2020 RockShox Pike vs Fox 34 Fork Comparison [Video]


Overview

A few years ago we did a similar review for the Fox 34 vs the Rockshox Pike, and two model years later we felt that there is enough change in the two to revisit this comparison. Both the Fox 34 and the RockShox Pike Ultimate are a staple in the top level of forks specifically for trail bikes. It's no surprise they have many overlapping similarities as they are made for the same type of riding with the same travel range and bike styles. We will be going into a lot of these details of the similarities as well as the differences and who might benefit from buying a Fox 34 or a Rockshox Pike. 

2020 Rockshox Pike vs Fox 34 Fork

Similarities and Differences

As mentioned above, these forks are designed for the same style of mid-travel trail bike. If you are looking for 120mm-140mm of travel, or maybe even 150mm, then the Pike or 34 would be the best options to look at from Rockshox or Fox, respectively. The weight between the two flagship models is only a 45g difference, which isn't much, but I will get into that a little more below. The Fox 34 also has a version called the Fox 34 Step-Cast, which is dedicated to 120mm travel only, and by doing that Fox was able to shave off a sizeable 160g of weight.

RockShox Pike vs Fox 34 2020

There are also some differences with the damper systems. The Fox 34 has a Fit4 damper that features a 3-position mode with a firm mode, whereas the Rockshox Pike Ultimate has the Charger 2.1 RC2 damper that only offers HSC and LSC adjustments, but no firm mode for pedaling. The air systems between the two are very similar, both have equalizing positive and negative air chambers and use air tokens to tune in the ramp-up feel. You can also change the travel with just an air shaft, from 120mm to 150mm travel, going in 10mm increments. 

RockShox Pike vs Fox 34 2020

Lastly, the forks’ stanchion diameters are different as well, not by much, 1mm to be exact. The Fox 34 has, yes you guessed it, 34mm stanchions, while the Pike has 35mm stanchions. While that may seem like the smallest difference, I'll get into why it might change your choice more than you think down below. 

Specs

2020 Rockshox Pike Ultimate:

  • 27.5” & 29”
  • 120mm, 130mm, 140mm, 150mm & 160mm
  • Charger 2.1 RC2 Damper
  • Offset 37mm/46mm for 27.5” & 42mm/51mm for 29”
  • Tapered Steerer only
  • 15 x 110mm boost spacing only
  • Bolt-on Maxle Axle
  • Torque Cap compatible
  • Weight 1832g

Shop RockShox Pike Fork

2020 Fox 34:

  • 27.5” & 29”
  • Normal 34 Travel: 130mm, 140mm, 150mm
  • Step-Cast Travel: 120mm only
  • Fit4 3 position Damper
  • Offset 37mm/44mm for 27.5” & 44mm/51mm for 29”
  • Tapered Steerer only
  • 15 x 100mm & 15 x 110mm Boost (Step-Cast 15 x 110mm boost only)
  • Quick Release Axle (Step-Cast Bolt-on Kabolt)
  • Weight 1770g 
  • Step-Cast Weight: 1623g

Shop Fox 34 Fork

On-Trail Feel

Now to split hairs, I am going to try to distinguish the difference between these two similar forks made by different companies. After the updates on both these forks, the way they both ride has changed for the better. The Fox got a bit more plush off the top while the Rockshox got more mid-stroke control and sits a little higher in the travel. Previously we noted that these were the biggest differences between the two, making both of these forks ride even more similarly now. 

RokShox Pike vs Fox 34

I would still say the Rockshox Pike tends to come off as a little more plush off the top. I think that has a little to do with both the Charger 2.1 RC2 Damper and the DebonAir airshaft. The Charger 2.1 RC2 damper allows for a lot of small tuning. With HSC and LSC tuning along with rebound adjustment, you can really get some plushness off the top, with mid-stroke support and high-speed compression control in a shorter travel package. This isn't something you see too often until you get into the longer travel forks. The DebonAir shaft has a large negative chamber that also helps with off the top feel, allowing the fork to get into its travel a little easier. I find that with the new RockShox Pike Ultimate fork you don't need to do as much tuning and especially messing with volume spacers as you did in the past. If you are bottoming out easily or need more mid-stroke, you can add 5psi and solve your problem. Before you most likely would have needed to add a token and then see if that helps or make a few more adjustments from there. While I don't normally run LSC on my forks, I do like HSC and think that makes the Pike Ultimate a game-changer for this travel amount. You often will still smash some fast G-outs, or land a decent size jump on a 120-140mm fork, so having some HSC tunability really helps the fork stay up in the travel in those scenarios.
 

RockShox Pike vs Fox 34

The Fox 34 seems to be just ever so slightly stiffer than the RockShox Pike, and that doesn't really mean it's stiff in a bad way. When I say stiff, I mean it sits a bit higher in the travel and takes more effort to get deeper into the fork’s travel. I think the Fox feels a bit better when you are really charging a trail. The feedback you get from the Fox makes you want to keep riding hard, but when you back off you might get that sense of the fork feeling stiff. Also, the Fox 34 only has 3 positions on the damper, Open, Medium, Firm with an LSC adjustment that only works in the Open position. So the Fox is a bit less tunable from a damper side with the Fit4 damper than the RockShox Pike Ultimate with the Charger 2.1 RC2 damper. One thing that could help you make your mind up easily is if you prefer the Medium or Firm position for fire road or pavement riding. While you can make the Pike more firm, it will not get nearly as firm as the Fox in the Firm position. The Fox’s Firm is pretty much locked out and has very little movement. As mentioned before, I rarely use the LSC on any fork as I want the supple off the top to ease the shock going to my hands and arms. For the air side, it's very similar to the Rockshox, but I will say you might need to use volume spacers for getting that perfect tune vs the Rockshox Pike not as much. I think the Fox feels great once you get that exact air pressure and volume spacer count. 

RockShox Pike vs Fox 34 2020

So there is also the Fox 34 Step-Cast, which has the same 34mm stanchions as the standard Fox 34, but the chassis has been dedicated to 120mm travel only and weight has been shaved off wherever possible. That weight savings is quite significant from the standard 34, and even more so over the Pike. So if you are looking for 120mm travel only, and do not want to go any higher, it's really hard to bet against the Fox 34 Step-Cast. It's strong, light, and feels good in just about any situation you can put a 120mm fork up against. If you are looking at about 130mm travel only, I would still lean towards the Fox 34, as it's a little lighter and you might want that feeling compared to the more plush feeling Pike. But if you are looking to go around the 140mm or 150mm travel, I think it's a pretty even wash. And if 150mm is what you're after but still want to watch your weight, then the Rockshox Pike would be your top choice. 

RockShox Pike vs Fox 34 2020

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, now you have a little more clarity and less confusion, and not more confusion and less clarity. If so, I’m sorry. I think the main difference comes down to the adjustability for me.

If you like to tinker and get that extra dialed suspension feeling, then the Rockshox Pike Ultimate with the Charger 2.1 RC2 might be the better choice as you have some more compression adjustment. The Rockshox is also a bit plusher off the top than the Fox 34.

If you are looking for simple adjustments, and also like the Firm lockout position, then the Fox 34 would be better for you. As well, if you are looking for a light 120mm only option, the Fox 34 Step-Cast takes the win. These both really come down to what you are looking for in adjustment and weight. It's hard to have it all but that is also why we have so many options since each rider likes their own flavors. 

Check out our previous Pike vs 34 video here:

 


November 27, 2019

34 › Fork › Fox › Pike › product comparison › RockShox › video ›

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