Bike forks do more than hold the front wheel and steer a bike. They are the leading edge and thus have a profound effect on your riding experience. Whether suspension forks or rigid, whether for XC, road, trail, enduro, FR, downhill or dirt jumping, are a performance component worth investing in and caring about.
There are lots of details and parameters when selecting an MTB fork. If you get overwhelmed by technical specs, the easiest thing is to go with what the frame maker recommends or replace what came with the bike with a similar offering.
Make sure the mountain bike fork is compatible with your frame, wheels, and brakes. Begin by confirming that the steerer tube works with your frame. Then, the fork legs are the correct size (a fork with 27.5” wheels won’t necessarily work with 26” or 29”). Then check that the fork works with your hubs and hub standards: quick-release or thru-axle, standard, or boost. Finally, ascertain the brake mounts work with your preferred rotor size.
Next, is to make sure that the travel is what you want. If your frame came with a 120mm travel fork, a fork with more travel, will raise the bike up a bit, making the bottom bracket higher and relaxing the head and seat angles. Increasing the fork’s travel however can create stress implications on the frame, so always make sure you are not exceeding the frame manufacturer’s recommendations. After travel, there’s fork offset. This dimension has the potential to lengthen or shorten the wheelbase, affecting handling. There are also suspension dampening elements. Know what kind of spring the fork uses, what kind of damper(s), how to adjust them, and whether or not the adjustment can be performed while riding.
There are many fork brands to choose from. For suspension forks, two dominate. Fox and RockShox. We’ve taken a deep dive into Fox vs. RockShox, if you want to nerd out on details. No matter what, know the best MTB forks are the one that makes your particular ride and riding better.
Fox came from motocross and still carries that influence. Fox tells you the use of the fork in their names with stanchion diameters, 32, 34, 36, 38, and 40. The larger the stanchion diameter, the rowdier the fork likes to get. Fox also has dampers suited for anyone from beginners to pros: Rhythm, Performance, Performance Elite, and the cream of the crop, Factory Series. All Factory Series forks come with Fox’s proprietary golden Kashima stanchion coating. This coating not only looks awesome but increases durability and reduces friction for butter-like smoothness. Fox has made shocks for all wheel sizes, including 26”, 27.5”, 29”, 700c. They even have an AWL (Adventure Without Limits) series for e-bikes. The AWL series of forks are designed to handle the extra speed and weight that are associated with the e-bikes of today while maintaining that superior Fox suspension feel.
RockShox was the first company to make a suspension MTB fork. That fork, the RS-1, was used both as a downhill MTB fork and an XC MTB fork that went on to win the world championships in 1990. Since then, RockShox’s offerings have exploded. Three lines cover most riding. The first is the RockShox SID. This fork can go from World Cup XC podiums to looping your favorite backyard trails. Travel ranges from 100 to 120mm. The second is the RockShox Pike, mostly designed for aggressive trail riding this fork also strays into enduro; travel varies from 120mm to 160mm. More recently there is the RockShox ZEB. The ZEB is primarily designed for enduro and free ride with its beefy 38mm stanchions; travel varies from 150-190mm.
A commonly over-looked upgrade that can completely transform the way your bike rides, rigid forks can offer instant performance benefits while saving weight. Carbon road forks can offer substantial enhancements to your bike such as increased aero performance and more compliance. A stiffer road fork will translate into more responsive bike handleing as well as inspire confidence when peddling out of your seat and flying through corners. Carbon road forks can be the best road bike upgrade due to the ease of installation and instant benefits. Carbon forks flex and provide compliance whether your on a cobbled road or smashing miles on the gravel to create a smoother ride, so check one out today!