Carbon Cycles Exotic Fork with Disc & V Brake Mounts
918g (uncut) £160.00
The Carbon Cycles Exotic Fork is a wallet friendly, suspension corrected carbon fibre model designed for older mountain bikes. Though not something I’d choose for hard enduro use, its solidly made, compliant and has a tangible weight advantage over rigid Cro-moly options, let alone suspension. There’s also a sleeker, IS disc only model, should you prefer.
Pros: Lightweight, compliant, solid construction, decent finish, inexpensive.
Cons: 97 kilo max payload won’t suit everyone.
Let’s talk numbers. These have a maximum rider payload of 97.5 kilos. Not infinite but reassuring, nonetheless. Ours was designed with an axle to crown height for bikes previously running suspension forks with 80mm travel. Their offset/rake is 42.5mm and the steerer tube 265mm. Ours featured the old school IS disc mounts, though not a problem, since post-mount adaptors are still plentiful.
A 7075-aluminium alloy steerer is what I’d expect from the price point-also works for me as I’m cautious when it comes to carbon. It's also anodised, which is reassuring, since carbon fibre is very reactive. (I’ve known bottom brackets to seize within the shell’s aluminium inserts). The crown, frame ends, and canti/V brake mounts are also aluminium alloy –6061, which is easier to shape and form. These and the ends are painted, which bodes well for winter, offer decent defence against the salt monster.
The legs/stanchions are made from 34mm carbon fibre, feature that distinctive 3K weave and lacquer topcoat. Nothing particularly revolutionary here. However, tried and tested and crucially, the fork meets rigorous EN and DIN standards. Steerer and crown are bonded, as are the cantilever V/-brake mount.
No issues with 2.1-inch tyres and a couple of credible folks say 2.3 inch haven’t presented any clearance issues.
Most regular readers will be familiar with Ursula, my much loved four seasons working bike. Ursula is based around a 1997 Univega Alpina 506 frameset, bought NOS in 1999 and has done over 130,000 miles, so lots of component changes, steady evolution and the odd, uncharacteristic brain fart. Ursula: The Never-Ending Story.
The disc brake front end upgrade led me back to some beefy Cro-moly forks (around the 1.3 kilo mark uncut) which are bang on when it comes to geometry and features but can mean a hefty front end when hub dynamos and beefy tyres are added into the mix. I was looking for something that would keep the practical “go anywhere” narrative but with a little more sparkle. I could’ve gone disc only-an arguably sleeker look, but I like the choice of running a cantilever, should situations require, hence rims with machined braking surfaces.
Being a relatively small frameset, I pruned the steerer by 6.5cm and opted for the Gusset Headlock system in favour of the humble start fangled nut. There’s a slight weight penalty and a bit of lateral thought’s needed when fitting full length guards. However, no risk of slipping and theoretically, it’ll offer some support should fork and steerer tubes ever part company.
Ride Quality 3.75/5
From the outset, the carbon cycles exotic fork unleashed a more playful, sprightly persona (even with the original headset hurling warp speed towards the knacker's yard). This helped reduce fatigue on longer rides and was further amplified when I switched from the Ryde Andra/Alfine Shimano Alfine UR700 Hub Dynamo for the Ryde Andra/Shutter Precision SD8 saving a further 215g. Now, big tyres and the frame’s triple butted Cro-moly tubes certainly help but the fork legs did an excellent job of insulating against vibration-whether that’s washboard tarmac, bridle path, or unmade dirt roads.
At 70 kilos, I don’t tax components in the same fashion as heavier riders might. However, no discernible flex when belting along dirt roads at 20 plus mph, or braking hard to avoid deer, kamikaze rabbits and other woodland animals along lumpy 1in 7 descents. A few exposed, low profile tree roots required a bit more concentration but only induced a gentle rippling through the fork legs.
Even in these contexts, with the heavier wheel and quick release (as distinct from thru axle), there was no discernible squirm at the dropout. Talking of which, the “lawyers' lips” sit just the right side of retentive, preventing unwanted release, without hampering intentional wheel removal.
Being lighter than the Cro-moly blades, while mechanical sensitivity is always a good thing. Sweeping around, or gently lifting the front end to avoid holes, kamikaze rabbits and other potential hazards proved that little bit easier.
Admittedly, going the front full-length mudguard route hoisted it a good deal higher than “ideal” and on a very windy day, will create a fair bit of air resistance. However, otherwise, its offered decent protection from wet, grotty stuff and clogging a moot point. I’ve run 1.9 and 2-inch mixed terrain/dual purpose models and could go to 2.3inch without causing mischief.
Though cursory inspection suggested the fork was finished to a high standard, this has proven so. I placed some Zefal Skin Armor where dynamo and brake cabling were tethered, or brushed against the stanchions.
A precautionary measure, since wet, gritty stuff tends to get trapped here during winter and rapidly becomes a paint and lacquer chewing abrasive. Despite the inevitable pings from stray stones and similar projectiles, the lacquer remains unblemished-not so much as a swirl several hundred miles later.
Ditto the painted ends. Washing and a periodic lick of high-quality automotive wax should lock the elements out. I periodically strip and inspect carbon forks thoroughly, usually coinciding with headset overhaul. I’ve had similar feedback from people who’ve run them for a few years, suggesting that Carbon Cycles have their quality control and bonding technologies well and truly sussed.
Ok, so you can still buy a packet-fresh rigid five piece, “school chair” Cro-Moly fork for £90 and lighter models with disc and touring friendly braze-ons for £120 or so. However, £160 for a carbon fork, one meeting EN and DIN standards is seriously good going, especially one catering for older mountain bikes running 26” wheels. There are some unbranded full carbon offerings cropping up on auction sites going for less than £100 but difficult to discern standards and with no official distributor things could prove very fraught, dare I say, expensive should something go wrong.
The Carbon Cycles Exotic MTB fork with disc and V brake mounts is a relatively inexpensive way of bringing some extra zing to an older mid to higher end mountain bike. Especially during the winter months when suspension’s merits are less obvious, heft and complication less welcome. It's also a good bet for riders of older, mid-upper end mountain bikes that have been reinvented as gravel/cross machines.