A to Z of MTB suspension – fork and shock brands outside the dominant two

MTB suspension options
(Image credit: Olly Wilkins)

Looking around at the vast majority of well specced mountain bikes, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there are only two suspension manufacturers. When you look around your local store or peruse the latest bike reviews, the vast majority of bikes come equipped with either Fox or RockShox forks and rear shocks. Even our suspension buying guides have a lot of options from both brands as they undoubtedly make some fantastic products;

Besides, these two there are a world of options that might not be on your suspension radar, despite many of them having been around since the early days of MTB. They cover a vast range of prices, options, and products, and thanks to the pandemic-led product shortages, some of them are starting to appear on increasing numbers of production bikes.

This A to Z of MTB suspension brands covers everything from the super high-end custom-tuned products from the likes of Cane Creek, to far less well known but equally interesting brands such as Intend. So dive in and discover a host of other suspension options that will give you food for thought when upgrading or buying a new bike.

Bright Racing Shocks

Bright Racing Shocks

Bright RS use carbon upper tunes on all models  (Image credit: Bright Racing Shocks)

The name Bright Racing Shocks may not be one you are familiar with. Still, it is a brand with unique designs and ideas based on a long history of engineering excellence in the aerospace field and automotive and motorbikes. Bright has been producing its upside-down carbon upper tubed forks since 2019 but has been making suspension since 1989 under the Fimoco Engineering brand. Since the outset, it has always made high-end race products with unique ideas and production methods and even had a downhill world championship win in 1993.

You can tell just by the look of the forks that they are something special in a crowded marketplace with their carbon uppers and high-quality machined finished parts in various anodized colors, but the real story is in the way the fork rides. All other fork brands design their forks to ride with an amount of sag, which is usually 20-30mm, but Bright designs its forks to run with almost no sag – it refers to this as dynamic sag. It goes into great detail on its site to explain why but in short, it designs forks for race use and at higher speeds, there isn't the need for the fork to sag into its travel. This results in a fork that sits higher in its travel, helping the bike stay more composed. The dynamic sag is also why Bright recommends a shorter travel fork compared to other brands. For example, despite only having 130mm of travel, the latest Skunk fork is designed to be used on 150mm travel bikes, as the lack of sag means the fork sits higher in its travel to start with.

An upside-down fork, especially a single crown, can be prone to flex and a loss of torsional stiffness but Bright uses several clever ideas to help combat this. First, the chassis is more significant than a standard fork, with an external width of 46mm. Still, the main reason is a floating bushing system that maintains a level of stiffness usually found on a triple-clamp fork.

Bright Racing Shocks Skunk

The Skunk uses an upside down design  (Image credit: Bright Racing Shocks)

Standout model: Bright Racing Shocks Skunk 

The Skunk is the latest fork to be released by Bright Racing Shocks. This is a trail and all-mountain fork with 130mm of travel, but thanks to its dynamic sag, it rides like most brands' 150mm forks. It has 35mm stanchions but huge 46mm outer legs. The uppers are carbon fiber, and all alloy parts can be ordered in various anodized colors.

You can find out more at brightracingshocks.com (opens in new tab).

Cane Creek

Cane Creek DB air

Cane Creek DB air  (Image credit: Cotic Rich Baybutt)

Cane Creek is an employee-owned performance bike part manufacturer that makes a wide variety of parts, including headsets, wheels, and the fantastic EEwings Titanium cranks alongside forks and rear shocks. 

The fork range consists of three variants of the Helm fork aimed mainly at trail and enduro riders with 130-160mm of travel, but it's the rear shocks that the company is best known for. 

It has two models, the Double Barrel and Kitsuma, in either air or coil versions, and both utilize twin-tube damping under license from the high-end motorsports brand Ohlins. Cane Creek was the first to bring such tech to the mountain bike arena and has quite a loyal following with riders who appreciate how to get the most from a complicated shock.

Cane Creek Kitsuma

The huge range of adjustment available on the Kitsuma rear shock negates the need for custom tunes (Image credit: Cotic Rich Baybutt)

The Kitsuma is the latest of the two shocks and has such a wide potential range of adjustments that Cane Creek feels that no custom tunes are required at all. It is a fantastic product, but it benefits those who are willing to put the time into getting the shock set up correctly.

