Suspension travel: Understanding fork length and how it affects your mountain bike

Forks come in varying lengths of suspension travel and stanchion sizes, this is what they mean for your riding

Suspension travel

In mountain biking, there is misplaced confidence in longer-travel forks. With your front wheel having to steer and balance traction on those big trail features and steep descents, the logic is often that more suspension travel is better. But is this the case?

To better understand how the suspension travel of the best mountain bike forks influences your riding and what should be best for your trails, you need to understand the relationship between terrain absorption and trail feedback.

Modern mountain bike geometries are designed explicitly around suspension travel. For example, the best XC forks for cross-country mountain bikes are short-travel forks as the trails are relatively smooth and comprise lots of climbing. They need to be light and responsive while still providing a decent range of compression.

As you move through the various types of mountain bikes, fork travel requirements change. The weight, stanchion thickness, and travel all increase to meet the demands of each discipline – and longer forks aren’t superior in every application.

Merida Ninety Six

Cross-country: 100-120mm travel, 30-32mm stanchion diameter

Shorter travel forks are generally aimed at cross-country mountain biking , designed to balance performance, lightweight and just enough suspension travel to help smooth out bumpy singletrack. 

Cross-country forks can work with narrower 30-32mm stanchions because the upper tubes aren’t exposed to much leverage. This helps to keep the overall fork weight down.

But why shouldn’t you fit a cross-country mountain bike , recommended for maximum fork travel of 120mm, with a 130mm fork? Isn’t that a great idea? Not really.

Any increase in fork travel will slacken the bike and shorten its reach. Slacker head angles boost confidence in steep descending terrain, but they make a mountain bike less agile at climbing technical singletrack as well as unbalancing the bike by moving the rider's weight backward. It will also raise the bottom bracket which will cause the bike to feel less planted and confident in corners.

For many years 100-120mm forks were designed either as ultralight racing components or cheap beginner bike suspension. That has changed with the popularity of downcountry and there are now 120mm forks that have much stiffer crowns.

Consider the terrain you are riding. A 100- to 120mm lightweight cross-country fork will be ideal if your trails are smooth and flowing. The shorter suspension travel gives a more responsive feel and you’ll enjoy greater trail feedback through the handlebar and grips.

Shorter suspension travel forks also bob less when climbing up steep trails in a standing position. Many short travel forks further support climbing with the addition of a lockout switch.

A trail mountain biker whips the bike over a jump

Trail: 120-150mm travel, 34mm stanchion diameter

The best trail mountain bike market is probably the most competitive category in mountain biking and these bikes are often ridden right up to their design capabilities.

Reasonably efficient climbers and confident descending bikes, the trail machine is a hybrid between cross-country and enduro. And as you would expect, it needs a fork with more travel and stiffness than those 100-120mm options.

There has been significant development with the Fox 34 in recent years. RockShox has reacted too with its latest Pike range, blending 35mm stanchions with low fork weight.

At 150mm of suspension travel, you are probably pushing the limits of what a 34mm stanchion can deal with, especially for aggressive trail riding. The sweet spot for suspension travel and stanchion size for trail bikes would be 130- to 140mm.

Yet again, it is a tale of less being more. If you use a 34mm stanchion fork at the upper reaches of its travel, there might be a higher risk of terrain-induced steering deflection due to flex. Those roots and rocks can ping you offline, despite being sure of your steering inputs.

Too much travel can also dull the feedback of your trail bike. We recommend that a trail fork ideally have 34mm stanchions, at 130-140mm, for a 29er - possibly, up to 150mm, for the smaller 27.5in wheel size.

As fork travel increases with trail bikes, the latitude of responsiveness from your damper becomes more complex. You will see premium trail bike forks offering high- and low-speed compression adjustment, allowing riders to balance full travel benefits on gnarly terrain without having the fork dive too much in high-speed berms. 

An enduro racer rides a corner in a dusty forest during the Bluegrass EWS Finale Ligure 2020

Enduro: 150-180mm travel, 35-38mm stanchion diameter

The fork stiffness formula is simple: when adding more suspension travel increase stanchion size.

Single-crown fork design has had to go longer, with the best enduro mountain bikes now ripping down terrain once reserved for downhill rigs. RockShox and Fox introduced 38mm stanchion single-crown forks last year, especially for the riding demands of enduro mountain biking .

Having more travel is great but potentially useless if the fork internals can’t make the best use of it. That 180mm enduro fork is pointless if it blows through its travel or is entirely unresponsive to small-bump impacts.

With 150- to 180mm single-crown forks, you don’t need a lockout control for climbing, but you want to control the multiple channels of compression and rebound. Balancing the increased leverage effect and fork dive under braking in steep terrain is the crucial enabler with long-travel single-crown forks.

As a forks suspension travel lengthens, set-up becomes crucial. This is why you'll find 150- to 180mm enduro single-crown forks with intricate compression and rebound adjusters and dials. These allow riders to make the best of all that travel by configuring the damping circuits and rebound to work across all terrain.

A decade ago, the idea of a 180mm single-crown fork that could provide an adequate compression platform for pedaling uphill was unfathomable. But today’s big-hitting 38mm single-crown forks are hugely adaptable, giving riders all the precise cornering support and cushioning when landing those huge drops or landings.

A downhill racer rolls over a rock slab on the Fort William downhill world cup track

Downhill: 180-200mm travel, 40mm stanchion diameter

These are the largest forks you can buy with the most suspension travel and a dual-crown design to cushion the rider from the huge, repeated impacts when riding the most technically demanding descents possible.

With the amount of leverage involved at 200mm of travel, and considering how slack the best downhill mountain bikes are, the dual-crown design is crucial. There would be enormous flex issues if you were to produce a single-crown fork at 200mm of travel and ride it down very steep and technical terrain.

Downhill riders are less bothered by weight or climbing efficiency. This frees engineers to focus all their resources on making the stiffest structure containing sophisticated internals and valving.

The speeds that downhill bikes roll over highly technical terrain require exceptional torsional stiffness at the axle to prevent riders from being deflected off-line and crashing. That dual-crown structure increases the stiffness of these long-travel forks, although steering angle is reduced, at very low speeds.

Dual-crown forks are at the complete opposite spectrum of those short-travel,100-120mm forks, with nearly rigid lockout control. Downhill mountain biking is solely about descending, with huge dampers that react intuitively to terrain impacts and help maintain the front tire's contact with the ground when cornering and braking.

  • Suspension 101 : Everything you need to know about your mountain bike suspension dials
  • How to adjust mountain bike suspension

Lance Branquinho

Lance Branquinho is a Namibian-born journalist who graduated to mountain biking after injuries curtailed his trail running. He has a weakness for British steel hardtails, especially those which only run a single gear. As well as Bike Perfect , Lance has written for MBR.com , Off-Road.cc and Cycling News.

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Results have arrived, mtb travel - how much mtb suspension travel do you need what does it mean.

Do you want more suspension travel or less? How do you know how much you need? Here's how to decide whether a long-travel or short-travel MTB is better for you and your trails.

fork travel in bike

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on: Mar 9, 2022

Posted in: MTB

You’re going to a big, important party, but you’re iffy about the dress code. Would you rather show up overdressed or underdressed?

A lot of mountain bikers face a similar dilemma, but instead of choosing the right clothes, it’s about choosing the right bike. You've probably heard certain bikes described as “too much bike” or “not enough bike.” But what does that mean?

In mountain biking, suspension travel often receives the most attention when riders are looking at bike specs. Depending on your skill, riding style, and terrain, there is likely an ideal amount of suspension travel. Other specs such as geometry , wheels , and tires  matter too, but they are usually tailored to match a bike's suspension.

Most modern mountain bikes will have somewhere between 100mm and 170mm of suspension travel. This covers everything from cross-country race machines to versatile mid-travel trail bikes to hard-hitting enduro bikes . (If you want to learn more about how mountain bikes are categorized check out our Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide .)

So what's the right amount of travel for you?

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MTB travel basics: what is travel on a mountain bike?

In case you're new to riding, mountain bike suspension travel is a measurement of how much a wheel can move to absorb bumps. On the front, mountain bike travel comes from your suspension fork. At the rear, MTB travel is provided by some configuration of frame pivots that compress a rear shock.

When to choose a long-travel MTB

Santa Cruz Hightower LT Overbiked

Long-travel bikes usually have 150-170mm of rear travel to handle tough downhill trails. Front travel often matches rear travel but sometimes can be more.

Trail and enduro bikes fall into this category. They absorb big hits and smooth out rough terrain. If you regularly ride steep or gnarly trails, a bike like this makes a lot of sense. 

If you're mostly riding mellow flow trails though, a big and burly long-travel bike might be overkill. You won't be able to use all the suspension travel you paid for. The bike may feel cumbersome, maybe a bit boring, and you’ll have to expend more energy to push it around and climb uphill.

But let’s say you lack confidence on descents. A more capable enduro bike with ample suspension travel could help you enjoy riding more by increasing your confidence, comfort, and giving you more margin for error. 

Some ride big and burly bikes everywhere because they're fit enough to pedal a long-travel bike up big climbs and on long rides without much trouble. For them, being overbiked isn't a handicap, and it's worth it for when the trail gets gnarly. If you care more about descending as fast as possible more than having a bike that's efficient for pedaling or climbing, long-travel bikes will cater more to your style.

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When to choose a short-travel MTB

Santa Cruz Blur cross country XC underbiked

Short-travel bikes usually have 100-120mm of travel to maximize efficiency. In some cases, these bikes could have forks with 10-20mm more travel to make them more versatile on descents.

XC and short-travel trail bikes fall into this category. They are efficient and usually feel more agile than longer-travel bikes. If you race cross-country, do long adventure rides, or stick to mellow trails, these are the best option.

If you venture onto steep and gnarly downhill tracks with big rocks and jumps, a short-travel bike will start to feel sketchy. There’s a good chance you’ll have to ride slower and more cautiously than you would on a long-travel bike, taking easier lines and occasionally skipping tough sections.

But let’s say you dread going uphill and are constantly getting dropped by fitter riders. A bike with less travel that’s lighter and more efficient could help you go faster and expend less energy. 

If you’re a skilled rider that just wants to make riding more exciting, short-travel bikes provide a lot more trail feedback and give you less room for error. You have to stay focused, be more selective about lines, and be more active with your body. For some, this can be a more enjoyable ride experience than just sitting back and letting a long-travel bike do the hard work for you.

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So how much suspension travel do I need?

Overbiked vs. Underbiked: how much suspension travel do you need?

Seth H., Merchandising Manager   "I started on an XC hardtail and rode everything, even gnarly downhills on it. It had a dropper and I did just fine. I really thought it was all I would ever need. Then I went to Moab. I rode a borrowed enduro bike on The Whole Enchilada and it kind of opened my eyes. I bought a bigger bike not long after and started riding all my regular trails again. It changed how I rode.

"Personally, I really don’t mind being overbiked for most of my riding now. I ride alone a lot so I go my own pace. But I'm also decently fit and I can keep up with everyone I ride with on my bigger bike (an Ibis Ripmo). If you’re fit, I say go as big as you want."

Chad H., Warehouse Manager   "I would prefer to be underbiked on the majority of trails. Being underbiked keeps the skills sharp and makes the trail an exciting challenge. I feel that being overbiked takes the challenge and excitement out of trails. It leads to laziness and dulls your skill as a rider.

"Right now for me, I believe the best bike for 85 percent of the riding I do will be a full suspension cross country bike, like the Santa Cruz Blur. I would add a dropper seatpost and Fox Step-Cast 34 120mm fork just to give it a tiny bit more capability. Or the new Trek Top Fuel, or possibly a Yeti SB100 are good options. It's what people are calling 'downcountry' now, even though I hate the term. It will be a little bit more capable than a full cross country bike, but it’ll have the same quick handling and speed. That'll be perfect for me." 

What about mid-travel "quiver-killer" mountain bikes?

I always keep at least two mountain bikes in my quiver: a long-travel enduro bike and a short-travel XC bike. This lets me tackle everything from downhill bike parks to short-track XC races. But for many riders, a mid-travel trail bike is all you need.

Mid-travel bikes are a good compromise between downhill performance and pedaling/climbing efficiency. They usually have 120-140mm of travel. Many call these bikes "quiver-killers," because they can do it all (well, almost). I even spent a full season on a quiver-killer , just to see how well it worked for a wide range of riding and was pleasantly surprised by how versatile it actually was.

However, these bikes don't completely excel at anything. A longer-travel bike will be better downhill and a shorter travel bike will be more efficient for racing. Ultimately, if you can only have one bike for casual riding, or you're unsure what type of mountain bike you need for your local trails, this category is the best option. 

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How to choose a mountain bike

Enduro mountain bike overbiked

Are your trails rough and rocky or smooth and flowy? Are they fast and steep or tight and technical? Your terrain has a big impact on bike selection. Generally, the rougher, steeper, and faster a trail is, the more travel you'll want and vice versa. 

The second step is to know yourself. Your riding ambition is nearly as important as terrain. If you are a ripper who lives for downhills, you'll probably want to support yourself with more travel. But if your ride fantasy involves conquering high mountains, and exploring miles of backcountry trails, you might want to stay light and efficient with less travel.

No matter what, it's possible to have fun riding any bike, and having the ideal amount of suspension travel isn't everything. Keep in mind too that the rider is always going to make a far bigger difference than the bike. Fast descenders drop me on gnarly downhills riding XC hardtails, and fit climbers drop me on uphills riding heavy enduro machines. Good riders take what they have, and make it work. 

That being said, you can always play to your strengths or weaknesses. Having a bike that enhances the parts of riding that you care about the most will make mountain biking more fun. 

Are you overbiked or underbiked for your trails? Do you prefer long travel or short travel? Or do you have a bike that sits somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments!

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DIY Mountain Bike

What Does TRAVEL Mean on a Mountain Bike: Is More Travel Better?

what is travel on a Mountain Bike

I love riding my mountain bike down steep hills and off of lifts but I have noticed that even after adjusting my current suspension I am bottoming out on relatively small drops. That is why I decided to upgrade my suspension to have more travel distance. In this guide I will explain what that means for various kinds of bikes and suspension set ups.

What is “Travel” on a Mountain Bike?

Travel is simply the maximum distance that either the front or rear suspension of the Mountain Bike can compress, when absorbing force, before bottoming out. The higher the travel the more force the suspension can comfortably absorb. The lower amount of travel the lower amount of force absorbed.

Specialized FSR Suspension

Types of Mountain Bike Suspension

There are three types of suspension setups that any Mountain Bike might have (I will get into the third later). For right now it is most likely that your bike will either have a “Hard-Tail” or “Full Suspension” setup.

The difference between a hard-tail and a full suspension mountain bike is that on a full suspension bike there is a rear shock absorber as opposed to just the front fork. A hard-tail, therefore, will not have rear suspension components and will simply have a “hard” rear frame.

Full Suspension MTB

The differences between hard-tail and full suspension…

Price: A full suspension mountain bike will be much more expensive than a hard-tail mountain bike.

Comfort / Downhill Capability: A full suspension mountain bike is going to be much more comfortable to ride and be able to handle much higher drops. Although, this does come at the cost of reduced ability to put power into the trail.

Weight: A full suspension is going to add the components to your mountain bike so by definition will be heavier than a hard-tail

Maintenance: Again, the more parts you add the more that can go wrong and the more that needs to be adjusted.

Given this distinction between hard-tail and full suspension mountain bikes the next two sections are going to be split between talking about front and rear suspension components.

Suspension is Fun to Talk About

  • Mountain Bike Travel – Read What is Travel on a MTB and is More Better?
  • What is Lockout on a Mountain Bike Fork – all about when to use it.
  • Selecting a MTB fork is confusing, let me help with – C hoosing a Mountain Bike Suspension Fork
  • Wheels and Hub widths – Why is this so confusing? Read – How to Adapt a MTB Wheel to a Boost Fork

Front Suspension and Travel Distance on an MTB

Front Suspension Travel on an MTB

The front suspension, or forks, of any mountain bike is going to be split into a few components. The steerer tube which goes into the center of the crown which branches into two stanchions. These stanchions are what slide into the brace and slider which ends in two dropouts that attach to the wheel.

The main way that riders upgrade their front suspension is by increasing the travel of the stanchions. In essence, this is increasing the length of compression that the front suspension withstands. A shorter travel will be more responsive and allow you to put more power into the trail while a longer suspension is better for rough trails and high lifts.

Here is a chart of common travel distances on the front suspension of the mountain bike…

Another thing that is important to keep in mind is the diameter of the stanchion tubes. As the amount of travel increases so does the diameter of the stanchion to maintain durability and stability.

Here is a chart of the common stanchion tube diameters on the front suspension of the mountain bike…

As I mention before, many riders will upgrade their mountain bikes front suspension by increasing the amount of travel that the suspension is capable of. This is really only done in two scenarios as if it is done without thought then it could actually hamper performance.

  • When you have anything other than a downhill mountain bike and want to try to imitate one.
  • This one kind of ties in with the previous. But, travel distance is increased when a rider desires a more comfortable ride and intends to do mostly downhill riding with large drops. If there is a large amount of uphill riding then a long travel will only make it more difficult to ride the bike.

Something that is often mentioned on MTB suspension is a “Lockout” I explained what it is and when to use your lockout in another article on this website: What is a Lockout Fork and When to Use It

Rear Suspension and Travel Distance

Now this is where things can get really complicated. This is because there are around five main rear suspension designs that manufactures implement in mountain bikes. They are as follows…

Single Pivot: In this design the rear shock of the mountain bike is connected to a swingarm by the titular single pivot point located just above the chain rings. This is the simplest rear suspension design and therefore is often the cheapest to manufacture.

Single Pivot Suspension on MTB

The downside of the design is that the compression is going to be consistent throughout the travel of the shock as opposed to some newer designs which increase the stiffness of the rear shock as it becomes more and more compressed to hopefully prevent bottoming out.

Linkage-Driven Single Pivot: In this design there is still a swingarm connected to a single pivot point. The difference is that there is some kind of linkage which allows the manufacturers to manipulate the compression curve which was previously constant throughout the travel.

Horst-Link / Four Bar: Put simply, the rear axle of the mountain bike is not directly connected to the mainframe of the bike. This will reduce pedal bob (the bob that comes from the rhythmic nature of pedaling) and will also allow the manufacturer to manipulate the compression arc (amount of force needed to compress throughout the travel of the shock.

Twin-Link / Virtual Pivot Point: This design implements a triangular design that connects to the mainframe by two pivoting links. This design performs very similar to the Horst-Link but is not patented so is often cheaper to manufacture.

High Pivot: This is the same as the single pivot with the exception that the pivot point is placed much higher on the frame. There is also the addition of an idler pully which routs the path of the chain above the pivot point as to eliminate what would otherwise result in extremely high levels of pedal bob.

put 27 5 wheels on 26 inch mtb

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The rear shock and how it is sized.

The rear shock of the mountain bike is comprised of a single compression chamber as opposed to the front suspension which relies on two. The shock is placed horizontal (Often with a slight diagonal tilt) to the ground, again as opposed to the front suspension which is placed vertically to the ground.

Furthermore, the rear shock attaches to the frame of the bike by two eyelets which is actually how they (the shocks) are sized. Although, the same style shock is used no matter the design of your rear suspension.

Finding the Correct Eye-to-Eye Length of a Mountain Bike Rear Shock:

To find the eye-to-eye distance measure from the center of one pivot eyelet on the shock to the second one. This distance is the eye-to-eye length that you must use to find correctly sized rear shocks for your mountain bike.

Using shocks with incorrect eye-to-eye lengths can cause problems with the efficiency of the suspension and even can cause it to work against you. The travel on a rear shock is therefore more restricted although can vary slightly as the compression chamber can be of slightly different sized even if the overall length must be the same.

Just as with the front shock the longer the travel the better the shock will be at absorbing force, and the worse it will be for riding your mountain bike uphill (putting power to the trail).

MTB Tools I Love and Recommend

Bike Hand Repair Stand

I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.

  • Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand .  Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential.  I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it.  This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur.  Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
  • A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit.  Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained.  The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider.  Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
  • Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure.  A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not.  Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2 , it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use.  An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
  • Carry a multitool with you on every ride.  I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool.  I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19 , it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works.   Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19

How to Balance Your Suspension with a Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Balancing the amount of force that the front and rear suspensions on a full suspension mountain bike is crucial to getting the most out of said mountain bike. If one component is compressing slower or faster than the other then the comfort of the ride can be dramatically compromised. As can the overall effectiveness of the suspension system.

It is not essential that the front and rear suspensions have the exact same amount of travel although the closer they are the easier it will be to balance them. Balancing them involves adjusting the pressure inside of the chambers so that each shock, no matter the travel, bottoms out at the same time. A longer shock will need less pressure when paired with a shorter shock and vice versa.

Coil Shocks VS Air Shocks

There are two main kinds of suspension. Those which rely on springs to compress and those which rely on compressed air. The benefits of an air shock are that it is lightweight, easily tune-able, and naturally get stiffer near the point of bottoming out. The downsides are that they require more maintenance and are also not as responsive.

The reason why some rider chooses coil springs, even though they must be bought specific to the weight of the rider and are also heavier, is that they are extremely responsive. Additionally, coil springs don’t fade in stiffness when riding for long periods of time as some air coils will.

The Third Kind of Mountain Bike Suspension Setup (A Rigid Bike)

Rigid Frame MTB on Fat Tire Bike

The third, and most uncommon, form of suspension on a mountain bike is… well… to not have one at all. On a rigid bike you will not find either a front or rear suspension system and rather just a solid frame comprising the entire mountain bike.

This kind of mountain bike setup is most widely used for fat tire bikes as with a fat tire bike it is absolutely necessary to be able to put a lot of power from the pedals into the trail. This is because of the friction accosted with a fat tire.

Rigid suspension systems on fat tire bikes are able to be implemented due to the natural suspension capabilities of having such a large tire. This larger tire works to absorb force and the low pressure you can ride at work to smooth out the ride as well.

