So do all these differences in design translate to a meaningful change in suspension dynamics and control? I think so, and here are my top reasons why.
Climbing on the Message is truly impressive. I usually climbed with the fork in the completely open mode as it has a very good platform built into the linkage. But the mid lockout is perfect for long and steep trail climbs as it gives a huge amount of support but still allows for grip producing travel. Tight steering is accurate and precise but does get some getting used to as you are looking down the legs which are significantly in front of the axle.
Trust designed the Message to address the inherent issues found in telescoping forks, with complex trailing link geometry, high end dampers, and a unique design. Take away all the fancy words and I find that the fork just rides faster and better. I was consistently able to hold more aggressive lines, higher on the trail with an increased feeling of control. While I had more control of the bike, I did not feel that the ride was plush or forgiving. The Message rides very high in its travel until the moment you need it, then it gives you everything it has.
This on/off feeling of the damper is pretty easy to tune out. Optional air spring spacers (Huck Pucks) are available and easy to put into each side of the springs. These improved the bottom out on big hits immensely and let the fork settle just a bit more into the mid travel.
With the pucks installed, not once did I feel the bottom of the travel, but when checking the travel indicator, I was always at 100%. Overall, I would say the travel feels somewhat vague. I could not tell you if I used all the travel or just stayed in the top 50% after a high-speed rock garden. What I could tell you is that I was faster and more in control than my old favorite forks. It’s a weird feeling and visual reference to get used to, but the clock didn’t lie.
After testing bikes for so long we often feel like, “I’ve got this, I know what it’s gonna do,” before we even pedal down the trail. Our reference points are only based on what we’ve ridden in the past, and we’ve been fortunate enough to ride A LOT of stuff. However, when products come along like this, our calibrations get checked. When suppleness, fore-aft flex, platform and low-speed isolation are so different from anything we’ve ridden, it forces us to step back and reevaluate what it really means for something to feel good.
The Message is not exactly a plush Cadillac, but, most aggressively set up 130-140mm forks don’t fall in the plush category either. We did notice that the Message requires a bit more of the rider, as it’s not quite as forgiving as some forks on the market, but for every extra bit of energy the rider puts in, the Message will be there. When I pushed the Ibis Ripley into terrain outside its 140mm comfort zone, this fork would give me the confidence to stay off the brakes and just point the front wheel. It’s the most stable and capable ride we have experienced on a short travel fork. We held lines that would have other forks flexing and twisting as we struggled to stay on line and off the brakes.
Ultimately, if you like to squeeze the absolute max out of shorter travel rigs, go fast, and ride race lines, the Message could really take your riding to the next level. The small weight penalty is worth every bit of performance gain the Message has to offer, whether or not the price and looks are, is up to you.
Weight: 1,980 grams