Wednesday, July 7, 2010

LONG TERM TEST: ROCK SHOX DOMAIN 318

Specs: 180mm travel, 1.5 head tube, 20mm maxle.
Price: $575.00

There's really a lot of options these days when it comes to the 180mm fork market. Offerings from Marzocchi, Rock Shox and very recently Fox, have really given riders a lot more to choose from. On the lower end of the price spectrum, there's really only two options: The Rock Shox Domain 318 and the Marzocchi 66 RCV. Last year, when I was finally fed up with my useless Manitou Sherman, I opted for the Domain.

The first thing I noticed was the ease of tuning. Preload and rebound damping were only slightly altered from their stock settings before I was entirely happy with them. I prefer a very soft preload setting, and a moderately small amount of rebound damping, and these settings were dialed in with ease. The key to these adjustments is their simplicity and wide range. When lending my bike out to riders of other weights and riding styles, I could easily return to my settings without the difficulty I experienced with the Sherman or any other air fork.

The ride quality was a very noticeable upgrade from the Sherman, and in my opinion, superior to the 66 RCV. Rock Shox's Motion Control system works well in most park riding scenarios that beginner or intermediate riders would come across. Its only downfall is a bit of deflection and a less solid feel when really pounding through technical rock gardens at higher speeds, which I only noticed on black diamond trails at Diablo. However, it's not intended as a race fork, and it's expected that it would fall a bit short in this department. In every other situation, it really is buttery smooth and very solid.

I mentioned that I prefer a relatively soft preload. I'm by no means a lightweight at over 200 lbs, and my fork's settings would definitely be suited to a rider in the range of about 160 lbs. With this in mind, I haven't had the issues that I'm used to with bottoming out. I love riding drops, and even 6-8 footers don't cause the harsh clunk I became accustomed to with lesser forks set up the same way. I've only managed to bottom this fork out twice, both times at Wisp, where the landings of their drops are much flatter than usual.

I've had the fork for one year at this point, and I've literally done zero maintenance to it. From late May to early November, I'm typically on my bike for at least two or three hours, 3 or 4 days a week, and I'm not one to properly clean and maintain anything I own. I can say with full confidence that it still rides the exact same way it did the day I bought it. This is in stark contrast to the many 66's, 888's and even Totems I've seen blow up after only a few weeks, spewing fork oil all over the place and causing a giant catastrophe, not to mention weeks away from the bike. I'll probably be applying some RedRum to the Domain's seals some time soon, if only a preventative measure to keep them from drying out.

I really can't say enough good things about this fork for the money spent. It's buttery smooth, easily adjustable, reliable, and well designed. For the cost, one would be hard pressed to find a fork that does its job the way this one does. And with a dual-crown version arriving later this year, any issues with high-speed deflection and squirminess should be minimized or eliminated altogether. I definitely expect to see a lot of these out on the slopes when they do finally come out. 9/10  BM













BM

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