Some Insight on Air Forks

October 15, 2016 2 min read

Some Insight on Air Forks

Air forks are not a new thing. The first air forks were seen in the 60s and 70s but never really took hold. They are back now and seen on many production bikes but they are very complicated to setup. The problem with air forks is that they react the exact opposite to heat as a traditional spring fork. As you ride the air heats up and expands causing the fork to get stiffer as it heats up where a spring would get softer as it heats up. To counter this affect Showa came out with the SFF TAC fork with triple air chambers. There are high and low pressure cartridges as well as a balance chamber. Basically the balance chamber gets softer as the fork heats up to counter the other chambers getting stiffer as the air expands. To me this is way too complicated when you are just trying to emulate a spring. People tend to start looking at this as if it were damping and get in some really bad places. Some other styles like the KYB PSF fork have only one chamber and are simpler to understand but if you get a leaky seal they go flat. This is what happened to Ken Roczen at the Glen Helen National in 2016. His fork lost pressure and he couldn't keep the pace and lost to Ryan Dungey even though he was clearly the fastest rider on the track. Personally I think the air forks are over rated and over complicated for your general rider. None of the top pros are even running them any more. Yoshimura Suzuki runs the Showa SFF TAC stickers on the forks but they actually run spring forks so it is just a sticker. Honda also has pulled the TAC fork for 2017 and will be running spring forks again. Maybe the WP AER fork will prove to be dependable and simple but it is yet to be seen. These other forks take a lot of patience and knowledge to get them working properly. I think for now these are just a fad and will disappear into history once again.


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