Additionally, often time rider will upgrade their rigid style mountain bikes with increased cushion seats.

Some regular tire mountain bikes implement a rigid style suspension system although they are much less comfortable to ride and require a more experienced rider. These bikes can provide a great experience if you’re constantly going uphill and don’t plan to encounter any rough terrain.

David DIY MTB

David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE .

Looking for more How To MTB articles? Click -> HERE

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Complete Mountain Bike Suspension Guide: Explaining Basic Concepts and Adjustments

full mountain bike suspension guide

Image source: cannondale.com

Bike suspension is one of the most complicated topics in cycling. It would take a university degree to understand all the details of how suspension works, how the individual components interact, and how each adjustment impacts performance.

This article isn’t going to provide you with the level of detail. However, we will cover the basics of how mountain bike suspension works, the terminology used to describe the systems, the different types of rear suspension platforms, and a quick guide to setting up your fork and rear shock. 

So if you know very little about mountain bike suspension but want to understand all the basics, you’re in the right place!

Table of Contents

Overview of mtb suspension and terminology.

  • Mountain Bike Forks Explained
  • Rear Suspension Explained

Key Mountain Bike Suspension Concepts

  • Basic Mountain Bike Suspension Adjustments

Before diving into mountain bike suspension in more detail, it’s helpful to understand how suspension works and go over some important terminology. 

How Does Mountain Bike Suspension Work?

Mountain bike suspension uses shocks that allow the wheels to move up and down a predetermined path. This movement absorbs bumps to help keep the tires in contact with the ground for better traction and control and reduces the impact on the rider, increasing comfort.

All MTB suspension has a spring (air or coil) and a damper . The spring provides resistance to the wheel’s movement when it hits an obstacle (compression) and the energy to move back down after compressing (rebound).

air vs coild bike rear shock

Fox Float X Factory air shock (left) and Fox DHX2 Trunnion coil rear shock (right).

The damper is a mechanism in the fork stanchion or shock body that regulates compression and rebound speeds. Modern mountain bike forks and shocks allow you to control each one independently. 

Overall, suspension design balances the absorption of impacts, the effect of braking forces, and pedaling efficiency to create a system that best serves a bike’s intended use. This interplay is particularly relevant for full-suspension bikes .

Suspension Terminology

  • Bottom-out – Refers to the shock or fork reaching the limit of its travel. A fork should only bottom out occasionally. Regularly bottoming out means it’s set too soft; never bottoming out means it’s too firm.
  • Compression damping – Controls the rate of compression when the shock is under load. More damping gives the fork a firmer feel.
  • Lockout – This lever significantly reduces compression or stops it completely. Use it to improve pedaling efficiency for climbs or pavement.
  • Linear compression rate – Resistance to compression increases at a steady rate throughout the entire travel.
  • Progressive compression rate – Resistance to compression increases at a varied rate, with less resistance at the beginning of the stroke and more resistance at the end.
  • Preload – Pre-compressing the spring with a ring so that more force is required to begin compressing the suspension, making it stiffer. The equivalent of increasing air pressure in air suspension.
  • Rebound damping – This resistance controls how quickly the suspension returns to its original position after compression.
  • Sag – The distance the suspension moves into its travel under the rider’s weight while stationary. 

Coil vs. Air Springs

Coil spring suspension is the older of the two designs. Steel coils have linear compression rates (see above) and are available with different resistance levels, typically matched to the frame size and the average rider weight in that height range. If your suspension is still too soft or firm after making the appropriate adjustments, you can replace your spring with a softer or firmer one. 

An air spring is a pressurized air chamber. By changing the internal pressure using a shock pump, you can change the characteristics of the spring. Air springs have progressive compression rates, are lighter, and are more tunable than coils. 

Guide to Mountain Bike Forks

There are two kinds of suspension mountain bikes: hardtails and full-suspension MTBs . 

Mountain bike forks are highly variable and adjustable to suit different riding styles and riders. In contrast, hybrid forks offer minimal impact absorption with little-to-no adjustment capability. 

Suspension Fork Parts and Terminology

This section will cover the most important fork-specific terminology and the individual components that make up the fork.  Forks work in a telescopic motion , wherein the stanchions drop into the lowers when under load. 

Mountain bike fork diagram with labels

Image credit: TheProsCloset.com

  • Crown – Connects the two stanchions to each other and the steerer tube. Moreover, 200mm-travel forks on some of the best downhill bikes have a dual-crown design to increase stiffness for the extreme demands of this discipline. 
  • Front travel – Front travel is the distance the wheel moves when the fork reaches full compression. Wheel travel and fork travel are equal.
  • Lowers – The outer tubes into which the stanchions slide. The lowers connect to the wheel via the axle.
  • Stanchions – These tubes connect to the headset via the steerer and consist of an air chamber or coil spring and damper mechanism. 
  • Steerer – Connects the fork uppers to the frame’s headset.

Types of Fork Suspension

There are two types of fork currently on the market, the standard double-prong design shown in the diagram above and a single-prong used by Cannondale.

Cannondale’s proprietary ‘Lefty’ fork has a single left-sided stanchion. It provides the same basic functionality as a standard fork but weighs less. 

cannondale scalpel with lefty fork

Cannondale Scalpel with a Lefty Ocho fork.

Most MTB forks use air springs, thanks to their lighter weight and tunability. However, cheap beginner mountain bikes and some downhill mountain bikes still use coil springs or offer them as an alternative, like the Santa Cruz Nomad . 

Mountain bike forks for adults’ bikes range from 100 to 200mm of travel. Forks with less than 100mm travel are typically only for hybrids or kids’ MTBs. 

  • Cross-country: 100-120mm 
  • Trail: 120-150mm
  • Enduro: 150-180mm
  • Downhill: 180-200mm 

The amount of travel required is specific to the trails ridden and the riding style; more isn’t always better. Extra travel means more weight (in a fork of equal quality), lower efficiency, and more sluggish handling. 

Another critical measurement in bike suspension fork design is stanchion diameter. When the fork experiences an impact, a small amount of lateral flex occurs in the stanchion; the thicker the stanchions, the less they flex. A fork designed to handle harder and faster hits needs wider, stiffer stanchions to ensure they don’t flex too much and cause damage. 

Wider-diameter stanchions flex less , which is better for more extreme riding like the enduro or downhill. However, the trade-off for wider stanchions is extra weight, so weight-conscious disciplines, like XC, use narrow-stanchion forks. 

  • Cross country and Trail: 30-32mm
  • Trail: 32-34mm
  • Enduro: 35-38mm
  • Downhill: 40mm

Guide to Mountain Bike R ear Suspension

A fork shock moves together with the front wheel because the fork shock directly connects to the front axle. In contrast, the rear shock indirectly links to the rear wheel, requiring one or more pivot points that allow the rear wheel to move along a variable yet predictable path as the shock compresses.

Interestingly, the first rear suspension MTBs actually used forks in the rear dropout, but this was an ineffective design and was quickly discontinued.

This section will mention several important suspension kinematics concepts, which we will explain in more detail in the following section. Now, let’s take a closer look at rear suspension and how it works. 

Mountain Bike Shock Anatomy and Measurements

Several different components make up a MTB shock. So you can better understand how rear mountain bike suspension shocks work, we’ve labeled this Fox Float DPX2 air shock. Coil mountain bike shocks are primarily used on heavy-duty downhill mountain bikes as they don’t lose performance from heat buildup like air shocks. 

fox mountain bike shock anatomy

  • Eye-to-eye – The total length of the shock, measured as the distance between the two eyelets (mounting points).
  • Stroke length – The distance the shock compresses under load. 
  • Rear travel – The distance the wheel compresses when the shock is fully compressed. 
  • Leverage ratio – How much the rear wheel compresses in relation to the shock. For example, a 2:1 leverage ratio means the wheel compresses 2mm for every 1mm of shock compression. 
  • Linkage – The components in the frame’s rear that connect the rear MTB shock to the rear wheel.
  • Piggyback reservoir  – This keeps the damper reservoir away from the main body to reduce the effect of heat buildup on the damper’s function, increasing performance.

Mountain Bike Rear Suspension Types and How They Work

Rear mountain bike suspension is a much more complex system than front suspension, as they rely on one or more pivots in the frame and linkages to connect the MTB rear shock and the rear wheel. The pivot(s) allows the rear triangle and linkages to articulate and simultaneously compress the rear wheel and rear shock, according to the leverage ratio. 

Rear shocks typically sit within the frame’s main triangle, but the position within the main triangle changes in each system. One side of the shock mounts to a point in the main triangle, and the other side mounts to the rear triangle.

In general, rear mountain bike shocks perform the same task as the fork, absorbing impacts to improve comfort and help you maintain control and traction by keeping the rear tire in contact with the ground. 

There are four broadly-used rear suspension configurations, each with its own subtle advantages and disadvantages. The average recreational mountain biker won’t notice much difference between rear mountain bike suspension types. 

Single Pivot

Santa Cruz Bicycles Blur single-pivot mtb

The Santa Cruz Blur uses a simple single-pivot configuration.

In single-pivot rear suspension, the rear axle pivots in a constant arc around a single unmoving point. A continuous swingarm links the rear axle, the main triangle (on the top tube or downtube), and the shock. 

This simple design reduces mechanical complexity and weight and makes the bike easier and cheaper to maintain. In addition, there is no patent on the design, so that any manufacturer can use it. 

The downside of the single pivot system is the linear leverage ratio, meaning that the resistance to compression increases at the same rate, and you can’t modify the leverage curve. 

Linkage-drive Single Pivot 

linkage-drive single pivot mountain bike

The Commencal Meta TR uses a single pivot with the four linkages.

The closest design to the single pivot configuration is a linkage-driven version. This system also uses a solid swingarm connecting the main triangle to the rear axle and pivoting around a single point. However, instead of connecting directly, the swingarm uses linkages to connect to the shock. 

Various iterations of this design exist, but the general function is the same. A solid swingarm connects the rear axle and a single pivot. This swingarm rotates around this pivot with a fixed instant center throughout the travel. 

Using the linkages, engineers can control the leverage ratio curve , so you can have a progressive curve instead of being stuck with a linear one. For example, manufacturers could select a stroke progression that’s softer at the start, providing better small bump sensitivity. Alternatively, a firmer start to the stroke would increase pedaling efficiency. 

The downside of this system is extra mechanical complexity, meaning more maintenance and expensive repairs. In addition, the fixed instant center means designers can’t modify anti-squat and anti-rise characteristics independently. 

Four-bar (Horst-link)

horst-link mountain bike suspension

The Canyon Spectral uses a Horst-link with a pivot on the chainstay at the axle.

Specialized first popularized the four-bar suspension platform, with several brands now using their own variation. The main characteristic of this design is the pivot point on the end of the chainstay just below the rear axle. Instead of connecting to the chainstay, the axle connects to the seat stay. 

The rear axle has a modified path that rotates around an instant center that changes position as the MTB rear shock moves through its travel because it’s not directly connected to the main triangle. This design allows engineers to manipulate anti-squat and anti-rise characteristics at different stages of the travel. 

In general, manufacturers that use four-bar systems optimize for low anti-rise, so the braking forces have minimal impact on the suspension. Alternatively, you can design Horst-link suspension to have high anti-squat at the beginning of the stroke and less at the end. Higher anti-squat means less pedal bob but more pedal kickback. 

In addition to having control of anti-squat and anti-rise , Horst-link suspension gives designers control over the leverage ratio curve. The downside is that these systems typically have lower anti-squat, meaning they’re less efficient.

Twin-link 

twin-link mountain bike suspension

The Giant Trance X uses their proprietary Maestro twin-link suspension with co-rotating rocker links.

Twin-link systems usually use a fully rigid rear triangle that connects to the main triangle using two rocker links. Instead of being located beside the axle, the chainstay pivot is much closer to the main triangle. In the twin-link design, either the rear swingarm or one of the rocker links will drive the shock. 

The twin-link design looks similar to a single pivot but performs similarly to the Horst-link with four pivot points, meaning the instant center can be designed to move throughout the travel. Again, an instant center that moves as the suspension compresses gives engineers control over the handling characteristics at different stages of the travel. 

A critical differentiation between twin-link designs is the rotation of the rocker links. Some systems have counter-rotating links, like Santa Cruz’s Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) , while others, like DW-Link and Giant’s Maestro , use links that rotate in the same direction. Each configuration has specific characteristics which impact the system’s performance.

Twin-link suspension is highly tunable , like four-bar suspension, but the curves aren’t as predictable. Finally, a potential benefit is that the anti-squat and anti-rise are more consistent throughout the travel. 

Alternative Designs

In addition to the four configurations described above, popular brands have their own proprietary iterations that attempt to improve performance. Let’s take a brief look at two of the most popular. 

Firstly, you have Yeti’s Switch Infinity . This design uses a patented translating pivot that switches direction as the bike moves through its travel. This setup theoretically gives Yeti independent control over anti-squat and leverage ratio curves. 

High pivot is another unique design that brands like Cannondale (Jekyll), Norco (Shore), and Devinci (Spartan) are using on select models. This distinct system uses an idler pulley to route the chain over the pivot point.

High pivot suspension has a more rearward axle path, improving impact absorption and increasing pedaling efficiency. However, there is more drivetrain drag, extra mechanical complexity and maintenance, and the geometry varies through the travel. 

Understanding suspension kinematics concepts will help you understand how the different designs influence handling.

Bike designers must optimize how the system responds to braking forces, absorbs impacts, and influences pedaling efficiency.  

Instant Center

The instant center is the point that the rear axle is rotating around at a given instant in the travel. For example, on a single-pivot rear suspension, the instant center is fixed at the pivot point, meaning the rear axle has a constant arc. Alternatively, manufacturers can create an instant center that floats (migrates) throughout the rear shock compression by using a combination of linkages. 

To find the instant center at a given point, you draw a line through the pivot points of the top two linkages and another through the bottom and mark the point where the two lines intersect.

As the instant center moves, the anti-squat and anti-rise characteristics change. Designers can manipulate the path of the instant center to get their desired effects on performance at specific points in the travel. 

Pedaling Efficiency

Pedaling efficiency refers to the percentage of energy that reaches the rear wheel from each pedal stroke. Generally, the more suspension a bike has, the less efficient it is to pedal. However, there are notable variances between suspension systems. The trade-off of higher efficiency is a less plush ride. 

The most advanced suspension designs can maximize pedaling efficiency in the early part of the travel, where it’s most important, and let it digress throughout the travel. 

What Is Pedal Bob?

‘Pedal bob’ is an oscillating motion that occurs when you push the pedals. To illustrate, you push the bottom bracket down, and your weight moves back as the bike accelerates, compressing and rebounding one or both shocks. 

Unwanted compression and extension lead to wasted energy that the shock absorbs instead of transferring to the rear wheel. As a result, pedal bob is most impactful on climbs where pedaling efficiency is most notable to the rider. 

What Is Anti-squat?

Anti-squat refers to how much the system resists the compression that occurs during pedal bob, creating a more efficient pedaling platform. Simply put, it’s how the suspension reacts when you accelerate. 

The force that resists squatting (anti-squat) is called the chain-pull force. It comes from the tension in the chain that pulls the swingarm back down when the shock compresses and the rear wheel lifts. Increasing anti-squat reduces the sensitivity of your suspension, making for a harsher ride. 

Manufacturers represent anti-squat in percentages. 100% would theoretically mean there is no pedal bob, as the squat and anti-squat forces cancel each other out. Less than 100% would amplify the squat forces, not counteract them, while greater than 100% would extend the suspension, which is actually necessary for some high-travel bikes to offset shifts in rider weight. 

Because anti-squat depends on chain tension, the anti-squat percentage is different in each gear on the cassette or if you have multiple chainrings. In addition, factors like the rider’s center of gravity and where the shock is in its travel will contribute to the actual anti-squat in a given moment.

With so many variables to consider, giving a specific formula for the optimal anti-squat characteristics is impossible. It’s down to the manufacturer’s preference. Ideally, you want anti-squat to peak in the early to mid part of the travel and then drop off, which systems like Santa Cruz’s VPP achieve. 

What Is Pedal Kickback?

Pedal kickback is the sudden backward movement of your pedals when the suspension compresses . When your mountain bike’s rear shock compresses under the force of an impact, your wheel and the attached cassette lift simultaneously. When the cassette lifts, it tugs on the chain, causing ‘chain growth’ and rotating the chainring backward.

The more anti-squat a bike has, the more pedal kickback it experiences in a proportional relationship. Manufacturers can reduce pedal kickback by using an idler pulley like in the high-pivot system.

You can decrease the anti-squat to minimize pedal kickback and increase the sensitivity of your bike mid-ride by shifting into harder gears (the smaller cogs on the cassette and the larger chainring if you have multiple). This technique is valuable when approaching rock gardens or rough descents. 

Absorbing Impacts

Nobody would argue that suspension’s most important function is absorbing impacts. The last thing you want when riding on mountain trails is the energy from landings or big hits to repeatedly transfer from the rear wheel into your body. 

cannondale scalpel full suspension mountain bike

One of the main purposes of mountain bike suspension is to absorb impacts and make the ride more stable and comfortable. | Image source: cannondale.com

For this article, we won’t cover the kinematics of impact absorption in detail. However, it’s worth noting that suspension designers try to optimize the wheel path and the wheel rate for the specific bike.

The wheel path is a set path that the axle follows when there is an impact on the rear wheel. The wheel rate correlates to the stiffness of the shock at different points in the travel. Wheel rate can be progressive (soft at the start, firm at the end), linear, or digressive (firm at the start, softer at the end). 

Gravity-focused MTB disciplines favor progressive wheel rates to prevent harsh bottom-outs and increase small bump sensitivity. 

Braking Efficiency: What Is Anti-rise?

Anti-rise is the effect of braking forces on the suspension or how much the suspension compresses or extends from braking. By manipulating this, manufacturers can create a stable or active response to braking forces. 

When you brake, your weight shifts forward, putting more pressure on the front of the bike and less on the rear, making the rear extend. Anti-rise counteracts this extension, so the bike stays level under braking forces. 

In theory, high anti-rise makes the suspension feel harsher; therefore, manufacturers try to keep a low anti-rise percentage. 0% anti-rise means the suspension stays active and plush. 100% anti-rise means it doesn’t extend or compress from braking, and the geometry remains the same. 

No suspension system can be completely isolated from braking forces, and the right balance of anti-rise to anti-squat and the other suspension kinematics is down to the type of bike. 

How to Set up and Adjust Mountain Bike Suspension

Take time to set up your suspension and adjust it regularly to ensure it performs how you need it to, and avoid damaging the components by bottoming out too frequently. 

Adjustments

There are several possible adjustments you can make to suspension. Higher-end components have more adjustability and more precise controls. 

  • Lockout – As mentioned, the lockout closes the damper to eliminate compression. Most bike suspension components, even hybrid forks, have a lockout lever, usually located on the top of the stanchion or on the shock body. However, premium MTBs may have a remote handlebar lever to control lockout. Use this adjustment when you ride on pavement or climb on smooth trails. 
  • Air pressure – Instead of using a mechanical preload as you would on a coil fork, air suspension forks use a Schrader valve, like those on tires, to adjust the air pressure. These require a specific shock pump, don’t use your tire pump. The fork valve is typically located on top of the stanchion under a cap or at the bottom of the lowers. You can reference your manufacturer’s setup guide to find their pressure estimate based on weight and frame size, but use sag to find the precise measurement. 
  • Preload – Adjust coil spring preload with the preload knob on top of the stanchion or the collar on the shock body. Increase the preload if your fork feels too soft, and decrease it if it’s too firm. The adjustment range is much lower for coil preload compared to air pressure. Big adjustments will require swapping out the coil. 
  • Damping – Most modern shocks allow you to tune them with compression and rebound damping. Compression damping also breaks down into high-speed compression and low-speed compression. High-speed compression damping controls how the shock reacts under big hits and landings; low-speed controls how it reacts under slow inputs like shifting weight. Increasing low-compression damping holds the suspension higher up in the travel and reduces pedal bob. 

Basic Mountain Bike Suspension Setup

A basic suspension setup can help you get onto the trails quickly after buying a new bike. The following instructions include the most important initial adjustments. However, most shocks and forks offer extra adjustments that can fine-tune your suspension even more. 

compression and rebound suspension adjustment

Compression and rebound suspension adjustment on an air rear shock.

Begin by getting dressed in your typical riding gear and carry your backpack or hydration pack if you usually ride with one. Next, inflate your tires to the correct air pressure , and pack your shock pump (if you have air suspension). 

Then, take your bike to an open space where you can ride around slowly without interfering with traffic, such as an empty parking lot.  id=sag

Setting Sag

Recommendations for sag depend on the discipline and the manufacturer. You can choose higher or lower settings based on your riding style and preferences. For more conservative riding or inexperienced riders, aim for more sag. Fox recommends the following:

  • Rear shocks: 25-33% 
  • Forks: 15-20%

fork suspension sag adjustment

The o-ring lets you fine-tune the sag setting by allowing you to measure the travel. | Image source: liv-cycling.com

Before beginning, ensure that the lockout setting is off and that your compression adjustments are in the most open position. To set the rear sag, move the thin rubber ring on the shock (O-ring) to the end of the shaft flush with the shock body (if your suspension doesn’t have an O-ring, use a rubber band or a zip tie). 

  • Sit onto the saddle slowly, and allow your weight to press down with your feet off the ground.
  • Dismount and note the position of the ring. On Fox suspension, the shaft has marks to indicate sag. If yours doesn’t have any, you must measure the distance to the ring and calculate it as a percentage of the total travel (usually indicated on the shock or fork). If you have more than your desired sag, say 29% instead of 25%, you need to add air pressure using your pump. If you don’t have enough, bleed some air.
  • Unscrew the cap on the air valve and pump or bleed the air. Note the pressure before disconnecting the pump (in case you need to make more adjustments).
  • Push down on the saddle to pump the suspension a few times to balance the air pressure inside.
  • Measure the sag again by repeating step one and keep repeating the process until you hit your desired sag.

