Back in March at the 2015 NAHBS, we were able to catch a first look at ENVE's GRD Gravel Road Disc Fork, with the prototype sporting fenders also designed by the company. The fenders looked great, but the biggest surprise was the 12mm thru axle, which looked to create a new standard for road-specific thru axles much in the same way that the cross country 15mm thru axle systems supplanted the downhill-oriented 20mm standard.
Nearly a half year later, we were able to get our hands on ENVE's cyclocross version of the GRD prototype, which they simply call the Cross Fork Disc. The company is fully committed to the new 12mm standard, not even offering a 15mm thru-axle cyclocross fork option on their website.
When I asked Chris King about moving to 12mm for road discs, they told me that the size was more optimal for conditions that one will find with a road fork, whether on gravel or in the cyclocross course. We've tested 15mm thru axles in the past, and don't find them un-optimal, however if avoiding overkill is the name of the game, then the true rationale for the 12mm thru axle is weight savings.
Interestingly enough, the company's claimed weight of the fork is 466g, although they don't specify what that weight includes. When we loaded our scales with everything they supplied in the packaging, including the axle, uncut steerer tube, housing retainer and compression plug, and found ourselves at an incredibly scant 415g. Naturally, we didn't measure the weight with a crown race. The steerer tube comes out of the box at 300mm, with the axle to crown length at 395 mm.
Despite ENVE having a GRD Prototype marketed for gravel, they are clear that the Cross Fork Disc is fully designed for both cyclocross and gravel rides. Their claimed tire clearance stands at 45mm with a 700c wheel, and 50mm with a 650b wheel.
The fork keeps the low weight partially by benefit that the 12mm thru axle does not have a lever or option to remove the axle from the fork by hand. Rather, a 6mm allen key is required to make a wheel swap. While this might be enticing for the real weight weenies out there, those out on their training rides will have to remember to bring an allen key with their tire lever. Cyclocross racers with a spare set of wheels in the pit who are not accustomed to bringing tools might have to rethink their habits. Of course that also means that those spare wheels will also have to have accommodations for a 12mm axle. Many wheel companies, however, like Zipp, are future-proofing their wheels with swappable end caps.
Adjustable rack adapters, however, might be another matter entirely for the 2015-16 season. Even in a very extensive search, I could not find a company that manufacturers 12mm thru axle adapters for the roof rack even though plenty make one for the 15mm thru axle on my mountain bike. With new standards, of course, comes new puzzles to figure out.
I have already given the fork a good first ride on the Wednesday Night World cyclocross course I ride. The fork tracks very well around corners and is certainly confidence-inspiring down rough descents. Stay tuned for a full review.
The ENVE Cross Fork Disc is currently available and retails for $542.
For more details and a spec list, use the slider below. More info: enve.com
[Editor's Note: I did not receive the fork as a test unit, but rather it is equipped on the VonHof Cycles CX bike that my team will be riding during the 2015-16 season. I am not sponsored by ENVE.]