Words by: Liam Woods
Fox Racing Shocks has made a huge lineup update for the model year 2021. With the introduction of the new 38 fork for enduro use, major upgrades on the popular Fox 36 as well as some on the Fox 40, there is a lot to learn. We are going over all the forks here and you should be able to learn not only what terrain the forks are best for, but also what would be best for your bike.
The Fox 32 and 32 Step-Cast are the ultimate cross country racing weapons. When you are looking for the lightest Fox fork option to throw on the front of your lightweight hardtail or full suspension bike, the Fox 32 has trimmed as much unnecessary fat as possible. The Fox 32 chassis is dedicated to 100mm of travel only and has 32mm upper stanchion tubes.
The Fox 32 is offered in a normal version as well as the Step-Cast version. The Step-Cast version is the lighter and higher-end model, having all the unneeded material shaved off to get the lightest fork in Fox’s lineup. With a narrow overall stance, the fork lowers are actually molded around the rotor and spokes to try to reduce the most amount of material possible. Both the damper and the air shafts are also dedicated to only 100mm of travel, removing any extra material. The Fox 32 SC is available in either a remote or crown adjustment model and can be had in Gloss Black or Shiny Orange. There are also non-Boost (15x100) and Boost (15x110) axle options as well, so you can get your Fox 32 SC on your bike with pretty much any standard.
If you are looking to get the lightest suspension fork in Fox’s lineup possible, the Fox 32 SC is the perfect option to make that happen. With everything you need for 100mm of travel, the Fox 32 SC can be had with a remote or crown lockout, Boost or non-Boost, and comes in Black or Orange. What more could you want?
The Fox 34 is one of our favorite forks because of its incredible versatility. When installed on the right bike, the Fox 34 can be ridden on epic 5+ hour rides or taken to a bike park for some laps. Balancing the weight to stiffness ratio as best as possible, the Fox 34 is for the everyday trail rider. Best ridden in 130mm and 140mm travel options, the normal Fox 34 for 2021 now gets an option for the Grip2 damper! This means you can now get independent adjustments of high and low speed rebound and compression, which is a pretty cool way to tune in your trail bike fork. It's also available in the 34 Step-Cast, which is chiseled down as much as possible to reduce weight and be totally designed around 120mm of travel yet retaining the 34mm stanchions. The 34 SC is the ultimate downcountry fork from Fox or a great way to beef up that hardtail or XC bike you have to get more control and better performance upfront. Both forks are available in the Performance series as well as Factory in Gloss Black and Shiny Orange.
With the Fox 34 solidifying its place in the trail bike category, we are stoked to see it get a damper upgrade with the Grip2. The Fox 34 SC remains the same but that’s because it was already a killer fork and handles its dedicated 120mm of travel with ease. The Fox 34 strikes the balance between lightweight and handling some pretty aggressive terrain. It’s Fox’s best model to get you both up and down the mountain as fast and smooth as possible.
For 2021, Fox gave the 36 a full update, from the chassis to the damper, and just about every other small detail in between. The Fox 36 might be the most desired fork Fox makes, as it can be found on bikes from 140mm trail bikes up to your 170mm enduro rig, ready to tackle the chunkiest terrain out there. Yes, the Fox 36 is still an amazing fork and might be the better option for many riders out there, including myself, when compared to the 38. I weigh 150lbs and typically ride 160mm-170mm travel upfront. The Fox 36 receives many of the new features we see on the Fox 38 as mentioned above. This includes the updated Fox Grip2 damper, now with Variable Valve Control on both the HSR and HSC, which helps settle the fork into the compression settings as well as return smoothly without any spiking. Along with the new arch, the lower leg bleeders, floating axle, and the bolt-on fender like its big sibling, the 36 also gets a heritage color edition and this one is Root Beer Brown.
With a full redesign, Fox made one of the best forks that much better. The new Fox 36 gets a new chassis with a redesigned arch for more clearance, lower leg fork bleeders, a floating axle, and a new Grip2 damper to improve control and feel. Fox 36 is a staple in their lineup and this new 2021 model just makes that staple just a little bigger, the way it rides says it all.
