Anything that’s racing orange is already tops in my book. There’s something about that color that just gets me. Apparently, the folks at Fox Racing Shox feel the same way because their new Factory-level forks are all sporting it. As a replacement from the OEM fork, the all-new 2019 Fox 34 Factory Stepcast fork not only looks fast, but kills it on the trail.
Fox 34 Factory Step-Cast 120 Features:
- NEW Step-Cast chassis — same stiffness as 34/140mm
- FLOAT EVOL air spring
- External steps in lower casting reduce weight
- Dedicated air spring and damper tune
- 120 mm travel
- 27.5 chassis fits up to 2.8” tire, 29 chassis fits up to 2.6” tire
- 15x110mm Kabolt axle
- Gloss Orange or Matte Black paint options
- Genuine Kashima Coat
- Weight: 1635 grams (actual)
- MSRP: $943
Light, stiff, smooth and orange
Yeah, orange. Luckily, I’m quite fond of the color and it looks mighty fine on just about any bike — even a bright yellow Giant XTC Advanced 27.5+. Yes, Fox does make it in a traditional black color too (for those who don’t appreciate the finer things). Certainly, color means nothing on the trail, but the look of the 2019 Fox 34 Factory Step-cast 120 is also unmistakable with its unique, stepped legs and the added stiffness of 34mm stanchions to boot.
While 120mm is a tad more than traditional XC forks, it’s spot-on for long-legged XC or marathon bikes these days. The 120/120 or 120/100 bike is absolutely perfect, in my opinion and getting a 34 Step-Cast instead of the more traditional 32mm fork makes a huge difference in ride quality.
Lateral stiffness is definitely the star of the show here, but doing so while dropping weight over the comparable Float 32 120 model is quite the feat. And, comparing the 34 SC to the RockShox Judy SL it replaced represented a whopping 355 grams in weight savings (that’s a full 3/4 lbs!) with performance on another level. Indeed, comparing the Judy SL to this model is unfair, but that’s what I did and it blows it away on every level.
When Kashima was introduced, it set a new standard for stiction by reducing it significantly. Since that time, others have tried, but Kashima remains the best stanchion coating on the market. Plus the gold color stands out in a crowd.
The following video shows where the fluid flows through the valves depending on the settings chosen.
As with any fork at this level, adjustments abound. This one features the FIT4 3-position dial (open, medium, firm) on the top of the right leg. Air adjustments are made atop the left leg. At the bottom of the right leg is the rebound adjust with 12-clicks of variation. Even a single click on these dials delivers changes in performance that can be felt. As a test, I’ve turned both the open adjust and rebound to either extreme and it drastically changes performance. Each step along the way enables fine-tuning that will satisfy the inner nerd in all of us.
While some riders will obsess over each setting and even adjust volume spacers, not all of us will do that. If that’s you, then rest-assured there’s enough there to tinker before each ride. But, for the most part, I’ve found that following the Fox 34 Setup Guide is the best way to go. I start there, then vary air pressure and other adjustments by a click or two until it’s just right.
Trail time does not disappoint
After dialing it in, I went on a break-in ride the second I took it off the bike stand. Immediately, the weight savings and lateral stiffness could be felt. Tracking and steering precision were ratcheted up a notch with added confidence that a stiffer chassis provides. With all my testing miles aboard a 27.5+ hardtail, those 2.8″ tires require exaggerated lateral movements and the 34 SC doesn’t even flinch. The harder I press it with extra-wide RaceFace Turbine R 800mm bars, the better it responds.
As mentioned, I set everything up according to the guides and then made slight variations from there. I will say that wasn’t entirely the case for the Open Adjust dial. I turned that one wide open because when I wanted to bomb something, I wanted the smoothest, wide-open travel possible. Then, for the rest of my riding, I would just flip it into medium.
The medium setting is spectacular for everything right out of the box. Honestly, I could ride in that setting all the time and never know the wiser. I used firm just to test it out, but never lingered there. Again, my money is on the medium setting for no-brainer performance.
With large-volume tires, it’s hard to pinpoint the suppleness of the 34 SC 120, but it’s supple. Small trail chatter simply disappears and large drops are absorbed progressively.
The only nitpick I’ll bring up is that the FIT4 lever should have a bit more positive engagement between settings. When reaching down over bumpy terrain, it wasn’t always easy to flip the switch into the medium setting. I would prefer a more telltale stopping point.
Look for this fork on several off-the-shelf models at your local shop, as an upgrade to your existing trailbike or part of your dream build.
- 34 Step-Cast chassis is stiff
- Drops boatloads of weight off traditional forks
- Immediate steering precision
- Tracks like a champ
- Smooth suspension performance
- Adjustments galore
- Works for both 27.5+ and 29″
- I wish that the FIT4 lever had a little more positive engagement
The Bottom Line: 2019 Fox 34 Factory Step-Cast 120
Fox likes numbers and stuff when it comes to naming their products, but don’t let all those numbers dissuade you — the 2019 34 Step-Cast will transform your trail bike by lowering weight and adding steering precision. Improvements can be immediately felt over 32mm forks with less front-end weight for a livelier feel.
Buy Now: Available at JensonUSA.com
The Step-Cast chassis is the star of the show here with a remarkable reduction in weight while at the same time increasing stiffness and steering precision. You'll love the smooth ride and all the adjustments you can handle in the new king of the trailbike fork market.