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2nd Look: RockShox Reba RL 29″

Blister Gear Review 29'er fork comparison

Rockshox Reba RL

Rockshox Reba RL

Wheel Size: 29”

Travel: 120 mm

Offset: 46 mm

Axle to Crown: 525 mm

Blister’s Measured Weight: 1662 g (19 cm / 7.5” steerer)

Street Price: ~$520.00

Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.

Test Location: Whitefish, MT

Test Duration: 10 rides

Marshal Olson wrote about the Reba RL last summer, and after he reviewed it, I bolted it to my Canfield Yelli Screamy. The Reba swapped in for the DT Swiss OPM O.D.L. that I‘d been riding, and by the numbers, the Reba is pretty similar. Both the Reba and the OPM weigh about the same, and they also both have similar offsets which, as Marshal discussed, has a noticeable effect on how the bike handles.

I’ll get into the comparison a bit more below, but first, a few words about the Reba in general. In large part, I agree with everything Marshal wrote, and if you haven’t already read his First Look, you should.

The Chassis

As Marshal noted, the Reba is fairly light compared to the class of 120mm-travel forks, which usually wouldn’t bode well for its stiffness.

I’m not the heaviest guy, so chassis stiffness isn’t my number one concern. With that in mind, I found the Reba to be acceptable, but not impressive. I never found the fork to flex badly enough that it became sticky from flex-induced binding, but I did notice that the fork doesn’t track as well as I’d like through rougher terrain.

I’d say the Reba is at the low end of average for forks with a 32mm stanchion (e.g., MRP Loop, Fox 32), and not even close to as stiff as something like a Pike.

Air Spring

Rockshox gives a range of recommended pressures for a given rider weight, and I ended up preferring the fork at the upper end of that range. For my weight (155lbs), I ended up running 105 psi.

Like Marshal, I found the air spring to be quite linear, even with Marshal’s homemade volume reducer installed. In the Pike on my Evil Following, I’m running 4 bottomless tokens, so I’d speculate that I’d like the Reba a bit more with the volume reduced even further. With additional volume reducers, I also suspect that I might have been happy running slightly less air pressure.

The result of the linear air spring was that I found myself using too much of my travel too often. Even with sag set around 10%, I’d still use the majority of the fork’s travel on relatively small bumps. On larger bumps, I’d bottom out frequently, though to the fork’s credit, only the hardest hits felt harsh when the fork hit bottom.

Damping

As the “RL” in the name implies, you get two adjustments on the Reba: rebound, and a graduated lockout adjustment.

Like most Rockshox forks, I found the rebound adjustment to work well, and the amount of change in damping between clicks is just right. I ended up in the middle of the range, so no complaints there.

The Lockout gives you 5 clicks between fully open and fully locked. Like pretty much every fork out there, fully locked isn’t completely rigid; there’s still a blow off to prevent catastrophic self destruction in the event you forget to unlock before you hit a drop.

In theory, you can gain a bit of control over the compression damping via the clicks in between open and locked, but as Marshal noted, this doesn’t work all that well in practice. I occasionally rode with the fork on the first click (i.e. one click away from full open), but anything beyond that felt harsh.

As I noted above, I felt like I too frequently used a bit too much of the fork’s travel. A proper compression adjustment might have helped a bit in this regard, but I think volume reducers would be the most effective fix.

Ultimately, though, the shorter the fork’s travel, the less I’m concerned about the fork’s damping characteristics. Good damping helps control the fork’s motion through its travel, and (among other things) helps the fork to resist against diving while braking or wallowing while pumping the terrain. But with a shorter travel fork, the deleterious effects of brake dive and wallowing are a bit less severe, so I find dialed damping to be a bit less important. With that in mind, while the Reba’s damping performance isn’t all that impressive, it’s entirely serviceable.

Comparisons

DT Swiss OPM O.D.L.

As I noted at the outset, the Reba replaced the DT Swiss OPM O.D.L. on my Yelli Screamy. Cutting to the chase, I found the Reba to be superior in pretty much every regard. The two forks weigh about the same (1635 g for the DT vs. 1662 g for the Reba), but I’d still give the nod to the Reba in terms of stiffness (fore, aft, and torsionally). This is probably the area where the two forks are the closest though.

While the OPM has an extremely progressive air spring, the Reba is quite linear. I give the nod to the Reba here; I thought the OPM was too progressive, which, coming from someone who usually sets his suspension up to be pretty progressive, is saying something. Also, while the OPM can’t really be made more linear, the Reba can be made more progressive via tokens.

