At a Glance
XC has become more demanding both technically and physically and races are no longer won solely on the climbs and technical descending is becoming more prevalent. Suntour has risen to this challenge of creating the ultimate XC fork with the Axon Werx 34. Offering 34mm stanchions in a super lightweight package, and with it, the Axon aims to not compromise on weight, stiffness or performance.Buy Forks on
The Axon range has been Suntours XC fork for some time and the Axon Werx 34 sees this fork bumped up to larger stanchions in response to more demanding tracks. The Werx model is their top-end fork and is available in 100/110/120mm options in both wheel sizes. Most notably it features a Carbon hollow crown and steerer, which keeps the weight down and is a real statement that this is a high-end fork.
Internally the Axon Werx uses their EQ (Equalizer) system to make sure positive and negative air are perfectly matched. In the damper leg, Suntour uses their PCS (Piston Compensator System) and on this Werx model, it gets the RL RC-PCS version which features low-speed compression adjust, rebound adjust and a remote lockout.
As with all Suntour forks, they have a Quick Service Product (QSP) which means the fork can be stripped and rebuilt without the need for proprietary tools. The axle is boost and uses their Q-loc 2 system as a quick release to make wheel swaps as quick as possible and there is an integrated detachable fender.
On the scales, the fork weighs 1.650kg with an uncut steerer but then requires an expander plug rather than a star nut which adds 35g and if the remote is used it's another 55g. It's a highly competitive weight and sneaks under Fox 34 StepCasts by about 85g (uncut steerers).
Pricing is €1199,00 which is a premium price but a cheaper version is to follow in the form of the AXON34 ELITE with an alloy crown and steerer for €739,00.
On the Trail
Installation is simple aside from needing to cut the carbon steerer, which requires a special saw blade to cut. After this, an expander plug is used to tightened things up but the one that came with the fork failed to reliably tighten the fork. I prefer a two-stage plug, which tightens in the tube first then is screwed into the steerer and then tightened to pull it all together. With the new plug installed there were no issues at all.
The QSP system allows for very easy servicing and when I needed to take the damper out for inspection it was exceptionally easy to do with just a couple of standard tools.
As a unit it looks and feels high quality, the matt finished lowers and black stanchions are a strong look and all the dials and adjustments are solid and feel robust. The carbon crown and steerer obviously keep the weight down and it looks like this has allowed the lowers to remain chunky and confidence-inspiring. The cable guide is a zip tie which seems at odds with the bling factor of the carbon, but you can't fault a zip tie for being light and strong.
Once installed, getting the fork dialled in was simple enough although there are no pressures printed on the fork. Simply setting the sag gave a good result and with a bar mount lockout, I went for a plush set up knowing I could lockout whenever needed. The lockout switch is a lovely piece of kit, which is left-hand specific and nestled neatly within my XTR brake and Fox transfer dropper. It's low profile and has two buttons, one for the lock, which uses a thumb and then a light-action side button activated by the side of one's index finger.
The lockout is firm but not wrist breakingly so, meaning there is still movement in the system when you are stomping out of the saddle. The Axon didn't show much eagerness to use it's initial travel, especially when climbing so the lockout was used to good effect. Once rider inputs get bigger or the trail turns rougher it livened up and moved into its mid-travel. It's certainly not very soft off the top but once the initial travel was overcome, the fork was smooth and active and responded well once trail speeds increased.
The general theme for the Axon was that once up to speed it delivered a smooth and composed ride and even under big hits it would never blow through the last of its travel. This meant that the Axon responded best when pushed hard which worked well with its 34mm stanchions and well built lowers. The first 25 percent of travel may not be super supple but the rest of the travel is exactly what you need from a fork like this. Happy to absorb the hits while remembering that there is only 120mm and not to use up too much too soon. Linking fast corners and compressions the Axon kept a good bar height and remained stable throughout whilst tracking straight and true.
Under hard braking, the Axon had some flex but no vibrations or juddering and further affirmed that the Axon is a strong and stiff chassis. At high speeds, the Axon gave plenty of confidence with it's tracking and allowed trails to be attacked with speed but again that initial stroke wasn't supple enough to iron out the small scale high-speed chatter on the trail.
The stiffness of the Axon and the confidence it gives is what won me over. The stiff and precise fork tracked exceptionally well through rough terrain and they held their line with admirable perseverance. Even though they are in essence a carbon XC fork there is no doubt that they can be pushed hard on a race track or further afield.
It seems strange to describe an XC fork as something that needs to be pushed hard, but the 'point and shoot' nature of the Axon does need a dose of hard riding. Merely grinding fire roads or slowly navigating technical terrain will not bring out the best in the fork. When things get chunky and you need to hold a rough, off-camber line and not lose any speed, the Axon is there to keep the front end tracking.
Whether the Axon opens up the potential for more aggressive XC riding or is simply used to level-up the potential of an XC bike for trail riding it's clear that the compromise of weight and strength has become less of an issue. A shout out has to go to the fender, which helped in the more moist aspects of testing and fits cleanly onto the fork arch and is clearly the best way to attach any mudguard to a fork.
With a hefty price tag, the Axon Werx 34 is a premium piece of kit but that is the compromise when combining something as hard-hitting as this with such a low weight. Comparisons have to be drawn to the Fox 34 Step Cast, and it's safe to say these are a worthy alternative and well worth investigating.
A lightweight and stiff package, which can push through some impressively gnarly terrain, the Axon Werx 34 is certainly punching above its weight. The travel is supple once pushed hard but lacks a little sensitivity in its initial stroke, despite this the Axon is a seriously high calibre addition to the new wave of hard-hitting short travel forks.
This review was in Issue 60 of IMB.For more information visit SR Suntour
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.