Every small part of your mountain bike adds to its performance in ways you can’t even observe. Forks are an essential part of your mountain bike, even though it goes unnoticed most of the time. The best mountain bike fork dampen the bumps on the terrain to make your ride smoother and give you more control over your bike.
Mountain bike fork technology has seen much growth and changes over the years, with newer and better versions of each part coming out. There is some really cool tech out there, and companies like Rockshox and Fox have been dominating this arena for quite some time now. But there are other brands you could check out as well.
In order to find the best mountain bike forks according to your needs, you must take into account various factors like the kind of terrain you’d be riding on, your budget, and the build of your bike.
Keep reading to find more details about the best mountain bike forks available in the market now. By the end of this article, you would know the best mountain bike fork your bike needs. Bonus, you’ll also familiarize yourself with some of the basic concepts regarding mountain bike forks before getting a fork or even an upgrade.
Top 10 Best Mountain Bike Forks 2021
Generally regarded as a good performer on technical trails, people desire the Lutu fork because of its good build. Its upper tube is made with aluminum, and a magnesium alloy is used for the lower tube, which adds to the fork’s strength. This fork weighs 1675g, is light-weight, and gives you more precision and balance.
With 120 mm travel, this fork is ideal for both mountain and XC riding. Its steering tube is 215 mm long and allows you a smoother installation process. It is fully adjustable, and you get a rebound adjustment and a lockout setting as well.
There’s compression damping, and you can regulate the air pressure according to your weight for the best riding experience. It is available in black as well as a combination of black and gold colors, so you get a classy look and feel.
Under $200, the Lutu is an economical choice for an efficient fork if you’re looking for an upgrade to an air shock or even want to improve your old bike.
Weight: 1675 g (approx)
Travel: 120 mm
Pros: strong build materials, light-weight, adjustability, cost-effective
Cons: the possibility of a leak that reduces air retention
This Bucklos suspension fork has a unique combination of oil spring forks and damping adjustment, so you get a smooth, hassle-free ride. It has dampening, preload, and rebound adjustments so that you can alter the settings according to a range of your preferences.
It is easy to install, has a manual lockout system, and is ideal for cross-country rides. The fork allows a full lockout, thus enabling you a smooth climb. It has a 9 mm release axle and a 32 mm stanchion length and is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy. This feature ensures better protection for your bike.
The fork does have the drawback of being more on the heavy side, weighing around 2369 g. Reviews also say that it has a lot of stiction, and it is not suggested for downhill or technical trails. It is a coil fork, which does have its disadvantages when compared to hydraulic forks. That said, for under $150, the US Stock is definitely a good deal.
Weight: 2369.2 g(approx)
Travel: 110 mm
Pros: Good damping adjustment, more robust build
Cons: increased stiction, coil springs, heavy-weighted
The Bucklos fork is armed with a technical upgrade and provides you with a more comfortable riding experience. Ideally suited for cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes, this mountain bike fork has a 120mm travel, so you get a less bumpy ride and smooth jumps.
It’s got a decent damping adjustment system and a manual lockout control, again for a smoother ride on gravelly and mountainous terrains.
Made of aluminum alloy, it has a decently strong build to keep you and your bike protected. The 32mm stanchion tube and 240mm steerer are also made of aluminum alloy. With a 9mm quick-release axle, it employs a straight steerer. The Bucklos fork works on a disc brake and is available for 26/27.5/29 inch wheel sizes.
It’s lightweight and hence easy to set up on any bike. But reviews suggest people use spacers while installing on larger bikes.
Upon going through reviews, it is suggested that you do not use this fork for downhill terrains. For an air fork, this mountain bike fork is yet another cost-effective equipment you could get for under $150.
Weight: 1838.8 g (approx)
Travel: 120 mm
Pros: good damping adjustment, light-weight
Cons: you might need to use spacers
If you have a fat bike, then this fork is meant for you. This mountain bike fork is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy, built strong, and weighs light. It goes handy with a disc brake and employs manual lockout. It has a reasonable damping adjustment setting to ensure a comfortable riding experience.
