Hardtail Turned Gravel Grinder With the Whisky Components No.9 MTN Boost LT Fork

Whiskey Components No.9 MTN Boost LT Fork

Project “don’t wanna own another bike” is in full swing this spring. After scheduling some bikepacking trips with friends that include a behavior called “gravel grinding” I decided to build up my 130mm Cotic SolarisMAX hardtail to be a little more roadworthy. This means mounting tires at half the weight, lighter wheels, and a carbon No.9 MTN Boost LT Fork from Whisky Components. Now the bike feels almost XC-race light, and it won’t be holding me back on dirt road ramblings.

Looks clean out of the box with all six gear mounts plugged.

Whisky No. 9 MTN Fork specs and ride impressions

With alphanumeric soup for a name, the Whisky Components Co. No.9 MTN Boost LT fork is shaped to play best on hardtails designed for 120 to 130mm of travel. The brand has another carbon fork for shorter-travel hardtails with a 483mm axle-to-crown (ATC) measurement, and this stretched version reaches out to an even 500mm which is precisely what Cotic recommends for a rigid build with this frame. The Öhlins RXF34 m.2 fork I took off has a 541mm ATC, and this shorter distance drops my center of gravity somewhat and steepens the head tube for a little more nimble ride. I’m not riding burly singletrack on this bike and, in theory, the faster handling should feel good across smoother surfaces.

Both of the Whisky 29er carbon forks use a 51mm offset. All of the other forks I’ve tested on the Cotic SolarisMAX have used 44mm offset crowns, and the difference in that measurement is definitely noticeable in this direction. A short time ago we published an article about riding a 51mm offset on a bike designed for a 44, noting that it’s a difference most folks can grow accustomed to. Given the leg-length difference and the fact that the bike is now rigid, the handling characteristics of that shifted offset became very clear. When leaning into a turn the front end feels fairly “floppy,” and I wouldn’t be stoked to ride it on singletrack. Like any geometry shift, these sensations can be adapted to, but the difference in starting-feel definitely isn’t confidence inspiring.

Whiskey Components No.9 MTN Boost LT Fork
Space for up to 3-inch-wide tires.

The remaining functionality of this fork is spot on, with a tapered steerer tube and post mounts for a 160mm rotor. Alternatively, you can bolt up a larger 180mm disc if preferred. Machining on the brake mounts is clean and flush, leaving little work to center the caliper and snug things up. Uncut, the rigid carbon 29er fork weighs very close to the reported 680g, which is less than half of the squishy fork it replaced. At $565 this is a substantial “gram savings per penny” ratio — provided you can hang with the rigid aspect. The Enve Mountain Fork we tested a while back weighs 719g with a fender installed and retails for $625, making this option from Whisky Components rather appealing. A flip-chip that offers an adjustable rake on the Enve fork could justify that additional cost for some riders.

Three gear mounts on either leg can reportedly hold up to 4kg of gear per side if all three bolts are employed. I generally prefer zero grams on the fork, and 4,000 of them seems excessive, but I reckon it’s good to have the option. This could be a good place to strap the lightest gear, like rain jackets and featherweight sleeping bags. Weight on the bars and fork has a negative effect on handling and it’s best saved for last when lashing up a bikepacking ride.

Whiskey Components No.9 MTN Boost LT Fork
180mm disc with an adaptor, no problem!

Ride feel with this carbon tuning rod is very similar to the Enve option, with the Whisky feeling slightly less compliant over chunky bedrock descents. The Whisky engineers did a good job keeping the weight down while designing a fork that can handle sizable stones and potholes and dampen vibration to a tolerable level. You won’t see anyone with this fork keeping up with friends who are riding squish down legit singletrack, but it offers about the forgiveness that most bodies need to feel comfortable-ish on a lightweight bike.

We mentioned the floppy feel above, and much of that sensation calms with speed. When you’re tucked onto the frame descending as fast as possible the front wheel tracks just fine. Steering was undeniably better with a shorter offset, but this also works. On the flip, the No.9 MTN Fork offers a crisp feel if you’re out of the saddle pulling across the handlebars. If you want to slide a hardtail as close as possible into the modern gravel bike shape, this fork is a long step in the right direction.

Fender flop

So many riders are going to mount this fork for muddy winter riding and training when they don’t want to pack soil into their suspension. Why then would it not be offered with a fender of some sort? Even the laughable flap on the Enve model guards against mud if your head is in the right place, and there are some easy ways to extend it for better coverage. The only way to fender this Whisky fork is with zip ties and crossed fingers, scratching up the neat matte carbon finish while remaining hopeful that a bump doesn’t send the fender into the front tire, and your body over the bars.

Party laps

  • Drops weight
  • Makes a hardtail more gravel-bike-like
  • Convenient gear mounts
  • High quality ride feel

Pros and cons of the Whisky Components No.9 MTN Boost LT Fork.

Dirt naps

  • No fender mounts
  • 51mm offset only