You can set up fork sag using the manufacturer’s air pressure chart or a similar process to the mountain bike rear shock. 

  • Push the ring on the fork stanchion to the bottom.
  • Sit on the bike and start rolling. Then, slowly stand up and assume an attack position without bouncing the fork.
  • Allow the fork to settle under your weight.
  • Slowly bring your weight back to a seated position and gently stop the bike. 
  • Repeat the same pumping or bleeding process as required to reach your targetted sag, and note the air pressure.
  • Retest the sag and repeat the process if necessary. 

Setting Progression

Progression is set based on the force it takes to bottom out the suspension.

  • Use the O-rings to measure this by pushing the fork ring to the bottom of the stanchion and the shock ring flush with the shock body. 
  • While rolling on flat terrain, stand up in an attack position and bounce on the fork as hard as possible without leaving the ground. 
  • Repeat this single explosive bounce, but focus on the rear shock this time.
  • You should use between 80 and 90% of your fork travel and roughly 90% of the shock travel during this test, indicated by the rings. 
  • If you use more travel than you want to, your suspension is probably too soft. Add a volume spacer or set a lower sag percentage to address this.
  • If you don’t use enough travel, you could remove a volume spacer or set a slightly higher sag. 

Rebound controls how fast the shock returns after compression—an appropriate rebound setting balances sensitivity and traction. You can use the air pressure of your shock and fork to set the rebound. The manufacturer’s setup instructions should have a guide for selecting the rebound lever position based on shock pressure. Alternatively, follow these steps. 

  • Start with the rear shock by turning the red rebound adjustment clockwise until it’s fully open.
  • Find a sidewalk nearby and ride off at around walking pace while sitting on the saddle, noting how the suspension feels when you drop off. 
  • You want the suspension to compress, rebound slightly past the sag point, and compress again to reach the sag point.
  • Repeat the process to achieve this effect, turning the rebound lever counter-clockwise with one click each time and noting the effect. 

mountain bike fork adjustment knobs

Compression (blue), Lockout (black) and Rebound (red) adjustment knobs on a Fox 36 Float Factory Grip 2 fork.

The fork uses a slightly different process (this works for hardtail bikes).

  • Open the rebound on the fork fully by turning it fully clockwise.
  • Without mounting the bike, push down hard on the handlebars and release suddenly so the fork can bounce up.
  • Turn the rebound lever counter-clockwise one click and repeat this process until the wheel starts leaving the ground upon release.
  • Then, turn the lever clockwise one more time, so the rebound is set at the fastest speed possible before the tire starts to leave the ground on release. 

Double-check Rebound Speed

For full-suspension bikes, you want to ensure both the fork and the shock return at the same speed. If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution and set it so the fork returns slightly faster than the MTB rear shock. If the shock rebounds faster, it will cause a bucking motion. 

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The Basics of Upgrading the Fork on Your Mountain Bike (Check Before You Buy!) [Video]

Words by: Liam Woods

Ohlins Suspension Fork

When choosing a new fork, it can be complicated figuring out what fork fits your bike. In this blog, we’ll go over the key things to keep in mind when making mountain bike upgrades with a new fork.  There are tons of options (including fitment options) to consider so that you can be sure the fork fits your bike. As you read further, we’ll go over the more common questions and discuss the more modern products (roughly ‘09 and newer). There are millions of bicycles out there in the world -- and all sorts of exceptions to “common” -- so please keep that in mind.  

Fork Type and Travel

There are lots of bike front forks out there   -- literally hundreds. You’ll not only want to get one that fits your bike but is also intended for your style of bike. This can almost always be determined by the travel of the fork. If you’ve got 80-100mm travel, odds are you’ve got an XC bike or general light trail bike; 120mm-140mm, you’ve got a modern-day trail bike; 150-170mm, it’s probably a modern-day enduro bike; and 200mm, you’ve most likely got a downhill bike.

You always want to keep the same fork travel that your bike is made for. When frames are engineered they are designed specifically around a certain travel fork. If your bike is meant for a 100mm travel fork, stick with 100mm and you’ll be happy.

FORK TRAVEL TYPES

If you desperately want to get a new fork with more or less travel, we NEVER suggest you go more than 20mm away from what the bike was designed around. If you do that, you are taking a major risk of disrupting the structural integrity of the frame and fork. You will also totally mess up the handling characteristics of your bike.

Steerer Tube Size

-Most common steerer tubes these days are tapered, which is 1.5’’ at the bottom and tapers to a 1-⅛’’ at the top. This is most common on newer bikes (2009+), but it is very rare or non-existent on older bikes. Older bikes often have a straight steerer , which is just straight 1-⅛’’ all the way. Certain older bikes might have a threaded straight steerer,  but that is extremely rare.

- You need to be sure you get the right size steerer tube because certain frames only fit certain steerer tubes. If you are planning to keep your existing headset, those are only designed for a certain size as well.

-Keep in mind there are some other weird steerer tubes out there . Cannondale and Giant are two bike brands that have made some super confusing and proprietary steerer tubes for their bikes only. If you’ve got one of those… you may be in for a struggle.

FORK STEERER TUBE TYPES

-This seems obvious but as there are three wheel sizes these days (26’’, 27.5’’ and 29’’), it makes a big difference. So know your wheel size because bike front forks are specific to wheel size.  

-To add a bit more complexity, you’ve got Fat bikes and Plus bikes that use one of the three common wheel sizes , but need a different fork because of the super wide tires. If you’re in this boat, you’ve got to figure out what you’ve got and get a fork with the same spec. Eg. 27.5+, 29+, Fat Bike specific, etc. 

MTB WHEEL SIZE

-This is only important for 29’’ wheeled bikes. Offset is how far the front hub sits out in front of the imaginary line that runs through the steering axis. All forks just come in the offset they come in, however, many forks made specifically for a 29’’ wheel are offered in two offset types. Standard and 51mm offset. The majority of modern-day 29’r frames are engineered around a 51mm offset fork as the 51mm offset simply works better with the 29’’ wheel. In some cases, there is a 29’r frame that is designed around a traditional offset, but that is rare and becoming more and more uncommon.

FORK OFFSET

-If you have a 26’’ wheel or a 27.5’’ wheel, don’t worry about this at all. If you have a 29’r then you need to make sure what fork offset your frame is intended to use, very likely and most common it will be designed for a 51mm offset. I'm not going to explain what fork offset does as that is a whole topic on its own, one which we explained in our video on  Fork Offset Explained .

-If you want to geek out more on fork offset, PinkBike wrote a great article you can read here .    

-You’ll want to get a fork with an axle that fits your front hub. Although 15x100   axles are very common , there are plenty of other “common” ones these days like the 15x110mm Boost axle, or the 20mm axle which is and always has been only 110mm wide, or the quick release axle also called QR or 9mm. Keep in mind a 15mm axle can also be called QR15, this means the 15mm axle has a quick release lever as shown in the pic below. Some 15mm and some 20mm axles have a QR feature and are often called QR15 or QR20 but that simply refers to the way you install/remove the axle from the fork. When you just hear "QR axle" with no reference to 15 or 20 then that means 9mm quick release style and not a thru axle. The 9mm QR axle is not a thru axle so the fork does not come with an axle and looks like the RockShox fork image shown below. 9mm QR is more old school and/or cheaper style. And of course, don’t forget the ever confusing Fat Bike axles... but that is a whole other topic. 

WHEEL AXLE TYPES

-Another confusing thing: The Predictive Steering hub. So far this is only available for RockShox RS1 forks, and if you have an RS1 fork you can only use the Predictive Steering hub. At the moment no other forks but the RS1 use this style axle/hub.  

-Know your hub, know your axle and get a fork that matches. Or you can opt to buy a new front wheel/hub/axle conversion kit if that option is available.

FORK AXLE TYPES

Brake Mount

-There are two mounting types (on modern-day MTB’s made for disc brakes), post mount and I.S. mount. Post mount is where you only have two bolts that mount the brake caliper to the fork , and they thread directly into the fork. The I.S. style mount always needs an adapter, two bolts go through two holes on the fork and thread into an adapter, then two bolts come straight down from the brake and thread into that adapter. Post mount style is more common on 2010+ bikes , and I.S. is more common on older bikes. But there are always exceptions.

-The 160 post mount is the most common on 2009+ bikes/forks. This means you can mount disc brakes directly to the fork, no adapter is needed and it will be spaced for a 160mm rotor. However, some forks like the Fox 36 series use a 180mm post mount . Newer Fox 40’s use a 200mm post mount, where the old ones used a super confusing I.S. mount that worked with a 160mm I.S. adapter but was spaced for a 203mm rotor.

-If you’ve got an older bike or entry level mountain bike you might have V-brakes. These mounts work and look entirely different than disc brakes. There is only one type of V-brake mount for mountain bike forks. So if you’ve got V-brakes and intend to keep them, you will need a fork with V-brake mounts.

FORK BRAKE MOUNT TYPES

-Brake adapters deserve an entire blog post of their own. (Or a dictionary-sized book!) The topic is seeming to get less complicated as time goes on but is still one of those things where lots of forks used different sizes and styles of mounts over the years.  

Air vs. Coil??:

Air VS Coil, the debate that still goes on everyday.  When you are looking to upgrade your suspension fork, it's likely you will be looking at an Air fork. They are more adjustable, feel smoother most of the time, and normally they are the upgrade option.  If you currently have a lower end coil fork, an air fork will make a huge improvement. Now, there are a few coil forks coming back to life in the mid-high end range, like MRP Ribbon Coil, CaneCreek Helm Coil, and the new Marzocchi Z1 Coil fork, are new coil options if you want a set it and forget it fork. If you are also looking to maybe turn your mid-high end fork into a coil fork, you can look at Push Industries ACS-3 coil insert kit. 

How Much Should You Spend?:

The last thing to consider is how much do you want to spend? This is hard to answer as it depends on your budget, riding amount, style, as well as what bike you are putting it on.

If you are upgrading a bike that is more than 10 years old, it's likely that you might want to think about even making those upgrades. For a little bit more money, you can often get a more modern mountain bike that has newer standards and geometry.

If you have a bike that is only a few years old, it's very likely you can make some upgrades that will work for your bike and might be future proof as well if you wanted to upgrade other parts as well. It also depends what you are looking for in your fork upgrade. Do you want a better feel, more travel, more adjustments, or lighter weight? Those are all things you should consider when looking at new forks.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND

Generally, the more money you spend you get better performance, in trail and XC forks you get a lighter weight fork and a better feel, on trail/enduro forks you normally get better performance, stiffer chassis, and more adjustments.

So are you the type of rider that needs any of those things? Then you might want to look at the upper midrange to high end forks. If you just want something that feels a bit better than you can probably look around the entry level - mid range type of forks. 

Beyond all these little things, you’ve got loads of options as far as features you want on your fork: lockout, compression, rebound, air or coil spring, etc. These require their own blog posts as well . All in all, this stuff can be more than a bit confusing…

Final Thoughts:

Wow, that is a lot of information to digest and think about. Upgrading your fork can get you some major performance improvement but it’s important to understand the right model for your bike.  Also consider things like your bike's age, and how much it's worth to you. Then look at Wheel Size, Axle Type, Steerer Tube Type, Travel amount, Brake Mount type, and fork offset.  With so much to consider, it's a great option to contact our customer service team, the experts at Worldwide Cyclery are here to help you get the correct fork on your bike, maybe give you some options to choose from and get you the best fork for your bike. 

MOUNTAIN BIKE SUSPENSION FORKS

Employee Spotlight: Liam Woods

This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes , ridden countless components , tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram .

November 15, 2020

Bike Knowledge › Fork › Fox › How To › RockShox › Suspension › Video ›

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Everything You Need to Know About Front Suspension Forks

The front suspension fork is one of the essential components of a bicycle. Without a suspension fork, your bike will vibrate and make your arms sore when you go through tough terrain such as jumps and drops. Furthermore, an unsuitable fork may lead to accidents and other dangerous situations. To avoid this and improve your riding preferences, you can choose the right suspension fork for your bike.

In this guide, I will go over the fundamentals of suspension forks, and how to pick the right front suspension fork for your bike. Below is the outline of what we shall cover.

What is a front suspension fork?

  • Different types of MTB front suspension fork
  • How to measure your mtb fork travel?

How do you pick the best suspension fork for your mountain bike?

The suspension fork is a core bicycle component. It is typically composed of springs and dampers. Front forks comprise two stanchions (or tubes) connecting to the bike's steerer tube on the front wheel. The front suspension fork's function is to absorb trail obstacles' energy through compression, making your ride experience more comfortable.

suspension fork exploded view - Corki Cycles

The suspension fork offers a range of adjustments on mountain bikes. Variations include the lockout, amount of travel, and rebound adjustments. We've compiled a list of some functions of bicycle suspension forks below.

A lockout is a small switch that is located on your mountain bike's front right stanchion. This lets you lock the suspension fork while riding out of the saddle on level ground. This means not engaging in suspension. If you're hanging out of the saddle on horrible ground, you'd better turn off this lock switch. Moreover, this switch, known as a remote lockout, can also be routed to the bike's handlebars.

Manual & Remote control fork difference - Corki Cycles

The spring is found in the fork legs with the dampers. It absorbs the energy created by an impact. The stiffness of a spring is different and it is the spring rate, the ratio of force per distance the spring is compressed. You can adjust the spring rate according to your needs. Furthermore, the spring can store energy. Releasing it when the fork extends, while the damper converts excess energy. All suspension forks utilize a spring or air.

The damper is typically located inside the fork's lower legs. It can be found in the fork leg and consists of a piston and oil-filled chambers. The damper's function is to convert the spring's kinetic energy. It does this by forcing oil through adjustable ports. As the fork compresses and rebounds, the piston moves through the oil, creating resistance that slows down the movement of the fork. Several dampers are used, including hydraulic, pneumatic, and coil-sprung dampers. But it depends on many factors, such as the rider's weight, riding style, and terrain.

Travel refers to the distance of the compression and rebound. In other words, it means how far the fork's immersion tubes dip into the standpipes. The amount of spring or air travel in a suspension fork is determined by the design of the fork and the riding style. For example, a suspension fork's travel for cross-country riding will be less than downhill. Because cross-country riders typically encounter more minor obstacles and not huge road gaps.

bike fork travel - Corki Cycles

The spring travel is always given in millimeters. The general MTB front suspension travel ranges from 80mm to 200mm. 150mm and above will have a crown design. With some suspension mountain bike forks, the spring travel can be adjusted. But it's worth noting that not all suspension forks use springs to provide travel. Some forks use air pressure instead, which can be adjusted to suit the rider's weight and riding style.

Rebound damping

Damping is the process of absorbing impact energy transmitted through the forks or shock during compression and rebound strokes. A set of forks, shocks, or struts are considered dampers. This damping determines the speed at which the fork extends after an impact.

Rebound damping is built into every suspension fork, and the strength of this damping can be adjusted on most forks. If rebound damping is too low (-), the suspension will extend too fast and feel bouncy and out of control. But suppose the rebound damping is too high (+). Then, the suspension will not recover fast enough after repeated impacts sinking ever lower into its travel and performing poorly. You can adjust the rebound damping according to your need and terrain you regularly ride.

Compression

The speed at which the fork compresses is controlled by the damping. For example, when a rider hits a bump on the trail, the suspension fork compresses to absorb the impact and rebounds to its original position. Compression can be adjusted on most suspension forks. It allows the rider to customize the amount of compression based on the terrain they are riding. A firmer compression setting is ideal for smooth, fast trails, while a softer one is better for technical, rocky terrain.

Different types of MTB front suspension forks

There are several mountain bike front suspension forks on the market nowadays, including coil springs, air springs, hydraulic, and so on.  Each has unique characteristics and advantages. Here, we'll concentrate on coil springs and air spring forks, two of the most popular varieties.

air suspension fork VS coil fork - Corki Cycles

Coil spring fork:

Traditional suspension forks are made of coil springs. To reduce shock and give a smooth ride, they use a metal coil as the spring. These forks are strong and require little maintenance. They cost less than air spring forks. Riders on a tighter budget frequently prefer coil spring forks.

However, coil spring forks can be heavy for some riders. The metal coil spring adds weight to the fork, making it more challenging to maneuver the bike. Additionally, adjusting the spring rate on a coil spring fork can be more complicated than on an air spring fork. Riders may need to swap out the coil spring for a different one to achieve the desired level of stiffness or softness.

Air Spring Forks

Air spring forks use compressed air to provide suspension. They are typically lighter than coil spring forks. An air spring is easier to set up because you only need a shock pump to make it stiffer or softer. Riders can adjust the spring rate by adding or releasing air pressure.

One potential downside of air spring forks is that they need more maintenance. Riders must regularly check the air pressure and add air as needed. Additionally, air spring forks can be more expensive than coil spring forks.

How to measure your MTB fork's travel?

Ever wondered how to measure the travel of your MTB fork? Well, in this section, I'll walk you through a couple of simple ways to measure your mountain bike fork travel. So grab your tape measure, and let's dive in!

bike fork travel - Corki Cycles

One way to find out your fork travel is by checking the manufacturer's details. Usually, they provide this information right on the fork itself. Take a close look at the fork's outlook, and you might spot the travel measurement written there.

Another way is to measure by yourself with a tape measure. If you want to be hands-on and measure it yourself, no worries! Get your tape measure ready, and let's get started.

First, slide the fork stanchions all the way down until they can't go any further. Then, measure the distance from the top of the stanchions to the fork crown with your tape measure. However, you need to pay attention to the fact that it is an approximation. You will need to subtract the compressed height of the spring for a more precise measurement. For example, if you measure 126mm but the fork's travel is stated as 120mm, you may need to subtract around 5-6mm for the compressed height of the spring. That means your mountain bike fork's travel is approximately 120mm.

measure the bike front fork travel -Corki Cycles

Not all suspension forks will fit your bike. Thus, you must know several critical sizes of MTB forks.

Wheel size:

The suspension fork must fit the diameter of the front wheel and wheelset you ride. There are a few different wheel sizes for mountain bikes. 26 ", 27.5", and 29" are the most common. If you are still determining your wheel size, it should be found on the side of the tire or on your hub usually.

bike wheel size - Corki Cycles

The frame manufacturer has designed the bike around a certain amount of travel. That is why the travel of the new fork should correspond to the travel of the previously mounted fork. The general MTB front suspension travel ranges from 80 mm to 200 mm. It is generally advisable to stay within this range depending on your frame. Please check your travel carefully before you buy a new front suspension fork . Because increased or decreased fork travel can damage the tube as well as affect rideability. For example, you can't mount a 200mm travel triple crown fork on a hardtail. The steer tube angle would be crazy!

Fork steerer tube diameter:

The fork steerer tube attaches to the bicycle frame and is inserted into the frame's head tube. Most modern bikes will have a tapered steerer. It usually starts at 1.5 inches on the bottom and goes from 1 to 1/8 inches on the top. This size always offers greater stiffness with minimal weight gain.

But you may find some DH bikes and older mountain bikes have straight steerer tubes. This straight steerer can connect the fork to the original frame of the bicycle directly. Again, they range from 1 to 1/8 inch in most cases. Drop the forks out of the frame if you need clarification on the size. You should be able to see immediately if the steerer is tapered or straight.

The fork end must fit the front wheel's hub and axle. Suppose the suspension fork’s installation length deviates from the axle size. 

The standard size for thru-axle forks on mountain bikes is 15mm x 100mm or 15mm x 110mm with 20mm x 110mm also. They are used mainly on downhill and freeride bikes. Trail, XC, and enduro bikes are changed to the newer Boost thru-axle standard. It has increased the front axle length to 110mm. If you are not sure what the size of your axle is, you can look at the previous one. Again the fork will either be built for a QR wheelset or a thru axle wheelset. Make sure to check your bike and the new suspension fork's compatibility.

Replacing your fork can bring about some major performance benefits, but it's critical to identify the proper type for your bike. Travel, wheel size, axle type, steer tube type, travel amount, and fork steer tube diameter are all elements to consider. With so many factors to consider, you can find the best suspension fork for your bike that matches your demands and allows you to conquer even the most difficult terrain with ease.

Have fun out there on the trails!

If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

Suspension Fork Related Articles:

How Do I Adjust My Front Fork Suspension Quickly?

 How Do You Mount an MTB Front Suspension Fork? Quick and Easy Guide

Mastering Mountain Bike Fork Maintenance: Expert Tips for Peak Performance

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Let customers speak for us

I travel far on an overloaded cargo bicycle, and for the first ~50,000 miles, its stem cap was an electronic analog clock, which is to say, I’m old enough to still be an analog guy. But that clock quit working about 15,000 miles ago, because I travel in all four seasons through all varieties of weather, and — who knew? — electronic analog bike-stem clocks don’t like getting wet.

I’d been meaning to replace it, but I’d gotten used to having a stem cap that wasn’t just a stem cap, you know. So I was searching for another sacrificial electronic analog stem clock — the old one lasted years, after all — when I noticed this option, and it too is more than a stem cap. But this one serves a function I need a lot more than an analog clock. After all, there’s a bike computer on the handlebars, and it shows the current time in digits, plus much more, and I’ve also got a watch on my wrist.

But an AirTag secured in a weather-proof housing to the stem of my bike? Yeah, that I need.

Installation was as easy as the old analog clock, which I had to remove annually to replace its button battery. The AirTag even uses the same ubiquitous 2032 battery, and I always have a few of those in my backpack. Apple says the battery can last up to the same full year in the AirTag, so all that will have changed for me is that I’ll no longer be staring at an analog clock that’s only right twice a day.

This AirTag stem mount is deceptively simple — just three parts: (1) The base that accepts the included (2) countersink bolt and is capped by a threaded, well, (3) cap. I could have machined the two housing halves from Delrin using a lathe, but that would have taken a full day of trial and error, would cost me almost as much in material, and I’d end up with something not nearly as refined as this inexpensive, off-the-shelf, purpose-designed solution.

