2015 Fox 34 Float 26 160 FIT CTD Fork

While the 34 is obviously still an air fork, it has a relatively linear feel for the first 2/3 of its travel, then ramps up fairly dramatically over the last third. Even when running a fairly low pressure, it took a pretty hard hit to bottom out the 34.

In Descend mode, the 34’s mid-stroke action is nice and supportive, but it also does a great job of absorbing bumps. Moderate size roots and rocks disappear nicely, yet the fork doesn’t feel mushy. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty much the holy grail of suspension.

The 34 isn’t perfect in every respect, but when it comes to balancing small bump sensitivity off the top with good mid-stroke support, it’s better than most of the other forks in this travel class that I’ve ridden. The Pike is very nearly as good, and it might be better at taking big hits repeatedly. But for the vast majority of riding involving moderately rough terrain, I think the 34 Float is the best in its class. (The revised 36 Float could give the 34 a run for its money, but that’s only speculation, as I’ve only spent a brief amount of time so far on the 36.)

More on the 34 Float’s Trail Mode

As I mentioned above, I used the Trail mode fairly often on previous iterations of the 34 to get the support that I felt the fork’s Descend mode lacked. But on the new 34, I rarely use the Trail mode. Part of this is obviously because I think the Descend mode feels quite good, but it’s also because I’ve been less impressed with the fork’s damping characteristics in Trail mode.

Trail mode still offers most of that great small bump compliance that I like about the Descend mode, but I found that the 34’s high speed compression circuit comes on a little too strong in Trail mode. On abrupt hits, it felt like the compression damping was providing too much resistance, and the fork felt spikey. Instead of smoothly absorbing sharps roots or rocks, the fork was overly firm, and a significant amount of the impact would be transmitted to the bars.

Noah Bodman reviews the 2015 Fox 34 Float 26 160 FIT CTD Fork, Blister Gear Review
Noah Bodman on the Fox 34 Float, Swan Range, MT.

The flip side to this is that Trail mode offers more mid-stroke support earlier in the travel than Descend mode, so the front end of the bike definitely stays higher. On very smooth, flowy trails, the Trail mode was great; I could get better pumps off of rollers, and keep my bike more composed in berms.

But even with the Trail Adjust set at 2 or 3 clicks from the full, open end of its adjustment range, the fork struggled to smoothly absorb the occasional large rock or root that you’ll find on all but the smoothest trails. And so I rode with the 34 in Descend mode almost all of the time, since I found it handled bumps of all sizes quite a bit better there than in the Trail setting, and never lacked support.

Climb Mode

The 34 Float’s Climb mode is pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t used it much because (1) I do most of my climbing in the saddle at a pace where a fork lockout doesn’t make all that much difference; (2) I don’t mind if I’m slightly less efficient on climbs, since I’m not racing my 160mm travel bike uphill too often; and (3) I’ll forget to switch back to Descend mode and ruin a perfectly good descent.

Having said all that, if you like locking out your fork, the 34 Float’s Climb mode will keep you happy.

Wrapping Up: Fox 34 Float vs. RockShox Pike

I don’t own a RockShox Pike, but I’ve spent a decent amount of time riding one, and think it’s an excellent fork. However, while the Pike and the 34 Float both have fantastic small bump sensitivity and both handle big hits well, I think the 34 does a better job of providing the right amount of absorption and compression damping through a wider variety of obstacles. The Pike’s mid-stroke, while not bad by any means, feels a bit less refined than the 34’s.

On the other hand, the 34 Float’s chassis is a little less stiff than the Pike’s, and it’s a little heavier. I’m a small guy who doesn’t care all that much if my bike weighs a few grams more, so for me, neither the 34’s slightly more flexible chassis nor its weight are deal breakers. The 34 Float’s damping/suspension performance is exceptional, and that’s what I care about most.

Bottom Line

Given my experiences with previous iterations of the Fox 34 Float, I was slightly skeptical when I got on the 2015 version. But none of my initial concerns were realized.

Some might prefer the RockShox Pike for its slightly lighter weight and stiffer chassis, but to date, I haven’t ridden a mid-travel fork with better overall performance than the Float 34.


10 comments on “2015 Fox 34 Float 26 160 FIT CTD Fork”

  1. Great review. I’m rooting for Fox. They could use a win after the last few “fork years”. After many years on all Fox, all the time, I drank the Pike cool-aid, and I’m very impressed with its initial plushness, its amazing performance on repeated stutters/roots, and the simplicity of adjusting the curve with the token thingies.

    But the heck with the forks, I want to ride that area in the Swan Mountains!

  2. Good to hear Fox is upping its ante in the travel range most of us ride these days, and that they’ve managed to close some of the stiction gap to the Pike. All that means, however, is that they’ll be ready to create a better fork when they dump the outdated 34 chassis.
    I’ve ridden most iterations of Fox 34s and Pikes in the 130-160 range for 27.5 & 29 platform, and frankly, the larger & more flexy the wheel, the more evident & critical the lack of chassis stiffness in the Fox 34 is.

    This is where I disagree with the “best in class” assessment here. Like it or not, both the Fox 32 & 34 platforms are outmoded & just too flexy for modern wheel sizes. Fox is trying a band-aid fix by tuning the internals but the fact of the matter is that until they have a platform that can rival a Pike on both stiffness & weight, Fox has lost the war in this segment.
    As for lack of “midstroke support” in the Pike, I own one and have no idea what you are talking about. After a couple weeks of break-in and tweaking pressures, I’ve found the support I want for hits of all sizes. Perhaps the issue is that your small wheels are hanging on obstacles a 27.5 can steamroll, so you’re trying to compensate with “midstroke” tuning?
    Flexier & heavier chassis? Almost-as-good-as-Pike small & big hit compliance? No thanks. I’ll keep an open mind towards the Fox 36 when I’m in the market for a 160-180mm bike, but Fox needs to retool their sub-36mm chassis models before I’d vote for them with my dollars.

