100mm or 120mm Travel Fork? The Conclusive Comparison!

Mountain bikes can be hard to maintain. Especially when you get confused about the travel fork. Because that can take a heavy toll on your riding experience if not done right.

The two most confusing travel forks are 100mm and 120mm. 

So, should you go for a 100mm or 120mm travel fork ?

100mm travel forks are shorter and lighter compared to 120mm travel forks. That’s why you can get a better commuting experience on your day-to-day rides. On the other end, a 120mm travel fork is better suited for mountain trails. But they are definitely heavier and hard to maneuver.

While you got to know some differences here, there are plenty more! But to know all of that, you need to be a bit patient.

So, let’s get on with the light comparison.

A Light Comparison

Everything starts with little things, even your Mtb bikes too. From its fork travel to track compatibility, your bike is dependent on many things. As I’ll focus on the two travel forks, I want you to understand their characteristics thoroughly.

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself being more confused than ever. Because 120mm travel Mtb is obviously not the same as a 100mm bike.

Having said that, here are a few of those contrasting differences listed in this comparison table-

These are just a sneak peek to the discussion of the difference between 100mm and 120mm forks . If you want to know the full details, follow me to the next segment right away!

The Heavy-hitting Discussion

This is the highlighting segment that you’ve been waiting for. Try to pay close attention to the discussion about these two travel forks. Because often they can feel very similar, but they are actually not. 

Another thing! To get an immersive hang of it, this video can be a start to understand the forks-

So, take a seat and follow along.

Size & Weight 

As obvious as it may seem, you have to look further into the size & weight factors. Because it’s important to understand how much you want your bike to weigh. If the fork is too big then you might not feel the same way while riding.

100mm fork 29 sizes can be pretty minimal with its 100m radius. Even the weight can be lower by as much as ½ pound than a 120mm fork. So, for making a feather-light build, you may be more inclined towards 100mm.

On the other end, 120mm is bulky but because of that, you get better geometry. While the weight can feel a bit difficult, you’ll have more actuation in the mountains.

So, in this 100mm vs 120mm fork hardtail battle, the winner depends on the user.

Winner: Depends on the biker’s choice and usage.

Head Tube Angles

Head tube angles can become a problem for your MTB if you’re not careful. In this category, 120mm proves better than 100m fork because of the flatter angle. Because of that, you get better ergonomics and control.

100mm or 120mm Travel Fork? The Conclusive Comparison!

Source: Road

However, your average 120mm travel fork tube angle is steeper. While it may not create any complications for you, it’s definitely not a fun one. The response is harsh sometimes and that diminishes the riding experience.

So, you really have to think hard about these two hardtail forks!

Winner: Flatter and more enjoyable response from the 120mm forks.

Attachment Point 

Attachment to your wheels is a major factor for mtb travel forks . The 100mm has a flatter 45-degree angle to the front wheels. But that does not mean it’s better. In reality, it can feel loose when driving on mountain terrains.

Interestingly, having a steeper 55-degree angle offers better rigidity in 120mm forks. Even the trail response and feedback are superior to its lightweight counterpart.

Winner: Better attachment point is found in the 120mm travel suspension fork.

Rider Weight Limit

Now, this is an interesting topic to compare. As a rider, you definitely want to check this one out.

100mm or 120mm Travel Fork? The Conclusive Comparison!

Source: Rei

If you weigh more than 150lbs, it’s better to go for a 120mm fork. Because it can take up to 160lbs of stress with ease. But your average 100mm forks fall behind with 145lbs of the weight limit.

So, a 120mm fork on an xc bike will perform better in this case. Now, the thing about forks are they can get easily damaged even if the rider limit is maintained. So, getting some service accessories for your bike can be extremely beneficial for you. 

Again, it’s not easy to get the best products for fork maintenance, is it? But I’ve found some quality products when I searched through multiple Mtb forums! Let me share what I’ve found to be useful-

  • RockShox Fork Service Kit is the best thing that can happen to your fork! You can trust me with this one completely!
  • Getting a good Suspension Oil like WPL Forkboost Lube also makes the bike experience smoother.
  • Mimoke Bicycle Fork Repair Tool is another great inclusion for your forks

I truly believe these maintenance kits will take your bike riding experience to the next level.

Winner: 120mm forks offer better rider weight limits.

When it comes to pricing, a very atypical situation arises. I think you can already guess what it is. 

The 100mm travel forks are shorter than 120mm ones. That’s why you can find 100mm travel forks at an affordable price range. Even with the same model, the 100m version can cost you $30-50 less at the entry-level.

If you’re planning to purchase 120mm forks, you’ve to consider the price. With the premium models, the price jumps as much as $100 compared to 100mm. So, set your budget first and then decide which way to go.

Winner: 100m travel forks are more affordable than 120mm forks.

Which One Should You Go for?

I’ve tried to highlight the most interesting and important bits about these forks. Still, a good summarization may help you to finally decide on one!

If you’re going for marathons and bulky size, there’s nothing better than a 120mm fork. It’s quite robust and offers an inclined head tube angle. So, you get firm and sturdy responses from your MTB.

Here’s a rider’s thrilling experience of going into the fall mountain biking with 120mm fork-

Fall mountain biking is some of the best riding in WNY. The New 2022 Trek Roscoe is the ideal gateway mountain bike for new riders to have fun on the trail. Plus-sized confidence inspiring tires, 120mm travel fork, 1x drivetrain, dropper post make this bike a winner! #bertsbikes pic.twitter.com/P3XVVYfJnY — BertsBikesandFitness (@BertsBikes) September 20, 2021

While both can be used for cross-country, 120mm is better for efficient mountain climbers. Because these can’t get any better when you’re trail mountain biking. 

However, it’s tough to find good deals on 120mm forks nowadays. From my extensive research, I’ve found some promising offerings! Here they are-

On the other end, 100mm is better compatible with cross-country traveling. Its lighter build allows you to enjoy a smooth riding experience with awesome paddling. But it’ll fall short if you’re constantly going on different mountain trails.

While fiding a 100mm fork, you might get confused a lot. To avoid such baffling situations, you can start looking for them from here-

Even going further beyond 120mm like using 140mm fork with hardtail can perform better in mountains. However, that’s another discussion on its own.

So, in the end, you have to decide depending on your biking needs. I think you’ve gained enough knowledge to make that call!

Can I Put a 120mm Fork on a 100mm Bike?

Yes, you’ll be perfectly fine with using a 120mm fork on a 100mm bike. But there’s a catch. If you are still in the warranty period, switching the fork can nullify your warranty. Because most of the brands don’t allow that. However, you can get away with 120mm if you’ve passed the warranty phase.

What Does 120mm Travel Mean?

The fork travel means the compression of your bike’s fork. Basically, how short it can get when you push the bike’s fork. So, for a fork with less than 120mm travel, the best use case is long riding. For a bike with a medium travel count within 160, it’s best for the mountain tracks.

Is More Fork Travel Better?

Fork travel depends on your usage of your mountain bike. More fork travel means that you’ll face a harder time when going uphill. If the travel is far greater than your usual, then it’ll only feel cumbersome and rigid. So, maintaining the fork travel according to your needs is the best way to ride.

I hope you got the differences between 100mm or 120mm travel fork . It’ll be easier for you to pick one for your bike.

One last reminder for you. Just make sure to ride with full confidence and thrill!

Best of Luck!

About The Author

120mm or 100mm travel

Joseph Williams

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Best Short-Travel Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes – 100 to 130mm

ibis ripley bike

Ibis Ripley – One of the most iconic short-travel playbikes available.

Trail and Cross-Country mountain bikes offer limitless fun on various terrains. There are quite a few different mountain bike types out there, but in this review – we’ll be focusing on the lighter end of the spectrum, bikes that are considered as short travel full-suspension mountain bikes.

  • You may also like:   15 Best Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes to Consider

Best Short-Travel Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes

1 . orbea – oiz h20.

Best XC Full-Suspension Mountain Bike

Orbea OIZ H20 Bike

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano Deore  / 29×2.35″

MSRP: $3,599 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox 32 Float Rhythm, 120mm travel Shock : Fox i-Line DPS Performance, 120mm travel Wheels : Orbea OC1 25c

The Orbea Oiz H20 is a sleek full-suspension XC bike built for speed and efficiency. With a premium aluminum frame, quality components, and World Cup geometry, you’ll be smashing your PRs with the Oiz in no time. 

It’s ideally suited to cross-country or long-distance trail riding, with a 12-speed Shimano Deore/XT groupset that includes a 10-51T cassette.

Fox provides both the I-Line DPS Performance shock and the 32 Float Rhythm fork. To complement the lightweight Orbea OC1 rims, you get 29×2.35″ Rekon Race EXO tires.

Head tube angle: 68º / Seat tube angle: 74º / Chainstay: 435mm

Buy on Jenson USA

2 . Santa Cruz Bicycles – Blur C S

Santa Cruz Blur C S

MSRP : $5,549 Evo.com

Fork: RockShox SID SL Select 100mm travel Rear Shock: RockShox SIDLuxe Select+ 100mm travel Wheels:  RaceFace AR Offset 29″

The Santa Cruz Blur is the famous MTB brand’s race-ready XC bike, designed to be lightweight, fast, and efficient. 

The Blur C S uses Santa Cruz’s more affordable carbon grade, which has excellent stiffness and strength characteristics that help maximize power transfer.

A 100mm travel RockShox SidLuxe Select+ shock is enhanced by a patented SuperLight suspension linkage that keeps the weight low but enhances rear-end traction on trickier sections. 

This build comes with a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed, 10-50T drivetrain with Level TL hydraulic disc brakes. Other notable components include the fast-rolling Maxxis Aspen 2.4″ tires, an SDG Tellis dropper for extra descending control, and lightweight RaceFace AR Offset rims. 

Pick the Santa Cruz Blur C S if you’ve got lofty XC ambitions and the budget to match. 

Buy on evo.com

3 . Pivot – Mach 4 SL Ride

pivot mach 4 SL ride mountain bike

Carbon / 12-Speed Shimano XT/SLX / 29×2.2″

MSRP: $6,199 Competitive Cyclist

Fork : Fox Float 34 Performance Step-cast 120mm  Shock : Fox Performance Float DPS 100mm  Wheels : DT Swiss X1900 alloy

The Pivot Mach 4 SL Ride is a sleek full-suspension XC MTB by a lesser-know but high-end MTB manufacturer, perfect for racers who want top performance.

The full carbon frame is incredibly light and strong, built for 29″ wheels and DW-Link suspension that perfects anti-squat characteristics for a snappy, responsive feel and extra traction. This model comes with race-ready 2.2″  Maxxis Ardent Race EXO tires.

The Mach 4 SL Ride has 100mm rear and 120mm fork suspension. In addition, you’ll have ample gearing from the 12-speed Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain. Thankfully, Pivot includes a Fox Transfer Performance Elite  dropper post with 100 to 150mm travel depending on the size. 

Choose the Pivot Mach 4 if you want to take your XC riding to the next level with a bike that’s ready for aggressive riding. 

Buy from Competitive Cyclist

4 . Niner – Jet RDO 4-Star


Carbon / 12-Speed Shimano XT / 29×2.6″

MSRP: $6,799 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox 34 Float Factory GRIP2 EVOL 130mm travel Shock : Fox Float X Factory EVOL 120mm travel Wheels : DT Swiss XM-1700 Spline 30

One of the more expensive offerings on our list, this Niner full-suspension mountain bike is a burly trail/XC bike with modern trail geometry and top-quality parts.

