Best mountain bike suspension forks

By Guy Kesteven, What Mountain Bike/MBUK | Wednesday, May 2, 2012 8.50am

Looking to buy a new suspension fork for your mountain bike? Then you've come to the right place. We've rounded up 32 of the latest trail and all-mountain forks, and put them to the test – both out on the trails and on a purpose-built deflection rig. 

Read on to find out which ones we rate. For simplicity's sake we've divided the forks into two categories – 'Trail' (lightweight, 100-150mm travel) and 'Hardcore' (designed for heavier duty riding, 140-170mm travel). For more advice, check out our updated Buyer's guide to suspension forks.

Best trail suspension forks

Winner: Marzocchi 44 RC3 Titanium 

£649.95 / US$839.99

  • Travel: 150mm / 5.9in
  • Weight: 1,970g

star:

"Relatively heavy but offers unbelievably plush control backed up with fit-and-forget reliability."

44:

Mountain Biking UK say: "It’s not light, but nothing turns the gnarliest trail to butter like Marzocchi’s 44 RC3 Ti. The outrageous small bump smoothness of the titanium coil spring sucks extra traction out of corners or rocky/rooty chunder, and easy oil flow swallows larger, faster hits and landings with equal greed too." 

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Marzocchi 44 RC3 Ti. 

From: Marzocchi / Windwave (UK)

Value choice: RockShox Sektor RL Solo Air 

£429.99 / $730.97

  • Travel: 150mm / 5.9in
  • Weight: 1,720g

star:

"Excellent reliabilty and easily enough control for most riders and trails, at a great price"

Sektor air:

Mountain Biking UK say: "The Sektor RL takes RockShox's proven Revelation chassis and simple but effective Motion Control damper to create a light but bombproof plug-and-play fork."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Sektor RL Air.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

RockShox Reba RLT

£500 / $713.50

  • Travel: 120mm / 4.7in
  • Weight: 1,555g

star:

“Lightweight, consistently controlled, acceptably accurate, utterly reliable and top value”

Reba:

What Mountain Bike say: "RockShox’s revamped Reba RLT loses loads of weight and gains damping subtlety to create a killer mid-travel, mid-price suspension package."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Reba RLT.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

X-Fusion Velvet RL2 DLA

£445 / $707.41

  • Travel: 110-140mm / 4.3-5.5in
  • Weight: 1,766g

star:

“Impressively controlled, user friendly, multi-adjust suspension at a cracking price”

X-Fusion velvet:

What Mountain Bike say: "X-Fusion are pushing hard to become a top ranked choice and the 2012 Velvet RL2 DLA is an impressively controlled contender. Despite a serious price increase, it’s a great fork for the money."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the X-Fusion Velvet RL2 DLA.

From: X-Fusion / Upgrade Bikes (UK)

Fox 32 Float 120 FIT RLC 15QR

£769 / $779.99

  • Travel: 120mm / 4.7in
  • Weight: 1,683g

star:

“Seriously expensive, but phenomenal levels of flat-out technical control”

Fox 120:

What Mountain Bike say: "Fox’s 32 FIT RLC 15QR was our trail fork of the year in 2011 and it's still top of the control charts for those who can afford it. RLC damping gives you full low speed, rebound and lockout threshold adjust but it’s a ripper even with minimal fettling."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Fox 32 Float 120 FIT RLC 15QR.

From: Fox Racing Shox / Mojo Suspension Hoodoo (UK)

Fox 32 TALAS 150 FIT RLC 15QR

£849 / $865

  • Travel: 120-150mm / 4.7-5.9in
  • Weight: 1,786g

star:

"Super-expensive, but outstanding travel-adjustable control and smoothness”

Fox 150:

What Mountain Bike say: "The TALAS system is superb. It drops the travel and ride height 30mm for sharper steering angle and accuracy on climbs or tight trails. Unlike most travel adjustable forks it’s as smooth and controlled as the fixed-travel Float version, with no notchiness or excess dive."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Fox 32 TALAS 150 FIT RLC 15QR.

From: Fox Racing Shox / Mojo Suspension Hoodoo (UK)

RockShox Revelation RCT3 Dual Air

£625 / $765

  • Travel: 150mm / 5.9in
  • Weight: 1,765g

star:

“The benchmark tough yet light trail fork gets multi-mode damping control for 2012”

Revelation:

What Mountain Bike say: "RockShox’s Revelation is still one of the most accurate tracking and precise trail forks, making it ideal for aggressive, progressive riders who don’t want the weight of the big 35mm-stanchion Lyrik, but still want to end up where they want the far side of a rock field or knot of roots."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Revelation RCT3 Dual Air.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

RockShox Sektor RL Dual Position Coil

£410 / $410

  • Travel: 150mm / 5.9in
  • Weight: 1,997g

star:

“Stiff, reliable and chaos-capable hardcore trail fork that comes at a great price”

Sektor:

What Mountain Bike say: "Based on the previous generation Revelation chassis to keep costs down, the Sektor isn’t light – particularly in coil sprung form –but the power bulged, 20mm Maxle axle structure delivers accurate, minimum deviation tracking and slammed landing survivability in spades."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Sektor RL Dual Position Coil.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

Marzocchi Marathon R

£200 / $299

  • Travel: 100mm / 3.9in
  • Weight: 1,881g

star:

“Simple but workable suspension with bombproof reliability at a bargain price"

Marzocchi 100:

What Mountain Bike say: "Marzocchi’s simple open bath forks have been the go-to, ultra-reliable budget suspension choice for ages and the Marathon R carries on the top value tradition."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Marzocchi Marathon R.