Is it indeed weather proof? I haven’t tested that aspect, but I suspect, yes, it is. The threads that join the two halves are exquisitely fine and mate perfectly. The male threads are on the base so are covered, thus shielded, by the female threads when in place, which forms an effective drip ledge. Sure, water would eventually get in if it was submerged, but if the bike and I go under, I’ve got bigger problems than a dead AirTag. But rain? Yeah, that’s not getting in.

How does it look on the bike? Kind of great, actually, as stem caps go. But I doubt you’d notice it, because its color matches the black spacers underneath. And that’s the point. If I need that AirTag, it won’t be because I forgot where I parked the bike. Okay, someday that might be the case, but today, it’ll be because some rat-so-and-so stole my bike, and if that happens, I’d prefer they not notice the stem cap sporting an AirTag. At least until the police and I get there and show them how we found them.

If you value your bike and its stem accepts this style of cap — and you do, and it does — you need this. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’ve hidden a second AirTag on the bike, but I’m not going to share where.

Hope this helps. Clear skies!

My wife's MTB really needed a bottle cage, but her bike's frame has a design where all of the other cages we had wouldn't work: we needed a side-entry cage. A lot of modern mountain bikes have smaller frame triangles, so I suspect we weren't alone with this issue.

Enter this side-entry cage. It's been great so far! Right hand entry works great with all of our standard bottles. I thought the aluminum construction would be great for durability, but I was worried it would be heavier... a relatively unfounded concern in the end, as the cage felt hardly heavier than plastic cages, and is still lighter than some other old-school cages we have on other bikes.

We had some cheaper plastic bottle holders that worked just fine but we wanted something better and matched the paint job on our e-Bikes.

These holders are very lightweight and look fantastic. Don't fret at first if they seem too tight on your bottles. All we had to do was bend them open a little bit to the tightness that was perfect on the bottle, allowing us to pull the bottle and reinsert it with no problem yet keeping it from grip on the bottle.

Definitely happy with these bottle holders.

These water bottle cages are a big step up from the standard wire cages, or even the step up plastic cages you see on lots of bikes nowadays. First off, they are VERY well crafted. The punched and molded aluminum feels extremely sturdy, with just enough flex to allow adding or removing a bottle. They are more than stiff enough to hold the water bottle in VERY securely, and I have no concerns of the bottle popping out on hard riding. The anodized (or is it powder coated?) finish is not only beautiful to look at, but bonded very strong as well. This will retain its luster forever. At about $8.50 each (with $4 coupon at time of writing), these are a fantastic value compared to anything you would get at a store. Very happy with these bottle holders!

These are no frills, minimalist, and very light weight top-load bottle cages. They are quite strong, and hold a standard-sized bottle securely. Just a couple of minor negatives. First, one of my pair arrived with a couple of small chips in the anodized finish, revealing the bright aluminum below. So I took a knife to try to cut into them some more, and found them to be fairly hard, but they will scratch. Over time expect to pick up an occasional blemish, but nothing out of the ordinary. Second, the same pair with the blemishes was also slightly out of round (not by much—just two or three millimeters). Third, they do require the use of low profile cage bolts, because most high ones will protrude enough so they interfere with a bottle. Corki includes silver low profile cage bolts with this item, so not a bit deal. But if you want black bolts to match the cage you will have to supply your own.

In sum, they are certainly a good product. Whether to choose these versus the myriad other bottle cages out there likely comes down to price and style. The price seems competitive, at fifteen dollars for two cages. The style question is for you to decide, but I think they will generally look more at home on a sleek road bike versus a beefy mountain bike.

ENDURO Mountainbike Magazine

The best mountain bike fork 2021 – 9 suspension forks in review

fork travel in bike

The battle for the best enduro suspension fork is hotting up. Muscled up forks with bigger and burlier chassis have entered the arena, throwing down the gauntlet to the skinnier forebears. We put 9 of the best 170 mm suspension forks to the test to find out which comes out on top.

fork travel in bike

For the last 2 years, it’s fair to say that not a lot has happened on the mainstream suspension fork scene. Yes, there have been small revisions to some of the leading forks, but there has been nothing groundbreaking. This year, instead of small evolutionary steps, some brands have taken a giant leap. Of course, we mean the two suspension giants FOX and RockShox who have both released their new 38 mm platforms to complement their existing 35 and 36 mm enduro offerings. Alongside the new Manitou Mezzer PRO, these bigger and burlier forks have made us ask whether stiffer forks are better. Will a stiffer fork make us faster or give us more control? To find out, we tested these burlier forks alongside the best 35 and 36 mm options in our group test, abusing them mercilessly on some gnarly Scottish terrain.

Table of contents

Suspension fork faq, what makes a great suspension fork, how to choose the right suspension fork for your bike, how should i set up my suspension fork, the contenders – which forks did we include in this group test, how we tested the suspension forks, where did we test, four things we learned from the 2021 fork test, which is the best enduro fork of 2021, what is a mountain bike suspension fork.

fork travel in bike

While containing many complex components, a suspension fork has a simple function. To lessen the impact of trail obstacles by absorbing their energy through its compression. The suspension fork has three main elements:

Damper – The damper’s function is to convert the kinetic energy of the spring into heat energy, usually by forcing oil through adjustable ports. The damper helps control the speed at which the suspension can compress and extend. The damper is found in the opposite fork leg to the spring.

Spring – The spring absorbs the energy created by an impact, isolating the rider from it. The spring stores the energy, releasing it when the fork extends, while the damper converts excess energy to heat. The stiffness of a spring is defined by its spring rate, the ratio of force per distance the spring is compressed. The spring is found in the opposite fork leg to the damper.

Chassis – The chassis of the fork houses the spring and damper, providing a strong and stable platform for the internals to work effectively and providing accurate steering for the rider.

fork travel in bike

What is the difference between coil and air springs in a suspension fork?

The spring component of the fork can be either an air spring or a coil spring. Coil springs are linear, meaning that the amount the coil compresses under a given load is identical no matter where the spring is in its travel. Some manufacturers now make progressive-rate springs with varying coil spacing, requiring more force to compress the spring the same distance at the end of the stroke than at the beginning. By far the most popular choice, most mountain bikes now come fitted with air sprung forks. An air spring is a sealed chamber filled with air. Under compression, the fork lowers push an internal air piston up against the air in the chamber, reducing its volume and increasing the pressure. This increase in pressure applies an opposing force to the air piston, pushing it back out again. Unlike coil springs, air springs have a progressive spring curve, the amount of force required to compress the spring increases exponentially through the stroke. The advantage of air springs is that their spring rate is defined by the air pressure in the air chamber, therefore they are easily adjusted by the user using a simple pump.

What does a negative spring do in my suspension fork?

Before your fork can start moving in response to an impact, it needs to reach the breakaway force. The breakaway force is the sum of the forces of the static friction of the seals and the pressure in the positive air chamber against the air piston. To reduce the breakaway force, either pressurised air or a coil spring can be added behind the piston to oppose the main air chamber spring and counterbalance the breakaway force. This is known as a negative spring. Most air negative air-springs use a valve or bypass dimple to equalise the pressure in the negative and positive spring, so the initial pressure on either side of the air piston is the same.

What does the damper do in my suspension fork?

fork travel in bike

The force of an impact transmits energy into the suspension, with the spring storing and returning energy by compressing and extending, while the damper stops the spring from bouncing uncontrollably or oscillating, controlling the rate at which it moves. Like the air spring, the damper is a chamber containing a piston that can move up and down, actuated by the movement of the suspension. Unlike the air spring, the chamber is filled with damping fluid, usually some kind of oil. When the damper is compressed, the volume of the immersing shaft displacing some of that oil, forcing it through the adjustable orifices of the compression damper – located at the top. When the fork extends again, the shaft is pulled in the other direction. The head of the shaft houses both the piston and the rebound damping. As the shaft extends, oil is forced from one side of the piston to the other, moving through the adjustable orifices of the rebound damping circuit. As the fluid flows, friction is generated, converting the energy stored in the suspension to heat. The tighter the restriction, i.e. the smaller the opening of adjustable orifices/valving, the more energy is converted as the oil flows through the damper, and in turn, the higher the damping.

What is rebound damping?

fork travel in bike

Rebound damping controls the speed at which compressed suspension extends after an impact. If rebound damping is too low (-) the suspension will extend too fast and feel bouncy and out of control. If the rebound damping is too high (+) the suspension will not recover fast enough after repeated impacts and pack down, sinking ever lower into its travel and performing poorly.

What is low-speed compression damping?

Low-speed compression damping influences your suspension characteristics at low shaft speeds (not bike speeds), predominantly influencing the mid-portion of the suspension travel. If you feel like you have achieved a good spring rate with good small bump performance and good bottom-out control but you feel that the bike lacks mid-stroke support, sinking deep into its travel when you brake hard, ride steep trails or push the bike into corners and jump faces, you need to add more low-speed compression damping. Adding low-speed compression damping does decrease suspension sensitivity, so you only want to add the minimum level to achieve enough support.

fork travel in bike

What is high-speed compression damping?

The most expensive forks and rear shocks have a high-speed compression damping adjustment (HSC), controlling the damping when the suspension compresses at high shaft speeds (big, fast impacts). If you find that your fork or shock is still bottoming out too easily and have a high-end shock and fork with the option, you can adjust your high-speed compression damping. Adding more high-speed compression damping reduces the amount of travel the fork uses in high-speed impacts (shaft speed not bike speed). Low levels of high-speed compression result in digressive damping which allows full travel easily in response to big, fast hits.

When I set up my fork, should I measure the adjustments from fully closed or fully open?

You should always measure the number of ‘clicks’ of your fork settings from fully closed (maximum damping). This gives a better reference point, as when fully opening the ports inside your suspension, the last click or so tends to be a little vague due to different tolerances from fork to fork.

How should I set up my suspension fork sag?

fork travel in bike

Sag is important when setting up your suspension fork. Sag is the amount your fork compresses under the rider weight (including riding gear) and setting the correct sag is the only way of reaching the optimum air pressure for your riding weight and style. Most fork manufacturers recommend between 15-20% sag depending on riding style. Sag can also be considered a tuning method. Changing the amount of sag on the forks changes the geometry of your bike, running less sag will cause the front of the bike to stay high on steep trails and under braking but will result in a harsher ride with less cornering traction. Running more sag will give a more comfortable ride with more grip, but lower the front end height under hard braking and on steep trails. It’s all a balance. In general, more sag (20%) is better for cornering, increasing weight on the front wheel and helping the front end dive through turns, while less sag (15%) is better for high-speed stability and pedalling efficiency.

How often should I service my suspension fork?

fork travel in bike

Let’s face it, nobody likes spending money on servicing. Instead, we would love to spend all our expendable cash on shiny new bike kit. However, you wouldn’t buy a Ferrari 488 and never change the oil. Suspension forks are complex moving parts and therefore require frequent lubrication. Investing time keeping your fork well serviced will give you a noticeable performance benefit. All the forks in this test use suspension oil in the lowers to lubricate the seals and while a full damper service may be beyond the capabilities of most amateur mechanics, a lower leg service is a very straightforward process. Most fork brands produce service schedules and useful how-to videos and tutorials and learning how to do a basic service is a treat for you and your bike. Changing oil regularly will not only boost your mechanical kung-fu but also leave you with silky smooth forks.

What do I do if my suspension fork creaks?

Creaking forks are unnerving and nearly all manufacturers suffer from this with a very small proportion of their forks. Telltale symptoms include sharp cracking or popping sounds under braking or full compression. The issue may sometimes be down to dirt or grime under the crown race, but is more often the stanchions creaking in the press fit crown. Both RockShox and FOX are the biggest offenders, not because their forks necessarily creak more than others but because their forks are far more popular, and therefore rare problems are seen in larger numbers. If your fork creaks under hard braking, the first step is to check and clean the crown race and headset bearing faces. If, after that, your fork still creaks then it’s time to call in the professionals and drop off your fork at a service centre. Many manufacturers will replace the CSU (crown, steerer and stanchion assembly) under warranty.

Can I adjust my mountain bike suspension fork travel?

fork travel in bike

If you frequently buy new frames or like to adjust the geometry of your bike, then a fork with adjustable travel may be desirable. While there used to be on-trail travel adjust systems a few years ago, such systems tended to compromise performance. The current range of top-tier enduro forks are fixed travel. However, some of the forks like the Manitou Mezzer Pro have internally adjustable travel, allowing you to change the travel up to 50 mm using internal travel reducers. This does require partial disassembly of the fork but allows a lot of flexibility and takes the worry out of experimenting with a travel change. The travel of the other forks can be adjusted but in most cases, a different length air spring will need to be purchased.

Why do we not have upside-down suspension forks like motorbikes?

fork travel in bike

We have been waiting for a good upside-down suspension fork for years. Once motorbikes went upside-down they never looked back. so why don’t we have an inverted fork? Inverted forks make a lot of sense, as you hammer down the trail, the highest fore-aft stress your forks encounter is under the crown where the leverage is highest. On a standard fork, this is where the stanchions are bonded into the crown. On an upside fork, this point can be substantially thicker using more material, resulting in more fore-aft stiffness. However, having no arch means that upside-down forks have always suffered from increased lateral flex. We’ve tested a number of upside-down forks over the years and have found that while they offer many advantages in ride comfort, they still lack the precise steering in high-load situations that aggressive riders require and often come at a price premium. We did invite an upside-down fork to this test but it was declined as it was deemed that our findings would be the same.

fork travel in bike

While unquestionably complex, a suspension fork has three main components. Firstly, it has a spring to absorb the violent hits when you roll foolishly into a crazy line. Secondly, the fork contains an oil-filled damper, which controls the speed of the spring. By forcing oil through small ports it converts the kinetic energy of the spring into heat. The best dampers will provide support and stability on steep terrain, keeping the fork high in its travel under hard braking and weight shifts, and using full travel only when needed. Finally, the fork needs a stiff chassis, allowing steering inputs from the bars to be translated accurately onto the trail, carving accurate lines while under pressure and keeping you out of the trees. Often, with infinite tuning configurations, the best forks will be easy to set up to your riding style and home trails without needing a PhD in suspension kinematics.

fork travel in bike

When it comes to choosing the best suspension fork for your bike, there are several points you need to consider.

Wheel size The first consideration is the wheel size. Yes, you can physically fit a 27.5” wheel into a 29” fork, but the axle to crown distance (if you buy a fork with the same travel) will be different on the longer 29” fork, changing the geometry of your bike.

Travel Unless you know what you are doing or are looking to change the personality of your bike, it is best to stick to the amount of travel the bike comes with from the factory. Fitting a longer travel fork will raise both the stack height and bottom bracket height of your bike, impacting the handling. Also, fitting a longer travel fork may void your bike’s warranty.

Air or coil? There has been something of a resurgence of coil forks and shocks in the enduro sector. Finally, riders are realising that overall bike weight is less important than performance, allowing them to choose products that help their riding, not the readout on a scale. Requiring fewer seals, and therefore having less friction, coil spring forks have always been the champion of small bump compliance, smoothing the trail and providing huge grip. Air forks are certainly the most popular choice and while arguably they still cannot match a coil for sensitivity (though they are now very close), they are significantly lighter and can be easily adjusted to different rider weights where a coil fork might require a different spring to be installed. Generally, due to the nature of air compressing inside the spring, air forks have more progression, giving more support to the middle and end of the stroke. However, many of the latest coil forks feature technologies to increase end stroke support, such as the mechanical Ramp Control in the MRP or the trapped air volumes in the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 coil.

fork travel in bike

Which offset is best?

The concept is simple: the shorter the fork offset, the longer the trail (the horizontal distance between where the wheel and the steering axis contact the ground). In theory, longer trail stabilises the steering and traditionally, manufacturers gave 29ers longer offsets to produce shorter trails for faster steering. However, that thinking is changing now that we are riding big wheels in harder terrain. Many brands are now offering multiple offsets per wheel size, such as the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate that offers both 51 and 42 mm offsets in 29” (46 and 37 mm in 27.5”). After extensive back-to-back testing with both offsets, we found that any differences in ride feel are very small and quickly counteracted by the rider’s position. We tend to choose the shorter offsets for our own bikes as there seems to be no loss of agility or responsiveness to the steering.

fork travel in bike

Chassis stiffness – is bigger always better?

The diameter of the stanchions of a suspension fork often dictates its intended use. Forks with bigger stanchions are heavier and stiffer, thus most often used with longer travel for more gravity focussed use.

The new, bigger 38 mm stanchions are hot property in the enduro fork world right now and are claimed to be significantly stronger and stiffer. It might seem like a lot of excitement over a 2 mm increase. However, given the same wall thickness, doubling the diameter of a tube increases the tube stiffness four times, meaning that small changes in diameter play a bigger role than you may think. That said, there’s always a sweet spot as increasing the diameter of a tube often increases the weight. Also, we need to start asking when a fork is too stiff. Just like overly stiff carbon wheels that reduce grip in certain situations, compliance is important in forks too.

If you race, are a very heavy rider or push hard enough to flex a FOX 36 or RockShox Lyrik, then the latest generation of super forks will be ideal for you. However, if you are looking for more of an all-round bike for fun laps with friends and post-work shreds, the lighter and more comfortable 36/35 mm chassis may be the best choice. It’s ‘mountain bike rider nature’ to lust after the latest models and flagship products, but by being honest with yourself about how and where you ride, you will end up with a more balanced bike that best suits the riding you do.

There are no longer good and bad forks, only good and great forks. Now, more than ever, the correct setup is key. If you want to find out more about how to get the most out of your bike, check out our complete guide to suspension fork setup . You can have the incredible RockShox Lyrik Ultimate but if you set it up badly, it will perform worse than a well set up RockShox Yari RC. Unlike shocks, where frame engineers use the rear suspension kinematics to control the forces acting on the shock, suspension forks all encounter the same leverage ratio: 1:1. Different riders with different riding styles may want different responses from their suspension fork. Some desire buttery smooth small bump compliance, some want huge support for big jumps and high speeds, some just want an easy-going touring setup. Manufacturers now have to balance the needs of those who want a good setup from the box, with those who love tinkering and agonise over one click of compression damping. Tuning focussed brands like DVO, FOX and Manitou allow almost every aspect of the suspension performance to be modified to suit the rider’s preferences, while Marzocchi, Ӧhlins and RockShox try to keep setup simple.

fork travel in bike

The aim of this test was to find the ultimate enduro fork – the fork that delivers the highest performance on everything from fast and loose natural singletrack to full-bore shit-yourself downhill tracks. Dual crown forks were out, as were skinny and flexible trail forks that put too much emphasis on reducing weight. We tested each fork at 170 mm (except for the FOX 36 which was tested at 160 mm due to its new position in the FOX lineup) and in the 29er wheel size. Both FOX and RockShox have huge lineups so we tested both their 36 and Lyrik platforms, as well as the bigger 38 and ZEB big-hitters. The Manitou Mezzer PRO and Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air had to be included as both use three air chambers for extreme tunability. We wanted some coil options too – for riders who want minimal maintenance and easy setup, coil makes a lot of sense. The MRP Ribbon Coil stood out with it’s Ramp Control feature allowing the end-stroke progression to be adjusted and we had heard great things about the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil. Rounding out the 9 fork test field was the DVO Onyx SC D1 as a tuner’s favourite, giving great control over every aspect of the fork.

fork travel in bike

Where is the Formula Selva, Intend Edge, EXT ERA and the burlier Öhlins?

There are some notable omissions in this group test with EXT, Formula and Intend missing, though all were invited to participate. EXT were keen to meet their pre-orders before sending a fork, but we have one coming and will update the review as soon as we have given it a hammering. Formula did not think that their Selva R fitted well with the latest 38 mm chassis forks and declined the offer – perhaps they are working on something new? We were keen to get a new Intend upside-down fork into the test but owner Cornelius indicated that our findings would be similar to the last fork we tested and declined our offer. By the time we headed into our back to back test session, the burlier RXF38 offering from Öhlins was still a well kept Swedish secret. However, we are very excited to put the stiffer chassis Öhlins head to head against the competition soon.

While undeniably fun, it’s not an easy job testing suspension forks. With infinitely variable air springs, bottomless tokens and 4-way adjustable dampers, the possible configurations of each fork are almost limitless and that’s before even thinking about custom tuning. A well set up average fork will easily outperform a poorly setup exceptional fork, so it’s important to ensure each fork is dialled in before testing. We were interested to see how much time you allocate to fork setup and so we reached out over Instagram . Given the choice between “Less than one hour” or “More than one hour” over 650 of you responded and the responses were split 50/50. That means for every one of you that likes to incrementally tweak the low-speed compression adjuster each and every ride, there’s someone else who sets their fork once in the car park and never looks at it again.

fork travel in bike

Many brands are working hard to make their suspension forks easier to set up. Nearly all the models in this group test now feature recommended pressure stickers on the fork legs and some have interactive tuning apps to help the rider get a good starting point. The brand who is doing the best is certainly RockShox. Not only do they offer their TrailHead app, walking you through suspension setup but the ZEB and Lyrik both have sag markings on the stanchions, letting you quickly establish if you have the correct air pressure in the fork.

fork travel in bike

How did we test?