Cane Creek Helm

Cane Creek Helm (Image credit: Cotic Rich Baybutt)

Standout model: Cane Creek Kitsuma rear shock

The Cane Creek Helm is a fork we have tested here at Bike Perfect, but the real jewel in the Cane Creek range is the Kitsuma rear shock. With a myriad of tuning options and adjustments in either air or coil, it has the potential to improve any bike if you are willing to spend the time setting it up.

Find out more at canecreek.com (opens in new tab).

DT Swiss

DT Swiss F232 fork

The DT Swiss F232 is a common sight at the front of XC races (Image credit: DT Swiss)

While DT Swiss are well known for their wheels, their suspension forks go under the radar. Their suspension origins began when DT Swiss purchased the Pace brand back in 2006. The current range has precious little in common with the older designs and has recently undergone a full overhaul.

Currently, the DT Swiss range consists of two forks and two rear shocks. It's a simple range, but one that features plenty of high-end tech and some great ideas that really differentiate them from other products on the market, coupled with legendary Swiss reliability. 

The 232 range is primarily XC focused and aims to give light component weight and performance. That said, the 120mm fork is suitably stiff enough for downcountry too.

The 535 range is aimed at trail riders and, much like the F232, punches above its weight in terms of stiffness and, as such, makes it a great fit for eMTB use. It utilizes coilpar technology, which basically means it uses a combination of both coil and air springs to achieve great small bump sensitivity and a progressive feel, which helps maintain grip whilst also aiding with control in technical sections.

DT Swiss has a long-established history of producing reliable, well-engineered products with readily available spares and service parts. Its suspension offerings are no exception, with service partners globally and parts available from your local bike shop.

DT Swiss F232 fork

The F232 is a stiff but lightweight XC fork (Image credit: DT Swiss)

Standout model: DT Swiss F232 fork

The highlight in the DT Swiss range is the F232 fork, which has a high racing heritage and doubles up as a great downcountry option. Available in two different offsets and up to 120mm of travel, this lightweight but stiff fork is a great option.

Find out more at dtswiss.com (opens in new tab).

DVO

DVO Jade

The DVO Jade coli rear shock offers custom-tuned options  (Image credit: DVO)

DVO is a relatively new brand compared to some of the others in this list, having started in 2012, but the brand was set up by the original founders of Marzocchi USA, who were responsible for bringing the bomber range to the market in the 90s and 2000s.

DVO utilizes SR Suntour's extensive production facilities (it's not the only brand to do this), but it has its own fully independent development and engineering team as well as its own production line, with products aimed at the everyday rider and not just the elite racer.

The range consists of nine forks and six rear shocks with a bias towards trail and enduro products, all easily adjustable with comprehensive online guides on how to set up; they even offer a custom tune option if you feel you need something specific that isn't available on standard products.

DVO has also been one of the brands to benefit from the shortages of product post-pandemic, and we are starting to see it featured on complete bikes for 2023. Not only is the company able to build sufficient amounts of product, it also offers great technically proficient forks at a lower price point on the shop floor.

DVO Diamond

We are starting to see the DVO Diamond fork appear more as original equipment on bikes  (Image credit: DVO)

Standout model: DVO Diamond fork

The fork we are starting to see more brands using is the DVO Diamond, which is a fork designed for trail and enduro usage with 140-170mm of travel, has three different offset options, and has adjustable high and low-speed compression damping on the top model.

Find out more at dvosuspension.com (opens in new tab).

Extreme Shox

The EXT STORIA LOK V3 rear MTB shock

(Image credit: Extreme Shox)

Extreme Shox is an Italian brand that has been involved in producing high-end suspension for motorsports with many innovations, including being the first to design a high and low-speed compression valve, a technology now found on virtually all top-end suspension platforms. Having worked in F1 and rally teams such as Citreon and Honda, the company has a rich history, and in 2014 entered the mountain bike market by introducing two new rear coil shocks, the Arma and Storia.

