vivid Air.