From dials and dampers to diameters, there’s a ton of stuff to think about before buying a new fork for your trail or enduro bike.
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While the choices are vast, basically it boils down to how long a fork can keep control and composure on full-gas and/or extended descents. Less expensive forks use simpler damping circuits that can get overwhelmed and lose their ability to effective absorb hits. More expensive forks (generally) give firm support as you pump the trail and carve through a berm but still take major hits and big drops without blowing through the travel. Plus, higher end forks can be tuned for sensitivity and traction over smaller stuff.
While you may be tempted to add a little more cush to your bike's front end, keep in mind that a longer fork isn't automatically better. Forks with 120 to 150mm of travel are now extremely capable.
Another thing to note is that a longer fork will change your bike’s geometry. It’ll give a slacker head angle that’s more stable at speed but needs to be teamed with a shorter stem to stop the bike feeling sluggish. That means it’ll wobble around more on the flat or climbs. A longer fork will also raise the bottom bracket and centre of gravity of the bike, decreasing stability.
There's also a very good chance that a longer fork will invalidate your frame warranty. Even if you're safe there, it's rarely recommend to add more than 20mm more travel than what your bike came with stock.
One place you can go bigger is stanchion size. Larger diameter sliders lend extra cornering and braking accuracy. Jumping up from a 30 or 32mm stanchion fork to a 34mm or larger stanchion fork is definitely noticeable on trail.
If you’ve got a decent fork already but it’s feeling sticky, notchy or insensitive then getting it serviced might restore its performance. Some older forks can also be upgraded with new seals, dampers or other technology to bring them bang up to date at a smaller price.
With that said, here are eight long-travel, single crown forks that can smash even the nastiest terrain.
Best trail/enduro suspension forks
X-Fusion Sweep Roughcut HLR
- Price: £550 / $750 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 100 - 160mm internally adjustable
- Wheel size: 27.5in
- Weight: 1,905g
- Excellent damping performance
- Lower cost than competitors
- Decent weight and stiffness
While X-Fusion isn't a household name in the suspension world, the Californian company is making strides to dominate the mid-range fork market. That seemingly impossible task is thanks to the brand offering bump-sucking performance nearly in line with the big players, minus the 4-digit prices.
Doing the work inside the fork is the sealed, high and low speed compression adjustable Roughcut damper. It's an expanding bladder design, similar to the dampers employed by Fox and RockShox.
This allows plenty of adjustments to tune the fork's action to your own riding style or trail conditions. X-Fusion's motto "All metal. All the time." may or may not be in reference to their music tastes, but is definitely part of its fork's construction. Every knob is aluminum which lends a feel of quality throughout. The compression detents (the clicks that separate each step of adjustment) are pronounced as well.
The damping is the real forte of this fork though. Instead of utterly isolating you from the trail at the expense of being able to feel exactly what’s going on at the wheel, it’s a really nuanced fork that manages to keep you informed of traction without passing on so much trail buzz that it becomes tiring.
It all adds up to very good on-trail performance. There's no wallow, it’s firm feeling, with suspension given when needed. To tune the bottom out stroke of the fork, oil can be added to the air spring.
Internally, the travel can be set from 160mm to 100mm in 10mm increments. The process is relatively simple and doesn’t require any extra parts or tools.
The Sweep uses a 34mm chassis. It isn’t the most robust, but weighing in at 1,905g it’s a completely acceptable when bargaining the weight, cost and stiffness ratios.
One nit pick is the 15mm quick-release LockX thru-axle. It contacts the fork leg as you spin it, causing it to be knocked out of the appropriate indent that it's supposed to be seated in. The rebound knob could also stand more defined clicks.
RockShox Lyrik RCT3 Solo Air
- Price: £824 / $1,030 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 160, 170, 180mm (27.5), 150, 160, 170, 180mm (29)
- Wheel size: 27.5, 27.5+, and 29in available
- Weight: 2,005g (27.5in); 2,032g (27.5+, 29in)
- Genre-defining suspension performance
- Stout, flex free chassis
- Long 180mm travel version available
RockShox' Pike fork made serious waves in the suspension world when it was introduced in 2013. The Pike changed the game for what a trail fork should be — however a RockShox' long-travel fork was absent for 27.5 and 29in wheels.
Enter the Lyrik. It shares many of the same technologies of the heralded Pike, but in a stiffer package.The Lyrik’s chassis has a thicker, reinforced arch and thicker lower legs. To combat weight gain, RockShox uses a longer leg on the air spring side and a shorter leg on the damper side. All done, the Lyrik squeezes in with a 100–120g weight gain over a Pike of the same travel.
