Thru the looking glass of Whisky: Thru axles are coming to road, ’cross forks

Whisky Parts debuted three new thru axle forks for disc-equipped road and cyclocross use and our Nick Legan is a fan of the concept

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OGDEN, Utah (VN) — They’re coming: thru axles for road and cyclocross bikes. While they aren’t on the market yet, in anticipation, Whisky Parts launched three first-of-their-kind forks today for road and cyclocross that use SRAM’s 15mm Maxle system. They are each disc brake-specific. As the number of disc brake road and ‘cross bikes grows, expect to see more thru axles soon.

If you haven’t heard of Whisky Parts, here’s the lowdown. Whisky is a carbon fork and handlebar brand owned by Quality Bicycle Products. The Minnesota-based company launched Whisky simultaneously with Foundry Cycles. So this isn’t a far-fetched idea that they’re captaining. Instead, it’s reasonable to surmise that QBP knows something that we don’t: that thru axle road and ‘cross bikes are coming sooner rather than later.

Feel free to scoff at the necessity of both disc brakes and thru axles for drop bar endeavors, but they do make sense. And while I’ll be sad to see some of my favorite wheels gather dust (or re-lace them), the advantages of disc brakes will become greater as rims, frames, forks and brakes are optimized.

The forks all retail for $650 and weights are in the 430-gram range without the thru axle (that weighs 67 grams). This puts the Whisky thru axle forks 70 to 100 grams heavier than an equivalent rim brake carbon fork, but lighter than some carbon disc ‘cross forks that are already on the market.

Whisky partnered with SRAM to develop a special, shortened Maxle thru axle that helps the appearance and weight of the forks. Unlike the large, bulbous nuts that many rigid thru axle forks require, the Whisky fork uses a non-replaceable insert bonded into the carbon leg. The look is elegant and should prove more than adequate for skinny tired applications.

The No. 9 forks feature post mounts and will clear rotors from 140 to 180mm in diameter. All the forks have tapered steerers and there are currently no plans for a 1 1/8” version. The Whisky No. 9 ‘cross fork has clearance for 35mm tires (though Whisky engineers have shoehorned in a 2.0” 29er tire) while the road forks, offered in 43mm and 49mm offsets, clear a 28mm tire.

To keep cable or hose routing clean, the forks also incorporate a zip-tie housing guide. Colors available are matte or gloss black and both feature very low-key graphics, perfect for aftermarket applications. But for those interested, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Whisky expects a spring 2013 delivery of the forks, so we won’t see any this cyclocross season.

Whisky reps hinted that a rigid mountain bike fork with a thru axle may be in the works and so too might a skinny tire bike with front and rear thru axles. Whisky’s Ben Scherer said, “A thru axle is a great way to do a fork with disc brakes. So too is 142x12mm on the rear.”

And Scherer isn’t alone in his thinking regarding thru axles and skinny tires. With the arrival of disc brakes, other manufacturers are exploring the idea. Specialized’s Mark Cote said recently, “There’s the technology there to start building thru axle road and ‘cross bikes. We believe in discs and thru axles go hand in hand. It’s all part of tuning the ride and thru axles give us even more ability to do so.”

After speaking to dealers, other media and industry insiders at Saddle Drive, Whisky is certainly leading the way with its thru axle forks. Time will tell how quickly consumers adopt the idea, but many believe that disc brakes and thru axles are the way of the future. Whisky is betting on it.

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