Watch the start of any top-level cross-country race and you’ll see plenty of distinctive orange Fox 32 Step-Cast forks. It’s one of the premier forks in the cross-country market and for 2020 the race-focused model has received a stiffer chassis to meet the increasing demands of even tougher race circuits.
The fork reviewed here is the range-topping Float Factory, which costs $909 with a weight-saving Kabolt thru-axle, Kashima coated stanchions and, of course, the orange finish that lets people know you’ve slapped down some serious wedge. There’s a cheaper Float Performance fork which uses the same revamped chassis with the FIT4 damper.
Fox 32 Step-Cast Details• Intended use: XC / marathon
• Wheel size: 27.5'' or 29''
• Travel: 100mm only
• FIT4 damper and three-position adjustment
• Boost or standard 15mm thru-axle
• Two-position handlebar adjustment
• Offset: 44mm or 51mm
• Weight: 1,443g / 3.18lb (29" Boost, Kabolt axle, uncut steerer)
• Price: $909 USD
The main story with the new fork is a revised crown which increases the stiffness of the fork by a claimed 20%. The change is visibly noticeable; the dimples between the steerer tube and dials of the previous fork have been filled in and smoothed over. It’s a tiny change, but Fox claims it’s sufficient to push the stiffness into the same league as the burlier, by comparison, 34 Step-Cast fork.
Don’t worry weight weenies, this improvement comes with just a 30g increase in weight over the previous fork - the pictured fork with an uncut steerer tube weighs 1,443g. So yes it’s still a very lightweight fork and competitive with key rivals in this sector. The decision to ramp up the stiffness came about apparently due to feedback from pro racers and customers alike. The change, says Fox, should provide better steering precision and braking control for those times when you’re on the ragged limit.
Those changes aside, all other key features carry over, the biggest of which is the Step-Cast design of the lower legs first introduced back in 2016. It’s a novel design,where the lower legs have the inside sections sliced away to improve clearance with the spokes and rotor with a big gain in reduced weight whilst maintaining stiffness. Nobody has since copied it, but Fox has rolled it up to the longer travel 34.Same Damper and Wheel Size Options
There’s the same choice of 29” and 27.5” wheel sizes with either 110 or 100mm wide axles, and Factory Series and Performance Series to suit different budgets. Factory gets Kashima coated stanchions with a lightweight Kabolt thru-axle, 2-position remote handlebar lever and an optional gloss orange color alongside the regular matte black. The cheaper Performance Series fork only comes in matte black with hard anodized black upper legs, regular thru-axle and no optional remote handlebar lever.
The Step-Cast chassis has ample tire clearance for up to 2.3” tires, ideal for adding a bit more meat to your XC bike away from the race circuit. For winter riding it also ensures plenty of mud clearance. There’s a choice of 44 and 51mm offsets, but according to Fox nearly all their XC athletes are on the 44mm offset this year, and that's what we have to test here.
Internally nothing has changed. This top-end fork using the company’s Float air spring and FIT4 damper. Air goes in the left leg and the right leg has a three-position compression adjustment - Open, Medium and Firm - with an extra dial for adjusting the low-speed compression damping of the open mode. You can also purchase a handlebar lever with two-position adjustment if you want to make quick changes without taking your hand off the bars.On the Trail
I’ve been riding the new Fox 32 Step-Cast on the front of the BMC Fourstroke
I reviewed recently for several months to really get the measure of the new fork and see how it stacks up. With its low weight and 100mm rear wheel travel, the BMC is the natural frame of which to hang the new fork. Riding has taken in everything from lots of local lunchtime rides to all-day rides that haven seen me in bits when I reach home, scorched by the hot weather and choked by massive elevation gain, and some long-distance marathon events further afield.
The first aspect of the new fork to tackle is just how stiff is it? Could I notice the difference and would it transform the handling of the bike? I’ll be honest, it was hard detecting the difference coming from the previous generation Fox 32 fork that was previously on this bike. What it does reveal under scrutiny is a fork that does not twang and flex wildly about on repeated impacts, landing jumps or slamming into loamy berms.
It feels precise when you’re throwing the bike through corners or powering up climbs out of the saddle. On trails that are steep in gradient with lots of hard braking into tight corners, perhaps I could detect a hint of increased torsional stiffness, or more to the point, less deflecting during repeated impacts when you’ve got all your weight over the front wheel, and purposely trying to load up the front-end.
I’ve had no concerns pointing the new fork down trails I normally ride on a longer travel bike. This is partly thanks to the progressive geometry of new cross-country bikes like the BMC; the days of nervously descending with a bike and fork flexing underneath you are a distant memory. The new fork provides so much capability to enjoy the descents and handle chunky obstacles that it means more rapid progress on cross-country race courses, and more enjoyment in marathons and non-competitive trail rides.
The FIT4 damper is highly impressive. Many positives have been written about it elsewhere on Pinkbike, and for good reason. The fork is silky smooth and impressively controlled in all situations. It manages the holy grail of being supple in the first part of the travel to smooth out little bumps and roots, supportive in the mid-stroke when pushing into bigger obstacles or descending with your weight pivoted over the bars, and handles big impacts well with no nasty bottoming out. It might only offer 100mm - some might bemoan the lack of a 120mm travel option - but on the sort of bike it’s designed for it’s just the right amount.
Out of the box the performance is dialled. It’s easy to set up with the recommended air pressures a good starting point - I went a few psi higher than suggested - and you can add or remove air volume tokens for tuning the suspension; several are included in the box to get you started. The dial on the top of the right leg provides distinct behaviours and you’ll find your preference to suit your riding or racing. 95% of my riding was done with the fork in the fully open position - even on the climbs it’s so well controlled it didn’t wreck my pedalling efficiency or progress up the ascent. Racers would prefer the handlebar remote for sprints and climbs, but non-racers will find the open and medium settings sufficient for most trail requirements.
I’ve been riding the fork for several months through all sorts of conditions, from glorious dust to muddy trails and axle-deep bogs. The good news for riders or privateer racers without the luxury of a mechanic to strip and service the fork every weekend, the 32 durability and reliability is excellent. Fox says to clean the forks with “mild soap and water only and wipe dry with a soft towel” after every ride, the advice I duly followed. Fox recommends a full fork service every 125 hours or yearly, whichever comes first. I’m not quite up to that yet, but I’ll continue to ride the fork and update this review after the first service.
The Fox 32 Step-Cast has helped to give lightweight cross-country bikes a whole new lease of life for people that love to ride fast everywhere without compromise on the downs. It’s aimed at racers, but non-racing types can revel in the impressive performance if they want the best fork for regular trail riding. I love to ride fast everywhere on whatever bike I’m riding, up, across, over and down, and I haven’t tested an XC fork that is as good as this new Fox 32 Step-Cast.
Stiff and light+
Top quality damping
Only one travel amount option