Cheaper and lighter, but is it better?
The chassis of the new 2016 Fox 34 looks visually similar to 2015, but Fox has managed to drop nearly 200g (depending on wheel size) from the fork, while still retaining sufficient stiffness.
It’s not quite as stiff as the Rockshox Pike, but it’s over 150g lighter. Fox has also slashed the retail price, and this flagship Factory Series model undercuts the Pike by £30, although you can buy the RockShox online for less than £450!
The other big change is that the CTD label has now been replaced by more conventional compression settings, along with the introduction of a fourth-generation FIT damper. It still has a three-position adjuster but the Climb, Trail and Descend modes are replaced with Firm, Medium and Open.
You now adjust the low-speed-compression damping in the Open setting, rather than Trail mode — as you did on the older model — and there are 22 clicks of adjustment instead of seven now.
Fox has also tweaked the rebound, to keep the fork riding higher in its travel, which stops it packing down after bigger hits. A nice touch is that the rebound dial is now recessed into the lower leg, so it won’t get scuffed when you remove the front wheel, though it is a little harder to reach.
Rather than a separate air spring and coil negative, the 34 now gets a self-equalising air system. Like the Pike, it also comes with volume spacers to tune the progression and ramp-up. The Fox spacers clip into one another and feature little wings to stop them rattling inside the stanchion.
Following in the footsteps of the new 36, the 34 is also confidence-inspiring and lets you push harder and faster without feeling on the ragged edge. It doesn’t have the 36’s big-hit ability, but it’s composed on broken trails and feels more propped up on steep descents.
Fox forks often get criticised on price, but the 34 is now great value, the build quality is first rate and it’s light. It does require a little tinkering with spacers and damping compared to the Pike, and it doesn’t quite overlap into all-mountain terrain like its rival. Bottom line: it’s a great fork for short to mid-travel trail bikes.
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