The new 34 fork from Fox fills the gap between the 32 and 36. A version for 29-inch wheels was originally developed to overcome the issue of forks with 32mm stanchions not really being stiff enough to handle the extra forces 29ers place on equipment. Fox have now released a 26-inch version.
It looks like the ideal fork for the large number of bikes with 150-160mm of travel sold in the UK. We've always found the 32 platform lacking in stiffness when bolted to such a bike, and many riders want the extra stoutness of the 36 fork. But the extra heft isn't so good for the majority of riders who enjoy riding back up the hill as much as they do down.
With 34mm stanchions and a weight that comes in roughly between the 32 and 36 platforms, Fox has filled a niche that previously no fork had really occupied, and filled it brilliantly.
We rode the new Fox 34 forks for the first time at the Cannondale launch in Utah earlier this year. They were fitted to the Jekyll, a 150mm bike previously stunted by the appointment of a 32 fork up front. With the 34, the Jekyll (and all other similarly specced 150mm bikes) finally have a fork capable of releasing their full potential.
We rode the 34 Talas 160 FIT CTD fork, with travel adjustable between 120 and 160mm of travel. A 15mm bolt-thru axle and 1.5in tapered steerer tube contribute further to the stiffness the fork offers.
We weren't able to weigh the forks but Fox claim 4.49lb (2.04kg) with a 165mm steerer tube and star fangled nut fitted.
A new feature from Fox this year is CTD, found on most of Fox's forks and shocks for 2013. It stands for Climb, Trail, Descend, and is Fox's simplification of the previous 1, 2, 3 compression adjustment. Our ride started with a climb and here the Climb setting noticeably increased the firmness of the fork, and made out of the saddle efforts less of a chore.
Reach the top and flick to Descend – the wide open mode – and the fork really opens up, devouring everything in its path. For everything else, the Trail mode is a good middle ground; you can happily leave it on this setting for an entire ride if you want.
As a system, it's far easier to get your head around than the previous numbering and we suspect riders, no matter their previous experience with Fox products, will welcome this change.
On the trail, the 34 feels like the little brother to the 36 that it is. There's a noticeable increase in stiffness over the 32, it's far closer to the 36 and pushes close to that fork in terms of performance. The trails we rode consisted of lots of very fast flowing singletrack, rock gardens, big steps and roots of evil. Battering into corners as hard as we could we failed to unsettle the fork, it coped incredibly well. We didn't think an extra 2mm on the stanchions would make such a startling difference.
The three settings are much easier to get your head around, but we suspect lots of people will just leave it in the middle setting as they did with the previous system. Riding a complete loop of the test trail in the Trail mode revealed that it's a setting that works well up, across and down with few drawbacks.
Based on our first ride we're highly impressed. The Fox 34 platform offers extra stiffness with less of the weight penalty of jumping to the 36 platform. That might just make it the perfect hard-hitting UK trail fork. We expect to see it a lot on 150-160mm forks in the coming years.
The new 34 is available for 26er, 29er and 650B/27.5in bikes. Here's the full line-up and claimed weights:
26 Float Factory FIT CTD - 160mm - 4.30 lbs
26 Talas Factory FIT CTD - 160mm - 4.49 lbs
650B Float Factory FIT CTD - 160mm - 4.38 lbs
650B Talas Factory FIT CTD - 160mm - 4.57 lbs
29 Float Factory FIT CTD - 140mm - 4.49 lbs
29 Talas Factory - FIT CTD - 140mm - 4.68 lbs
More information: Fox 34 forks
What Fox says about the 34 fork
The 34 platform is now available for 26 inch wheels and has extended to 160 mm of trail-eating travel. Each FLOAT and TALAS is equipped with a 15QR thru axle system and a 1.5-inch tapered steerer and crown.
Weight: Starting at 4.30 lb / 1.95 kg
Travel: 6.3 inches / 160 mm
Steerer: 1.5 in. taper aluminium
Lower leg: 15QR thru axle system, post style disc brake mounting