Fox introduced Step-Cast tech on the flyweight 32 fork last year, in a move to ditch some weight without impacting on stiffness or performance, and this has been carried over to the more trail-orientated 34 for 2019.
The 34 SC is the same width as the standard fork up top, but a narrower section at the base of each leg reduces weight, creating a fork that Fox is aiming towards more aggressive cross-country riders and those who compete in multi-day enduro stage races.
My 120mm-travel 29er fork weighed 1,650g — 137g less than the non-SC 120mm 34 it replaced, thanks to its altered chassis and lightweight Kabolt axle, which is secured with an Allen key, rather than a quick-release lever.
The 34 chassis was designed for trail bikes, the 34SC is targeted at race-worthy 29er trail bikesJosh Patterson / Immediate Media
The top Factory version gets a FIT4 damper with a three-position low-speed compression damping dial (open, medium, firm). Within the open setting, there’s 22 clicks of adjustment to further tune the feel.
The fork uses Fox’s EVOL (Extra Volume) air spring, which aids suppleness in the early part of the stroke, adds mid-stroke support and makes it easier to tune end-stroke progression.
All this adds up to a fork that impressed from the outset. The 34 SC is exceptionally supple through its stroke, which helps remove a lot of the chatter through the bar and means your arms feel that bit fresher on rougher trails.
Like the standard 34, the 34SC uses the Fox FIT4 damper. However this year’s tune seems improvedJosh Patterson / Immediate Media
That mid-stroke support meant I didn’t have to rely on extra air pressure to keep it propped up and could run it a touch softer than the current 34. Over matted roots and repeated hits, I never found it getting bogged down or overawed. I added five clicks of damping to the open mode to give extra stability early in the travel, and things still felt incredibly smooth and active.
Later in its travel, it ramps up nicely and, even with just one volume spacer fitted, resists bottoming out harshly. This helps it maintain composure over hits that are perhaps bigger than it’s aimed at.
The chassis doesn’t feel any less stiff than that of the regular 34, either. There’s some twist and twang when you’re pushing its limits, but this is a lightweight fork aimed at the more cross-country end of the market, and it definitely offers a step up in stiffness over the 32.
There’s plenty of tyre clearance, too — the 29er fork I tested will fit a 2.6in tyre while the 650b version has room for 2.8in rubber.