Although it has been out for about a year now, many people are still learning about it. A company that has been making shocks for awhile, now has produced a pretty killer fork that’s ready to compete with the top dogs. Featuring adjustments that no other high end fork currently offers and an ease of use that is hard to find, we had no idea what to expect when riding the Helm fork for the first time.
Some of the notable features are high speed compression (HSC) and low speed compression (LSC) adjustments. While the fork has great support, many riders will love the ability to crank some of those if needed. Other unique features include their D-Loc 15mm thru axle and a manually adjusting negative air chamber. The ability to adjust the negative air chamber manually gives the rider the ability to dial in the feel and extreme suppleness off the top of their choosing.
The Helm weighs in at 2070g, so it’s not the lightest fork out there, but when you’re rocking 160mm of travel, does weight really matter that much? To me it’s not an issue to have a slightly heavier fork as long as it performs. You can choose the Helm in 150mm, 160mm or 170mm travel options, but have the ability to lower the fork down in 10mm increments. A 170mm fork can be reduced in travel all the way down to 100mm for those fun rowdy hardtails. This is all done internally and only needs a spacer to do so. Our test fork came with 2 spacers, which gave us the the ability to drop down to 140mm from 160mm.
Installation is straightforward. Cane Creek provides measurement marks on the steerer tube to help with cutting. There’s a direct mount for a 180mm brake rotor and a very nice metal front guide to hold the brake cable nice and snug. Setting up pressure is a slightly different process. Cane Creek recommends you to start with half your body weight, which is about 72 PSI for myself, and then equalize the positive and negative chambers. These steps should theoretically result in about 15-20% sag. To equalize the two, remove the threaded cap on the bottom of the air side, and depress the presta style valve found underneath. To me, this is a really cool feature because the chamber is large to begin with, but you can slightly tweak it to provide more or less damping off the top. Maybe you’re riding some jumps or pumps and would rather not have the fork be super plush off the top. Do your equalizing, then add some more pressure to the positive side, this will result in a pressure bias toward the positive chamber. I found myself doing the opposite, starting with a slightly higher pressure than I would run, about 76 psi, equalizing, then dropping the positive down to 71/72 psi and have a slightly larger negative to improve the small bump absorption and make it very plush.
The very first thing I immediately noticed is that the way this fork supports you is unlike anything else on the market. It’s very supportive from the mid-stroke up and has a natural spring progression. Straight out of the box, the Helm feels similar to a Rockshox or Fox fork that I’ve already tuned to my liking. This fork is delivered to you ready to shred! It has 12 positions of HSC and 1 ½ turns of LSC, I found myself running the fork fully open in both on most trails. On the occasional jump trail or pump track session, I turned them in a bit and found that the HSC positions are noticeably different from each other. The LSC is a little less noticeable, but even just a ½ turn provides you with the support you want.
The last thing I messed with was the air volume adjustments. The Cane Creek Helm has a very cool way of adjusting air volume, which allows you to tune in the precise amount of progression you want. An internal piece with a wing nut is all that is needed to add or remove air volume. The very first ride proved the air volume and progression to feel really good. It comes from the factory already on the third position, but there are eight for you to choose from. The fork already has a more than average progression rate, but for the review I wanted to see what would happen by adding more progression. Moving the wing nut and bumper down two positions changes the air volume pretty significantly. After a ride down a chunky DH style trail, I was left with about 10mm of remaining travel. So I bumped it back the other direction to the fourth position and it felt great. I’m a rider that likes a progressive suspension setup, and so only having it in the middle setting to get the feeling that I want is something new to see.
For all its features, support, and progression, I think this fork lends itself to the more aggressive rider. That being said, you can easily back off the progression and lower the air pressure to get a much different feel. Cane Creek is known for their highly tunable suspension dampers, so they came out looking for the top spot in the fork world. I can't wait to try one of these on a 29-inch rig as I think it would be insanely fun to ride. Did I mention that everything is made in the USA? That’s an awesome fact that I support. If you’re looking to get on something not everyone is riding, you will have no regrets on the Cane Creek Helm. With different colors and travel options, this fork can either help you stand out or blend in.