2018 FOX 34 Factory 29”
Words & Photos by Andrew Lee
Fox suspension has come a long way since founder Bob Fox began tweaking motorcycle suspension. Bob started with motocross products in the 70’s– a humble start in the dirt compared to where the brand is today. Now Fox has OE-spec shocks on Ford Raptor trucks, race car suspension, of both dirt and street varieties, and even a strong line of snow and Harley Davidson products. There’s no one else in the suspension game with a portfolio like theirs.
For 2018, Fox introduced the Evol air cartridge to the 34 line. According to Mark Jordan, Fox’s marketing manager, “The Float Evol air spring produces a more linear spring curve, providing a plusher feel off the top. It also balances the mid-stroke so the fork stays up in the middle of the travel better during cornering, moderate drops, and under heavy braking.” Years ago these were areas Fox’s forks suffered from greatly.
At the opposite side of the fork, the three position Fit 4 damper allows for a simple user interface, and fantastic performance. Jordan added, “The damping circuit for the Firm mode is separate from the damping circuits for the Medium and Open modes.” This allows Fox to offer a very Firm mode that approaches lockout without compromising bump compliance in Medium and Open modes.
The Fit damper is based on a bladder system, which should be familiar to anyone that’s opened a Fox fork. Jordan went on to say, “A major benefit of a bladder system is that it has less friction and heat buildup compared to an Internal Floating Piston (IFP) design.” For aftermarket Fox 34 models like the one we tested, Fox went to a three-position damper several years ago. The 3 position dial is all about usability and simplicity on the trail. For riders that don’t like to tinker with dials for high/low speed compression, the FIT4 3 position system can’t be beat. Jordan notes that, “Factory and Performance Elite models offer an additional 22 clicks of low-speed compression damping in the Open mode.”
The 34 we tested is the exact same fork that any of you would receive if you purchased one aftermarket. Included in the well-packaged box is a manual full of instructions, and some extra volume spacers for additional tuning. Fox also includes a new star nut so all you have to do is swap the headset race from your old fork, measure the steerer tube length, cut, insert the new star nut and slide it in the frame. If needed, travel can also be adjusted internally.
Initial setup is very easy and Fox includes an air pressure guide on the left fork tube that gives you a solid starting point based off your weight. Without taking too much time and just running the recommended air pressure and tuning, the fork feels solid out of the box. That’s not something I can say about all Fox’s competitors. The black knob on top of the right fork tube is used to adjust the low speed compression in Open mode only. Fox made the reactivity of this adjustment very noticeable with only a few turns clockwise you drastically feel the effects. One of the best features of the Fox 34 is the 15mm through axle, which is the simplest, quickest and easiest fork axle on the market.
Summed up in one word, this fork is buttery. Fox has been pushing to make the 34 the best trail fork on the market and that hard work is very evident. The addition of their new Evol technology is a massive improvement– flat out. Having ridden, owned and paid good money for a 2016 model 34 without Evol, I can definitely attest to the claims Fox has made. Everything I loved about their previous fork has only been magnified on the 2018. The new 34 offers substantially improved small bump compliance, stronger mid-range support and more bottom out resistance than ever before.
Even climbing, the fork’s off the top sensitivity is hard to miss. The big “wow” moment though happened as I pointed it back down. It was almost as if the fork had its own paving crew– the trail features disappearing under my fork. Ok, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is rather astounding as braking bumps, embedded rocks and small chatter get gobbled up. All that sensitivity and compliance means increased traction for the front wheel. I now track through corners I used to skip across.
Out of the box our 29” 34 Factory fork came with two pre-installed tokens. Going off their air pressure guide the fork was very smooth through the full range of travel. After a few rides and playing with all the knobs, I realized I wanted a bit more ramp toward the end of the stroke. It was token time, and I added two more to get the progressivity I needed. Now, with a total of four tokens installed, it was ready for some more flogging. Before the token install I hucked a local drop to flat and I was very curious to see the change in performance. Adding the tokens and dropping a few PSI, I was able to achieve nearly the same exact ride off the top, but gained much more bottom out resistance. The harshness off the test drop was greatly reduced.
Weighing in at just 3.92 pounds, the 34 chassis is stiffer than the Rock Shox Pike, while still remaining fairly light. It’s worth mentioning that in the 29” platform, the 34 has significantly more give than a 36, so if stiffness is your thing or you frequently find yourself on gnarly terrain, a 36 chassis may be the better choice. That being said, I’ll confess, I do like to count grams. A lighter bike is definitely easier to throw around and I can appreciate that Fox constantly puts forth effort to lighten up their products anywhere they can without sacrificing performance.