Review: Fox's 2020 Update to the 32 Step-Cast Makes One of the Best XC Forks Even Better

Jul 18, 2019 at 9:47
by David Arthur  
Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020

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 FIT Grip 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
www.ridefox.com

Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020
Meatier crown for more stiffness

Stiffer Chassis

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.

Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020
Orange is a fast colour, right?
Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020
Where the fork gets its name.


Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020
Kabolt axle saves weight, but don't forget your multitool.
Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020
Make your adjustments here, or just leave it in open.


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.


Fox 32 Step-Cast 2020

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.

fox 32 riding

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.


Pros

+ Stiff and light
+ Smooth suspension
+ Top quality damping
Cons

- Pricey
- Only one travel amount option



Pinkbike's Take
bigquotes The improvements to this latest Fox 32 Step-Cast aren’t as radical as the previous generation, which introduced a whole new fork design, but demanding cross-country racers and trail riders will appreciate the small improvement. It’s not quite enough to make you rush to the shops, however, but if you’re in the market for a new fork or looking at a bike with this fork, you won’t be disappointed. David Arthur






67 Comments

  • 58 3
 I’ve owned a pair of these for 5 months now and only noticed the lower leg ‘steps’ earlier this week. True story..
  • 5 0
 Wow hahah that’s incredible
  • 9 3
 This one product is not plural.
  • 4 1
 @flange2032: please tell me it's because you send it to a shop for services. If you do your own work, do it today because it is way overdue.
  • 4 0
 @nickyp132: ha ha!!! Good catch. Love grammar geeks. Pair of underwear? Pair of shorts?
  • 1 1
 Whatcha Smokin bro want to share?
  • 1 0
 Hahahahah. This is the best.
  • 41 6
 Damn .... "With its low weight and 100m rear wheel travel," ..... 100 meters of rear travel, that is huge amounts of travel ....
  • 106 1
 Jeez it's a typo, they obviously meant miles
  • 67 0
 Josh Bender wants to know your location
  • 1 2
 @JoelAllport: clearly I should have used "sarcastic font" for some PB users!
  • 19 0
 "Nobody has since copied it."

Fox themselves copied it from nothing other than some of SR Suntour's cheapest products. www.universalcycles.com/shopping/product_details.php?id=78626
  • 15 1
 Look way farther back to the Marzocchi XC700 to see the pinnacle of step-cast.
  • 4 0
 @bogey: holy shit I'm too young to know about that one! Awesome! Drillium at its finest.
  • 1 1
 Props!!!
  • 20 2
 Have single crown suspension forks reached the end of their design evolution? This is 99% the same fork as the 2016 model
  • 8 14
flag nouseforaname (Jul 19, 2019 at 6:44) (Below Threshold)
 No - they're going backwards. The previous fork was lighter.
  • 15 0
 @nouseforaname: lighter isn't always better
  • 32 17
 @clink83: bring back 1230g SID with 28,6 uppers and it will be the best selling XC fork on the planet. XC crowd is far from being rational. They care only about weight since 99% of “XC” has nothing to do with World Cup XC. I have been to XC race as a spectator not so long ago, and half of the tyres people used in awful mud were Thunderburts and Speed/Race Kings. Some folks had dugasts and at best: Vittorias. Only two i noticed to use sensible setups were elite guys who are at the same excellent bike handlers occasionally competing in Enduro including EWS. The rest are gravel warriors with ridiculous setups
  • 9 6
 @WAKIdesigns: speaks the truth
  • 14 3
 @WAKIdesigns: nonsense. I raced to a decent level in XC and on some fairly technical courses - at national level pretty much everyone had the skills to match their fitness. Whilst they might run high seatposts and semi slick tyres, don’t think that they can’t handle a bike properly.