During the back to back sessions, we first set the fork using the manufacturer’s recommended setting for a given rider weight (fully kitted). Sag was recorded and recommended compression settings were used if given by the manufacturer. Several shuttle runs were performed to assess the manufacturer recommended setup before the test riders were free to tune the forks to their own preference. Forks were swapped during the midday break to ensure a reference point while experiences were still fresh. Runs were timed to be able to compare forks further and the testers rode at a speed where they were fast, but not out of control.

fork travel in bike

There’s no place like home, especially when your UK office is based in the Tweed Valley, Scotland. With world-class, shuttle accessed DH and enduro trails right on the doorstep, we decided to keep the test close to home, on tracks that we had ridden thousands of times. Using the Adrenalin Uplift shuttle for support, we established two test tracks: the first a derivative of the legendary iXS downhill track with high-speed root gardens, eyeball popping turns and some fair-sized step-downs. The second took us from the doubles of Make or Brake into the fiercely washed out and hammered turns of Gold Run. Both tracks were just over 3 minutes of flat-out descending and each of the test riders knew every inside line and compression.

fork travel in bike

The test team

Everyone’s thoughts on suspension and setup are different, so it was important that we had a large test team to put the forks through their paces.

fork travel in bike

We didn’t ride any faster on the bigger 38 mm platforms

Looking at the timing data, switching from a FOX 36 to FOX 38 or Lyrik Ultimate to a ZEB Ultimate did not result in an observable increase in speed. While we picked terrain that should have favoured a bigger fork, our 75–90 kg riders were just as fast on the (relatively) smaller platforms. We did find the big FOX 38 was more sensitive and offered slightly more grip, but it didn’t take chunks out of the stopwatch. Admittedly, we weren’t riding at race pace but were riding at the fastest speed the bike allowed without risk of crashing – the kind of speed you run when hunting down your mates on a trail. Racers may be able to exploit the stiffer chassis when riding right on the limit to save a few seconds here and there but if your riding is more mid-pack, upgrading to a 38 mm chassis will not put you on top of the podium.

fork travel in bike

Some forks take a lot longer to set up

To get the best out of their product, suspension designers need to make it easy for us. When you jump into a car, you don’t need a manual to work out how to make it warmer inside. It should be the same with suspension forks. RockShox is ahead of the curve here and both their Lyrik and ZEB platforms can be set up in 10 minutes with a wide sweet-spot. The Manitou Mezzer is the toughest fork to get right, with its low pressures and very sensitive IRT chamber, it is one for those who enjoy taking time to dial in their settings.

fork travel in bike

Coil still has its place

The Marzocchi Bomber Z1 was a highlight in this group test. Yes, it is basic. Yes, you need to find the spring rate that works for you. And yes, it’s a heavy beast. But once you find the correct spring, the top-tier performance let us keep up with the big boys effortlessly. Surprisingly progressive and supportive, it’s the standout bargain in this group test if you can swallow the additional weight. However, putting a coil inside a fork does not automatically make it great and it needs to be balanced with a supportive chassis. The MRP Ribbon Coil frustrated us with its vague chassis, holding us back on the descents.

fork travel in bike

Whatever happened to 20 mm axles?

With most manufacturers now focussing their marketing on chassis support and accurate steering, it feels as though we missed an opportunity with 20 mm axles. With the new 38 mm platforms now offering 190 mm of travel, 15 mm is now the universal standard for single-crown fork axles and the stiffer and stronger 20 mm thru-axle format has almost been eradicated from the enduro sector. Going against common sense, no forks in this test have a 20 mm option. For 2021, when it comes to enduro forks, the 20 mm thru-axle is dead.

fork travel in bike

What a battle of the titans it was! With testing over, we were left with crashes, broken bones, countless impacts and a whole lot of hollering. Overall, the standard of forks in the test was very impressive – never before has going so fast been so effortlessly easy.

Starting with our least favourite fork, the MRP Ribbon coil struggled to keep up through rock gardens and over big hits, feeling over-active in the middle of the travel with a flexible chassis. Compared to the best of the competition, we were braking sooner and less confident pushing the limit. There was nothing trail about the Ӧhlins RXF M2, which is a great upgrade over the outgoing model. The Ramp Up chamber offers easier adjustment of the spring rate than swapping out tokens, allowing you to quickly find a setup that works for you. Compared to the best in test, the fork lacks the buttery small bump compliance, though the heavier damping feels better the faster you go. The DVO Onyx SC D1 is a real tuner’s dream. Using the O.T.T adjustment we were highly impressed with the fork’s ability to track the ground like a coil. Under hard and fast repetitive hits, the Onyx makes swift progress but it is a heavy beast. If you really don’t care about your suspension setup and just want a fork that works, then buy a Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil. It’s effortless to set up and boasts performance that defies its affordable price tag. It really is the hidden gem in this lineup but is not one for weight weenies, adding a lot of weight to the bike. The FOX 36 2021 has seen some good updates too. Downgraded to an all-mountain fork, we didn’t feel that it held us back on full-gas DH trails. When ridden back-to-back against the RockShox Lyrik 2021, we found we could find a good setup quicker on the Lyrik and it stayed higher in the travel, maintaining the bike’s geometry better while still absorbing the big hits. The RockShox Lyrik won our group test last year and is still the fork to beat. The 2021 model boasts improved performance and is still great value, offering all you could need unless your riding style dictates a super stiff chassis. It takes our Best Buy award.

fork travel in bike

And then we come to the big hitters. If big-hit stability, rock gardens and sending it at every opportunity is part of your normal riding vocabulary, then you will undoubtedly be drawn to the bigger chassis forks. The Manitou Mezzer is an impressive performer but you will need patience and accurate adjustments to get the best out of it. A champion of mid-stroke support, the Mezzer handles steep trails with effortless composure but the heavy damping never quite delivered the silky-smooth ride we were hoping for. The RockShox ZEB Ultimate also requires accurate pressures to get the best out of it but it’s an easier fork to set up and with its high and supportive ride height, it’s the people’s champion. While not quite as easy to set up at the ZEB, once you have the FOX 38 Factory dialled in, it gives unrivalled small bump compliance without any sacrifice in mid-stroke support. The FOX 38 delivered no matter where we were in the travel and when the going got really tough, it was the fork we all wanted to run, meaning it took the Best in Test award.

BEST IN TEST FOX 38 GRIP2 Factory

fork travel in bike

The new FOX 38 is more than just a beefed-up 36. Instead, it feels more like a mini 40 with sublime damping and support. Available in 170–180 mm travel, it’s the ideal complement to the latest hard-hitting, gravity-focussed 29er enduro rigs and eMTBs. Overall, for those looking to push their riding very hard in the bike park, the FOX 38 is the best performing enduro fork on the market we’ve tested, taking the Best In Test. Read the full review here .

fork travel in bike

  • amazing stiffness/performance balance
  • next level grip and support

fork travel in bike

  • one of our forks creaked
  • controls need more defined clicks

BEST BUY RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021

fork travel in bike

The RockShox Lyrik RC2 took our Best in Test in 2018 and the latest Ultimate model is still the standard by which all other forks are measured. The FOX 38 and ZEB may be a better choice for heavy-duty bike park thrashers, but faced with a gnarly natural alpine trail, the Lyrik Ultimate really is all you will need. With sweet-spot performance and an amazing price, the Lyrik is still our top recommendation, taking our Best Buy award. Read the full review here .

  • superb sensitivity and performance
  • effortless setup

DVO ONYX SC D1

fork travel in bike

The DVO Onyx is a potent performer, with a stiff chassis and its O.T.T control that allows you to fine-tune the sensitivity without compromising support. The fork feels very well made, and ridden back to back delivers a similar ride quality as the “best buy” RockShox Lyrik. However, it does come with a weight penalty. If you’re looking for something different and something you can tune extensively, then the DVO Onyx will not hold you back. Read the full review here .

  • excellent damping
  • O.T.T works really well
  • HSC is overkill and hard to use
  • coil weight despite the air-spring

FOX 36 2021 GRIP2 Factory

fork travel in bike

On the trail, the FOX 36 Factory feels, well, like a FOX 36. It’s a fork at the very top of its game. The GRIP2 damper gives huge control over the rebound and compression circuits with both high- and low- speed adjustment and once dialled in, grip and support are exceptional. However, it is still a very expensive fork and the competition is hotting up. Read the full review here .

  • amazingly balanced performance
  • full control over the ride feel
  • expensive compared to the Lyrik
  • requires experience to set up correctly

Manitou Mezzer PRO

fork travel in bike

The Manitou Mezzer PRO takes a very different approach to set up and needs more attention to reach its optimum performance. Tuners, or those who are very particular about their setup will love the Manitou Mezzers as it offers almost unlimited control. We found we could dial in huge mid-stroke support without compromising the end of the travel, but we never managed to get the same small bump compliance as the leading forks in the test. Read the full review here .

  • infinite tuning options
  • great mid- and end-stroke control
  • more involved setup
  • sensitivity is good but not great

Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil

fork travel in bike

If you are looking for quick setup, maximum grip, minimal maintenance and don’t care about weight, then you can stop reading now. The Marzocchi Bomber Z1 is the fork for you and will also save you a lump of cash. However, the fork is very heavy and adds a considerable amount of weight to the bike. If you fall comfortably in the middle of the spring rate, the Z1 will likely deliver exceptional performance out of the box. Read the full review here .

  • very good small bump performance and sensitivity
  • more progressive than expected
  • performance will depend on suitable spring rate

MRP Ribbon Coil

fork travel in bike

Overall, the MRP Ribbon Coil proved a comfortable and extremely sensitive trail fork. However, when pushed in rough terrain, more aggressive riders will find it too flexy and lacking in support. If you are looking for a burly enduro fork, we would look elsewhere. Read the full review here .

  • smooth small-bump performance
  • Ramp Control works to increase end-stroke control
  • chassis flex leads to unpredictability
  • linear feel and limited support

Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air

fork travel in bike

Though having additional air chambers to tune may sound complicated, in practice the Ӧhlins is very easy to set up and performs exceptionally well. Stiffer and higher-performing than the original RXF, the Öhlins RXF 36 M2 is a viable alternative to the big-hitters from FOX and RockShox. With a heavily damped tune, it will be a fork that feels best under heavy or more aggressive riders, getting better the faster you go. Read the full review here .

  • very tunable thanks to the Ramp chamber
  • excellent support and performance
  • heavy damping suits stronger riders
  • lacks small bump sensitivity

RockShox ZEB Ultimate

fork travel in bike

If a RockShox Lyrik isn’t burly enough for you, you will love the RockShox ZEB. The ZEB is super accurate, effortlessly easy to set up and delivers an aggressive price point. It’s a fork for those who measure air time in seconds, or who can push the O-ring to the top on corners. However, with minimal compliance, you need to ride hard to get the best from it. For most, the Lyrik will be the more rounded choice. Read the full review here .

  • easy to get a good setup
  • stiffest fork on test for crazy accuracy
  • you have to ride it hard
  • never really shines

More important articles for you to check out

In addition to this group test, we have a number of important suspension-related articles for you to check out. Here’s our ultimate guide to setting up your MTB suspension , our group test of the best shock pumps and how to prevent arm pump . Be sure to check them out!

All forks on test : DVO Onyx SC D1 | FOX 36 2021 Grip2 Factory | FOX 38 2021 Grip2 Factory | Manitou Mezzer PRO | Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil | MRP Ribbon Coil | Öhlins RXF36 M2 Air | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021 | RockShox ZEB Ultimate

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more .

Words: Photos: Finlay Anderson

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Is 80mm Fork Travel Good? (Various Biking Scenarios Explained)

You’ll see plenty of variations when looking at suspension forks on different bikes. So, today let’s take a look at an 80mm travel fork to decide if it’s any good? 

80mm fork travel is good for cross country riding where you’ll face different types of terrain like singletrack, forest paths, and smooth roads. However, if you’re looking at mountain biking and you’re anything above beginner level, then 80mm will make your ride uncomfortable .

Below we’ll cover fork travel in greater depth along with other related travel suspension fork topics so you can understand everything you need to be confident in your suspension fork’s travel. 

Are 80mm Travel Forks Good? 

If you’re just starting to understand bike components for the first time, then one area that can get real confusing real fast is fork travel.

fork travel in bike

As we talked about above, it depends on what you’re using it for. 80mm travel is good for relatively smooth terrain with just a few bumps or uneven elements here and there – such as a forest path. It will help soften the impact of these bumps and make your bike more balanced, and easy to ride.

It’ll be a more comfortable ride, too. Essentially, 80mm fork travel is good for smoothing out imperfections, but it’s not good for dealing with big impacts . 

Anything that involves any sort of air time, or any route that’s particularly rough, bumpy, or uneven, will feel uncomfortable with just 80mm of travel. In fact, it could cause an injury if you’re using a fork with just 80mm of travel for a more complex route. 

Fork travel refers to how much wiggle room the wheel has with the suspension before the suspension fork stops absorbing some of the impact of the road and/or jumps, etc. With 80mm, the suspension fork can ‘travel’ 80mm before it ‘bottoms out’ and you start feeling the impacts .

Forks With Greater Travel Explained 

So, if 80mm travel is good for some things, what happens when you increase the travel amount on different forks? Considering you can easily find forks with 120-150mm of travel, that’s a pretty big difference, but what do they do? 

fork travel in bike

The larger the travel, the more impact the bike can take before it ‘bottoms out’ and you feel the impact yourself through the rest of the bike. That’s great, right? Well, it is for downhill riding, because larger travel equals a smoother, more controlled descent.

You’ll be able to handle really rough terrain with greater travel; just be prepared for a difference in handling and speed as a result.

But everything has a downside. Here are some of the ways greater travel can negatively affect your bikes performance :

  • It’ll be heavier – because the fork is larger and so are the stanchions that stop the fork from flexing too much
  • It’ll be more sluggish – the bike is slacker, and it shortens the reach when the fork has greater travel, and that means a more sluggish bike that’s slower to respond to handling, making it a less agile bike overall
  • It’ll feel different – this is the most important thing of all, because if you’re used to your bike performing a certain way right now – then a bike with greater travel on the fork will feel drastically different, so you’ll need to get used to that again

Of course, those downsides shouldn’t stop you. If you head out on gnarly tracks in the mountains and need that extra cushion on descents to make your ride more comfortable, then a bike with greater fork travel is perfect.

Income School

You’ll be able to handle really rough terrain with greater travel; just be prepared for a difference in handling and speed as a result. 

Can I Swap My 80mm Fork For One With Greater Travel? 

With most bikes, swapping out an 80mm fork for a 100mm fork is doable , but adding a for with a longer travel isn’t practical or feasible in most cases. You’ll need to be prepared for the differences mentioned above, but also for some consequences. 

When manufacturers design their bikes, they do so holistically. They make sure every part has its place, and it’s able to perform its duty for the intended use of the bike. Mountain bikes designed for advanced tracks will already have higher travel forks, and a stronger frame etc to boot.

So, if you need to upgrade your bike’s fork to one with greater travel, you can do so, but just be aware that the rest of your bike probably isn’t designed for it . That means any warranties will be void, and any problems with your bike’s performance or any damages will be completely on you. 

Still, switching out a fork is much cheaper than buying a whole new bike , so if you want a fork with greater travel, switching them is possible and it’ll make your bike much more suitable to the more advanced, uneven tracks you want to try out. 

Can You Use A Fork With 80mm Travel For Downhill Riding? 

If you decide to give downhill riding a go, an 80mm fork will feel unsteady on the descent, uncomfortable, and outright dangerous .

Downhill bikes usually have fork travel of 160mm+ so they can handle the challenging terrain at high speeds, which makes 80mm forks mostly unsuitable, and dangerous for downhill riding. In fact, most bikes with such short fork travel are usually trekking hybrids, which don’t have the structural strength to be exposed to such forces.

Downhill bikes are full suspension bicycles, whereas bikes with only 80mm of fork travel usually only have a front suspension to dampen some road imperfections on mostly smooth forest or urban roads.

Do I Need A Fork At All If I Only Ride On Low-Quality Paved Roads? 

Do you need a fork if you are simply riding on low-quality paved roads? No. Would it make things a lot smoother if you had one? Absolutely. The thing with an 80mm travel fork is that 80mm isn’t a lot of travel, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless.

It makes most journeys more comfortable, and with the condition of some of the paved roads these days, an 80mm travel fork will help cushion the impact of some of those imperfections and bumps in the road . 

Of course, you could just opt to avoid forks with travel altogether, and although some low-quality paved roads are pretty rough, you wouldn’t exactly hurt yourself or feel overly uncomfortable on the road with a fork without travel.

Still, if you want a comfortable ride, even if you only use paved roads, a fork with a small amount of travel will definitely help. 

Do All Forks Have Travel? 

Not all forks have travel because not all bikes need that element of suspension . Road bikes, fitness bikes , fixies, dutch style bikes for example, aren’t likely to run into terrain that’s uneven enough to warrant a fork with travel, so they come without suspension forks.

Sam Benkoczy

Hi, I'm Sam. I own and maintain 6 e-bikes, 15 regular bikes (road bikes, folding bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes among others). I learned about bikes from my local bike mechanic as well as from bike maintenance courses. I love being out there in the saddle, and using my bike as a practical means of transportation. You can also find me on my YouTube channel at youtube.com/bikecommuterhero Say hi to me at [email protected].

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Bikepacking with a Suspension Fork: Setup, Service, and Reliability

fork travel in bike

While a lot of modern bike standards and technologies are widely adopted at this point, some folks might still question whether it’s okay to go bikepacking with a suspension fork, particularly on extra-long trips. Others might have questions about maintenance, service intervals, reliability, and setup. To test all this, we put over 1,500 miles on a fork during a big bikepacking trip, then met with a veteran suspension expert to see how it fared, answer some questions, and do some science…

fork travel in bike

It wasn’t that long ago when big bikepacking trips called for strict adherence to old bicycle standards. Mechanical brakes, 36-spoke wheels, QR dropouts, and zero moving suspension parts were all tactical selections made to ensure that your bike was bombproof and field serviceable wherever your travels took you.

But things have changed. Components are more reliable. And the world is a smaller place—that is, in terms of being able to access parts and service. Either way, a lot of folks are still skeptical of a few modern technologies when planning for a long and remote bikepacking trip. Hydraulic brakes, dropper seat posts, and suspension forks all come to mind. On our Baja Divide trip—and then on to Oaxaca—last winter, Virginia and I brought all three of those “risky” components.

Baja Divide pack lists, Logan and Virginia

We weren’t haphazard about it, though. Before setting out, we took a few precautions to inspect, service, and make sure we had the right tools and spare parts on hand in case of issues. One such checklist item was getting our forks properly serviced by a trusted technician.

Randy Collette is a local small business owner here in Brevard who runs MTB Suspension Service (DBA as Collette Machine and Tool ). Randy has been in the suspension game for nearly a decade, previously working at another suspension specialist company, where he serviced and upgraded forks and shocks, and even developed innovative ways of doing so before the major bike suspension players offered service support programs. Randy handles the majority of the “heavy-lifting” suspension work for our local bike shop, too.

Bikepacking with a Suspension Fork, Servicing a Fox34 Fork

Randy serviced both of our forks just before we left on our trip to Mexico. I was running a Fox 34 110mm, and Virginia had a RockShox Pike 120. After we got home some two and a half months and 1,600 miles later, I brought my fork back to Randy and had him tear it down and see how it fared. For the record, those weren’t easygoing miles, either. There was a lot of rocky, dusty, and even salt water caked rugged dirt roads in Baja, fully loaded. Then, there was more bikepacking in Oaxaca, as well as a lot of day rides that were even dustier and rougher at times. I expected the fork to be shot, blown, dry-rotted, and full of sand—especially after something along the way ripped off one of the metal dust seal retainers, something Randy said he’s never seen in all his years doing this. After I watched him pull the lowers and carefully inspect everything, I was shocked. In Randy’s words, the seals, oil, and foam rings all “looked like it could have been ridden once.”

Bikepacking with a Suspension Fork, Servicing a Fox34 Fork

Service Intervals vs. Bikepacking

Get a professional service, tuning your fork, is there a most reliable fork, diy maintenance: spares and tools.

  • Mounting Things to Your Fork
  • What About a Lockout?

Obviously, I was delighted by this. It not only bolsters my trust in one of my favorite modern components, it drives another stake in the coffin of things to worry about while out bikepacking. With that, I decided to ask Randy a few questions about suspension fork service intervals, reliability, failure potential, performance, and other concerns that I’ve had over the years. We also ran some experiments with clamp-on mounts to address a concern many readers have brought up over the years. Read on for a guide to bikepacking with a suspension fork with insights from Randy provided throughout.

First, the elephant in the room. What are realistic service intervals for a suspension fork, and how does that work while on a long bikepacking trip or dirt tour? It’s certainly something I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around prior to this experiment. Fox recommends a service interval after every 125 hours of riding, or annually (whichever comes first). Rockshox recommends a lower service every 50 hours and a damper/spring service every 200. I obviously blew these numbers out of the water on this fork. When I asked Randy about this, he suggested, “Consistent riding without washing is great for the fork and keeps lubricant moving around where needed. When the bike sits for awhile, seals dry out and the fluids all sink to the bottom. When the fork is ridden intermittently and then let sit, it experiences more friction and allows more contaminants to enter. High-pressure washing easily sends water past the dust wiper into the fork, and this is worse when there isn’t proper grease and oil to guard against water.” 

Randy added, “In my general experience, I don’t see every product make it all the way to those manufacturers service numbers without incurring wear. My advice is usually annual service at least and more frequent depending on how you’re riding. Considering, I think the manufacturers recommendations are very appropriate.”

Bikepacking with a Suspension Fork, Servicing a Fox34 Fork

Our trip was long, and went above the suggest hourly interval, but what about someone doing something like a six-month trip? Randy said, “Your fork would have fared the same after six months in that region, but probably not if you were riding La Ruta de Conquistadores [in Costa Rica]. If you were going somewhere wet for six months, we could look at an oil seal beneath the dust wiper. Or say, ‘I’m traveling the world for six months and I’m fine with $300 of service when I get home.’ It’s all about balance. And things happen. So, if a severe enough breakdown occurs, sometimes we have to be more flexible about killing a part for the sake of adventure. Or find a shop.”

Considering the pristine condition of this fork, it’s important to note that I had Randy prepare it for our trip and then checked it after we returned. That brings me to another piece of advice Randy gave me: “Always get an overhaul when the fork is new so you have a baseline.” That generally requires a technician—Randy in this case—to take it apart, lube appropriately, and reassemble carefully (and identifying the placement of the lower bushing—which we’ll talk about in the “mounting stuff to your fork” section). And if it’s not new, that also includes cleaning it thoroughly, inspecting it, and if necessary, replacing parts.

