Retro Products: Triple Clamp Forks

We thought we’d kick off our new blast from the past series with a look back at the first issue of Dirt and what were considered at the time to be cutting edge forks…

The fact that these forks are constantly referred to as ‘triple clamps’ kind of says it all really. At this point in time (January 1997) most privateer racers were still using single crown forks, it was the beginning of a new era.

First up the prototype Pace forks:

PACE MONSTER TRIPLE CROWN FORK

Pace have given us an exclusive look at their new Monster downhill fork. The fork will be available in the spring (no pun intended). We’ll be getting a set for test, but for now here’s a snippet. Technically, the Monster will give 150mm of travel, with 3-stage coil spring – plus air spring. Axle will be the usual 20mm spindle initially for Hope. Dialling in will be via thumb adjusters for pre-load and damping located at the top. Outer legs will be pure carbon and the fork will measure 508mm. See you in the spring!

EXCLUSIVE: RST TRIPLE CROWN FORK

RST are to introduce a budget long-travel fork to downhillers. What they’ve done is to use the existing outer legs of their highly successful Mozo Pro 4.5 fork, extended the stanchions and sling dual crowns on it. Of course, by retaining this and not an inverted set-up, the system benefits non-disc users.

Inside the fork sits an MCU and mechanical spring stack with twin air-damped compression and rebound systems. Like the originals, legs are ali with magnesium sliders and brace. Preload is hand operated via the adjusters on top of the legs. The forks will retail for £389.95 which is bloody cheap!

Here’s a sneak shot of the fork the day it arrived at Zoobits. Big Geoff, head of the Surrey-based distributors, told us they expect to have the new XXL American RST triple crown fork into the shops by Christmas. This fork will be in the sub-£1000 bracket. Tests to follow.

HANEBRINK ZZYXX TRIPLE CROWN

About two years ago Dan Hanebrink started testing the new six inch travel triple crown fork. Seen as ‘outlandish’ by many, “That’s too big!” and “Who needs that much travel?” were some of the statements coming from techno heads. Dan stood firm, continuing to develop and test the fork. In no time, Hanebrink’s idea had been recognised by many designers as a breakthrough in suspension technology. By this time, the downhill market was rapidly gathering pace, with all the major players in the fork market introducing their own version of the ‘long travel fork’ as they were to be known. With his new fork costing about $2,500 dan still had to work hard to fulfil orders, adopting the philosophy that cost in no object in making a better fork! Hanebrink’s ‘upside down’ fork is ‘custom’ built to each individual racer’s needs, with improvements being made in the design on a regular basis.

When Bullet Bros approached Hanebrink about a year ago. The inverted design was in full production, but the boys at Bullet realised that if you could return the fork to its conventional ‘right side up’ position, then with the reintroduction of a brace, racers would have the option of either canti or disc set-ups. The higher level of racing is more than able to afford this sort of equipment due to sponsorship deals, but to mere mortals having a ‘disc only’ set-up obviously requires more specialist wheels, complete disc assemblies, hollow clamp dropouts, and so on. By simply turning the fork over, all the extra cost is eliminated thus making it more affordable – and adjustable – to the consumer.

The Zzyxx is a stock six inch travel fork which can be adjusted down to four inches, so it’s tuneable to any condition. One of the main features of the new Zzyxx fork is its materials. Oversized seamless aircraft tubing is used throughout, with the whole lot being produced on CNC machines. Both the sliders and the outer legs are one and a half times the diameter of standard forks! With these dimensions, the legs can remain close together to allow for canti brakes. The Zzyxx fork is reputed to be ‘the most rigid conventional fork on the market’.