I also prefer the Reba’s damping. While simpler, it just works a bit better. The adjustments are more effective, and the lockout on both is about the same. As a caveat, though, the OPM I was riding was probably about due for a service, so potentially the OPM could have come away the winner after a rebuild.

All performance criteria aside, the Reba’s quite a bit cheaper, and it’s easier to find parts for it if needed.

MRP Loop TR 

Tom Collier took a look at the MRP Loop, and I got to spend a bit of time on it as well. The Loop’s chassis is stiffer than the Reba, but it’s a bit heavier, too. The Loop’s chassis is also built around a 49mm offset on the 29er version, which I think handles a bit better with modern, slacker headtubes.

I found the Loop’s air spring to be a bit more well-rounded. It felt more progressive than the Reba without being too progressive like the OPM. The Loop’s air spring progressiveness is also externally adjustable, but the difference isn’t as large as adding a few bottomless tokens into a Reba.

The damping adjustments on the Loop offered a bit more adjustability than the Reba, and the Loop’s adjustments worked well. The suspension action on the Loop is on par with the Reba—both were smooth and stiction free.

My main complaint with the Loop was the air filling procedure, which involves filling the negative chamber and then bleeding air via a valve on the top. It works, but it’s kind of a hassle, and it makes it hard to get the pressure just right.

Overall, I’d take the Loop over the Reba. It’s a little bit better in most respects, and I’m ok with the extra weight that it carries (1905 g vs. 1662 g).

I’d still recommend the Reba for price-conscious buyers, but I’d nudge people toward the Loop if they’re looking for better performance. And if price isn’t too much of an issue and weight is a primary concern, there are lighter options than the Reba.

Rockshox Pike

The Pike isn’t directly comparable, but at 130mm travel, the shortest travel Pike isn’t that far from a Reba. And since a Pike is on my Evil The Following, I’ve been spending a bit of time on both.

Simply put, the Pike is a lot more fork. It weighs significantly more, and that extra material shows; the Pike is a lot stiffer. The air spring is a bit less linear, and while the Reba’s damping is serviceable, the Pike’s damping is pretty good.

To put it another way, the Reba will hold onto your front wheel and make bumpy terrain a bit more comfortable. The Pike will charge through bumps and help you not die when you mess up.

Bottom Line

The Reba doesn’t do anything mind blowingly well, but it’s entirely competent in all regards. While there are other forks that do some things better, there’s not a whole lot that I can find to complain about when it comes to the Reba.

And all of that comes in a package that’s priced competitively—it can be bought for a couple hundred bucks cheaper than many other forks in its class. Given that, the Reba stands up well as a good value in the 120mm travel class.

5 Comments

  1. parider March 6, 2016 Reply

    I actually run a Reba and agree with most of these comments. The Solo air is nice but blows through its travel way to easily. I always thought it was by design to really keep you from pushing it past its limits.

    You guys have reviewed 3 out of the 4 forks you mentioned. What happened to the Manitou? To me, it looks like the Loop is the winner.

    • Noah March 6, 2016 Reply

      Yup, the Loop is a pretty solid option (although it’s a bit heavier than most of the other 32mm options).

      Unfortunately our reviewer that was riding the Manitou was injured last fall so the review was delayed. It should be up on the site this spring.

  2. Lumberjake July 22, 2017 Reply

    You ran the recommended pressure!?
    How were they not hard as hell?
    I run just over 70psi at 160lbs…105psi would be like a rigid fork. Did RS make a big change in the Solo since 2013 because their eecommended pressures were infamous for being waaat too high.

    • Noah Bodman Author
      Noah Bodman July 24, 2017 Reply

      I was within the recommended range, but I don’t have the fork anymore and I don’t recall what that range was, exactly. And based on various Rockshox forks that I’ve ridden over the past ~5 years, if anything, I’d say their recommended pressures tend to be low. On Pikes, Lyriks, Revelations, and Rebas, I’ve found myself settling on air pressures that are at or a bit above what’s recommended by RS.

      But all that aside, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they’ve changed their air spring a bit in the Reba. So it’s entirely plausible that your 70psi would yield a similar feel to my 105psi in a different generation Reba.

  3. Dan September 20, 2017 Reply

    I was thinking about the Reba as a lighter weight race fork for 50mi races I run a few times a year. The terrain is rarely aggressive and dropping .75 of a pound is appealing. Riding a Ripley, I want the 51mm offset and 130mm travel. I run a Pike right now and its overkill for these races.

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