If you’re looking at the Message suspension fork, you assuredly have an idea of what this fork claims to offer in regards to improved mid-corner traction, precision handling, and a much smoother ride. However, if you’re not already familiar, then the Trust Performance Message Suspension Fork is completely different than just about anything else on the market today.
Trust Performance believes that the Message is a “mind-blowing reset of what you think a front suspension should do.” The key their claims is a multi-link front suspension design from the mind of Dave Weagle, the mind behind the DW-link, Split Pivot, and Delta linkages found on some of the best mountain bikes in the business. The Message uses a trailing multi-link suspension design, which if you think about it is pretty similar to the basic idea behind a mountain bike’s rear suspension. Like the rear suspension, the geometry of the Message is defined by the pivot locations and linkage lengths, with the goal of allowing the shock to move as freely as possible in reaction to the trail.
Just about every modern mountain bike uses a telescoping suspension fork, with a set of lower legs sliding over a set of upper legs with solid bushings in the middle to keep things loose. However, there’s a ton of friction to be found on even the nicest suspension forks, which leads to handlebar chatter and bumps over nearly any type of terrain. There’s only so much you can do to tune telescoping forks, and they only behave as well as allowed by their air springs and damping circuits.
Want to make telescoping fork performance more predictable through it’s travel? Go with narrower stanchions, smaller bushings, or firm up the spring rate. Narrower stanchions means a loss of stiffness and a loss in handling directness. Smaller bushings means the fork is less durable. Firming up spring rate does the opposite of what a suspension fork is supposed to do: absorb shock.
Additionally, the axle of a telescoping fork can only follow one path, a path that’s parallel to the bike’s steering axis and head angle. Head tube angle steepens with brake dive, total wheelbase goes down, axle path changes with turn-in, and overall the bike feels less predictable when you want it to be MORE predictable.
For the keen-eyed out there, you may have already seen something like this with a Lauf fork design. Think of the Trust Message as a beefcake version on some sort of performance-enhancing drug, where the loads the fork manages are placed behind the bike’s steering axis. A linkage fork allows the designer to tune in a specific leverage curve and optimize the wheel’s path through designed kinematics.
Trust employs dampers on both sides of the fork housed inside a stiff carbon chassis. With no bushings that can bind under load like a traditional telescoping fork, the Message is more sensitive to smaller bumps than anything else out there. Using a one-piece carbon chassis instead of two legs joined together by a fork crown and axle means the Message is extremely stiff both laterally and torsionally. Another added benefit of dampers instead of bushings? Service intervals of 250 hours – the length of a year’s worth of constant riding – and five times more than what most other fork manufacturers claim.
On a standard mountain bike, a rock or bump compresses and shortens the fork, which steepens the bike’s head angle, lowers it’s effective trail, and shortens it’s wheelbase when stability is most needed. To address this, we’ve seen mountain bikes go toward longer, lower, and slacker designs to help, particularly in long travel applications. The Message fork instead maintains the bike’s effective travel thru 120 of it’s 130 mm total suspension travel, with the rest of it pushing the wheel slightly back. Because the kinematics are tuned to give the fork similar mechanical trail throughout and change the fork’s offset accordingly, bicycle geometry is retained thru even the hairiest corners. This leads to far less brake dive, more usable suspension travel, and far greater handling stability. So much stability, in fact, that the Message can effectively be put on any bike designed around a 110-150mm travel fork.
Trust uses the analogy that it is like moving a full wheelbarrow up and over a curb. It’s easier to flip the wheelbarrow around and place the wheel behind the weight than to try and push the barrow of dirt up and over the curb. That’s how the Message works: the multi-link suspension places the wheel behind where the forces interact, essentially pushing the bike’s front wheel forward and over obstacles. Compare that to a standard suspension fork, which is like pushing a wheelbarrow wheel-first, in that it has to overcome the force acting against it to push it up and over. It’s a much less-efficient and more labor-intensive process, and one that causes uneven amounts of force on the stanchions and bushings of the fork.
Our trail time has been a bit more limited than we’d like given the amount of snow on local trails. That said, the difference in overall bicycle control became apparent pretty quick. Consistent handling geometry meant that the bike was very predictable through corners, meaning we could take turns faster, brake less, and look further ahead than we usually would. It also felt more efficient than a standard telescoping fork, with less of the bobbing we associate with a typical MTB fork. We have a fork here for demo purposes, so we’ll be sure to get more time with it as the weather cooperates, and to get it off some bigger features instead of the smaller, faster stuff around here.
At 1980 grams, the Message weighs up favorably with a Fox 36 Factory fork, though it is heavier than a Fox 34 Stepcast. It fits both 29″ and 27.5″+ bikes with 110 – 150 mm travel, and 27.5″ bikes with designed around 130-150 mm travel, meaning it’ll fit everything from a SCOTT Spark to a Santa Cruz Hightower LT. Trust promises a very real difference in steering precision and rigidity compared to other heavy duty forks. We noticed that there is not a ton of bob when climbing, making the three-position adjust switch almost superfluous.
Is the Trust Performance Message the future of mountain bike forks? Maybe. It’s definitely from an “outside the box” approach and we’ve always been a fan of that. At the same time, Fox has pushed the envelop with their Live Valve product and the new Cannondale Lefty Ocho has created a new buzz in the cross-country race spectrum. We’re rooting for Trust, if only because their product is unlike anything else. Doesn’t hurt that they’re based out of our hometown, Salt Lake City.
Have any questions about the Trust Performance Message, or want to demo the fork yourself? Send us an email any time to email@example.com or give us a call during business hours.