Main Characteristics:

  • Long travel – 4 to 6 inches
  • Replaceable dropouts, standard for cantis or hollow for discs
  • Disc brake mounts for leading manufacturers available
  • Single shaft damping cartridge guaranteed for one year against leaks
  • 13 inch chrome silicone preloadable spring
  • Weight – 5.9 lbs
  • Oil-less Teflon impregnated bushings for low friction travel without stiction
  • Removable brace and brake mounts
  • Both 1 1/8 inch and 1 ¼ inch steerer available
  • Titanium spring and hardware kit available to reduce weight to 5.4 lbs

Does that lot bring back a few memories? For me it certainly does as I had a set of both the Zzyxx and the Pace forks, plus numerous mates of mine spent hours trying to tweak the elastomer stack in their RST’s, and finding ways to try and make the air damping actually work. The thing that really strikes me though is how we often look back through rose tinted spectacles. I mean the RST’s were considered an absolute bargain at the time as they were half the price of the competition, but if you stick that price into an inflation calculator then that price is the equivalent of about £600 today. You might be thinking that’s not too bad, but these forks were beyond basic, and to say they were shocking by today’s standards is a massive understatement.

You didn’t really get great performance even if you spent way more money too. If I remember rightly the Zzyxx forks sold for about £900, and that was before you added on the cost of 20mm dropouts and disc mounts. Even at the basic price though that works out around £1400 in today’s money. Now you can buy a truly incredible set of forks for that kind of money, but the Zzyxx were truly awful. Actually, that’s not quite fair. If they were well serviced and there wasn’t even the slightest hint of moisture in the air then they’d work ok (as long as you didn’t over tighten the brace clamps as the legs were so thin that this would cause the forks to bind), but it’s no exaggeration to say that if you did a run in the wet you’d be lucky to get 2″ of travel after about 30 seconds. The only thing that stopped me binning them straight away was the fact that they were so simple and quick to strip, you could easily do it between runs, and you had to! The replaceable dropouts literally just screwed into the legs and the tiny bushings (they must have only been about 5mm long, and along with the terrible seals were the main cause of all the problems) were just simple nylon split rings. The industrial looking sealed damper unit was about the only thing that was even slightly reliable on these forks.

Once I had finally managed to get shot of those forks I moved on to a pair of the Pace ones, and what a revelation. I was lucky enough to get a pair from the first very limited batch which Pace took about a week to make each fork, but sadly the later production ones which were churned out in a fraction of the time never came close to matching the performance of those early ones. I should also point out that this fork was pretty ahead of its time. As well as having an externally adjustable coil spring these forks also had an air spring which you could either run empty for a linear feel, or pump up for more progression. You could also find external damping adjusters that covered pretty much everything that you’d find on a good fork today, and you could also do a lot of tinkering internally. The skinny steel stanchions helped give buttery smooth performance and because these forks were designed and made in the UK the seals were far better than most, plus you also had grease ports to help increase service intervals. I actually still have these forks, and now they’re hanging on my living room wall along with a Pace frame from the same era. (Yes, I probably am a little crazy, but I kind of look at it as a work of art and it’s better than it sitting in my shed.)

Anyway, the main thing I am left thinking after this blast from the past is that maybe we’re wrong when we’re always saying ‘things never used to be this expensive, the prices are stupid these days’. Going by these products things aren’t in relative terms any more expensive today, but they’re a whole lot better. We’ll see if that trend continues with the other products that we dig out of the archives in future, but in the mean time what are your fork memories?

  1. mAt

    Definately a blast from the past, I had the RST’s and the PACE forks, and yes they were no where near as reliable as the forks of today (“youth of today, dont know theyre born”). Had to laugh at the ‘giving the rider the option of canti’s or discs’, seems crazy now! Still got pace and rst’s knocking about somewhere, will have to get them hung now! (oh and RST after market springs turned them in to a total pogo stick!)

  2. andy

    I had some of the upside down Hanebrinks, basically the same as the terrible Zzyxx. The seals were basically a bit of sponge and a wiper. Pressure used to build up in them when wet and they locked up. I remember the mags saying how great they were as well, obviously they did not do long term tests back then.

    The Pace were horrible as well, a death trap, they used to sheer off at the bottom…scary!

    Downhill forks have definately improved thank god.

  3. Pumptrack Tim

    Love it. I was on some old Marzocchi Z3′s at that time I think, blue, 80mm and flexy, loved them though on my little Orange Clockwork.

