Dirt 100 2017 – the best mountain bike suspension forks and shocks

Our dream dampers

The suspension fork revolutionised mountain biking and made it possible to hit bigger, steeper, gnarlier tracks faster. Of course, the suspension of the nineties is worlds away from what we use now thanks to constant evolution of technology.

Even today we’re seeing huge leaps and bounds in damper technology but also huge disparities between the top performing products and the worst. Here at Dirt we’ve ridden pretty much every major suspension offering on the market and we’ve compiled our six favourite front forks in no particular order here for you to pick from. There are affordable and boutique forks as well as a mix of single and double crown forks so there should be something for everyone.

The best mountain bike suspension forks

Fox 36

In the past twelve years, the Fox 36 changed the face of mid to long travel bikes forever. Back in 2005 it came with a colossal 150mm of trael in a bigger, faster and stronger package than anything we’d known before. This was the fork that made it possible to charge downhill tracks without needing a dual crown fork.

This fork is rapidly becoming the weapon of choice for longer-legged 29ers like the Orange Stage 5 and 6. It gives the bikes an edge on the bigger wheels that we love so much.

Yes, it’s is a hefty investment, but if you want the best damping, easy tuning and excellent service back up, all rolled into an incredibly well finished package then it has to be the Fox 36.

Price: From £989

Read the Full review here

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Rockshox Boxxer World Cup

A long proven race winner that’s been consistently at the top of the World Cup standings in recent years – you can’t go far wrong with the Boxxer World Cup. It should be re-iterated it’s the World Cup version of this fork we’re talking about here, which we think is a step above the Team and RC models .

This is a fork that sits in this year’s Dirt 100 listing as one of only two downhill forks. It’s as simple as that. You can step away into the world of lesser seen brands but more often than not the BoXXer’s blend of performance, usability and realistic servicing schedules means you may well return.

Price: £1,604 (including tall and short crowns)

Read the full review here

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Manitou Mattoc

The Fox 36 and RockShox Pike are the long-standing gatekeepers of the 160mm club. There have been attempted insurgencies from the like of Marzocchi, DVO and Suntour but very few have stuck. However, with value on its side, the Mattoc could well be the fork for those who don’t want to spend a small fortune on two tubes and some oil.

The big question will always be, does the Manitou Mattoc hold its ground over other 160mm forks? With no overrated external travel adjust and no volume reducing spacers to worry about it the Mattoc scores from the outset. Good progression, accurate steering and a realistic flex/stiffness balance result in an impressive overall performance. This is a lot of fork for that money.

PRICE: £619.99 (Pro)

Read the full review here

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Ohlins RXF 36

The Swedish suspension legends have a new fork in their line up – the RFX 36. It’s a bigger bodied fork that offers more travel, Boost spacing and larger legs than their first fork, the RFX 34.

There are  120,140 and 160mm travel models available, and a no Boost hub spacing option (although don’t expect this one to be around much longer the way things are going). The RFX 36 was originally only available for a 29” wheel (although this has now changed), a strange move some said especially as the 650B/27.5” market was very much flourishing and the default choice for many riders. But hey, we love the big wheels and it seems the rest of the world is starting to catch up.

For shorter travel bikes we’d be happy with the RFX 34, but on a longer stroke fork the 36 is very much the way to go.

PRICE: £995

Read the full review here

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Fox 40 Factory

This Fox fork has helped deliver several riders to World Cup series titles over the past decade (and looks set for more success in 2017). It is also standard hardware on the majority of the downhill bikes in this year’s Dirt 100 – there’s no smoke without fire and it’s very much back where it belongs at the top of the pack and remains as one of our DH forks of the year.

The Kashima coated legs of this fork offer a smooth, stiction free action and yes, we’ve had some top out issues where air has become displaced on occasion, but in terms of damping quality and ride characteristic it’s both smooth and strong. The 40 is an easy to understand fork too with low and high speed compression dials and an external air bleed system to fiddle with.

This latest version of the 40 is able to muscle every other fork off the hill.

PRICE: £1709

Read the full review here

[monetizer101 search=’Fox 40 Factory fork]

Rockshox Lyrik RCT3

The RockShox Lyrik RCT3 Solo Air comes from a lineage that was deeply missed but it came back at the right time. With a need to equip longer travel all-mountain and enduro bikes, the Pike was looking a little on the lighter side of things and the arrival of the reborn Lyrik fitted the bill nicely.

Performance wise the Lyrik has a rounder, slightly less sensitive feeling compared to the Fox 36. It’s a very close call between these forks and some will just go for the brand they prefer but ultimately with the Fox 36 nudging over £1000 for many versions, the Lyrik is just a shade cheaper for arguably very comparable ability.

PRICE: £952.99

Read the full review here

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The best mountain bike shocks

EXT Storia

The EXT Storia is quite unlike any other damper, not massively but certainly enough to make us take notice when we visited the company three years ago on the outskirts of Vicenza near Verona. What we experienced was a truly hand made Italian damper, its designer Franco Fratton working into the dark hours to put together a custom shock absorber for our test bikes. These are relatively low number products.

Now we are not saying its massively better than other dampers, just different, and we like this. What we like most of all is the grip, the incredible sensitivity that the Storia allows when tracking through root and off camber. In those situations it rates very, very highly. In some ways it’s pretty unnerving to ride the Storia, as muscle memory insists damping should have a certain feel. The Storia feels closer to the RE:Aktiv damping featured on Trek bikes. We like that too, particularly in the wet.

Price: From £599

Read the Full Review here

Ohlins TTX22

There is an unpolluted difference with the Ohlins TTX rear shock. We’re not just talking hygiene here, although Ohlins are unashamedly obsessed with cleanliness, something that was hammered home when we visited the Stockholm R&D facility recently. For a company that deals primarily in oil and washers, there’s not much of the former to be seen.

It’s very difficult to characterise Ohlins damping simply because much of the time it actually feels like nothing much is happening. But there’s business going on here that puts it in a higher place than any other damper. Not massively but enough for there to be a difference when charging into beaten up terrain, a shock that has that edge in body and balance, a very fine edge.

Price: From £599.99 (Without spring)

Read the full review here

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