MRP Stage Fork

Average User Rating: (Spectacular) Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
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Tested: MRP Stage Fork

Rating: Vital Review

MRP has been in the bike game for a long time. Mostly known for their chainguides and drivetrain components, MRP has taken their White Brothers suspension division and re-invented themselves with their latest technology under the MRP name. Aimed squarely at the enduro and all mountain shredders, the Stage has been designed to go for the throat of the single crown market's current top contenders. We had a chance to log some serious miles on the 26/27.5" model and put it through the wringer the past few months to see just how it stacks up.

MRP Stage Highlights

  • TRAVEL:
  • 140, 150, 160, or 170-mm (26/27.5")
  • 120, 130, 140, or 150-mm (29")
  • WEIGHT: 4.3 lbs. for 26/27.5" 4.4 lbs. for 29"
  • AXLE-TO-CROWN HEIGHT: 553-mm for 170-mm travel 26/27.5"model, 558-mm for 150-mm travel 29" model
  • SPRING

MRP has been in the bike game for a long time. Mostly known for their chainguides and drivetrain components, MRP has taken their White Brothers suspension division and re-invented themselves with their latest technology under the MRP name. Aimed squarely at the enduro and all mountain shredders, the Stage has been designed to go for the throat of the single crown market's current top contenders. We had a chance to log some serious miles on the 26/27.5" model and put it through the wringer the past few months to see just how it stacks up.

MRP Stage Highlights

  • TRAVEL:
  • 140, 150, 160, or 170-mm (26/27.5")
  • 120, 130, 140, or 150-mm (29")
  • WEIGHT: 4.3 lbs. for 26/27.5" 4.4 lbs. for 29"
  • AXLE-TO-CROWN HEIGHT: 553-mm for 170-mm travel 26/27.5"model, 558-mm for 150-mm travel 29" model
  • SPRING SYSTEM: EQUALair
  • EXTERNAL ADJUSTMENTS: Air spring pressure, 8-position compression, Ramp Control, rebound
  • INTERNAL ADJUSTMENTS: Travel
  • STEERER OPTIONS: Tapered (1.5 - 1.125")
  • OFFSET:43-mm (26/27.5"), 51-mm (29")
  • BRAKE MOUNT:180-mm PM (Disc only)
  • WHEEL SIZE: 26”, 27.5”, 29”
  • AXLE:QTAPER 15-mm
  • MSRP: $969 USD

Initial Impressions

Taking the Stage out of the box revealed a good looking product overall. With an all black finish the MRP stays pretty stealthy, offering only subtle branded logos on the legs. The magnesium lowers feature a beefy, rounded arch that has threaded holes on the back. According to MRP, these could someday be used for a bolt on fender. The back of the lower leg offers a tuning guide decal that gives users a quick reference for setting up the fork.

What grabbed my attention with the Stage after first reading about it was its external adjustability - mainly the ramp control. By turning this 16 position knob (located on the top of the left fork leg), the fork's progressiveness can be adjusted as desired. In the center of the ramp control knob is a bleed button that allows you to very slowly and precisely bleed the air spring chamber. The compression adjustment knob is located on the top of the right leg and offers 8 clicks.

The Stage came set at 160-mm of travel from the factory. While this amount of travel was initially preferred, the lower axle to crown dimension on this fork in this travel length (543-mm) meant that my current geometry would change. I made the decision to increase the travel out to 170-mm to put me at 553-mm, much closer to my 160-mm Pike geometry.

Changing the travel on the Stage is easy and takes about a half hour if you are proficient at bike work. You pull the lowers and simply remove (to increase) or add (to decrease) the provided spacers, re-lube the seals and add oil to each leg and re-assemble. The Stage offers 180-mm brake post mounts, so caliper install was a snap with no required hardware or adapters needed for my XT caliper and 180-mm rotor.

MRP's 15-mm axle system uses an axle that slides through the lowers/hub and threads into a free spinning knurled knob located on the outside of the dropout. Once threaded in, the cam lever is flipped to secure the wheel.

On The Trail

After installing the fork on my 27.5" Nomad 3, I began adjusting settings to get things dialed in. Recommended air pressure for a rider weighing 180-195lbs is between 95 to 105-psi. I found myself running 90-psi for my 185 pound weight to attain a 20% sag setting with my slack, 65-degree head angle.

The first day on the Stage was a heavy day of downhill shuttle run abuse. No better way to test the bump eating and technical descending capabilities of this fork right off the bat. While I was the only rider on a single crown fork that day, the steep trails soon showed how impressively this fork could hold its own on the big stuff at speed. The fork did an excellent job of staying high in the stroke while resisting diving in steep chutes and tight corners. Even when sending a few miscalculated drops to leg-buckling, g-out landings, the Stage would soak up the impact without bottoming out harshly. Despite a fairly firm fork setup for the day, front wheel traction was good and kept smaller bumps and chatter surprisingly smooth. Another thing to note was the Stage's stiff chassis. The fork never felt flexy under braking and provided solid tracking through rock gardens and rough sections. Steep, gnarly enduro stages be damned - the Stage is a stout fork ready to play hard.

