MRP Stage Fork – First look & ride
Ever since I can remember MRP have been a name synonymous with chain devices; from back in the day of orange rollers and a chain sandwiched between two metal plates to more modern lightweight devices made of carbon & polycarbonate. MRP have been working for a while on new product lines to expand on their highly regarded chain devices and the new Stage fork is one of the first to hit the market.
Aimed at the trail & enduro riders out there the Stage comes in 140-170mm travel for the 26/27.5 version and 120-150mm for the 29er fork. You may be thinking, ‘Why are a chain guide company now making a fork?’ but for the last ten years MRP have been making forks under the iconic White Brothers name and with a recent purchase of the Canadian suspension brand Elka, MRP have put themselves in a strong position to produce some high quality suspension.
Everything on the Stage is designed with purpose and reason. From the 34mm stanchions to the twin-tube damping cartridge, MRP have done their research and the Stage fork is pitched to knock the Pike off it’s Enduro-pedestal, coming in at the same price of £749. On the outside of the fork you find rebound and compression adjusters along with MRP’s proprietary Ramp Control adjuster. These give you just the right amount of adjustment to dial the fork in exactly the way you want it to ride, whilst not over complicating things. Found on the bottom of the right leg is the rebound offering 14 clicks of adjustment, the compression is dealt with at the top of the right leg, whilst on the top of the left leg is the ramp control adjuster and an air pressure bleed button. As the valve to adjust air pressure is on the bottom of the left leg it’s a nice touch to be able to reduce pressure without the risk of any fork oil contaminating your rotor.
With a number of patented technologies built into the fork, MRP certainly aren’t afraid to do things their way. Damping is taken care of by a sealed, twin tube cartridge that uses a bladder to deal with any fluid expansion during hard riding. Whilst that concept isn’t too dissimilar to systems run by other brands, MRP’s cartridge has been designed from scratch to perform exactly the way they want it to and their magnetic blow-off valve is definitely unique to the Stage fork. With 8 clicks of compression adjustment you can set up the fork to ride as high in the travel as you want; the 8th click gives you an almost locked out fork that still moves when it encounters square edged hits, whilst running with no compression gives you a super active fork that’s happy to smooth out even the smallest of trail chatter.
Another patented feature is the ramp control; this dials in the air spring’s ending-stroke curve. So in essence you can adjust on-the-fly how hard it is to get full travel from the fork, possibly a useful thing to have when riding bike parks where one run you may be on natural rooty tracks and then hitting up big jumps and drops next time down the hill. Within 16 clicks of an adjuster the fork can be changed from having a very linear spring rate to having a solid ramp up towards the end, a feature never seen before using changes to the air spring rather than the damping. This also gives you a fork that spreads the control of its travel between both legs, allowing the left leg to deal with its bottom out control and its mid stroke feel via the air spring, leaving the right leg to deal with the forks initial feeling and the rebound duties.
MRP also decided to look at the axle and dropout system when designing the fork. They wanted to offer the simplicity of a quick release whilst retaining the stiffness and security of a thru axle. Enter the QTAPER15 axle. By using conical wedges on the axle that mate with the conical dropouts, the system manages to create a really stiff lower end to the fork that really resists torsional flex whilst out on the trail.
The Stage fork has cast magnesium lowers to create a lightweight chassis and they are hand assembled in the USA to ensure the highest of quality. Each fork is then individually dyno-tested and signed to verify that the internals work as they should do before they leave the factory; definitely a nice touch that you don’t see from the other main fork manufacturers.
After a handful of rides on the fork it is definitely showing itself to be a high performing piece of kit. The Stage provides super smooth travel with very little force needed to break the legs into action; which means whilst you get on with the riding, the fork is plugging away competently smoothing out everything in its way. The claims of stiffness also seem to be very true. Despite losing a millimetre in stanchion diameter to the popular Pikes, the Stage is every bit as stiff when tracking through the rough stuff and a lot less flexy than Fox’s 34 offerings.
Whichever way you set up the fork, you can be certain that the adjustments you make are really making noticeable differences to how it behaves out on the trail. The damping has been nothing but well controlled and consistent through the first few rides, no matter what length or type of trail you throw at it. And this can only be a good thing leaving you to deal with where the bike is going rather than thinking about what the front wheel is up to.
Long term durability and reliability are still to be discovered but with the high build quality and great attention to detail shown before they leave the factory it suggest things should hold up well. So if you’re looking for a sweet new fork for your trail bike or enduro race rig and you fancy something a bit different to the norm’ then the MRP Stage is a very worthy candidate. The Stage not only looks good and works really well but it will take the hits, big and small, and comfortably get you out of trouble when things get messy on the trail.