As all of these enduro bikes become more capable of tackling gnarlier terrain and the speeds they can hold are faster than ever, the demands of components increase as well. We also have to consider that the type of riders that ride these bikes are not exactly the same weight as cross country riders, and a lot of them are pushing these bikes to the limit. The Fox 36 previously held all the duties for any long travel enduro bike from 140mm all the way up to 170mm for a 29” and 180mm for a 27.5” bike. While the Fox 36 is an amazing fork, some riders like Richie Rude who are not only ungodly fast, but are also very solid and strong individuals wanted more. I’ve heard the rocks move out of the way for Richie and I don’t blame them. Those types of riders can really put some punishment on some of the strongest parts, and that includes the Fox 36, especially at 170mm. Now the Fox 38 handles all the duties from 160mm-180mm for both 29” and 27.5”. The Fox 38 is offered in both 27.5” and 29” travel options in a range of Black and Orange lowers, along with a limited-edition Heritage version of the Pistachio Green.
Jeff took it out for a ride and immediately could tell just how gnarly this fork was. He said it really feels like a 40 in the best way. The fork's stiffness along with the improved damper really helps it handle hits of small to large with ease and settles you into the travel rather than harshly giving you feedback. While Jeff is a very confident and capable rider, he, like myself, is only 150lbs and not really who this fork is fully designed for. For that, we called in our buddy Chris Muntz who not only weighs a little more than us, but he is fast, strong, and really likes to nerd out and test new products. Below is what he thinks about his time on the Fox 38.
“I started out with the recommended settings of air pressure, and the damper recommendations for a 200lbs rider. I also didn't change the volume spacers on the air side from the way the fork came to me. After a few runs, I felt like the fork was just a bit soft and that was actually a surprise because previous Fox forks sometimes felt a bit harsh with stock settings and air pressure. After a few runs I ended up with about 10 PSI more than what was recommended and added two clicks of high speed compression and two clicks of low speed compression. With adding some air pressure I also needed to change the rebound from the recommended setting and added one click of HSR. This put the Fox 38 in a very good setting for my weight and riding style. I think most riders would really like the recommended settings straight from Fox as I tend to ride my forks just a bit more stiff than the average rider.
After a good bit of time on this fork, I can say the main benefit to it is the way it deals with big, high speed impacts. There’s no instance of spiking/binding and the fork is able to deal with these events with a more linear feel. I’d compare it to feeling like jumping into a pile of pillows as opposed to a pool of water. Water has the initial slap as you break the surface, then you fall into it, and you decelerate. This is how most previous forks felt to me; an initial spike and then the fork would go into the travel. The new 38 feels more like falling into pillows, very soft initially and ramps up predictably as you get into the travel, without excessive harshness or feedback.
From a stiffness standpoint I don’t have much to say. It’s stiffer for sure. And I didn’t feel like it was overly harsh in the few days I had on it. I’ll need some more testing to say if the added stiffness is beneficial in every riding scenario but with the time I have on the fork I can easily say that this is a huge improvement not only for Fox but for all mountain bike forks. It's stiff, smooth and has a very predictable control on hard hits.” - Test rider Chris Muntz
The Fox 38 might not be for everyone, but if you are a rider on the heavier side, you ride really fast and push the limits of what a bike is capable of, or if you are in the 170mm-180mm front travel range, then the Fox 38 might make a lot of sense for you. I mention the 180mm because previously the Fox 36 wasn’t offered in 29” for 180mm. Either it just wasn’t designed for that or some testers at Fox found the limit of what the 36 was capable of. Either way, the Fox 36 is not available in 180mm for 29” wheeled bikes.
Just like the smaller siblings, the Fox 40 also gets the redesigned lower arch and a bolt-on fender. The Fox 40 already used the floating axle and the lower bleed ports on previous models. Like the Fox 36 and 38, the 40 also gets a heritage color, Battleship Grey. The Fox 40 is possibly the downhill fork with the most World Cup wins to its name, having been ridden by Greg Minnaar and Aaron Gwin for years. The Fox 40 can take the win at a World Cup or spend all day at your local bike park. Either way, it's ready for a good time!
For 2021 Fox has taken some of their best forks and made them better, like the Fox 34 with the Grip2 damper, or the redesigned Fox 36 and Fox 40, as well as introducing the new Fox 38 to handle the fastest and roughest riders in the enduro category. From looks or performance, the new Fox 2021 lineup is ready for your local trail or race track. Have any questions about what Fox fork will be best for your bike? Contact our expert customer service team and talk their ears off about Fox forks, they will love it!
This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.