Why do this when it’s brand new? In short, forks aren’t always lubricated properly when they come straight from the factory. Sometimes oil levels are low, for example. And, bushings and wiper seals are usually dry. Simply greasing them makes a huge difference in durability, especially in wet areas. As some people have reported, manufacturers don’t do this because when a customer sees grease on the fork stanchion they think their new expensive fork is leaking.

Servicing a Fox34 Fork, Randy Collette Suspension Service

It’s also important to have someone who knows what they’re doing service your fork. Most bike shops offer suspension service, but the attention to detail depends on the mechanic’s experience. Not to downplay bike mechanics, by any means, but I think of it the same way as I do when hiring a wheel builder: it’s something anyone can do with the right tools, a manual, and YouTube, but I want someone who’s an expert on the subject to build and maintain certain specialty components, especially before a big trip. The quality of workmanship could mean the difference between finishing the trip or having to quit. Randy is one of those specialists I trust, as evidenced in the continued discussion, “… because our climate is especially bad, I’d never do a lowers service if I hadn’t already gone through the whole fork. One wet Pisgah trip can cause more wear than a year of riding somewhere dry. However, super fine dust from the high deserts can be problematic as well, so it just depends on the rider and the climate. You can better prepare the suspension before a trip depending on where and how long.“

It’s widely accepted that the first step in setting up your suspension fork is by using sag. Sag is the amount suspension settles with the rider (and gear) weight in a neutral stance. It’s a fairly simple metric that gauges the stiffness of the air spring proportional to the load—your weight plus the bike’s weight and gear attached to it. For those unfamiliar, it’s fairly easy to measure your fork’s sag. You simply steady your bike against a wall (usually using a handlebar end as a stabilizer), sit on the bike, and then bounce around a little, settle into a riding stance, and move the sag gauge rubber O-ring to the bottom of the fork stanchion. Then you gently dismount and allow the fork to decompress. The proportion of vertical space under the O-ring on the stanchion is the sag percentage. Some forks have gauge markings, but if not, you can use a measuring tape to figure out the sag percentage. Most manufacturers recommend 15-20%. I always opt for 20%.

Tuning a suspension fork

Although most manufacturers also provide a pressure chart based on rider weight, suspension tuning isn’t an exact science. In my opinion, sag is the best tool we have for suspension setup because it’s a ratio that can be applied to bikes with a load. It’s certainly not the only metric to consider, but it’s the easiest way to begin tuning your fork.

Adjusting pressure based on the addition of bikepacking gear is pretty straightforward. For overnighters and smaller trips, I often don’t change the fork’s pressure. But, I generally pack light on the front of the bike, with a lightweight tent, quilt, and sleeping pad as the only items in the handlebar bag. For a longer trip, such as in Baja, I tune the fork by adjusting pressure based on 20% sag with the bike loaded. When I asked Randy if he had any tips, he suggested, “You could also start by simply adding 10psi to your fork for general bikepacking. Make sure you’re happy with how the bike operates before you add a touring kit so you know what feel you want. Also, make sure that your bar roll is above the fork crown or it will contact the tire. That being said, the manufacturers’ suggestions are a great starting point, but they are just a starting point. Sag isn’t your air pressure setting. It’s where you start looking for pressure setting. Just remember, these things only apply to a properly serviced product as your starting point. Many people who ask me for custom tuning had a shock that just needed a rebuild.”

Bikepacking with a suspension fork

I’ve used a variety of forks on long trips. My first time long-term bikepacking with a suspension fork was across Spain back in 2015 with a Fox Float 34. However, I knew there would be a couple of modern bike shops en route, in case I needed a service. In 2016, I set out on an expedition through Kyrgyzstan with a RockShox Yari. Since then, I’ve been confident in taking any decent fork out on a trip and haven’t had any issues with any of them. I feel like most name-brand forks are pretty good. That said, I generally prefer a higher-end Fox 34 or RockShox Pike as I find both operate at a very high level and are comparably lightweight. I plan on following up this post with a comparison of the two.

I asked Randy if he thought there was a “most reliable fork” and he replied, “I don’t think one fork is inherently more reliable than the other, although Fox is best at making parts available. The most important thing is having a knowledgeable person prepare the fork first. I wouldn’t take any suspension product out of a factory box and go on a trip without making some changes to aid durability and lubrication. I feel like as long as you keep moving, a well-prepped suspension fork will make it through a long journey. Overall, maintenance and proper build are what matter. Not the brand, model, or price. For travel and transportation, you need the durability and reliability that comes from a quality service. Maybe I am biased.”

Mounting Cages to a Suspension Fork

There are a couple of extras you’ll want to carry in your toolkit if you’re on an extended bikepacking trip with a suspension fork. The main item is a shock pump. Generally speaking, tire pumps don’t provide enough pressure to properly inflate a fork or shock. I’ve managed to do it with a Lezyne Micro FloorDrive, but it’s not recommended. Fortunately, there are a few small and lightweight shock pumps on the market. Here are several we’ve found. Note that we recommend buying these at your local bike shop, but if you can’t for whatever reason, we’ve provided links and prices where we found them online:

  • Birzman Macht : 240x25x30mm / 84 grams / $40 (at AMZ )
  • Topeak Microshock : 210x20x20mm / 48 grams / $28 / Details
  • Lezyne Digital Shock Drive : 225x35x20mm / 110 grams / $80 at Jenson

“I always carry a valve core tool and a spare core. The tiny shock pump from Lezyne works very well. I like to have a fender to keep dirt off the stanchions and wiper seals, too. I also like to carry a tiny set of pliers, like the XS Knipex Cobra,” Randy added.

I couple other items I usually carry on larger trips that could come into play are Gorilla Tape and a steel hose clamp. Gorilla Tape might come in handy for a lot of things, but one scenario, which is rare, is a cracked lower. As illustrated in the grizzly photo above, it’s not out of the question that a rock can tear a hole in a magnesium lower. This fork still could work, however. The bath oil would leak out, but you could easily tape over the hole and keep going. I carry a hose clamp in case of a dropper post failure, but that cold theoretically be applied to a fork stanchion in the event of an air-spring failure (very rare, see Lightning Round Q&A below).

Bikepacking with a suspension fork

Is it okay to mount stuff to your fork?

It’s fairly commonplace to see bottles and various bags attached to the legs of a suspension fork. But is it bad for a suspension fork? Items stored in this location range from water bottles to smaller stuff sacks for tools and spares, and from medium-sized items—like a a Jetboil or sleeping pad—to larger cargo cages with dry-bags strapped in. You may not need this extra storage, depending on the length of your trip, how much water you require, and the storage capacity of your rear luggage and frame bag, but it’s worth considering.

What’s the best way to attach cages and mounts? The classic method is to use steel hose clamps to lash on a cage, usually with a layer of inner tube rubber used to protect the fork. You can also tape on a cage, which we’ll touch on later. These days, there are a lot of good options for clamping on mounts. Here are a couple of our favorites:

  • Tailfin SFM : $40 (per pair) / Details
  • DrJ0n Barnacles : £14-17 (each) / Details

Baja Divide Rigs, Why Wayward

I’ve been mounting bottles and various bags to suspension forks for nearly a decade and haven’t had any issues as a result, so I was surprised to hear Randy’s trepidation. And although he was admittedly reassured after checking out the Tailfin SFM, one of our favorite products to attach cages, we decided to conduct a few experiments. As Randy mentioned “Although I thought that product was very cool, it’s important not to put clamping pressure near the bushings, if possible. It could damage them and even ruin the fork in some cases. Those lowers are magnesium, which is one of the strongest structural metals, but it doesn’t take much force to change the fit of the bushing to the stanchion.”

Mounting Cages to a Suspension Fork

To test this, Randy had a an upper assembly (crown and stanchions) and magnesium lower of a Fox Rhythm fork in a parts bucket. He clamped it into a stand and demonstrated how the bushings allow the stanchions to move freely within the lower. In short, each fork leg has two metal ring-shaped bushings (above-left) that are usually press-fit into the magnesium lower. One is just below the wiper seals at the top of the leg, and the second is placed about 4-6″ (10-16cm) beneath it, depending on the fork’s travel. These are the contact points that keep the stanchions in place; they allow the stanchions to move smoothly but they have near-exact tolerances that stop any play from happening in the interface.

The theory was, if a clamp-on mount—such as the Tailfin SFM or the King Cage USBs—is installed right on the bushing, the clamping force could transfer to the bushing, thus constricting on the stanchion and affecting the performance of the fork, or even causing lasting damage. Here comes the science.

Mounting Cages to a Suspension Fork

First, we measured where the bushing was within the lower. Unfortunately, there’s no exact way to determine this without opening up your fork. You can guesstimate, but it’s best if you have a technician mark this for you when you get that first service. We made a little mark on the lower and then clamped the Tailfin SFM right on top of the lower bushing. We torqued the bolt to Tailfin’s max spec, 3nm. I was surprised to see that this caused quite a bit of compression and greatly reduced the ease at which the stanchion moved within the bushing, to the point where it didn’t move at all without a little force. We then reduced it to 2nm and there was still noticeable pressure. At 1nm the amount of movement seemed normal. We tried moving the SFM off the bushing, upward, between the upper bushing and the lower. At 3nm, there was noticeable compression, and at 2nm, it felt almost fluid and normal with just a little constriction. We tried the same experiment with the King Cage USB mount and had the same results.

Three Solutions

In the end, the added constriction that 2-3nm imparts on the bushings isn’t likely going to “kill” your fork on a bikepacking trip. However, it’s best to take precautions for optimal performance and to not cause any damage. Option 1: The obvious solution is just to keep pressure light (like 1.0-1.5nm and try to avoid clamping on the lower bushing. The risk of such light clamping force is having a cage and bottle/gear rotate into the spokes of your front wheel, which is pretty dangerous. The Tailfin felt quite sturdy at 1nm, however. You could potentially wrap a wind or two of electrical tape around the mount to ensure that it doesn’t rotate. Option 2: Keep it at around 2nm and use the top and bottom mounts on a 3-bolt cage, like the King Cage Manythings Cage; this would likely create enough space between the two SFM mounts so they would be above and below the lower bushing. Option 3: Use the tried and true electrical tape method ( find that here ). There isn’t any pressure with adhesive tape and it works great.

Personally, I think it’s not much of a risk and I plan on continuing to use the Tailfin SFM mounts, trying to keep them off of the lower bushing (and clamp them to 1-1.5nm of pressure). When two are installed, the rubber shim that’s embedded in the mount really does a good job of keeping it from rotating. As Randy suggested, “In the end, it’s all about weighing the risks and benefits. I have no problem using the mounts, and think having that storage option is well worth the risk. No component is going to last forever, and I love the concept of using the Tailfin mounts to strap my Jetboil to the fork.”

What about a lock out?

I remember thinking that having the ability to lock out the suspension was an absolute necessity back when I first started bikepacking with a suspension fork. I’ve long since abandoned that preconception, but it’s still something to consider. Some folks might want a lockout for more efficient climbing—usually that’s more important with a longer travel fork (140mm+). For me, that doesn’t make sense as I’m very sensitive to stack height and geometry, so when a fork is unsagged and locked out, it simply throws off the bike’s geometry. This is more of a factor with a hardtail, of course.

fork travel in bike

The reality is, forks have gotten a lot more efficient over the years, and many of the modern dampers don’t even offer a lockout. Neither of the two major “trail” dampers—the Fox Grip 2 or the Rockshox Charger 3—have a lockout feature. They are more geared toward adjustability and performance with high- and low-speed compression dials and other features to tune the feel of the fork, particularly for descending. There are still a few forks with lockouts, however. Here is a list of some of the better options in the XC/Trail range, which are probably most applicable to bikepacking:

  • Fox 32 (FIT GRIP)—Open/Firm
  • Fox 32 Stepcast (FIT4)—Open/Medium/Firm
  • Fox 34 (FIT4)—Open/Medium/Firm
  • RockShox SID Ultimate (Charger Race Day)
  • RockShox SID (+/Select) (Charger RL)
  • Fox 34 (Grip 2 Damper)
  • Fox 36 (Grip 2 Damper)
  • Rockshox Pike (Charger 3)
  • Rockshox Yari RC (Motion Control)

Note that the FIT4 isn’t a true/solid lockout, but the firm setting comes close and improves pedaling efficiency. Typically, folks contemplating the lockout vs. not conundrum are trying to decide between the Grip 2 damper or the FIT4 on the Fox 34 or 36 forks, or trying to decide between a Pike and a Fox 34. I opted for the Grip 2 on the Fox 34 that I tested for this article. The performance gains are noticeable, and I like the adjustability. I also don’t see a lot of advantages in a lockout with a short-travel fork, a small and light front bag, and proper tuning. When I asked Randy his thoughts on the two, he suggested, “FIT4 is more of a pedal damper, and Grip 2 is decidedly more oriented toward descending. So, which one matters more to the rider? Do you prefer pedaling performance or descending performance? Both are quality dampers. I think for bikepacking, the FIT4 with a lockout is just a little more versatile because you can flip a lever and have a stiffer fork for adding weight to the bars or carrying some extra food or riding uphill on pavement for three hours.”

fork travel in bike

Lightning Round

I asked Randy a few more random questions that I was curious about:

Do forks ever fail?

It’s very rare, but the worst case scenario involves losing air in the spring—a cracked air spring or internal scratch or abrasion. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to ride the fork in the compressed position—think the head tube angle of a 90s mountain bike. However, the bike would still be rideable, so it’s not “trip ending.” The main causes of failure or damage I see are from improper service or the improper use of bike roof racks causing drop-out damage.

What do you think about the Quarq Shockwiz, a high-tech shock tuning gadget?

The Shockwiz is great if all the directions are followed. It’s not compatible with all products, but it’s the best solution when solid individual advice isn’t available. Any service center will also be able to help you.

Is there any performance or reliability advantage based on the amount of travel a fork is set up with? For example, is a 110mm fork more reliable than a 130mm fork?

Shorter travel forks are more durable than longer travel forks, given the same chassis. It’s simply a shorter lever that has a higher force needed to buckle it. There’s much less stress on the headtube, steerer, stanchions and bushings, and shorter forks resist torsional forces better as well. Think turning the bar to pop the wheel out of a rut.

Does hanging a bike vertically on a wall have any ill effect on a suspension fork?

Nah. If anything, it’s better, because it turns the fork slightly upside down and allows the oil to sit higher in the fork lowers and keep the foam rings soaked. 99% of the time, gravity is forcing the oil to the bottom and the fork relies on pressure build up as it moves to push the oil up to the top bushing and foam ring. A little upside down time is great. This is assuming the seals are all intact.

If you had to pick a suspension fork for a bikepacking trip, which would it be?

Personally I have a RockShox Lyrik that is still awesome after 6-7 years of use, but it’s been serviced 2-3 times per year. I’d take it just because it’s proven. I would be perfectly happy with a well-prepped Fox 34-36 or Rockshox Pike for any big trip, can’t really go wrong with the current offerings from Fox or RockShox.

Conversely, what’s your favorite fork for riding our trails around here in Pisgah?

For general trail riding here, I ride an Ohlins RFX 36 with their heaviest coil. Because after servicing suspension all day, I don’t want to check anything on my own. I really like the traction from coil suspension on wet roots and rocks and ice.

Thanks to Randy Collette for helping out on this one. If you’re local in western NC and want to book Randy for a fork or shock overhaul, service, or repair, find him at MTBSuspensionService.com . If you have any more questions or suggestions about bikepacking with a suspension fork, please leave a comment in the conversation below.

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Best mountain bike suspension forks 2024 | Top-rated MTB forks and buyer's guide

Plus our buyer's guide to MTB forks

Looking for the best mountain bike suspension fork? You've come to the right place.

Buying a new suspension fork for your mountain bike is one of the priciest – and potentially most effective – upgrades you can make to your mountain bike . Even when buying a complete bike, the fork it comes with is a serious consideration.

You’ll want either a suspension fork that irons out the harshest of trail feedback, helping your hands to last longer whatever bike you ride, or you’ll want the fork to sit smoothly into the first part of its travel to keep your front wheel stuck to the ground.

You’ll also need enough stiffness to provide accurate and predictable steering, and enough adjustability to fine-tune the fork to your needs, but not so much that it’s a nightmare to set up .

You'll probably want it to be as light as possible too, and hopefully not cost the earth.

We’ve tested forks to suit a broad range of budgets, making sure to include some top-shelf options because these are what people tend to buy as an upgrade to their bike.

You can read our full mountain bike suspension forks buyer's guide at the end of this article.

Best mountain bike suspension forks of 2024

Rockshox sid ultimate 3p.

2024 RockShox SID Ultimate 3P fork (with TwistLoc remote)

  • Price: £1,069/$999/€1,199 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 110mm and 120mm (29in), 120mm tested
  • Weight: 1,600g (29in x 120mm)
  • Pros: Initially very sensitive; remains controlled in rough terrain
  • Cons: TwistLoc remote grips don't have lock-on option

The SID Ultimate 3P is the latest top-level cross-country fork from RockShox, offering a more refined and capable ride feel than the fork it replaced.

Its new Charger Race Day 2 damper gives the fork three positions, which can be switched between ‘open’, ‘pedal’ and ‘lock’ modes via the crown-top lever or optional TwistLoc remote (£119/$117/€133).

We found 'open' and 'pedal' to be our most frequented modes, rarely using the 'lock' mode unless slugging up road ascents and the odd fireroad.

The SID Ultimate 3P is keen to sink into the first few millimetres of travel without hesitation, making for a supple ride with a smooth, ground-hugging feel over small bumps.

Its mid-stroke support builds progressively, with the ramp-up near the end of the travel remaining calm on big hits.

The new 35mm chassis enables the fork to attack fast, technical descents with precision, with only some flex being detected on steeper turns with fast catch berms that would challenge most trail forks.

  • Read our full RockShox SID Ultimate 3P review

Fox 36 Factory GRIP2

Fox 36 Factory GRIP2 suspension fork

  • Price: £1,139 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 27.5in with 160, 170, 180mm; 29in with 160 (tested), 170mm
  • Weight: 2,091g (29in x 160mm)
  • Pros: Impressively supple and composed over high-frequency chatter
  • Cons: Firm high-speed compression damping when set to open

The all-singing Fox 36 GRIP2 Factory is one of the most expensive forks we’ve tested. Fortunately, it’s got performance to match.

Its four-way adjustable damper has high- and low-speed adjustment for both compression and rebound damping. Fortunately, Fox nailed the setup guide, so it’s one of the easiest forks to get in the right ballpark despite the vast range of adjustments.

It’s also one of the best performers, particularly over big holes and choppy unpredictable ground. The independent high-speed rebound adjustment seems to make it more controlled and calm when returning from deep in the stroke if, like us, you’re running a lot of pressure in the spring.

It’s not quite as sensitive off the top of the stroke as its rival, the RockShox Lyrik, though, so there isn’t quite as much traction in low-load situations.

While very active and supple over small bumps, it’s a little stingy with its travel over bigger impacts, even with the compression damping fully open. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we would have liked the ability to run the high-speed compression a little more open for long-run comfort.

There were situations where the 36 was the best fork we’ve ever used.

  • Read our full Fox 36 Factory GRIP2 review

Manitou Mattoc Pro

Manitou Mattoc Pro suspension mountain bike fork

  • Price: £1,323 / $1,050 / €1,260 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 27.5in with 120, 140mm; 29in with 120, 140mm (tested)
  • Weight: 1,797g (29in x 140mm)
  • Pros: Lovely feel through travel; easily adjustable; competitive weight
  • Cons:  Air valve access could be easier; Hexlock axle isn’t quite as intuitive as competitors

The Mattoc Pro impressed us with its impeccable suppleness and great end-of-stroke control.

Manitou has given the fork plenty of adjustment with an MC2 damper, with hydraulic bottom-out in the stanchion offering high and low-speed compression and single rebound adjustment.

All this tech pays dividends, with the Mattoc Pro offering plenty of grip and comfort, with ample control late into the stroke and plenty of usable adjustment.

The Hexlock axle is more difficult to use than other securing axles, with a hand needed to balance the bike, push the axle and turn the Allen key from the other side of the fork.

We also found the air valve to be in an awkward position at the bottom of the fork, making it difficult to use with some shock pumps.

  • Read our full Manitou Mattoc Pro review

Manitou Mezzer Pro

Manitou Mezzer mountain bike suspension fork

  • Price: £899.99/$999.99/€1,050 as tested
  • Wheelsize/travel options: 27.5in and 29in (tested), both adjustable between 140 and 180mm in 10mm increments (160mm tested)
  • Weight: 2,093g (29in x 160mm)
  • Pros: Very supple with great mid- and end-stroke support
  • Cons: Difficult to set up

The Mezzer is a surprise performer, offering an excellent balance between small-bump sensitivity and bottom-out resistance. It’s particularly capable no matter how deep into its travel you go or how hard you push it.

The chassis also hits the perfect balance of control, accuracy and compliance, feeling stiff when it needs to – such as under corners – but didn’t cause our front wheel to bounce or judder offline, also helping to reduce hand fatigue.

The MC2 damper’s high-speed compression is light enough to absorb fast impacts and proved to be incredibly supple. Its low-speed damping gives plenty of support through turns and compressions, adding to the capabilities of the impressive air spring.

Although the air spring is quite hard to set up – and you need to follow the supplied guide exactly – once you get it right, the performance that’s unlocked is virtually unparalleled on the trail.

If you’re looking to upgrade your fork and were considering a RockShox Lyrik or Fox 36 GRIP2, the Mezzer has to be on your shortlist as well.

The Manitou Mezzer wasn’t tested as a part of our latest fork group test, and doesn’t feature in our video, but was tested and rated to the same criteria, and performed exceptionally well.

