We test 10 of the best high-con­trol up­grade forks that’ll let you tackle the tough­est trails lat out

Mountain Biking UK - - SPOILED FOR CHOICE -

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.

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