What is the best mountain bike suspension fork for Enduro/Trail riding? This is what our Technical Writer and all-round suspension guru Seb Stott set to find out over 2.5 months of painstaking testing.
Buying a new fork is one of the priciest – and potentially most effective -upgrades you can make to your bike. Even when buying a complete bike, the fork it comes with is a serious consideration.
Either way, you’ll want something which irons out the harshest of trail feedback, allowing your hands to last longer on the roughest tracks. You’ll want the fork to sit smoothly into its travel to keep your front wheel stuck to the ground, while offering enough support later in the travel to keep the bike from pitching and diving too easily. You’ll want enough stiffness to provide accurate and predictable steering, without being so stout as to cause excessive feedback through the bars. You’ll need enough adjustability to fine-tune the fork to your needs, but not so much that it’s a nightmare to setup. You probably want it to be as light as possible too, and hopefully not cost the earth!
Most bikes these days come with decent forks, so if you’re looking to upgrade there’s a good chance you’ll be interested in the very best. So, we’ve tested forks to suit a broad range of budgets, from £695 to £1139, making sure to include some top-shelf options.
To keep things simple, we’ve picked ten enduro-ready forks (no lightweight trail or cross-country forks here), and all are air sprung. Some of the models tested have a coil counterpart, but to keep things comparable and fair, we stuck with air.
For the same reason, we tested only 29” forks with 160mm of travel and 51mm offset. Some forks are also offered with shorter fork offset (the distance between the axle and the steering axis), but in our experience this is not the biggest factor. Different offsets have only a subtle effect on handling in most modern bikes.
All ten forks were cut to the same steerer tube length before being weighed. They were then tested on the same bike, using identical tyre pressures. We then measured sag and tested how much travel we could use by pushing down on the fork as hard as we could to get the forks in the same ball park. Then we rode them down the same tracks, tweaking air pressure, progression and damping settings until we were satisfied the forks were working at or near their best for the terrain and rider in question. Then we hammered them down three of the rockiest runs at Bike Park Wales, quickly swapping forks between runs. In this way, the differences in how the forks behaved became clear.
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