Frames & Forks

Best Forks Buying Guide

Best Forks Buying Guide

A new bicycle fork can be one of the best bike upgrades available: unlocking the performance potential of budget bikes, shaving valuable grams from racers’ mounts and giving gravity riders the confidence to tackle tough terrain at speed. Want to know more? Read our best forks buying guide.

First up, you’ll need to buy the right set of forks for your bike type – MTB, road bike and more – but even under the different disciplines there is a huge range available, from featherweight carbon fibre race blades to burly long-travel mountain munchers, the choice is huge.

It’s essential to match the type of fork you are looking for with the type of riding you enjoy, and understanding some of the technical jargon will help you choose from the array of models on offer.

If you don’t want to read our best forks buying guide, you can go directly to the relevant product pages via the links below:

Click below to learn more about the different types of forks that are available and how to choose any spares you might need.

Suspension Forks


A suspension fork is one of the biggest upgrades that you can make to your mountain bike. Not only does it absorb harsh impacts but it also allows the front wheel to track the ground more accurately and provides improved grip and stability as a result.

But before you start twiddling adjustment knobs there are a few things to consider before purchasing your new fork. Here’s our essential guide to help you choose the one that’s right for you:

Pick the one that will look best on my bike then?

No, sadly not. There are a number of factors that you need to take into consideration before choosing your perfect fork and the first is wheel size.

Mountain bikes are available with 26in, 27.5in (650B) and 29in wheels and each requires a specific size of fork. There are no complicated measurements or cryptic standards involved (in this bit, anyway), you just need to narrow your search to whichever wheel size your bike offers.

I know my wheel size, what’s next?

Axle standard. You will need to choose a fork with dropouts that match the type of axle used in your front wheel. A number of different axle standards are available. Traditionally front hubs used a 9mm hollow axle with a 5mm quick-release (QR) skewer – also referred to as a QR axle. QR axles may still be found on lots of budget to mid-level bikes or commuters. However for hard-hitting riders or gravity disciplines such as DH racing, Dirt Jumping or Enduro, QR axles have largely been superseded by stiffer, stronger ‘bolt-through’ axles, also known as ‘thru axles’. These are commonly available in 15mm or 20mm diameter (bigger means stronger, but heavier), with the axle coming as part of the fork, rather than part of the wheel. A thru axle will slide through one fork leg, through the hub and then through the other fork leg, and is secured in place by a quick-release clamp.

Take your existing front wheel out and measure the current axle diameter to work out further narrow down what fork your bike can accommodate. It’s worth noting that some wheel manufacturers (like Hope, for example) offer after market axle cups which can be swapped into their hubs to allow you to go up or down an axle size.

I know my axle diameter. Is that me ready, now?!

I’m afraid not. You’ll also need to work out your head tube diameter. The diameter of your frame’s head tube will determine the diameter you need on your forks’ steerer tube (the long metal bit that goes through the frame). The traditional standard has long been 1 1/8” but some modern bikes feature larger 1.5” head tubes or even tapered versions, where the diameter of the tube at the bottom (1.5”) is larger than at the top (1 1/8”) , so you’ll need a fork with a tapered steerer tube to match.

It’s worth noting though that if you have a tapered head tube but want to run a straight steerer fork that you can often buy a reducer cup for the larger lower part of the headset to make things fit.

You also need to work out what spring type you want to go for in the fork; air or coil.

Air or coil?! The age-old battle

Choosing between whether you want an air or coil-sprung suspension fork is one of the key decisions to be taken for would-be bounce purchasers. Put simply, air suspension works around using a chamber of compressed air as a spring whilst coil works around using, well, a spring for a spring.

Whilst the former can be adjusted to suit riders of different weights by simply changing the air pressure with a fork pump, heavier or lighter riders may require coil springs to be swapped for units with a different spring rate (i.e. a stiffer spring for a heavier rider, and vice versa), which involves taking apart the fork. If you are opting for a coil-sprung fork (they’re often cheaper in price) then you need to ensure that the spring is correct for your weight. Air-sprung suspension has become de rigueur  for most manufactures now and offers easier adjustablility, fewer moving parts, easier servicing and lighter weight in exchange for a slightly higher price.