The RDO Carbon frame features Niner’s CVA suspension platform, integrated protection, and 2.6″ tire clearance. The 130mm travel Fox Float Factory fork and 120mm Float X Factory shock provide a plush feel on rough trails while the CVA design improves the pedaling efficiency of the system. 

A 12-speed Shimano XT drivetrain comes with RaceFace Next R carbon cranks and a 10-51T cassette. 180mm rotor XT hydraulic disc brakes round out the groupset.

An unusual inclusion is the Schwalbe Nobby Nic Addix Speedgrip 2.6″ tires which are very versatile and tough but add a little more weight. Finally, you have a KS Lev SI dropper with 100 or 150mm of travel. 

Choose the Jet RDO 4-Star if you want a highly-capable trail/XC bike with innovative design features, solid components, and long-lasting quality. 

Head tube angle: 66.5º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 430mm

5 . Rocky Mountain – Element Alloy 30

Rocky Mountain Element Alloy 30

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano Deore  / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $3,089 Jenson USA

Fork : RockShox Recon Gold 130mm Shock : RockShox Deluxe Select+ 120mm travel Wheels : WTB ST Light i27 TCS 2.0 TR 29″ (27.5″ on XS frame)

The 29″ Rocky Mountain Element Alloy 30 is a cross-country/trail MTB with a do-it-all personality.

The FORM alloy frame has relatively aggressive trail geometry which pairs well with a RockShox Recon Gold 130mm fork, Deluxe Select+ 120mm shock, and Toonie Drop dropper post for confident riding on most trails. 

The groupset includes Shimano’s Deore M6100 drivetrain with a  10-51T cassette with MT4100 hydraulic disc brakes. This setup and Maxxis Rekon 2.4 makes climbing easier and descending safer. 

Head tube angle: 65º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 436mm

6 . Yeti – SB120 T1

yeti sb120 cross-country mtb

Turq-Series Carbon / SRAM X01/GX Eagle / 29×2.5/2.3″

MSRP: $8,200 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox Factory 34 GRIP2 130mm  Shock : Fox Factory Float DPS 120mm Wheels : DT Swiss XM1700

The SB120 is a Yeti full-suspension MTB focused on cross-country and trail riding. This bike has an eye-watering price but has the spec and performance to match.

The Yeti SB120 T1 is built for speed and versatility with 29″ wheels and modern trail geometry. This is balanced by confidence-inspiring and premium 2.5/2.3″ Maxxis Minion DHF/Aggressor EXO tires. 

A blended SRAM groupset consists of a 12-speed, 10-52t X01/GX drivetrain that provides reliable and durable performance and G2 RSC four-piston hydraulic disc brakes. The wide gear ratio allows for easy hill climbs while powerful brakes ensure safe descents.

Consider the SB120 T1 if you want a high-end trail bike for tackling a wide variety of trails. 

Head tube angle: 66.5º / Seat tube angle: 76.5º / Chainstay: 433-443mm

7 . Co-op Cycles – DRT 3.3

A reliable, affordable XC bike

co-op cycles drt 3.3

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano SLX / 27.5 or 29 x2.4″

MSRP:   $3,299 REI

Fork : RockShox Revelation Motion Control RC 120 or 130mm Shock : RockShox Deluxe Select+ 120 or 130mm Wheels : WTB ST Light i30 TCS

The DRT 3.3 is a cross-country bike with plenty to offer beginner or intermediate XC mountain bikers. It features progressive wheel sizing and suspension travel based on frame size, Airsprung RockShox suspension, and premium Maxxis High Roller or Dissector tires. 

This bike has a lightweight but strong aluminum frame that helps keep the price down without sacrificing too much performance. This is boosted by a Shimano SLX 12-speed with a 10-51t climbing cassette and powerful Shimano SLX disc brakes for controlled descending. 

Head tube angle: 66/67°   /   Seat tube angle: 75°   /   Chainstay length: 433/441mm

Buy on REI.com

8 . Juliana – Wilder C R TR

Juliana Wilder C R TR Mountain Bike

MSRP : $4,899 Evo.com

Fork: RockShox SID RL 120mm travel Rear Shock: Fox Float Performance DPS 115mm travel Wheels: RaceFace AR Offset 

Julianna’s Wilder is a race-ready trail bike designed to tackle the toughest trails with confidence. As Santa Cruz’s women-specific brand, Julianna takes advantage of its VPP suspension system to provide the Wilder with unbeatable suspension performance.

Large 29″ RaceFace AR rims and slack geometry allow you to roll over any obstacle on the trail. In addition, female-tailored geometry and a Carbon C frame ensure the Wilder is painless to maneuver.

Finally, this bike is built on an SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and paired with grippy Maxxis Rekon Race tires and powerful SRAM Level T hydraulic disc brakes to ensure smooth climbing ability and controlled descending. 

Buy on Evo.com

9 . Marin – Rift Zone 1

Best value full-suspension mountain bike

marin rift zone 1 short-travel mountain bike

Series 3 Aluminum / 11-Speed Shimano Deore / 29×2.3″

MSRP: $1,899 Jenson USA

Fork : RockShox Recon Silver RL 130mm Shock : X-Fusion O2 Pro R 125mm Wheels : Marin Aluminum Double-Wall

The Rift Zone is a 29-inch trail mountain bike designed for speed over fast, flowy trails.

Multi-Trac suspension improves big hit absorption and delivers a more efficient pedaling platform for the 130mm RockShox Recon Silver RL fork and a 125mm X-Fusion O2 Pro R rear shock.

Vee Tire Crown Gem 29×2.3″ tires are durable but lack some grip in the corners and are slightly slow for this type of bike.

The Rift Zone 1 runs a typical 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain with Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes and is finished off with a budget alloy seatpost instead of a dropper.

This is a solid XC/trail bike that offers excellent value for money in the entry-level category of full-sus bikes. 

Head tube angle: 65.5º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 425mm

  Buy on JensonUSA.com

10 . Norco – Fluid FS 2

norco fluid FS 2 mountain bike

MSRP: $2,499 Jenson USA

Fork : RockShox 35 Silver R, 130mm travel Shock : RockShox Deluxe Select, 120mm travel Wheels : Stan’s NoTubes Flow D 

The Norco Fluid is a full-suspension mountain bike with an innovative progressive frame design for enhanced fit and performance. It features 130mm of front travel and 120mm in the rear, with a reliable Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and matching Shimano MT420 hydraulic disc brakes.

Norco chose Stan’s NoTubes Flow D rims with Maxxis Dissector 2.4″ tires for their excellent grip and durability. For a seatpost, you can rely on an X-Fusion Manic dropper. Every detail is accounted for on the Fluid FS 2, making it an excellent value trail bike.

Head tube angle: 66º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 431mm

Buy from JensonUSA.com

11 . GT – Sensor Sport

GT - Sensor Sport

Aluminum / MicroSHIFT Advent X, 10-Speed / 29 x 2.3″

MSRP: $2,300

Fork : RockShox Recon Silver, 140 mm Shock : X-Fusion 02 Pro RL 130mm travel Wheels : WTB Aluminum rims

The GT Sensor Sport is a full-suspension trail mountain bike designed to handle almost any trail out there .

This bike can smash climbs and thunder down descents with ease thanks to GT’s LTS rear linkage technology which soaks up trail chatter and improves traction.

The lightweight, durable aluminum frame is fitted with a RockShox Recon Silver RL 140 mm fork and an X-Fusion 02 Pro RL 130 mm shock which offer decent performance for this price range. 

This bike takes rolls along smoothly and corners confidently with 29″ wheels wrapped in WTB Breakout 2.3″ tires. Finally, you can rely on a MicroSHIFT Advent X  10-Speed drivetrain for smooth shifting and powerful but inconsistent Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic brakes. 

Head tube angle: 65.5º / Seat tube angle: 76º / Chainstay: 435mm

Buy from Jenson USA

12 . Alchemy Bikes – Arktos 120

alchemy bikes arktos 120

Carbon / 12-Speed Shimano XT / 29×2.3″

MSRP: from $4,699 Alchemy Bikes

Fork : Fox 34 29 Factory Kashima 130mm travel Shock : Fox DPX2 Factory Kashima EVOL 120mm travel Wheels : Industry Nine 29 Enduro S Hydra

The Alchemy Bikes Arktos 120 is a full-suspension XC/trail mountain bike that’s perfect for riders who enjoy charging uphill and thundering down descents.

The Alchemy carbon frame is ultra-lightweight and laterally stiff, and the seat tube allows longer dropper posts like the stock Fox Factory 175mm Transfer dropper.

The Arktos runs on Alchemy’s patented Sine Suspension dual-linkage platform. This system provides next-level performance through enhanced efficiency on climbs and improved handling and traction on chunky descents. The 130mm and 120mm Fox Factory Kashima suspension soaks up all but the most aggressive hits.

The Arktos 120 comes with a choice of three 12-speed groupsets (Shimano XT or SRAM GX/X01). Each has a hill-crushing cassette and 180mm-rotor hydraulic discs. Finally,  burly Industry Nine enduro rims are fitted with Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR 29×2.3 tires, providing plenty of capability but adding some extra weight. 

Consider the Arktos if you want high-end performance and an award-winning carbon frame at a reasonable price. 

Head tube angle: 65.75-66.5-º / Seat tube angle: 77.75-78.5º / Chainstay: 437mm

Buy on Alchemy Bikes

13 . Pivot – Trail 429 Pro

pivot trail 429 pro mountain bike

Carbon / SRAM X0 Eagle / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $9,900

Fork : Fox Factory 36 GRIP2 140mm travel Shock : Fox Factory Float X, 130mm travel Wheels : Reynolds Blacklabel carbon

Pivot Cycles is a relatively new bicycle company that has already won awards for its innovative design.

This can be seen on its Trail 429 Pro 29er full-suspension trail/XC bike, a lightweight carbon beast with top-level parts. It’s a professional XC bike for advanced riders, with modern trail geometry in the low flip-chip setting that provides confidence on steep descents. 

The suspension is tight, with a Fox Factory 36 140mm fork up front and 130mm Factory Float X shock on the rear. The DW-Link platform and carbon fiber build kit allow you to get more power from each pedal stroke, making this a highly efficient climber. 

Using the 12-speed SRAM X0, 10-52t drivetrain you get perfect shifting every time and plenty of gears for steep grades. In addition, the Trail 429 has powerful four-piston SRAM G2 RSC hydraulic disc brakes. 

Don’t miss out on the Pivot Trail 429 Pro if you’ve got a huge budget and want unbeatable trail performance to match. 

Head tube angle: 66-66.5º / Seat tube angle: 75-75.5º / Chainstay: 430-432mm

Buy from Mike's Bikes

14 . Santa Cruz Bicycles – Tallboy R

Santa Cruz tallboy r trail bike

Aluminum / 12-Speed SRAM NX Eagle / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $4,199

Fork : FOX Rhythm 34, 130mm travel Shock : Fox Float DPS Performance, 120mm travel Wheels : Race Face AR Offset 30

The Tallboy is of the most popular Santa Cruz full-suspension Mountain Bikes and this version has a tighter, more grounded feel, perfect for attacking bumpy terrain at high speed.

With the Santa Cruz Flip-Chip upper link, you can fit 29″ or 27.5″ rims and tires, although it comes standard with 29×2.4″Maxxis Dissector/Rekon EXO tires on Race Face AR Offset 30 rims.

