Fox’s mid-weight 34 fork has taken a while to get into its stride and find its rightful place in the lineup between the category-leading performances of the XC-focused 32 and the legendary aggro 36 fork.
The latest fork is significantly lighter (370g) than the original 34 Evolution model, simply user-friendly, consistently reliable and reasonably priced for the Fox kudos. The suspension action of the Grip damper-equipped Performance version won’t be to everyone’s liking, though.
While the new Rhythm fork that you’ll find on complete bikes uses a 6000 series alloy chassis, the Performance series fork uses the same 7000 series alloy chassis as the premium Factory fork. You get a black stanchion coating rather than the gold Kashima stanchion coating and the upgraded seals of the more expensive fork.
That creates a fork that’s adequate in terms of tracking and braking stiffness at shorter stroke lengths but definitely starts to feel vague when worked hard in 160mm format. It is significantly lighter (220g) than the 36 and 40g lighter than the Rock Shox Pike RCT3 now, though, which wasn’t the case when the original 34 was introduced. We’ve had no wear issues on the black stanchion finish, either, despite almost a full year of very regular use. All of the Performance forks we’ve used on complete bikes have been similarly reliable through heavy day-in, day-out use.
The simplified suspension isn’t always as impressive. The Float air spring is the same as the Factory fork with a self setting negative spring and a naturally linear feel. If you’re a more aggressive rider who wants a fork to drive off berms and back slopes with, that’s easily ramped up to something more supportive with clip-on spacers that are supplied with the fork, though.
The GRIP compression damper is a simplified shim/metal sprung IFP system that gives three main (open, medium, firm) settings separated with intermediate clicks to give easy initial feel adjustment from the fork top lever. Even in the fully Open setting the Performance fork often has a harsh, spiking issue when a sudden or blunt faced impact creates a high shaft speed. This can compromise trail connection and choke bike speed just when it’s most obvious, and it’s a tiring fork to push hard all the way down the hill.
Interestingly, we’ve not had such issues with the same GRIP damper in the cheaper, heavier Rhythm fork or OEM Performance Elite models that use the same structure but a FIT damper. So even after repeated exhaustive, exhausting tuning sessions with multiple different forks, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact source or cure the choke. Unfortunately, neither the Performance Elite or Rhythm forks are available to buy either, so in terms of the standard Performance fork there are definitely smoother, more sophisticated-feeling forks for less money.