After three years of hard riding and a little bit of neglect, I had pushed my RockShox Reba fork beyond repair. The stanchions were badly scratched from a combination of trail grime and poor maintenance. The fork had passed the point where it was worth repairing and I was forced to replace it. Should I buy another Reba suspension fork or were there other options worth considering?
A new Reba was $400-$500, which I consider to be a reasonable price for a high-quality fork. However, as a stay-at-home dad on a budget, I’m always trying to figure out ways to save a little money, so I started looking for a less expensive fork. Could I save some money without losing performance on the trail?
In general, I tend to buy mid-priced gear with reasonable performance that I think will be durable and have longevity. I’m usually not willing to spend top dollar to save a few grams. Also, I don’t like a lot of bells and whistles because I usually find that it’s just more stuff that can break when I’m riding. For example, I switched from a 3X10 full-suspension bike to a 1X10 hardtail set-up so that I didn’t have to worry about extra gears and another shock to maintain, repair or replace. I’ve been very happy that I switched and it’s saved me a lot of money.
My riding focus is on XC mountain bike racing (Expert 40+ in the Ohio series), and because of that, my mileage tends to be fairly intense. I’m working my suspension fork much harder than the average rider out for a Sunday jaunt in the woods. I don’t do big jumps and drops, but I want to be able to float downhill on rocky teeth-chattering descents and feel like I’m tiptoeing on a cloud.
After researching a few different fork manufacturers I decided I wanted to stick with RockShox because of their combination of good quality at a reasonable price. I reviewed their fork selection and started to focus in on their XC series of forks – specifically the XC 30, because I wanted the thicker 30mm uppers. However, when I was doing some research to buy the XC 30, I stumbled across the XC 32. …even bigger uppers!
I thought it was strange because I didn’t see it listed on the RockShox website. There is a reason for this.
Despite the confusion, this fork seemed to good to be true. At just over $200 it was half the cost of the Reba. Further, it had the features that I wanted, like lock-out and rebound adjustment, but didn’t have anything unnecessary that I didn’t want, like a lockout button for the handlebars. The reviews made it sound like a well-made, durable fork that would work well for my XC style of riding.
The only downside that I could see was that it was a little heavier than the Reba – 2182 grams vs. 1664 grams. The difference of 518 grams is about 1.14 lbs. That’s a significant difference, but how much would it affect performance? Most riders could make up that difference by eating healthy and losing 5 to 10 pounds or by training more efficiently. I decided to take the hit on the weight in exchange for the cost savings. Maybe when I go back to work, I’ll pay extra for the lighter fork, but for now I can make it work.
The big questions… Was it a good decision? How does the fork perform?
After 2 months of racing, I feel like I made a great decision. Honestly, so far I am happier with this suspension fork than I have been with any of my other suspension forks that I have ridden.
I had the fork installed by Breakaway Cycling in Delaware, OH. This was a great move because they actually discovered some issues with the bearings that I might not of picked up on. They were full of grit and I had them replaced during the installation.
When I brought the bike home the suspension was a little squishy for my taste. I easily stiffened it up with some extra air from my shock pump and now it feels dialed in – set it and forget it.
Right now my fork is in a sweet spot where it never bottoms out but still has a lot of cushion to absorb the bumps in the trail. The fork handles confidently when the trail gets rough. I’ve tested it while flying down rock-strewn descents at Mohican. It worked perfectly in the rock gardens at Great Seal. The roots at Alum Creek are easily absorbed by the 100mm of travel.
Not once since I started riding it this year have I felt like I downgraded. Usually, I’m not even thinking about my suspension at all. I think that says a lot. The XC 32 (or Recon Silver TK) handles the trail with so much comfort and confidence that I can focus on the trail and not on my equipment.
Although I rarely use it, the lockout is easy to flip on. I have the rebound adjustment set to “rabbit”. It’s responsive and quick, but I don’t feel like it’s jerking me around.
Overall, I’d say that this is a great option for a budget-minded rider who values performance and durability over weight. We ride in a sport where mountain bikers get serious “upgrade-itus,” so it was scary to downgrade a little. However, in this case, I don’t regret going for the less expensive suspension. I haven’t missed my old fork at all. In fact, this fork is so plush that it has felt like an upgrade to me. I highly recommend this product.
UPDATE 5/13/15: Someone pointed out to me on Facebook that the Reba is a better fork. I’m definitely not denying that. The main point of my review is that, while there are better forks out there, the XC 32 is a great value. You spend less and still get fairly high performance.
Have you used this fork? Let me know what you think of it in the comment section. Also, let me know if you have any questions.