How to Choose the Right Mountain Bike Fork - Buyer's Guide | MTB lab (2023)

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There are many mountain bike forks from well-known brands available on the market that will fit your bike and make it a reliable cruiser. All these bike forks are of decent quality and performance categorized by the type of riding style.

Some of the mountain bike forks are designed for moderate off-road riding like “All Mountain Biking” while other forks are fully designed for downhill/freeride setups. Some lightweight bicycle forks are designed for off-road riding, while other forks are designed to meet your need for strength. TheMountain Bike Fork Buying GuideIt would help you understand different types of forks and choose the right fork for your mountain bike.

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Best Buying Guide for Mountain Bike Forks

Finding a suitable mountain bike suspension that best suits your riding style is very important, especially when customizing the bike to your liking. If you're on a tight budget and want a cheaper front fork, look for good entry-level mountain bike forks from top brands like Marzocchi, Manitou, Rockshox and Fox.

Used forks are also an alternative, but they require your attention to check all internal parts. Always choose your bicycle fork according to your riding style and it should perfectly match your riding style. Riders would not normally mount the Rockshox Duke on an FSR Specialized Big Hit, which seems counterintuitive, and the entire downhill/freeride concept would be lost on the bike and stress would be placed on the bike's frame, resulting in reduced durability.

Type of mountain bike forks

There are two types of forks such as coil jump fork and air jump fork. The coilover spring is suitable for an aggressive riding style, while the light air spring is suitable for an XC riding style. This long-travel suspension is not designed for cross-country riding. It is designed for downhill/freeride, 4X jump and trail bikes only.

Traction is the most important factor needed for any aggressive mountain bike, and the long-travel fork offers perfect traction. The short-travel fork is also designed with a spring travel of 80 mm to 100 mm, which ensures snappy steering of the bike. This short-travel suspension is only for cross-country types that don't require traction.

coil spring fork

The most well-known of all forks, the Coil-Jump fork is generally used on all-around bikes. This coil spring suspension is an ideal choice and fits your budget. By customizing the bike with this long-travel suspension fork, you have plenty of scope to adjust and adjust to your desired riding style. The advantage of the coil spring front fork is that it is easy to service and maintain. The main disadvantage of this type of fork is that a steel spring in the fork increases the weight of the bike.

That doesn't mean it's worth less, the extra weight means it's a sturdier, stronger fork that's generally recommended for downhill and freeride racing. If you do a lot of jumps and descents, this type of fork is for you and will take all kinds of punishment when trail riding. It's intentionally built heavier to add massive power, which is much needed when you're doing a lot of jumps, full incline descents and multiple trails.

air-sprung fork

The air spring fork is in the expensive segment and is ideal for cross-country riding. It is considered a reliable choice for XC riders who expect some adjustability from the fork. This air spring makes it possible to reduce the weight of the suspension and uses the air pressure inside instead of the coil. You can adjust the air pressure with a damper pump to suit your driving taste. Some air-sprung front forks are also designed for moderate freeride and even moderate downhill use. The recent trend has led many riders to use air suspension forks for different trails.

Air suspension forks are becoming more and more convenient these days and many manufacturers are trying to bring cheaper air forks to the market. It's also rated for 4x with a well-designed coil spring fork that can handle a big landing with less compression for platform stability. The mid-size air spring fork is available in 80mm - 100mm and even the most advanced air spring is also available with rebound and compression adjustment up to 180mm of travel, which is very expensive.

fork stroke adjustment

Many long-travel forks are equipped with stroke adjustment features that allow you to fine-tune the bike's frame geometry by slightly decreasing the stroke. By reducing the stroke in small increments, you can adjust your riding style. You can also sometimes drop the travel all the way to make the fork stiffer and a shorter riding style.

All four major front suspension brands have their own travel settings. The Fox racing suspension is equipped with the Talas system, just like the Rockshox with the U-Turn system. Likewise, Marzocchi and Manitou follow their own pattern of travel adjustments.

Front fork adjustment

Preload Adjustment:

Mountain bike forks are always factory adjusted and have a minimum preload setting. Preload can be easily adjusted by turning the cap clockwise, located on top of the brace or on top of the leg.

Turning the cap to adjust the preload compresses the spring in the fork to make the fork stiffer. If you are a beginner, you don't need to adjust the preload.

Dampening Control Adjustment:

There are two types of damping control settings such as: B. an adjustable rebound damping control and a compression damping control.

Rebound Damping Control:

Adjustable rebound damping helps control how quickly the fork returns to its original height after compression. This rebound damping setting would also prevent the bike's fork from rebounding with a bang.

The rebound adjuster is only suitable for advanced users and beginners, so you don't have to worry about the setting.

Compression Damping Control:

Compression damping contrasts with rebound, which slows the rate at which the spring compresses and absorbs shock. Onlysome mountain bikesThe suspension allows the user to adjust compression damping, and this feature is available with the most advanced and expensive suspension.

Advanced riders use this compression damping setting and know what they are doing and adjust it properly to experience different riding styles.

The more versatile suspension allows the rider to split compression damping into two extremes, e.g. B. low speed and high speed. The low-speed compression damping would transfer all pedaling power to the bike with no loss of acceleration and would handle loads like cornering and braking. High-speed compression controls impact on rocky trails or hard landings.

Customization of bicycle forks

A mountain bike frame designed for 80mm of travel can also be adjusted to accommodate up to 120mm of travel, but cannot accommodate more than 120mm. For example, some riders want to customize the cross-country bike with a maximum compatible long-travel fork of about 120mm of travel to make it comfortable for moderate freeride and downhill.

Similarly, a mountain bike frame designed for 180mm of travel can also accommodate 140mm to 180mm of travel.

riding typeTravelCrown No.Weightfork type
Cross Country / XC80 to 100mmEinzelLightAir spring / coil spring
All Mountain / Freeride120 bis 150mmEinzelA little heavycoil spring/air spring
Freeride / Downhill140 to 180mmSingle / double / triple roomDifficultcoil spring/air spring
4X e Jump Bike80 to 100mmEinzelA little heavycoil spring/air spring

Mountain bike fork terminology

  • Travel:It is the gauge of the fork dropping at full compression. It is usually measured in inches or mm, for example. Downhill fork with 180 mm travel.
  • Krone:It is a metal band attached with one direction, holding together two posts or a top leg.
  • Post or Top Leg:Two upper legs or struts are attached to the upper crown. The other end of the post is inserted into the slider or leg.
  • Lower legs or sliders:It's a moving part of the fork called the slider or lower leg. These telescopic legs are connected to the rigid metal bracket at the top to prevent them from moving independently.
  • Damping:It's the name given to fork motion control. When an impact force is applied to the fork, the oil in the suspension is forced through the holes to prevent the fork from bouncing, and this control is called damping.

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