Motion E18 Linkage Fork Review
Words & Photos by ChiliDog
Over the course of history, it seems that any time something new comes out, people are quick to denounce it as odd, funny looking or kooky. It’s all part of the cycle though as new ideas transition from being avant-garde to garnering mainstream acceptance. Linkage forks are currently going through that same phase as people experiment and strive to gain acceptance in a market that’s happy with current telescopic designs. Motion founder Matthieu Alfano asked himself why should he sit in complacency when there are real gains to be made? So back in 2013 Alfano began experimenting with designs and filed his first patent for a linkage fork design that was unaffected by a rider’s braking forces.
As his testing and design ideas proved beneficial on the trail Motion began to take shape. In 2015 production of a second prototype with a new patent began. Motion Ride was focused on making a linkage fork that improved on the design flaws inherent to telescoping forks. Rather than focus on the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” cliché, Motion sought to address the dive under braking, poor axle path, and stiction that come with traditional forks. So, now that we know a little bit about the history of the brand, let’s dig into the Motion E18 fork.
Motion designed the E18 fork around two main performance benefits— anti-dive and improved axle path. By using linkage, engineers are able to control the behavior of the suspension moment with more precision. Just like how differing linkage designs offer improvements in pedal dive or square edge hit performance on the rear of a bike, a linkage fork’s kinematics can be tuned to alter how it handles the trail.
The Motion E18 relies on aluminum linkage, bushing pivots, a small damper on one leg, and a carbon fiber leaf spring on the other. The linkage design actually pulls on the carbon leaf rather than compressing it. Called the Wave, the leaf spring was chosen over an air spring because it has zero stiction or resistance to movement because of seal drag.
Sag based on rider weight is adjusted via a hex key that adds preload to the spring. For heavier riders over the 50 and 100kg rating of the standard spring, Motion also offers carbon leafs with a higher spring rate.
Damping for the fork is provided via the Flow, an oil based damper. Developed by Motion, it employs a thru shaft design with minimal friction and an integrated oil cooling system. Rotating the large collar on the damper body makes rebound and compression adjustment possible.
The bushing pivot linkage on the E18 was designed to be incredibly resistant to squat under braking. It’s so impressive that I could do stoppies down hills with my full weight hanging over the front end of the bike and have only minimal squat. Compare that to a traditional fork, and I’d be sitting 50-75% through the travel with the same move. Granted parking lot tricks don’t really matter for trail performance, but it’s an extreme way to exemplify what happens under heavy braking into a steep corner. It’s nice to get the most out of the 150, 160 and 170mm travel offered in these forks.
Despite its resistance to squatting via weight shifts, the fork still remains incredibly supple and has almost the full available travel. That suppleness and willingness to move after a square edge impact is also what sets this fork and other linkage designs apart from their telescopic brothers. As a result of the more rearward and upward axle path, the Motion E18 absorbs impacts from square edges and harsh hits more effectively.
Editor’s Note: Before getting into my thoughts riding this fork, I want to open by stating that this wasn’t a review I took lightly.
I’m an early adopter personality, meaning I love trying new things and tinkering, regardless of whether or not it’s “cool.” That said, during the review period I kept thinking whether or not I would spend my hard earned money on a linkage fork opposed to a traditional fork. In other words, was the anti-squat and sensitivity such a big improvement in performance that it justified the increase in weight, cost, complexity and let’s be honest— poor looks.
I tested this fork on both a familiar bike of my own, and on the gearbox rig pictured above. For several months, I rode it on my home trails, jumps and rocky Los Angeles terrain. If there was ever a place this fork would show direct benefits, it’s on the loose and rocky trails I typically ride since any increase in time the front wheel spends on the ground means an improvement in traction.
While Motion will state that the fork has unmatched sensitivity, on the trail it felt ever a bit more sensitive than a well tuned and freshly serviced Fox 36 with a coil swap. Not a night and day difference, but most definitely perceivable.
Where I noticed a more pronounced, tangible improvement however, was in large, square edge impacts. The fork is able to move away from and over an obstacle with far less feedback to the rider than a traditional fork because of the axle path. Thanks to the rearward path of the linkage, the fork is able to move up and backward when it hits a square edge. No telescopic fork can achieve that level of impact absorption due to the design issues inherent in how they function. It truly is impressive.
That means my ability to carry momentum, especially on technical climbs and entering technical sections of trail were much faster and easier. This fork also has an incredibly bottomless feel. I’m a dirt jump rat, and enjoy sending it on bikes. Whether I was catching backside, or even hucking to flat, hard landings where I could see the rubber bump stops contact, I never felt a harsh bottom out.
By far the most notable feature of this fork however is the anti-squat characteristics. For my entire riding career of 15 years, I’ve only known forks that dive under rider weight when braking or loading the front end. It took some getting used to when the E18 stayed right at the top of the travel no matter where I shifted my weight.
The bike’s geometry stays consistent through berms, g-outs or any other situation where a traditional fork’s dive would have your headtube angle steepening drastically. It’s not a trivial difference, and it does inspire confidence in steep terrain since it lets you shift your weight farther to the front of the bike, improving traction. If you’re looking for definitive and measureable improvements as a reason to switch from a telescoping fork, the E18 offers them.
There are downsides however, with the primary being weight. At 4.85 pounds, this fork is about half a pound heavier than a Fox Factory 36. Whether it’s in my head or not, the fact that mass is spread out over a larger area seems to influence the ride of the bike, and make the front end feel ever so slightly more sluggish.
Another issue I had was with the damper. While Motion remedied the initial topping out issue the fork experienced with an on-the-fly design change to the damper, I found the controls extremely hard to use. The rotating collar that allows for adjustment was very hard to turn and felt unintuitive. I also missed the ability to fine tune high and low speed compression and rebound. However, I did like the easy adjustment of spring preload, since it let me fine tune for rider weight changes like wearing a pack just like I would with an air spring fork. Motion has informed us that the remedy would improve some of my complaints.
The Wolf’s Last Word
At $1,250 the E18 isn’t cheap, but isn’t that far off from other high-end offerings by Fox or Cane Creek. It also offers distinct and unique performance benefits that can’t be matched by traditional forks. Motion put years of work into this fork, and we love small companies that take a risk to do things differently. There’s some impressive technology in this fork, and some clever ideas that really work. While the performance benefits are decidedly better, those benefit have to outweigh the downsides. Ultimately whether those gains are worth the weight and aesthetic penalty is up to you, but, regardless of what you decide, if you get a chance to try one of these forks out, we highly suggest you give it a try.
Weight: 4.85 lbs
Zero Brake Dive
Front End Traction
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