The battle for the 120mm lightweight trail fork is heating up, and Fox is quick to match competitors with an all-new 34 Step-Cast 120mm lightweight race fork. Designed using several of the weight saving features found on the 32 SC, they say it drops half a pound off the weight of the 140mm 34 without giving up any stiffness or strength. The result is a very light, trail worthy fork designed specifically for the 120mm travel segment. Here’s how and why they did it…
Fox’s North American marketing manager Mark Jordan says “We wanted a 120mm fork and the 34 chassis made the most sense. We knew if we limited the travel to 120mm and used a step design we could shed a bunch of weight. It’s aimed at the marathon and epic rides events, and all around XC/Trail riding.”
One of the big differences between the 32 and 34 Step-Cast forks is that the 34 maintains the same width between the stanchions, leaving room for 27.5×2.8 or 29×2.6 tires, depending on which fork you pick. They’re dedicated per wheel size, which means the 29er is not rated for 27.5+ tires.
The new Step-Cast lowers indent on the outside, rather than on the inside like the 32. But the snipped, hollowed out aesthetic remains. Yet the new shaping means it’s 15% stiffer than the long travel Fox 32, and it comes in 140g lighter, too. So, not much reason to choose the 32 anymore unless you’re running 100mm travel or less.
The 34 SC 120mm will come as Factory and Performance Series forks only, which means Kashima coated or black ano stanchions and your choice of Fox Gloss Orange (Factory only) or Matte Black (both) paint.
Inside is the FIT4 damper, with an optional remote available. The fork gets a dedicated air spring and damping tune, and thankfully comes with a handy air pressure guide sticker on the back…something we’ve long wished Fox (and all manufacturers) would provide. Theirs goes a step further and offers starting settings for the rebound and compression knobs.
34 SC Factory pricing is $934 without remote, and $1,024 with it. Claimed weight is 3.5lb (1,590g) for the 27.5″ fork, and the 29er with standard thru axle and uncut steerer hit our scales at 3.74lb (1,698g). The Performance level comes with a GRIP damper and is 29er only, price is $789, weight TBA.
Factory level forks come with the KaBolt tooled axle to save a few more grams, Performance comes with the QR thru axle shown here.
How do the Fox 34 SC and regular Fox 34 compare?
Because the lowers are notched at the bottom, a quick glance makes it harder to tell them apart. While the internals are different, with the new 34 SC getting its own air spring and damping tune, the external bits really do have quite a few differences once you take a closer look.
The long, machined rebound knob and indent show just how far up the lowers get their diet treatment.
The rebound knob itself shows the attention to gram shaving detail they paid to cut ounces. The dropouts are similar:
The front of the arch looks similar, with the 34 SC losing the notch at the top.
From the back, there’s much less bracing material there. You can also see that the crown gets more angular shaping.
From the top, the differences in the crown are far more dramatic. Note the slimmer shape and indents near the steerer. This extra shaping is likely how they maintained the same stiffness while also saving weight.
The standard 34 on the right has 130mm travel and came off a Niner JET9 RDO. The new 34 SC has only 120mm travel, so the extra stanchion length visible in this photo is expected. But note how the arch height is a few millimeters lower on the 34 SC, which explains the lack of 27.5+ compatibility.
Just picking the forks up reveals all you need to know about why the Fox 34 Step-Cast was made. The half pound weight savings is immediately noticeable, and on the bike it’s dramatic. Stay tuned for our first ride review and weigh-in!