If you’ve watched any World Cup XC racing recently you’ll see that courses have seriously stepped up in terms of the size of rock gardens and drops regularly featured and the speed riders are hitting them at. Increasingly trail-style geometry numbers, full suspension and dropper posts also up the potential for pilots to get really aggressive on short-travel bikes. That puts even more pressure on the forks that have to handle these faster, bigger loads first though but Fox’s latest 32 Step Cast is its most impressive so far.
The lower legs of the SC stay the same, with their distinctive STEP CAST inside tip cut outs allowing a 10mm narrower stance than non SC 32s. The SC design also raises the floor of the damper and spring chambers to reduce weight, with a basket-style extender on the rebound rod to keep weight to a minimum. Sticking with an alloy rather than carbon steerer means no need for a heavier carbon headset plug either.
The crown is all-new though and, according to Fox, it gives the same stiffness figures as the bigger-legged 34 but only adds 30g so weight is still only just over 1400g for the 29er version including bolted ‘Kabolt’ axle. The Factory version gets Fox’s signature golden Kashima coating on the upper legs, while the Performance option uses the same architecture just with a cheaper black anodised stanchion finish.
There are 27.5- and 29-inch wheel options and two offset options for both forks but travel is limited to 100mm and fork clearance to 2.3in. That means it’s definitely XC focused and not as fatter-rubber versatile as the RockShox SID if you’re thinking of going 2.4in like Schurter and others.
Packing consistent impact control into just 100mm of travel without compromising sensitive traction or blowing through to the bumps stops isn’t easy. Fox has a track record of doing it better than anyone else though and the latest 32 SC is no different. The increased volume EVOL negative spring makes it super grippy to stop skip and chatter around sag point when climbing or scrabbling for connection as the trail falls away in a corner. Transition into the supportive mid-stroke never feels choked or constipated though, just predictable and purposeful, and it carries on feeling that composed and communicative to full travel. You can alter progression easily by adding internal spacers to the top cap of the air spring too, so it’s simple to balance to preference or sync with rear suspension feel. There’s a recommended pressure chart on the left leg too, although we generally added 10 per cent over the guide figures to keep the fork in the sweet spot.
The FIT 4 damper gives Open, Medium and Firm base settings with a sweep of the blue fork top lever (or you can choose a two-position remote control lever) and fine adjustment of low-speed compression in Open mode via a smaller central dial. Unlike older, longer-travel Fox forks, not only is the damping flawless in terms of composure, the adjustment range is ample whether you’re a light, smooth-lining XC whippet or a heavy, hard charger who wants minimal movement outside of emergencies. If you’re not a fettler or lever flicker the good news is that it runs fine in all but extreme rider/riding situations with just a basic sag and rebound check and the FIT 4 damper left open. If that’s your approach though you may as well get the Performance model with the excellent Grip damper cartridge which limits adjustability but still delivers outstanding control for less cash.
None of the above will come as a surprise to current 32 owners as the internals are unchanged to previous models, but where the new fork really shines is steering precision. Fox’s claim that the 20 per cent crown gains make it as stiff as the 34 rings true when riding the two forks back-to-back with the same wheel and tyre combo. Then again the 34 isn’t particularly stiff so it’s not a massive boast and it’s still not as stiff as DT’s OPM fork. It definitely handles bullying from the trail, aggressive line choice or just the leverage of big bars and brake rotors better than the 2019 version though and more than muscularly enough for the front ends and traction levels of most bikes and tyres it’ll be paired with.
How well the proven internals inside the skinny legs of Fox’s flagship XC fork deliver consistent control and a ‘120mm feel’ in just 100mm isn’t a surprise. Fox has had that seamlessly progressive supple start to robust big-hit capture sorted for a while. That makes it a great set-and-forget fork compared to most short-travel forks that struggle to find a balance between glued down sensitivity and effective but never obtrusive control of bigger hits. The increased crown stiffness really lets you exploit that on more challenging trails too, rather than buckling under you or freaking out in corners/cambers before rear suspension or geometry is close to it’s limits. While we’ve tested the top dollar Factory version here we’ve also ridden the Performance fork and we’re pretty sure most riders wouldn’t be able to tell any difference in a blindfold test. In fact it’s probably a better fork for most riders who don’t want to spend extra time tuning before they hit the trail and are unlikely to tweak it once they’re riding so if that helps pay for a couple more race entries and a few tubs of recovery drink then you won’t miss much on the trail.
- Temperature: 12 to 23 degrees in dry and wet weather
- Trails: Man-made and natural, dirt, wood gravel trails, dirt
- Terrain: Blue, red and occasional black graded trail centre climbs and descents
Tech spec: 2020 Fox 32 SC Factory Fork
- Weight: 1418g (29er, Boost with Kabolt bolted axle, cut steerer and star-fangled nut)
- Stanchion diamante: 32mm, Kashima coated
- Travel: 100mm
- Adjustability: Self setting negative air spring. 3 position compression damping adjuster with Open mode fine tuning. Rebound damping