Do I just go for the most suspension travel possible, yeah?

No! That’s an easy trap to fall into and one which could spell disaster for your bike.

Fork travel (the maximum amount a fork is able to compresses under load) varies considerably and according to intended riding type. Things can range from short-travel 80mm forks designed for cross-country riding right up to big-hit ready 200mm forks aimed at the gravity addict.

It’s important to consult your manufacturers guidelines on how much travel your frame can handle before purchasing a new fork. All bike frames are designed with a set of geometry which works for their designed purpose. Increasing or decreasing suspension travel can dramatically alter the height of the front end of your bike and it’s head angle. Not only can this negatively affect the handling of your bike but it can also place unwanted strain on the head tube and, in the worst case scenario, threaten frame integrity.

What does more money buy me?

Well, as with most things in cycling, more money often equals less weight. You can also get fancy low-friction stanchion coatings and lock-out levers to lock the fork’s travel in place. But more than that, when it comes to suspension, more money often equates to increased adjustability. In short, more knobs and clickers with which to dial in your preferred suspension characteristics.

Compression and rebound tend to be the minimum traits up for adjustment with more expensive forks offering things like both high and low speed compression into the mix. Some forks also have the aforementioned travel adjust feature which lets you fine tune their travel and ride heights too.

The more clickers and things the better then, right?

If you know what you’re doing, then yes but when it comes to setting up suspension it’s important to have a basic knowledge of what you’re actually adjusting and how it’s affecting your ride. Most quality manufacturers offer online guides or even smartphone apps to help get the most out of your set up.

Travel guide

Travel (mm)Type of Bike
30 – 5020″ & 24″ Kids’ Bikes
60 – 8024″ Kids’ Bikes & Hybrid Bikes
80 – 120XC or Trail Bikes
120 – 160‘All’ Mountain Bikes
150+Downhill Bikes

How much bounce should you buy?

Cross-Country (XC) short travel 80-100mm

In cross country racing speeds tend to be lower and the emphasis is more on a forks weight rather than damping prowess. Although down in travel, these forks often utilise exotic materials and advanced manufacturing techniques to keep weight to a minimum.

Dirt Jump (DJ), 4x and Street short travel 100mm

Short on travel, heavier weight yet big on strength. The emphasis with these forks is on retaining stiffness and strength through big hits and compressions. Generally feature 20mm bolt-through axles, except on the most budget models.

Trail, Enduro and All-Mountain mid-travel 120-160mm

Forks in the ‘mid-travel’ range can vary from lightweight to burly, depending on intended use, with adjustable travel also a popular option. Forks for general trail riding typically hit the ‘sweet spot’ of 120mm travel, while beefier All-Mountain forks come in around 140mm and are often available with 20mm or 15mm bolt-through axles for extra stiffness. Longer-travel forks are generally heavier as they need to be overbuilt to prevent flex. Enduro racing bikes can have between 150-170mm travel on average and being able to adjust the forks set-up for different riding conditions and races is a bonus

Enduro, Downhill and Freeride long-travel (150mm+)

Once you crest the Enduro plateau of 150mm travel things start to get burlier. Stanchion size swells from around 34-36mm to add stiffness and smoothness of travel and adjustability move to being of key importance. Many forks in this bracket will now feature internal spacer systems which allow the home mechanic an easy way to custom tune their performance.

Suspension Glossary

A quick reference guide to suspension speak

Travel: The maximum vertical movement of the wheel from top to the bottom of the fork’s stroke. Can be anything from 80-200mm depending on the type of riding the fork is intended for. It can also be adjustable.

Air-sprung: Suspension based on a compressed air spring.

Coil-sprung: Suspension based on a coiled metal spring.

Stanchions: The upper part of the forks’ telescopic legs, which slide into the lower legs.

Lower legs/sliders: As the name suggest, the lower parts of the forks’ telescopic legs, into which the stanchions slide. The lower legs contain the forks’ internals and are usually connected to each other by a cross-brace (or ‘arch’) to add stiffness and strength.

Seals: Rubber rings at the top of the fork’s lower legs which keep dirt and grit from working their way inside.