After setting up the fork a bit softer and grabbing the half shell helmet, it was off to the trails. One thing to note on the MRP was the fork's adjustability and response to the changes.

The compression adjustment offers 8 clicks, and is very effective in changing how the fork feels in even, incremental steps. While it is not specifically labeled as "low speed compression", it is best used as such. With the compression turned all the way in, the fork becomes very stiff and provides an almost locked out pedal platform feeling - but, thanks to MRP's magnetic blow-off valve, it still allows the fork to compress once a big enough force is encountered. The magnetic blow-off valve is designed to only come into play in the last few firmest compression settings. In settings 1-6, there is enough oil flow through the damping circuit to never pop open this blow off circuit. The "lock out mode" could be a nice feature for those grinding up long sustained fire roads to get their descents, but I honestly never used it besides bouncing around the driveway playing with settings. I rarely use my bike's lockout modes as I feel it doesn't need it and I don't find myself on many smooth climbs. On the flip side, the fork is very soft and plush in the softest, fully open position - another side of the adjustment spectrum that probably won't be used much. For trail riding, I found myself settling at 5 clicks out from full in. This position kept the fork firm enough to stay up in its travel in big g-out berms, jump faces and heavy braking, but supple enough to smooth out chatter, roots and maintain great traction.

The ramp control is probably the Stage's most unique feature, and one that really makes it stand out. This feature basically provides the rider with instant, tool free adjustment of the fork's progressiveness through the travel. The ramp control offers 16 clicks, and like the compression, the steps are even and incremental. This is a very useful feature for really dialing in the ride quality of the fork, and even more so because you don't even have to take it apart and add tokens. Big win for the Stage. I have been running my ramp control at 8 clicks out from full in, giving me a soft supple feeling at the top of the stroke but progressively ramping up in the second half of travel to provide great bottom out resistance off the big hits.

The center of the ramp control knob features a small pressure release button that allows riders to controllably release air from the air spring chamber. When depressed, a very small amount of air is allowed to escape, dropping a few psi of pressure at a time. This could come in handy if you were on a ride and felt that you needed to drop your air spring pressure slightly. Despite my initial concerns of accidentally bumping this small button, I never had an issue as it is fairly tucked in and protected by the ramp control knob.

Rebound damping is easy to dial in. The Stage has 20 clicks of adjustment here and again, the clicks are very even and incremental and did not leave me craving an "in-between" adjustment setting. I prefer to run my rebound a little faster, and found myself about 8 clicks out from full in on most my rides. One thing to note here on the Stage is a fairly loud rebound circuit. Now that we all are running stealthy drivetrains on our bikes thanks to clutched derailleurs, this is the loudest noise I hear on the trail when I am riding. Not really a complaint, but a pretty notable characteristic of this fork.

I had the chance to ride the original axle design that came with the Stage. A few riders had complained about binding in the dropouts during removal and installation and I was curious if I would experience this. After a few rides, I began to notice slight axle binding during removal. This was not a showstopper, as I rarely remove my wheel and when I did it wasn't too bad - it just wasn't as smooth as it could be. About halfway through the test, MRP sent out their new, revised axle that features a spring for the cam and cone. This revision has noticeably improved the smoothness in removal and installation of the axle and helps give the fork more of a refined feel.

Stiction is a big topic these days in the suspension world. The large negative spring in this fork helps free up unwanted friction during compression. While the Stage features a very supple and smooth action, my Pike might slightly take the cake in that department now that my Stage is nearing its lower service/bath oil change time. This has just been noted while handling the bike in the garage, but hasn't shown through on the trail while actually riding. Small bump sensitivity is excellent with the Stage, and it has left me very impressed with its precision over rooty and chattery lines.

Things That Could Be Improved

The Stage leaves little to ask for in the performance category. To get nitpicky, the small knurled knob that the axle threads into could use a little more aggressive knurling to offer more grip for your fingers while threading/unthreading the axle.

Long Term Durability

There have been no notable long term durability issues with the Stage. I am approaching a lower service/bath oil change soon with the time I've put on this fork, but as with all suspension components, this is par for the course after miles and miles of mud and abuse on the trail. At this point, I have little doubt that this fork will last for seasons to come.

What's The Bottom Line?