The Lyrik is extremely supple at the beginning of the stroke thanks to anupdated version of the renowned Charger damper and Solo Air spring. It has an increase in the volume of the negative air chamber — also used in its line of DebonAir shocks.
Through heavy-hitting, repetitive bumps, the big Lyrik maintains its composure and sucks everything up without fuss. The feedback through the bars to your hands is minimized.
It’s mid-stroke action is impressively supportive. It rides high in its travel, helping to maintain the bike's geometry all without roughness or having to add air pressure to achieve the desired support.
Even at 180mm travel, the stiffness is commendable. Sections of trail that can twist lesser forks see the Lyrik happily smashing through to the other side.
RockShox has delivered a fork that takes the genre-defining performance of the Pike up a major notch to meet the needs of aggressive enduro and trail riders.
Ohlins RXF 34
- Price: £850 / $1,150 /AU$TBC
- Travel: 120, 140, 160mm
- Wheel size: 29in
- Weight: 2,060g (140mm travel)
- Incredible damping
- Loads of usable adjustments
- Does an impeccable job of keeping front wheel stuck to the trail
Common in the world of automotive suspension, Öhlins has now branched out into mountain bike suspension.
As the name implies, the stanchions are 34mm in diameter, Öhlins claims that the one-piece steerer/crown makes the RXF 34 stiffer than most 35mm forks and comparable to those with 36mm legs. Weight for a 140mm fork is a competitive 2,060g.
Axle spacing is the old standard of 15x100mm not the latest Boost 15x110mm standard and travel is fixed at 120, 140 or 160mm.
Controlling the travel is a sealed-cartridge twin-tube damper that boasts external high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment. The bump-absorbing air spring is split into three chambers: two positive and one negative. The second positive chamber gives control over the fork’s bottom-out resistance.
This delivers a seriously supple stroke that manages to find traction in loose, rocky turns while still maintaining composure when swallowing the bigger hits.
In terms of on-trail chassis stiffness, the RXF 34 feels precise in steep, tight, rocky turns of our test track. That said, the RXF 34 truly shines with its traction and comfort, and rarely gets overwhelmed, even under really heavy cornering loads.
Fox 36 Float
- Price: £909 / $979 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 140, 150, 160 and 170mm available
- Wheel size: 26, 27.5, and 29in available
- Weight: 1,960g
- Mega stiff chassis
- Smooth, controlled stroke
- Brilliant damper able to be dialed for any trail
Fox’s 36 fork has long been to go-to front slider for hardcore trail riders and enduro racers, and for good reason.
Coming in at under 2kg, the 36 still has large stanchions, a stout crown and a bolted thru-axle for terrain-gobbling stiffness and steering control.
These hallmarks are even more readily apparent in the 29er version. Its ability to hold lines and change direction without getting nervous is remarkable.
The thru-axle works with both 15mm or DH-standard 20mm axles, although the four pinch bolts add time and effort to remove/insert wheels compared with a screw-thru axles.
Onto the ride. The 36 Float excels in small bump response and traction, and feels extremely supple throughout the stroke thanks to the stout, flex-free chassis. The FIT RC2 damper feels purposeful, with efficient, race-bred travel delivery opposed to loose, wallowing and isolated as the default feel. This gives fantastic full time front wheel feel through the bars and rails corners with maximum traction feedback.
When the trail gets properly rowdy and nasty, the 36's chassis and damper performance bring the fork into its own class. To conquer a wide range of terrain, rebound and high and low speed compression are externally adjustable, and progression and travel (110–160mm) are adjustable internally to dial in a premium ride feel.
- Price: £799 / $999 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 160mm
- Wheel size: 27.5in and 29in available
- Weight: 2,160g
- Noteworthy control over nasty trails
- Simple, effective tuning options
- Hard-charging fork from a new player in the suspension market
While one of the newer players to enter the suspension game, the DVO team has plenty of knowledge behind it. DVO owner Bryson Martin was the director of Marzocchi USA for over two decades.
That know-how translates to the trail with the Diamond’s 35mm stanchions for a stiff chassis with accurate steering. This 160mm fork welcomes being pummelled into ugly terrain at race-pace speeds.
Combining with simple-to-adjust air spring there’s DVO’s OTT (Off The Top) adjuster. This adjuster alters the negative spring, tuning how the initial part of the stroke feels.
The range of adjustment (a full 14 turns) is very noticeable and dialed in the 160mm travel so it was sensitive enough off of the top to scratch out traction from dry and loose summer trails, without compromising its hard-hitting ability or support on steeper trails.
A closed-cartridge bladder is in charge of damping action, offering easy-to-use, adjustable high- and low-speed compression adjustment. Smash into a section of repetitive hits and the control is something worth writing home about.