The rear shocks are available in a vast range of sizes and fittings and can also be custom set up and tuned by a well-trained service network to help you get the most from your shock. In addition, the shocks are packed full of features such as high and low-speed compression adjustment, separate rebound damping circuits, and even a clever rose joint fitting to help keep the suspension working as it should, even if your frame is twisting and flexing.

Extreme Shox recently launched a fork called the Era V2; this, like the rear shocks, comes in a wide range of sizes, with travel adjustable from 130mm up to 190mm. It addresses many of the issues commonly found with suspension forks and aims to provide the best mid-stroke support possible and reliable creak-free performance while being highly tuneable by the end user to maximize their suspension performance.

Standout model: Storia LOK rear shock

The Storia LOK rear shock is packed full of tech and is the perfect way to improve traction, riding characteristics, and handling of any trail or enduro bike, and the guys at EXT are happy to help you spend the time setting it up to get the most from it.

You can find out more at extremeshox.com (opens in new tab).

Formula

Formula fork

Formula puts three adjusters at the top of the right-hand side of its forks that can be easily changed (Image credit: Formula)

Formula is an Italian brand that started in 1987, mainly producing suspension for motocross and enduro motorbikes but it began to make brakes for the then booming mountain bike scene in the early 90s, releasing its first disc brake in '93. In 2012 the company decided to put the knowledge gained from building Moto suspension forks into a new range of mountain bike products mainly aimed at the enduro end of the market with the Selva and Nero forks and the MOD coil rear shock.

The main highlight of the range is the CTS compression tuning system which is unique to Formula and offers riders seven different compression dampers to tune the ride of the fork with varying levels of high and low-speed compression, progressivity, and feel for different race and ride situations. For example, the gold variant is designed as a general damper close to what you'd get on other brands' forks, the red is a race-specific version offering a stiffer yet less comfortable ride, and the electric blue is designed for the heavier weight and inertia of an e-bike.

Formula Selva R

The Selva R is Formula's top enduro fork  (Image credit: Formula)

Standout model: Formula Selva R fork

The highlight of the Formula range is the Selva R fork. This uses the CTS compression system as well as an independently adjustable dual air-spring system which enables the rider to fine-tune the positive and negative springs to get the exact feel from the fork they want; this is a fork for the tinkerers and riders out there who like to spend time setting up their suspension to get the most from it.

You can find out more at rideformula.com (opens in new tab).

Intend

Intend Hover Gamechanger

The unique aesthetics of the Intend Hover Gamechanger rear shock (Image credit: Intend BC)

Intend BC is a growing company based in Freiburg, Germany. It was founded by Cornelius Kapfinger in 2017. He began with the construction and manufacturing of super high-end and quite unusual USD (upside down) forks, which got attention from all over the globe and can often be seen on high-end custom show bikes from the likes of Instagram star Dangerholm.

The brand offers a range of forks and rear shocks covering trail, enduro, and downhill, all built to a super high-quality standard and with a unique CNC aesthetic. The rear shock from Intend also deserves a special mention, as it's a unique design. Although it uses air as a spring like many brands, it utilizes a large negative air chamber to help create a more coil-like feel and a unique look.

Intend Bandit fork

The Intend Bandit fork uses a unique single-sided triple crown design  (Image credit: Intend BC)

Standout model: Intend Bandit fork

The Bandit is a stand-out fork in a unique range from Intend, as it's the only fork currently on the market with a single-sided triple crown setup. Intend uses this design on the 190mm travel fork as it helps increase stiffness, improve the bushing overlap, and also increases the amount of damping fluid space available, which helps with the consistency of the fork's damping during hard usage. 

You can find out more at intend-bc.com (opens in new tab).

Manitou

Manitou Mezzer

Manitou Mezzer compression top cap (Image credit: Manitou)

Manitou is one of the original suspension innovators; it was started by the legendary Doug Bradbury in the late 80s and introduced its first fork in 1989. Over the years, it has released many groundbreaking designs, including the upside-down Dorado carbon downhill fork, the Sherman long travel single crown freeride fork that led the way for the longer travel enduro forks on the market today, and many more.

