Ok, so i splashed out and bought a new bike last year. It came with Fox 34’s on it, not the ctd ones that everyone slated, but the 2016 ones. Thought id just do a quick real world use mini review, just to log my own experiences as much as anything.
Initial impressions were very “Oooo!”. Nice damping, easy to set up, worked a tonne better than my old 32’s on the hardtail. But in the back of my mind i still wasn’t sure if i should have spent the extra and had the Rockshox Pikes. Id test ridden them and loved em, but then all the mainstream reviews said the 34 was a contender so i plumped for them seeing as if they were a bit cheaper and also just as good (if not better), then what was there to lose?
And I was chuffed with my purchase. For a while. It was only as i started using them more and in different places that i began to have my doubts. Did they need more or less low speed compression? Rebound? Volume adjusters mebbe? I tinkered, pumped, clicked and tweaked. They felt great on woodsy singletrack type stuff, but if i took the bike they were fitted to (an Orange Five) somewhere more near its more intended arena of use (ie, steeper, rockier, faster, the sort of trails like in the peak district), they just felt a bit sort of vague and i just couldnt get em feeling how i wanted.
Then i had a go on a mates Rockshox Yari. Holy Moly. The damping and springing was way off, but it was like a light went on in my suspension brain. In a quick experiment, we grabbed the front wheel of each bike and tried to waggle the bars. The fox were wangy like a plastic drain pipe (about an inch of wang at the ends of 780mm bars!), yet the Rockshox were solid like a scaffold tube. The suspicion was it wasn’t my numpty set up after all, it was just the nature of the fork, and the ‘vagueness’ might have been coming from the wanginess rather than the way the fork was set up.
So i mortgaged yet another kidney and splashed out on some Pikes (from ubyk, good price and ace service). Im over the moon and havent looked back. You hit a rock garden with these and all they do is go up and down. No wanderiness, no vagueness. Im still not convinced the pikes ‘feel’ as nice as the 34’s, but its still early days yet and they definitely have a massive advantage when it comes to steering precision. And when your as crap a rider as me, you need all the help you can get! Its not really a case of ones good and ones bad, cos they’re each better than the other in different ways. So heres my conclusions.
Fox 34 win on weight. A couple of hundred grams lighter if i remember rightly? They have longer service intervals. I think the damping feels ‘nicer’ or ‘plusher’ on these than the pike too. But the Rockshox absolutely totally and utterly clean up in regards to steering precision. You get volume adjusters in the box, and a service kit too, which is a nice touch. But what makes it a better fork to my mind is that it has so much more steering precision. It doesnt get knocked off line, it never wanders through rock gardens. “Yay, though i may ride through the shadow of the downhill of the valley of death, i shall fear no evil, for i have pikes bolted to my bike”. They kinda remind me of a Fox 36 i used to have (before it got nicked after about three rides) back in the days of inch-eighth steerers and 26″ wheels. I’ve not traditionally been a massive fan of SRAM and Rockshox but these are a brilliant piece of kit, i now understand why everyone goes nuts for the pike!
So to sum up my experiences. For a good all round fork, try the 34. It makes for a great hard riding xc fork, and i reckon it would be well suited on a nice 27.5 trail hardtail type thingy. Its civilised. If it was a car it would probably be something like a four wheel drive audi. But for more composure on bigger rocks and as a confidence booster when at the edge of your skill set, the pike is more like a V8 bowler. Not as civilised, but great for a confidence boost when the going really gets rough.
Now quit yer yappin and get out brappin!