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Gravel suspension is having a moment. With the release this week of Cannondale’s Topstone Carbon Lefty, along with existing offerings from Specialized, Fox, MRP and Lauf, there’s a growing range of options for riders who want a bit of cush for their mixed-surface riding.
Now, SR Suntour is joining the party with the announcement of a new telescoping gravel suspension fork, the GVX. And while the fork is in itself moderately interesting, there’s a much bigger story here: SR Suntour is one of the world’s biggest suspension suppliers for bike manufacturers, which suggests that we’ll be seeing a whole lot more suspension-equipped gravel bikes in the coming years.
The air-sprung GVX suspension fork is built around 32 mm alloy stanchions, and travel adjustable to 40 mm, 50 mm or 60 mm. The fork lowers are magnesium and have a clean non-offset look that’s vaguely reminiscent of the early ’90s road-specific RockShox. Suntour’s offering features a crown-mounted lockout and rebound adjust, with a remote lockout reportedly in development, and is up to date with all the latest standards: flat mount brakes, 12 or 15 mm thru-axle dropouts, and tyre clearance up to 700×45 mm or 650×50 mm.
A tech diagram tucked away in the depths of SR Suntour’s website – which doesn’t currently list the GVX – reveals that the travel length is adjustable through the addition or subtraction of plastic spacers that sit on the shaft of the air spring, which is a bit too manual to be something you can do trail-side. However, with the travel of most existing road/gravel suspension setups sitting in the 20-40 mm range, the GVX’s longer travel may prove an appealing point of differentiation.
The addition of aftermarket suspension to a bike can introduce a number of complications geometry-wise, as a result of the increased axle-to-crown length changing the head tube angle. That’s an issue with SR Suntour’s GVX, too – at its shortest 40 mm travel, the axle-to-crown length is 436 mm, up to 456 mm at the 60 mm travel setting.
Most adventure and gravel bikes, meanwhile, have fork lengths below 400 mm, so there’s a big difference here relative to typical rigid forks – Enve’s gravel fork, for instance, measures in at 395 mm, with more tyre clearance. SR Suntour’s offering is long compared to other aftermarket suspension options, too, with the 40 mm Fox AX being 427 mm from axle to crown, and MRP’s Baxter even shorter at 424 mm.
And as the GVX’s travel increases, the fork offset changes too – 45 mm at 40 mm travel, 46 mm offset at 50 mm and 47 mm offset at 60 mm.
All of that is to say that the purchase of a GVX – or any other aftermarket gravel suspension fork, for that matter – is a decision that requires some consideration and a bit of sweat in the details.
What it all means
But there are a couple of things with this particular fork that are especially interesting in terms of their broader implications for the category.
The first thing is the price. At US$499, the GVX is around $300 cheaper than its nearest competition from Fox and MRP. For the small market of suspension-curious gravel and adventure riders who can get the fork to work within the geometry parameters of their frame, that’s an appealing drawcard – even if it’s a few hundred grams heavier, a bit less refined, and not from as big a brand-name.
But the biggest thing is that it foreshadows that gravel suspension is on its way, big time. The vast majority of SR Suntour’s sales are OEM – that is, sold to bike manufacturers rather than aftermarket consumers. And bike brands can design a frame’s geometry with a fork in mind, reducing headtube length to match the increased length and avoiding compromises that may result otherwise.
Besides the possibility of the fork being specced on forthcoming suspension-optimised gravel bikes at the rowdier end of the spectrum, there’s another likely destination for the SR Suntour GVX. The fork is rated for Class 1/E25 e-bikes, which gives SR Suntour access to a booming e-gravel and touring market, particularly in Europe – and in this application, it makes a lot of sense.
On an e-gravel bike, you’re riding faster than you otherwise would in rougher terrain, and suspension can help flatten poor line choices, while the assistance from the motor helps conceal the additional kilogram-and-a-bit on the front end.
Based on that – while the SR Suntour GVX might not be the first gravel suspension fork, or the flashiest – it has potential to become one of the most common. Looking into our crystal ball for 2021 and 2022, we reckon you’ll be seeing a bit of it.
Weight: 1,725 g
Availability: August 2020