Ed – Greg Green took a “First Look” at the RST Renegade Fat-bike Fork several weeks back and now he comes at us with this long-term review after over 8 weeks of riding and tells us what he’s learned! Is the RST Renegade a contender or a pretender? Let’s find out!
Hard to believe, but just 10 years ago we were actually debating on the forums whether front suspension was necessary on a mountain bike. Just 16 years ago the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in cooperation with the manufacturer announced a voluntary recall of a quarter million front suspension bicycle forks. This single event forever solidified in all bicycle and bicycle part manufacturers minds, the importance of quality design and construction. Consumer lives – our lives – are at stake!
The new RST Renegade is not immune from this assessment and my goal as a product tester was to ride this fork to the point of failure – whether a catastrophic failure like breaking the crown forging or something less dramatic like destroying the internal valving. I rode this thing over intensely rough lava fields, rocky and rooted single track, beaches, rough fire roads around a dormant volcano and even managed to air out the bike over several different man-made and natural jumps. I punished the fork for a half hour by riding straight into a seven- inch tall curb while initially adjusting the compression and rebound settings to my preferences.
I did not succeed. I tried… and had the build quality been less than stellar, trust me, I would have broken it. The RST Renegade still works as good as the day I received it and right now, you all are asking “..but how does it really work?”
In the “First Look at the RST Renegade” article we covered the nuts and bolts, weight, damping, finish, etc. In a more detailed discussion with Bobby Acuna from RST, I learned the MSRP was $585. To put this into perspective the Bluto’s MSRP is between $685 and $715. That puts RST’s entry into the Fat-bike market a solid Benjamin more affordable. Coupled with the fact it will be offered in both straight steer and tapered, and black and white colored lowers, it should prove to force everyone in the game to step up their program. “…but how does it work?”
The sample I was provided was apparently a very late pre-production unit. I incorrectly stated in my article, First Impressions, it was a 120mm travel version when it is, in fact, 100mm travel. The 120mm version is only available in the tapered steer model. My sample also didn’t include the remote lock out although I was assured it was available as an option. “…but how does it work?!”
I know I’m going to ruffle some feathers when I tell you, unequivocally, this thing works. It does everything I expected and more. There is still a raging debate between rigid vs. suspension and I’m here to report that as a 195lb. man not riding on snow or sand exclusively, but rather very rocky, rooted technical single track, volcanic lava fields and rough, remote long two tracks, I need a front suspension. Guys like Chris Akrigg may be able to survive the pounding of a couple hour ride over a lava field but I need all the help I can get. 50 years of hard miles has taken its toll and this fork is what someone like me needs to survive another 50 years of off-road biking.
Yes, it adds weight over an aluminum or carbon rigid fork. But I’d challenge anybody to huck their rigid rig off the gaps and jumps I landed on the Renegade! My test sample didn’t have an o-ring travel indicator, so I can’t be sure how much travel I was using and if I did bottom it out, it was imperceptible. Landings off large jumps were smooth as silk. Compression was easy to dial in and rebound was very well controlled although I would have liked even more adjustment on the rebound. At the amount of compression damping required to land larger jumps (one or two clicks below full lock), the internal valving in the fork makes a noise resembling a quick scream from the viral sheep video. Noisy and comical, but it works. Normal trail settings result in a silent and smooth ride.
I have no idea what oil was in the fork as delivered, but it performed flawlessly and remained where it was supposed to. It didn’t leak out. The bike spent a good deal of time upside down, transporting, cleaning, etc. and never experienced any problems with loss of damping control that didn’t self correct within a few feet of riding. I’ve never performed any service, whatsoever, in the eight weeks of riding and the stanchions still manage to find some lubrication! Thankfully, there are no external mini grease fittings on the lowers as in my previous fork, the RST Air 29. Those mini grease fittings always seemed to leak out a bit of oil that stained the powder coating of the lower casting.
As I mentioned, the Renegade provided to me did not include a remote lock out, so I cannot comment on the quality of that assembly. What I can tell you is a quick twist of the compression adjuster to the full lock position results in a fork that is FULLY locked. After banging around the single track for an hour at a plush compression setting and reaching down to switch to full lock, the difference is astounding and only serves to solidify the investment.
Low speed compression did suffer a bit as the fork seemed to have a very small amount of stiction at initial movement. This stiction existed from the day I received the Renegade right up to the end of the eight week test and although it wasn’t noticeable enough to bother me, it could be an issue for some, such as a much lighter weight rider or someone only riding on smoother surfaces. The stiction did seem to improve each time as the ride progressed. Perhaps as the o-rings in the air piston became more lubricated or warmer? But every morning, on the ride to work, it seemed I found myself pumping the fork a few times to loosen it up… and then, voila! A very acceptable ride.
Inevitably, some will claim a front fork is unnecessary on a fat-bike and make statements about magic air pressures and specific rim and tire combos for each riding scenario. The Big Island of Hawaii is less than a million years old, so there’s just not much…dirt.. and, I know, that is hard to imagine! I’ve pinch flatted nearly every tube used in fat tires and now know how much pressure it takes to ride out of Kulani trails without repairing tubes. I’ve worn out four sets of tires riding on the basalt, volcanic rock that is all but inescapable. Mountain bike friendly Kalopa State Park is filled with trees but the spider web of root structures seem to exist mostly on top of the ground. Long, flowy, smooth and fast trails just don’t exist here. Supremely rocky and rooted technical challenges abound and while I have ridden all the trails full rigid, I can say, without reservation, a front suspension will help you to be a faster rider, help you clear things you once found impossible, and reduce rider fatigue on long-ride days. The weight penalty is real, but is far outweighed by the gains.
The RST Renegade doesn’t employ separate slow and high-speed compression adjustments, trendy acronym described, multi-step castings or gimmicky colored, patented hard anodizing. And that’s the attraction. It’s simple. The weight is comparable or better than the other players in the market. It is not a ‘flexy noodle’. It just works. Set it and forget it. In this world of ultra-high tech, light-weight materials and manufacturing processes, RST chose to enter this market at a lower price point and deliver a world class product. For the past few years RST has been making gains in the performance aftermarket and the Renegade is solid proof they are capable of a quality product. I highly recommend the RST Renegade. Aloha!
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[photos courtesy of David Alipio and the author]
RST provided our tester with this fork for review. It is a late pre-production version and some slight changes may be made to the final production model.