Are you about to upgrade your fork? Then this is essential reading!
Words and photos: Ryan Walsch
With lots of aftermarket fork options available we want to provide some info on suspension terminology, adjustments and what handling characteristics can be improved when using these adjustments.
Regardless of what suspension fork you have or are looking to upgrade to, a suspension fork has two main parts that can be adjusted. The spring can be coil, air or a hybrid of the two and may vary in length or include a travel adjustment depending on application. Each spring type has their pros and cons for example air is lightweight, highly adjustable on the trail, but performance degrades when it heats and is in some cases less reliable. Coil forks are typically plusher, and more reliable systems not affected by heat in bike applications but are heavier and require spring replacement for different weight riders.
The second adjustable component is the damping assembly and is usually found on the right hand side of the fork, keeping the oil/damping system away from the disc brake. The damping assembly controls the rate of which the fork compresses in and then rebounds to its starting position. The damping assembly usually contains a lockout, compression and rebound adjustments and in most cases the more you spend the more adjustments you will get to fine tune your bikes characteristics.
Rather than rating a selection of forks and picking a winner we want to outline the features and handling characteristics on 4 forks we have been reviewing or had mounted up on test bikes recently. There are far more forks available than what we are including here and everyone has their own preferences on looks, feel or marketing jargon so we will endeavour to keep to facts about the adjustments and how that relates to ride feel.