The fork is ideal for a 4” maximum cover tire. It has a straight steerer tube 220 mm long that’s made of aluminum alloy. The front hub spacing is 135 mm, and the stanchion size is 32 mm.
The adjustment settings enable you to shift conveniently from a pretty tight lockout to a loose, supple feel. The air springs are lighter and more efficient than coil springs. If you have a star nut and a star nut installer, it’s pretty easy to install on your bike. It comes in black-gold color and is quite impressive for a mountain bike fork under $150.
Weight: 2247 g (approx)
Travel: 120 mm
Pros: strong built, ideal for fat bikes
Cons: some reviews suggested an oil leak issue
The DFS Air fork is made up of carbon material throughout. This property makes it very light-weighted and, subsequently, more comfortable for you to handle. It’s got Teflon bushing and weighs around 1.39 kg. The axle dimensions are 15×100 mm, and it has hard anodized 32 mm stanchion tubes.
This fork employs hydraulic compression techniques, which are ideal for smooth transitions and better shock absorption. You can regulate the rebound and dampening adjustments according to your weight and the terrain. The steerer tubes are also made of carbon and are tapered.
It comprises remote lockout, giving you much more control over your bike compared to manual lockout. Post lockout, the travel displacement is zero, ensuring better safety.
The travel could be an issue as it is only 90mm, ideal for cross-country trails and bicycle races. It might be a little expensive than the other forks on this list, but the DFS air fork would be a good investment and gives you an enhanced riding experience.
Weight: 1390 g (approx)
Travel: 90 mm
Pros: extremely light, remote control lockout
Cons: less travel
The MZP rappelling suspension air fork is your go-to shock absorption equipment for a smooth downhill ride. With an impressive travel length of 130 mm, this one right here has an air pressure lockout on its right side and a shoulder-controlled damping structure on its right side.
It employs manual lockout and is available in variations of black and gold, looking quite classy. The fork leg is made of magnesium alloy, while the travel tube is made with aluminum alloy, giving the fork a robust build.
The fork supports 3” tires and a disc brake. It has got a thick diamond angle structure that provides strength, comfort, and rigidity. Under $300, the MZP fork would be a good purchase for you.
Weight: 2960 g (approx)
Travel: 130 mm
Pros: excellent travel
The DFS air fork in question comprises a 15×100 thru-axle, which is a safer option compared to a QR. This is because it ensures better protection for your bike and fork and, subsequently, yourself. It has an adjustable damping mechanism and gives you a full lockout.
The lockout system is remote controlled and works on hydraulic with compression. It also has an excellent rebound adjustment system, all providing you with a hassle-free ride. The travel of the fork is 100 mm and is ideal for cross-country trails.
It is made with magnesium material throughout and has a Teflon bushing. The stanchions are made of 30 mm butted steel tubes, and the front fork is suited for 26” and 27” wheels. The steerer tubes are 39.8 mm-28.6 mm long and are tapered.
The starting pressures are noted down on the back of the fork so that you will be able to install it within a short time, without much effort.
The DFS air fork has passed the EU EN-14766 mountain bike standard test, making it highly durable. However, some critical reviews suggest that the ring that holds the lockout cable came off, thereby messing up the lockout system, which you might need to keep in mind. Other than that, for under $200, this is a great buy.
Weight: 1890 g
Travel: 100 mm
Cons: reviews suggest that the lockout cable gets detached sometimes
This DFS air fork has a travel of 100 mm and is also ideal for cross-country rides. It’s built with light carbon material, and the lowers are made from magnesium. The fork is best suited for 27.5” and 29” wheels and has a Teflon bushing. It has a remote control lockout that employs a hydraulic with a compression mechanism.
Another plus of this fork is that it has a thru-axle, which keeps the fork more durable and well-protected. The damping and rebound adjustments are flexible. However, there have been some reviews that pointed towards a low adjustment setting, indicating a bumpy ride.
The 30 mm butted stanchions and made of steel, and the steerer tubes are 215 mm long.
This fork employs smart unlock. That is, when you hit a bump, the open lock switch takes only 0.2 seconds to unlock, ensuring the best protection for you. Under $150, this is a decent purchase.