  • Read our full Manitou Mezzer Pro review

Marzocchi Bomber Z1

Suspension fork for mountain bike

  • Price: £749 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 27.5in with 130, 140, 150, 160, 170mm; 29in with 150, 160 (tested), 170, 180mm
  • Weight: 2,249g (29in x 160mm)
  • Pros: Comfortable with big-hit capabilities
  • Cons: Firm at the beginning of the stroke; heavy

Marzocchi is now a sister brand of Fox, and the Z1 shares a lot of features with the Fox 36. However, it's designed to hit a lower price point.

Because it uses a lower-grade aluminium in the upper tubes, it’s one of the heaviest enduro forks around at 2,249g, but the extra weight is not noticeable on the trail.

The air-sprung Z1 isn’t as soft at the very start of its travel as the Fox 36, or the Yari and Lyrik, so it needs a lower air pressure to get it to sag properly, along with a healthy stack of volume spacers to stop it using all of its travel too easily.

It still canters through the middle of its travel a bit more easily than those other forks too, making it feel a little less predictable and refined. The flipside is it swallows kerb-sized rocks like a champ, which means good long-run comfort.

The key comparison is to the RockShox Yari (below). The Z1 is more willing to swallow large impacts, making it more forgiving in those big-hit scenarios, but the Yari is more supple at the start of the stroke, and offers more traction and more predictable support. It’s a touch lighter and cheaper too.

On balance, the Yari just edges it for us. But if big-hit capability is your priority, and you can’t stretch to the RockShox Lyrik or Fox 36, the Z1 is a good option.

  • Read our full Marzocchi Bomber Z1 review

Öhlins RXF38 m.2

Ohlins RXF 38 m.2 mountain bike suspension fork

  • Price: £1,45/$1,450 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 160-180mm (29in), 170mm tested
  • Weight: 2,354g (29in x 170mm)
  • Pros : Smooth and fluttery off-the-top; tunable bottom-out
  • Cons: Rebound damping re-tune might be needed

The RXF38 has impressive off-the-top sensitivity, minimising trail chatter and providing huge amounts of comfort and grip.

Mid-size hits such as brake bumps are catered for with buckets of support. The damper controls the impacts with a calmness that enables you to focus on what's down the trail rather than beneath your front wheel, leading to more speed.

The fork handled compressions well, never once diving under hard braking, which gave confidence to weight the front wheel into catch berms and steep sections of trail.

The rebound damping on our test fork was a little hard, which may be a problem for lighter riders, but the brand offers various tunes, so finding the right one shouldn't be hard.

It was also a difficult fork to set up, with a negative spring volume-reducer spacer installed in the fork from the factory that wasn't mentioned in the manual.

  • Read our full Öhlins RXF38 m.2 review

RockShox BoXXer Ultimate

RockShox BoXXer Ultimate

  • Price: £2,029/$1,899/€2,279 / AU$3,265 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 200mm (27.5in and 29in)
  • Weight: 2,840g (29in x 200mm) Claimed
  • Pros : New chassis gives precise handling, DebonAir twin tube spring gives plenty of support without a firm spike or ramp-up deep in the travel
  • Cons: Rebound dial stiff and creaky

The RockShox BoXXer Ultimate receives 38mm stanchions in its current guise which adds plenty of accuracy and makes the fork hold a line well, even when traversing slippery rocks after poor line choices.

A smooth and quite ride quality calms the front of the bike and makes the BoXXer feel reassuringly predictable, while the break away force of is minimal, with the fork sliding easily into its initial stoke.

The beginning of the stroke takes the sting out of small high frequency bumps impressively well, isolating your hands without losing support.

Charging through rough sections reveals how composed this fork is, with the mid-stroke soaking up big hits while delivering plenty of support to push against.

There's no harsh ramp-up or firmness present at the end of stroke, making big drops and high speed compressions reassuringly composed as the linear nature of the fork feels like it's only using the travel it needs.

After some use, the rebound dial on our early test model became stiff and creaky, but this didn't hinder performance.

  • Read our full RockShox BoXXer Ultimate review

RockShox Lyrik Ultimate

RockShox fork 2023

  • Price: £1,013/$1,049/€1,134 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 150-160mm (27.5in and 29in), 160mm tested
  • Weight: 2,042g (29in x 160mm)
  • Pros : Unrivalled mid-stroke damper support; feature-laden additions improve performance
  • Cons: Small-bump sensitivity not perfect

The RockShox Lyrik Ultimate sets a benchmark for support and height control with its Charger 3 damper and DebonAir spring at the sacrifice of small-bump sensitivity.

The damper enables you to confidently weight the front wheel while hammering it into gnarly sections of trail without fear of the fork diving under braking.

The DebonAir handles lower spring pressures with impressively supple and effective ramp-up that was helped by the damper to not blow through its travel on big hits.

Small-bump performance is the only letdown. While the ButterCups mute harsher bumps, the fork remains almost static on small jagged rock paths found at trail centres.

  • Read our full RockShox Lyrik Ultimate review

RockShox Yari RC Debonair

Suspension fork for mountain bike

  • Prize : £695/AU$1,200 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 150mm, 160mm (tested), 170mm and 180mm travel for 27.5in and 29in wheels
  • Weight: 2,129g (29in x 160mm)
  • Pros: Great off-the-top sensitivity
  • Cons: Motion Control damper lacks low-speed support and is occasionally harsh over big impacts

The RockShox Yari uses the same stiff 35mm chassis as its pricier sibling, the Lyrik. It now gets the same supple, class-leading Debonair spring too.

The difference is in the damper. The Yari’s more simple Motion Control unit doesn’t provide the same digressive damping – blending low-speed support with high-speed suppleness – that you get from the Lyrik’s Charger.

As a result, it doesn’t feel quite as settled and supportive when braking, and occasionally spikes when slapping down to earth with a thud.

Realistically, though, it’s rare that the less refined damper lets the side down, and this is compared to the best mountain bike forks.

The Yari offers better long-run comfort and small-bump traction than almost anything else on the market, including forks costing several hundred pounds more.

If the slightly unrefined damper bothers you, you can always upgrade it to a Lyrik spec further down the road.

  • Read our full RockShox Yari RC Debonair review

RockShox ZEB Ultimate

RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork - mountain bike suspension fork

  • Price: £1,119/$1,253/€1,159 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 150-190mm (27.5in and 29in)
  • Pros: Easy to make meaningful adjustments; good mid-stroke support
  • Cons: Lighter riders may need a re-tune

RockShox's ZEB Ultimate is one of the best forks on offer, with seriously impressive composure and control on rough trails.

Aimed at enduro racers, the ZEB Ultimate has best-in-class small-bump sensitivity with a supple and silent feel that does a great job of tracking trail imperfections,

There is plenty of support deeper into the travel, delivering a calm and composed ride through steep gnarly sections where your weight is over the front of the bike.

Its progression is very gradual through the entire stroke, giving confidence towards the end, where other forks can feel harsh.

The dials enable high levels of adjustment, with high- and low-speed compression all tuneable from the crown of the fork.

We found our test tune to not compliment lighter riders, with all adjustments needing to be fully open for the desired fork setup, reducing overall tunability

  • Read our full RockShox ZEB Ultimate review

Cane Creek Helm MKII

Cane Creek Helm MKII - Enduro suspension fork

  • Price: £1,100/$1,100/AU$1645 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options: 130-160mm (29in and 650b), 160mm tested
  • Weight : 2.08kg (29in)
  • Pros: High levels of adjustability; supple ride feel
  • Cons: Not the most supportive in the mid-range

The Helm MKII has 35mm stanchions, which felt accurate through rocky sections with no significant flex or binding.

You get external low- and high-speed compression and low-speed rebound-damping adjustment.

The negative air spring is equalised manually from the positive spring, making it easy to tune the fork's progression. It takes a little figuring out to set up the fork, but once you get it dialled in, it’s an impressive piece of kit.

The Helm MKII is wonderfully supple through the initial part of its travel, so takes a lot of the sting and buzz out of the trails.

Deeper into the mid-stroke, it feels as though it relies on its spring for support more than its damping, which makes for a very plush ride.

It doesn’t have the most supportive mid-stroke, but there’s a decent range of low-speed compression damping should you want to wind some on. Bigger hits are dealt with comfortably, too.

Whether you’re hitting heavy compressions or landing massive drops, the Helm MKII’s progression builds consistently throughout its travel, which makes for a predictable-feeling ride.

Cane Creek Helm MKII Coil

Cane Creek Helm MKII mountain bike suspension fork

  • Price: £1,049.99/$1,049.99 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options : 130-160mm, 29in and 27.5in
  • Weight: 2,330g (29in x 160mm)
  • Pros: Supremely supple; easy to adjust, good bottom-out resistance
  • Cons: Could be overdamped for lighter riders; tyre clearance

Cane Creek's Helm MKII Coil impresses with its suppleness, ironing out small-bump chatter and isolating your hands from well-worn trails.

With four spring options to choose from for riders weighing 45 to 100kg, we found the suggested spring to be too soft, with the desired support still missing even when we maxxed out the low-speed compression.

After replacing the spring with the hardest available, the fork proved to be a top performer, responding well to being pushed hard on rough, gnarly terrain.

In its open settings, the fork becomes very firm, which limits the adjustability real-world usage.

We also found the tyre clearence to be quite tight, with Cane Creek giving the Helm a maximum tyre clearance of 2.5in on the 29in model. This made it difficult to attach a variety of mudguards to the fork.

  • Read our full Cane Creek Helm MKII Coil review

Formula Selva R

Formula Selva R - Enduro suspension fork

  • Price: £1,200/AU$2,099 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options: 120-170mm (29in and 650b)
  • Weight: 2.11kg (29in)
  • Pros: Wide-ranging and user-friendly adjustability
  • Cons: Narrow arch makes fitting mudguards tough with Velcro straps; 160mm brake mount

Formula’s Selva R has impressive adjustability, enabling you to tune it more than most other forks.

The positive and negative air springs are inflated independently, and you can reduce end-stroke progression with the Neopos compressible-foam volume spacer.

You also get Formula’s Compression Tuning System (CST), consisting of swappable valves that change the compression tune, giving you seven different options.

The 2Air system is useful for fine-tuning how the initial part of the travel feels. This gives the fork plenty of small-bump sensitivity, enabling the wheel to hug the ground and making it easy to find grip on slippery trails.

Suppleness over square-edged hits is impressive, too.

We found the Selva R calmed the ride and kept the front end stable, with no harsh spikes deeper in the travel. Over braking bumps, the rebound is fast enough to keep it from packing down and becoming harsh.

Even without the volume spacer, progression was impressive, and we never used full travel, so could run lower pressures to give even more bump-swallowing ability.

Don’t let the narrow 35mm stanchions deter you – whether in high-load berms or big compressions, the Selva R stays composed.

  • Read our full Formula Selva R review

Manitou Mezzer Expert

Manitou Mezzer Expert - Enduro suspension fork

  • Price: £700/$815/AU$1234/€864 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options: 140-180mm (29in and 650b)
  • Weight: 2.09kg (29in)
  • Pros: Impressive performance for the money
  • Cons: Support mediocre; digital pressure gauge is a necessity for setup

The Mezzer Expert comes with Manitou’s ‘Reverse Arch’, which sits behind, rather than in front of, the 37mm stanchions.

External adjustment is limited to a six-position low-speed compression-damping dial, a lockout and a low-speed rebound adjuster.

There’s also a self-equalising negative spring and an ‘Incremental Volume Adjuster’ (IVA), which enables you to change the positive air chamber volume by rearranging self-contained spacers.

The Reverse Arch’s appearance may divide opinion, but it works well enough – the Mezzer Expert’s accuracy through technical sections is good, and we never noticed any binding under high-load turns or sharp direction changes, either.

The fork feels stiff, but not harsh. Blasting along chattery trails, its low breakaway force means it sits comfortably in its sag and soaks up small bumps well, providing tons of grip and confidence in corners and root or rock sections.

Support is mediocre, but it can use its travel and recover from repeated hits quickly. Progression to the end-stroke builds smoothly, with no sharp spike in ramp-up.

We were never hesitant landing drops or ploughing into deep compressions. Pummel through a rock garden and the fork lends a calmness to the front end that helps boost confidence.

  • Read our full Manitou Mezzer Expert review

Öhlins RXF34 m.2

Öhlins RXF34 m.2 suspension mountain bike fork

  • Price: £1,185 as tested
  • Wheel size/travel options: 120mm and 130mm (29in)
  • Weight: 1740g (130mm)
  • Pros: Usable range of adjustments; plenty of support without feeling harsh
  • Cons: Pricey

Öhlins' RXF34 m.2 is aimed at downcountry riding with weight saving as a priority.

The RXF34 m.2 uses traditional positive chamber and self-equalising negative chamber in the spring, with volume spacers to increase progression, rather than Öhlins three-chamber design.

We found the chassis to deliver precise steering, with the RXF34 m.2 able to hold a line through tough rocky and rooty terrain better than other lightweight forks.

The mid-stroke has plenty of support, and even with the low-speed compression open the fork remained composed though compressions and high-load corners.

We found no harshness when using the full range of travel, with the fork remaining smooth with zero spiking.

  • Read our full Öhlins' RXF34 m.2 review

How do I choose a mountain bike fork?

YT Capra Mk III Core 2 enduro mountain bike

Just like your choice of mountain bike , your choice of a suspension fork should take into consideration the type of rider you are and the severity of the terrain you wish to cover.

There are a multitude of mountain bike forks on the market, from the likes of RockShox and Fox , grouped into sub-categories each intended for a specific use case.

The main differences between the categories are weight and stiffness. Heavier, stiffer forks are favoured by aggressive trail and enduro riders, while lighter forks are popular amongst those riders who value weight savings and don’t require the extra rigidity of a heavier fork, such as XC riders.

Long-travel trail and enduro forks achieve increased stiffness through an all-round beefier chassis, with thicker stanchion diameters (35-38mm) compared to short-travel forks, which commonly have smaller stanchions (32-34mm diameter).

While the chassis often remains similar throughout the price range, the internals housed within vary greatly, with high-end options offering improved performance and tunability over their budget counterparts.

Do all suspension forks fit all bikes?

RockShox Lyrik Select  on the Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro full suspension mountain bike

Based on their intended use, mountain bike frames are designed with a specific suspension fork travel in mind.

Retrofitting a longer or shorter-travel fork can have a big impact on a bike’s geometry, potentially putting excessive stress on the frame. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see brands stating a maximum fork travel for their bikes, a breach of which could impact your warranty.

Increases of 10mm, swapping a 150mm fork for a 160mm option, for example, won’t usually compromise your frame’s geometry too drastically. However, we recommend you check with your frame manufacturer’s guidelines before committing to a fork swap.

How much suspension travel do I need?

RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork - mountain bike suspension fork

How much suspension travel you need depends greatly on your riding. If you would describe yourself as a cross-country rider, enjoying big days out on relatively tame paths and trails, you will find the best balance of weight and comfort in a fork with 80 to 120mm of travel with 30 to 34mm wide stanchions.

If you love riding trail centres, with the occasional day out in the mountains thrown in, a suspension fork with 120 to 150mm of travel and 34 to 36mm width stanchions will offer you a good level of comfort and grip at a manageable weight.

If you are an enduro rider and love tackling the steepest and roughest trails around, an aggressive fork with 160 to 180 mm of travel and thick 35 to 38mm width stanchions will offer the best grip, stiffness and comfort at the cost of weight.

If you ride a freeride or downhill bike , you'll want as much travel as possible to deal with high speeds and gnarly terrain. You'll likely already be running a suspension fork with 180 to 200mm of travel with 38mm to 40mm width stanchions.

Air vs coil suspension

MRP's Ramp Control system could give the Ribbon Coil an edge on other coil forks

The spring in a suspension fork enables the fork to absorb bumps and impacts from the trail. It is usually housed inside the left leg of the fork and can be an air spring or a coil spring .

Coil springs are linear, which means there’s a direct relationship between how much force it takes to compress the spring and how compressed the spring is. For example, a 200lb/in spring will take 200lb of force to compress one inch, 400lb to compress two inches, 600lb to compress three inches, and so on.

They are also linear, meaning that no matter how deep it is in its travel, a coil spring will always compress the same amount under a given load.

An air spring is a sealed cartridge with an internal piston that moves as the fork absorbs an impact, reducing the volume and increasing the pressure in the chamber. Air springs are progressive, meaning that the load required to compress them increases the deeper they sit into their travel.

On modern mountain bikes, air-sprung forks are by far the more popular choice. They are a lot lighter than their coil counterparts and can be easily and accurately adjusted by raising or lowering the internal air pressure with a shock pump to find the perfect setup .

Coil-sprung forks on the other hand can only be adjusted by swapping the coil for another with a heavier or lighter spring weight, which is both costly and time-consuming.

Straight steerer vs tapered steerer

Ohlins RXC34 m.1 carbon steerer tube csu

The steerer is the tube that connects the fork to the bike, fitting through the bike’s head tube before being clamped by the stem and top cap. There are two standards for suspension fork steerers.

The old steerer standard featured a 1 ⅛-inch diameter from top to bottom. These are called straight steerers.

As the name suggests, tapered steerers have a 1.5in diameter at the bottom and taper to a 1 ⅛-inch diameter at the top. Most modern mountain bikes now feature this standard, which is claimed to improve stiffness between the frame and the fork.

A couple of brands have strayed from these standards. Giant ran its Overdrive2 fork steerer system, which tapered from 1.5-1.2in for a number of years, and Cannondale (plus a few other small ebike brands) have run straight 1.5in steerer tubes.

While few bikes deviate from the regular tapered standard, if you have a Giant or a Cannondale, it might be worth checking.

If you have a bike with a tapered head tube, it is possible to fit an older fork with a straight steerer, providing you source an adaptor for the lower headset cup . Unfortunately, the same does not apply to fitting a new tapered fork to an older frame with a straight head tube.

Volume tokens/spacers

Bottomless Tokens

Another benefit of air-sprung suspension forks is their ability to be tuned with volume spacers, sometimes called tokens. These spacers are an inexpensive way to tune the progression of your fork.

By adding volume spacers, you effectively reduce the size of the fork’s internal air chamber, increasing the progressivity of the spring. This enables you to reduce your overall air pressure, increasing the fork’s sensitivity at the start of the stroke without compromising support and ramp-up deeper in the travel.

By removing volume spacers, you can make your fork more linear. This is especially useful for lighter riders who are struggling to use all of their travel and bottom out their fork.

What are compression and rebound damping?

2023 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate and Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate mountain bike suspension fitted to a Marin Alpine Trail XR mountain bike ridden by Alex Evans

Regardless of whether you have an air or coil spring, the spring itself does a fairly simple job – it absorbs an impact and then returns to its original position.

However, without damping, it is essentially a pogo stick and not very good at delivering a controlled and predictable ride.

This is where rebound and compression damping come into play. Usually housed in the right leg of the fork, the damper is adjusted by dials at the top and bottom of the fork leg.

Rebound damping

2023 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate mountain bike suspension 13

Rebound damping controls the speed at which the spring returns after absorbing an impact. Too fast and the fork will bounce uncontrollably. Too slow, and it won’t extend in time for the next impact, making for a very harsh ride and compromising grip.

High-speed rebound damping controls how fast your fork will rebound from a big hit that uses most of the suspension travel, while low-speed rebound controls the speed through the rest of the travel.

Luckily, rebound damping can be adjusted on most quality mountain bike forks. Adding rebound damping (often marked ' ' on the fork dial) slows down the return rate of the fork. Reducing rebound damping (often marked '-' on the fork dial) speeds up the return rate of the fork.

Low-speed compression damping

RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork high speed and low speed compression adjustment

Low-speed compression (LSC) damping influences how the fork responds to impacts where the spring compresses slowly – think pushing into a take-off or around a berm.

Adding low-speed damping makes the fork firmer in these instances, using less travel, and can make for a more supportive and stable-feeling fork at the cost of some sensitivity on small bumps.

High-speed compression damping

The Giant Trance X 1 full suspension mountain bike is equipped with a Fox 36 Performance Elite GRIP2 fork

High-speed compression (HSC) damping is usually only available on high-end forks. It influences how the fork responds to impacts that make the spring compress rapidly, such as sudden compressions and big hits.

Adding high-speed compression damping helps to stop the fork blowing through all of its travel and bottoming out.

How do I know my fork size?

Orbea oiz tyre wheel logo

When considering a fork upgrade, it’s important to know the travel and size of your current fork because replacing it with something outside your frame manufacturer's parameters could void your warranty.

Suspension travel is often displayed on the rear of the fork legs, just beneath where the stanchions meet the lowers. If this isn’t the case on your particular fork, you can find the serial number under the fork crown.

The length of the stanchions can also be an indicator of how much travel a fork has. However, it isn’t always reliable because some forks don’t use their full stanchion when compressed.

Another important measurement is the axle-to-crown distance. This is measured in a direct line from the fork crown to the axle.

When measuring this distance, it's important that the fork is unsagged, so make sure the stanchions are fully extended before you grab your tape measure.

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Wildly Popular Mid-Travel Mountain Bike Just Got Better: Revel Rascal V2 Review

I've ridden many 130mm travel mountain bikes, and while they're fun, I usually opt for a bike with more travel or less. Sometimes, mid-range travel bikes feel like a compromise on both ends. But when I swung a leg over Revel's new Rascal, its competence in challenging terrain, playful personality, and easy climbing made me fall in love.

I can't decide if shopping for a mountain bike is simpler or more complicated than before. It's easier because there are so many competent bikes. But it's more complex than ever because there are so many good and great bikes, and you must ride them to know which is which. Revel's V2 Rascal proved to be one of the greats.

Revel released the original Rascal in 2019. It was its first bike, and since 2019, the Rascal has been Revel's bestselling bike, according to Adam Miller, the brand's founder. 

