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Mountain Bike Suspension Forks – a Buyer's Guide: Bike Suspension Fork
Our pick of the best bike forks.1) 20" Classic Flat Twisted Spring Fork 1" | 2) Manitou M30 Mountain Bike Fork 26" | 3) DNM DW-32 Mountain Bike Fork 27.5" | 4) QILEFU Mountain Bike Full Carbon Fibre Bicycle Hard Front Fork Disc Brake | 5) SR SUNTOUR Mountain Bike Disc Fork XCT 26" | 6) 2016 Advanced Mountain AM TG1 Light Alluminum Mountain Bike fork | 7) FORK OR8 700 RD CRMO-DISC 1-1/8 BK | 8) EXotic Rigid Alu MTB Bike Fork IS Disc Specific 46.5 | 9) UPANBIKE 26 inch Mountain Bike Suspension Fork | 10) RST Aerial 26 Mountain Bike Disc Remote Lock Fork | 11) Manitou M-THIRTY M30 Mountain Bike Bicycle Cycling Fork | 12) Sunlite Spring Replica Fork, 26" | 13) Sunlite Deluxe Springer Replica Fork | 14) Nashbar Disc/V-Brake Compatible Cyclocross/Touring/Hybrid Bike Fork | 15) Manitou Mastodon Comp Fat Bike Fork | 16) Economy 26 Inch Fat Bike Disc Brake ATB Mountain Bike Fork | 17) GUB GX-32 AM FR Downhill Mountain Bike Air Fork | 18) Manitou Circus Expert Dirt Jump Fork 26" | 19) Ritchey Comp Alloy Steerer Road Bike Fork | 20) Lixada Ultra-light 26" Mountain Bike Oil/Spring Front Fork | 21) 20" Suspension 1" Threaded Fork | 22) Nashbar Carbon Road Bike Fork | 23) RST Aerial 29 Mountain Bike Disc Hydraulic Lock Fork | 24) 20" Bent Spring Fork 1" | 25) SR Suntour XCR32 Lo-Coil Suspension Fork 26" | 26) RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air 130 Boost Fork | 27) UPANBIKE 26 inch Mountain Bike Suspension Fork | 28) SR Suntour XCM Suspension Fork 26" |
What to Think About When Buying a Fork
Mountain biking is a very diverse sport and there are suspension forks designed for every type of bike: cross-country bikes generally offer 80 to 120mm of suspension travel, trail bikes range from 120 to 140mm, enduro and all-mountain bikes have between 150 to 170mm, and gravity/downhill rigs go from 180 to 210mm.
The first question is, how much travel will work best for you? All other things being equal, the further your fork can move, the more smoothly it can absorb impacts. But longer-legged forks have to be heavier to cope with the extra leverage and bigger impacts.
An extra 10mm of travel will tip head and seat angles back by roughly one degree, which makes steering slower and more stable. Running too long a fork can also overstress your frame and void the warranty, so always check what the recommended travel is for your bike before upgrading. In general, it's best to replace your existing suspension fork with one with that offers a similar amount of suspension.
That said, many forks have travel-adjust features. These either let you drop the travel in small steps to tweak the bike's geometry and handling to taste, or crush it down dramatically to give a shorter, stiffer fork.
The next question is budget. Sadly, there aren’t many budget forks that deliver a smooth suspension stroke and stiff, screw-through axle structure without weighing a ton. Damping circuits are also simpler on cheaper models, which means less control in high impact or multiple-hit situations.
There’s a clear progression in standards of control and consistency up to around £400 / US$670, but after that the waters get a lot murkier and it’s time to be honest about yourself and your riding. The overall performance and reliability of basic forks has definitely improved though.
The more travel you have, the harder it is to control – which makes damping control paramount. You should at least get adjustable rebound damping so the fork returns smoothly to its natural ride height, rather than bouncing back up with a clang. More advanced forks also have compression damping to help the spring slow down and absorb the impacts.
Top-end forks split compression damping into two separate circuits – low speed for controlling loads such as braking, cornering or movement under pedalling, or high speed for controlling sudden large loads such as square-edged rocks or landings.
Having lots of damping adjustment is only useful if you know what you're doing with it and have the time to tune it correctly though, so be honest rather than pretending that you'll become a pro suspension fork tuner overnight.
If you’re likely to plug the fork in, do the minimum setup tweaking and then ride it day in, day out without servicing it then you'll want a simple but totally reliable unit. If you clean and care as much as you ride, then you can get something a bit more needy.
If you’re a real fork fettler who’ll spend hours with a shock pump and a safe cracker’s level of dial turning dexterity to find your suspension sweet spot then it’s worth having a full range of adjustments to exploit.
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