First Ride: Trust The Message linkage fork
The usual-looking Trust The Message fork offers an entirely unique approach to front suspension, but not to suspension in general. The Message is a linkage fork, which works in much the same way as rear suspension does. Its foil, then, is the telescoping fork, which has long reigned supreme…
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The usual-looking Trust The Message fork offers an entirely unique approach to front suspension, but not to suspension in general. The Message is a linkage fork, which works in much the same way as rear suspension does. Its foil, then, is the telescoping fork, which has long reigned supreme on the trails. Is The Message a better alternative to the more traditional telescoping fork? That depends entirely on your riding style, but after my first ride on it, I’m convinced its founder, Dave Weagle, is onto something, even if this iteration isn’t perfect.
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What the heck is The Message?
Most mountain bikes you’ve ridden have likely had a telescoping suspension fork. The fork features sliding stanchions that enter the lowers when the front wheel encounters a bump in order to absorb that force. This works well in most situations, but a telescoping fork’s linear motion has drawbacks such as brake dive (the fork actuates under braking forces, sacrificing control), stiction (friction between the stanchions and the lowers that can prevent the stanchions from moving freely when needed), and other flex that can sacrifice control.
The Message also absorbs forces from the wheel’s encounters with obstacles, but it does so differently. Instead of a linear telescoping motion, The Message features a linkage system that essentially moves the wheel upwards and backwards when it encounters an obstacle. This virtually eliminates stiction and increases control by allowing the wheel to essentially move “with” the obstacle.
According to Trust, the linkage fork also eliminates brake dive. When you hit your brakes, your body’s weight shifts forward, effectively activating the suspension on a telescoping fork. The Message’s unique linkage design helps support your weight without activating the suspension. That’s possible largely because the axle path moves in a non-linear fashion, so the forces from braking don’t go directly into suspension movement.
And finally, The Message should, in theory, tighten up stability and steering in corners. Check out those big carbon fork legs. They help increase lateral stiffness, much like a rigid fork would. So there’s very little flex and, as a result, a sharper steering feel.
First ride impressions
I rode The Message for the first time at North Table Mountain, just outside of Golden, Colorado on a Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL mountain bike. The Message replaced the Fox 34 Performance Elite fork with 130mm of travel. The Neuron also sports 130mm of travel out back.
Much of the terrain flows smoothly until you get around to the southeast side of the park, where it starts to get chunky as you climb. There’s one steep, sustained climb up to the top of the plateau, and it gets pretty gnarly in the gut on the final push to the top. From there, it’s smooth sailing around the top of the mountain; then I turned around and went back down the technical descent the way I came.
The Message’s ability to soak up small chatter at low speeds was immediately noticeable. The fork quiets such bumps on rolling terrain and while climbing with remarkable ease. I attribute that to the vastly reduced stiction; on a telescoping fork, those small bumps may not get addressed because the fork’s stanchions experience friction as they slide into the lowers, which means the bump’s force needs to be greater than that stiction force in order to activate the suspension. Not so with the message. The linkage moves over small obstacles freely.
Climbing with The Message is a treat. The big carbon legs provide a stable platform when you’re out of the saddle and the front end feels planted and predictable when you’re sitting. It was far easier to pop the front wheel up and over obstacles than I expected, given the swept-out appearance of the fork.
So far, the big drawback to the Message happens on high-speed descents. The suspension feels as though it gets stacked up on successive hits. It was here I felt as though The Message was a rigid fork and I wished for far more plushness. If you’re the kind that lets off the brakes on fast, chunky descents, The Message will throw you around quite a bit. All those hits felt like they were transferred to my upper body.
That said, I do feel like there’s more room for tinkering with the fork’s setup, which isn’t as straightforward as the setup on a telescoping fork. I’ll be tinkering with that setup quite a lot in advance of my final review on the fork to see if I can find a setting that offers more plushness on successive hits at high speeds.
The Message initial verdict
After the first ride, the fork started to look completely normal to me. Perhaps that was a sign of my deeper feelings about the fork: I can see the potential here for a better way to make bikes. The Message doesn’t get it all perfect — it certainly needs to be a lot plusher to be my first choice as a suspension fork, and the setup isn’t exactly intuitive.
But the steering is incomparably good. There’s no brake dive, there’s no steering vagueness even when you push hard into the turn, and climbing with The Message feels reminiscent of a rigid fork (that’s a good thing).
I can see The Message becoming a go-to for XC and light trail riders who perhaps don’t hit chunky trails with as much vigor as enduro riders or rowdier trail riders. (For those burlier riders, Trust offers the Shout fork.)
Over the next several rides, I intend to tinker more with the suspension settings to see if I can find a better sweet spot that perhaps offers more plushness over more terrain types. If I can’t find that sweet spot, then I’d have more reservations about The Message, especially given its price. But if I can find a bit more plushness out of this oddity, I think The Message has incredible potential to upend mountain bike suspension in the coming seasons.