how does the removable seatstay bridge work? Do you have any photos? I live in Portland and have fenders on for all my winter and spring gravel rides so I need a mount that is very durable and reliable.
I don’t read BQ so I’m unfamiliar with their Spork conclusions. What I do have is four years of direct experience on the original Spork (which was on the MAP) and the new 2.0 Spork which is on the new Donkey. Our philosophy is this: The fork is not the place we build compliance into our bikes. A fork must be stiff enough to resist the considerable forces that a disc brake exerts onto the fork blade. A fork must also be exceedingly strong – especially if the fork is rated for carrying cargo and heavy riders off road as ours is. The more flex you build into your fork the less precise the handling will feel and the more potential it has to shudder under hard braking.
We build our frames and forks with the same goal in mind: They are to be stable, neutral platforms on which to build a complete bike. They are neither buttery compliant or harsh. Where we tune the feel of our bikes is the components, wheels, and tires that we build a bike with. A frame must transmit pedaling forces efficiently to the rear wheel. We ride our gravel bikes on everything from fast road rides to singletrack trails and we want them to feel like efficient, quick machines when we ride them on the road.
If you want your Traildonkey or Flaanimal to be overtly compliant then take a careful look at how you build it up. Use a carbon seatpost for added flex in the rear. Select a saddle with compliant qualities (such as a C13). Forego the carbon stem as it doesn’t do much for compliance. Do chose a carbon bar if you would like compliance. The same applies to bar tape, etc (3mm vs 1.5mm). But the single most important place to tune your ride (in my personal experience) is the wheels and tires. We build 100% of our bikes with tubeless tires and tubeless tires allow us to safely tune our tire pressures anywhere between 20psi on large volume tires up to about 50-70 psi on smaller tires. A 40mm tire at 25-35psi is exceedingly comfortable and compliant no matter which frame or fork you run it on. This also relates to the reason that we developed our own carbon rims. We wanted rims that held up well to lower tire pressures use whereas aluminum rims tend to dent or lose their true when abused. The beauty of tubeless is that you can tune the ride feel of your bike with tire selection and air pressure. We actively encourage new owners to experiment with their tire selection and tire pressure to help discover different ways their bike can feel. Both the Donkey and the Flaanimal can feel like a stiff, fast road bike or a plush, comfortable gravel machine with just a few tweaks to tires / pressure.
Was the MAP review done on Compass tires? We don’t tend to run Compass tires tubeless because we’ve seen at least a half dozen blow off the rim in the build stand. Maybe they’ve improved this but we haven’t gone back to try another set recently. Compass tires do feel great with latex tubes but with tubes one must be careful with tire pressure to keep from pinch flatting. If they were running tubes and higher pressures that could be a cause for a more firm ride. Another thought would be that they may be more used to riding higher offset steel touring forks which have a lot of inherent flex. I could imagine carbon and steel forks having considerably different ride feel.
Parting thought: We tend to get a lot of feedback from our owners over time and never has a customer written us to tell us that our frames or forks feel harsh.