The Shocking Truth – Fox to Rockshox blocked, oh cock!

My old Cannondale…  It is a 2000 (maybe 1999) Super V 700 SX.  I bought it new in 2001 for $3400, reduced from a staggering $4800.  After riding it a few times I became convinced that it was far too much bike for my meagre abilities.

I had it serviced in September 2012 with the view of selling it, but two things made me change my mind: 1. being told that the bike was venerable, quite rare and might even be a one-off and 2. a colleague had launched themselves into cycling to recover from a heart attack.  It wasn’t until 31 December 2012 that I actually rode the thing properly off-road, but I was hooked.  Year To Date I’ve covered a recorded 1442.1km on that bike alone and over 2600km on all bikes.

But I am attempting to retire it.  There’s no denying that modern suspension is less prone to pogo-ing when out of the saddle, brakes are vastly more powerful (especially compared to a rim brake, even if it is hydraulic) and bikes are somewhat lighter yet stiffer.  And a Lefty fork, while gorgeous is a scary prospect for repair.  I like to be able to repair things myself.  I’ve worked on my Prius and Citroën so why should a bicycle be any different?

The rear shock seems to be a weak link.  Despite maxing 250 psi into it and losing some 10kg in unsightly fat this year, the sag was about 50% (!) and I easily bottomed out the shock.  A new seal kit to fit every Fox shock from 2000-2010 for $35 and a surprisingly easy maintenance method would do the trick, right?  Well… my shock must be from 1999.

Firstly, the decal on the shock says “Fox Air Vanilla FLOAT”, but every Fox Vanilla shock has a coil spring.  What it meant to say was “Float”, as in the most basic shock.  Fox’s website listing for the Super V 700 is a Float R (for rebound control), which mine doesn’t have.

Fortunately the videos of the maintenance procedure showed that replacing seals was quite easy whatever the air shock model.  As soon as I twisted off the air can one worn seal was immediately clear.  The other seals were in good condition and the dirt seemed to be confined to the outside.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t match all the seals in the shock to seals in the pack.  A wide, blue plastic piece was not represented, though this didn’t seem to be very important.  More importantly the seal with obvious wear did not have a replacement in the pack.  There was a bigger one or I could reuse a perfectly serviceable smaller seal, but neither would fit.  I had no choice but to reassemble with the worn seal.  The new seals might be enough…

But no.  It seemed that the only solution was a new rear shock.  After a few googles I found some options, but I thought that I would try my LBS first.  Rear shocks are usually replaced by buying an entirely new bike and therefore are rarely purchased separately.  Prices start high and keep going.  I had found some bargains, but they looked too good to be fair dinkum. Eventually I was offered a Rockshox Monarch R for $240, which was nice.

10 days later (!) the shock arrives at the wrong store, so I get across town to pick it up on Friday night to fit it for a weekend of gentle rides.  The pack included a shock pump and set of seals; how very thoughtful.

While the length was right, the end pieces were somewhat wider and the washers from the old shock would not do.  I pressed out the rubber bushings from the Fox shock with 10mm and 15mm sockets and a small vice.  But try as I might, there was no getting them into the Rockshox.  Another visit to Bike Culture, sadly on a busy day when they were down one staff member.  I returned after Brent closed the shop, but now he found that while he had brought all the bushes from the other shop, he had forgotten to bring the bush press.  Attempts to jerry-rig a press were unsuccessful.  So I had to wait another day.

Returned the next day.  Took all of 5 minutes to fit with the proper tools!

First ride

I’d been off the bike for three weeks recovering from a few bugs, so the out-of-action status was not only on the bike.  First ride back was going to be a Mulligan’s Flat gate to gate easy lap.  Well… easy got thrown out the window when the newly taut rear-end and its effect on drive became clear.  Pedal effort when to pushing the bike ahead, not up and down. Climbing was so much easier, acceleration was instantaneous but not as the expense of comfort.  Poor Amandeep was hammered by the surprising turn of pace, but I couldn’t slow down.  Of 10 segments ridden I PR’d 7 and had 2 seconds and a third.

Keeping an old bike rolling

Retrofitting non-standard parts is tricky but starts to be necessary when fixing an old bike.  Fortunately on this occasion the cost/benefit was easy to prove, even if the fitting was a bit tricky.  In fact, the bike is riding better than new.  There’s only so much that a basic suspension design can do to avoid bob (it can’t) so a new design shock had more of an effect than expected.

Now, if only I can fix the front brake…