The 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle groupset runs a wide-ratio 11-50T cassette for easy climbing and includes SRAM Guide T four-piston hydraulic disc brakes.

It’s finished off with a Burgtec Enduro MK3 stem, handlebar, SDT Tellis dropper, and Cane Creek 10 IS integrated headset.

Head tube angle: 65.7º / Seat tube angle: 76.8-76º / Chainstay: 436mm

15 . Juliana – Joplin 4 C R

Juliana Joplin 4 C R Mountain Bike 2023

Carbon C / 12-Speed SRAM NX Eagle /  29×2.4″

MSRP: $5,299 Evo.com

Fork : RockShox Pike Base 130mm Shock : Fox Float Performance DPS 120mm travel Wheels : Raceface AR Offset 30

The Juliana Joplin is a women’s full-suspension trail/XC mountain bike built for speed.

The premium Santa Cruz Carbon C frame is fitted with a RockShox Pike Base fork with 130mm of travel and a Float Performance DPS 120mm rear shock. These components are enhanced by the tailored lower-link VPP suspension that improves pedaling efficiency and traction. 

The drivetrain is a 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle with an 11-50t cassette for steep climbs and for braking you have SRAM Guide T hydraulic discs.

Finally, the Juliana Joplin 4 C R has an SDG Tellis dropper and 2.4″ Maxxis Dissector/Rekon 3C MaxxTerra EXO tires to provide confidence when descending on fast, chunky trails. 

Choose this women’s mountain bike if you love days on the trails with lots of elevation gain and a variety of trails. 

Head tube angle: 65.7º / Seat tube angle: 76-76.7º / Chainstay: 430-433mm

16 . Ibis – Ripley AF

🏆 Best all-around mountain bike for every terrain

ibis ripley af deore mountain bike

Aluminum / 12-Speed Shimano Deore / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $3,799 Jenson USA

Fork : Fox Float 34 Performance, 130mm travel Shock : Fox Performance Float DPS, 120mm travel Wheels : Blackbird Send Alloy Max Clearance 2.6″

Coming in at just under $4,000, this is one of those bikes that outperforms its price tag. Straight off the bat, the 12-speed Shimano Deore groupset is impressive with hydraulic disc brakes. 

Naturally, it has a premium quality aluminum frame with superb DW-Link suspension technology, offering 120mm of rear travel from Fox Performance Float DPS shock. With a similar kit upfront, you get 130mm of travel on the Float 34 fork, and it’s all rounded off with Blackbird rims and 2.4″ Maxxis  DHR II and Dissector tires. 

 Head Tube Angle: 65.5º / Seat Tube Angle: 76º / Chainstay length: 432mm

17 . Yeti – SB115 C2


grey yeti full sus mtb

Available in 3 designs

Carbon / 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle / 29×2.5″, 2.3″

MSRP: $6,200 Competitive Cyclist

Another top-class mountain bike from Yeti , this combination XC and trail bike attacks both the hills and the drops with equal vigor and aggression. The lightweight carbon frame combined with the 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle 10-52T cassette makes easy work of hills, while the Switch Infinity rear suspension technology combined with 130mm travel on the Fox Performance fork makes downhills a breeze.

You get added support from a thick 2.5″ Maxxis Minion DHF front tire and 2.3″ Aggressor on the rear, wrapped around DT Swiss rims. Oh and let’s not forget the Fox Transfer dropper seat post for added ease and enjoyment!

Head tube: 67.6 / Seat Tube: 74.1 / Chainstay: 437mm

Buy on Competitive Cyclist

18 . Santa Cruz Bicycles – Blur

santa cruz blur mountain bike

Carbon C / 12-Speed Shimano XT / 29×2.4″

MSRP: $6,599

Fork : RockShox Sid SL Select+ 100mm travel Shock : RockShox SidLuxe Select+ 100mm travel Wheels : Race Face ARC Offset 27

The race-ready Blur XC bike from Santa Cruz is designed for fast riding on cross-country trails.

The SuperLight suspension linkage combined with a 100mm RockShox Sid SL Select+ fork and SidLuxe Select+ shock provides plenty traction on the rougher stuff.

Fast-rolling 29er wheels, Maxxis Aspen 2.4″ XC racing tires, a stiff and lightweight carbon frame, and agile geometry give the Blur its high-performance personality. 

The groupset is a 12-speed Shimano XT with four-piston hydraulic disc brakes and plenty of gearing from the 10-51t cassette. 

Consider the Santa Cruz Blur if you’re ready to take your XC rides to the next level. 

Head Tube Angle: 65.7-65.4 / Seat Tube Angle: 77.5-76.8 / Chainstays: 423-433mm

Buy on Mike's Bikes   

19 . Cannondale – Habit Carbon 1 

cannondale habit carbon 1

MSRP: $5,500 Planet Cyclery

Every XC rider comes across an unexpectedly steep descent every now and again, leaving them in a precarious situation with an inadequate bike. The Cannondale Habit Carbon 1 rises to this challenge, offering an XC-specific bike that can tackle steep downhills with confidence.

It achieves this with the addition of a Cannondale DownLow dropper post combined with Cannondale’s Proportional Response Tuned suspension system. The RockShox Pike Select+ 140mm fork has slightly longer than usual travel for an XC bike, with the 130mm RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock to match. A wide-range SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain with a 10-52t cassette and SRAM G2 RSC hydraulic disc brakes make up a solid mountain-ready groupset that can tackle climbs and descents with ease.

HT: 66° / ST: 74.5° / Chainstay: 435mm

Buy on Planet Cyclery

20 . Evil – Following LS GX

Evil Following LS GX Mountain Bike 2023

MSRP: $6,450 evo.com

Evil Bikes is known for making high-quality mountain bikes that push the boundaries of design and innovation. The ‘Following’ is its versatile XC offering – a high-speed MTB with 29″ wheels, semi-compact geometry, and mid-range travel that can tackle unusually harsh conditions 

The proprietary DELTA suspension system and RockShox Deluxe Ultimate RCT shock are both highly tunable to adapt to varying conditions so if you feel like doing some downhill riding, simply adjust it to your needs and hit the trails. On this version of Evil’s Following, SRAM provides decent 12-speed gearing and instant braking with its mid-level GX Eagle groupset and G2 RS disc brakes.

Where Can You Ride a Short-Travel Mountain Bike?

Short travel mountain bikes are ideal all-rounder bicycles for fast and zippy trails, whether it is flat or hilly.

Downhill mountain bikes with lots of travel are ideal for extremely rough terrain with big drops and large obstacles but provide a disadvantage on flatter terrain. 

The less stiff your suspension is, the more speed you lose when riding fast on flat terrain. So you need to choose a bike that best suits the type of riding you intend to do. For most All-mountain, Cross-country, and Trail riding, you shouldn’t need more travel than 100-130mm. MTB bikes with travel between 140-180mm are intended for intense downhill and enduro-style riding.

Of course, many of these bikes have adjustable suspension, so in some cases, you can change it for the terrain of that day. However, if you don’t intend on ever tackling extreme downhills, big jumps, or huge drops, then there is no need to spend the extra on advanced suspension with unnecessarily long travel.

Other Factors to Keep in Mind

Carbon vs. aluminum: which is better.

Which is better: Carbon or Aluminum for a full-sus. MTB? Well, carbon has taken over the whole cycling industry for a while by now, and it is not different from the mountain bike scene. As carbon-tubing gets better each year, there is a reason why mountain bikers prefer carbon over aluminum. Carbon simply has the right ‘feel’ to the whole ride, while providing enough durability and ways to form a bike.

Tires & Tire Pressure

It is recommended to use more air in the rear tire when on trails.

  • 29″ – 18-28 psi. Plus-size tires or on wider wheels (Ibis) can be run on lower,11-18 psi range
  • 27.5″ (650b) – 16-30 psi.

Lowering your tire pressure means you create more contact with the ground so if you have thin tires, less pressure will provide more grip. However, while this may be a bit more comfortable offroad it comes at the sacrifice of speed on flatter ground. Depending on your weight, you should try to find a perfect balance that isn’t too low or too hard.

Tubeless tires can usually run lower pressure since there is no tube to pinch. Similarly, wider rims can also accommodate lower tire pressure. These are all factors to consider when pumping your tires.

Suspension set-up

You should always tune your suspension correctly to accommodate your weight and riding style. This can be done by rocking up and down on the bike to measure your ‘sag’ rate and then adjusting the air or spring pressure accordingly.

If you’re going to be hitting big jumps or drops, you’ll need a wider, looser suspension to take heavy impact. If you’re riding mostly flat trails, you’ll want it stiffer so you don’t over-compress and lose speed on each little bump.

Compression / Sag / Rebound

The Sag, as mentioned earlier, is important to measure and set accordingly before heading out on the trails. Once that’s done, set the rebound damping by pushing on the front suspension and seeing if you get any ‘bounce’. Tighten it until it only rebounds once, doesn’t bounce up and down.

For the compression settings, you’ll need to specify them according to your riding style. Different shocks have different settings, so it’s down to your style and preference. Basically, add more compression damping if you want tighter traction on corners, or less if you want more absorption on big drops.

Rider Weight

It’s important to get the correct weight distribution on a full-suspension bike otherwise you could injure yourself on the trails. The longer wheelbase a bike has, the more stable it will be, so heavier riders should consider this factor. 

Bottom bracket height is also important, as the higher the less stability you get but it can’t be too close to the ground either for obvious safety reasons. Generally, these measurements can all be perfected for you in-store when you buy a new bike. It’s always a good idea to have a professional fit your bike for you.

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120mm or 100mm travel

Mark Hartley

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Results have arrived, mtb travel - how much mtb suspension travel do you need what does it mean.

Do you want more suspension travel or less? How do you know how much you need? Here's how to decide whether a long-travel or short-travel MTB is better for you and your trails.

120mm or 100mm travel

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on: Mar 9, 2022

Posted in: MTB

You’re going to a big, important party, but you’re iffy about the dress code. Would you rather show up overdressed or underdressed?

A lot of mountain bikers face a similar dilemma, but instead of choosing the right clothes, it’s about choosing the right bike. You've probably heard certain bikes described as “too much bike” or “not enough bike.” But what does that mean?

In mountain biking, suspension travel often receives the most attention when riders are looking at bike specs. Depending on your skill, riding style, and terrain, there is likely an ideal amount of suspension travel. Other specs such as geometry , wheels , and tires  matter too, but they are usually tailored to match a bike's suspension.

Most modern mountain bikes will have somewhere between 100mm and 170mm of suspension travel. This covers everything from cross-country race machines to versatile mid-travel trail bikes to hard-hitting enduro bikes . (If you want to learn more about how mountain bikes are categorized check out our Mountain Bike Buyer’s Guide .)

So what's the right amount of travel for you?

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MTB travel basics: what is travel on a mountain bike?

In case you're new to riding, mountain bike suspension travel is a measurement of how much a wheel can move to absorb bumps. On the front, mountain bike travel comes from your suspension fork. At the rear, MTB travel is provided by some configuration of frame pivots that compress a rear shock.

When to choose a long-travel MTB

Santa Cruz Hightower LT Overbiked

Long-travel bikes usually have 150-170mm of rear travel to handle tough downhill trails. Front travel often matches rear travel but sometimes can be more.

Trail and enduro bikes fall into this category. They absorb big hits and smooth out rough terrain. If you regularly ride steep or gnarly trails, a bike like this makes a lot of sense. 

