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I have a full rigid (fat) bicycle and I am playing with an idea to use a suspension fork sometimes. I want to keep the possibility to swap the old fork back when I do not need suspension but want to drop weight instead. The swapping process does not have to be super-swift but it should be doable without special tools (i.e., only with a set of Allen keys). Almost like a wheel change, only with more steps.

Now, a fork also carries certain hardware, besides the wheel. For example, I would either need two front disk brake calipers or move a single caliper between forks. Ditto for stem and top cap, mudguard, possibly fork's remote lockout or maybe something else. All of them can be moved with hexkeys.

The headset's lower race is what I am worried about. It sits on top of a fork's crown and can be (re)mounted only using special tools, sometimes impact tools. I assume moving the race between two forks would not be easy and most likely reduce its lifespan. What are the best practices in this situation?

Possible solutions that come to my mind.

  1. Buy a second identical headset and use only its lower race on the new fork. The headset in my case is Cane Creek 10 series. However, one top race is wasted as unused.

  2. Transition to some sort of an integrated headset which does not have a lower race. This means removing the old one (both the top and the bottom pieces) and installing the new one. However, after that changing to another fork should be as trivial as popping the old one from the steering and pushing the new one in. However, I am not sure if there are frame/headset compatibility requirements. In my case the frame is a cromoly one.

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I agree with @Craggie - is not something you do like wheel swaps, the parts are not designed for this. Have you considered the geometry changes that might occur with suspension. Unless the fixed fork is suspension adjusted, putting suspension will raise the headset and slacken the geometry of the bike. How much this affects the ride is difficult to predict, could be anything from an improvement to unnoticeable to a degradation in handling (most likely the latter).

If you must.....

Buy the same brand and model headset for both forks, and accept the lower race will have a shortened life due to the difference in the bearings when you swap forks.

Treat the stem as a disposable item. The stem bolts are not designed to be done up and released many times. The thread is into light weight aluminum. I would have a new stem on my spare bits, and replace it every dozen or so swaps.

Calipers mounts are similar, but are a bit more robust as they are designed to be loosened for adjustment. If you have one caliper, you will need to undo it every time. If you have two, you will need to remove the lever from the bars. The ideal with two would be a two bolt level, as one bolt levers need ypou to remove the grip and shifter (Not a big job, bit more faffing around)

If your suspension fork had remote lockout, same applies to the remote.

I suggest you should use a torque wrench on all fasteners as over torquing mostly does small, unnoticeable damage each time and will significantly shorthen the life of parts of done regularly.

  • Good points, thanks! I did not considered stem bolts life longevity issues. Let's say one wants to swap forks two-four times a year, for example for winter gravel and summer trail riding. The rigid fork is suspension-corrected, so no degradation in handling should occur. I forgot to mention that my bike has mechanical disk brakes, which have an option of unbolting the cable at one caliper and screwing to another one, no need to touch the single lever. – Grigory Rechistov Dec 10 '17 at 6:13
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Its a lot of faffing about to swap forks. They're not really intended for frequent changing.

Best practice in this case would be to obey Rule 12 and to own a second bike set up the way you want it.

Your other option is to buy a light-weight suspension fork, and to make sure it has a lockout. That gains you the ability to have a rigid, but doesn't give you the weight saving.

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    Or buy a second headset so each fork has its own lower race. – Rider_X Dec 10 '17 at 0:39
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    Thanks! Valid points, although... On the rule 12: I am already forced to use its second form s-1 as the fleet of my bikes spans multiple countries. At such moment, one starts to wonder if it is possible to re-purpose already owned bikes instead of risking relations. – Grigory Rechistov Dec 10 '17 at 6:04
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    And on a light-weight fork: such forks for fatbikes cost astronomical money. – Grigory Rechistov Dec 10 '17 at 6:12

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