Fox Suspension is pushing ahead harder than ever before with the overhaul of their 32 short travel Step Cast fork and we have all the details.
Words and Photos: Mike Blewitt
With the move to longer travel bikes as the norm, it is exciting to see suspension powerhouse Fox invest into their new 32 Step-Cast (SC) for 2017. With 80mm and 100mm travel options available this is not a trail fork – it is purely for XCO and marathon racing. Weighing in at a confirmed 1.36kg for our 29” test model, it is also the lightest fork Fox has ever produced. What better time to invest into your XC range than in an Olympic year?
The biggest changes with the fork are around the chassis. Fox slimmed the width of the fork down from 130mm to 120mm, which is why the lower legs are ‘stepped’ in, so the hub flanges, spokes and disc rotor all fit. The upper legs of the fork also had to be shortened. But if you look over the lowers, you can tell there is no excess material hanging around. The arch has a different shape to a normal 32, and even around the dropouts and disc brake mount, it’s evident that every gram has been shaved.
Internally, the changes are minor - but certainly harder to spot. The excellent FIT4 cartridge remains, with a few changes like an alloy piston. The Factory series forks also have a more race specific tune as stock, as they really are a high performance fork designed around being firm under power, and not diving through their travel.
Externally, the settings remain the same, with Open, Medium and Firm settings and a 22 point external compression damping adjustment. As I poined out when reviewing the 2016 32 Factory fork, spending time getting to appreciate those settings is crucial. On FIT3, many riders opted to ride in Medium unless they were on a road climb, or bombing a descent. The Open position is now the most versatile, as the suspension action is plush but controlled, and the compression damping allows you to get the feel just as you want. I tend to run 5 or 6 clicks in, but do wind it out towards the end of a long ride or race, and through a stage race too.
Rebound is adjustable at the base of the leg, and I did find I was running a slightly lighter reboudn than on the previous model.
Fox sell the 32 SC Factory in 80 and 100mm travel options for 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes, and they come in orange, black or white. Models are available with Boost 110mm spacing or 15x100, and the Kabolt is standard spec. Both 45mm and 51mm offsets are available.
The Set Up
I replaced a 32 Factory fork with a Kabolt with this model, and instantly saved 220g. That is a lot of weight. In fact, that’s the weight difference between a light carbon post and the KS Lev-Ci dropper I use. Settings are essentially the same as my previous fork, and I ran them at 65psi.
As stated, the FIT4 cartridge means I run the fork in Open almost all the time, and the small changes with the SC model hasn’t changed that. The fork remains composed without diving even in rough terrain. The Medium setting is perfect up long climbs, but if you’re not out of the saddle you’ll barely use it. Closed is as you’d expect – it’s a firm lockout for road and maybe sprint finishes.
The big question was stiffness. With a narrowed chassis, less material in the arch and crown, and shorter legs, I was certain I’d feel some differences. Even using the oracle of Strava and setting some PBs on descending sections of local trails, I didn’t notice any changes in handling, or deflection. I just noticed a supremely capable fork.
Fox have the same volume spacers as other 32 models if you need them for your size or riding style, but overall I was really impressed with the subtle, but noticeable improvements in the feel of the fork. And blown away by the weight loss.
Is it perfect? As a pure XC fork – probably. But the new chassis has limits. You can’t run larger than a 180mm rotor, and you can’t run a tyre bigger than 2.35”. Given the intended use of the fork, this is unlikely to cause anyone considering the fork a problem.
I was supplied with one of the models using remote lockout. For XC racing that is a highly desirable feature. The cable and outer does sometimes have some lag on return, however the lockout was rock solid. The electronic model is an option, but it is a massive increase in price. If you’re looking at a way to set off your Di2 build – look no further than Fox iRD.
I am lucky enough to have ridden and raced on seven of the previous Fox 32 models, and I can comfortably say this is the best yet – by a long way. Dropping about 250g over a 2016 Factory 32 with QR15 lever is huge, especially when it’s combined with an increase in damping performance. If you have a 2016 32 does it mean you should drop $1450 on this model? No, you’d be better getting a similar tune and a Kabolt axle while having your fork serviced with Fox Australia. If you don’t have the FIT4 cartridge, and you want to get a lighter high performance fork, it would be hard to look past this model. It is also worth being aware of the Performance model, in full stealth black at $1099. The weight is about identical, you just miss the Kashima coating on the legs, and the 22 point compression damping.
|Lightest XC fork on the market||Mechanical lock out isn't as nice as the competition's hydraulic lock out.|
|Incredible suspension performance|
|Very easy to set up|
|RRP: $1450||From: ridefox.com|