The Takeaway: Revised with a bit of the 36’s magic, the new 34 is a smoother, better-performing fork.
Revised air spring with increased negative volume
Air bypass channels reduce pressure build-up
New 34 offered with GRIP2 or FIT4 damper in 130 and 140mm travel
Weight: 34 1,828 grams (130mm travel, 44mm offset, with Kabolt thru axle)
Price: $849 to $1089
For 2022, Fox Factory sticks with its usual product rollout schedule, pandemic be dammed. Like previous years, the company’s products for the next model year debut in early spring. Last year around this time, we saw the new 38, revised 36, new Transfer dropper, and other, smaller, updates to the line. This year, it’s a new 34 and a couple of new shocks. You can read about the new 34 below, and find my review of the new Float X and DHX shocks here.
Even if you’re not in the market for a new fork, bike brands spec the 34 like mad, so you’re sure to run across this fork if your shopping for a new bike.
2022 Fox 34 — What You Need To Know
The new 34 integrates many, but not all, of the updates Fox, rolled into the 36 last year.
There’s the new rounded arch that sits further forward. This, in today’s shorter offset forks, provides more clearance between the and a bike’s headtube when the fork is deep in its travel.
Though the arch design is stiffer than before, “The 2022 34 is roughly the same stiffness as the 2021 model. 2022 is slightly stiffer in some planes and about the same in others,” said Fox’s brand manager, Sean Estes.
Though stiffness doesn’t change much, the new 34 is lighter by about 50 grams giving the 2022 fork an improved stiffness-to-weight ratio.
The air spring gets a host of refinements. The new 34 has increased negative air spring volume for improved sensitivity and air channels on the back of the casting to reduce pressure captured in the lower legs. Combined, they should make the spring feel more consistent through the fork’s travel.
Harder to see is the new 58mm diameter crown. This is larger than before and mostly an aesthetics thing, so the area around the fork steerer better blends into modern head tubes.
Two things that didn’t carry over from the 36 are the floating axle and bleeder valves. According to Fox, “The 34 is designed to be as light and capable as possible. Bleeders, while offering an advantage in certain conditions, do add a marginal amount of weight. In shorter travel applications—such as the 34—there is less opportunity for chassis misalignment. Therefore, the floating axle was not necessary.”
The new 34 comes in 130 or 140mm travel and with either the GRIP2 damper or Fox’s familiar FIT4. FIT4 is 75 grams lighter and simpler: one rebound knob and a three-position (open/medium/firm) lever—you can also fit a remote to the FIT4. GRIP 2 offers more tuning options and, I think, does a better job sucking up bumps. But it’s heavier, and the four adjustments can be overwhelming for some riders. Fox says the new 34 fits up to a 2.6-inch tire. This fork is only offered for 29-inch wheels and with a boost axle. Available offsets are 44 and 51mm.
For weight-conscious riders, there’s a new 34 Step-Cast (SC). Offered in 100 or 120mm travel, this fork comes in at 1,496 grams (Factory level, FIT4 crown adjust), making it about 130g lighter than the 2021 34 SC and only a bit heavier than the 32 SC (about 1,440g for the 29er). Though it’s a bit heavier, it should be a lot stiffer and might give XC racers some actual, you know, directional control. The maximum tire size for this fork is 2.4-inches.
Like the normal 34, this fork gets the new arch and air channels. One 34 SC-only feature is an adjustable negative spring. Riders can run a larger negative spring volume for more sensitivity or add a volume spacer to give the fork a firmer feel off the top.
Expect to see the new 34 SC get a lot of use under Fox’s cross country pros, “You might occasionally see a rider choose the 32 SC for a short track race or other scenarios where 100mm is enough and stiffness isn’t paramount. But 90+% of the time, our athletes will be on the new 34 SC,” said Estes.
The 34SC is only offered for 29-inch wheels and with a boost axle. Available offsets are 44 and 51mm.
2022 Fox 34 — How it rides
I loaded a fresh 2022 130mm 34 GRIP2 onto the front of a Marin Rift Zone Carbon—the same bike I used to test the new Float X and DPX shocks Fox dropped today—and hit the trails around my house in Durango, Colorado.
Even though Fox’s Estes says the new 34 isn’t stiffer than the old, it rides like a stiffer fork. It’s less twangy in the rough and holds and line better in high G situations, and tracks over repeated small and medium bumps with more accuracy.
I suspect that it feels stiffer because it is smoother and more reactive and is soaking up more of the impacts than the previous generation 34. All that, and it’s lighter than before too.
On the trail, and with the same(ish) set up like the old 34, the new 34 also seems to ride a bit deeper in its travel and is less progressive. I’m running my typical 20-percent sag—Fox’s weight/pressure chart seems pretty close, but, as always, I trust my ruler more than I trust a sticker—but compared to the previous generation 34, I’m rethinking my compression settings a bit, and my preferred number of volume spacers.
I’m still sorting through it, but so far, I’m running an extra volume spacer (four total in this 130mm fork) and a click or two of added low-speed compression damping (most of the time, I run my low speed fully open). My high-speed compression setting is the same (four clicks back from closed).
Overall, this is a better fork than the outgoing 34 and narrows the gulf between this platform and the 36. It’s so much better that riding the new 34 doesn’t make me long for a 36—that’s not something I can say about the previous generation.
The fork category the 34 finds itself in has a lot of complex competing demands: It needs to be almost XC fork light and with almost enduro fork stiffness and performance. The new 34 balances those demands much better than before. This is a tough fork to get right, and Fox got it right.
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