Manitou has a wide range of forks, shocks, and dropper posts available, covering everything from Fat bikes to downhill racing and most things in between. The range is made up of 19 different models. Apart from the upside-down Dorado downhill fork, they all use the Reverse arch technology that makes a Manitou fork instantly recognizable. All standard telescopic forks use an arch to join the two lower legs together to increase stiffness, but most brands have the crown on the front. Manitou, for many years, has had the arch on the rear; this means they can run the crown slightly closer to the tire without a loss in clearance which it says increases stiffness by 13 percent.

Manitou Mezzer

The Mezzer is Manitou's enduro (Image credit: Manitou )

Standout model: Manitou Mezzer Pro fork

The Mezzer Pro is a lightweight (2032g in 29”) enduro race fork packed with features that have trickled down from its famous Dorado DH carbon fork. Available in 27.5 and 29er variants with two offsets and travel adjustable from 130mm to 180mm, it covers a wide range of riding styles in a light, stiff package.

You can find out more at hayesbicycle.com (opens in new tab).

Marzocchi

Marzocchi Bomber Z2

(Image credit: Marzocchi)

Marzocchi has a long history in the MTB world; originally from a motorsport background, it brought a lot of that tech to the booming scene in the 90s and was industry leader in the growing freeride and downhill scene at the time with legendary forks such as the Z1 and the Monster T. 

Sadly the brand had lost its way a bit but is having a significant resurgence after becoming part of the Fox group. It has recently returned to the market with a concise range of trail and enduro forks and shocks that utilize the simpler internals from the lower-end Fox range to offer a solid, dependable product for riders looking for reliability and longer service intervals over a myriad of adjustments.

Standout model: Bomber Z1 coil fork

The Bomber Z1 coil harks back to an era of Marzocchi forks that used coil springs that gave them a much more plush feel than the equivalent forks at the time but in a thoroughly modern up-to-date package. Using the chassis of the Fox 36 forks chassis but combining it with a coil spring gives you a plush fork with extended service intervals with a minor weight penalty, perfect for bike park duties of high mileage e-bike users.

You can find out more at marzocchi.com (opens in new tab).

MRP

MRP is a name that might not be immediately familiar, but it took over from the guys at White brothers, which was quite a big player in the 90s and 2000s suspension market.

The range consists of five forks, a coil rear shock, and, interestingly, a gravel fork called the Baxter that offers 30 or 60mm of damped travel for your drop bar bike.

One of MRP’s unique features is its custom color offerings; you can order any of its forks direct from them in any one of the 18 different color options, as well as multiple offset options to help you build the ideal fork for you.

Standout model: MRP Ribbon fork

The highlight in the MRP range is the Ribbon fork which is available in 27.5 and 29er options, with three offsets and travel from 140-170mm. One thing that sets the MRP apart is the ramp control system it uses on the air spring, which is an externally adjustable system similar to the now commonplace tokens used by Fox and Rockshox to tune how the spring behaves.

Find out more at mrpbike.com (opens in new tab).

Ohlins

Ohlins suspension

Loic Bruni putting his Ohlins suspension through its paces  (Image credit: Apex Distribution)

Ohlins is synonymous with high-end motor-sports, its gold anodizing can be seen on a huge variety of petrol powered applications, and the brand is seen as a market leader in many fields. The Swedish manufacturer was founded in 1976 and quickly established itself in motocross and superbike racing.

Ohlins TTX rear shock

The TTX rear shock with the famous Ohlins gold shock body  (Image credit: Apex Distribution)

With customers such as Ferrari, Ducati, and Yamaha, amongst many others, Ohlins is a brand to be reckoned with and an industry leader in many markets. Its mountain bike suspension, much like the rest of its products, is at the higher end of the market and consists of downhill, trail, and enduro forks as well as coil and air rear shocks.

They all use Ohlins TTX damping, which is a patented system developed by the company (and licensed to Cane Creek) that essentially uses a twin-tube damper for compression and rebound, ensuring consistent performance regardless of what you put it through. In addition, all bike suspension items are designed to be easily serviced, making it easy for riders to keep their suspension running well.