Crown: The cross brace under the head tube of the bike to which the fork’s legs and steerer attach. Usually machined aluminium, can also be hollow to reduce weight. Dual-crown (or triple-clamp) DH forks are characterised by an extra crown above the head tube.

Steerer: Metal tube running vertically through the bike’s head tube. Attached at lower end to the fork crown and at it’s upper end to the stem and handlebars. Steel in cheaper models where light weight is not a priority, aluminium or even carbon fiber in higher-end forks.

Damping: The means by which the compression and rebound of the fork is controlled.

Compression: The rate at which a fork moves up into it’s travel.

Rebound: The rate at which at fork returns to it’s maximum extension following compression.

Slow speed compression damping: The rate at which suspension reacts to constants such as rider weight change, trail undulations and cornering loads.

High speed compression damping: The rate at which suspension reacts to sudden, high energy impacts such as landing from drops and jumps.

Platform damping: Platform-damped forks are designed to remain rigid until a certain impact threshold is reached, meaning they stay locked-out over smaller bumps.

Sag: The amount by which suspension compresses under a rider’s weight alone.

Preload: The adjustment made to the spring to alter the amount of sag.

Road Forks


A bicycle is a pretty straight forward machine which puts out it’s forward momentum through it’s rear wheel and is steered with it’s front wheel and it’s that steering which a good set of road forks can have the most bearing on.

The aim of a high quality set of aftermarket forks is to increase your control and enjoyment whilst also potentially dropping a few grams in the process. Here’s our helpful guide to making sure you pick the right set of forks for your bike:

Why would I need to change my fork?

Well, upgrading your fork is a great way to lose some extra weight. While older and budget-model forks are often made from aluminium alloy or even steel, the vast majority of aftermarket forks are made of carbon fibre (sometimes with an aluminium steerer tube) and are aimed at riders that want to cut the overall weight of their bike and benefit from the performance advantages of carbon fibre. Compared to it’s metal competitors, carbon fibre is great at shock absorption which can make your bike a more comfortable place to be on longer rides.

Alternatively, you may also be considering a new fork in the aftermath of a crash. This is a good idea, as hard impacts may cause damage to carbon fibre that is invisible to the naked eye but which could lead to failure down the line.

Can I just buy the one that best matches my colour scheme?

Well, yes, you could do but there’s a bit more to it than that. The type of road fork you choose will depend on your bike type and the type of riding you wish to do, as well as on additional factors including steerer tube size.

Forks that are intended for use on serious racing machines will give fewer concessions to comfort and versatility and will be designed with pure speed performance in mind. Typically, this takes the form of greater weight savings, aggressive aerodynamic design and a full-carbon fibre construction. It also comes at a price.

Top of the range forks feature either a carbon fibre steerer tube as opposed to the aluminium version found on cheaper models, or the most expensive ‘one-piece’ carbon fibre monocoque design, where the entire fork is made from a single piece of carbon fibre.

Conversely, forks for use on endurance or sportive bikes as well as tourers may feature more laid-back geometry.

They may also add other features such as dropout eyelets for rack mounts, additional clearance for wider tires and proper mudguards (crucial for winter trainers, tourers or all-season bikes).

Columbus Futura Fork

Will any fork fit my bike?

No. When replacing forks it’s key to know your head tube diameter as you will need to pick a fork with a matching steerer tube. Many modern bikes use a 1 1/8” head tube standard (taking a threadless 1 1/8” steerer tube), but the tapered head tube (with a lower diameter of 1.5” and an upper diameter of 1 1/8”) is also growing in popularity, and calls for a steerer tube to match.

Additionally, many older bikes featured a narrower 1” head tube requiring a threaded steerer, so if you’re renovating a classic steel steed you will need a fork that fits.

Will different forks affect my bike’s handling?

Potentially, yes. Fork offset or ‘rake’ is a key aspect of how to alter a bikes handling. It’s the distance that the fork blades angle forwards relative to a perpendicular line drawn through the fork’s steerer. Generally, less rake will shorten the wheelbase and result in more ‘nervous’ handling, a characteristic often sought by race riders battling it out in the peloton. More rake will result in a longer wheelbase and increased high speed stability, with this often preferred by less ‘racy’ riders taking part in endurance or sportive events.