If you're mostly riding mellow flow trails though, a big and burly long-travel bike might be overkill. You won't be able to use all the suspension travel you paid for. The bike may feel cumbersome, maybe a bit boring, and you’ll have to expend more energy to push it around and climb uphill.

But let’s say you lack confidence on descents. A more capable enduro bike with ample suspension travel could help you enjoy riding more by increasing your confidence, comfort, and giving you more margin for error. 

Some ride big and burly bikes everywhere because they're fit enough to pedal a long-travel bike up big climbs and on long rides without much trouble. For them, being overbiked isn't a handicap, and it's worth it for when the trail gets gnarly. If you care more about descending as fast as possible more than having a bike that's efficient for pedaling or climbing, long-travel bikes will cater more to your style.


When to choose a short-travel MTB

Santa Cruz Blur cross country XC underbiked

Short-travel bikes usually have 100-120mm of travel to maximize efficiency. In some cases, these bikes could have forks with 10-20mm more travel to make them more versatile on descents.

XC and short-travel trail bikes fall into this category. They are efficient and usually feel more agile than longer-travel bikes. If you race cross-country, do long adventure rides, or stick to mellow trails, these are the best option.

If you venture onto steep and gnarly downhill tracks with big rocks and jumps, a short-travel bike will start to feel sketchy. There’s a good chance you’ll have to ride slower and more cautiously than you would on a long-travel bike, taking easier lines and occasionally skipping tough sections.

But let’s say you dread going uphill and are constantly getting dropped by fitter riders. A bike with less travel that’s lighter and more efficient could help you go faster and expend less energy. 

If you’re a skilled rider that just wants to make riding more exciting, short-travel bikes provide a lot more trail feedback and give you less room for error. You have to stay focused, be more selective about lines, and be more active with your body. For some, this can be a more enjoyable ride experience than just sitting back and letting a long-travel bike do the hard work for you.


So how much suspension travel do I need?

Overbiked vs. Underbiked: how much suspension travel do you need?

Seth H., Merchandising Manager   "I started on an XC hardtail and rode everything, even gnarly downhills on it. It had a dropper and I did just fine. I really thought it was all I would ever need. Then I went to Moab. I rode a borrowed enduro bike on The Whole Enchilada and it kind of opened my eyes. I bought a bigger bike not long after and started riding all my regular trails again. It changed how I rode.

"Personally, I really don’t mind being overbiked for most of my riding now. I ride alone a lot so I go my own pace. But I'm also decently fit and I can keep up with everyone I ride with on my bigger bike (an Ibis Ripmo). If you’re fit, I say go as big as you want."

Chad H., Warehouse Manager   "I would prefer to be underbiked on the majority of trails. Being underbiked keeps the skills sharp and makes the trail an exciting challenge. I feel that being overbiked takes the challenge and excitement out of trails. It leads to laziness and dulls your skill as a rider.

"Right now for me, I believe the best bike for 85 percent of the riding I do will be a full suspension cross country bike, like the Santa Cruz Blur. I would add a dropper seatpost and Fox Step-Cast 34 120mm fork just to give it a tiny bit more capability. Or the new Trek Top Fuel, or possibly a Yeti SB100 are good options. It's what people are calling 'downcountry' now, even though I hate the term. It will be a little bit more capable than a full cross country bike, but it’ll have the same quick handling and speed. That'll be perfect for me." 

What about mid-travel "quiver-killer" mountain bikes?

I always keep at least two mountain bikes in my quiver: a long-travel enduro bike and a short-travel XC bike. This lets me tackle everything from downhill bike parks to short-track XC races. But for many riders, a mid-travel trail bike is all you need.

Mid-travel bikes are a good compromise between downhill performance and pedaling/climbing efficiency. They usually have 120-140mm of travel. Many call these bikes "quiver-killers," because they can do it all (well, almost). I even spent a full season on a quiver-killer , just to see how well it worked for a wide range of riding and was pleasantly surprised by how versatile it actually was.

However, these bikes don't completely excel at anything. A longer-travel bike will be better downhill and a shorter travel bike will be more efficient for racing. Ultimately, if you can only have one bike for casual riding, or you're unsure what type of mountain bike you need for your local trails, this category is the best option. 


How to choose a mountain bike

Enduro mountain bike overbiked

Are your trails rough and rocky or smooth and flowy? Are they fast and steep or tight and technical? Your terrain has a big impact on bike selection. Generally, the rougher, steeper, and faster a trail is, the more travel you'll want and vice versa. 

The second step is to know yourself. Your riding ambition is nearly as important as terrain. If you are a ripper who lives for downhills, you'll probably want to support yourself with more travel. But if your ride fantasy involves conquering high mountains, and exploring miles of backcountry trails, you might want to stay light and efficient with less travel.

No matter what, it's possible to have fun riding any bike, and having the ideal amount of suspension travel isn't everything. Keep in mind too that the rider is always going to make a far bigger difference than the bike. Fast descenders drop me on gnarly downhills riding XC hardtails, and fit climbers drop me on uphills riding heavy enduro machines. Good riders take what they have, and make it work. 

That being said, you can always play to your strengths or weaknesses. Having a bike that enhances the parts of riding that you care about the most will make mountain biking more fun. 

Are you overbiked or underbiked for your trails? Do you prefer long travel or short travel? Or do you have a bike that sits somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments!

120mm or 100mm travel

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Best XC forks: the best cross country forks for a lightweight, plush ride

The best XC forks combine smooth and controlled dampening with a lightweight and stiff design. Here is Bike Perfect's list of the best XC forks on the market

Best XC Forks

The best XC forks hover between about 100mm and 120mm of travel. Usually featuring lockout switches, XC forks are lightweight, efficient and allow the wheel to get out of the way when it needs to while offering enough support to keep you from bobbing through the travel up a tough climb. 

The suspension fork changed mountain biking forever. Not only did it take some of the dampening load away from your body, but it vastly improved traction and control, allowing riders to take on rougher terrain at speed. 

In the early days, suspension forks offered about 30-50mm of travel and the same fork (and bike) would be used for pedal-heavy XC riding and gravity-fed Downhill racing. Suspension forks have now become specialist components with cross-country riders demanding high performance and low weight in order to build the best lightweight mountain bikes for XCO and marathon racing.

Read on for Bike Perfect's picks for the best XC forks, or if you're new to the club, you can skip to everything you need to know before you buy an XC fork. 

  • Best mountain bike forks
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The best XC forks

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We'll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

Best XC Fork

Fox 32 Step-Cast Factory

Our expert review:


Reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.

When Fox sought to trim weight from its short travel performance forks, it simply got rid of unneeded material. The lower third of the fork lowers is cut out, and the stance is noticeably narrower in both the Boost and non-Boost formats, which also meant less material was needed in the crown. 

Weighing about 1,400g in the Factory trim for 29-inch wheels, Fox says the 32 Step-Cast is just as stiff as its burlier 34 fork. The top-end model sees the eye-catching neon orange lowers and has provisions for high and low-speed compression damping. There's also a lightweight 8mm damper shaft and a bar-mounted lockout along with a self-equalizing lightweight air spring.

Fox 34 Step-cast 2021

Fox 34 Step-Cast Performance

Cross country racing used to be all about the climbs, and the goal was just to survive the descent. With riders becoming infinitely more skilled and bike technology and geometries improving at a rate approaching lightspeed, the descents are becoming increasingly relevant to the overall equation, as well as getting increasingly technical to boot. With that, we have seen quite a few XC and Marathon racers up forking to 120mm, and even a new breed of XC bikes like the latest Trek Top Fuel, Pivot Mach 5 and Norco Threshold, which are built around a more significant suspension up front.

The Fox 34 Step-Cast follows a similar idea to its shorter travel sibling but changes things up to better accommodate the additional travel and stanchion diameter. The cutouts on the 34 Step-Cast are on the outside of the lowers, the fork also receives the same light, 8mm damper shaft. While the Performance series fork doesn't get the blinged-out Kashima treatment, they are made from the same 7000 series aluminum, and the fork sees a Fit Grip damper that combines the compression damping into a single dial.

Rockshox SID SL Ultimate

RockShox SID SL Ultimate

The new SL Ultimate isn’t just RockShox’s lightest SID but the lightest 100mm telescopic fork from any brand, weighing in at just 1,320g ready to fit. That’s partly due to the heavily sculpted 32mm stanchion chassis with a machined and anodized crown replacing the single-piece carbon top of its predecessor. Top caps and lockout lever have been heavily drilled and machined to chase out every gram and the rebound adjuster is just a skinny pull-out Allen key.

The much smaller Charger Race Day damper saves the most weight (over 90g) to make it 166g lighter than the previous SID Ultimate. The mini damper and reworked DebonAir spring give a super sensitive high grip start with excellent mid-stroke support and progressive bottom out. You even get a bolt-on fender for dirty days.

It’s only available in a short offset 29er version though. 

Rockshox SID Ultimate

RockShox SID Ultimate

While the SID SL reworks the classic 32mm chassis for minimal mass, the SID now steps up to the same 35mm diameter stanchions as RockShox trail, Enduro and DH forks. That means a much stiffer, more accurate on-trail feel than the SL, but still enough compliance to boost traction and reduce fatigue. The tiny Race Day Damper and extensive machining and sculpting from lower legs to lockout lever mean it still only weighs 1,508g.

The DebonAir spring has been altered to raise the ride height of the fork, increasing stability for corners and braking and ramping up aggressively for big hits. The start is still buttery smooth to sustain speed and grip over tiring chatter bumps. The Race Day Damper is impeccably controlled, even when rallied hard. The 180mm brake mounts and optional fender make it trail-ready, and it’s got an instant bleed damper port. The Ultimate only has a hard lockout switch but not tuneable compression adjust, and it’s only available in a 44mm offset 29er format.   

Best XC Fork

Marzocchi Bomber Z2

Fox breathed new life into the Marzocchi brand last year, sharing its damper and air spring technology with an attainable price tag. The Bomber Z2 is stripped down and doesn't have all the knobs and dials most of us never bother to turn. Unlike the Bomber Z1 which uses a GRIP damper from Fox, the Bomber Z2 gets its own Rail damper which presents reliable performance and simplified internals, so even the most ham-fisted home mechanic can service their fork.  

With 34mm stanchions, the Bomber Z2 is available in travel from 100mm to 150mm, and the squish can be adjusted internally by the DIY’er — though you'll need to buy the correct length air spring shaft. It's not the lightest fork on the market, but for the hard-charging XC racer who is pushing on the descents, it's stiffer than the Fox 34 in our experience.

DT Swiss F232 ONE

DT Swiss F232 ONE

DT Swiss’s superlight forks have been a favorite among European racers for well over a decade, and Nino Schurter won five of his World Championships and the 2016 Olympics on DT Swiss. Their popularity has always centered around excellent stiffness to weight ratios, and the sculpted uppers and boxy dropout lowers are still very accurate for its sub-1,500g weight.

The LINEAIR air spring uses a bypass valve to close off the negative spring as the fork goes from supple start to linear mid-stroke, before ramping up to control bigger hits.

The INCONTROL damping gives a LOCK setting for sprints, a hard starting DRIVE setting for climbs and a fine adjustable OPEN setting for maximum smoothness. You can choose fork top or remote lever actuation, three travel options from 100-120mm and they’re all useable with up to a 2.5-inch tire. You can only get 29er wheel and standard 51mm offset format though.  