    • Hey Matt,

      Agreed that the 34 chassis is due for an update. Given that Fox redid the 40 last year and the 36 this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something new came down the pipe for the 34 next year (that’s pure speculation though).

      As for whether the chassis is too flexy for modern wheel sizes, I’m not so sure about that. Don’t get me wrong – the Pike is stiffer, and the differences are a little more noticeable in the larger wheel configurations. But having ridden a 34 and a Pike back to back, and having ridden both forks in all three wheel sizes, my conclusion is “meh.” The Pike is stiffer, but the 34 isn’t so flexy that I notice much of a difference in performance. It’s not like the 34 is some wet noodle that should only be compared to the old Shiver single crown; it’s just not quite as stiff as the Pike.

      As for the midstroke support – you’ve gotta read a little more carefully. I said the Pike’s mid-stroke is less refined, meaning that it doesn’t do as good a job of absorbing bumps. In terms of mid stroke support, the Pike has lots of that – a bit more than the 34. The Pike rides high and resists diving a bit more than the Pike, and while this is great for keeping the front end up, when a medium size hit comes along, the 34 handles it better. And I’ll politely ignore your wheelsize / steamroll comment because a) like I said above, I’ve ridden both forks in all three wheel sizes, and b) you’re wrong.

      So yeah, the Pike has the edge on the chassis – it’s a bit stiffer and a bit lighter. The 34 has the edge on dealing with medium sized bumps. The 34 has a very slight edge on small bump sensitivity while the Pike wins by a small margin on bigger hits, but these are close enough to maybe be a wash. So adding all that up, I still think the 34 is best in class, mostly because absorbing medium size bumps is like 90% of what a fork does on an average ride. But like I said in the review, I’m neither a weight weeny nor am I a huge guy that needs the stiffest equipment on the market, so best in class for me might not be best in class for someone else who has different priorities. At the very least, I can say that both the 34 and the Pike are really good forks and you’re not going to go wrong with either.

  3. All else being equal, the Pike is a proven fork, the new Fox not so much. Seal issues with the Fox remain to be seen. Also the Pike has a longer service interval (200 hours), and longer warranty, and who doesn’t like that?

    So taking these other points into account, the Pike is still the best fork out there, and you can get it for less.

  4. I am buying a Ripley and trying to decide between the Fox 32 and Pike adjusted down to 120mm. I am a 130 lb 5’5″ XC rider who enjoys tough climbs much more than technical descents. When I ride alone (which is most of the time, as I ride 6 days a week), I avoid technical descents. But some of the people I ride with like light AM, so I need a bike that can handle that. I do not know how flick around a bike; I cannot manual. I like steep semi-technical ascents which involve fist-sized rocks. I like to feel safe on descents, and do not enjoy the thrill of a scary descent. I do not descend quickly, and do not “rail” corners. Small bump compliance is important to me.

    Do you have the sense that the 120mm Pike is not necessarily better than the Fox 32 for my purposes? (I would have to pay an additional $270 for the Pike as adjusted.)

    • Hi Mark,

      Comparing the Pike to the Fox 32, there’s a couple things I’d take into consideration:

      1) The Pike is *much* more torsionally stiff than the 32, but from your description, it doesn’t sound like you’d necessarily benefit from that added stiffness – that stiffness is most noticeable when you’re carrying speed through rooty, rocky trail.

      2) The 32 weighs a bit less, which is always nice.

      3) The axle to crown measurement on the 32 is about 10mm less than on the Pike (assuming they’re both set at the same travel). So a 120mm Pike will put the front end of your bike a bit higher than a 120mm 32. This also means that your headtube angle would be a little slacker with the Pike. You might prefer the lower front end afforded by the 32 if your priority is getting up tough climbs.

      4) Assuming you’re comparing the top end models – the 32 Factory edition and the Pike RCT3, both have very good small bump compliance. I don’t think you’re really going to go wrong with either option. Small bump sensitivity isn’t quite as good on the lower end Evolution series 32’s.

      If you’d said that you were concerned about downhill prowess, I’d definitely say go for the Pike. But since you’re less concerned with the descents, I think the lighter weight and lower axle to crown on the 32 will serve your purposes better. And it’ll save you $270, which is certainly nice.

  5. Thanks for the review. I think it was written with an eye toward fairness and was very objective.

    Based on this review I’ve decided to upgrade my 2014 Evolution fork with the new 2015 damper and go CTD TA. When I called Fox I found the upgrade is discounted for owners of 2014’s. That with the new Moly oil was far less than a new Pike or 36. From what I’ve read here it should do nicely saving more than enough cash for a pair of studded snows for the fatbike.

    Rocky, rooty singletrack is the name of the game here in New England. I expect my Bronson C to be nicely enhanced. Thanks!

  6. Good to finally see an honest review for once! I’ve been riding my New 34s and loving them. I can’t believe how much hype is around the pikes, as I’ve had numerous I’ve had to send back for “Known” issues and rebuilds that are only 2-3months old. So far I’ve only sent one set of Fox forks back as the customer decided to try and modify the remote CTD side of the fork.

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