Looking for the best mountain bike suspension fork? You are in the right place. Buying a new suspension fork for your mountain bike is one of the most expensive and potentially most effective upgrades you can make to your bike. Even when buying a complete bike, the included fork is a serious consideration.
Either way, you want a fork that takes the harsher feedback off the trails and allows your hands to last longer on the roughest trails.
- Best Mountain Bike 2019: How to Pick the Right One for You
- How to set up your mountain bike suspension: video guides to help you get the most out of your bike
You want the fork to adjust smoothly for the first part of its travel to keep the front wheel on the ground. At the same time, it must offer enough support later on during the ride so that the bike does not tip over and dive too easily.
You also want enough stiffness to allow precise and predictable steering and enough adjustability to tune the fork to your needs, but not so much that setup is a nightmare. You also probably want it to be as light as possible and hopefully not cost you the earth!
We've tested forks to suit a variety of budgets, making sure to include a few premium options, as these are the ones people tend to buy as upgrades to their bike.
We tested ten trail/enduro forks; All had 160mm of travel, 29 inches of spacing and 51mm of offset to keep the comparison fair. Of course, all of these forks are available with a range of other wheel sizes, travel and offset options.
how we test
We tested all ten forks on the same bike with identical tire pressures, then measured the sag and tested how much travel we could use by pushing the fork down as hard as possible to set the forks up in the same ballpark.
This article explains how to properly set up a fork
We then raced each fork in a combination of terrain, adjusting air pressure, volume spacers, and damping settings until we were satisfied that the forks worked best for that particular terrain and rider.
Next, we gave them a few select test tracks and quickly swapped the forks between runs to get the best possible idea of how they stacked up.
In this video you can learn more about this process and how the ten forks compare.
Best Mountain Bike Suspension Forks of 2023
- RockShox Lyrik RC2 (2019):£ 989 / $ 999
- Fox 36 Fabrik GRIP2:£ 1.139
- Manitou Mezzer Pro (2020):899,99 £ / 999,99 $ / 1.050 €
- Marzocchi Z1 Bomber:749 €
- RockShox Was RC Sleek:695 £ / 1.200 AU$
- DT Swiss F 535 UNO:£ 925
RockShox Lyrik RC2 (2019)
5.0 out of 5 stars rating
- Preis:£ 989 / $ 999
- Wheel Size/Travel Options: 27.5" and 29" (tested), both with 150mm travel, 160mm (tested), 170mm and 180mm
- Weight:2019 g (29 Zoll x 160 mm)
This is our top choice for enduro and trail riding. The Lyrik offers best-in-class off-road feel, and that means a more stable, locked-in feel and more traction when starting a corner or navigating big bumps.
It also has a very useful range of damping adjustments, with the most open settings providing a super flexible and comfortable ride on even the longest and most difficult stretches.
The spring keeps the fork high in travel even under hard braking for predictable, reliable support.
However, the configuration is not easy. We recommend removing one or both of the volume spacers that came with the 160mm fork and applying much more pressure than RockShox recommends.
The only fork that came close to the Lyrik's performance was the Fox 36 GRIP2, which was a little more controllable in a few rare situations but not quite as flexible over small bumps. Overall we slightly prefer the performance of the Lyrik, and it's considerably cheaper too.
We also rode the Lyrik Ultimate 2020, which offers even more comfort and sets the Lyrik apart from all others.
- RockShox Lyrik RC2 review
Fox 36 Fabrik GRIP2
4.5 out of 5 stars
- Preis:£ 1.139
- Wheel Size/Travel Options: 27.5 inches with 160, 170, 180mm; 29 inch with 160 (tested), 170 mm
- Weight:2091 g (29 Zoll x 160 mm)
The superior Fox 36 GRIP2 Factory is the most expensive fork we have ever tested. Luckily, it has performance to match.
Its four-way adjustable shock absorber has a high and low speed setting for compression and rebound damping. Luckily, Fox nailed the setup guide, which makes it one of the easier forks to get into the right ballpark, despite the multitude of tweaks.
It's also one of the best, especially on big holes and rough, unpredictable terrain, where the high-speed independent rebound adjustment seems to make it more controlled and quieter when coming back from the deep if, like us, you run a lot of pressure on the spring.
