Front and Rear MTB Suspension We Tested This Year: 9 Forks and 3 Shocks

Formula also updated their popular Selva fork with a fresh crown and a new race tune this year, though we have yet to take it for a spin.

We tested so many squishers this season for their grip and pop, support and smoothness, and we have collected them all in one place to simplify the search. We will start off the party with nine forks and move rearward for a a few shocks toward the bottom of the page.

Forks

Formula Dual Crown Enduro Fork

The ever-exciting Dual Crown Enduro Fork from Formula was a pleasant surprise announcement and met with a gasp across the bike industry. It weighs less than a Fox 38, adding stiffness near the cockpit instead of the full length of its 35mm stanchions.

Our Tech Editor, Gerow, had a few rides on the prototype this past spring. “The fork’s 35mm stanchions are well supported where it counts, right at the cockpit, providing a different kind of stiffness than a single-crown enduro fork with 38mm stanchions. The long black tubes seem to offer a similar level of precise steering on rough tracks at speed, while not creating a front end that’s so stiff at the wheel that traction becomes compromised.”

If you’re looking at this fork thinking “but what about tight turns?,” you’re not alone. Like Trek’s Knock Block, the dual-crown does prevent the fork from turning at a certain point. Gerow says, “Riders who mount it up will likely need to perfect their nose-press skills, and anyone racing enduro has likely already grown comfortable with some front-wheel weighting.”

Pricing and availability on the new fork remain to be seen, so can keep an eye on the Formula website for additional details.

Fox Factory 34

Gerow found the latest Fox Factory 34 to be a fantastic fork that should suit most trail pursuits.

“What’s that word we use for bagels before they’re baked that we also use to describe mountain bike suspension? Oh right, supple. This fork seems designed with comfort and traction in mind, as the first third of its travel is gobbled up in short order. Riders who use their suspension to smooth the track and make the ride comfortable will likely love the new 34. It turns stones and sticks into butter and bliss, eating much of the harsh vibrations and pangs that older forks couldn’t touch.

“Folks who want to ride this little fork about as fast and hard as the 36 or 38 on their longer-travel bike will have a tad more setup work to do. I found the comfort tune in the updated 34 to be a little too soft through the first third of its travel and had to add loads of air to find the initial and mid-stroke support that I was looking for. With far higher pressures than recommended it still felt somewhat soft, but several clicks of compression on the GRIP2 damper took care of things in short order.”

The Fox 34 Factory fork is sold at Worldwide Cyclery and other online retailers at prices ranging from $749 to $1,399 (€989 – €1299).

Fox Factory 38

Our review of the Fox Factory 38 was primarily focused on whether it’s worth the 2mm upgrade from a good ol’ 36mm diameter. According to our tech editor, it is worth the swap, so long as you care about pushing the pace on descents far more than climbs.

“With the right tune, the 38 offers abundant support over successive impacts, and there is broad enough adjustment for a wide variety of riding styles and preferences. The fork’s fluid initial stroke maintains grip just as well as the 36 did, despite the stiffer chassis, and the added rigidity allows the rider to lean forward on that front tire traction as much as their arm strength will allow.

“One of my favorite things about mountain biking is that there is always something to learn and improve, no matter how fast or fancy you might ride. For that reason alone, I find the new Fox 38 a worthwhile upgrade. It allows for more precise steering and faster lines through the messiest stone piles, and I’m forever intrigued by riding faster. Regardless of your relationship with racing, if speed = fun this fork might be worth a squish. I look forward to seeing what other companies develop in this space. Fingers crossed that things become lighter from here.”

Find the Fox 38 fork at Backcountry and other online retailers.

Marzocchi Bomber DJ

Our faithful UK-based tester, Grace Zarcznska tried out the Bomber Dj from Marzocchi early this year, and she’s stoked on the little tank’s performance.