From: Marzocchi / Windwave (UK)

Fox 32 Float 140 FIT RLC 15QR

£749 / $865

  • Travel: 140mm / 5.5in
  • Weight: 1,726g

star:

“Expensive, but offers phenomenally fluid, lightweight control"

Fox 32 140:

What Mountain Bike say: "The FIT cartridge damping feels buoyant and fluid while staying stable and predictable. This lets you push the fork to the edge, but rarely max out travel, and there’s no hiccuping however hectic the surface."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Fox 32 Float 140 FIT RLC 15QR.

From: Fox Racing Shox / Mojo Suspension Hoodoo (UK)

Fox 32 Float 100 FIT RLC 15QR

£779 / $785

  • Travel: 100mm / 3.9in
  • Weight: 1,582g

star:

“Seriously expensive, but fantastically smooth, fit-and-forget control for its travel”

Fox 100:

What Mountain Bike say: "There’s a limit to what the 100mm stroke will swallow but it never over-travels or feels notchy however fast the hits are coming. Even when slammed to full travel it sucks it up calmly."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Fox 32 Float 100 FIT RLC 15QR.

From: Fox Racing Shox / Mojo Suspension Hoodoo (UK)

SR Suntour Epicon X1 TA LO RC

£350 / $554.19

  • Travel: 100-140mm / 3.9-5.5in
  • Weight: 1,849g

star:

“Not the stiffest or most sophisticated feel, but still a cost effective travel-adjust trail fork”

Epicon:

What Mountain Bike say: "Weight is reasonable for a travel-adjust fork and the remodelled remote control for the 140-100mm drop is neat enough to sit unobtrusively on your bars. Tweaked spring curves mean less dive when slamming it into stuff or braking hard. Feel is fluid and consistent."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the SR Suntour Epicon X1 TA LO RC.

From: SR Suntour / Greyville Enterprises (UK)

RockShox SID RCT3

£600 / $725

  • Travel: 100mm / 3.9in
  • Weight: 1,487g

star:

“Needs patient tuning, but it's a massively adjustable and technical trail capable lightweight fork”

SID:

What Mountain Bike say: "The SID is the default fork choice for most racers and the RCT3 version adds the latest multi-setting DNA damper to the lightweight mix. It’s race light, but controlled and predictable enough for technical trail use."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox SID RCT3.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

RockShox Recon Gold RL Solo Air 120mm

£400 / $679.97

  • Travel: 120mm / 4.7in
  • Weight: 1,627g

star:

“Quick-release only, but consistently controlled and legendary reliable lightweight trail fork”

Recon:

What Mountain Bike say: "The top fork in the Recon range delivers straightforward, simple to tune and consistent control in a light package for the price. The internals come with a great reliability reputation too."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Recon Gold RL Solo Air 120.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

Cannondale Lefty PBR120

£950 / $1,494.82

  • Travel: 120mm / 4.7in
  • Weight: 1,626g

star:

“Seriously stiff, accurate and controlled fork for the weight, but outrageously expensive”

Lefty:

What Mountain Bike say: "Cannondale's single-legged design’s been evolving since 1999 but has recently been reformatted and made available to fit to other bikes. The upside-down fork uses a keyed bushing and fixed tapered axle for precise steering and braking stiffness at a low weight."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Cannondale Lefty PBR120.

From: Cannondale / Cycling Sports Group (UK)

Best hardcore suspension forks

Winner: Marzocchi 55RC3 Evo Ti 170mm

£899.95 / $1,049

  • Travel: 170mm / 6.7in
  • Weight: 2,438g

star:

"Awkward initial setup, but incredibly smooth and reliable impact-melting performance"

55RC3:

Mountain Biking UK say: "Damping developed for downhill racing makes the 55 RC3 Ti Evo the ultimate maximum traction and control fork for big-hit bikes. The chunky 55 chassis and QR20 screw-through axle are reassuringly stiff but It’s the incredibly supple small bump response of the titanium spring that glues the fork to the floor."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Marzocchi 55RC3 Evo Ti.

From: Marzocchi / Windwave (UK)

Value choice: X-Fusion Vengeance HLR 

£669 / $805

  • Travel: 170mm / 6.7in
  • Weight: 2,279g

star:

"Premium-level performance and tuning options at a bargain price"

X-Fusion vengeance:

Mountain Biking UK say: "Tweaks for 2012 mean the latest Vengeance is right up among this year's top performing forks but at a much lower price... Overall control is now close enough to a RockShox Lyrik or Fox 36 so as to be indistinguishable most of the time."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the X Fusion Vengeance HLR.