Straight blade forks (where the rake is achieved by the blades angling out from the crown) are regarded as stiffer and more responsive and as being the ideal choice for more aggressive riders. On the other hand, curved blade forks incorporate the rake as a gradual curve in the blade, from crown to dropout. This helps the fork to absorb road vibration, at the (small) expense of some stiffness.

Ultimately, the type of forks you choose will be determined by the type of riding you do and  the kind of characteristics that you prioritise. Oh, and your budget!

Modern considerations

Some things worth checking before committing to your new fork

Developments in road bike technology have been pressing on at quite a pace in recent years. Disc brakes, despite not being available to the pro’s, are now common place amongst high end commercially available race bikes and sportive machines. If you have some on your bike then any new fork will need come complete with disc brake mounts as they can’t be retrofitted. Also, tyre’s have got chunkier of late with many riders using 28mm slicks during winter or even cross tyres. It’s worth checking that your new fork can offer enough clearance if you intend to run said voluminous rubber.

Road Fork Glossary

The subtitles of fork talk

Steerer tube The long tube which runs from the top of the fork through the frame which the stem attaches to.

Eyelets Threaded mounts which can be used to attach mudguards.

Dropouts The slotted plates at the end of the fork which hold the front wheel in place.

Straight blade Fork legs which don’t feature a bend.

Offset/Rake An angle taken between a perpendicular line drawn between the fork’s steerer compared how far forward it’s legs sweep.

BMX Forks


A new fork can be a great upgrade for your BMX, potentially cutting weight from your ride, improving handling and of course looking good!

BMX bikes are famously and brilliantly minimalist and so every component needs to work at it’s very best. On a BMX, a fork not only holds the front wheel in place and controls direction but also has a fairly unique set of stresses and demands placed on it

Choosing a fork upgrade then needs to be a carefully balanced process to help to get the most from your ride. Here’s our essential guide:

Why should I upgrade the fork on my BMX?

A new fork can be a great upgrade for your bike, potentially cutting weight, improving handling and of course looking good!

Many stock bikes are fitted with heavy high tensile steel forks, a lighter-weight unit made from better-quality steel (usually chromoly) can make it easier to get the front end off the ground for tricks and jumps.

Is it just a different material then? Is that it?

Well obviously not, no. Features vary from model to model with tapered legs saving further weight and CNC’d steerers improving strength.

Manufacturers will often label their forks according to intended use (flatland, park, street, race or dirt jump) but in reality BMX forks are fairly standard when it comes to materials and sizing. The standard BMX fork will use a 1 1/8” steerer tube with an integrated headset race but dropouts can be 3/8” (10mm) or 14mm for heavy-duty applications, so check the size of your front axle.

Are there any things I need to look out for, compatibility-wise?

When buying new forks check that the model is compatible with the type of riding you intend to use if for. For example, racing or dirt jumping forks may not be designed to enable the mounting of pegs for riding rails and other grind tricks. Other forks may not feature front brake mounts. Additionally street riders will want to make sure that their forks are compatible with detanglers and have enough frame clearance for barspins.

It’s worth checking out the size of your current front axle too as they tend to be either 10mm or 14mm and your new fork’s dropouts mightn’t accommodate one or the other.


One final element to note is dropout offset. This refers to the distance between the centre of the fork legs and the dropouts. For example, a fork with ‘zero offset’ would have the dropout directly in line with the fork leg and a fork with 30mm offset sees the dropout sitting 30mm in front of that centre line.

Forks with a greater offset are regarded as contributing to a more stable ride, suited to dirt jump and ramp riding, as they extend the wheelbase of the bike. Forks with a smaller offset are regarded as having more responsive handling and a ‘twitchy’ feel more suited to technical trick and street riding.

BMX Fork Glossary

Forky terminology explained

Chromoly steel The preferred high quality BMX manufacturing material due to it’s strength and malleability.

High Tensile A cheaper, heavier, heat-treated steel used in BMX manufacturing.

Steerer The tube at the top of the fork crown which goes through the frame’s head tube

Headset race A ridge at the base of the steerer onto which the lower headset bearings rest.

