Review: K9 Industries Shock and Fork Thrust Bearings and Race Steel Springs
August 8th, 2011
By Olly Forster
Suspension is an integral part of our bikes and something that can either be a source of intrigue and interest or a minefield of confusing information and baffling technology. Here at Factory Jackson, we like to focus our content away from the ‘techy’ side of the sport and focus more on the lifestyle and fun side of why we ride bikes, but being a ‘product based’ sport you can’t help but wonder about what can be done in a simple and cost effective manner to increase performance and ultimately how much fun we have on our bikes.
Photos and Words: Olly Forster
Manufacturing is top notch, materials are spot on and the finish is excellent, but being an unsealed unit containing needle bearings, you will have to whip it out after a wet week-end and give it a clean and dab of lube to keep this spinning smoothly. The design is super compact and pretty damn light at 60g with the adapter and makes for a great hop up that doesn’t require a great deal of mechanical know how to install and maintain. The bearings and required adapter, which is specific to Fox, Rock Shox and Cane Creek and are another £10 – so make sure you order the right one for your shock – are designed to work flawlessly with K9′s springs preventing any improper fitting. Attention to detail is high as usual from K9!
There it is, the rear shock Thrust Bearing broken down into its parts. Pretty simple idea when you think about it and one that works too – but I wasn’t too sure at first…
When I first started using the Thrust Bearings I was convinced, mostly by their lack of movement under my incessant squishing of the saddle and inspection of the bearings not moving, that they were not doing anything? But something was certainly different with my bike - I was all of a sudden blowing through the travel and the suspension noticeably became too soft for me. After getting in touch with the main man, Luis Arraiz at K9, he soon put my reservations to one side and encouraged me to go up 25lbs in spring weight as this would compensate the bearing’s action and increasing the plushness of my bike. “But there not moving?” I said; Luis went into some detail at this point and lost me, but what he said did eventually make sense. The movement of the bearings is so slight it’s hard to see by pushing down on the saddle and forcing the shocks actuation.
After going up 25lbs in spring weight, the bike became balanced once again and the true nature of the bearings started to shine with increased small bump sensitivity and the increased sensation of the ‘patter effect’! Whats’ the ‘patter effect’ I hear you say? Well, it’s when your flying over roots and small to mid sized hits and your suspension is ‘pattering’ over it. You can feel it, but it’s not making you slow down or forcing you to change your line – it’s just that awesome feeling you have riding a long travel coil sprung bicycle down a sweet trail and your bike is doing exactly what it should be doing – working for you, not against you!
Fox RC4 tricked out with light weight ‘Race Steel’ spring and Thrust Bearings – looking factory!
And the Rock Shox Vivid, which was the shock we ultimately spent more time on – as it’s awesome! Check the 425lb spring too – all K9 Springs are available in 25lb increments to get that shock as close to your intended required weight as possible. No compromises needed and if you are a fussy one who likes to swap springs for different tracks and conditions, well, here’s an affordable, light weight option as these are half the price of Ti and half the weight of a regular steel spring – £90GBP and they come in this awesome gold colour that really looks the business.
Fox and Sram both recommend a 400lb spring for my weight and they’re right, but running the full K9 package increased the shock’s bump eating ability, especially at the start of the travel and required going up 25lbs.
Forks too! Boxxer Race, Teams, BOS and the meaty Fox 40′s are all up for the thrust bearing treatment too and this is where I really felt the difference from this technology. The feel in my Boxxer Teams became noticeably more sensitive and dropping the bottom out adjuster saved some weight too. This is a great little upgrade and the best bit is, it’s only £25 for RS Boxxers and Fox 40s and £35 for BOS. Well priced, easy to fit and it actually works!
Being sealed within your fork leg, these are totally maintenance free and if you do want to get them out for some TLC, it’s not going to require some extensively complicated and specific tools. Manufacturing and materials used are typically first rate – the model we tested was a pre-productiona and the ones you’ll be fitting to your bike will have some pimp laser etched logos!
All you have to do is remove this thing at the top (the bottom out adjuster) if you have Teams and if you have Races, don’t worry about it as there isn’t one getting in the way. Then all you have to do, is pop the little thrust bearing unit on top of your spring stack, screw on the supplied K9 top cap, which is also lighter than the stock RS top cap by the way and hey presto – done and ready to rock! Like the rear shock variant, the bearings increase the small bump ability, ultimately increasing both the grip and the smile on your face.
All together and on their own, these are some really cool upgrades for your downhill bike. Coming in at realistic prices for the week end warrior looking for the factory touch and suitable for the home mechanic, these really should be on the radar for anyone looking to squeeze a little more from their bikes performance before resorting to expensive valving and pro level shocks.
Simple yet functional parts and well worth checking out. For more information on the products reviewed here, head over to K9Industries.com