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Rock the dirt.
The five-inch travel fork has stepped in as one of the standard go-to options for race-ready speed with ample travel to smooth out any rock gardens, redwood roots, or drop-offs in the way of the finish line. The RockShox 29in Pike RCT3 Solo Air 130 Fork with 51mm of offset sits at the head of the table as the gold standard by which all the others are measured. While the fork's benefits begin with the offset — which reduces the wheel flop typically associated with 29ers at low speeds — they certainly don't end there.
The Solo Air fork ditches the adjustability of the Dual Position Air version in favor of a single 130mm travel position. You lose the ability to drop the front end of your bike by a couple of centimeters to make it more aggressive on the climbs, but save about 50 extra grams in the process for a lighter, simpler mechanism. Don't be fooled though, the RCT3 can still climb with the best of them with an adjustable Charger damper and will shine like a star on the steepest, most technical descents you can find.
That said, the RCT3 wouldn't be at the front of the five-inch travel game if it were rigidly un-adjustable. Depending on the terrain you're climbing or dropping into, the fork's settings can be dialed by the three-position RCT3 switch, letting you choose the amount of lockout for big hits, general trail terrain, or cross-country speed. RockShox's Rapid Recovery feature indulges the RCT3's terrain-gobbling tendencies by keeping recovery between hits short, maintaining a cushioned ride over multiple successive bumps.
The Maxle Lite axle is an exceptionally easy to install version of RockShox's standard model. Its tool-free installation can be completed with just one hand, but that simplicity doesn't squander any watts thanks to the Maxle Lite's reinforced stiffness, which is admittedly somewhat surprising considering the thing self identifies as "Lite." The Power Bulge feature also contributes to stiffness with a reinforced lower leg and oversized bushing that don't require an increase in stanchion size. The Pike is finished with a PSI menu imprinted on the side, so you don't have to dig through tech manuals to find the proper pressure levels for your weight and the terrain.
Please note that the Pike RCT3 Solo Air Fork doesn't include a shock pump.