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Spy Shot: A Next

May 05, 2023

Is Nino Schurter racing a prototype of what will soon become the longer 120mm travel version of RockShox's lightweight SID SL Ultimate cross-country mountain bike fork? We first really spotted the unlabeled BlackBox fork on the 10-time XC World Champion's bike at the Nove Mesto World Cup, then noticed it on several other current and former pros’ bikes. Then, looking back we noticed it was hidden in plain sight earlier this spring on the celebratory custom-finished Spark RC bike that Scott prepared for him to race this season.

Let's take a closer look and see what we can deduce…

I got a first sneak peek at the presumed prototype RockShox SID cross-country fork when Nino was warming in Nové Město na Moravě. Outside of the non-standard decals and a QR tracking code on the back of the right leg, the lowers look like the same as when the benchmark lightweight XC fork got its last complete overhaul back in 2019 – down to the same cast ribs in the back of its arch.

The classic old-school RockShox logos are a telltale sign of a BlackBox prototype, replacing the standard SID graphics this fork would usually be finished with.

It's not a big surprise to see Nino Schurter racing on prototype kit for his sponsors. An undeniably talented and unique athlete – Nino is known to be heavily invested in R&D with his sponsors, routinely testing, racing, and winning on next-gen tech. He also seems to have fully adopted the more aggressive geometry, wider tires & longer travel of modern XC bikes. And he's a weight-weenie at heart, so always looking to shed some grams.

That last bit is important, because when RockShox released their ultralight 32mm stanchion SID SL Ultimate fork for the 2021 season it was limited to just 100mm max travel. They revamped the internals on the regular SIDs, but Nino was already racing 120mm forks as he helped dial in the geometry for the forthcoming 2022 Spark, and there was no going back.

So, Nino won 2019 Worlds on a 115mm SID, then 2021 & 2022 Worlds on the newer 120mm SID. So, RockShox apparently decided it was time to lighten him up once more for the 2023 season. Is this then a 2024 RockShox SID SL Ultimate fork with 35mm stanchions and 120mm of travel?

It's up top at the relieved crown that we really notice something new on this prototype RockShox SID fork. At first, it looked like the standard forged alloy crown had been simply machined out to reduce weight.

But a closer look reveals that it is likely the opposite.

A smooth finish on the wider shoulder sections and a matte mottled finish in between, suggests an all-new more complex alloy cast crown that is then machined down externally for those crisp edges and weight savings.

We weren't allowed to get a closer look, but it appears that the prototype fork also has a new remote lockout for whatever new Charger damper iteration is in right fork leg. The new lockout appears to be pulled counterclockwise (the opposite direction of the current Charger 2 & Charger Race Day dampers), which makes for more direct routing to Nino's TwinLoc remote.

And of course, that suggests something also new is happening inside.

Not only Nino was on the new fork. In what may be the most tricked-out team pit bike of all time, team director and ex-World Champ himself, Thomas Frischknecht's bike was equipped with lightened-up, long-travel SID.

Frischi's bike gives a bit better look at that new Charger remote cap with a new blue ring, here routed to a GripShift-style TwistLoc remote shock lockout.

Not just a team manager though, Frischi also happened to have raced this bike with the BlackBox fork alongside Urs Gerig at this year's Cape Epic in the "Grand Masters" category under the team name Scott-SRAM Old Dudes.

But Nino & Frischi aren't the only ones on a new fork…

At first, I thought it was actually a bit strange that SRAM who's a title sponsor of Nino's Scott-SRAM Racing Team didn't just stick with the regular RockShox SID decals to keep this under wraps, suggesting they may actually be trying to subtly call attention to something new being hidden here.

But it also turns out that this new longer, lightweight prototype RockShox SID fork is all over the World Cup XC scene at the moment. I shot this photo above of Schurter chasing Luca Schwarzbauer of the Canyon CLLCTV team in the short-track race. And I also saw that Luca Braidot of Santa Cruz RockShox Pro Team also was racing the BlackBox prototype forks.

But couldn't RockShox have just kept the old SID graphics and stayed under the radar?

In fact, we got these concrete park garage studio PR images from Scott-SRAM MTB Racing back in April to showcase the custom finishing they did for Nino this season, and what appears to be this same BlackBox prototype fork does get the standard chrome SID Ultimate decals.

Nino Schurter's race bikes are certainly the most common to get a Pro Bike Check, even if we ignore all the prototypes revealed on whatever he rides. But now that we’ve speculated about that BlackBox fork – hidden here under standard SID decals – let's admire the customized bike Scott put together to celebrate the 10x World Champion & Olympic Champion.

Each of the 10 World Championship titles are special for me and all of them together on such a beautiful bike make me extremely proud. But the World Cup title at home in Lenzerheide in 2018 still outshines all the others. I can hardly wait to chase the bike over the World Cup tracks.

What really makes a custom build like this is the attention to details.

Sure, these are a nice set of the latest SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth brakes controlling 4-piston calipers, with carbon levers and a reshaped design to angle the brake lines closer to the bar for a clean cockpit and improved compatibility with internal cable routing through the headset.

But it's that custom AXS Blip wired into a cutout in the grip to actuate the wireless RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post without an extra bulky remote cluttering the cockpit. It's a nifty trick we first spotted on Kate Courtney's bikes, thanks to her mechanic Brad Copeland.

And what is cooler, more custom than a SRAM XX SL Eagle Transmission Flattop chain with your name and dates of all 10 of your World Championship titles laser-etched into the hollowed-out side plates?

Nothing. Nothing is more custom than that.

Nino Schurter's customized Scott Spark RC HMX SL carbon bike is built up with the latest direct mount SRAM XX SL Transmission (which he gave us plenty of sneak peeks at before it was released). It's SRAM's latest 12-speed MTB drivetrain with a 38T chainring on a Quarq power meter with 170mm long XX SL crankarms connected to a 10-52T cassette out back.

Rounding out his build kit are the following:

Rear Shock: RockShox DeLuxe NudeRemote: Scott TwinLoc 2 with 3-modesHandlebar: Syncros Fraser iC SL WC -40° x 80mm long x just 700mm wideSeatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS 100mm wireless dropper upgraded with titanium boltsSaddle: Syncros Tofino SL with channelGrip: Syncros SiliconPedals: HT Components M2 TitaniumWheels: Syncros Silverton SL 30mm internalTires: tubeless Maxxis Aspen 29×2.4″ WT 170tpi EXO (front) & Aspen ST 29×2.4″ WT 170tpi EXO (rear)Bottle Cage: Topeak Feza carbon cageComputer: Garmin Edge 840Tire-Sealant: OKO Magic Milk High Fibre inside

SRAM.com & Scott-Sports.com