When MRP stepped into the ring with the top trail forks on the market, they sure took on a big challenge as the mark has been set high. I was skeptical that the Stage would be able to compete with my trusty Pike and I would end up missing it. I was completely proven wrong as the Stage turned out to be a stellar performer on the trail. The wide adjustability range, notably the ramp control, makes tailoring this fork to your preferences a breeze, while small bump compliance and stiffness leave little to be desired. MRP has come out swinging with the Stage and the result is an impressive fork that can proudly hang with the top dogs.

More information at: www.mrpbike.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

MRP Stage 160 mm 26/27.5

Rating: Featured Member Review
The Good:

The 5 star rating is well deserved. See Overall Review portion for more details.

The Bad:

I have been on the fork for a couple months and nothing has come up that I can even nitpick over.

Overall Review:

by Weston Walker

Ok…so this is the part of the review where I’m “supposed” to discuss all the technology inside the MRP Stage. I’m going to go ahead and skip that and get right down to the question a review is “supposed” to answer, and that is “Does the product work?” I just don’t see the point of regurgitating something you can read on the manufacturer’s website. This is not a slam at MRP because this product is jammed full of patented technology, but in all honesty so is every other product on the market. So does it work? The answer to that question is yes it does work…incredibly well. I could probably just stop here, but that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. I will take you through my setup, overall impression, and thoughts on the air spring, compression damping, and chassis.

Overall Review:

by Weston Walker

Ok…so this is the part of the review where I’m “supposed” to discuss all the technology inside the MRP Stage. I’m going to go ahead and skip that and get right down to the question a review is “supposed” to answer, and that is “Does the product work?” I just don’t see the point of regurgitating something you can read on the manufacturer’s website. This is not a slam at MRP because this product is jammed full of patented technology, but in all honesty so is every other product on the market. So does it work? The answer to that question is yes it does work…incredibly well. I could probably just stop here, but that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. I will take you through my setup, overall impression, and thoughts on the air spring, compression damping, and chassis.

Setup

I opted for the 160 mm 26/27.5 travel option for my 2013 Cannondale Jekyll.  I have been riding the bike for over a year, so I know how it behaves and was able to isolate the fork for the review.  So you know a little about me and my riding style, I am 6’1” and 190 lbs and I come from a motocross background so I have adopted an over the front riding style.  I race downhill, but spend the vast majority of my time on a trail bike due to my geographic location in Laramie, Wyoming.  Contrary to popular belief, there is actually very good trail riding in Laramie with everything from fast, flowy single track to steep, rocky, technical trails.  As far as the fork setup, I am currently running 120 psi in the air spring with 4 clicks of Ramp Control, 3-4 clicks of compression damping depending on the trail, and 12 clicks of rebound damping (clicks counterclockwise from no damping).  With this setup, I am on the more linear side of things with a slight bit of ramp at the end of the travel and I am only 6 psi above the recommended setting.

Overall Impression

For full disclosure, I have not ridden the newest offerings from competing companies, so an apple to apples comparison is not possible.  However, I have done a lot of research and I believe MRP has a very competitive product in the Stage.  I used my downhill fork as a comparative tool which may seem a little strange, but it’s a good point of reference for me.  Now that’s out of the way, “What do I really think.”  The Stage allows me to ride my trail bike the way I believe it should be ridden.  That is, like a mini downhill bike.  I know it’s incredibly cliché, but the phrase that comes to mind is confidence inspiring.  I tend to get a little loose from time to time, but I have yet to get myself into a predicament where I am wishing for more.  The fork is so good that you forget it is even there, which for me is what I am looking for in a top of the line product.  Let’s get to the specifics of what makes this fork great.

Air Spring

MRP hit the nail on the head with their EQUALair air spring system with external Ramp Control.  It allows you to fine tune the spring curve to your preferences.  You can run lower air pressures with a lot of Ramp Control for a progressive feel, higher air pressures with less Ramp Control for a more linear feel, or anything in between.  This system offers unbelievable small bump compliance, with mid-stroke support, and no harsh bottom out.  I originally started out with the recommended settings, and tried out the more progressive spring curve set up, but I ended up bumping up the air pressure and going back to a more linear spring curve with a slight amount of ramp up.  It really just came down to personal preference, as I prefer a set up that feels more like a coil.  I am used to having to choose between having mid-stroke support or small bump compliance, but it isn’t the case with the Stage.  I was surprised at how sensitive the fork was to small hits, but was still able to ride high in the travel.  My main reason for bumping up the air pressure was there was almost too much small bump compliance for my taste and felt slightly under-sprung.  This sounds absurd, but it probably has a lot to do with my over the front riding style so I prefer to run almost a supercross type fork setup on my bike.  I would say my current setup has the perfect amount of small bump compliance while still maintaining the firm feeling I prefer.  An interesting feature of the Ramp Control is it essentially works as a secondary high speed compression adjustment that is independent of the damper.  When I went to a higher air pressure, I experienced slight spiking on high speed hits, but was able to tune it out by backing off the Ramp Control.  The great thing about the air spring is the entire travel is usable and tune-able to your preferences and it doesn’t leave you stuck with a specific spring curve as many air sprung systems do.

