A decent fork is essential for getting the most out of mountain biking
We’ve tested a whole lot of mountain bike suspension forks and here are the very best mountain bike suspension forks in XC, trail and enduro.
What is a mountain bike suspension fork?
It’s that bit that connects the front wheel to the rest of the bike. On mountain bikes the fork almost always involves being suspended by a spring in some way to help deal with bumps and shocks from off-road riding.
Best mountain bike suspension forks for 2020
Here our are current favourite best mountain bike disc brakes. See the links to full reviews down the page.
- Fox 34 Float 34 Factory, £749 – WINNER Trail fork
- RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2, £990 – WINNER Enduro fork
- RockShox SID Charger World Cup, £989 – WINNER XC fork
- Manitou Mattoc Pro, £550
- Marzocchi Bomber Z2, £549
- DVO Beryl, £649
- Cane Creek Helm Coil, £899
- Fox 36 Float Factory FIT4, £1,079
The best mountain bike suspension forks in 2020
All of the following brakes are the best mountain bike suspension forks which scored at least 8/10 in our test. Here’s a complete list of all the mountain bike suspension forks we’ve tested.
The suspension fork is a critical component, and can make a huge difference to the ride and handling of your bike. It’s also an expensive upgrade, so being informed and making the right choice when buying a new fork is essential.
Because mountain biking is a broad church we’ve separated our forks into two categories: 100-140mm travel and 150-160mm travel.
The best mountain bike suspension forks 100-140mm travel
Suspension forks with 100-150mm of travel and typically 32-35mm stanchions.
Marzocchi Bomber Z2
Its performance is in no way mediocre. It totally is not. The lack of adjustment bell and whistles means that this fork is almost impossible to set up badly, unlike all of those £1,000 techno-forks out there. Set it up how the manual tells you to and go ride your bike.
RockShox SID Charger World Cup
The SID might have gained a little middle-age spread thanks to a chassis based on RockShox’s more burly forks but the pay-off here is a fork that is more capable. Not only in terms of steering stiffness but in the silky smooth performance of the Charger 2 damper. Which is why most riders should ignore the weight penalty and opt for the SID.
Fox Float 34 Factory
Light and affordable would normally be enough to win any grouptest, but the overall ride quality of the Fox 34 is actually better than any of its rivals too. If you want the best performing mid-travel trail fork in either 27.5 or 29in wheelsize, this is definitely the one we’d recommend.
There’s plenty of mid-stroke support in the Beryl too, we never felt like it was collapsing mid-berm and that probably speaks for the strength of the negative coil, and there’s decent progression at the end of the stroke to help you pop the bike around. The Beryl is a top-performing fork at a low price, incredibly supple yet with decent support and damping, and if you happen to land in the average weight band it’s worth every penny. DVO’s best fork to date.
The best mountain bike suspension forks 150-160mm travel
Suspension forks with 160-180mm of travel and 35-36mm stanchions.
RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2
This test confirmed what we already thought, namely that the Lyrik is a superior bit of kit, hovering across the terrain with better comfort, which kept our hands stronger for longer and allowed us to maintain a better focus on the trail ahead. RockShox’s product does all this without being spongy or vague, so you can still push against it to pop the bike over holes or rocks, and really sense every shade of grip and bump shape.
Manitou Mattoc Pro
The Mattoc Pro is hugely adjustable and easily the best entry-level 160mm fork on test. The supple, coil-like feel, kept the fork planted on the slippery, flat trails, but the IRT still gives plenty of support on steep stuff. Even smashing through the rocks, the Mattoc Pro was totally unfazed, and we never had any issues with excessive diving or harshness in the damping.
Cane Creek Helm Coil
Trumps any other fork we’ve used in terms of smoothness and calming fatigue by ironing out stutter bumps and high-frequency chatter. It clearly has supreme traction when leant right over on tyre edge blocks on off-cambers or super-slippery terrain, which means the Helm is a riot on a muddy day and really allows you to really take the mickey pushing the limits of traction. This is a massive benefit that will always rule over some of small negatives here for a certain breed of riders too.
Fox 36 Float Factory FIT4
Whether it’s the new FIT4 damper design, or the oversized, EVOL negative air spring helping the fork into its travel, the 36 slurps at the ground for tracking and grip. Even straight out of the box, it’s fantastically smooth around the sag point with as much outright sensitivity as anything else out there.
Best mountain bike suspension forks conclusion
Best mountain bike suspension fork for XC: RockShox SID Charger World Cup.
Best mountain bike suspension fork for trail riding: Fox Float 34 Factory.
Best mountain bike suspension fork for enduro racing: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2.
Such is the level of performance out there in the market, we’d happily run any of the forks in this test on the front of our bike.
