We test 10 of the best high-control upgrade forks that’ll let you tackle the toughest trails lat out
It’s a big investment so you need to know where you’re best spending your money. We test 10 forks to the limit –
Suspension fork performance has been getting ever better as more manufacturers make a play for pole position. This year it’s really ramped up, to a point where it’s impossible to feel much difference between brands and price points with superficial car park bouncing. That’s great in terms of more riders getting an acceptable product, but what do you need to look for to get the best possible performance? We’ve pushed 10 of the latest and greatest forks right to the ragged edge over several months to see which are still gripping and ripping.
The first thing to consider is which forks will actually fit your bike, which is more complex than ever. Wheel size is the obvious factor – different forks are required for 26in, 650b and 29in bikes. Most 29er forks are also compatible with 650b+ tyres but not everyone offers that option, and even then, clearances can vary massively. Next, you must check that the fork is compatible with your front hub. Just when 20mm axles on trail forks seemed to have fizzled out in favour of a universal 15x100mm standard, along came 15x110mm Boost spacing, which needs a wider fork and hub.
It’s not just the wheel end to worry about, either. Forks are now available in different offsets (generally between 41 and 51mm), which can significantly change your bike’s steering behaviour. They can also vary in height (measured from axle to crown), even if their suspension travel is the same. Finally, some forks raise other compatibility issues – such as lacking space for a ‘fender’ style (fork-mounted) front mudguard or large-volume tyre, or not being designed to handle a 200mm brake rotor – which may be a deal breaker for you.
That’s probably narrowed down the options a bit, which takes us to the thorny issue of budget. Most £300-£500 forks can only offer rudimentary rebound and compression control. In contrast, even the cheapest fork here has finely adjustable high and low-speed compression damping.
Our exhaustive testing proves that forks which sound similar on paper can perform utterly differently on the trail, and that finding your personal sweet spot of control can be easy on some but a patience-stretching process on others. Weight and chassis stiffness also have a big bearing on whether a fork will suit your riding style. This is why we make sure our reviews give you the most detailed appraisal and communication of real-world ride feel possible.