Pegs Axle extensions used for grinding and flatland tricks.

Dropout offset The distance the axle mounts into the fork relative to the centre line drawn from the steerer to the ground.

Cyclocross Forks


An essential guide to what to look for when it comes to upgrading your cyclocross fork. More than just a soggy seasonal dose of mud and grit, cyclocross bikes are a great way to hone skills and stay sharp in the off season for many road and mountain bikers. Many cyclocross bikes  spend the other portion of their lives as handy tourers and off-Tarmac explorers and a change of fork can breath new life into a reliable ride.

Cyclocross Forks

So what should you be looking for in a new fork for your cyclocross bike? Here’s our essential guide:

Go on then, convince me, why should I upgrade my CX fork?

Well, a new fork can shave valuable grams from your cyclocross steed or add versatility with the addition of features such as eyelets for rack mounts transforming your CX bike can into a year-round tourer or fashionable gravel bike.

Does ‘one size fit all’?

Most cyclocross forks will be designed for wheels with a diameter of 700c and typically have greater clearance than ‘standard’ road forks to allow mud-caked tyres spin freely, or to enable the use of wider touring tyres (28mm and up).

Classic CX forks differ from ‘standard’ road bike forks in having mounts for cantilever brakes (‘cantis’) on the legs, although a newer generation of CX forks dispenses with traditional canti mounts in favor of disc brake mounts (some even feature both types). When upgrading, ensure that your new cyclocross fork is compatible with your bike’s brake system.

Older forks/frames will likely run a 1” steerer whereas more modern machinery will feature a 1 1/8” or even tapered steerers. Tapered steerers feature a larger 1.5” lower section tapering to a 1 1/8” top, both your frame’s head tube and headset will need to be sized accordingly to run a fork like this. However, straight 1 1/8” steerers can be reduced down to 1.5” using special headset adaptors.

If you’re eyeing up a second life for your cyclocross racer as a commuter or touring machine then fork eyelets for mounting mudguards or racks may be necessary too.

In terms of materials, what should I be looking for?

Many budget and mid-range cyclocross forks are made of aluminium alloy, with some manufacturers also offering retro-style steel versions with 1” threaded steerers. Make sure to check your headset/head tube sizing before taking the plunge to make the swap over as painless as possible.

If weight saving is your priority however, carbon fibre cyclocross forks offer the right blend of stiffness, comfort and lighter weight, but come at a price.

Cyclo-X Glossary

A handy guide to fork speak

Eyelets Threaded mounts to which mudguards or touring racks can be attached.

Cantilever (‘canti’) brakes Centre pull, cable-actuated rim brakes traditionally used in cyclocross racing.

Disc brake mounts Threaded mounts positioned on the lower left hand leg of a fork whereon disc brake calipers can be mounted.

Steerer The long tube fixed to the top of the fork’s crown and is positioned through the frame’s head tube.

Tapered steerer A steerer which is 1.5” wide at the bottom and 1 1/8” at the top.

Rigid MTB Forks


An essential guide to what to look for when it comes to upgrading to a rigid MTB fork.

The world of mountain biking is awash with clever suspension forks offering a world of performance damping technologies. But take a step back from all the talk of sag and compression tunes and there’s a wealth of wallet and trail-friendly rigid forks.

Not only does a rigid fork simplify your ride but they can also promote smoothness and control and offer fuss-free winter running. Here’s all you need to know about the world of rigid forks.

Rigid forks?! Surely that’s a step back in time?!

Well, if you call saving pounds from the weight of your bike and spending more time riding and less time servicing then maybe. Rigid forks are a great way to finesse your trail skills or open up your MTB’s skill set to commuting or all-day fire road adventures.

Meanwhile the ability of larger (29”) MTB wheels to roll over minor trail obstacles means that lighter-weight rigid forks may be a better option for some XC and marathon riders over short-travel suspension units.

What do I need to look out for?

Firstly, when choosing a rigid MTB fork you need to take into account your wheel size, how much you value lighter weight and what kind of brakes you are running on your bike.

