Fox's New 34 Step-Cast Fork - First Ride

Apr 10, 2018
by Mike Levy  
Fox's 34 series is their jack of (nearly) all trades chassis, with it seeing action on everything from cross-country race bikes to light duty all-mountain machines. That sort of versatility is great, but the 2019 model year sees Fox add a lighter, more focused version to their catalog: the 34 Step-Cast.

The main talking points include the all-new Step-Cast chassis that, much like the even lighter 32, sees less material used but, according to Fox, a gain in rigidity. While the 32 Step-Cast chassis is narrower than the standard 32, so much so that its Step-Cast lowers needed to be re-engineered to clear the front wheel's spokes and brake rotor, the 34 Step-Cast chassis is less out there.

The width is the same as the normal 34, so Fox didn't need the extra clearance at the inside of the lowers, but they did pare down the outside of the lowers where they meet the 15mm thru-axle dropouts.

34 Step-Cast Details

• Intended use: cross-country / trail
• Wheel size: 27.5'' or 29''
• Travel: 120mm (non-adjustable)
• Updated EVOL air spring
• New, lighter Step-Cast chassis
• Dedicated air spring
• FIT4 damper
• Three-position compression, low-speed compression (in Open mode), low-speed rebound
• 27.5'' chassis fits 2.8” tire / 29'' chassis fits 2.6'' tire
• Weight: 3.5lb (27.5'', w/ Kabolt)
• MSRP: $943 USD (FIT4 w/o remote), $1,024 USD (FIT4 w/ remote), $789 USD (GRIP)
www.ridefox.com

Fox 34

Fox says that a 27.5'' 34 Step-Cast with a Kabolt axle comes in a 3.5lb, a number that's half a pound less than a standard 34 with 140mm of travel. More compelling is that Fox claims that it's also a third of a pound lighter than a 120mm-travel 32 while also being 15-percent stiffer.

So many numbers, including this one: 120mm, which is the only travel setting that you can get a 32 Step-Cast in due to the stanchions and lowers being optimized for that stroke.

The 34 Step-Cast comes in three flavours but, interestingly, not one of them uses the new, four-way adjustable GRIP2 damper. Instead, the two Factory options both employ the FIT4 system, with one coming with a remote ($1,024 USD) and the other without ($943 USD). The least expensive of the three is the Performance model that features Fox's less adjustable, and therefore less expensive, original GRIP damper for $789 USD.


Fox 34
See how the lowers taper down near the thru-axle? That's how you spot a Step-Cast 34.


The fork's EVOL air spring also gets tweaked, with fewer dynamic seals for less friction, and a slightly more linear rate through the first quarter of the fork's travel for better sensitivity. Fox has also employed their FIT4 damper that offers 22-clicks of low-speed compression adjustment (in the Open setting), and a three-mode compression dial for on-the-fly adjustments. There's also a new, lower friction seal head and an update to the damper tune.

Think of the Step-Cast chassis is an all-new home for internal updates that Fox has made for 2019, and the whole thing is a lighter weight, 120mm-travel package.


Fox
The updated Float EVOL air spring requires less dynamic seals, which should mean less friction.



Fox 34
Fox 34
The 27.5'' fork has room for a monster-sized 2.8'' tire, while the 29'' fork will fit a 2.6'' wide tire.


Fox 34
Fox 34
If the damper dials and air spring cap look familiar, it's because Fox has dropped in updated versions of their proven FIT4 damper and Float EVOL air spring.



I've spent time on a bunch of 34s over the years, from the top of the range Factory forks to the less expensive GRIP offerings, and being the kind of guy who likes relatively light bikes with medium amounts of travel, it's a fork that I've always gelled with. Those 34s have impressed me, and it's no surprise to me that the new 34 Step-Cast does the same.

I've had the 34 Step-Cast on the front of Santa Cruz's new Blur for awhile now, and it's seen everything from grueling cross-country stage racing to the rowdy rock slabs of Squamish. After all that, I'd say that it feels pretty much identical to me as Fox's previous top-tier 34 offering, which isn't exactly a bad thing.


Fox 34
Santa Cruz's new Blur with the 120mm-travel 34 Step-Cast and full stage race-mode regalia.


To my 160lb body, it didn't come across as less or more torsionally rigid than other 34s I've used, but it does make a 32 feel a bit spindly... no surprise there, of course. As for the updated damper and Float air spring, the same applies; I wouldn't try to convince anyone that I noted a difference, but I also have exactly zero things to complain about.

The Step-Cast being fixed at 120mm means that it's going to have a smaller audience than an adjustable or longer travel fork of similar intention, but those riders who don't need more stroke will have the option of a lighter weight package, should they want it.


75 Comments

  • + 87
 That’s a step in the right direction if I were to cast my honest opinion.
  • + 25
 Very cool. I'm a heavy guy that rides XC/Marathon. The 32 is a noodle so I have a non step cast 34 on my marathon bike which I'm very happy with. This will definitely be on my next build....

