Installed in a chassis redesigned last year for extra stiffness and other benefits, Fox’s latest Float 34 fork has a damper and air spring that’s been tuned and updated for the best part of a decade. And it’s good – good enough to make it on our list of the best mountain bike suspension forks, and a perfect 10/10 score.
Even with a beefier 58mm crown and bulbous curvy lower leg arch that offers more headtube clearance at bottom out, it’s lightweight for a fork in the trail category, and available in an even lighter, more XC/Marathon guise with cut-away ‘Step Cast’ lower legs.
If you want the four-way adjustable GRIP2 damper with larger oil volume for ultimate performance and adjustability, you’ll need to get this regular straight-leg version, as the Step Cast model only comes with the lighter FIT4 damper.
Fox’s new chassis incorporates channels at the rear of the lower legs to continually circulate oil over bushings and foam rings for extra fluidity. These also add extra overall volume to the lower casting to help absorb any unwanted progression when the fork compresses. Fox has omitted the external bleed valves found on the 36 and 38 from the 34, partly to save extra weight and partly because this fork won’t see the kind of sustained descending that could lead to unwanted pressure build-up.
Supporting rider weight, the latest self-balancing Fox EVOL air spring has an enlarged negative spring over previous generations. It aims for more sensitivity off-the-top and the bigger negative chamber sees the 34 feel super plush in the car park squish test. This setup helps trace contours and dips in the ground as well as increase mid-stroke support.
Clip-together spacers are included to reduce the positive air spring volume if you need more ramp up, but one drawback with relying on a larger negative, less overall air pressure and spacers to tune the spring can be a potentially lower ride height. This wasn’t the case here though, and we stuck with the two stock spacers installed, which felt perfect for the tester’s 84kg weight.
That’s because Fox has totally dialled this air spring and there’s way more mid-stroke support than you’d expect for how soft it feels off the top. Plus, even if you’re not picky about set-up, the 34 always feels like it’s at the right place in the stroke whether pushing into the spring to hop over small obstacles, supporting rider weight on steep tracks/g-out berms, or absorbing big bits.
It’s the same story with Fox’s latest four-way adjustable GRIP2 damper that now brings the brand’s variable-valve-control-system to compression damping as well as the original high-speed rebound circuit. The ingenious VVC design adds to an already excellent damper and works by way of a little leaf spring that rotates to adjust the fulcrum (balancing point) of oil flow shims, thus fine-tuning valving without having to rebuild the entire damper.
External adjustability tunes both high and low shaft speeds in both directions, and Fox’s recommended settings are pretty accurate and also work over a broad range; something that will much better suit lighter riders who might have previously found Fox forks overdamped.