2015 Fox 34 Float 26 160 FIT CTD w/ Trail Adjust
Features / Specs:
- Travel: 160mm
- Wheel size: 26”
- Axle to Crown measurement: 535mm
- 1.5” tapered aluminum steerer
- 15mm through axle
- Stated Weight (165mm steerer): 1920 grams / 4.24 lbs
- Blister’s Measured Weight (200mm steerer): 2020 grams/4.45 lbs
Tested on: Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon
Reviewer Info: 5’9” 155lbs
Test Locations: Whitefish, MT; Fernie, BC
Intended Use: Trail, All Mountain—whatever you call ‘riding that involves 160mm travel forks’
Test Duration: About 2 months
What a difference two years makes.
I reviewed the 2013 Fox 34 that came on my Specialized Enduro Expert and, like a number of other people out there, I wasn’t wild about it. Since then, I’ve ridden a few bikes with the 2014 version of the 34 Float, and found it to be significantly better than the 2013 model.
And having now spent a couple months on the new, redesigned 2015 34 Float, I feel completely comfortable saying that Fox has this fork pretty well dialed.
The big news this year from Fox has certainly been their completely redesigned 36 Float (review to come), which has lost a bunch of weight and, judging from the few rides I’ve put on it, is pretty awesome. But even if the new 34 Float hasn’t been grabbing all of the headlines, it is the workhorse of Fox’s mid-travel fleet and comes spec’d on far more bikes than the 36.
Lots of people like to compare the 36 to the RockShox Pike, a great mid-travel fork, but in reality the Pike is probably more comparable to the 34.
Versions of the 34
Fox forks come in many different versions, with differences beyond their stanchion size. The 34 Float model is made for 26”, 27.5” and 29” wheels, each with various amounts of fixed travel (140mm, 150mm, and 160mm). Fox also makes several 34 “Talas” model forks with externally adjustable travel.
In addition, the 34 Float is produced in two different series: Fox’s “Factory” series and the “Evolution” series. The 34 Float forks in the Factory series feature Kashima coated legs, a 7-position “trail adjust” knob, a 3-position Climb/Trail/Descend (CTD) adjustment, and, most importantly, Fox’s FIT Damper.
The Evolution 34 Float also features the CTD adjustment, but lacks Fox’s Trail Adjust, and has an open bath configuration (which adds some weight).
What’s New for 2015?
Fox has incrementally tweaked and revised the 34 Float each year since introducing the chassis a few years ago. Over the years, the 34’s compression damping circuits have been revised to offer more mid-stroke support, and it’s seen some redesigns intended to improve small bump sensitivity.
For 2015, all iterations of the 34 got a revised damping tune to help with small bump compliance. The 34 also sees some of the same revisions made to the new 36–namely, some of the seals have been reshaped to reduce the initial stickiness at the beginning of the fork’s travel.
All of Fox’s 2015 forks will also come stock with a fancy new oil containing Molybdenum, which supposedly plays nicely with the Kashima-coated sliders on Factory series forks, making everything extra slippery.
The chassis of the 34 Float itself doesn’t appear to have undergone any major revisions for 2015. In my review of the 2013 34 Talas, I found that the chassis was fairly stiff, but that it did flex a small amount in extra chundery situations, and under hard braking.
I’d still say that this is mostly true for the 2015 34 Float; it isn’t a noodle by any means, but it can be flexed a bit when ridden hard. But as I’ll say more about below, the actual suspension action of the 2015 34 Float is vastly improved over previous versions, which makes the flexing less noticeable. In other words, I don’t think the chassis itself is actually much stiffer, but it effectively flexes less because the new fork’s suspension does a better job of absorbing bumps.
The 34 Float is still only offered with a 15mm through axle; there’s no 20mm option. I have some gripes about 15mm axles (which you can read about in my review of the 2013 34 Talas), but I think Fox’s through axle is the best in the industry: it works well, doesn’t feel like it’ll break easily, is easy to use, and doesn’t come loose.
A Few Words on CTD and Trail Adjust
I spent a considerable amount of time bitching about the CTD damper adjustment in my review of the 2013 34 Talas. Here’s the executive summary: I don’t like it, and I’d rather have good, independent high and low speed compression adjustments on a fork. This is still true, but mid-travel forks that have that option are increasingly rare, so to some extent, I’ve become resigned and have accepted dampers with limited external adjustability.
The CTD adjustment on the 2015 34 Float does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Each position offers a distinct feel. The “Climb” mode is quite firm, while the “Descend” mode feels quite plush.
On previous versions of the 34 that I’ve I’d ridden, I never found much use for the middle Trail setting, and I treated it more as an alternative to Descend mode, which I was never very happy with when it came to dampening performance, specifically mid-stroke support.
However, this is no longer the case with the 2015 34 Float. I am 95% satisfied with the fork’s performance in Descend mode, so the Trail mode is actually an independently useful feature (more on that below).
The 34 Float’s Trail Adjust dial enables seven clicks worth of adjustment within Trail mode, and there is a noticeable difference in feel with each click. I rarely needed the level of firmness and support that’s offered at the closed end of the Trail Adjust setting — I usually ran the 34 Float 2 or 3 clicks in from the most supple / descend end of the adjustment range.
The first thing I noticed on the new 34 is that it’s really supple off the top end, and Fox’s tweaks have definitely paid off here.
When the RockShox Pike came out a year or so ago, it blew most of the competition out of the water in terms of small bump sensitivity. The new 34 is just as good as the Pike in this respect, and arguably even better. In Descend mode, the 34 levels out small bumps as well as pretty much any other fork I’ve ever ridden.
What’s more, even after two months of riding with zero maintenance, the 34 is still running at 99% of the smoothness as when I first got it, which also means the fork didn’t require much of a break in period at all.
Beyond its initial suppleness, the 34’s damping is also damn good. I felt previous versions of the 34 had big problems with mid-stroke support, or more specifically, they didn’t have any at all. The new 34 performs much better in this realm. In Descend mode, the fork never felt like it was diving under hard braking or in compressed corners. It would certainly settle into its travel, but I didn’t feel like it was unsupported.
The other nice thing about the 34’s excellent, supple feel up top is that if you want a bit more support, you can add a bit of air pressure without giving up all of your small bump compliance.