Best XC Fork

Manitou Machete

Like the blade that Manitou's XC fork is named after, the Machete is designed to slice and dice thick and chunky trails. With the brand's patented reverse arch, it weighs a respectable 1,885g (29in) and features external adjustments for compression, rebound, and full lockout.

There's a hollow crown at the top to save weight, and the fork features the brand's ISO air spring with a rubber bottom out bumper and ABS+ compression, along with rebound damping inside. Manitou offers the Machete in both 100mm and 120mm travel, with the squish internally adjustable by 20mm in each version. 

If you are looking for lower weight, more adjustability and improved dampening, Manitou has the R7 Expert and Pro although they aren't as affordable.

Best XC Fork

DVO Sapphire D1

DVO is a relative newcomer to the suspension game, and the Sapphire is the brand's XC platform touted for the bucket-loads of adjustability that’s packed into the fork. First, the travel is adjustable from 100mm-140mm with internal spacers, so you could go as far as tailoring how much squish you have depending on the course.

The Sapphire platform borrows design characteristics from DVO’s longer travel forks - like the Diamond and Emerald - to emulate not only the stiffness and tracking but also the ‘Off The Top’ and dynamic rebound adjustment. There are six clicks of low-speed compression to firm up the fork for pedaling, and over 30-clicks of high-speed compression to precisely control how the fork reacts to substantial impacts. DVO uses a shim-stack controlled rebound that controls the system based on how fast oil is moving through the fork, allowing the fork to spring back based on what the trail is doing underneath the wheels. 

Best XC Fork

Rockshox Reba

Tucking in just behind the veritable SID is the RockShox Reba. In typical RockShox form, it offers adjustability and reliability, but at a price that won't relegate you to surviving on ramen noodles for the month after you buy it. 

It's available in travel from 100mm to 150mm and uses 32mm stanchions, which keep the weight low and provide plenty of stiffness in the XC travel range. Being a second-tier fork, RockShox makes it for 26-inch27.5-inch and 29-inch wheels and with both straight and tapered steerer tubes. No matter the setup, the Reba RL has a Solo-Air spring that accepts Rockshox's Bottomless Tokens to increase progressivity and a Motion Control damper that provides both compression and rebound adjustment.

Best XC Fork

The eighth edition of the Lefty Ocho has seen the fork go from a dual drow setup to a single crown, dropping about 250gm in the process, while actually managing to increase stiffness — quite a feat considering the rigidity of its predecessor. The fork also features 23-clicks of rebound adjustment and six clicks of compression adjustment, in addition to the air valve being moved to the side from the bottom of the fork leg. 

Cannondale has continued to use its upside-down design, and the internals roll on three sets of needle bearings instead of bushings, which are claimed to significantly reduce stiction. We’re also happy to see the annoying hydraulic lockout remote has been retired for a simple mechanical version.

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Best XC forks: what you need to know

For a long time, a cross country bike had a 100mm fork, and 100mm of rear travel if it had any at all, because, for a long time, races were won on the climbs, and the descents were just about getting to the bottom without crashing. 

Times have changed, and the courses are getting gnarlier, which means the bikes have had to evolve. The latest wave of XC bikes adopted slacker head angles for more confidence on the downhills, and an increasing number are specced with a slightly longer travel 120mm fork — something we’ve seen marathon racers do for some time. It's worth noting that if your bike has a 100mm fork, increasing or reducing the travel by more than 20mm will have dramatic effects on the handling. 

With longer forks becoming more common on the best XC forks, 32mm stanchions are still the go-to for their weight, however, more 34mm forks are working their way into the XC travel ranges. 

Thru-axles provide for a stiffer connection between the fork legs and the hub and are now considered standard on just about every level of mountain bike. XC forks will take a 15mm diameter axle, and will either have standard 100mm spacing or Boost 110mm spacing.

Boost allows for wider spoke bracing angles and therefore a stiffer wheel with virtually no weight penalty. The wider hub spacing has been around for long enough that most bikes, except for those on the lowest step of the pricing spectrum, will utilize the boost standard.

3. Adjustability

Having a telescoping suspension fork is all well and good, but bolting a poorly setup pogo stick on the front of your bike will do more harm than good. At the very least, your XC fork should have an air spring as they offer far more tunability, not only through air pressure to adjust the sag, but also volume spacers to tune how the fork ramps through its travel.

Even the most budget-friendly forks also offer rebound adjustment, which is how fast the fork springs back after it's compressed. Rebound is often described in clicks because the adjuster knob literally clicks as you turn it; higher-end forks will have more clicks of adjustability, allowing for the precise tuning.

Finally, we have compression adjustment and lockout. Most XC forks will allow for some degree of compression adjustment, or at what rate the fork compresses under force; however quite a few will have a lockout switch or remote that in simple terms, turns the fork on or off. 

More expensive forks will divide this adjustment into high-speed and low-speed compression. Low-speed compression helps the fork to support your weight against gravity, for example when you stand up to pedal or ride over rollers or berms but can come at the cost of small-bump sensitivity. High-speed compression is the reaction to an abrupt impact like hitting a rock or riding off a drop.

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Colin Levitch

Born and bred in Colorado, and now based in Australia, Colin comes from a ski racing background and started riding as a way to stay fit through the summer months. His father, a former European pro, convinced him to join the Colorado State University collegiate cycling team, and he hasn't stopped since. It's not often he pins on a number nowadays, and you'll likely find him in search of flowy singletrack, gravel roads and hairpin corners. Colin has worked at Bikeradar and is a regular contributor to Australian Mountain Bike and Cyclist magazines. 

Rides: BMC Team Machine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9, Ibis Ripley

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120mm or 100mm travel

Is 120mm Travel Enough for Trail?

Is 120mm Travel Enough for Trail?

Today I’m gonna talk about one of the most hotly debated topics in mountain biking – is 120mm of travel enough for trail riding?.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Jerry, you’re just another opinionated blogger spouting off nonsense.”

Is 120mm Travel Enough for Trail?

But hear me out, because I’ve got some real-world experience under my belt.

See, I used to be a hardcore XC rider, the kind of guy who thought anything more than 100mm of travel was for wussies.

But then I took a spill on a gnarly descent and realized that maybe, just maybe, a little extra squish in my suspension could make a big difference in my overall ride experience.

So, I took the plunge and upgraded to a bike with 120mm of travel.

And lemme tell you, it was a game changer.

But, the question remains – is 120mm of travel enough for trail riding?

Well, the answer, my friends, is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Table of Contents

The Pros of 120mm Travel for Trail Riding

There are several advantages to having 120mm of travel on your trail bike .

Firstly, it’s a good balance between efficiency and capability.

With 120mm, you’re still able to pedal efficiently on flatter sections, but you’ve also got enough suspension to handle the rougher stuff.

Another pro of 120mm travel is that it’s versatile.

With this amount of travel, you can tackle a wide range of trails, from smooth singletrack to technical descents.

It’s a great choice for riders who want to do a little bit of everything, without having to compromise on performance.

The Cons of 120mm Travel for Trail Riding

Of course, there are also some downsides to having 120mm of travel on your trail bike .

The first is that it may not be enough for the absolute gnarliest terrain.

If you’re a downhiller at heart, or you regularly find yourself on the most technical trails, you may want to consider a bike with more travel.

Is 120mm Travel Enough for Trail?

Another con is that a bike with 120mm of travel may not be as efficient on long, climbing-heavy rides.

If you’re the kind of rider who spends most of their time grinding up steep climbs, a lighter, XC-oriented bike may be a better choice.

Unleashing the Trail Warrior Within: Understanding Suspension Travel

Let’s get on the same wavelength when it comes to suspension travel. Picture your bike’s suspension as a superhero, tirelessly battling the forces of rough terrain.

Suspension travel refers to the distance the superhero’s cape (or rather, the shock absorber) can move up and down.

When it comes to trail riding, the amount of suspension travel you need depends on various factors. Let’s break it down:

1. The Type of Trail

Not all trails are created equal.

Some trails are as smooth as a baby’s bottom, while others are as wild as a bull in a china shop. The rougher the trail, the more suspension travel you’ll want to have in your arsenal.

Is 120mm Travel Enough for Trail?

2. Your Riding Style

Are you a speed demon, craving adrenaline-fueled descents? Or do you prefer a more mellow approach, savoring the scenic beauty of the trail?

Your riding style plays a significant role in determining how much suspension travel is right for you.

3. Your Body Weight

As much as we hate to admit it, our body weight influences the performance of our bike’s suspension. If you’re a lean, mean trail machine, you might get away with less suspension travel.

But if you’re packing a few extra pounds (we won’t judge), you might want to consider beefing up your suspension.

4. Your Tolerance for Discomfort

Think of your suspension as a comfy recliner. The more travel it has, the more it cushions you from the bumps and jolts of the trail.

If you’re a fan of a plush, smooth ride , you’ll lean towards more suspension travel. But if you enjoy feeling every nook and cranny of the trail, you might find 120mm to be just right.

5. Your Skill Level and Confidence

Let’s be real here: not all of us are born with the skills of a mountain biking pro.

If you’re a beginner or still building your confidence on the trail, 120mm of travel can provide a forgiving ride while allowing you to develop your skills.

As you progress and tackle more challenging trails, you may consider upgrading to a bike with greater suspension travel.

The Goldilocks Dilemma: Finding the Right Balance

Now that I’ve explored the factors that influence your suspension travel needs, it’s time to find that sweet spot, like Goldilocks seeking the perfect porridge.

Here are a few tips to help you strike the right balance:

  • Test Ride: Don’t be shy to take different bikes for a spin and see how they handle the trails you love. It’s like trying on shoes—some will fit like a glove, while others might pinch your toes.
  • Consider Upgrades: If you’re rocking a 120mm travel bike but craving a bit more cushiness, you can explore upgrading the suspension components to improve the overall performance.
  • Experiment with Tire Pressure: Adjusting your tire pressure can make a surprising difference in how your bike feels on the trail. Play around with it and find the sweet spot that maximizes comfort without sacrificing control.
  • Master Your Technique: Remember, technique plays a vital role in conquering the trail. By honing your skills and learning to read the terrain, you can make the most of your bike’s capabilities, regardless of its travel.

Choosing the Right Fork and Rear Shock: Unleash the Trail Beast!

Let’s talk about something that can take your ride from ordinary to extraordinary—the fork and rear shock.

These two components are like the dynamic duo of suspension, and getting the right ones can make your trail experience out-of-this-world amazing.

Buckle up and let’s dive into more details!

Travel Options: Finding Your Suspension Sweet Spot

When it comes to travel options, it’s like choosing the perfect dessert—it has to be just right. You want enough travel to soak up the bumps and keep you comfortable, but not too much that you lose efficiency.

For trail riding, a common range is around 120mm to 150mm of travel. If you’re tackling gnarlier terrain, like technical descents or enduro races, you might lean towards 150mm to 170mm or more.

Remember, the right amount of travel can make a world of difference in how your bike performs.

Adjustability: The Secret Sauce to Customizing Your Ride

Adjustability is like having a personal chef who can cater to your every culinary whim.

With forks and rear shocks that offer adjustable features, you can fine-tune your suspension to match your riding style, the trail conditions, and even your mood.

Want a plush and forgiving ride? Dial in more compression and rebound damping.

Craving efficiency and snappy handling?

Firm up your suspension to reduce bobbing and maximize pedal power. Adjustability allows you to tailor your ride like a custom-made suit, ensuring optimal performance and comfort.

