The Frugal Mountain Biker: Part 3 – Rock Shox Fork Upgrades

While many bike upgrades are often just for cosmetic reasons and others offer some added comfort; some upgrades can genuinely make a huge difference of how well you ride.

When I started looking around for ways to improve my bike, one of the first things that I looked up were air forks. I was not however crazy about spending $400+ for a fork upgrade. Being frugal is all about making the most out of the things that you have. So the next thing that I did was to look up more information on my fork.

The fork on my bike is not a high end model but it is also not too low end either. It is a Rock Shox Tora 289. It is not for a taper head tube, it only has 9mm QR, and disc brake mounts. Stock it comes with a medium weight U-turn spring rated for 150-175 Lbs rider. The U-turn feature allows me to externally adjust the travel from 85-130mm (I really like this feature). It also has an externally adjustable rebound damper, 32mm steel stanchions, and magnesium lower legs. It is a bit on the heavy side because of the steel stanchions, but it is not crazy heavy either because of the magnesium.

The general consensus on the web reviews was that it is a good XC shock that is rugged and capable for trail use. It is not made for huge air or big drops. It is also reliable and fairly easy to service.
The next thing that I found out was that the U-turn spring is extremely easy to swap out to a heavier spring (see item #22 on schematic above). I found detailed instructions on how to do the swap. The extra firm spring is rated for riders more than 180 Lbs and it is only $40. My weight is close to 210 Lbs with all my gear on. That sounds like a winner to me.

The next thing that I found was there is also a very simple upgrade for this fork that will add adjustable compression damping, adjustable floodgate control (just like a pro-pedal), and a lock-out. It is called a Motion Control Compression Damper. It is only $60, and it is also super easy to install. I looked up the instructions and it is even easier to install than the U-turn spring. This is the same kind of compression damper that many of the high end Rock Shox forks come with. This one sounds like another winner to me too.

After ordering these components in the mail, they arrived in around 3 days. It took me about 1 hour to install both of the items (super easy). I was so eager to test it all out that I immediately hopped on the bike and rode it all around the neighborhood. I hopped every sidewalk curb, hit a few short hills, and came barreling down back to my garage to a screeching stop. A bit later that afternoon I took the bike on a long XC run at a park near my home.

WOW!! This was a huge upgrade! These two upgrades completely transformed my fork’s capabilities. No more pedal-bob for ultra-efficient climbing, no more brake dive, and it can handle small drops so much better. It does not blow through the travel on bigger hits any more. It is much more composed when hoping logs, curbs, and handling rougher terrain. This shock is no longer under-gunned like before. The lockout also works great and unlocks itself for bigger hits because of the floodgate. It is so super convenient to adjust too. Just reach down to the dial while riding and click, click, click, done!

Simply outstanding! Stay tuned for the next write-up in this series of “The Frugal Mountain Biker”.

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