But the again, RS just released a 120mm SID Big Grin
  • - 6
flag TheOriginalTwoTone (Apr 10, 2018 at 9:19) (Below Threshold)
 Which is limited to a 160mm front rotor. Hope this Fox doesn't have the same limitation.
  • + 14
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: 160 is the minimum size for the new sid.
  • + 9
 @NightElf: yup misread it.
  • + 1
 @Rig since when Sid hasn’t been a noodle? Smile I think 34 is a step in the right direction for 29ers.
  • + 15
 Sale your tallboy, buy the blur, upgrade the fork, and make it a Tallboy again.. LMAO
  • + 13
 A FOX 34 lighter than a fox 32!?!?! oh, only available as 120mm travel? Well, stick a fork in that idea...
  • + 1
 aren't 32's only available in 100mm?
  • + 2
 @racerfacer I picked up a scott genius 710 from 2015 with a 150mm 32. I am ~140 lbs and it was noodly AF. The first thing I did was replace the 32 with a 34.
  • - 3
 @racerfacer: nope... I have a 120mm 32 on my xc race bike... but what's the point of a lighter 34 if you can't put it on your awesome 130/140mm forked trail bike?
  • + 2
 @manchvegas: 120mm is the limit of awesome. 130+ gets you into extreme. 200+ is aggro
  • + 1
 @rbarbier12: I was gonna buy a friends bike who had a 140mm 32 and didn't buy the bike the fork was so noodly
  • + 1
 The Fox 32 SC actually comes in at 3.0 lbs, so it's not lighter than the comparable model.
  • + 2
 The Fox 32 SC 100mm is a completely different fork than the non-stepcast 32 120mm. The Factory 32 SC 100mm weighs in under 1400g. I haven't seen actual weights for the non-step 120mm version, but if Fox is now claiming that this new, 1590g 34 SC is lighter, then the current 120mm 32 must be over 1600g.
  • + 2
 @manchvegas: Exactly, so what falls between this and the 36 now, the normal 34 (non SC)?
  • + 2
 @Veloscente: The 29er non StepCast 32 120 fork is closer to 1800. I was disappointed when I bought one for my 2018 Anthem 29er
  • + 1
 @zdebruine: The Fox 32 SC isn't available in 120, so it's not a comparable model. It's lighter than the Fox 32 120.
  • + 5
 Mike thanks. It means until I loose another 20 lbs I will not run out to get the step cast fork. Hopefully Santa Cruz will add this option without any lockout lever to their hopefully upcoming Marathon build Blur 3. As a 190 lb guy with some upper body power - let me tell you a 120 mm 34 compared to a 120 mm 32 is like comparing a steel beam to a limp noodle.
  • + 6
 I already had too many casts in the past. I don't need that negativity in my life right now.
  • + 4
 Looks sweet. Would be awesome to see companies with a 120mm front XC bike switch to this, as I'm sure they will. A 2019 Rocky Mountain element with one of these guys out front? Yes please!
  • + 1
 Scott will probably use it.
  • + 1
 As soon as I'm re-employed again the 34SC will be the next upgrade I make to my 2017 Element! ...Its the perfect fork for this bike!
  • + 4
 Looks like the perfect fork for KOM hunting on local trails. You can keep the bike light, but add some capability to an XC rig.
  • + 1
 AMEN! Seriously considering this one for my next build. I have the 32 SC on my SS and it is great for what it is. Was going to put my current (2016) Float 34 on the new bike, but will gladly give up 10mm for 1/2 lbs. And I prefer to be on the lightest bike to handle the terrain, so this is PERFECT for my needs.
  • + 1
 specs say 27,5 model runs 2,8" tires, while 29" runs 2,6" tires. I assume this reflect using the correct tire per fork.
Does the 29 version of fork runs 2,8" 27,5 tires ?
I'd like to equip a bikepacking rig with rigid fork and 27,5 - 2,8 tires with a fork that fits both 27,5 2,8 and 29 2,3 tires.
  • + 1
 Bewdy! I get to hang on to my HT and dually XC bikes even after shifting somewhere with more elevation and rocky terrain without having to deal with noodleness that this terrain (coupled with my weight, age and lack of technique) inspires in both my Fox 32 and RS SID WC 32 forks....
  • + 1
 you smaller than the average American woman? Razz (I find it really hard to believe that those are accurate stats...)

Apparently my waist has shrunk to 28" from 29" since I measured it last when i was 3kg lighter. Weird.
  • + 3
 What’s that red thing attached to the bottom of the right-side lower by the axle?
  • + 2
 Timing chip. Those photos are taken during a race I guess
  • + 3
 Rock Shox announces new Sid and Fox new 34 fork on Same day. What are the chances of that happening?
  • + 3
 Fox and Rockshox add a (special) light 120 mm travel fork to their lineup, at the same time.
  • - 1
 "120mm, which is the only travel setting that you can get a 32 Step-Cast in due to the stanchions and lowers being optimized for that stroke."