Revel redesigned the 29-inch wheel Rascal, making significant and minor changes to transform a good bike into a great one. The brand reconfigured the frame’s carbon layup, swapped pivot bearings for bigger and better ones, and tweaked geometry, rendering the bike more efficient and capable. Minor changes, including new carbon internal cable guides, a universal derailleur hanger (UDH) , and new fasteners, also contributed to the improved Rascal V2.

I rode the 140mm front/130mm rear travel Revel Rascal in Vermont about half a dozen times in late fall and early winter when the conditions allowed. Temperatures ranged in the 40s and 50s, and the trails were often wet, with slick rocks and roots. If it was dry, leaf-covered tracks were common. The terrain was solidly all-mountain, and I threw in a bit of enduro riding as well.

In short: The Revel Rascal V2 took full advantage of the update, becoming one of my favorite mid-travel bikes. It was smooth pedaling and extremely capable. The Revel Rascal V2 is a worthy contender if you want one bike to conquer all. This single bike made me believe in the one-bike quiver, from the fastest trails on the flats to super technical descents.

Revel Rascal V2 Mountain Bike

  • Fork RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 140mm
  • Drivetrain SRAM X0 Eagle transmission
  • Brakes SRAM Code RSC
  • Cockpit Trail 1 The Crocket Carbon Handlebar, Trail 1 The Viking Alloy Stem 35×40
  • Dropper post Bike Yoke Revive 2.0
  • Wheels Crank Brothers Systhesis Alloy Rims, Industry Nine 1/1 Hubs
  • Tires Continental Kryptotal-F Trail 29 x 2.4 Soft Front, Continental Xynotal Trail 29 x 2.4 Endurance Rear
  • Capable across a wide range of terrain
  • Feels much lighter than it is when riding
  • Incredible traction
  • Attractive color selection
  • Heavier than some mid-travel bikes

Revel Rascal Frame Updates

"The Rascal V2 is 100% brand new everything," says Miller. "It's in the same category with the same suspension, but we completely redesigned the geometry and carbon layup."

To make the new Rascal, Revel opened an office in Taiwan for production and quality control. They updated the bike's hardware - including bolts, bearings, and frame hardware - to higher quality and tolerances.

Revel uses Toray pre-preg thermoset carbon fiber, known for its exceptional strength, low weight, high impact resistance, and relatively reasonable price. The size M frame weighs 6 pounds, 4 ounces without a shock. On my scales, the fully built bike weighs 30 pounds, 10 ounces for a size M with SRAM XO transmission and carbon thermoplastic wheels, but no pedals ($7,999, not including the wheels). The frame is 150 g lighter than the V1 frame.

To improve the rider experience, Revel equipped the Rascal V2 with new pivot hardware. The more oversized bearings and axles Revel now specs contribute to the bike's stiffer, more responsive ride feel. They're also more durable and easier to maintain because all pivot bearings can now be tightened or removed with a single tool, not multiple. Revel now secures the shock with titanium hardware for weight savings and durability.

"We wanted the V2 Rascal to be the best possible all-mountain bike out there," says Miller. "We checked every box, adding bigger Bolu bearings where it matters. They're the best bearings with the best seals and are longer lasting. We reduced the number of bearings from 18 to 10, which saves weight and adds simplicity.

“We made sure that all frame hardware could be adjusted with one tool, not two, as previously needed. That makes trail tweaks easier, though the rider should never have to touch the bolts. We designed and built a stiffer, stronger frame with the best tolerances in the industry, which means that the Rascal V2 should be low-maintenance for a long time." 

In its second iteration, the Rascal lost weight, but Revel achieved that savings without skimping on features. Revel added a rear triangle debris guard to reduce the dirt and mud that gets flung into the bike's pivots by the rear wheel.

To keep the bike silent, they co-molded carbon internal cable guides. These also make maintenance easier because threading new brake cables and shifter/ dropper cables is easier. And they wrapped the right chainstay with a beefy rubber guard to protect the bike and reduce noise.

As with most high-end brands, Revel adjusts the seat tube angles by size so that all sizes have the same ride feel, even if the geometry is slightly different. On XL and XXL Rascal V2s, the seat tube angle is slightly steeper. And every Rascal V2 has a size-specific carbon layup designed to meet the needs of a rider's anticipated weight.

Suspension Changes

I'm a big fan of Yeti's Switch Infinity translating pivot because it gives bike suspension a bottomless feel. I felt like Revel’s CBF suspension on the Rascal V2 achieved much of the same. Revel licensed the Rascal's CBF suspension from Chris Canfield, who founded Canfield Bikes.

The system doesn't use a virtual pivot point (VPP) like the suspension popularized by Santa Cruz and VPP-utilizing brands. CBF suspension operates at the center of curvature.

"If you take VPP and the wheel axle path at all travel points, there is a point that is the center of curvature," explains Miller. "In VPP, that center of curvature can be a foot across. In CBF, it's 50mm across at the top of the chainring … what that means is that the bike has consistency at all points in the rear wheel's travel, whether you're riding up or downhill or braking."

On the trail, that meant there was no squatting when I braked. The pedal forces were consistent, so the bike felt extremely efficient and delightfully predictable when riding. 

The bike I demoed paired a Rock Shox Lyrik Ultimate front fork with a Lyrik Super Deluxe Ultimate piggyback shock. It took me a little time to fine-tune the sag, compression, and rebound settings, but once I did, they rode like a dream.

Chassis Geometry Changes

Revel took its time refining this bike's geometry, and it was time well spent. The Rascal's geo numbers are in the middle of what you'll find across the all-mountain category.

The Rascal V2 has a slacker head angle than the previous version, combined with a 44mm offset fork. The previous Rascal had a 51mm offset fork. This new combination gave the bike more precise handling and stability, especially at higher speeds.

The new Rascal has a steeper seat angle than the V1. I felt like the watts I was putting into the pedals translated directly to forward motion without the bike feeling squirrely. That's at least part of the reason that the bike rode with a lighter feel than what the scale indicated.

The new Revel is available in S-XXL. When asked why they don't offer an XS for smaller women and kids, Miller says the small fits riders down to 5'1" and that the XXL fits riders over 6'3". The Rascal's shock placement prohibits smaller than size small construction. All Rascal V2 frames have room for a water bottle, and many sizes have space for a second bottle on the underside of the downtube. 

Parts and Pieces

Instead of the Crank Brothers Synthesis Alloy Rims with Industry Nine 1/1 Hubs that come standard with the XO build, I rode Revel's RW30 Thermoplastic Carbon Fiber wheels with I9 hubs. I've tested these wheels on multiple bikes, and I loved them for how stiff and smooth they were without being jarring.

The cockpit included a Trail 1 The Crocket Carbon Handlebar held by a Trail 1 The Viking Alloy Stem 35×40 and a Bike Yoke Revive 2.0 dropper. An SDG Components Radar seat rounded it all out.

Revel specs the Rascal with Continental tires, a departure from the nearly universally spec'd Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR or Assegai/DHR. The Rascal's Continental Xynotal (rear) and Kryptotal (front) were interesting choices. SRAM Code Ultimate Stealth Brakes handled braking duties.

Finally, I don't usually comment on bike color. But the Rascal's Ponyboy Gold, a color chosen by Revel team rider and Skida founder Corinne Prevot, caught my eye, and I got compliments from other riders regularly. The other Rascal color, Pinot Gnar, is just as good and will make this bike recognizable on the trail.

Revel Rascal V2 Ride Impressions

"We set the bar high; we wanted to not just meet but to exceed what people expect," said Miller. "We're pleased with how it's gone."

I was excited when I threw a leg over this eye-catching bike. On the technical all-mountain/enduro trails behind my house in Vermont, I pedaled my standard lunch ride loop as fast or faster than usual. When I came around a tight corner and a tree had partially blocked the trail, I easily maneuvered around it without a hitch.

On a ride on Goodnight Irene in Vermont's Mad River Valley, the bike boosted off little hits and jumps and landed with plenty of suspension to spare. Cornering was intuitive and fast. Climbing switchbacks on Revolution, also in the Mad River Valley, the bike gripped the slippery rocks and roots without a slip. It rolled onto an awkwardly angled bridge without issues.

The Continental tire combination was superb for Vermont riding, with exceptional grip on greasy rocks and slick trails. They inspired me to ride with confidence on every feature.

Conclusion s on the New Revel Rascal

The new Rascal is meant to satisfy the largest number of mountain bikers riding the most diverse terrain. If you are primarily an XC racer, grab a Specialized Epic or a Scott Spark instead. If you're purely an enduro rider, hop on Norco's Shore or Yeti's SB160 instead. Do you want one bike to have max fun, that pedals efficiently while climbing, and makes you hoot and holler on the descent? The Revel Rascal is a splendid choice.

"The Revel Rascal V2 is an all-mountain bike for everybody," says Miller. "It's a bike that invites the widest range of riders to have fun on it. This downcountry 29-inch wheel, 130mm suspension spec is the bread and butter of the full-suspension mountain bike world. We're proud of what we created."

I wholeheartedly agree.

Pivot Switchblade Mountain Bike Review: Updated Classic Is Still a Jack-of-All-Trades

The latest reiteration of the Pivot Switchblade didn't disappoint. It's a a vastly capable trail/enduro bike that can still do it all. Read more…

The post Wildly Popular Mid-Travel Mountain Bike Just Got Better: Revel Rascal V2 Review appeared first on GearJunkie .

This article may contain affiliate links that Microsoft and/or the publisher may receive a commission from if you buy a product or service through those links.

(Photo/Berne Broudy)

A major west-side road is getting a face-lift, but the travel lanes won’t go on a diet

The road that divides fairpark and rose park has seen 139 crashes and two pedestrian deaths in the past five years. new plans would preserve the corridor’s two lanes in each direction..

(Salt Lake City) A screenshot of a video showing how 600 North could look as the city presses forward on improving the corridor for different types of travel.

Salt Lake City is scrapping a proposal to cut down car lanes on a major west-side road.

Initially, the city proposed reducing the travel lanes along 600-700 North from two to one in each direction, but walked back the concept after some residents said in a survey and meetings that they still often get behind the wheel to get around.

New plans for the stretch that runs from Redwood Road to 800 West were released last week and call for taking advantage of the corridor’s width.

“We’ve used that extra space to create a design that adds high-quality infrastructure improvements like bike lanes and wider sidewalks that better support people who walk and bike while maintaining existing travel lanes for drivers,” city transportation engineer Kyle Cook said in a news release. “It’s not every day that we can do almost everything the community is asking for on a road project, but we have enough room to build the best of all options.”

The road’s redesign comes as the city works to improve alternate transportation options like biking and walking and reconnect the east and west sides. When it’s built, it will join a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks at 300 North and a future public art trail along 400 South as an upgraded west-side corridor.

Besides the two travel lanes in each direction along 600-700 North, the new plans show bike paths separated from the road, new landscaping and enhanced crosswalks with flashing lights. The proposal also calls for replacing aging pavement on the road and preserving on-street parking spaces.

In hopes of limiting crashes and slowing down cars on a road that currently sees at least 15% of drivers going at least 10 mph over the 35 mph speed limit, the design includes extended curbs and a median.

“I’ve had two kids involved in crashes on that road,” said Rose Park Community Council chair Kevin Parke. “We need to slow down that traffic.”

Fears about safety on the road are not unfounded. In the past five years, there have been 139 crashes and two fatal collisions with pedestrians along the busy street.

Respondents to a 2023 city survey largely agreed with Parke. Safety along the road and speeding were the most persistent concerns residents shared.

Those who responded to the survey also said they wanted additional trees, landscaping, better bike routes, upgraded sidewalks, traffic-calming measures and more lighting.

The city’s project team will be refining the design for the rest of the year. Construction is slated to begin next year.

While the city-led project won’t improve access across Interstate 15, a state-led proposal to widen the freeway does include pedestrian- and bike-friendly upgrades to the oft-maligned 600 North overpass .

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Keep your bike safe with these staff-favorite bike locks

Bike locks come in all shapes and sizes. The rider above is using a u-lock and a chain lock to secure the bike’s frame and front wheel.

Most cyclists I know have had their bike stolen. Stolen from a college campus, an apartment basement, a front porch, the list goes on. The worst was a bike stolen during a job interview. They didn’t get the job, and they never found their bike.

Bike locks don’t completely prevent bike theft. A determined thief, with the right tools and enough time, can defeat nearly any lock. But securing your bike properly, with a quality bike lock, can deter and reduce the chance of theft, according to our experts.

To find the best bike locks, we spoke with experts across the biking industry to better understand different types of locks, bike theft, bike storage and more. Plus, I tried top-rated options for months on my two bikes in the Tri-State area.

SKIP AHEAD Staff-favorite bike locks in 2024 | How to lock and secure your bike

Selected. Our top picks.

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What are the different kinds of bike locks.

There are four main types of bike locks: u-locks, folding locks, chain locks and cable locks.

  • U-lock : A thick, u-shaped metal shackle that slots into a metal crossbar and unlocks with a key. U-locks are convenient and easy to carry in a bag or on your bike, says Chris Nolte, founder of ebike shop Propel Bikes . They offer a good balance of security and convenience, according to our experts.
  • Folding lock : A series of flat steel plates connected by rivets, typically locked and unlocked with a key. This lock is easy to fold into a compact shape for transit. One of the most convenient kinds of lock, in my experience.
  • Chain lock : What it sounds like: a metal chain with a locking mechanism, usually involving a key. The ends of the chain are connected with a deadbolt or miniature u-lock. Chain locks are very versatile, but can be a challenge to transport, as they can be large and unwieldy, says Nolte.
  • Cable lock : Lightweight, flexible cable made of metal cords, typically wrapped in soft rubber or plastic. Unlocked with a key or number pad built into the cable. Cable locks are lightweight and very easy to carry. They are easy to cut through using bolt cutters, a tool commonly used by bike thieves, according to experts. If you live in a dense urban city, I would not recommend using a cable lock as your primary lock.

How we picked the best bike locks

We spoke with bike industry experts who helped us identify what to look for when buying and using a bike lock. Based on their guidance, we selected locks by keeping the following in mind: 

  • Variety : Our experts recommend different types of locks depending on your needs. Whether you’re based in a major metropolitan area or tend to bike in more off-road settings, we included a variety of locks in our recommendations.
  • Independent certifications : Bike lock manufacturers often create their own scale or rating system to explain how tough their locks are. Instead of taking their word at face value, we picked locks that have been independently tested and certified by organizations like the UK’s Sold Secure and the Netherlands’ Art Foundation .
  • Price : Bike locks can cost anywhere from $10 to $350. We selected locks across a range of price points, but our favorites were around $100.

Staff-favorite bike locks in 2024

Our favorite bike locks came from large lock manufacturers like Kryptonite and Hiplok. We list specs like weight, shackle thickness and independent certification ratings below each recommendation. We also discuss how easy each lock is to carry or mount to a bike’s interior triangle: the empty, triangular space in the center of the bike most often used to mount gear.

Best U-lock: Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 U-Lock with Cable

Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 U-Lock with Cable

Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 U-Lock with Cable

This high security rating u-lock costs under $100 and comes with a cable lock you can use to more easily secure your front or back wheel.

I received it from the brand to get hands-on experience, and used it to lock my commuter bike. I used the u-lock to secure my frame and the cable to lock down my front wheel. I rode around locking my bike to racks and parking meters. I also used this lock to secure my bike for overnight storage (along with a bike cover ).

Locking and unlocking is easy: both shackles slid in and out of the crossbar smoothly, and the keys never jammed. I especially like that the keyhole has a sliding plastic cover that keeps out dust and debris.

This lock mounted easily on my hybrid bike , but proved more difficult for my gravel bike, which has a thicker frame and a smaller interior triangle. Depending on your bike, mounting this lock may take space away from accessories like bottle cages. 

Weight: 3.55 lbs | Shackle thickness : 13mm | Sold Secure rating : Gold | Art rating : 2 stars | # of keys included : 3, one with built-in light | Mounting hardware : Included

Best folding lock: Foldylock Compact

 Foldylock Compact

Foldylock Compact

This folding lock lives on my gravel bike . I’ve used it for years to lock up at cafes and rest stops in the suburbs and towns outside New York City. It’s flexible enough to wrap around my bike frame, rear wheel and most fixtures, such as bike racks or parking meters.

I love this lock because it is lightweight, compact and has great mounting hardware. My gravel bike does not have much interior triangle space, but this lock is compact enough to fit in-line alongside my bottle cage and frame bag . It comes with a hard plastic mounting case, two mounting screws and two plastic mounting ties. I have mine screwed into threaded mounting points on my seat tube — it never rattles, even on gravel descents.

Weight: 2.2 lbs | Shackle thickness : 5mm | Sold Secure rating : Silver | Art rating : N/A |  # of keys included : 3 |  Mounting hardware : Included

Best chain lock: Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415

I have tried and enjoyed the Kryptonite New York 1213 chain , but it appears to be less widely available than the brand’s other, similar heavy-duty chains, like the New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415 above.

The 1415 is five feet long, more than long enough to secure your bike frame and wheels to most fixtures. Its chain links are thicker than many u-locks, making them more time-consuming for would-be thieves to cut through. The chain locks together with a heavy, miniature u-lock that works just like the brand’s full-sized u-locks.

Because it’s so heavy (over 15 pounds), I recommend using this lock for long-term storage or overnight parking, leaving it in your preferred parking spot and taking a smaller lock on the road with you. Carrying a heavy chain lock while biking can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, according to our experts.

Weight: 15.25 lbs | Shackle thickness : 14mm | Sold Secure rating : Diamond | Art rating : N/A | # of keys included : 3, one with built-in light | Mounting hardware : N/A

Toughest to cut: Hiplok D1000 U-lock

Hiplok D1000 U-lock

Hiplok D1000 U-lock

No lock is impenetrable. But heavy-duty locks like this one are some of the toughest on the market, according to our experts. The D1000 has the highest Sold Secure and Art rating of all of our recommendations, but doesn’t weigh much more than a typical u-lock.

The D1000 is made of hardened steel reinforced with graphene, making it more resistant to portable angle-grinders, one of the most powerful tools bike thieves utilize, according to the brand.

It is smaller than many u-locks — some customers report that it is too small to easily secure large cargo bikes with thicker frames to some fixtures. D1000 mounting hardware is sold separately.

Weight: 3.97 lbs | Shackle thickness : 20mm | Sold Secure rating : Diamond | Art rating : 4 stars | # of keys included : 3 | Mounting hardware : Not included

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How to lock and secure your bike.

You can have the best bike lock on the market, but if you don’t use it correctly, it is about as good as wishful thinking. All of our experts spoke at length about the importance of proper locking technique. Below is some of their key advice:

Lock your frame first, wheels second

Always make sure that you lock your bike’s frame to a steady fixture. Your bike frame is generally the most valuable part of your bike, says Nolte. If a thief can take your frame, they can walk away with everything on your frame too.

If you can, lock both your frame and your front wheel. The front wheel is one of the easiest things for a thief to steal, according to our experts. Depending on how big your bike is and what you are locking to, you may be able to lock your frame and front wheel with the same lock. If not, you can supplement a u-lock with a cable add-on , or carry two locks with you.

The frame and the front wheel are the two pieces our experts highlighted most. After those two, the rear wheel and seat post are worth considering. Long chain locks can often secure the frame, front wheel and rear wheel at the same time. For your seat post, consider a supplemental cable lock or cable add-on.

Park smartly

It’s best to lock your bike in a well-lit, well-trafficked area in public view, says Alison Dewey, the director of education at the League of American Bicyclists . Be sure to lock it to something immovable — do not lock it to something like a patio chair or sandwich board sign. Inverted U bike racks are one of the best places to park, and let you more easily lock both your frame and front wheel with one lock, says Dewey.

Lock your bike in plain sight. If you are going into a coffee shop or deli, lock it somewhere where you will be able to see it from inside the store, if possible.

For commuters, Nolte and Neile Weissman, the public relations director at New York Cycle Club , recommend bringing your bike inside, when possible. If your workplace does not accommodate bikes, some parking garages have bike storage options, usually for a monthly fee, says Nolte — see if there is one near your workplace.

Take accessories with you

Anything that is easy to take on and off your bike, think GPS units, bike lights, water bottles and saddlebags, is easy to steal. After locking your bike, be sure to take these kinds of accessories with you as you go, says Dewey.

Carry your lock on your bike, not your body

Large chain locks and u-locks don’t always come with mounting hardware, and can be uncomfortable to carry while biking. But you should avoid wearing your bike lock on your body, says Weissman. If you crash and fall, the hard metal bike lock may sandwich between your body and the ground, leading to a worse injury. 

Also, wearing a u-lock or chain lock isn’t very comfortable, and can get your clothes dirty, in my experience.

Most u-locks and folding locks thankfully come with mounting hardware that makes it easy to affix them to your bike’s frame. For chain locks, consider riding with a backpack, frame bag or pannier. You can also wrap small chain locks around your seat post or handlebars in a pinch, just be sure it doesn’t interfere with moving parts like pedals, gears and brakes.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Chris Nolte is the founder and owner of Propel Bikes , an ebike retailer with locations in New York, California and Delaware. He founded the company in 2011 with an emphasis on ebike education.
  • Alison Dewey is the director of education at the League of American Bicyclists , a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating safer roads and stronger communities for bikers in America.
  • Neile Weissman is the public relations director at New York Cycle Club , one of the biggest cycling organizations in New York City.

Why trust NBC Select?

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at NBC Select who covers technology and fitness including guides to cycling shoes , fitness trackers and workout headphones . To better understand different types of bike locks, he spoke with biking industry experts. A cyclist himself, he also tried top-rated bike locks with his two bikes.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance , tech and tools , wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

fork travel in bike

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter for Select on NBC News.

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  1. Suspension travel: Understanding fork length and how it ...

    We recommend that a trail fork ideally have 34mm stanchions, at 130-140mm, for a 29er - possibly, up to 150mm, for the smaller 27.5in wheel size. As fork travel increases with trail bikes, the latitude of responsiveness from your damper becomes more complex. You will see premium trail bike forks offering high- and low-speed compression ...

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