    On the retro theme how about some old interviews and features? I was thumbing through Dirt 06 the other day and the warnerandpeat@dirtmag interview is a classic..

  4. brajal

    I’ve repalced my Marzocchi Z1 for that RST just for the hipe of the triple clamp look… the Z1 damping was so much better what a mistake…

  5. brajal

    I’ve replaced my Marzocchi Z1 for that RST just for the yipe of the triple clamp look… the Z1 damping was so much better what a mistake…

  6. andy

    Anyway, despite a few horrible products, it was exciting times back then. It was actually possible to have truly cutting edge products that no one had seen before (if you had the money). Triple clamp forks, suspension frames, disc brakes. I seem to remember my mates taking the piss out of my bike because I had disc brakes and triple clamps..how things have changed.

  7. Ben

    haha, I had both RSTs and then the Pace monsters, I have very fond memories of trying to gut the bottom out bumpers of the RSTs to points to try and make it a bit more progressive, and replacing the elastomers with clutch springs when they eventually shattered.

  8. Ben

    Sorry meant ‘cut’

  9. Ross

    good times! had a set of the RST’s and the Pace’s. RST’s I could never get more than 3 inches of travel out off, even with taking elastomers out and drilling them!

  10. churchie

    Takes me back to my school days. I had the RST’s on my ’95 steel ‘team scream’ coloured GT tequesta! Until the head tube ripped off… Probably not the best combination hahaha!

  11. churchie

    I had ‘speed springs’ in mine. Pure pogo stick. Then ran one leg elastomer and the other spring to try and find a happy medium.

  12. Joe

    Memory lane. A few more I remember:

    RockShox DHO (the first Boxxers)
    Stratos MX-6 (the gold ones)
    RST upside down forks
    Mr Dirt

  13. Big_Tim

    Best things about the ‘Huffer Puffers’ (The Zzzyyxyxyzyyzzx forks due to their breather hole at the bottom of each leg that meant as you hammered down a hill you sounded like Ivor the Engine having an asthma attack) was that they were almost exactly beer can size. I turned mine into special edition Stella Artois eclipse edition zzxxyxyxyyyyshitzyx, which was obviously the coolest thing ever. Worst thing? EVERYTHING else. A disc mount (yup, I was way ahead of the game on my Super V DH that didn’t take v brakes!) that was held on by 3 m4 bolts? They didn’t last long and spend half the time re tapping the alu inserts then not being able to stop when they failed again.
    would I have changed them at the time? No way, everyone stopped and stared at the behemouth forks!!

  14. Jake

    Whatever happened to Pace!? They used to be cutting edge and now they make nothing of interest to anyone.

  15. MrFlaky

    Was only about 2008 that I got round to selling my old Pace forks when I was clearing out the shed. someone paid 200 quid for them……still not as mad as the guy who bought my GT STS Lobo frame off me for 500 at the same time!

  16. churchie

    Also, dont forget the Judy DHO. Over a grand and with 4 inches of elastomer sprung travel. Around 96 I think.

  17. Noodle

    Whatever happened to RST? Was it true the forks nearly killed a few people and they were shut down?

  18. Owen

    I had both the ZZYZX and later the RST upside down Mozo XXLs back in the day. Brings back some memories! I remember going to Mynydd Du for the first ever Dragon DH race in the late 90s with my new ZZYZX on my Giant ATX 990. I had spent the week before the race cleaning them and setting up my new Hope disc (with the old skool long lever). I was so excited about these new ZZYZX after upgrading from my Mozo Pro 3.5s and turned up at Mynydd Du which at the time set a new standard for DH in the UK. The track was long, steep, hard, rooty and wet. Too wet and muddy for the ZZYZX as they just stopped working after 30 seconds and I had to spend all day Saturday getting the water out of them! Great weekend and if I remember correctly this was back when Steve Jones of Dirt fame used to ride in his Team Skene top and his wellies!!

  19. Paul the desk jockey

    @jake sold to DT swiss! (That’s right isn’t it?) The same people then had a fork service centre, they now operate the Dalby trail centre.