Weight: 1800 g
Travel: 100 mm
Pros: ultra-light carbon material, smart unlock
Cons: reviews suggest weak adjustment settings
Boasting an impressive rebound adjustment structure, the KRSEC mountain bike fork enables you to compress and have good control over your rebound speed as per your requirements. It is strongly built and made with aluminum alloy and magnesium alloy of high quality.
It employs manual lockout and has a straight steerer tube of 220 mm in length. The quick-release axle is 9 mm, and the 32 mm stanchion is made of aluminum alloy.
The fork has a travel length of 100 mm and is ideal for off-road and cross-country trails. It is compatible with a disk brake system and is best for 26”, 27.5”, and 29” wheels. Under $150, the KRSEC fork is a good deal for you.
Weight: 1697.6 g (approx)
Travel: 100 mm
Pros: good rebound adjustment
Cons: some reviews suggest low movement quality
Bolany’s suspension fork has a 120 mm travel length and allows you a good bike ride, especially for cross-country rides. It has a smooth rebound and dampening adjustment, and you can regulate the fork according to your will. It employs manual lockout and has a straight steerer tube of 28.6 mm in length.
It’s got a 9mm QR axle and is the best fit for disc brakes. The fork is made of aluminum and magnesium alloys, making it strong. Additionally, this also prevents dust particles from polluting the traveling tube, which is always great. It is available in black and black-gold colors and looks elegant.
Certain reviews suggest that the rebound screw would loosen up and come off after prolonged use. However, this is yet another decent mountain bike fork under $150.
Weight: 1675 g (approx)
Travel: 120 mm
Cons: loose rebound screw
Correct pressure adjustment is vital for a safe ride. With a maximum of 300 PSI, this shock pump is suited for both front and rear suspension forks. By screwing on to the Schrader valve, and has a lever lock on its head. It prevents the loss of air from the valve upon release.
This pump is also relatively compact and hence easy to use. It is not ideal for pumping tires as it is the best fit for fine-tuning the pressure. It is available in black and silver colors.
This bike guard protects your mountain bike fork from scratches and keeps its look classy. It is made of PVC material and comes in a honeycomb style. The kit comprises three protector pads to keep your fork safe from wear and tear.
It is easy to install and even comes with a guide that tells you where you can paste the guard for best results. It might be a little pricey, but it ensures adequate protection for your forks. It is available in 3 colors– black/silver, clear/silver, and clear/camo.
Things To Keep In Mind When You Buy The Best Mountain Bike Fork
In simple terms, travel is the measure of the compressive abilities of your suspension. It is generally calculated in millimeters and vastly determines how you handle your mountain bike.
Good travel not only improves shock absorption but also determines your control over your bike. The ideal travel length for a bike varies according to different terrains. More focus is given on the descent as the travel length increases. For example,
- Cross-country: 100-120 mm
- Trail: 120-150 mm
- Enduro: 150-180 mm
- Downhill: 180-200 mm
The best mountain bike forks are the front forks that have adjustable travel. That is, you can control the travel length according to the terrain. If you’re going downhill, you can lengthen it, and if you’re going uphill, you can shorten it as per your wish.
There is also a lockout option, which halts any suspension activity temporarily, for a smoother ride uphill.
Hitting a bump on the road, quite literally, leads to a shock on your bike, which compresses the coil springs or air in your fork. These springs absorb the shock, bounce back with the same recoil force, and keep going back and forth until friction stops them.
You do not want to wait until that happens, and damping helps solve this issue. A cartridge is essentially introduced into your fork, consisting of a damping fluid that prevents the spring from bouncing back and forth. The best mountain bike forks give optimum results by employing compression damping and rebound damping.
Compression damping regulates how the shock absorption speed of the spring. Rebound damping is responsible for slowing down the bouncing back of the spring after absorbing the shock impact.
3. Spring System
The springs help absorb the shock impact and then rebound. There are two types of springs– coil-sprung suspension and air-sprung suspension.
Coil spring uses a metal, preferably titanium or steel, to absorb the shock impact. The air-sprung suspension is when the air-filled in a canister gets compressed to absorb the shock impact.
The best mountain bike forks use air springs as air springs are comparatively lighter than coil springs. This enables you to spend less effort in pedaling and allows a smoother ride, especially uphill.
