What retro frame & suspension fork for hard xc riding/racing?


Feature Bike
I put a pair of oil/spring forks on the lad’s wee Brodie (first ever encounter with suspension), and have to admit that from the way he cracks on that there is something to this approach.

Also, it’s sooooo dry and rutted round here after a month+ with no rain that I will admit to not being able to see last time I went downhill on my rigid off roader.

And ... I quite fancy entering a race this year on an old bike.

So, if I was to build a retro hardtail for fast summer XC shredding, what should I look for?


as light as possible.
no elastomers: air oil?
doesnt have to be steel, but could be
can be a bit period incorrect
1/8 headset for compatibility
not scared of being ridden hard.
Not posh.

I’m out of my depth here but what sprung to mind was a light strong ally frame with an air oil fork: Cannondale? GT? I guess a bunch of good steel frames would also work, but what fork pairings are best?


Gold Trader
GT Fan
Depends on your frame choice as to the world of fork options. V brake only and you will have a smaller pool of decent forks. That said, and being partial to forks that perform well. I've had fox f series air from rl, rlt/c to terralogic, marz marathon sls, and rock shox reba and sids. All 32mm uppers with v lowers and air rather than coil. They all offer better performance and reliability than older forks imho.

Frame wise, hard to say as so many options in alu and steel. Kona seem a popular choice, good value and ride well by all accounts. Orange steel? Zaskar,

marc two tone

Retrobike Rider
Start with yourself, are you familiar with racing? What result are you expected to yield?

Bike wise, look at some of those 90's racing vids with tim davies, tomac etc, see what they are on. Often quite stock iirc. Although ti mega frame+fork dont exactly rain from the sky.
You see, apart from "race you to the shop!" Circa 60 yards, I've never raced or even fun participate any event like a race but manufacturers seem to bull up their alloy range as the 'racey' end of their catalogues. With manitou or rockshox featured for that must-have extra/upgrade.


Klein Fan
Magura/Rond O24U forks - if you can get them. They are really good imho. Combine with one of the later suspension corrected frames. Aluminium od steel is not too much of a difference. Al frames are easyser to find tho.


Gold Trader
MacRetro Rider
Orange 🍊 Fan
Have you a retro cut off point for this? Otherwise it's easy to drift towards newer components in search of lighter/better/faster because, well because modern just works better.

Aluminium frame is probably easy to find, cheaper, and lighter, ideal for a race bike. Kona Kula I had was superb, but theres so much choice.

For fork the later 90's Rockshox air forks are good , SID , Duke XC etc or Magura/ Rond also good in my experience. Early 2000's Marzocchi air forks also great and still with V-brake and disc options.


Feature Bike
Thanks chaps; as mentioned, lots of possible frames and I’ll see what comes up: the info on forks is v helpful as I’m starting from a low base of knowledge. Will start some searching.

If I can find/get to a race the plan will be to just have a go and see (worth it if only for the “god Dad you’re so embarrassing“ value).


Gary Fisher Fan
Another mention for Rond air forks; beautifully made, light, solid and very smooth. Got a set of 70/80mm 2001ish quake airs for use on my M2 Stumpjumper, when going somewhere rocky.

mk one

Old School GrandMaster
Retrobike Rider
BoTM Winner
Gold Trader
Kona Fan
Like mentioned above, what years you looking at, if going by the forum years then a lot of the above are too new, though going just over the 97 point will get you some nice forks, Marzocchi for one.

Frame wise, you cant go wrong with a Kona, though prices are high on them at the moment. A good idea if your actually buying a frame and/or fork is to put a wanted ad for one, not specifying a make/model and seeing what turns up, could be some you never thought of.


Feature Bike
Plan is to go with an older frame but bend the rules on forks to avoid elastomers and springs. My hunch is that an old light frame and light air fork with some decent components and modern tyres (loving wide Rocket Ron evos ATM) will not do too badly on an XC course.

Liking the idea of Zaskar or Kona. Stumpy M2s are cools but a bit fragile and rare these days? Would grab a later steel SJ if it came up. Also those under the radar brands like Scott, Univega, Trek in steel. The KHSs I’ve had and liked are 1” headsets and a tad steep at the front. Oranges? Not sure - bit heavy?