  20. Ed

    Paul, Pace only sold the suspension to DT, not the frame of things. But yeah sadly I have to agree with Jake, I don’t think Pace is the company that it once was. Maybe that’s cos they moved production overseas? To me a Pace is only a Pace if it has square tubes.

  21. james k

    its amazing how much better we have it today, but i remember pining for cool gear like that at the time!

    @ Noodle
    you might be onto something there, i remember servicing my mates rst triple clamps, after i rebuilt them i took them out for a street test, hopped off a kerb only to be shot in the chest by the complete internal assembly, top cap first, the bruise was awesome, it literally shot me off the bike!

    i remember riding dh on my gt bravado xc frame with rst mozo pro 3.5, bloody lethal! didn’t take long to snap that frame!

  22. Ed

    I meant ‘frame side of things’

  23. james

    the build quality of the newer pace frames is terrible!, my mate runs one, open ended box section in places, looks like and industrial pallet ground up and welded back together!

  24. Robbonzo

    RST are still going, they make OEM shite for cheapo bikes. This brings back memories of the Hardtails with Triple clamps article, shot at Golding Barn raceway. Thought they were awesome back then…Oh how things have changed! Great to see this.

  25. Big Bird

    Weren’t the Rock Shox DHOs the first production triple clamp fork? I never bothered with any of those others. The Pace forks weren’t available in the U.S. and Rock Shox was about five blocks from the bike shop where I worked. Untill the Boxxers came out, I ran the DHOs on my Santa Cruz Super 8. Eight inches in the back and four in the front. Also, before I got the DHOs I had a Marzocci Z1. A friend and I visited a friend of his at the factory and they had a set of the screw on triple clamps for them sitting right there. I begged for a set, offering wads of cash, but it was a no go. That very night someone broke into the lobby and stole the all orange show bike with a set of triples on it. They were sure that I had stolen it and only my friend vouching for me and providing an alibi kept them from pressing charges. Since the DHOs it’s been Boxxers ever since.

  26. Nightmare

    I had the Zyzxx and the RST’s way back when….The Zyzxx truly were ‘Designed in California’…where it never rains. As others have said they just stopped working in the wet! Mine met there end on the Pleney in ’98 or ’99. Jumped into the 10% and snapped one of the stantions clean through! One of the scariest crashed of my life.. I think I overtightened the clamps in my excitement to get out riding and that was enough to deform the stantion and creat a weak spot..

    As for the RST’s, they came stock on my first B17. I was gutted when I went to pick that bike up, my buddies one came specced with a Fox rear shock and Manitou Xverts but Marin changed the specs and I ended up with the RST’s and a Shockworks shock. Other than the elastomers freezing in the winter the RST wasn’t actually that bad for the first half of its travel…the second half didn’t exist however..

  27. Paul the desk jockey

    @ed – sorry, that’s what I meant!

  28. Milhouse

    I think Mr Hotston has the best souvenir from a pair of RST forks – he got a close to life threatening hole in the forehead. The round scar is impressive, filled with a titanium plate…

  29. Dan Jones

    I just restored a 1998 Marzocchi MR T, loads of pics on our FB page…

  30. ace

    Ross made me chuckle, drilling elastomers so they compress a bit more, try and get the claimed travel :) how more people where not really badly hurt back then. Seem to recall Shaun Palmer doing ads for the Mozo Pro’s 4.5″ forks.

  31. Mark

    Stratos MX6s were also pretty neat at the time. So cheap and tons of travel!!

  32. Ed

    Just seen some prices in the ad’s from that issue…Judy DH £529, DHO’s £1099!!! That’s about £815 and £1700 in today’s money!

  33. Gar Gulmanuts

    Tippie and I went riding in Kamloops when I had my RST’s. I took off in Barnhardtvale and landed in Kamloops General Hospital.
    As for the Zzyzx, it was outstanding, as long as you carried a bottle of Tri-flow to pour down the legs every 10 minutes or so.
    I never thought it was a good idea to buy any product with the trade name “Hope”, so I shied away from those.