“Despite being a fairly stiff fork, designed to take big hits, I was quite surprised that the Bomber DJ could also deal fairly well with small bumps, which comes in handy when riding our local jump spots that aren’t all that smooth. The tires are able to track the ground on the uneven, gravelly pump tracks and jumps I have been testing it on, taking the pressure off my hands. It’s also pretty clear to me that this fork would work well on a pump-track or slalom bike, provided you could live with a bit more weight than some competing forks. 

“The burly chassis contributed to the predictable and supportive ride through corners and compressions. The Fit Grip damper may not be best-in-class these days, but at no point did the fork surprise me in terms of dipping or diving, even during some vigorous pump track sessions.”

Find the Marzocchi Bomber DJ fork at JensonUSA and Amazon.

Marzocchi Z1 Bomber Coil

Contributor Sam James had his first go on at the Bomber Z1 Coil, noting a handful of differences between the coil fork and the brand’s air-sprung forks.

“The Z1 coil is a great option for riders looking for an alternative to the norm, and a little less maintenance with a more supple feel harkening back to the glory days of coil suspension. It does what it says on the tin and feels great if a little less refined than some of the top-end options. It also lacks the top-end price tag at $779. It’s tough to beat when it rides as well as it does, and as somebody who doesn’t race it makes a great argument for itself as a day-in, day-out performer with zero fuss. I was testing the fork on a bike with an air shock and so the fork felt quite soft compared to the back end, however it would pair really well with a bike running a coil shock to give a balanced supple feeling. If I were to change one thing on the Z1 Coil, it would be to have a few more spring weights available in between the current options to make it a little easier to dial in the ideal spring rate.”

Find the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil Fork online at Backcountry and other retailers.

MRP Raven

Our features editor, Matt Miller, MRP Raven tested the MRP Raven, with its pre-cut steerer and start nut install to speed things up for the home mechanic.

“MRP makes a unique fork offering with the Raven. The fork holds an above-average amount of adjustability, but not so much that the rider gets lost. The independent air chambers can call for some experimenting, but again, they are easy to demystify. With options like Ready to Shred, the Outcast arch, and decal choices, consumers get a distinct piece of suspension to head up their bike.”

The MRP Raven is available at Competitive Cyclist and other online retailers.

Öhlins RXF38 m.2

Our most recent fork review was of the Öhlins RXF38 m2 that Gerow bounced around on over the summer.

“Like the Fox 38, I’m not a large enough human to say if the fatter 38mm stanchions are worth their increased stiffness. What I can say is that this fork tracks the ground as precisely as its closest competition, allowing the rider to select a desired line and stick to it. It’s not so stiff that lighter riders like myself will have issues with deflection or overall rigidity. I am fortunate to only experience hand and forearm pain with a few forks, and this one is forgiving enough to keep those muscles and tendons happy. A chassis that’s too stiff can also result in traction issues, and the RXF38 has no problem helping the tire find its grip.

“Whether you prefer a supportive race feel or a comfortable trail-paver up front, the RXF38 can be dialed to make that experience possible. It is a bit more expensive than some of the competition, and if you have the cash to spend its consistent high performance is definitely worth considering.”

Check your local Öhlins dealer for pricing and availability.

SR Suntour Axon Elite34

Singletracks Editor in Chief, Jeff Barber, got to party on the SR Suntour Axon Elite34 this past spring and found it a good match for his steel hardtail.

“For bigger hits and rougher trails, the Axon Elite34 offers reasonably firm pushback toward the end of the stroke. Some trail-style riders will easily bottom the fork out with proper sag, but for XC riding and racing, I found that it offers a good balance between responsiveness and handling big, sudden impacts. The suspension did get overwhelmed on one or two fast, blind descents over washed-out trails, but that was not unexpected given the slower rebound settings.

“While the Axon Elite34 may not sit at the tippy top of the SR Suntour cross-country fork line, it clearly offers excellent performance out of the box in a lightweight, and easy-to-use package. The fork is light without feeling underpowered on rough trails and stiffens up when it’s time to lay down the watts. While the sealed cartridge may be a deal-breaker for tinkerers and DIY mechanics, others will appreciate its consistent, low maintenance performance over time.”

Check the SR Suntour site for pricing and availability.