TIL that you can only get the 32 step cast in 120mm. I guess all the XC race bike specs are wrong.
  • + 3
 Sweet. Still waiting for my step cast 36 with 140mm...
  • + 0
 Yes to this! Beefy 36 with less travel!
  • + 1
 I love my vengeance at 130mm!!
  • + 1
 I may have missed something but did it list the weight of a current 34 (29) with the new 34 step cast (29)?
  • + 1
 Weight in lbs for the F34 article, Kg for the F36´s one. Please pick one and be constant....
  • + 1
 @mikelevy Did the 20mm longer a2c make the Blur seat angle too slack for your racing needs?
  • + 1
 I want a Performance version with 100mm of travel to replace my noodly 32sc.
  • + 1
 Lol @captainsnappy that's not average weight for Merican MTBers...
  • + 2
 Where is the 26" option?
  • + 0
 At least 26” under ground
  • + 1
 Stepcast, FIT4,Evol,blaaaa....and not a word about offset.
  • + 1
 Isn’t this what you have? @theminsta
  • + 1
 Nope. I've got the 32 step cast!
  • + 1
 @theminsta: Ahhh yes lol
  • + 1
 Why is there a urinal cake on the right hand lower?
  • + 1
 Canadian Personal Safety Passport (CPSP). Basically a personal locating device. We are obliged to use them when we leave Canada. If we get into danger (life and death stuff) the federal gov't can easily find us anywhere in the world.
  • + 1
 Another Orange....
  • + 1
 no...
  • + 1
 ..
  • - 2
 After quitting MTB because of all these new gimmicks and standards, it is such a joy to read through the new PB articles. Big Grin
  • - 3
 160 pound person talking about torsional rigidity? Come on man go eat something that ate a salad for you.
  • + 2
 isn't 72kg pretty avarage weight?
  • + 3
 @Asmodai: For average American males and females:

www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements.htm

Data are for the U.S. Measured average height, weight, and waist circumference for adults aged 20 and over

Men:
Height in inches: 69.2
Weight in pounds: 195.7
Waist circumference in inches: 40.0* (101.5 centimeters)

Women:
Height in inches: 63.7
Weight in pounds: 168.5
Waist circumference in inches: 38.1* (96.9 centimeters)*Unpublished figure.

Derived from converting published figures listed in centimeters to inches.
  • + 15
 @Rigidjunkie EXACTLY! If you're not a 200 lb lard-ass with a Big Gulp taped to your hand, lugging pubescent man-tits around, you are NOT ALLOWED to discuss torsional rigidity! EVERYONE KNOWS THIS!!!
  • + 7
 @CaptainSnappy: As a 170lb American I find these statistics to be disturbing... I wish it wasn’t true.
  • + 9
 @CaptainSnappy:
Size 40 waist?
190 pounds!
Americans are bloody porkers.
Canadians too.
MEC does not sell size 28 waist for men.
I'm slim athletic build and I'm very much a minority in North America lol.
  • + 2
 @CaptainSnappy: whoa. This is alarming. Nearly 196lbs and a 40" waist for men? Yikes and really no excuse for it. Basically the CDC is saying average = morbidly obese.
  • - 3
 @COnovicerider: Im 190 and 6' and only have a 36 waist I think these stats are wrong.
  • + 4
 @CaptainSnappy: I don’t think the average american has the same body as the average mountain biker...
  • + 1
 Wow. Broke my arm recently and have put on a few kilos, yet I'm still lighter than the average American woman. Obviously the average American doesn't train to race XC.
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: Most people worldwide don't train to race XC or run marathons, etc.
  • + 3
 since when did healthy weight become the thing of elite athletes? I'm 5'8, 138 pounds with a 29" waist, and I do not train for XC or marathons. Maybe I should, with those specs? Razz
  • + 2
 @COnovicerider: Science says they would be better off.
  • + 0
 @mhoshal: 210 with a 34" waist. Not all weight is fat, and plenty of "obese" people are actually just muscular. CDC's use of BMI is a joke. If I got down to 3% body fat I may be able to get below 180, but I haven't been under 180 since 1989...But I love my SC 32 and can't wait to get an SC 34 for my next build.
  • + 3
 @mhoshal: but if we look outside the circles of active people like ourselves, Americans are not very "fit"...putting it mildly.
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: Average height is shorter than 6', hence, bigger average waist.
  • + 3
 @SprSonik: Yes, yes, BMI doesn't apply to the 0.5% of people that are bodybuilders or avid crossfitters. Therefore we should totally throw it out since it only accurately applies to about 99.5% of the population. Hey, if you're in the 0.5%, more power to you, but look around you, visit a Wal-Mart or a McDonald's and you'll see the BMI definition of obesity is spot-on for most people.
  • + 2
 Out of interest I grabbed a tape measure, put it around my waist, and then put it to both 38" and 40" circumferences. Interesting experiment.
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: that's because you're a model.
  • + 1
 you smaller than the average American woman? Razz (I find it really hard to believe that those are accurate stats...) Apparently my waist has shrunk to 28" from 29" since I measured it last when i was 3kg lighter. Weird.
  • + 2
 @COnovicerider: Ha ha. I forget that's the meaning of my username. In reality, it is a quote from Kelly Bundy.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXEeNt04wng&t=32s

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