At the top of the stroke, however, it's not as responsive as its archrival, the RockShox Lyrik, so there's not as much traction in light-load situations.
While it's very active and flexible on small bumps, it's a bit stingy with its travel on bigger hits, even with the compression damping wide open. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we would have liked to have run the high-speed compression a little more openly for long-term comfort.
There were times when the 36 was the best fork we've ever used, but overall we preferred the Lyrik because it offered better traction and feel. It also costs less.
- Fox 36 Factory GRIP2 review
Manitou Mezzer Pro (2020)
4.5 out of 5 stars
- Preis:899,99 £ / 999,99 $ / 1.050 €
- Wheel Size/Travel Options:27.5 and 29 inches (tested), both adjustable between 140 and 180mm in 10mm increments. 160mm tested
- Weight:2093 g (29 Zoll x 160 mm)
The Mezzer is an amazing performer, offering an excellent balance of small bump sensitivity and bottoming resistance. It performs exceptionally well no matter how deep you are in your ride or how hard you push it.
The chassis also offers the perfect balance of control, precision and compliance, feeling stiff when needed like cornering, but it didn't cause our front wheel to jump out of line or vibrate, either way helped reduce fatigue. hand in hand
The MC2 shock's high-speed compression is light enough to soak up high-speed impacts and has proven to be incredibly flexible. Its low-speed damping provides plenty of cornering and compression support, expanding the capabilities of the impressive air spring.
Although the hose is quite tricky to set up and you have to follow the included instructions to the letter, once you get it right the power you unlock is practically unmatched on the road.
If you're looking to upgrade your fork and are considering a RockShox Lyrik or Fox 36 GRIP2, the Mezzer should be on your shortlist as well.
The Manitou Mezzer was not tested as part of this fork comparison test and is not included in the video, but was tested and rated using the same criteria and performed extremely well.
- Manitou Mezzer Pro im Test
4.5 out of 5 stars
- Preis:749 €
- Wheel Size/Travel Options: 27.5 inches with 130, 140, 150, 160, 170mm; 29 inch with 150, 160 (tested), 170, 180 mm
- Weight:2249 g (29 Zoll x 160 mm)
Marzocchi is now a sister brand to Fox and the Z1 shares many features with the Fox 36 but is designed for a lower price point.
Due to the use of inferior aluminum in the upper tubes, it is one of the heavier enduro forks at 2249g, but the extra weight is not really noticeable on the trail.
The Z1 isn't as smooth early in its ride as the Fox 36 or the Yari and the Lyrik, so it needs lower air pressure to squat properly, along with a good stack of volume spacers to stop it. all his journey to use easily.
It still gallops through mid-travel with a little more ease than these other forks, making it feel a little less predictable and refined. But the other side of the coin is that it gobbles up kerb-sized rocks like a champ, meaning good long-term comfort.
The key comparison is with the RockShox Yari (below). The Z1 is more willing to take big impacts, making it more forgiving in these big impact scenarios, but the Yari is more flexible early in the shot, offering more traction and more predictable support. It's also a touch lighter and cheaper.
All in all, the Yari simply tops it for us. But if blockbuster capability is your priority and you can't fall back on the RockShox Lyrik or Fox 36, the Z1 is a solid choice.
- Marzocchi Z1 Bomber review
RockShox Yari RC Debonair
4.5 out of 5 stars
- Forgive: £ 695 / AU $ 1200
- Wheel Size/Travel Options: 150 mm, 160 mm (tested), 170 mm and 180 mm travel for 27.5 and 29 inch wheels
- Weight:2129 g (29 Zoll x 160 mm)
RockShox's Yari uses the same rigid 35mm chassis as its more expensive sister, the Lyrik. Now it also has the same super-flexible, class-leading Debonair spring.
The difference is in the damper. The Yari's simpler Motion Control Unit doesn't offer the same degressive damping that combines low-speed assist with high-speed flex that you get from Lyrik's Charger damper.
As a result, it doesn't feel as firm and supportive under braking and occasionally stumbles (feels harsh and doesn't use up much travel) when it hits the ground with a thud.
Realistically, however, it's rare for the less-refined damper to drop the sidewall, and this compares to the best of the best.
