By Adam Newman
RockShox deserves a lot of the credit for driving the latest wheel-size trends in mountain biking these days. As the first major manufacturer to offer 27.5 forks, it created the watershed moment for that wheelsize to quickly dominate the industry. I predict the Bluto will do the same for the fat-bike scene.
Essentially a widened version of the Reba/Revelation chassis, the Bluto doesn’t make fresh tracks in the technology department, but what it symbolizes is perhaps more important than its performance. By incorporating a 150x15mm Maxle thru axle, it almost overnight became the de facto standard for fat-bike forks, and now most brands’ rigid forks use that size for easy compatibility.
It will clear a 4.8-inch tire on a 100mm rim and even a 29×3.0. It is offered in 80mm, 100mm, or 120mm of travel, with RockShox’s RL damper and Solo Air spring moving through 32mm stanchions. Rebound is adjusted at the bottom of the right leg and there is a simple lockout lever at the top.
But this is a product review, so let’s talk about performance. A lot of folks seem to think that a 4-inch tire provides 4 inches of suspension, but let me tell you, that ain’t the case. Does a 2.5-inch tire give you 2.5 extra inches of suspension? My point is that before the Bluto, fat bikes rode like rigid bikes. Yes, the sensation is different, but it’s not suspension. The Bluto completely transforms fat bikes into something they weren’t quite before: true mountain bikes.
Mounted on the front of my Salsa Mukluk, the Bluto partners well with the pneumatic damping of the tires to create an incredible amount of traction. The lighter your wheels are the better, as the sprung and rotating mass of a heavy fat-bike wheel and tire can really slow things down, but set with proper sag and a bit of rebound damping, the Bluto lets you roll your fatty down some gnarly lines.
Aside from the tires-equal-suspension misconception that I often hear is the complaint that the Bluto should have been built around the stouter Pike chassis. My counterpoint is this: Consider the current version a gateway drug. Starting at $643, it is reasonably priced for an aftermarket upgrade and will be spec’d on dozens of 2015 bikes. As fat bikes come out of the cold and into the mainstream—which they will, I’ll bet you a Coke—you’ll see more-advanced versions of this fork emerge.
And if not, you can enjoy your Coke and I’ll keep enjoying the Bluto.