Compatibility: A Match Made in Suspension Heaven

Compatibility is like finding your perfect dance partner—it’s all about harmony and synchrony.

When selecting a fork and rear shock, you need to ensure they are compatible with your bike’s frame, wheel size, and axle standards.

Check the specifications of your bike and the suspension components to ensure they match up.

Some forks and shocks are designed specifically for certain frame geometries or wheel sizes, so make sure you choose components that play well together.

A well-matched fork and rear shock create a seamless connection, allowing you to unlock the full potential of your bike’s suspension system.

The All-Mountain Marvel

You’re tackling a rocky, technical section of the trail, feeling like a superhero defying gravity.

Your bike is equipped with a 150mm travel fork that features adjustable compression and rebound damping.

As you hit a big drop, the fork effortlessly absorbs the impact, smoothing out the landing and keeping you in control.

The rear shock, with its air-sprung design and adjustable sag, keeps your rear wheel glued to the ground, providing traction like a gecko on a glass window.

This combination of a well-matched fork and rear shock ensures a plush and responsive ride, allowing you to confidently tackle the most challenging all-mountain trails.

The Cross-Country Cruiser

Now imagine this: you’re pedaling through a flowy singletrack, effortlessly climbing those hills like a mountain goat on espresso.

Your bike is equipped with a lightweight 120mm travel fork with a lockout feature, allowing you to firm up the suspension for efficient climbing.

The rear shock, designed for cross-country riding, offers a platform mode that minimizes pedal-induced bobbing, maximizing your power transfer.

As you navigate tight corners and technical descents, the responsive fork and rear shock keep your bike nimble and agile, allowing you to maintain control and carve through the trails with precision.

This combination of a lightweight, adjustable fork and a responsive rear shock ensures a fast and efficient cross-country ride, perfect for those who want to cover long distances and tackle varied terrain with speed and finesse.

So, my friend, remember the importance of choosing the right fork and rear shock—it can be the key to unlocking your trail beast potential.

Consider the travel options that suit your riding style and the type of terrain you’ll be conquering.

Embrace the adjustability that allows you to fine-tune your suspension for optimal performance and comfort.

And don’t forget about compatibility—ensure that the fork and rear shock you choose are a perfect match for your bike’s frame and wheel size.

Now go out there, be bold, and conquer those trails like the legend you are!

Can I ride technical trails with a 120mm travel bike?

Absolutely! While a bike with more travel may offer additional forgiveness, a 120mm travel bike can handle technical trails just fine.

It may require more finesse and precise line choices, but it’s all part of the challenge and fun.

Will I be slower with a 120mm travel bike?

Speed is more than just the amount of travel your bike has. It’s about skill, fitness, and overall bike setup.

While a bike with more travel may excel in certain situations, a skilled rider on a 120mm travel bike can still tear up the trails.

Can I still do big jumps and drops with 120mm of travel?

A: It depends on your riding style and the size of the jumps and drops.

For most riders, 120mm of travel will be sufficient for smaller jumps and drops.

However, if you’re looking to huck yourself off massive jumps, you may want to consider a bike with more travel.

Is 120mm of travel better than 100mm or 140mm?

A: It’s not a matter of better or worse, it’s a matter of what’s right for you. If you’re looking for a good balance of efficiency and capability, 120mm of travel may be the sweet spot.

What is the difference between 120mm travel and longer travel?

The main difference between 120mm travel and longer travel is the amount of suspension travel.

Bikes with longer travel have more cushioning and can handle bigger hits and drops, while bikes with shorter travel are lighter and more nimble.

Is 120mm travel enough for downhill riding?

No, 120mm travel is not enough for serious downhill riding.

These bikes are better suited for cross-country and trail riding , not for high-speed descents and big jumps.

Can I upgrade my 120mm travel bike to have more travel?

Yes, you can upgrade your bike to have more travel.

You can install a longer travel fork and rear shock, but keep in mind that this will likely result in a heavier and less nimble bike.

Should I upgrade to a bike with more travel?

That depends on your personal preferences and how you feel on your current bike.

If you find yourself consistently pushing the limits of your bike’s capabilities or tackling more demanding trails, upgrading to a bike with greater travel could enhance your riding experience.

Is 120mm travel suitable for all riders?

No two riders are alike, and individual preferences vary.

While 120mm travel can be sufficient for many riders, if you seek more aggressive or extreme riding experiences might opt for bikes with higher travel.

It ultimately comes down to your specific needs and goals.

Can I use my 120mm travel bike for other disciplines?

Indeed! While 120mm travel is commonly associated with trail riding, it doesn’t mean your bike is limited to that.

With some adjustments, you can explore cross-country adventures, light enduro trails, or even dabble in bikepacking. Your trusty steed is versatile!

Finding Your Trail Bliss

So, dear friend, is 120mm travel enough for the trail?

The answer lies in the dynamic interplay of your riding style, the trail’s terrain, and your personal preferences.

While a bike with more travel might offer a bit more cushioning and forgiveness, a 120mm travel bike can still be a trusty companion on your trail adventures.

Remember, it’s not just about the numbers—it’s about the joy of riding, the thrill of conquering obstacles, and the freedom to explore nature’s playground.

If you’re looking for a light and nimble bike for cross-country and trail riding, then 120mm travel may be perfect for you.

But if you want a bike that can handle the most technical terrain, then you may want to consider a bike with more travel.

It’s important to find a bike that meets your specific needs and allows you to ride at your best.

So, don’t be afraid to experiment and try different travel lengths until you find the perfect fit for you.

Remember, it’s all about having fun on the trails and finding the bike that allows you to do just that!

Jerry Taylor

Review | The 2021 RockShox SID Ultimate Is A 120mm Travel Mini-Pike

The not-so-minor details.

2021 RockShox SID Ultimate

PSI Cycling


- Impressive small-bump compliance & comfort - Ridiculously low weight for a 120mm trail fork - Tracks confidently for the most part - Simple and easy-to-tune - External damper bleed port is genius

- Can bind on hard, fast off-camber impacts - Minimalist rebound adjuster isn't the prettiest or most ergonomic - Fettlers may miss low-speed compression adjustment

Wil Tests & Reviews The 2021 RockShox SID Ultimate Fork

It’s been four whole years since we last saw a properly new SID fork from RockShox. It’s no coincidence that 2016 was also an Olympic year, which seems to be the preferred timing for brands to release their new flagship XC product. There have of course been damper and spring updates to the SID over the past few seasons, but the fundamental design and chassis hasn’t changed since the 2016 release .

Fast-forward to 2020, and RockShox is ready to unveil the latest generation of its high performance XC race fork. Except, well, that’s only half of the story. Because there are actually two new SID forks for the 2021 model year.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

The SID has previously been offered in both 100mm and 120mm travel variants, which have been based on a similar chassis with 32mm diameter stanchions. For 2021 however, RockShox has decided to split the lineup into two distinct fork platforms with two different names;

  • SID SL –  The 100mm travel XC race fork with 32mm upper tubes and a seriously low claimed weight of just 1326g
  • SID –  The 120mm travel XC/trail fork with 35mm upper tubes, a beefier chassis and a claimed weight of 1527g

As if that wasn’t enough, RockShox has also launched a new rear shock called the SIDLuxe. There’s a whole lot to cover in this 3-prong XC attack, so if you’re after an overview of the two forks and shock, along with a closer look at the new technologies and the different variants on offer, check out our big feature story on the 2021 RockShox SID fork and shock range here .

However, most of you are here to read about what this new SID is actually like to ride. Very handily, we were sent out a 120mm travel SID Ultimate a couple of weeks ago to put it through its paces on our local trails. I’ve been riding the heck out of it since then to see how it rides, to find out what’s improved, and how it compares to its main rival. More on that in a bit.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

Firstly, What’s Changed Over The Old 120mm SID?

From the bottom of the dropouts to the tip of the steerer tube, the 2021 RockShox SID is an entirely new fork from the inside-out. New chassis, new damper, new air spring, new adjusters, new everything .

Compared to the previous 120mm SID, the new version has undergone a trail metamorphosis with the addition of 35mm upper tubes, the same outer diameter as what you’ll find on the Pike & Lyrik forks. Internally the stanchion tubes are butted to reduce weight, while the one-piece magnesium lowers are hollowed out for the last 8cm down at the dropouts.

Inside the right fork leg is the brand new Charger Race Day damper. Like the Charger 2.1 damper you’ll find in a Pike, it uses a closed cartridge design with a flexible rubber bladder that expands as it fills with oil under compression. However, everything has been shrunken down to the bare minimum. There’s less oil volume, smaller shims and a skinnier damper shaft, all optimised around the SID’s shorter travel. The slimification process has dropped a good chunk of weight – RockShox has saved nearly 100g in the damper alone compared to the previous SID.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

There’s also a new DebonAir spring, which is designed to emulate the performance of the Pike & Lyrik more closely. RockShox has modified the positive and negative air volumes, and implemented a smaller and lighter seal head. The transfer port between the two air chambers has been lowered down slightly, which helps the pressures to equalise sooner and keep the fork riding higher in its travel.

In a further bid to minimise stiction, RockShox is now using Maxima Plush damping fluid and SKF wiper seals in each of the new SID forks.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

So, How Light We Talking?

Despite the new SID beefing up considerably in stature, all of those clever material-saving tactics have actually brought the weight down. And not just a little.

Our 120mm travel SID Ultimate weighed in at 1525g with an uncut steerer and with the Maxle thru-axle installed. By the time I chopped it to 175mm, that weight came down to just 1501g. Compare that to the old 120mm travel SID Ultimate fork, which weighed in at 1695g. For the weight weenies out there doing the math, that’s a hefty drop of 10%.

RockShox says most of the weight savings have come from the Charger Race Day damper, as well as the new lowers and crown. The crown is made from forged alloy that is then post-machined to remove as many excess grams as possible. Oh, and if you’re wondering why there’s no carbon steerer option, here’s the word from RockShox; “ Carbon parts take a lot of time to develop and we focused on the alloy crowns first. In looking at what we accomplished with aluminium, it will take more research to understand if we can achieve any performance or weight improvements with a carbon CSU. ”

Given the low weight RockShox has already been able to achieve with the new SID Ultimate without going to a carbon CSU, I suspect we won’t be seeing one.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

Installation Notes

RockShox continues to narrow its target user for the new SID, which is now only available for 29in wheels and with Boost hub spacing. Unlike other 29er forks from RockShox that are offered with both 42mm and 51mm offsets, the new SID is coming with a 44mm offset only. This decision was made based on “ the fact that most of the industry is moving to shorter offsets for all bikes” , and to help simplify things for OE customers – RockShox wanted to offer a single offset, and it also wanted to be consistent with Fox, which produces a 44mm offset. So there you go.

One option that is available is a shorter air spring that brings travel down to 110mm. Apparently this is what the men on the Scott-SRAM team have been using, and it’s certainly an intriguing option for XC racers who might want a beefier option than a 32mm fork, but without going to the full 120mm travel.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

Bolting on the SID is otherwise easy-breezy. I love the simple press-fit guide for the front brake hose, which requires no cable ties or tiny bolts to secure. The lowers use 180mm post-mount disc tabs, which means you won’t need an adapter to run a 180mm rotor. It’s very tidy, but it does mean you can’t run a 160mm rotor on these forks, not that I suspect will be an issue for most riders given this is a chunky 29er trail fork. Want moar powaaaah? You’ve got clearance to go up to a 200mm rotor on the SID.