Ohlins RFX fork

The RXF range of forks from Ohlins have an understated look but are packed with high end tech (Image credit: Apex Distribution)

Standout model: Ohlins RXF 38 m.2 29er fork

The RXF 38 is the latest fork from the Swedish brand and packs many of the features found on its race-proven DH38 downhill fork in a single crown package designed for the gnarliest enduro stages. The fork is available with travel adjustable from 160mm to 180mm, 44mm and 51mm offsets, as well as a three-chamber air spring and the famous TTX damper, which makes for a highly tunable, reliable race fork for enduro or e-MTB racing.

You can find out more at ohlins.com (opens in new tab).

SR Suntour

Suntour Durolux 36 RC2 Boost fork

Suntour Durolux 36 RC2 Boost fork (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

SR Suntour is actually one of the biggest suspension and component manufacturers in the marketplace, but in the past, had mainly concentrated on the mass market lower cost items specced on bikes traditionally under the $/£1000 pound mark. In recent years, however, it has heavily invested in bringing higher-end offerings to consumers but still at a competitive price point.

It has produced bike parts since 1988 but started making suspension forks in '95; it also made a gearbox system designed to eliminate the rear derailleur on freeride bikes which shows as a brand, it is not afraid to do things differently. The range offered by SR Suntour is mind-boggling, with a fork to fit every perceivable usage available.

SR Suntour Axon Werx

Tom Pidcock rode the SR Suntour 34 Werx when he won gold at the Olympics (Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool)

Standout model: SR Suntour Axon Werx fork

To coincide with the brand's push for recognition as a high-end player, it has heavily invested in a wide-ranging race program covering pretty much all of the MTB and eMTB spectrum. Still the most notable has to be Tom Pidcock, who rides for the INEOS Grenadiers road team who rode to victory in the Olympic games using the SR Suntour Axon Werx fork with electronic lockout.

The fork Pidcock used is feature-packed with 34mm stanchions, travel from 100-120mm, and has a rarely-seen carbon steerer and crown to keep the weight as low as possible.

Find out more at srsuntour.com (opens in new tab).

X Fusion

X Fusion Trace 36 fork

X Fusion takes great pride in the all-metal construction of all of its products (Image credit: X Fusion)

X Fusion is a brand started back in 1999 and offers a wide variety of products aimed at the more budget-conscious rider wanting a high-quality product without a premium price tag. Its products cover everything from triple crown downhill forks to 24” kids-specific suspension (there's even a 26” option offered for those of you wanting to breathe some life into an older bike).

One of the brand's key pillars is its use of all-metal construction in all of its products, which it believes helps to ensure a high-quality, reliable, user-friendly product. Over the last ten years, the company has also invested heavily in a global support network to help ensure users of X Fusion products never miss a ride, which bodes well for the brand becoming more visible in the future.

X Fusion offers high-performance products at a more attainable price point which, in many cases, far outperform the low-end options from the two leading suppliers often found on complete bikes. If you're finding your riding has started to push the limits of your bike's original suspension, X Fusion could well be a good option.

X-Fusion Trace 36 fork

The stiff X Fusion Trace 36 is well able to deal with all the big hits dished out by Olly Wilkins (Image credit: Olly Wilkins)

Standout model: X-Fusion Trace 36 fork

The Trace 36 is a great option for riders looking for a feature-packed well-constructed fork; with adjustable high and low-speed compression, two different offset options, and travel from 140mm to 170mm, they look to be a great cost-effective alternative to a Fox 36 or RockShox Pike.

Find out more at Xfusionshox.com (opens in new tab)

Neal Hunt
Freelance Writer

Neal has been riding bikes of all persuasions for over 20 years and has had a go at racing most of them to a pretty average level across the board. From town center criteriums to the Megavalanche and pretty much everything in between. Neal has worked in the bicycle industry his entire working life, from starting out as a Saturday lad at the local bike shop to working for global brands in a variety of roles; he has built an in-depth knowledge and love of all things tech. Based in Sheffield, UK, he can be found riding the incredible local trails on a wide variety of bikes whenever he can