Tailfin Suspension Fork Mounts: First Impressions
We’ve been impressed with Tailfin’s growing range of bikepacking baggage over the last few years. The latest accessory to join the fold is the Suspension Fork Mount, allowing those who favour suspension for their bikepacking adventures to carry additional cargo cages, water bottle cages, or even both at once. Find all the details here, along with our first impressions of the premium carbon version…
Although loading up a suspension fork with unsprung weight isn’t recommended, there’s no doubt that having a little extra carrying capacity can be extremely useful, especially if you’re running a full susser or heading out on a desert ramble where extra H20 can be a lifesaver. For an overview of many of the various options currently available, be sure to check out our thorough Index here.
Launched today, Tailfin Suspension Fork Mounts – or SFMs for short – allows bikepackers to attach either 2 water bottle cages per fork leg, a water bottle and cargo cage combo, or any variation therein!
What’s more, there are even two versions of the SFM available. One weighs just 82g per pair and uses a carbon fibre band, while the other tips the scales at 128g and is made from stainless steel. Over the last couple of months, we’ve been testing out two iterations of the carbon fibre version – both a pre-production SFM with a different finish and accompanying hardware, as well as the finished product, which ships with matching black bolts, as pictured below.
Either way, whether you spring for the more costly carbon SFM or save some cash and choose stainless steel instead, each mount includes the exact same set of 3 rubbery ‘chips’ of differing thicknesses, along with 3 bolts of differing lengths (20-35mm long) that screw into a neatly machine barrel that’s housed in the band. Combine them in the correct fashion and the SFM will fit snuggly to a very wide assortment of suspension forks. According to Tailfin, the SFM has been designed to work with almost any model that has a 38 to 45mm lower leg diameter – or typically, 30 to 36mm stanchions. Examples of popular forks that fulfill these criteria include the Fox 32, 34 and 36, and RockShox’ SID through to Lyriks. But note that there’s nothing to stop you running them on frame tubing that’s a similar diameter, too, in a similar way to Dr Jon’s Barnacles, which are also suspension fork compatible.
Two stainless steel button head bolts are also provided per SFM mount, covering you for two cages per side. And each set includes two mounts, which is enough for one fork leg.
Even for someone as easily confounded by instructions as I am, the initial setup proved surprisingly quick, thanks to Tailfin’s clever, colour-coded card. Wrap it around the leg of your suspension fork, line up the end, and read off a number that correlates to one of 5 setup options. Easy! Over the last couple of months, we’ve tried three different fork models, including the Marzocchis pictured – with no issues at all.
And once you have figured out the right combination of chip thickness and bolt length, it’s even quicker to fit and remove each mount between trips. With the correct chip in place (each is conveniently numbered), it’s simply a case of slipping each band around the fork and tightening down the bolt to the correct torque – 3Nm – so it stays in place, without affecting the performance of your fork by over compressing it.
You can adjust the position of the mount to the height that works best for you – cleverly, the threads are angled in such a way that the cages sit inboard to the wheel, and are unlikely to snag on foliage and the like. A couple of tips, though. Watch that the chip doesn’t drop out when you’re storing the mounts and as always, be careful when you thread the button head bolts in, so you don’t accidentally cross-thread them. In fact, the setup is light and svelte enough that if you bikepack regularly, it probably makes sense to leave them on your forks, especially if you’re running Tailfin’s lightweight and slimline cargo cages.
As mentioned, there are plenty of configurations available, including the option of running a single water bottle cage, as shown above. As an example, this would likely be my preferred setup for a bikepacking route like the Colorado Trail, where a couple of easy-to-grab bottles are probably all that you’ll need (depending on the cage, you may want to add an elasticated cord around the neck of your bottles too).
But if that’s not enough, you can put the mounts to more efficient use and run two cages on each fork leg – be it provision for twin water bottles, double-cargo, or one or each, like the setup below – a water bottle and a lightweight sleeping mat.
For the likes of the Baja Divide or other warm-weather rides, a couple of 1.5L Nalgene bottles attached to a cargo cage is likely to be most appropriate choice. I lent out my set of SFMs to a friend who did just that when he was riding the San José del Pacifico GDT. With a mixed bag of road conditions across its 400km length – including a number of long and bumpy descents – the SFM proved to be a rock-solid setup that required absolutely no adjustment, unlike the plastic clamps he was running previously. Weight-wise, that amounts to around 2kg per fork leg, including cages, water bottles, water, and straps.