The Maxle thru-axle uses a 6mm hex key to tighten and loosen, while the inside of the dropouts are Torque Cap compatible. With a matching front hub with oversized end caps, you increase surface area contact between the fork and the hub, which helps to boost torsional stiffness. I’ve used the Torque Cap combo on existing SID, Pike and Lyrik forks, and it does make a big difference to steering precision and structural stiffness for the fork. It’s unfortunately not a wide-reaching standard as of yet though. With a regular front hub, it just makes it slightly more faffy to locate and fit the axle.

RockShox says there’s enough space in the SID’s lowers to fit a tyre up to 2.45in (62mm) wide. I’ve got a 2.3in Bontrager XR5 Team issue tyre up front, and there’s plenty of mud room there. Speaking of, RockShox is finally offering an optional bolt-on mudguard! It looks bonza in the studio pics, but we’re yet to see one in real life or confirm aftermarket availability. We’ll update you here once we get word.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

Setting Up SID

Thanks to those big volume 35mm stanchions, operating pressures for the new SID are pretty low. I weigh about 68kg ready to ride, and I ran just 66psi inside the DebonAir spring, as per the slightly-difficult-to-read setup chart on the back of the lowers. The recommendation was spot-on too. Standing up on the pedals, the fork sagged 25% into its travel.

A quick high-five here to RockShox for those brilliant sag gradients anodised onto the stanchions – it makes setup much easier, and I like that you’ve got a visual guide for where full travel is.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

The new SID uses the same grey Bottomless Tokens as the Pike, and you get a couple included in the box. Our test fork arrived with no Tokens inside the air spring, and so I rode it like that to begin with, assuming that would be the factory setup. A cassette tool is all you need to open the air spring top cap and add Tokens should you need to.

Low-speed rebound damping is adjusted in the usual manner, though in the name of weight saving, it’s performed by a removable 2.5mm L-handle hex key. It isn’t particularly ergonomic or pretty, but it does the job. If you’re running a matching SIDLuxe rear shock, you can remove the fork’s rebound adjuster and use it to adjust the tooled rebound damping on the shock, which is pretty neat. As for the rebound setting itself, I went halfway at 10/20 clicks.

Aside from air pressure and rebound damping, there isn’t a lot else to adjust on the SID Ultimate. You won’t find adjustable low-speed compression, though there is a 2-position lockout lever that offers either Open or Locked settings. A remote option is also available, which gives you a TwistLoc remote for opening and closing the fork.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

What’s Good?

From the very first ride on the 2021 SID Ultimate, it was evident that this is a very different fork to the outgoing SID.

For a start, it is vastly smoother than any other SID I’ve ridden before. Whereas the SID has always felt like it comes from a different family to the Pike and Lyrik, this new SID finally feels it shares the same DNA as its bigger siblings. In fact, I’d go so far to say it feels like a diet-Pike more than anything. Early stroke suppleness is quite incredible for a 120mm travel fork, with a cloud-like suppleness as the fork hovers over small chatter bumps and rubble. It is a very comfortable fork to ride with excellent bump reactivity.

Despite the supple feel to the first 30% of the travel though, the SID doesn’t give up its travel easily. The improved mid-stroke support from the new DebonAir spring is both obvious and welcome. You can feel the spring strengthen considerably as it pushes beyond the sag point, which helps to keep the fork from blowing through its travel – something the previous SID fork struggled with, unless you propped it up by loading it full of Bottomless Tokens. Early on I thought the fork’s plush feel and lack of low-speed compression damping would result in excessive brake dive, but since the spring is so supportive, it actually stays plenty composed.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork bendigo trek top fuel

Hitting bigger ledges and drop-offs, the SID continues to ramp-up nicely through the last third of its travel. Even with zero Bottomless Tokens inside, I couldn’t get it to bottom out once, and finished each ride with about 5mm left in reserve. One of my fellow testers, who’s got about 10kg on me, had exactly the same experience, and neither of us felt the need to add any Tokens – a refreshing change from other 32mm RockShox forks. My only concern is that folks who are much lighter and less aggressive in their riding style might find the SID too progressive.

Still, I think RockShox has brought a whole new level of performance with this new DebonAir spring. Along with the light damping, it gives the SID a nice supple action, noticeable mid-stroke support, and excellent end-stroke progression with no harshness to the travel even when absolutely romping into flat-landings. It handles feisty trail riding supremely well, with the 35mm chassis creating a strong connection between your grips and the front wheel.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork bendigo trek top fuel

What’s Less Good?

There is of course a limit to how hard you can ride this fork. The strong torsional stiffness and supple suspension performance do well to keep the SID tracking confidently on rough, rocky terrain, but it also encourages you to ride faster. That’s fine for the most part, but when facing off-axis impacts at high speed, the SID can start to choke a little.

I noticed this on a couple of rapid straight-line descents that were impregnated with numerous off-camber rock slabs – the kind of rock faces that do their best to bounce you around side to side like the bumper walls at a bowling alley. While the SID does well to hoover up most of those rocks, there was some occasional harshness when it took a surprise whack on an awkward angle. To me this felt more like binding from the chassis twisting under load, rather than spiking from the damper, since full-frontal impacts are swallowed without hassle.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

To be fair, this was only during an extremely rough section of trail that I’d normally be riding a longer travel bike on. It is also a 1.5kg fork, with quite a bit less metal than a Pike, so that’s worth factoring in when considering what’s appropriate for your riding style and terrain. In general though, I found the steering precision to be superb with the SID, and it is a substantially stronger feeling fork than the previous 32mm SID. It’s also likely far more capable than most of the lightweight XC bikes out there designed to take a 120mm travel fork. Still, I’d like to get my hands on a Torque Cap compatible front hub to see how much of a difference it would make to the SID’s performance, since I’ve found it very effective with previous test forks.

Any other complaints? All those improvements in the chassis and internals doesn’t come cheap. The SID Ultimate as shown here sells for $1,499 AUD, and the remote lockout version goes for another hundred bucks more. To be fair, that’s about the same price as a Factory Series Fox 34 Float Step-Cast. The Aussie dollar has also had a rough time over the past 12 months (and specifically the last few weeks), so I’d brace yourself for some price rises on further 2021 product.

On the topic of pricing, RockShox is also offering the SID in a Select version that gets the cheaper Charger RL damper and a little less machining on the crown. That means it’s around 140g heavier, but it also means it’s cheaper at $1,199. You could always get that fork, and upgrade it with the Charger Race Day damper ($399 AUD) down the line if you fancied. Also of note for owners of a current RockShox SID or Reba, is that the 32mm Race Day damper is also backwards compatible with any post-2014 RockShox fork with 32mm stanchions and 100-120mm of travel, which is fantastic to see.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork fox 34 float step-cast

RockShox SID vs Fox 34 Float Step-Cast

Given the new SID’s 120mm travel, low weight and 35mm chassis, it’s an obvious competitor to the Fox 34 Float Step-Cast (SC). Having launched back in 2018, the 34 Float SC established a new performance benchmark for lightweight trail forks, and has become a popular choice on short-travel XC bikes like the Trek Top Fuel, Yeti SB100 and Specialized Epic Evo. It’s an exceptionally good fork that has been relatively unchallenged over the past two years.

With that in mind, we decided to do some back-to-back testing between the SID Ultimate and the 34 Float SC to see how the new RockShox fork stacks up against the current market leader. We tested the two forks on my Santa Cruz Blur and on Ben’s Trek Top Fuel – two bikes that are ideally suited to this new breed of lightweight short-travel trail forks.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork fox 34 step-cast factory series

Weight: Here the SID Ultimate wins by a country mile. Or 130g to be exact. At 1501g, it is a decent bit lighter than the 34 Float SC fork, which weighs in at 1631g with the same length steerer tube. If weight is a priority to you, the new SID wins.

Adjustability: The 34 Float SC is the more adjustable fork of the two, given it has a 3-position compression lever along with a separate low-speed compression dial. That allows for greater fine-tuning for different trails and racecourses, without necessarily having to flick the lockout lever so much. In comparison, the SID Ultimate is just open or locked. Because it is so active in the open mode, I do think the SID is a great candidate for the TwistLoc remote, particularly if you’re racing. Both forks have a nice, solid lockout that will open up if you hit something hard enough.

Plushness: In back-to-back testing, the SID had a smoother feel with better small-bump sensitivity. The 34 Float SC is by no means a harsh fork to ride, it’s just that the SID is better. On choppy terrain, it has a lovely flutter around the sag point that is very reminiscent of its bigger travel siblings.

Support: Out of the box, the SID’s DebonAir spring feels bob-on, with excellent mid-stroke support as you push past the sag point, and a strong ramp-up towards the end of the travel. In comparison, we found it easier to bottom out the 34 Float SC, even with 2-3 volume spacers inside. For riders less inclined to crack open their forks and mess around with spacers, the SID is more set-and-forget.

Stiffness: There isn’t really a lot separating these two forks, and we can’t say there are any glaring differences when you’re pushing them both hard. Both forks will twist and deflect a little more than their beefier counterparts, and a lot of that comes down to the more skeletal chassis, particularly around the hollow dropouts. Given their weight and intended application though, they both track well and offer excellent torsional rigidity. I’d like to try out the SID with a Torque Cap front hub, which I suspect would give it a noticeable edge over the Fox.

Damping Control: While both forks offer an active and compliant feel, if I’m really splitting hairs, I did feel that the FIT4 damper in the Fox offers a slightly more controlled ride quality on high-speed chatter, where it felt like it was recovering more effectively on repeated stutter bumps. This could also be chassis related, but I’d really need to do more testing on the SID, particularly on some nice long descents to try and get some heat into that Charger Race Day damper to see if fade is an issue. Otherwise in standard XC racing and everyday trail riding conditions, it’s performed its job without issue.

2021 rockshox sid ultimate fork

Flow’s Verdict

Structurally, visually, and performance-wise, the new RockShox SID is a massive step up from its predecessor. Not only is it significantly lighter, it’s also plusher, more supportive, easier to setup, and more direct in its handling too. It’s a better fork in every single way.

It also compares favourably to the Fox 34 Float Step-Cast, which has largely been uncontested for the past two years. With pricing on a pretty level playing field, the SID is the fork that I’d choose in a head-to-head comparison. Not only is it lighter, it’s also smoother and it has better mid-stroke support too. It has thoroughly impressed, and I suspect this will become a popular light trail fork that we’ll be seeing a lot of as stock equipment on 2021 model year bikes.

For the real XC purists out there reading this, take note – we’ll also be getting our hands on the even-lighter 100mm travel SID SL fork, and the SIDLuxe shock in the near future, so stay tuned for a full test on those. Needless to say, expectations have now been set quite high.

Mo’ Flow Please!

Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our  latest news stories  and  product reviews . And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our  YouTube  channel, and sign up to our  Facebook  page and  Instagram  feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow!

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How much suspension travel do I need on my mountain bike?

From cross-country to downhill, we take you through how much travel you can expect on the major types of mountain bike

Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Mountain bikes feature different amounts of suspension travel depending on the type of riding they're designed for.

Suspension travel describes the amount of movement a suspension fork or rear shock has. It is usually a measurement of how far the wheel axle moves in a vertical or near-vertical plane as the suspension compresses.

Depending on the discipline of riding the bike is designed for, the suspension travel can vary from 80 to 200mm. While more travel may seem better, helping you soak up lumps and bumps, it can be a hindrance if your riding includes lots of climbing or you benefit from a light, responsive bike.

