Suspension has been getting bigger and beefier, with designs focusing heavily on enduro and aggressive trail riding. The cross-country faithful have been waiting patiently for the latest evolution to help them shave grams and seconds, and the waiting has paid off. The new Fox 32 Step-Cast (SC) fork is one of the lightest XC forks to come out of Fox’s Watsonville, California, factory. The Step-Cast has an all-new chassis but integrates Fox’s proven internals. All of this is combined to produce an XC weapon that starts just below 3 pounds.
Fox had two goals in mind when developing the SC fork: to reduce weight and to ensure that the ride quality stayed at the level riders expect from a Fox product. Without having to compromise on the ride quality, Fox shrank the fork crown by 10 millimeters to make the chassis slightly narrower than previous-generation 32 forks. To complete the unique shapes are the shortened lowers, which taper inward near the axle. This design allowed Fox to shave over a 1/2 pound for the 29er version. There are limitations with tire size, however, as riders will only be able to fit up to a 2.3-inch-wide tread in the crowns.
The Step-Cast uses a FIT4 cartridge to ensure performance and has 32-millimeter stanchions. The Factory Edition is Kashima- coated, while the Performance line will use the Grip cartridge and hard-anodized stanchions. Fox offers both forks in 27.5 and 29er sizes, along with remote and iRD options. Hub spacing will be available in 15×100 and 15×110 sizes with regular thru-axles or a Kabolt for the Factory Edition. Our test fork (without remote) retails for a very competitive $890.
On the trail:
Waiting for this fork to show up at the office was like waiting for Santa on Christmas morning. We were eager to see just how light it would be and what the ride would be like. We’re not ashamed to admit that a couple of us at Mountain Bike Action enjoy cross-country riding and racing. When it finally arrived, we eagerly pulled the new SC fork out of the box and were shocked at just how light it was in our hands.
Easton provided a set of Heist 24 wheels with Boost spacing up front for the duration of our testing. We definitely noticed the narrower chassis. Even with a 29×2.1 WTB Nano tire, the fork almost seemed to disappear into the head tube and tread. The fork comes stock with two air-volume spacers. Early on some testers were removing one spacer to get a more linear feel through the travel. Midway through our testing we took out one spacer, but in the end we settled on two, as we liked the added support. Depending on the terrain, riders will want to try the fork both ways. In Open mode we ran 11 clicks and 6 on the FIT4 with 70 psi for a 140-pound test rider.
Our first ride was a big traverse on mixed terrain with steep descents and a couple of long, steep climbs. We were pretty blown away by the all-around performance of the Step-Cast. Even with the narrower chassis there was no flex or chatter under hard braking or through rockier sections of trail. Our initial concerns that the fork looked underwhelming were completely silenced, as the SC let its engineering and performance do all the talking. With the suspension locked out and testers climbing hard out of the saddle, the fork felt stiff and incredibly responsive. Over technical sections we felt as though we were gliding on a bigger fork, soaking up the imperfections that normally force cross-country racers to choose suspension that is lighter instead of more effective.
We did a handful of cross-country races in Southern California on the SC and spent most races in the middle setting. The clicks between each setting felt very subtle and were sometimes tough to discern in the throws of a painful cross-country race. A remote will make all the difference for those who are serious about racing. The Step-Cast did prove itself as a cross-country fork that could be competitive in multiple settings.
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