Compression Damping

The damper in the Stage is a thing of beauty.  The damper has a lot to do with the ride characteristics I mentioned when discussing the air spring and it is obvious that MRP did their homework.  Some people may be disappointed that there are no external adjustments for high speed compression, but the base tune is very good and the Ramp Control feature makes it unnecessary.  The damper features magnetic valving which in my experience essentially gives you a variable high speed compression tune.  It allows the fork to stay high in the travel and in control over high speed chatter bumps, but where it really shines is when the blow off valve comes into play over high speed square edge hits by completely preventing spiking.  The low speed compression tune is also very good and each click of the dial translates to noticeable changes.  It gives the fork very predictable and usable travel.  Some people may think that 8 clicks isn’t adjustable enough, but the base tune is so dialed that 8 clicks is plenty.  Also, the 8th click on the dial is highly-damped for climbing or smooth bits of trail which is a nice touch.

Chassis

For me, I believe the overall stiffness is spot on for its intended use.  I have never experienced that noddle type feeling that is sometimes associated with long travel single crown forks.  Other manufactures have opted to go with 35 mm and 36 mm stanchions while the Stage features 34 mm stanchions.  The 34 mm stanchions keep the weight down while still maintaining plenty of longitudinal stiffness, so there is no cause for concern in this area.  Torsional stiffness is also on par with what I believe a fork of this nature should be.  It remains composed in the rough stuff and will hold any line I can throw at it.  When discussing the chassis, bushing bind is sometimes a cause for concern.  I have never had any feeling of bushing bind on the fork and there seemed to be no break in period (If there was I didn’t even notice).  The breakaway force is very small and it is running as smooth as it was on day one.  The QTAPER quick release/through axle hybrid design is easy to use and remains tight and stiff with its conical interface.  Now, there are inevitably some people that are going to moan about the tapered head tube and 15 mm axle.  Here are my thoughts on the matter.  Every bike on the market right now has some sort of 1.5” variation headtube and you aren’t going to be able to appreciate a fork of this caliber unless you’re riding a bike that was built within the last 3-5 years.  As for the 15 mm axle, the only time you will ever notice a difference between 15 mm and 20 mm is when you forget to take your bike off the roof rack before pulling into your garage.  The 15 mm will break in .29 s and the 20 mm will break in .299 s (I just made those numbers up, but you get the picture…there is no difference).

Final Thoughts

I have not had enough time on the fork to see any sort of long term durability issues arise, but I don’t see anything happening because MRP's quality control is top notch.  If you are in the market for an aggressive trail/all mountain/enduro/mountain bike fork you should seriously consider the MRP Stage.  They are hand built in the USA with incredible attention to detail, come in at a competitive weight and price to other products on the market, offer an impressive amount of adjustability, and most importantly put a great big smile on your face and allow you to go out and ride your bike.

A quick little raw edit of the Stage in action on my local trails in Happy Jack just outside of Laramie Wyoming. Film/Edit-Logan Walker

Great Fork That Competes With The Big Players

Rating:
The Good:

Small bump sensitivity, ramp control, travel adjustments

The Bad:

Can be a bit tricky setting up at first. Refer to MRP for how to step by step.

Overall Review:

Having ridden Pikes and 36s previously, the MRP Stage is up there and can hang with the big players. Loved the ramp control for on the fly adjustments. Riding jumps or G outs in a ride? Click a few more turns to go more progressive. Small bump sensitivity is great and feels close to a Pike. Only negative I found was the initial setting up of the fork, as it is different compared to what I was use to. Basically, you have to equalize the air chambers so takes a little more getting use to. Great fork, would recommend to anyone.

Specifications

Product MRP Stage Fork
Riding Type Trail
Wheel Size 26", 27.5" (650b), 29"
Travel
  • 120mm
  • 130mm
  • 140mm
  • 150mm
  • 160mm
  • 170mm
Spring Type EQUALair
Damping Compression with magnetic blow-off valve, rebound
External Adjustments Air spring pressure, 8-position compression, Ramp Control, rebound
Crown Single
Front Axle QtapeR 15mm
Brake Mounts 180mm post mount (disc only)
Steer Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Steer Tube Construction
Stanchion Diameter 34mm
Colors Black with multiple decal options
Weight
  • 4 lb 4.8 oz (1,950 g)
  • 4 lb 6.5 oz (2,000 g)
Miscellaneous Internal travel adjustment
QTAPER 15mm axle
Offset: 43mm (26"/27.5"), 51mm (29")
Axle-to-crown: 553mm (26"/27.5" at 170mm travel), 558mm (29" at 150mm travel)
Price $989
More Info

mrpbike.com/

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