From: X-Fusion / Upgrade Bikes (UK)

Marzocchi 55R 

£399.95 / $525

  • Travel: 160mm / 6.3in
  • Weight: 2,790g

star:

"Heavy, but super-plush stroke and excellent reliability create a great, cheap chaos tamer"

55R:

Mountain Biking UK say: "Marzocchi’s 55R is a simple, succulent and super-reliable long-travel fork for not a lot of money, making it a great choice for hard-up hard riders. It's seriously heavy but offers a super-supple, richly lubricated stroke that Hoovers up small bumps incredibly well for extra traction."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Marzocchi 55R.

From: Marzocchi / Windwave (UK)

Fox 36 Float FIT RLC 

£899 / $1,000

  • Travel: 160mm / 6.3in
  • Weight: 2,103g

star:

"Premium priced and not the plushest, but light, tight and exceptionally well damped"

Fox float:

Mountain Biking UK say: "It’s unchanged for 2012 but Fox’s Float 36 is still a benchmark lightweight, long-travel all-mountain fork. Once into the stroke, compression and rebound control from the FIT damping cartridge are superb, keeping the fork centred in an effortlessly controlled and composed sweet spot."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Fox 36 Float FIT RLC.

From: Fox Racing Shox / Mojo Suspension Hoodoo (UK)

Fox 36 Van FIT RC2

£889 / $970

  • Travel: 180mm / 7.1in
  • Weight: 2,676g

star:

"Heavy, but a superbly smooth and consistently controlled hardcore fork if you can afford it"

Fox van:

Mountain Biking UK say: "Fox continue to set the fit-and-forget long-travel control benchmark. The 36mm stanchion format extends to 180mm without introducing noticeable flex so steering precision is still outstanding and it tracks brilliantly through random rock heaps." 

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Fox 36 Van RC2.

From: Fox Racing Shox / Mojo Suspension Hoodoo (UK)

RockShox Lyrik RC2 DH Solo Air

£849.99 / $1,040.99

  • Travel: 170mm / 6.7in
  • Weight: 2,130g

star:

"Still one of the best high-control long-travel forks"

Lyrik:

Mountain Biking UK say: "The DH version of the Lyrik RC2 doesn’t change for this year, but then it didn’t really need too. The 35mm structure with 20mm Maxle screw-through axle is stiff and reasonably light, and though it takes a while to feel smooth over small stuff, the Mission Control DH damper sucks up big slams beautifully."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Lyrik RC2 DH.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

RockShox Domain RC 180mm

£499.99 / $849.98

  • Travel: 180mm / 7.1in
  • Weight: 2,670g

star:

"Heavy, but offers rock solid reliability and tracking stiffness with basic workmanlike control"

Domain:

Mountain Biking UK say: "RockShox’s simple big-hitter isn’t light but it’s a great fork for those who want solid long-travel reliability. Based on the Lyrik fork but with steel stanchions, the Domain is a serious chunk of weight, but that translates to serious stiffness and strength."

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the RockShox Domain RC 180mm.

From: RockShox / Fisher Outdoor Leisure (UK)

SR Suntour Durolux TA-RC2 20QLC 

£399.95 / $636.60

  • Travel: 120-160mm / 4.7-6.3in
  • Weight: 2,483g

star:

"Improved performance and reliability makes the 2012 Durolux a big hitting bargain"

Durolux:

Mountain Biking UK say: "Suntour have made big changes to their bargain longer-travel fork for this year, increasing control, adjustability and – so far – reliability. It’s been impressively smooth and fluid from the start too, with an easy action over small bumps and extra progression for controlling bigger hits." 

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the SR Suntour Durolux TA-RC2 20QLC.

From: SR Suntour / Greyville Enterprises (UK)

Also tested

How we tested the latest suspension forks

BikeRadar's annual fork test is an edited collection of a constant testing process that’s updated and re-evaluated every time our testers ride a relevant fork. This shortlist of tested forks is compiled from a much larger cross-section of models at different pricepoints, technology levels and travel incarnations. 

From pogo sticks or seized forks on budget bikes, through to gold-coated or carbon-crowned units, we’ve pushed a full range of forks to their limits. Scorching desert, sub-zero moors, mountain descents, epic singletrack missions or flat-out trail centre power hours – these forks have seen it all. 

As well as months of merciless riding use, we’ve also called in fresh sets for workshop tests. We've run the forks through purpose-built deflection rigs to check steering twist, as well as static testing each one for stiction levels (the force required to initiate movement from its static state) and damping range adjustment. This gives us back-to-back close calibration comparison to reference with our long-term feedback from the trails. 

The result is the most in-depth, data rich and comprehensive test of 2012 forks you’ll find anywhere.

This article is based on group tests originally published in What Mountain Bike (available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio) and Mountain Biking UK (also available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio).

You can follow BikeRadar on Twitter at twitter.com/bikeradar and on Facebook at facebook.com/BikeRadar.
You can also improve your fitness and train with us on training.bikeradar.com.

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