  34. Gareth

    MX6′s were fine, apart from the steerer tubes bending (!), the brake mounts snapping off, being flexy, and the legs twisting in the clamps so they no longer compressed properly. I’m being too harsh though, I did like them on my Bullit back in the day!

  35. Rob

    I had Pace RC150s.

    They were with out doubt the single worst bicycle product I have every bought in my life.

    THe damper rods snapped virtually every time I rode them including twice in a week when I was in Les Gets for which I had to pay Pace for the privilege of supplying me with!!!!

    I had RST High 5′s too. Once you removed the wee elastomer from inside the bottom out spring they were pretty frisking good for their time. Mine did end up snapping though sending me into a tree mind you.

    I still have my Marzocchi DH3′s and my Rocksox DHO’s in my garage.

  36. Drift

    “to say they were shocking by today’s standards is a massive understatement”…… pun intended?

  37. Ed

    sorry, didn’t even realise that pun, so no, not intended.

  38. Jason

    I still have a lovely set of ZZYZX forks
    The RST XXL upside down forks are supposed to be amazing
    and fetch a fair price if you can find any same goes with the
    Mr Dirt triple bypass forks they are mega rare and have seen stets go
    for hundreds of £

  39. WAKi

    Great stuff, I started biking in 2001 and got my first serious equipment around 2005. I still do see how long way that was, sitting on cheap Tora. But at the same time I sit on 2007 Lyrik and can’t stop looking at recent Sea Otters’ cutting edge variety show (with Fox Shox in the leaders jersey) and can’t help myself comparing that to a guy on Dragons Den trying to sell a alarm clock that apart from making sound, spreads the smell of egg&bacon. Maybe in 5 years time Dirt will make an article “When did it all go wrong”

  40. Nick

    Some quality reminiscing going on here…

    I blame those RSTs (re-badged as Girvins) for the crash that took most of the skin off my face and left me with 7 stitches in my ear.

    I lusted after those Pace RC150s especially paired with the Pace rc500 DH frame of the time. No idea if it was any good, but looked amazing, with those HED wheels

  41. Jonzo

    RST’s with Iddon springs… Pogotastic!

  42. Jim

    I had a pair of the RSTs which were ok and still hanging in the shed. They replaced the five pairs of manitous I had which all snapped across the bridge, (warranty replacements) although I don’t think they were intended for NPS downhill use. First sus fork was pace RC35 “atmosphere balanced” no less!! They must of had nearly 1 inch of sticky and poorly damped travel! Amazing!

  43. MB

    I didn’t have any of the forks but i still have a copy of the first Dirt mag :)

  44. robsop

    Any of the old school will remember the difference these made from a Rockshox Mag 21 with long travel conversion, which took them from 48mm of travel to 60mm! These were cutting edge. ha ha.

  45. nozes

    Believe me when I tell you kids,you really don’t know how got you got it these days.
    2001 I was rocking a Giant ATX 990 w/ : RST Mozo 4.5 (tuned with 3 types of springs scavenged from old motorcycles),homemade long travel linkage plates and bushings,Dia-Compe v-brakes,homemade chainguide,Panaracer Magic tires,Odyssey Blaze saddle…oh man it was sweet,even with all the problems!
    My first triple clamps were Marzocchi’s Junior T,5″ travel.

    My friend still has his Zzyzx,when someone on our team has a problem with his forks,he will hear “seems to me someone’s will have to use the Zzyzx tomorrow” good laughs all around. :D Yes,it was that bad.

  46. nozes

    *”how good you got it”,obviously

  47. joe cantello

    RST Hi-5′s were my first triple clamp forks and the worst forks i have ever owned! The lower crown snapped when riding jumps, twice! But luckily you could replace them with other ones.
    Then Marazocchi came to my aid.

  48. Geezer

    I’ve got a set of Hannebrink inverted forks in the shed, bloody heavy.

  49. andy

    Actually some of these old forks and frames go for a mint now if they are in good condition. I kind of like the old “retro” bikes to ride around on.

