While the 34 and 36 suspension forks might be big sellers for Fox, their XC-focused 32 is still a strong fork in their line-up. 2017 (yep, we’re there already, folks) sees a new iteration of the 32, the 32 Step-Cast.
XC courses are no longer mundane slogs across grassy fields, so damping performance and stiffness are important features of a high-end XC fork. That said, weight is still a massive consideration, so there’s a sweet-spot to be found between performance and weight. The 32 Step-Cast takes these (at times contradictory) considerations, and aims to solve both.
We’ve had an early-bird look at the 32 Step-Cast, so before we get into our take on the fork, here’s a quick run-down of what Fox want you to hear.
Fox 32 Step-Cast highlights
- 100mm travel
- 1,378g / 3.04lb (actual weight for 29in version w/uncut steerer)
- 15QR x 110 Boost and 15QR x 100 Kabolt axle options
- 27.5in and 29in wheel options
- FIT4 damper
- Available in gloss orange, matte black and gloss white
- $889 / $1450 AUS / £799
From the side you might not notice much, but viewed from the front the 100mm-travel 32 is noticeably different. The fork has been narrowed, with a new, lighter highly-formed crown bringing the Kashima coated stanchions closer together. Obviously this impacts on tyre clearance, which is why the upper’s brace is neatly sculpted to maximise tyre clearance – Fox reckon you can still squeeze a 2.3” tyre in there though.
Looking lower down the legs you can see the cut-out Step-Cast design – this allows the aforementioned narrower crown, while still fitting the now on-trend Boost hubs, something which we’ve found to increase stiffness in the wheel. 100mm axle versions are still available, while both 27.5 and 29in wheels are accommodated.
The 27.5in version is offered in one 44mm offset version, while the 29in fork has 44mm and 51mm options – you can read more about fork offset here. Disc rotor size is limited to 180mm on both versions.
With weight an obvious consideration it’s good to see that the 32 is still light – our uncut steerer version comes in at 1378g with the 37 gram Kabolt axle, 164 grams lighter than the 2015 32 FIT 29 version – a drop of more than 10%.
The 32 Step-Cast maintains its use of the FIT4 damper for 2017. The latest iteration of their damping cartridge has Open, Medium and Firm compression damping tunes, adjustable with a dial on top of the fork leg.
There’s also an Open mode adjustment dial, which increases the low speed compression of the fork in this mode, with 22 points of adjustment. This feature is still present with the remote compression adjust lever version.
We also see the self-equalising positive/negative air spring from the 2016 version, and, as increasingly common across air forks, there’s volume adjust spacers available for further fine-tuning of the compression stroke.
All of the above has been re-packaged into a new cross-country version of the FIT4 cartridge damper first introduced on the 34 series for forks.
Strong first impressions
Although we’ve only had a few rides on the fork, our initial impressions are good. The fork is certainly light, comparing well to previous iterations and also when compared to other XC forks – for example it’s over 200g lighter than a 2015 SID (1597g), and around 100g lighter than Nino Schurter’s DT Swiss OPM O.D.L fork.
With a slim-line build, it’s not surprising to feel flex through the fork in high-load situations, such as fast cornering or barreling through rocky sections. However, it’s not unduly flexible, and it’s certainly something which you learn to ride around. We’d recommend the Boost version if you’re building a fresh bike, as some of this fork flex is mitigated by the stiffer wheel afforded by the wider flange spacing.
While the FiT4 damper has been out for a couple of years now, this latest version feels slightly tweaked, with a very supple feel off the top, and well controlled compression and rebound strokes. While we’ll play around more with internal volume spacers and general setup, we found the front wheel stuck doggedly to the ground, offering impressive grip and control, even with slightly higher tyre pressures than we might usually run.
While the almost total lock-out Firm setting is useful for long smooth climbs, we spent most of the time in the Open setting, with quite a bit of low speed compression dialled on – this allowed us to have a stable fork while pedalling and one that resisted dive during cornering and braking, but left the fork open enough to deal with impacts nicely.
While adding low speed compression can lead to a slightly harsh feel, we didn’t have any issues with this on the 32 Step-Cast. Riders who do flick between compression settings a lot might benefit more from the bar-mounted lever option.
We’ll be putting much more testing time on the fork for a full review in the coming months.
Pricing is $889 USD, $1450 AUS and predicted to be £799 in the UK, depending on currency fluctuations against the US Dollar.