Whilst maximum capacity is probably more than I’d want to load up a suspension fork, for fear of effecting both handling and suspension performance, it’s good to know it’s there if needed: the SFMs are rated to 3kg per side for technical trail riding and 5kg for more mellow gravel adventures.
Whilst we didn’t experience any movement or slipping whatsoever – putting minds at rest on steep and techy descents especially – Tailfin has shared testing data with some competing products and the results certainly look impressive. Full details and a background to the development process, including details on the test jig, are posted here. Suffice to say that when compared to the mounts that they tested, the SFM claims to be at least twice as secure as the nearest competition, under their testing protocols. For those will further questions, I’m sure the Tailfin team will chime in and answer questions within the comments section below.
Paired with Tailfin’s own cargo cages, loading and unloading larger bottles is very easy. There’s nothing to stop you using other brands too – just be aware that the provided button head bolts are designed with Tailfin’s cages in mind. Otherwise, check bolt length depending on material thickness and be aware that if they’re too long, the bolt will poke through into the chip.
But even if it does, you’ll be pleased to hear that Tailfin’s SFMs don’t leave any marks at all on the finish of your prized suspension fork, which can’t always be said for the sharp-edged hose clamps that I’ve used in the past. Nor is there an ungainly ‘tail’ that you can catch your hands on, or parts to wear out when fitting and removing them regularly, unlike some of the cheap plastic options on the market. Additionally, all the pieces on the SFM are modular and replaceable. Everything – barring the carbon fibre main body – is made from stainless steel or aluminium, and has a high quality feel to it.
Price-wise, SFMs are the costliest way of fitting cages to a suspension fork that we’ve come across – and remember that you’ll need two pairs per fork. Still, given that Tailfin is firmly positioned at the premium end of the market, that’s not too much of a surprise. Nor is it without reason. Having tested a number of their products over the years, I’ve come to expect a level of design, engineering, durability, and finish that’s rarely matched by other bikepacking brands. Until you actually handle them and fit the SFMs, it’s hard to convey how well made they actually are, and what a great job they do. This considered, I think the version with the steel band actually represents very good value for money. It’s also reassuring to know that there’s a 5-year, quibble-free warranty should anything go awry.
- Compatible with almost all modern suspension forks
- Very durable – should last a lifetime
- Extremely quick to fit and remove
- Designed for both 1 or 2 cages per fork leg
- Low profile placement keeps cargo tucked out of the way
- Completely secure, without over compressing fork stanchions when correctly torqued
- Bands won’t leave a mark on your fork’s decals and finish
- Two versions at different price points
- Considerably more expensive than almost all other options
- More bits and pieces to potentially mislay, compared to other systems
- Heavier than a gaffer tape hack!
See below for the company’s lifestyle imagery from the launch, showing the Tailfin Suspension Fork Mounts in conjunction with their AeroPack.
- Model: Tailfin SFM (UD Carbon fibre and Stainless Steel)
- Weight of Carbon Fibre SFM (pair): 82g
- Weight of Stainless Steel SFM (pair): 132g
- Price of Carbon Fibre SFM (pair): £50 ($70,€60)
- Price of Stainless Steel SFM (pair): £30 ($40, €35)
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Manufacturer’s Details: Tailfin
A world away from the hose clamp or gaffer tape hack, who would have thought that such a level of engineering and design would be directed towards attaching a water bottle cage to a fork! The Tailfin Suspension Fork Mount is so well executed that it’s hard to imagine a safer or more effective way of carrying H20 and cargo (or both) to the front end of your hardtail or full susser.
SFMs are compatible with a wide range of modern trail forks. They’re really quick to fit. There’s absolutely no movement or slippage, nor is the performance of the fork effected. Fork legs are left completely unmarked. And there’s no wear and tear damage to the mount, even when regularly removed. We’ll report back when we’ve had more time to use the finished version but based on our experiences so far, we’re not envisaging any issues at all. When we test the more economical stainless steel SFM, we’ll be sure to add in additional thoughts, too.
Availability for the carbon model is 2nd November 2021 and 1st December 2021 for the stainless steel version.
And if you want one of those awesome chanterelle stickers, drop Emma Bucke a line at notjustforfungis!
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