They are all genuinely good products in their own right, separated by relatively minor variations in price and performance. Honestly, we had a tough time picking a winner.
|Fox Float 34||£749||1,718g||44mm, 51mm||10/10|
|RockShox SID World Cup||£989||1,560g||44mm, 51mm||9/10|
|DVO Beryl||£649||2,231g||44mm, 51mm||9/10|
|RockShox Lyrik Ultimate||£990||2,015g||42mm, 51mm||10/10|
|Manitou Mattoc||£550||1,902g||44mm, 48mm||10/10|
|Cane Creek Helm||£899||2,400g||44mm||9/10|
|Fox Float 36||£1,079||2,000g||51mm||9/10|
What fork will fit your bike?
Work out your standards. Not all forks will fit – or suit – all bikes. There are varied wheel sizes, axle types, fork steerers and amounts of suspension travel that need to be observed and adhered to.
Here are the five standards that you need to get right…
There are three wheel sizes kicking around the mountain bike world: 26in, 27.5in (also known as 650B) and 29in. You cannot mix and match forks and wheels. The fork must be designed for your bike’s wheel size. If you’re not sure what wheel size your bike is, look at the tyres. The wheel size will be written on the side somewhere.
These days pretty much all mountain bikes accept the tapered steerer standard. Some older bikes will only accept 1 1/8th steerers.
The majority of modern mountain bikes will have 15mm bolt-thru axles. Older and/or cheaper bikes may have 9mm quick release. Some older and/or longer travel bikes may have 20mm bolt-thru axles.
Modern mountain bikes and forks will have Post Mount disc brake callipers. Older bikes and forks may have I.S. mount.
Amount of travel
Bike frames are designed around a fairly specific amount of suspension fork travel. Don’t be tempted to run a long travel fork in a frame designed around a short travel fork. You’ll seriously foul up the bike’s handling.
You don’t have to stay rigidly within the same mm of travel. You can usually get away with running a fork with up to 20mm longer travel in a bike before the handling goes screwy.
Don’t ever run a fork with shorter travel than the frame is designed for, the steering will be dangerously twitchy and your lowered bottom bracket height will result in incessant pedal strikes.
Choose your spec
Once you have worked out (and written down!) all the standards that you need your new fork to have – eg. 27.5″ wheel, tapered steerer, 15mm axle, Post Mount disc, 140mm travel – it’s then time to decide what features you want/need on your new fork.
More features cost more money. More features can be confusing. More features to go wrong. More features can weigh more. But a lot of riders do get more out of their suspension by having more features.
Be honest with yourself about what sort of rider/person you are. Even pared-down forks with minimal features are really good these days. And if you don’t know how to adjust extra features properly you can end up with badly setup fork that works worse than a basic fork.
If you don’t yet know much about how to set up or adjust suspension then read or bookmark our How to set up mountain bike suspension guide. It’s full of useful information and advice that will help you get the most out of your fork.
Here are four things to look out for…
Dials on the top and bottom of the fork legs adjust parameters to tune support and control. Separate damping dials allow specific tuning options, and features like DVO’s O.T.T. can tweak the spring too, but lots of adjustment can mean even more opportunity to set a fork up badly.
These aren’t used on every fork, but tweaking the size of the (positive) air spring by adding or removing volume spacers affects the spring curve shape. Adding spacers increases spring progression deeper in the stroke, and vice versa. Most forks here have one or two spacers factory installed.
Most forks are air-sprung, so they’re adjustable to different rider weights and riding styles with a shock pump. Pushing back against the main air spring inside the fork is a negative spring, which helps the fork break away, and improves small-bump compliance. The negative element is either a second air chamber, that automatically equalises when you charge the main spring, or a small coil.
Most here use either 35 or 36mm diameter upper tubes for stiffness. Tapered steerer tubes are the norm – 1 1/8in to 1.5in. Lower leg assemblies use cast magnesium to save weight, and all forks use a Boost 110mm axle spacing with QR-type (Fox) or hex-key (all others) fixing.
Positive and negative springs
Within the air spring there are typically two separate elements balancing breakaway friction and small bump sensitivity against support. A negative spring pushes back against the main positive spring, and either takes the form of a separate (automatically equalising) air chamber or a coil spring.
Fork rake, or fork offset, has always been an important design element, but one that has come under a stronger spotlight recently. Most brands now offer two different offsets in each wheel size, ranging from 37mm up to 51mm. The effects are complex, influencing steering feel and tyre stabilising force; shorter offsets offer more stability and a ride quality that emulates a slacker head angle, while still keeping the bike’s wheelbase shorter.
This is the damping circuit that controls how fast or slow a fork returns to its sag position after a bump event. Low speed damping is the most common external adjustment.
Compression damping controls the rate at which displaced damper fluid is allowed to move during bump events. Low-speed controls low velocity impacts like body weight shifts and rolling terrain and high-speed absorbs harsh impacts like square bump faces and landings. Forcing oil through ports or shim stacks, with energy converted into heat, generates damping resistance.