Santa Cruz Superlight 03 with USE sub Anti-dive fork and Trek Liquid 20

Full on multi-day trips to Coed-Y-Brenin and Glentress, gave us a good chance to check out these bikes, thanks to Leisure Lakes for the loan.
400 size pic As a once follower of Endurance motorbike racing, it follows that as soon as I saw the SUB anti-dive fork I had to have one. £800 pah, no problem for that gorgeous engineering and all those head turning looks, but it had to work.

As luck would have it the demo fork came with a 03 Superlight attached, having a Fox forked 02 model myself meant for almost direct comparisons.

Take the Fox fork; lower the air pressure for a supple ride over the small to medium hits.
Now hit the brakes and the fork dives like the Titanic, hit a bump at this exact point and your 100mm fork is now more like a 40mm travel old skool fork, useless. Add in the fact that your weight is now pitched forward, and the carefully designed steering angles all go to pot and you can see the problem.

This is where the USE SUB fork comes in, stable under braking it claims. The brake clamps the disc to the lower arm and locks the leg from lowering, the forces from below will still push the fork up as the top pivot is still free to move.

So how did it ride, well here's our views, based on some of the hardest riding in these Isles.

sub right I so wanted one of these forks, those that know me, say thats all it takes normally for the credit card to hit meltdown. Having found the limits on another Innovative fork design over the past few years I was going to be more carefull this time.

First ride was straight to a local old railway embankment, Pre-load pressure right down on the fork for a super supple ride, and settle for the damping given, as it's a strip down job to change it.
Launching into the arse on the back tyre drop, on with the brakes and bingo it works, braking hard enough to lock the front tyre the fork barely dips, the feel from the front tyre is Impressive and the lack of pitching forward makes the drop seem a piece of cake.
Hitting the sharp transition at the base shows there's still full travel to soak it up no problem. the first 75mm of travel comes easy, and ramps up taking an immense hit for full travel.

The Marin trail at Betws-y-Coed in Wales was the first full ride, and it proved good. The fast and flowing singletrack was eaten up by the very plush front end. On a less than confidence inspiring front tyre the feedback was superb. This was the fist time I'd riden on wet trails in months, and I'm sure the fork saved many slides on the slippery rocks.

it was also noticeable how well the fork landed jumps too, the damping seems to have come in for some flack on these, but it seemed to suck the ground in on even the most cack handed landing, no rebound problems there for me.

Riding a new trail with others who new it well showed up one thing. Going into corners too fast and then applying brakes mid corner had a strange effect. The lack of dive was very noticeable, where normally you pitch forward as a whole, on the SUB it requires you to physically lock your arms to stop your weight shifting on the bike.

This was unsettling at first and required a whole new awareness of the forks characteristics. Its hard to explain, its as if every touch of the brakes is like the effect of jamming them on, no slow dive you absorb without thinking, your brain takes a while to re-calibrate.
It's also possible that the effect of the diving fork steepening the bikes head angle to aid those last minute panic steering moments was missing, but more of that later.

For now I was looking for Mr. USE's phone number, this baby rocked.
additionalsub Left Coed-y-Brenin and the trails are so different here, more rocks and tighter turns. An additional group of riders, bigger ego's and much faster speeds changed the way the bike was ridden.

I became confused, the fork soaked everything you could throw at it, so much so that I lowered the rear shock to silly soft pressures to match it up. In poor grip conditions the front never let go once, I have never left CYB without being blooded, but this time I did.
Yet I rode worse than I have ever riden on trails I know well...Why.

I seemed to be constantly fighting the bike, quick changes of direction became a very physical act. I had to watch the trails like a hawk and hurl myself from side to side just to muscle this light bike round the twisty bits. I was getting knackered just keeping up with riders I could normally leave standing, and many times I could just not steer this beast quick enough and left the trail.

So why? I had heard the reasoning about all the weight on one side unbalancing the bike but was that the whole reason, I was having trouble on left and right handers, is a little fork dive a good thing to quicken up a bikes steering briefly?
Following riders commented on how I seemed to be offset on the seat to the right, to balance the forks weight on the left, this seemed to make sense.

On approaching a quick left right section, I was already biased to the right, if moving my weight to the inside of the corner I had further (OK so its fractions) to go which takes more effort or becomes slower. I then have to overcompensate by hauling my self back to other side of the bike and it all adds up.

The clue seemed to be on off camber trails, like on Dug which slips away to your right. I was in all sorts of trouble here.
For good speed and grip the bike should be held away from the bank to keep as much tyre contact as possible. This normally means moving your body into the bank to compensate, for balance. I can only guess that the extra fork weight seemed to do this already Ieaving me perched more out on a limb than I liked. Now throw in a left turn into the bank and I'm having to work harder again to get back in line.
   That could all be bollox, but I've since watched Adi leave the trails many times at Glentress for much the same reason, then swapping to my SanAndreas with its more relaxed head angles and have no problem all day. I loved the forks action, couldn't care less about the price or the weight, It saved my skin on many occasions, but it made me a worse rider every time the speeds increased, so its not for me.
pic400 So why by a 2003 Santa Cruz then. Its mainly in the swinging arm as can be seen here. The rear shock lower pivot is lower, to make the ride more supple, or is that to match up with the new generation of Platform shocks.
It looks a damn site stiffer too, a hefty box brace makes a great mud catchment chamber, but looks solid. Indian has thrown his 2000 model off many a rocky trail with no problems so far, so perhaps its for the jump boys.

No denying that the better pivot bolt is an improvement over the old Mecanno bits of old, and retro-fittable too. Ignore the crap paint job, this is a demo bike after all.pic 400
Click for bigger picture, look no hands.
Hey look at that a proper magazine type picture, good hey. This baby is a Trek Liquid 30, nothing special in the spec and a good price. Loads of travel from the Fox Talas shock and Rockshock Psylo forks and not exactly light.

We loved it, it soaked up everything at Glentress and never stayed in the Van, even when we were knackered the though of heaving the extra weight up those long drags was never an Issue, it was worth it. looking for a cheap fun do every thing bike, its worth trying. The 2004 range gets some high end models with Carbon rockers and Titanium pivot gear, that and some lighter kit and they will be superb bikes.
This is also the first full tubeless tyres set up I've tried and they were great. The IRC Trailbear tyres gave great confidence and felt really supple. The lack of rolling in tight turns and over off camber roots at low pressure was great. Its got me thinking perhaps this is the future after all.