When it comes to wheel size, MTB rigid forks will generally use a 9mm QR axle so no need to worry about hub compatibility unless of course you already run a thru-axle fork. If you do, check with your hub manufacturer as there may be an option to swap in different axle adaptors. MTB wheels come in three sizes; 26”, 27.5” (650b) and 29”. When choosing an MTB rigid fork make sure it’s the right size for your wheels.

If your MTB or city bike is running V-brakes, check that the fork has mounts on the legs for the V-brake arms to be attached. If you’re running disc brakes, check which type of brake mount it uses (there are two; 51mm International Standard or ‘IS’, and 74mm post mount). If the type of brake mount is different to that on your existing forks, you may have to buy an adaptor in order to affix the brake caliper.

What material should I be looking for?

MTB rigid forks are generally made from one of two materials, steel or carbon fibre. Steel is cheaper, but heavier. Carbon fibre is light weight and offers a greater measure of damping (shock absorption over rough surfaces) but, predictably, comes at a price. The choice is yours (for BMX-style trick bikes or stunt fixies, steel is stronger).

Rigid Fork Glossary

A not too rigid guide to the world of rigid

Rigid fork A fork devoid of any suspension or bump absorbing properties outside of those of the materials that it’s made from.

Thru-axle A large 15 or 20mm axle, threaded at one end and secured in place by a quick release lever.

Fork Spares - Adjusters

Fork Spares – Adjusters

Some of your fork’s components may wear over time, even under normal riding conditions. Our comprehensive range of spare parts including rebound and compression adjuster knobs and internal assemblies will ensure that you can bring your forks back to tip-top shape in no time.

Always ensure that you are buying a part that is compatible with your fork model and consult your manufacturer’s manual or website, or drop our tech team a line if you are not sure.

Fork Spares - Axles

Fork Spares – Axles

Some of your fork’s components may wear over time, even under normal riding conditions. Our comprehensive range of spare parts including 15mm and 20mm thru axles will ensure that you can bring your forks back to tip-top shape in no time.

Always ensure that you are buying a part that is compatible with your fork model and consult your manufacturer’s manual or website, or drop our tech team a line if you are not sure.

Fork Spares – Bushings

Some of your fork’s components may wear over time, even under normal riding conditions. Our comprehensive range of spare parts including suspension bushing kits for Fox, Marzocchi, Manitou and RockShox forks will ensure that you can bring your forks back to tip-top shape in no time.

Always ensure that you are buying a part that is compatible with your fork model and consult your manufacturer’s manual or website, or drop our tech team a line if you are not sure.

Fork Spares - Decals

Fork Spares – Decals

Hard riding fun may mean your fork’s decals look tatty over time – order spare decals for your forks here.

Fork Spares - External

Fork Spares – External

Some of your fork’s components may wear over time, even under normal riding conditions. Our comprehensive range of spare parts including replacement crown and steerer assemblies, lower legs and more will ensure that you can bring your forks back to tip-top shape in no time.

Always ensure that you are buying a part that is compatible with your fork model and consult your manufacturer’s manual or website, or drop our tech team a line if you are not sure.

Fork Spares - Internals

Fork Spares – Internals

Some of your fork’s components may wear over time, even under normal riding conditions. Our comprehensive range of spare parts including service kites, rebound damper assemblies , damping cartridge kits and more will ensure that you can bring your forks back to tip-top shape in no time.

Always ensure that you are buying a part that is compatible with your fork model and consult your manufacturer’s manual or website, or drop our tech team a line if you are not sure.

Fork Spares - Seals

Fork Spares – Seals

Some of your fork’s components may wear over time, even under normal riding conditions. Worn seals, for example, will enable oil to leak on the stanchions and allow for ingress of water and dirt which will damage your fork’s internal parts. Our comprehensive range of seals for Marzocchi, Manitou and Rockshox forks will ensure that you can bring yours back to tip-top shape in no time.

Always ensure that you are buying a part that is compatible with your fork model and consult your manufacturer’s manual or website, or drop our tech team a line if you are not sure.

Fork Spares - Springs

Fork Spares – Springs

Replacement coil springs for Manitou and RockShox forks – replace old, worn out springs with new models or adjust your fork’s compression by choosing stiffer/less stiff springs.

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