The Yari offers better long-term comfort and small-bump traction than almost anything else on the market, including forks that cost several hundred pounds more.
If the somewhat immature damper bothers you, you can always upgrade to Lyrik equipment later.
- RockShox Yari RC Debonair im Test
DT Swiss F 535 UNO
4.0 out of 5 stars rating
- Preis:£ 925
- Wheel Size/Travel Options: 27.5 inches with 130, 140, 150, 160mm; 29 inch with 130, 140, 150, 160 mm (tested)
- Weight:2160 g (29 Zoll x 160 mm)
DT Swiss has been making suspension forks for years, but the F 535 One marks a major leap in performance for the brand.
It takes an innovative approach to spring and damping technology and is one of the few forks we've tested that rivals Fox and RockShox in terms of performance.
The shock gets firmer with travel, increasing mid-travel support and keeping it very pliable from the start. Meanwhile, a small coil spring sits at the end of the air spring, which is said to help speed up direction changes for increased sensitivity.
It seems to work reasonably well on the road. The DT setup website is easy to use and in no time at all we had a good balance with impressive small bump sensitivity and great traction.
The shock also supports the fork well on steep technical stretches. In certain high-pitched chatter situations, it's among the best.
Although it can come out of its depth when hitting curb-sized potholes or charging hard into tight corners, it's not as smooth or predictable as its competitors. To be fair, DT says this fork is geared more towards the trail market, but it's heavier than most enduro forks.
But if you're not concerned about the weight or traversing rough terrain, it's worth considering.
- DT Swiss F 535 ONE im Test
Here are reviews of the rest of the forks we tested, but they didn't quite match the performance of the best.
Diamonds DVO D1
- DVO Diamond D1 rating
Cane Creek Ruderluft
- Cane Creek Helm Air review
X Fusion Trace 36 HLR
- X Fusion Trace 36 HLR-Test
Ohlins RXF 36 Evo
- Öhlins RXF 36 Evo tested
MRP Tape Air
- MRP Ribbon Air review
To help you get the most out of previous revisions, here are some helpful definitions of terms commonly used to describe forks.
This is the frame of the fork, which consists of the upper tubes (or stanchions), lower legs, crown, steerer, and thru-axle. It determines how stiff the fork is and how much clearance it offers.
The thru-axle clamps the fork to the hub axle. Most are 15mm in diameter these days, although downhill forks use 20mm axles. Although some are stiffer than others, the main difference is how easy they are to use. Quick-release axles make wheel removal easier, but can be heavier and more prone to snagging on vegetation than those that require an Allen wrench to install.
The fork spring is in one of the legs. Stores and returns energy from the tail or rider. Coil springs are similar to an oversized ballpoint pen and offer a consistent, linear spring rate, but it's a hassle to adjust to your taste. Air springs are more popular because they are lighter, easy to adjust for small changes, and the stiffness of the travel can be adjusted independently of the initial travel.
The air chambers consist of a positive and a negative air chamber. While the positive air spring supports the fork, the negative spring (which can be either a coil spring or an air spring) pushes it down at the beginning of the travel, making it softer at the beginning of the stroke.
Self-balancing forks feature a transfer port that allows air to flow between the positive and negative air chambers, automatically equalizing the pressure. This makes fork installation easier as there is only one valve to adjust the air pressure in the positive and negative chambers.
A progressive spring is one in which the spring rate (the amount the spring force increases per unit of travel) increases toward the end of travel. A progressive spring "builds" force towards the end, while a linear spring builds the same force throughout its travel.
Most air forks use plastic inserts to reduce the volume of the positive air spring, making the fork more progressive (harder towards the end of travel). Some forks use an additional air chamber to control progressiveness.
Low-speed compression damping
The restriction of oil flow when the fork moves slowly through its travel. This keeps the fork from diving too quickly, but too much can make it feel harsh on small bumps.
High-speed compression damping
Restricting oil flow when the fork is moving rapidly through its travel. This controls the path used when hitting larger bumps or landings. Again, too much can feel harsh.
Roughness through the bars caused by too much high-speed compression damping. This occurs when oil flow is restricted and prevents the fork from compressing quickly enough to absorb a hard impact.