Manitou Mattoc Pro
- Price: £550 / $675 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 140-160mm
- Wheel size: 27.5
- Weight: 1,877g
- A welcome return to form from Manitou
- Tons of adjustments
- Optional tuning kits unleash even more performance
While Manitou (arguably) invented the first long-travel single crown fork, platform valving, and developed twin-piston shock designs, it's one legendary brand thats well off the radar. A run of unreliable and poorly made units almost wiped Manitou off the map in the late 90s, early 2000s.
The Mattoc aims to bring Manitou back. Despite a (comparably) low cost, it’s loaded with adjustments and features, with both high and low speed compression damping as well as independently adjustable hydraulic bottom out control, all tied together with an adept air spring derived from Manitou’s renowned Dorado downhill fork. Add in the unique reverse arch on the lowers, and it looks like Manitou should be well on their way back.
Out on the trail, it’s seriously accomplished. The 34mm-legged, reverse arch chassis is a bit heavier and its narrow stance means it’s stiff but not quite class leading.Manitou's own 15mm quick-release thru-axle is quick and easy to use, though it takes a minute to get accustom to it.
The Mattoc sucks up hits admirably, especially super rough sections of track. It doesn't fair quite as well when more sensitive feedback is needed. In those instances, the super plush first half of the stroke makes it difficult to gauge just how much traction is available, especially in wet conditions.
To help with the tuning, the Manitou Racing Department does offer a few kits such as the ‘Infinite Rate Tune’ package that allows you to dial the mid-stroke support independently from the bottom out characteristic. It should be noted that this is an extra expense on top.
Ohlins RXF 36
- Price: £995 / $1,250 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 120, 140, 150, 160mm
- Wheel size: 27.5, 27.5+ and 29in available
- Weight: 2,057g
- Excellent stiffness
- Impressive damping control
- Fancy name different than the established players
Here is the second mountain bike fork offering from motorsport legends Öhlins, the RXF 36. Like its smaller stanchioned brother, the RXF 34 (see above), it relies on a one-piece crown and steerer that incorporates the crown race.
The integration is claimed to add stiffness and deduct weight, but it does require a specific lower headset bearing if you ride something other than a Specialized bike.
Whether grabbing way too much brake or smashing full bore into rocks, the RXF 36 felt noticeably stiffer than a Fox 36. Over kerb-sized bumps it slid through its travel, with less distracting backwards flex of the legs. Weighing in at 2,057g (210mm steerer), it’s only around 20g heavier too than the Fox, so that unique crown-steerer design seems to be legit.
Öhlins’ twin-tube damper is a serious contender. Dialing the low-speed compression 14 clicks from closed and the high-speed three from closed added a good deal of support when hitting G-outs or turns, without feeling too harsh on bigger hits.
SR Suntour Durolux R2C2
- Price: £605 / $680 / AU$TBC
- Travel: 160, 170, 180mm (internal)
- Wheel size: 27.5in
- Weight: 2,155g
- Exceptional performance for the money
- Huge range of adjustability
- Priced hundreds less than other options
If throwing down close to four figures for a fork is simply too much, SR Suntour's Durolux is definitely worth a look.
In spite of its lower price, it's far from stripped down. SR Suntour's R2C2 model features both high- and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment from the sealed cartridge damper.
The chassis is remarkably similar to the big dollar forks, too, with 36mm stanchions. There’s a hollow-forged aluminum crown, the sliders are black anodised, and the lowers are cast magnesium. On the trail, this makes the Durolux properly stout with predictable tracking over even nasty terrain.
The suspension action is impressive with plenty of control and plenty of bump-sucking capability even on really travel-testing terrain. As expected, it’s not as faultless as the considerably more expensive forks out there on small bumps, giving up a bit of traction on rugged flat corners and root-filled off-camber pieces. It can also get a tad overwhelmed with hitting sustained, full-velocity big hits, but that’s getting very picky for a fork in this price bracket.
It’s also possible to alter how progressive the spring is adding up to three volume spacers, while overall travel can also be adjusted from 160mm up to 180mm in 10mm increments. The chassis is tall however, with a longer axle to crown length than most, which raises the handlebar and bottom bracket height noticeably.
SR Suntour built the Durolux to be super reliable. Quick-service lube ports allow fresh oil to added to the seals. Keeping serviceability in focus is the damping cartridge that uses an internal floating piston (IFP) rather than a bladder to compensate for the change in oil volume as the fork moves through the travel.
While the IFP does mean a little bit more internal friction, Suntour reckons that the design is much more reliable as well as being easier to bleed properly to ensure spot-on performance.