The world of mountain bike suspension has certainly advanced in the last decade with better and better technology slammed into our forks and shocks. The reality is that even the lower end forks now perform better than the highest quality forks of a decade ago, but how well do they really perform? We slapped Rockshox’s budget offering the Rockshox 35 Gold on an aggressive hard tail and spent the last six months putting it through it’s paces, here’s our thoughts….
By Mike Branch
Product: Rockshox 35 Gold Fork 140mm
RRP: $749.99 AUD
Available at: All good bike stores
The Nitty Gritty
The 35 Gold is aimed at riders on a budget that want a fork that can hit the trails as hard as some of the higher end forks. Available in travel sizes from 100-160mm, with 35mm fork stanchions and a motion control damper, it certainly delivers this on paper. The Motion Control damper has been proven over time by Rockshox and was the damper adorning their higher end forks not so long ago, it’s no Charger damper but it gets the job done. Travel on these forks can also be adjusted without buying a new air shaft, travel spacers can be removed from the air shaft to increase the travel up to a maximum of 160mm; definitely one of the better features of these forks.
Spring type: Debonair Air Spring
Volume adjustability: Black 32mm Tokens
Stanchion diameter: 35mm.
Lowers materials: Magnesium.
Axle to crown height: (140mm Travel fork)
Axle size and style: 15x110mm (Boost).
Steerer tube standard: 1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″ Tapered.
CSU / Steerer tube materials: Aluminium.
The setup on these bad boys was not as easy as some of the higher end forks and we found that they were very sensitive to pressure changes, too little air and it felt plush but bottomed out quite easily. Small adjustments up could easily lead to too much air and a harsh feel, unfortunately the Rockshox Trail Head app was of little use to us. After a bit of mucking around and testing we settled on 85PSI for an 88kg rider with -5 clicks of rebound. This seemed to give us the best balance and didn’t bottom out easily despite our best efforts.
The forks were whacked on a Commencal Meta AM HT 2021 frame and we spent a lot of time spanking the dirt with this bike and fork alike. Trail centres we tested on included Mt Joyce, Ironbark, West Mt Cotton and a couple of secret locations known for their steeps and technical trails. The forks once set up performed reasonably well and held up to a fair amount of abuse, the motion control damper works well but can feel quite harsh compared to a Charger damper. We did struggle to get good small bump sensitivity with the forks whilst maintaining mid stroke support and bottom out protection.
Out of the box these forks look good but you can tell with some of the finer details that it is a budget offering from Rockshox, notably the rebound knob which is made of what seems like cheaper plastic and lacks the feel of other rebound knobs on rockshox forks. With any cost saving there comes sacrifice and we felt that these forks could certainly go well on most trail bikes, but when things got a little rowdy, we would like a plusher fork with a bit more adjust-ability.
The Final Word
Rockshox ‘s 35 Gold is a good quality budget fork that we are seeing on a large amount of OEM bikes, particularly the lower end spec bikes. They are well priced and offer a decent damper and versatility when it comes to travel changes, for those on a tight budget these may be the right forks for you. We felt that we would rather spend a little extra and get a Yari in the same travel size, considering it’s only another $150. At least a Yari can be upgraded and is more compatible with the long travel bikes we love to ride. Horses for courses, this fork does what it is intended to do at a budget price and will get you started before you are able to upgrade or be a good addition to a cheap bike build.
Do these forks get the job done? Yes.
Would we buy a set for a build or put them on another bike? Not unless we didn’t have the budget for a better fork.
Thanks for reading and as always, keep the brakes wide open…..