I also got rid of the SID as it was too flexy, swapping to a Reba which was a decent compromise of weight/stiffness. The stepcast I have now is a bit too flexy for my liking - hopefully this is an improvement over the older one.
  • 8 9
 @flange2032: Maybe the latest Reba. 2-3yrs back Reba was virtually identical to SID. Around 2010-2012 Rebas had bigger bushing spacing sharing lowers with Revelation. It was basically SID CSU fit into Rev lowers. I rode Stumpy with 120 reba and it was flexy. And so what. On XC bike is makes next to no difference. If you have a light sub 400g alu rims, lots flex comes from that as well. RS1 was voted way too flexy, yeah, maybe for folks who want to brake in catch berms or hold on for your life on drops on steeps, slamming brakes on landing. Very decent fork, unlike SID, 32 100 it remains active at all times. I had a 26” 32 100 and the main problem was that uppers were binding under any bigger load. Reba was a tad better.

Many folks here ride technical features on their semi slicks, they just barely survive. Look, just beacuse all elite CXers ride super steep chutes in mud on bonkers bars, doesn’t mean they should. That’s all I mean. You have to see a gross Marathon race to see what I am talking about.
  • 8 0
 @flange2032: yea, the XC hate on here is ridiculous. Even with droppers and power meters FS XC bikes are easy to build up to 22-23lbs these days, having a stiff fork is more important than saving a few grams. I'm 6'4 215 and the current SID world cup is plenty stiff for trail riding, it's an impressive fork.

The racekings have impressive traction on singletrack, more than you would expect. They have better straight line grip than a rocket Ron imo.
  • 7 4
 @WAKIdesigns: take your meds dude
  • 1 2
 @IllestT I hope so, single crown forks suck
  • 5 0
 illest... that's why it's called an update and not a new product. They made a necessary update to the product... and improved it in the eyes of everyone outside of the biggest of weight weenies.
  • 9 0
 @WAKIdesigns: you based your conclusions of XC racers on one race you attended as a spectator. I race XC regularly and haven't seen any of those tyres. Here it's all Maxxis and Schwalbe. And I'm not even going to address that 'lack of skill' bullshit.
  • 9 0
 @iamamodel: WAKIdesigns sounds like a 13 year old who thinks cross country is for pussies and claims to only ride the craaaziest downhill. What an idiot.
  • 14 2
 But I though FIT4 dampers sucked and that GRIP2 was THE only way to go
  • 15 1
 But there's no lockout on Grip2, try selling that to the XC crowd lol
  • 7 2
 Yes, it sounds very hypocritical compared with other pinkbike articles. Although damping of 100mm XC forks usually has different priorities from that of long, spacious enduro forks.
  • 3 0
 But this fork came out after the forks using GRIP2. Therefore, it must be radically better.
  • 7 0
 @Ttimer: How is it hypocritical. It's a completely different crowd purchasing this fork. There also is not a G2 available at this time for a 32. So you take the best of what's available AND is engineered with an XC fork in mind... i.e. keep it light.

The managed to improve one of the biggest issues with XC forks without bumping the weight all that much. Seems like a win win to me for folks that ride these types of forks.
  • 2 2
 I don’t even know if a grip2 would be worth it on a 100mm fork. Would the spring force be high enough for a dedicated high speed rebound adjuster be worth it? Are XC racers having high enough shaft speeds often enough to justify a dedicated high speed compression adjuster?
  • 3 1
 @kleinblake: no. For XC I just want a reliable lockout, volume spacers, and good dampening. Adjustable LSC is nice but not needed.

