Andi rides and reviews the 2022 Fox 34 Grip 2, a trail fork he thinks you should have at the very top of your wish list.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a review of the RockShox Pike Ultimate fork, in that review I mentioned that the 35mm stanchion Pike “looks positively skinny compared to new school forks” but there is an even slimmer trail fork on the market, one which might suit rough terrain riders even better than the Pike.
Perhaps I’m alone in saying or thinking this, but the Fox 34 does seem to slip under the radar. We hear a lot about the Fox 38 and Fox 36 and there are plenty of riders moving on to Pikes, Lyriks and Zebs but I don’t really see much chat about the Fox 34. Perhaps it’s the name? 34, obviously referring to the stanchion diameter of Fox’s trail fork, sounds a little slim these days, but it’s only 1mm less than the Pike.
I myself hadn’t really spent much time on the 34 until last year when I rode a Fit 4 model for some time and was suitably impressed with how this ‘skinny’ trail fork handled the terrain. With the launch of the updated 2022 Fox 34 I was keen to see how the new generation fork performs, especially the Grip 2 equipped version which I’ve been riding for the past few months.
2022 Fox 34 Grip 2 – Features
Fox introduced a bunch of new features with the release of the updated 36 and 38 last year, and finally, the 34 has caught up and gets some of these new additions.
As we saw on the new Fox forks last year, the 2022 Fox 34 has a new chassis with a new arch design and the addition of air channels on the rear. The new arch appears chunkier and more round in design compared to the original arch, but more importantly, the arch now provides better frame clearance at full compression. With bikes getting thicker headtube designs, especially on eBikes, this increased clearance is an important but easy to overlook feature.
Moving to the rear of the new lower leg design, Fox has added air channels that actually improve performance while allowing fork fluid to circulate more freely for better lubrication. Fox says that on long descents the air pressure build-up inside the older fork design could make it more difficult to use full travel, but the addition of these air channels resolves the issues.
Fox offers various versions of the Fox 34 including a Fit 4 model that Chipps is currently testing, but the version I have is the new Grip 2 variant. This adds numerous usable adjustments to the 34 including high and low-speed rebound, high and low-speed compression along with air pressure, and the ability to run volume spacers. Grip 2 on the 2022 Fox 34 also includes Fox’s patented VVC (Variable Valve Control) technology which promises even greater tuning at the twist of the knob.
A final update is to the EVOL air spring which has an enlarged negative air chamber to improve mid-stroke support.
While the new 34 shares a couple of features from the 36 and 38 it also misses out on some, but in turn this saves weight. The 34 doesn’t come with air bleed valves on the air channels, nor does it have a floating axle, but on a 140mm travel fork I doubt either feature will be greatly missed.
2022 Fox 34 Grip 2 – Setup
Fox has a simple base tune guide printed to the fork leg of the Fox 34 Grip 2, and the supplied fork guide offers additional details on compression settings. While the 34 Grip 2 has a few more dials than the Pike Ultimate, Fox has made set-up really simple and their recommended settings for me were very nearly spot on.
I chose to run the 34 with 20% of sag, Fox recommends between 15-20%. Once the fork is set up based on the Fox guide you’ll likely feel the fork feels a little overdamped compared to a RockShox while pedalling around a car park, but on the trial the performance is outstanding.
For reference, the 2022 Fox 34 Grip 2 has the following adjustments:
- High-speed compression – 8 clicks
- Low-speed compression – 16 clicks
- High-speed rebound – 8 clicks
- Low-speed rebound – 16 clicks
2022 Fox 34 Grip 2 – The Ride
I’ve ridden the Fox 34 Grip 2 on a Tallboy 4 and on the YT Izzo, actually testing the Fox after removing the 150mm Pike Ultimate which gave me a really good comparison on how the two work.
To be clear both the Pike and the Fox 34 Grip 2 are excellent forks, and you probably won’t buy one and then wish you had the other. They both handle everything that I throw at them, but they each have their own feel, I just personally prefer the Fox for my style of riding.
What impressed me right from the beginning is how well the Fox 34 Grip 2 handles hard-hitting, rough terrain. This might only be a 140mm travel fork, but the way the 34 uses its travel gives it the feel of a longer travel fork. On long descents, the 34 will happily use every mm of travel with no hint of bottom out, and easily controls repeated big hits without ever feeling overwhelmed.
In my first few rides with the 34 fitted to the Izzo I noticed how the new Fox fork simply outclassed the rear end of the YT and was eager to hit trails harder and faster than the short travel YT was really happy with. Moving to the Tallboy 4, a more competent descender (at the expense of climbing) the rough and ready prowess of the Fox 34 is undeniable. This isn’t a burly XC fork, this is a proper trail fork, a suspension component perfectly suited to the latest generation of rowdy short-travel bikes.
Being a trail fork, the 34 Grip 2 can’t just be a hard hitter, and I’m happy to report that small and medium-sized hits are collected with a supple action. The Grip 2 damper and updated air spring obviously work with very little force needed to get that 34mm stanchions moving, and the front wheel gliding across the trail. The supple action ensures huge amounts of front-wheel traction is available, even in terrain where you expect to run out of travel the 34 Grip 2 keeps you on track.
While being just a 34mm stanchion fork I didn’t ever feel that there was excessive flex, nor feel the need for a burlier fork even riding Lake District enduro trails. Sure the Fox 36 is a stiffer fork, but for 140mm travel, the 34 more than handled the abuse I dished out.
Compared to the Pike I found that the Fox is more composed in rougher terrain despite having 10mm less travel. The Grip 2 damper is more supple off the top and has a great way of smoothing out big hits. The 34 Grip 2 is my pick of the 2 forks for an aggressive short travel bike, whereas the Pike offers more stiffness over the 140mm travel mark without as much a weight penalty as the Fox 36. It’s also important to point out that I don’t have many very steep trails locally, but if you do then the Pike’s ability to sit higher in its stroke might be a characteristic that would make it more suitable for your type of riding.
Things we loved
- Super smooth and supple.
- Near perfect base tune using the Fox recommended settings.
- Class leading performace in really rough, technical terrain.
Things we would like to see
- At launch it looked like Fox wouldn’t offer a 27.5in version of the 2022 Fox 34, however, the Fox ‘fork builder’ feature does offer one 140mm option for smaller wheels, but it’s just the one option and it’s not clear if this is an OEM item or not.
- Expensive compared to what RockShox has to offer.
- 140mm is the max travel, any more and you’re in 36 territory.
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to my colleagues, riding mates, and friends in the industry who have listened to me talk about the 34 for the past few weeks. I’ve managed to hijack pretty much every conversation at some point to big up this trail fork, much to the dismay of industry types who don’t represent Fox. To everyone, I would like to say ‘sorry, but not really sorry’. The Fox 34 Grip 2 is legitimately an amazing trail fork.
Is it better than a Pike? I feel for the terrain I ride and my style of riding, yes. The Fox 34 Grip 2 laps up repeated big hits, even coming from a 150mm Pike to the 140mm Fox 34 I feel less fatigue in really chunky terrain. Even hitting enduro trails with riders on larger travel bikes, the 34 Grip 2 pulls way above its weight and will happily charge into trouble and out the other side without spitting you off.
The Fox 34 might not grab headlines or riders attention as much as the larger 36 and 38, but for riders building fast and capable short-travel trail bikes it should be at the top of their list.
|Product:||2022 Fox 34 Grip 2|
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 4 months|
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