Well those days are over, put behind you the fear of attempting to steer a bike down a trail with two pieces of wet spaghetti as fork legs, the two big names of suspension have seriously upped the stakes in the weight game. RockShox and FOX both released new versions of their flagship short travel race forks, within a few grams of each other but vastly different in their unique ways of achieving low weight.
What is it?
FOX have the edge over the top players in the suspension game with their new 32 Step Cast fork, the 100mm travel specific fork that uses a narrower crown bringing the 32mm diameter legs closer together. The Step Cast lower legs provide necessary clearance for the spokes and disc rotor, and the arch is heavily sculpted to still allow clearance for up to 2.3″ tyres.
The internals have also been re-worked to drop a few precious grams, this fork must have kept the engineers at FOX very busy indeed!
-15QR x 110 Boost and 15QR x 100 Kabolt axle options
-27.5” and 29” wheel options
-FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper for improved control
-Lockout for increased efficiency
-Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
-Gloss Orange, Matte Black, Gloss White
AUD RRP – $1449
For the details, construction and more click through to our initial impressions piece on the 32 SC fork here: Flow’s First Bite – FOX 32 Step Cast Fork.
Setting up a FOX fork is pretty simple, set your sag and then the rebound speed, tune the low speed compression and get riding.
FOX provide a pretty simple setup guide on their website to help find your base settings, find that one here.
Further suspension tuning in the way of volume spacers can be fitted to achieve a more progressive feel with increased bottom out resistance. We’ve done this with FOX 34 and 36 forks quite a bit, and is worth experimenting with to arrive at a setting you’re absolutely happy with.
With all this weight saving FOX also claimed to lose no performance on the trail in terms of steering and handling precision and suspension performance. That’s a bold statement, so we set out to discover for ourselves.
Choosing a stealth black Trek Procaliber 9.8 SL to fit the forks to was an excellent choice, the new carbon 29er is a real cross country race weapon, and so is the fork. Bouncing around at the trail head on the Trek with the FOX fork fitted our initial impressions were a little mixed, while the action felt buttery smooth straight away, the forks look diminutive from the riders point of view. The narrow crowns paired with the inherent long legs of a 29er fork just looked odd.
But like any good part if it works well, we’ll get used to the different appearance pretty quickly and we certainly did.
On the trail the 32 SC fork felt like any of the Factory level FOX forks should, incredibly smooth and sensitive, controlled and supportive. The open mode adjustment of low speed compression is a feature we use a lot, a few clicks of the little black dial would hold the fork up in its stroke, resisting bouncing from our pedalling actions whilst remaining sensitive to any impact. And the three-stage lockout gives us a very useable adjustment for racing situations.
The damping feels highly sophisticated, when you’re really hammering along the minimal 100mm of travel feels a whole lot more than it should. Reacting to the slightest bump at any time, no matter if its at the top of the stoke or deep into the travel the fork still seems to be able to do its job of isolating the rider from the terrain.
In comparison to the regular 32 the air spring feels very linear and very plush, and with the right amount of sag set for your riding weight it is easy to use all of the travel. Heavier riders on rougher trails may want to experiment with fitting air volume spacers for a more progressive feel and add low speed compression to add support, but we’d certainly not recommend over-inflating the air spring to give a firmer ride before experimenting with these two tuning options first.
It’s all too often we feel a cross country racer’s bike setup super hard with loads of air pressure for a more ‘efficient’ ride. With the FIT 4 damper and its associated adjustments you’ll be able to set up the fork with your correct sag and attain the desired firmness and race-ready performance by tuning the compression adjustment. With the fork sagging at its correct height the bike will handle the way it is designed too, and you’ll still have a fork that doesn’t rob you of any efficiency.
With such a sensitive action we really found the Trek Procaliber to have traction in spades, putting loads of confidence in the front tyre as we leant it over in the turns, instead of skipping about over the choppy surfaces the suspension worked overtime in keeping the front wheel composed and in contact with the dirt.
It was the chassis rigidity and overall stiffness that really had us curious though, we have such faith in FOX’s Factory level forks in terms of suspension performance we were not surprised with its superb feel and support, but was this light fork going to feel too light when we rode it hard?
No, in all honesty we were not able to make any firm conclusion whether it is either less or more stiff than the regular FOX 32 fork. A lightweight 29er fork at 100mm from any brand will scare off the gravity crowd, but we were more than satisfied with the way this featherweight fork handled all twisting, diving and heavy braking we could throw its way.
How light? Here’s some 100mm 29er fork weight comparisons:
– FOX – 32 SC, 1360g
– RockShox – 2017 SID XX World Cup, 1366g
– DT Swiss – OPM O.D.L 100 RACE, 1485g
– SR Suntour – Axon Werx F-29, 1570g
– FOX – Float 32 100, 1615g
– Cannondale – Lefty 2.0 Carbon, 1600g
– RockShox – RS1, 1666g
– MRP – Loop SL, 1769g
– X Fusion – Slide RL2, 1814g
FOX have nailed this one, successfully creating the lightest fork amongst the big players with excellent performance and sturdiness that would have traditionally been unheard of with such a light product.
For those looking to build a super light race bike, or there’s a bike with one as standard spec you can’t possibly go wrong with the 32 SC.