  50. Big_Tim

    Actually, I just remembered how I made my zzxxyxyxy work in the wet… I managed to find a set of shock boots off a 80cc mx bike which fitted perfectly. they then got filled with grease once they were on (that uber sticky ‘Black Gold’ if anyone remembers that!) to make them crap proof and provide continuous lubrication.
    You know, back in the day there used to be a hell of a lot more bodging going on with bikes to try to make bits work better.

  51. Bfg

    I’ve got a set of Mr Dirts on my long travel ATX 1, old school perfection

  52. Nick

    Isn’t it cool that our sport’s been around long enough to have a bit of history. Loved my Zzyzx How could you not be cool when your forks were the same size as a those on a 250 motocross bike! Also had the Girvin’s on a Cannondale Super V, Brilliant!

  53. Russ

    Haha the memories, I had those RSTs – terrible but I thought they were awesome at the time.

  54. Robz

    They were awesome at the time. I had 3 inches of crappy air sprung travel before I got my Hi 5′s.

    And all for £389 or something? How much are forks these days.

    Even my first set of Boxxers were only about £700 (retail)

  55. ERNSTEVERYTHING

    Ah… the days when dirt was good and had interesting content.. Not the feeble excuse of a magazine it is now..

  56. Adam

    I had some of the Pace forks and they were awesome….. Until all the air leaked out; that took about 2 hours, riding or not.

    I’d still say they were a bargain by the standards in those days and I think I paid £800. The carbon looked awesome too :o)

  57. Gary

    I ran White Bros UD 180`s on my intense. Pretty good fork from memory

  58. neil b

    I started out with a very early Manitou elastomer fork made in Doug Bradbury’s shed, one of the first batch. http://tinyurl.com/9hcw8ng
    Actually it’s still on a CR7 I had, now restored as new by Yasu Ichige a Japanese retro enthusiast. http://tinyurl.com/9lf5ynb
    - Next the upside down Halson Inversion with 2.5″ travel? I rode that down the Kamikazi ;-) had to put in new elastomers after every run. http://tinyurl.com/9b2m28v
    - How about the Lawill Leader made by Control Tech, OK action but a bit misaligned. http://tinyurl.com/9ytx68w
    I also liked the Answer version of the Yeti Accutrax with Mountain Cycle Pro Stop disc mounts: http://tinyurl.com/8edhtbp
    still got a pair of those on the garage shelf. crikey.
    Hey, I’m BOS fan now though. Can’t beat the Idylle SC IMO.
    enjoy the weekend

  59. bike customizer

    It should be noted that only a ZZYZX (ATC RACING) has an option to move the fork brace to accomodate the any wheel up to 29″.
    And if one wants to try 29″ not totally changing(actually buying thw new) the bike, this is awesome option!
    I have a Schwinn Rocket comp of about 2004-2005 year. It is 26″. But! this particular model has a huge clearence between the rear suspension frame and 26″ wheel to easily accomodate a 29″ wheel.
    I’ve checked it and desided to try 29″ wheels. Just to ride not strictly DH but the roads also on a higher speeds.
    So I started to seek the fork for 29″ with the travel of about 150mm-180mm.
    And it’s appeared a problem! It is hard to find. And men, I was frustrated by the prices: from about a 700-800 to far beyond the 1000 bucks.
    Moreover, the most of them are TAPERED STEERER 1 1/8″ to 1.5″.
    It does not fit my bike’s frame headset.
    And if the price is about 300-400 for 29″ fork you have only 80…100mm travel.
    120mm travel 29″ are rare.
    But I want more than 120mm.

    Then I’ve found Bullet “ZZYZX” , soon after – ATC Racing “Terrex”.
    160mm…180mm 26″..29″ 20mm throu axle.
    (And other upgrades and all the parts)

    Just what I need (if the price will be normal)!
    Hovewer, new ATC Racing Terrex is now for $650. Not acceptable price anyway.
    And the overtightening the brace screws possibility is a scaring info.
    Does it really has a such a thin walls ????
    Can’t beleive it…
    Need to try some used low money device and see if it worth an upgrade.

X

Next up in Fresh Produce

First Look: Prototype Nukeproof Dirt Jump Frame