At a Glance
The Step-Cast 34 is the offspring of Fox’s super light Step-Cast 32 fork and their trail/all-rounder 34. Taking the 34mm stanchions of the trail fork, Fox has dropped the travel to 120mm and redesigned the lowers to shave all the weight they can without sacrificing stiffness.Buy Forks on
This leads to a 120mm fork that is as stiff as the 34 140mm fork but has the weight saving of 0.23kg. So as far as modern XC forks go, this is one serious piece of kit, where there is very little compromise other than the price, which at £1,119.00 will help you go even faster as your wallet will be that much lighter!
If weight is your ultimate goal then the Step-Cast 32s will see you right, or if you need longer travel (130 and above) trail performance then the standard 34 range takes you right up into big travel fun. The 34 Step-Cast may seem a little niche, but it's a growing niche of hard-hitting short travel trail bikes. Although the 34 Step-Cast has been out a little while, it seems only now the bike is catching up that can use this tool to good effect. To further confirm its intention it'll also take a 29 by 2.6 tyre, so it's ready for proper rubber too.
Options of travel are fairly limited, you can have any travel as long as it's 120mm. It's boost only and comes in Factory or Performance models. Inside is an Evol Air Spring and the damping is delivered by the Fit 4 Cartridge. Adjustments are available to low-speed rebound and the Fit 4 allows for a 3 position adjustment of compression from firm to medium to open. There is also an open mode adjustment of low-speed compression. Inside the air spring, tokens can be used to fine-tune the air volume as with other Fox forks.
Weight on our scales with our 29er Factory model and an uncut steerer was 1.735kg and the axle to crown height is 527.1 mm.
On The Trail
No fancy installation tricks with the 34 StepCast, just cut the steerer, stick in a star nut and off you go. No remotes (one is available) to clutter up the bar, it's ready to get stuck in straight away. With the sag set, it's pretty much ready with a little fine-tuning. The Factory style is unmistakable and is a real statement that the product means business but essentially this is down solely to the Kashima coating.
Initial dialling-in is simple with the printed pressures and damping set up on the fork lower for easy reference. I find the air pressures to be about right on these but the damping suggestions a little 'over-damped'. At my pressure, the suggestion is for nearly fully closed on rebound and compression, but quickly I dialled these back to get a faster and more active front end. Ultimately this is down to rider, style and preferences but with plenty of adjustability, there is n excuse not to get a good base setting.
Once up and running the Evol AirSpring sits happily into its travel but the 34 is in no rush to give up its travel, ramping up nicely with always something more to give. This ramp-up could feel harsh but it never does, just always composed and ready for the next hit. This combination of reserved, cautious composure means whilst climbing there is no excessive bobbing and the front wheel tracks the ground well. With no remote lockout on this model you can reach down and firm it up if needed but I liked it open and had no trouble.
Once hitting the dirt properly it's clear that the 34 StepCast is no ordinary fork. This is a fork that adds a helping of Enduro to your XC or trail bike as the stiffness is ridiculous for the weight of this thing. The confidence it gives the front end of a bike is incredible and allows for a charging approach to anything in your path. I became unstuck numerous times as my 100mm rear end and 160mm rotors couldn't keep up with the speeds on offer. If you swapped from a more traditional 100mm, 32mm stanchion equipped XC fork to the Step-Cast 34 the change would be transformative.
Under braking the 34s held firm and would take all the force you could throw at them, even managing to find traction and grip through hard deceleration. Once the speeds were ramped up there was little holding these forks back and they felt like they always had more to give, somehow finding small bump sensitivity whilst holding more in reserve for the inevitable big hit or drop.
These forks encourage a rider to look way beyond the tape or an XC race and allow the short-travel bikes to punch into some gnarly terrain. Through messy roots and rocks, they had the perfect combination of suppleness to provide traction and stiffness to keep on course and not get deflected too easily.
Now before you go out and swap out your Enduro fork, this hard-hitting style is all relative and there are obviously stiffer and bigger forks out there but the magic here is that you can get the confidence in a short travel and lightweight package. The Fox 34 StepCast does come at a price, and there is no doubting the Factory model is a premium product, but this fork is currently sitting in its category with very little competition and has created a very hard act to follow.
An exceptional performing fork, the Fox 34 StepCast has very little competition in this style of fork but happily shows them all how it's done. Lightweight, stiff and precise these forks allow short-travel bikes to pushed harder than ever before, Just make sure the rest of your bike is capable of keeping up.
This review was in Issue 60 of IMB.For more information visit Fox Racing Shox
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.