Having a cane creek DB inline on the rear of my bike has been a godsend though.
  • 4 0
 @clink83: everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I far prefer good quality LSC to a lockout. Lockouts are only useful when riding absolutely flat terrain, in which case you might as well ride a road bike. Even on XC trails, I can't imagine not wanting ANY suspension movement...
  • 1 0
 @Mac1987: I kind of agree. I usually don't use my lockout on single track, but race starts/finishes, fire road climbs, and climbing out of the saddle all are much easier in a race if you have a lockout.
  • 1 0
 @Mac1987: I was playing with LSC adjuster on my 34SC and found out, that any less clicks than 17 means a noticeable worsening in small bump compliance which is stellar for me. Hence I run the 17 clicks, but it is hardly noticeable diffefence compared to fully open LSC, so I guess no need for LSC. At least for me.
  • 1 0
 @Mac1987: I use lockout all the time going to and coming from my trail systems so it may not seem good to you but it's great for guys like me.
  • 1 0
 @mhoshal: if I close the LSC on my Mattoc, it hardly moves at all, except with large hits where a lockout wouldn't be acceptable. I can mash the pedals standing and it still moves only a couple of millimeters. Closing it halfway (combined with some HSC) has a noticeable effect without sacrificing all small bump compliance (although the open position has better compliance of course).
On my Fox 34 GRIP on the other hand, I just leave it on the open setting all the time. The small improvement on bobbing comes with a disproportional decrease in compliance with this fork. However, fully closing the LSC on this fork also acts like a 99% lockout without the risk of destroying your fork when forgetting to decrease the LSC before descending. While I can see the advantage in very heavy LSC, I personally still can't see any advantage in a true lockout and usually see the cheap lockout mechanism combined with subpar dampers.
  • 3 1
 @Mac1987: this is an XC race fork...if you can't see why it needs a lockout it's not the fork for youSmile
  • 2 0
 @clink83: I ride XC 60% of the time (not much else in the Netherlands). I still haven't heard a reason why a full lockout (no movement possible at all) would be preferable to a nearly closed LSC (only moves with hard hits).
  • 3 1
 @Mac1987: because if you RACE XC you don't have time to fiddle with knobs on the fork crown. This is a RACE fork. You either want your forked locked or open. Racing=/= riding.
  • 1 0
 @clink83: what's the difference between flicking the remote lever for a lockout versus flipping the remote lever for the highest level of LSC?

And I'm not trying to insult you, but am seriously trying to understand why XC racers prefer lockouts to proper LSC, when I see no functional advantage. Is it just the feeling of 'not losing any energy' ?
  • 1 0
 @Mac1987: But the lockout on this fork isn't actually an old school lockout. It closes the LSC, so the fork hardly moves under heavy sprints, but if it takes hard hit, it moves.
  • 1 0
 @TheJD: that's something I understand band exactly what I mentioned earlier as a more preferable to a full lockout. But
@clink83 said he just wanted a reliable lockout. I was then curious what he wanted an old school lockout for.
  • 12 0
 Not downcountry enough, obvs...
  • 1 7
flag dumr666 (Jul 19, 2019 at 7:34) (Below Threshold)
 Not enduro enough, downcountry is for dentists. Enduro is way to go for us plebs
  • 6 0
 They always say they improved stiffness. Lol.
  • 4 0
 And it's always by 20%.
  • 6 2
 Hopefully that fixes the creaky CSU syndrome and they also similarly upgrade the 34 crown
  • 4 2
 I own a Factory SC, bought a few months ago, and don't feel any lack of stiffness. I like it a lot better than the RS SID though.. Highly recommended.
  • 4 0
 Dialled
  • 5 4
 So last gen they introduced Step Cast which made the fork noodely and now - heureka - they introduced new generation where they fixed it. I call that progress.. Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @i-am-lp makes you wonder if anyone at fox even rides the products they make eh lol
  • 3 0
 I want one just for the colour!
  • 1 5
flag Doomsdave (Jul 19, 2019 at 19:17) (Below Threshold)
 It’s color.Smile
  • 2 0
 And not a single word about the not working lockouts and the not existing support...
  • 3 2
 Sometimes I wonder how long before we get a Step Cast 36. Sub 4lbs, 160mm travel.
  • 2 1
 No thanks.....
  • 1 0
 But... where would you put the bushings?
  • 2 2
 Great to see that the stiffness has improved, the first series was a little too flexy.
  • 4 4
 This is the same advertised weight from 100mm forks that existed 15 years ago
  • 1 0
 Maybe FAUX can work on the CSU creaking issues now.
  • 1 1
 Minion 2.5 wt fits easy!
  • 1 4
 PM I have one of these forks for sale brand new.
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