This article first appeared in Dirt Rag magazine, issue #131, October 2007.
Willits W.O.W. Fork Review
by Joe Whitehair
It would be impossible to write a review about the Willits W.O.W. (Weird Or What) fork without acknowledging the company’s place in the 29 inch MTB world. In a nutshell: they’ve been there since the earliest days when it all began. After taking a hiatus Willits Brand is back fabricating frames and forks. Plenty has been written about them in the pages of this magazine already, so check out the articles in issues #82, #84 and #130 for additional background (Ed note: that would be Dirt Rag magazine).
With years of 29er experience under their belts, it looks like the folks at Willits meant business when they set out to design this unique looking suspension-corrected steel fork for big wheel riders. First impressions go a long way. Immediately you'll notice it looks like you've run the thing into a brick wall at high speed, the legs are swept back towards the frame as they leave the steerer tube before taking a big sweep forward along the lower portion of the legs like a more traditional uni-crown fork. Both the legs and the dropouts are beefy with a capital "B", but the weight of the fork is a respectable 2.15 pounds (975g). The welds are clean, the powder coat and decals are crisp. My fork came with an ISO disc mount tab and cable routing braze-on but it's also available with cantilever mounts.
The shape of the legs is a look you either love or hate but it is there for a purpose and that purpose is to give your body some relief from the beating it can take running a rigid front end. As Willits puts it, the purpose of the design is to "provide vertical compliance through passive suspension". In other words, things flex. This can be good or bad depending on execution, but I'm here to say they seem to have gotten things right. The fork legs themselves are stout, but the bend and rake is done in such a way that the fork retains solid tracking while taking the edge off of trail chatter. With few fork blades made in the length necessary for the WOW design, the fork has one flex and bend for all riders but custom rakes are available. True Temper OX tubing is the material used to get the job done.
If you are looking for something to relieve some of the sting in the trail this might be your ticket. Hard packed washboard trail deviations seem to showcase the fork’s advantages best, especially at higher speeds. You can look down, and I don't think it's my imagination, see the flex happening when traveling high speed over the rippled trail surface. It will take some of the punch out of baseball-sized rocks too, but it's subtle and you shouldn't expect miracles. Just remember, this isn't a suspension fork, come up short on a jump and this thing isn't going to save you. If you are looking for the ability to suck up big hits and trail mistakes you've come to the wrong place. You are riding a rigid fork for a reason. The solid response and no dive characteristics still thankfully exist here.
I beat on this fork hard for several months and the only sign of it was a few scratches in the powder coat. Then again I expect a quality steel fork to be ready for years of service. If you are looking for a high-end steel 29er fork the W.O.W. is worth putting on your list of options. The quality is right and you get that little extra cush that might make the body feel less fatigued after a long day in the saddle.
Nuts and Bolts
Material: True Temper OX Steel
Wheel Size: 29 inch
Axle To Crown: 465mm
Rake: 44mm (custom available)
Price: $250 (subtract $50 if purchased with a frame)
Web:www.willitsbikes.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org