X-Fusion Trace36 HLR

Check out Gerow’s spring review of the Trace36 HLR for the full info blast.

“I repeatedly compare The Trace36 HLR to a Fox Float 36 in my review, because it genuinely feels similar to the industry-leading squisher at a significantly lower price. That’s not a small thing. It’s notably smoother than the other forks I’ve tested in this price range, with ample support when you need it. The adjustability range is wide and useable and should suit almost any rider’s preferences. There is a small amount of top-out noise when it rebounds quickly off a jump, but it doesn’t affect performance.

“Several friends have asked me about this fork in reference to other affordable models they are considering, and my response is this: ‘If the price is similar, I would buy the Trace36 HLR.'”

Find the X-Fusion Trace36 at Chain Reaction.

Shocks

Fox Float X Air Shock

Gerow checked out the latest version of the Fox Float X, a workhorse of a shock that’s familiar to many mountain bikers.

He tell us, “The new Float X receives an enlarged air can for a more supple initial stroke, and Fox says that this also drops the necessary air pressure in the shock by roughly 40psi. The main piston also grew to make space for better oil flow and regulation inside. The compression and rebound circuits are now separated so that adjustments to one don’t affect the other, and there’s a bottom-out bumper at the base of it all to help eat up those harsher hits.

“A high-speed compression adjuster on this shock wouldn’t make anyone sad, but that’s what you get with the higher-end Float X2. It’s not something the Float X needs, but on longer DH trails with successive large impacts, it would be cool to have that additional tuner. Maybe it’s just the tinkerer in me, but I’d love to see all shocks have all of the adjustability. Even the least expensive options. If you want a rabbit-ready air shock that’s lightweight and ready for relatively heavy riding, this one will do the trick and more. As long as you don’t feel the need for high-speed adjustments it has your tuning time covered, and the enlarged air can can be dialed in to fit almost any riding style.”

The Fox Float X is sold at Worldwide Cyclery and other online retailers.

Öhlins TTX22M coil

The Öhlins TTX22M coil has received plenty of accolades already, so we gave it a shot to confirm the hype. Gerow rode it for a full season on two different bikes and says it’s worth all the praise it receives and then some.

“Apart from looking en vogue, a lot of riders will mount up a coil shock to experience the amazing grip opportunities the metal springs can offer. If traction is your jam, this shock will serve it up by the shovel. Grip is easily tested on flat turns and loose conditions, where the TTX22M performs alongside the best of them, but where I like to ride that max traction factor is the key ingredient to holding a line across off-camber roots and rocks. This is where the Öhlins coil outperforms some others I have tested, allowing the tire to remain planted when all of the earth asks it to slide sideways. Once I do lose grip the supple stroke lets me gently push into the tire and regain it in many cases. That’s a magical feeling and a useful one for anyone racing in the European enduro scene or riding those same trails.”

Öhlins TTX22M shocks retail for $755. Available at JensonUSA and Worldwide Cyclery.

X-Fusion H3C coil

We also mounted up the X-Fusion H3C coil shock, and were pleasantly surprised by its composure and performance — particularly at half the price of most modern coils.

“I managed to bottom the shock out multiple times with both springs on some fun drop-to-flat hucks, though the 450lb. coiled-steel took a little more effort. The H3C bottom-out bumper does as good a job as any at smoothing and silencing the end of the stroke, and there’s virtually no noise associated with the last few millimeters. Coil lovers can rejoice in the fact that these modern steel-sprung shocks are far quieter than they were just five years ago. The spring also doesn’t clang as the shock snaps open between impacts, leaving it quieter than some air-sprung shocks that go gasping through the forest.

“It’s manner takes a little time to adjust to, but once the settings are dialed the H3C RCP feels fantastic. The shock offers ample support, and its settings are noticeable and useful. I would love to see an external high-speed compression adjustment on the next iteration so it could be tuned even further, but this relatively simple and light shock will have most riders stoked to go pedal just as it is.”

Ask your nearest X-Fusion dealer for pricing and availability.

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