The axle of a mountain bike clamps the front wheel in position between a set of forks. Most mountain bikes consist of either the 9 mm quick-release skewer or the 15 mm thru-axle.
The best mountain bike forks contain the thru-axle, which is screwed onto one side of the fork. This feature makes it near impossible for them to detach or get separated from the fork.
Their diameter is more than thrice that of QR skewers, and they provide better torsional stiffness and brake performance. QR skewers are more prone to breaking or getting separated than thru-axles and are hence generally found in cheaper bikes.
5. Steerer Tubes
The steerer tube attaches the fork to the handlebar of your bike through a stem. It lets you steer and control your bike according to your will. There are two kinds of steerer tubes– straight and tapered.
Generally, you will find a straight tube of diameter 1-1/8 inch as you look for forks. Ideally, the tapered steerer tubes are suggested for a better feel as they are stiffer and lighter, giving you a better grip and control over your bike.
6. Strength / Build
The build of your fork is essential to give you the best riding experience. If you do not choose the right material, then your bike may become too rigid to handle.
Forks are generally made of magnesium and aluminum alloys, which are strong and durable materials. They are also quite affordable and ensure good protection for your fork.
The best mountain bike forks are made of high-end carbon fibers, making your fork extremely light compared to the metal tubes. This way, you get a strong build as well as more control over your bike and its motion.
They also allow for better shock absorption. However, the carbon tubes may turn out to be more expensive, so you will have to keep your budget in mind during the purchase. It is also vital that you get the right fork that is best suited for your wheel size.
Some high-end suspension forks are expensive. Forks are an investment and are meant to remain a loyal friend to your mountain bike for a long time. It will not be a bad idea if you spend a little extra to get the best quality forks for a better riding experience, a plusher, and a lighter feel.
Your fork will perform consistently well and will be of good quality. You would not have to get acquainted with another fork for a long time, which means you can perform your best as well.
There are good forks available under $300, but if you want to go for the best mountain bike forks, take it up a notch higher and go for a Rockshox or Fox.
Frequently Asked Questions on Mountain Bike Forks
Q1. Is It Worth Upgrading My Fork?
In order to get the best performance from your bike, you must upgrade your accessories. The fork is very important in this regard as it determines how smooth your ride is going to be.
It is always best to invest in something that would be of lasting benefit to you for an extended period.
Q2. Can I Put A 29” Fork On My 26” Bike?
It does not make your bike perform any better. In fact, an analysis of reviews suggested that in some cases, it decreased the travel. Doing so would mess up the overall geometry of the bike and increase its weight, making it a challenging ride for you.
Q3. Can I Put A 120 Mm Fork On My 100 Mm Bike?
In a general sense, it would not make much of a difference. However, during the ride uphill, you will have to put in extra effort to climb and keep your front tires steady.
Q4. How To Fix A Mountain Bike Suspension Fork?
Once you realize that there is an issue with your suspension fork, you could try removing the screws behind the dropouts for starters. It would detach the stanchion tubes, and you will be able to pull them apart.
Using a dry cloth piece or a rag, try to remove the grease inside the sliders and outside the stanchions too. Once properly cleaned, put all the parts back together and check if it works.
Best Mountain Bike Forks – What’s your pick?
The first thing you need to do to get the best mountain bike fork for your bike is to get to know your bike well. Try to figure out what works best for you because ultimately, it’s you who deserves a shock-free bike ride.
It might seem a little daunting to spend money on something that might seem so trivial. However, damping can improve your experience to the next level and give you a comfortable ride.
An expensive fork would always offer an improved experience over a less pricey one. So, you will have to figure out how badly you want a good feel.
Try to focus on what would make your bike less heavy and also offer a good build quality. You do not want to be running back and forth with the unnecessarily frequent servicing.
You might also want to look for forks that offer a range of adjustments, so you have better control over your bike and can regulate it according to your preferences.
Without the best mountain bike fork suited to you and your needs, your bike ride is going to be dull and boring, with all that extra effort you need to put on the pedals. Now that you’re familiar with the brands and the criteria you require, you know what the best mountain bike fork for your bike is.