Second-gen MRP Baxter fork adds more fuel to the gravel suspension fire
Colorado-based suspension brand MRP isn’t as big or well-known as Fox, but its Baxter gravel bike suspension fork is following a similar trajectory. Initially launched in 2017 as a cut-down mountain bike suspension fork — just like the Fox 32 Step-Cast AX — the Baxter has been re-launched as a second-generation model that’s not only lighter and sleeker-looking, but also more compatible with modern drop-bar components, while offering better tire clearance, too.
The new chassis still features a conventional telescoping layout with 32 mm-diameter aluminum stanchions up top and cast magnesium lower legs. But as the upcoming AX appears to do, the new Baxter sports a slightly narrower stance and more gracefully tapered shape on the lowers for a more visually appealing aesthetic. Claimed weight with an uncut steerer tube has dropped from 1,590 g to a more reasonable 1,420 g, and that’s despite the steerer tube growing in length from 250 mm to 300 mm.
MRP hasn’t just made the new Baxter more visually appropriate, either. There are also a number of features added to more specifically appeal to the gravel crowd this time around, including a switch from post mount to flat mount disc brake tabs (for 160 mm or 180 mm rotors), bottle/accessory mounts on the outside of each leg (that can accommodate up to 1.36 kg of load per side), and fender mounts (including a threaded fitting on the backside of the arch).
Despite the weight reduction, the total available travel has increased from 40 mm to 60 mm (although there’s still a 40 mm option), with an air spring housed in one leg and an oil damper on the other. That air spring has independently adjustable positive and negative chambers to allow users to fine-tune the overall spring rate and initial bump sensitivity, and the damper is more specifically tuned for gravel than the original Baxter with less unwanted movement in the open settings, and a much firmer lockout.
“The ability to choose the negative spring pressure gives you control over the off-the-top feel,” explained MRP’s VP of business development, Noah Sears. “You can go as much as 10% over positive pressure in the negative chamber without the fork starting to lose travel, or shrink. A greater negative pressure completely eliminates any breakthrough sensation as you initiate travel; it makes it incredibly supple.
“I run 130 psi positive and 140 psi negative on my fork, which erases all high-frequency, small chatter while still ramping-up nicely for big ‘oh shit’ moments.”
Tire clearance has improved as well. The 40 mm-travel model can accommodate 700×45 mm tires in stock form, or 700×50 mm ones with an optional internal spacer. Meanwhile, the 60 mm-travel Baxter can handle 700×50 mm tires in stock form with no other changes needed.
As expected, the Baxter is compatible with 12×100 mm thru-axle front hubs, but it’ll also work with the wider 12×110 mm hubs that are slowly becoming more common on e-gravel bikes via interchangeable dropout inserts. In either case, fork rake is adjustable in three positions to allow riders to fine-tune the handling characteristics depending on preferences and tire setup. Tapered 1 1/8-to-1 1/2″ aluminum steerers are used throughout, with axle-to-crown lengths ranging from 430-456 mm.
“These forks will be featured on some future Niner models that are in the works,” Sears said. “We’ve been working with them closely throughout development. In general, OEM interest for this has been huge, but we have no other confirmed spec at this point. A lot of that has to do with disarray in the supply chain and how far out product managers are currently speccing bikes.”
MRP plans to have forks available in the aftermarket starting in July with “extremely limited” quantities to start (go figure). Retail price is US$990, with pricing in other regions still to be determined.
For more information, visit www.mrpbike.com.