The 2022 Fox 34 SC has shed weight and increased tuning options. No wonder it's winning XCO World Cups.
After the Fox 34 SC (Stepcast) was released in 2018, mountain bikers had a nice halfway house between the Fox 32 SC (limited to 100mm travel) and a shorter travel Fox 34 trail fork. The fork was a popular addition to many cross-country bikes, letting riders add a little more stiffness for the suspension to work better in rough terrain, while also knocking back a steep head angle a little by running them at 120mm - although 110mm and 100mm airsprings were also available.
Earlier this year, Fox released a whole new 34 range. With the terrain we all ride getting a little rowdier, the move made both the 34 and 34 SC lighter, but also stiffer. The new Fox 34 has a new crown, that matches head tube sizes better, a new arch for greater stiffness, oil flow and head tube and tyre clearance and a few other changes (see the link above). The changes the the 34 SC were just as important.
With cross-country (XCO) putting greater demands on riders and their equipment, the need for suspension to adapt has been ongoing. The Fox 34 SC was a good fork - but probably not light enough. The first iteration saw the SC (Stepcast) element as having materials removed from the outer of the lowers, with slightly shorter stanchions. The new 34 SC has design cues from the 32 SC - so a narrower crown, and the Stepcast coming on the inside of the fork.
The result is a fork that weighs 1.49kg out of the box with an uncut steerer. The previous Fox 34 SC weighs 1.61kg cutdown and with a starnut. For reference, my Fox 32 SC weighs 1.43kg cut and nutted, and the 2021 Fox 34 GRIP2 I tested last year (in 140mm travel) weights 1.98kg cut and nutted. Once I cut the steerer to size (-36g) and added the star nut (12g) I had a fork weighing 1466g, for 120mm travel. This is barely anymore than the 32 SC I took off.
What are the changes?
The Fox 34 SC has 44mm and 51mm offset options and comes stock as 120mm - although 110mm and 100mm are also available. Beyond the narrower crown and stance, and the internal Stepcast feature, the 34 SC also gains the oil channels on the back of the legs. This helps the oil pass to the seals to keep the fork running smoothly.
Inside, there is more going on as well in terms of how the air spring can be set up. On the Fox 34 SC, you can tune the negative air spring with a spacer, to get the fork feel just right on your race bike. If you use the spacer you'll keep a racey and firm feel off the top of the travel. Without it, it's a little more supple. So, 120mm forks won't have the spacer as stock, but 100mm Fox 34 SC will.
On the trail
I'd recently but the OG Fox 34 SC back onto my Norco Revolver FS, and the stiffer fork is hugely noticeable compared to the Fox 32 SC I took off. Sure, bumping up 20mm of travel is nice, but really it's the stiffness that is most noticeable for me, along with looking at the size of the fork in terms of the width of the crown.
This is something the new Fox 34 SC doesn't have, as although it's bigger than a 32 SC, it isn't using the same crown (and width) of the 34. This does mean the maximum tyre size is 2.4" in the new Fox 34 SC, although I think some larger tyres might fit - but you'd want to test that yourself fully deflated to see if the crown clearance is there.
As for riding, the fork feels really good. I've only put a few hours on it so far, and to be honest the seals are still loosening up a bit and it's getting a little plusher. The EVOL air spring and FIT4 damper offers no surprises, I've got 2 volume spacers in there and 68psi, with reasonably light rebound.
For the tiny weight difference, the fork is noticeably stiffer than the Fox 32 SC I replaced. This is most noticeable in rockier chutes, and even across lots of off-camber roots. It's still only one part of steering and tracking precision, and as I'm curently also testing some different bars and tyres back to back with my usual setup, you'd be crazy to think these don't all play a role as well.
So far, I'd happily take the weight saving of 150g over the last Fox 34 SC. Especially considering the weight difference over the Fox 32 SC is around 30g. This is purely in a cross-country, marathon riding/racing concept. If you're looking for a burlier fork that's light, then I would look more closely at the new Fox 34, which has shed a lot of weight and comes in around 1698g (unless you go for a GRIP2 damper). This keeps you in a broader crown and stance, and with more tyre clearance as well.
Pricing on the Fox 34 SC starts at $1389 for a Performance model, and runs up to $1739 for a Factory model with remote lock out. I'll have a full review in issue #191.