- The Durolux fork offers adjustable high-speed and low-speed compression damping on the right side of the crown. It’s easy to adjust, but probably not doable on the fly. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- Opposite the compression damping knobs, the Durolux has a simple air chamber adjustment to set the spring’s firmness. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- SR Suntour is making high-end forks after years of being mostly relegated to entry-level OEM service. Despite some early difficulties, the Durolux stood the test. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- Heavy-duty magnesium lowers ensure that the Durolux holds steady on rough trails. The Q-LOC thru-axle can be oriented with the lever on either side of the bike. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- SR Suntour’s Q-Lock is a cleverly machined alternative to ordinary thru-axles. However, it requires regular cleaning and lubrication to function smoothly. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- The rebound adjuster at the base of the right fork leg is a simple knob. When SR Suntour serviced our fork, they gave it some slightly heavier oil, which improved the rebound damping’s range of adjustability. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
- Perhaps you’ll start seeing this mark on fork arches more often in the near future. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com
Mountain bikers are open-minded, but when it comes to forks, most expect their brands to have an “x” in the name — RockShox, Fox. SR Suntour doesn’t have that same fashionable cache. But the Durolux fork is a sleeper shredder, despite some quirks. And, of course, its designers put an “x” in there for good measure.
Eagle-eyed gear heads have probably seen SR Suntour forks before, but unfortunately, they’ve been spec’d on lower-end models, bikes never intended to see proper action on the trail.
However, SR Suntour has recently pushed into the high-end market. In fact, the company has an Olympic gold medal to its credit, won by France’s Julie Bresset in the cross-country event at the London Games in 2012. Plus, SR Suntour sponsors freeride danger man James Doerfling and signed enduro star Rémy Absalon, who is currently sitting in eighth overall after the first round of the Enduro World Series.
We were curious to see how Suntour stacked up against today’s more established fork companies. What better way to find out than with a heavy-duty all-mountain fork, the 160mm travel Durolux RC2?
The Durolux looks to be a straight shooter, until you put on your front wheel. Sure, you wouldn’t buy a fork for its axle system, but SR Suntour’s Q-LOC system is quite different, and it’s better than most modern the thru-axle systems in many ways.
Instead of using a threaded dropout to tighten the thru-axle, the Durolux uses the 20mm Q-LOC. This axle contains a spring-loaded end that cinches against the dropout. No need to spin the lever to tighten or loosen it, and you can orient the cam on either side.
This also means that the fork lowers have no threads, which looks very clean and eliminates the unlikely threat of permanent damage by cross-threading.
When it’s debris-free and well lubricated, the Q-LOC works smoothly and allows for easy wheel removal. However, mountain bikes are dirty and under-lubricated by nature, so regular attention is necessary to keep the axle and lever functioning correctly. If you neglect it, the Q-LOC can be a hassle.
After a few preliminary rides, we dropped in to the 2013 Colorado Freeride Festival Enduro World Series race. During the first few race stages, we noticed the fork was rebounding too quickly, and no damping adjustment could remedy things. Fortunately, SR Suntour was available at the venue to rebuild the fork. Its representative told us that the factory had neglected to treat fork internals with thread lock solution during the early production run, which caused the damping assembly to loosen and fail.
Once our test fork was repaired, it returned to the smooth, plush action we’d enjoyed up until that point. It was disconcerting, but our contact assured us that all forks have been receiving a heavy-duty thread lock upon assembly in Taiwan.
Right out of the box, and aside from the initial damping malfunction, the Durolux impressed. Its tremendous stiffness gave our test bike a sharp precision not ordinarily experienced on a slack-angled 160mm travel bike.
The fork’s burly lowers and 35mm stanchions compelled its internals to work overtime on trail’s smallest ripples and chatter. The simple air chamber and RC2 damper — which offers rebound as well as high- and low-speed compression adjustment — were up to the task.
When bike travel goes north of 140mm, riding style and speed demand greater damping adjustability. The Durolux’s adjustable high- and low-speed compression helped prevent the brake dive that steepens headtube angles and makes for sketchy handling on steep roll-ins.
It’s worth noting that the SR Suntour mechanics gave us a slightly heavier weight oil at the Freeride Festival to ensure a full range of adjustability. Nevertheless, the RC2 damper could reign in the fork’s action on even the roughest terrain.
Try this at home
Fork maintenance can be daunting to the average home mechanic. When the Durolux’s seals got dry and started chirping at the Big Mountain Enduro series finale in Moab, Utah, we knew it was time to give it some love.
Fortunately, for the less mechanically inclined, SR Suntour’s forks are designed around their “Quick Service Product” (QSP) philosophy. This means that we don’t have to worry about carefully placing a drip pan to save our kitchen floor from the usual mess that accompanies an oil bath fork.
To get the Durolux running smooth again, all we had to do was loosen the bolts on the lowers, tap them loose with a mallet, pull the legs off, wipe down and grease the seals, then reassemble.
It seemed that the fork required service more frequently than the average oil bath design of its competitors. But, the required maintenance was easy and quick, and once we’d finished, the fork’s action was impressively smooth.
Fighting for the front of your bike
It’s no small feat to produce a fork that competes with RockShox or Fox. While the Durolux’s initial damper issue make us reluctant to declare it an outright threat to the established “x” brands, it offers a good product at a lower price.
SR Suntour’s fork costs about $250 less than a Rock Shox Pike RCT3. It is not as adjustable, lacking RockShox’s on-the-fly open/firm/locked adjustments, and is also 140g heavier. But given the price drop, we were able to get past the decreased adjustability and modest weight increase.
Not everyone will feel like pulling their fork lowers every couple of months to grease the seals. And, even fewer riders will be so bold as to take a chance on a somewhat unproven high-end fork.
A bit of assurance, then, from one rider to another: I had a lot of big days with the Durolux last summer, but probably none more memorable than the final day of the Enchilada Enduro in Moab with its 6,000 feet of elevation loss. On that day, the fork never held me back.
Pros: Easy service, great stiffness and smooth action.
Cons: More frequent service needed, initial problems with internals, Q-LOC axle cannot be neglected.