This means deciding on the right amount of travel for your needs can be difficult, but there are a few factors to keep in mind, including your riding style and the type of trails and terrain you'll be tackling.

Bike manufacturers design their mountain bikes around different travel lengths, tailored to specific terrains or riding disciplines, and categorise the bikes accordingly. As a result, looking at the different categories of mountain bikes, their intended application and travel length is a handy way to determine how much travel you need and what bike you should get.

In this guide, we’ll explain the different mountain bike categories and how much suspension travel they typically have.

Cross-country mountain bikes

Cyclist riding the Giant Anthem Advanced Pro 29 1 full suspension mountain bike

The best cross-country mountain bikes are designed to compete in high-level, fast races, where lightness and pedalling efficiency are often the keys to success.

Typically, cross-country bikes have featured 80 to 100mm of travel. Because cross-country race courses have become more extreme and technical, it is now common to see bikes designed around 120mm travel front and rear, such as Scott’s Spark RC .

Using less suspension travel than other mountain bikes means cross-country bikes can be built with a lighter frame construction because less reinforcement is needed to deal with the lower frame articulation. This helps riders race up the kinds of inclines that characterise XC races .

The short-travel forks used on cross-country bikes also help to keep weight down because they utilise a lighter chassis and narrower stanchions, usually 30 to 32mm in diameter.

Stanchions are the part of the fork connected to the crown and remain rigid to the bike while the lowers move up and down over them.

The trade-off for this weight saving comes in the form of fork flex, which impacts the directness of steering inputs and the overall ability of the fork to perform in gnarlier terrain as friction levels build on the seals.

A short-travel fork will also run out of travel quicker compared to one with more travel. Although setup and damper performance will dictate a lot of factors in how proficiently it absorbs bumps, less travel means it won't absorb bigger bumps as well as a long-travel fork.

Hardtail mountain bikes are also well-represented in cross-country, because rigid frames allow for the highest pedalling efficiency. However, the traction and descending ability of full-suspension bikes make them desirable to many riders.

Downcountry mountain bikes

Rider jumping the Yeti SB120

Downcountry bikes aim to balance a cross-country bike's efficiency with a trail bike's downhill capability.

‘Downcountry’ is a relatively new mountain bike discipline and isn’t that well defined as a result. But in terms of suspension, these bikes range from beefed up cross-country at 110mm of travel, to lightweight trail with around 130mm front and rear travel.

Having slightly more travel than an outright cross-country bike means downcountry bikes are more capable on descents. However, with shorter travel than trail bikes, they still offer greater pedalling efficiency than burlier bikes.

Downcountry bike frames can be made lighter than trail bikes because the demand on the frame is less. This means they require less material in their construction because they don’t require the same amount of strength as a trail or enduro bike needs.

Downcountry bikes usually feature stronger, stiffer forks, with thicker stanchions, usually 34mm in diameter. This gives higher levels of rigidity to the fork, making steering inputs more direct, although concessions are still made to weight savings.

Trail mountain bikes

Cyclist in red top riding the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 7 full suspension mountain bike

Trail bikes are one of the most popular types of mountain bike. They are designed to straddle the line between enduro bikes and cross-country bikes, providing a ride that’s fun but capable.

Confident on descents and fairly capable on climbs, trail bikes typically have between 120 and 160mm of suspension travel.

Trail bikes at the longer end of the suspension-travel spectrum cross the boundary into all-mountain. Typically, these bikes will feature beefier frame construction to deal with the added suspension travel.

The optimum amount of travel depends on what terrain or trails you like to ride, and where you’d like to progress with your riding. 140mm is ideal for even the toughest trail centres, with more travel being required for gnarlier ambitions.

Forks with mid-sized stanchions, either 34mm, 35mm or 36mm in diameter, are common on trail bikes. These shift the balance away from lightness toward rigid stability for better handling while descending. Less flexibility in the fork will mean more direct steering input, making the bike feel more planted through the rough stuff.

Enduro mountain bikes

YT Capra Mk III Core 2 enduro mountain bike-21

Enduro bikes are designed to meet the demands of enduro racing , which consists of multiple downhill stages that riders have to reach within a set time limit. As a result, enduro bikes have to perform well on technical descents while providing a decent pedalling platform to get you to the top of the trail in good time.

Travel for enduro bikes starts at 150mm and ranges up to 180mm. There is a 190mm-travel version of RockShox’s enduro-focused ZEB fork, but you’re more likely to see this attached to a freeride or bike park bike.

Enduro bikes require a burly frame construction in order to cope with the demands of downhill trails.

Head tubes have to be stronger to deal with the extra force coming from the long-travel fork, while the rear linkage has to be able to support the extra articulation.

This added frame construction makes the frame heavier, impacting efficiency when going uphill, but the pay-off is worth it when coming back down.

Forks within this travel range prioritise rigidity over weight savings, with thicker stanchions of 36mm to 38mm, providing direct steering inputs and a solid feel as you ride over gnarly terrain.

Downhill mountain bikes

male cyclist riding orange full suspension mountain bike in woods

Downhill bikes are designed for, you guessed it, riding downhill. The discipline doesn’t require the bike to be pedalled on uphill or even flat terrain, enabling designers to focus solely on providing the best platform for descending steep and technical trails.

These bikes feature some of the longest suspension travel, ranging from 180 to 200mm, helping to protect riders from large, repeated impacts.

Frames have to be built to the highest strength levels to cope with the impacts you experience on downhill trails. Although downhill frames are heavier than those intended for other disciplines, it's less important to have light frames because you’re not pedalling them uphill.

Downhill forks feature the thickest stanchion, ranging from 35 to 40mm in diameter, because they deal with the most extreme terrain and require the greatest rigidity.

Weight isn’t a big issue for downhill bikes, so the added heft is worth the trade-off for the performance gains.

The forks on downhill bikes have a dual-crown design, meaning the fork mounts above and below the head tube, as opposed to single-crown forks, which mount only from below. This adds more torsional stiffness to the fork, helping to keep steering inputs direct through the toughest terrain and providing strength for big impacts.

Electric mountain bikes

Male cyclist in blue top riding the Nukeproof Megawatt 297 Factory full suspension eMTB

Electric mountain bikes are heavy, even compared to downhill bikes. The added weight a battery and motor bring means frames as well as components have to be engineered to cope with the extra weight – and contribute even more weight to the bike in the process.

Electric bikes can be categorised by the other disciplines featured in this article and will tend to feature the travel of that discipline.

The best electric mountain bikes will feature e-MTB specific forks and shocks, some with thicker stanchions for rigidity, and custom tunes that are suited to the heavier weight of the bike.

Because you’ll have a motor, there won’t be a trade-off in having a bike with more travel (and therefore weight), with the bike taking up the burden on the hills.

What about hardtail mountain bikes?

Male cyclist in black top riding a Radon Cragger 8.0 hardtail mountain bike over rough terrain

Hardtail mountain bikes have a suspension fork and a rigid rear end. They can be seen in a variety of disciplines, though are mainly represented in the cross-country and trail disciplines. They are also popular when it comes to budget mountain bikes because the simplicity of their design and less suspension means less cost.

As with other types of mountain bikes, fork travel is usually dependent on discipline. Cross-country hardtails typically have 100mm of travel, but more aggressive hardtails can have suspension travel of up to 150mm.

Some manufacturers will design frames with flex points in the rear triangle, allowing for vertical compliance in the frame. This improves comfort when sat in the saddle, and to a smaller extent rear-wheel traction while climbing.

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120mm or 100mm travel

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120mm or 100mm travel

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120mm fork on a frame built for 100mm travel?

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Hey, for a year I've been saving on a new bike. I mostly ride local trails that are quite easy and long so I was looking for a hardtail bike for light trail riding. After a lot of headache I think I've settled on building my own! I want to use a Specialized Chisel frameset but there's one thing that keeps me awake at night. Maybe you can help me out. All the Specialized Chisel pre-builds come with a 100mm Reba, but since I'm a heavier rider (205lbs - 93kg) I want to put a beefier fork in it, specifically 120mm travel Revelation with the new 35mm stanchions. This means that axle to crown length would increase 25mm and I would probably gain an additional 1 degree of head angle. My question is what would be the adverse effects of such a build? Would I break the frame? Will the aluminum fatigue faster? Should I just go with 100m SID? Any help or input would appreciated! Been struggling with this for quite a while.  

120mm or 100mm travel

Not sure if I'm helping with this, but a review I read on the Chisel mentioned that the frame in on the flexy side. It mentioned in a positive tone, flexy=comfortable. For someone at your weight I wonder if the flex would be too much. Overforking it wouldn't help either. It's also designed as an XC whipet, so maybe not the best choice for trail riding. Something more versatile like a Kona Honzo or a Santa Cruz Chameleon would be my suggestion for a XC\trail ht. A 67-68 deg head angle is a good middle ground for 29ers of this orientation IMHO.  

justwan naride said: Not sure if I'm helping with this, but a review I read on the Chisel mentioned that the frame in on the flexy side. It mentioned in a positive tone, flexy=comfortable. For someone at your weight I wonder if the flex would be too much. Overforking it wouldn't help either. It's also designed as an XC whipet, so maybe not the best choice for trail riding. Something more versatile like a Kona Honzo or a Santa Cruz Chameleon would be my suggestion for a XC\trail ht. A 67-68 deg head angle is a good middle ground for 29ers of this orientation IMHO. I'd Click to expand...

120mm or 100mm travel

The actual increase in stress on the frame from an increase in fork suspension of 20mm is not really that much. Seeing as the sag would also increase so it would effectively be less than 20mm increase in leverage, and the load is not at 90 degrees so only a portion of the potential increase in torque would be applied to the frame. Unless you are a very hard rider, the odds of it causing any adverse effects on the frame are minimal. That being said, if the frame was considered flexy to begin with, it would be more flexy with a longer fork.  

Yeah, I'm now thinking that the added flex would be more of an issue than the stress on the frame. I'm seriously considering Commencal Meta HT AM Race now but Formula hubs and Powerspline BB has me second guessing. Would it be a good choice for riding in the woods? https://www.commencal-store.co.uk/meta-ht-am-race-29-2019-c2x26307404  

I was considering the Meta HT AM for myself when shopping for a ht, but the short reach and excessive travel ruled it out. For ht's I think 120-140mm is the sweet spot, remember that unlike fs bikes, only the fork compresses, so the geometry steepens significantly. I'd throw the Nukeproof Scout 29 as an alternative.  

120mm or 100mm travel

Should be fine. For XC racing, I do notice raising the front by 20mm and it has a detrimental effect for climbing steep stuff, enough so that I prefer keeping it at 100/100mm (FS XC racing bike). I have a 120mm fork for that bike for all-around riding and more marathon-type stuff, but for the intense shorter stuff, I'd rather keep it at 100. For all around riding, should be fine, but you may notice it's a bit harder to keep the front wheel down on the steep uphills.  

120mm or 100mm travel

I put a 120mm airshaft in my 100mm Reba that was already mounted on a steel HT frame built for a 100mm fork. I liked it better at 120. I took 10mm of spacer out from below the stem (bar height rose something like 8mm) and rotated the bars *juuuussst a smidge* down to keep the wrist angle about the same. It's only one data point among a nearly infinite population, but I found no downside personally. The absolute cockpit dimensions changed a litte, bars rose a few mm and got a couple mm closer, but not enough to matter to me. I recently mounted a Manitou Magnum Pro 100mm with the A2C same as the 120 Reba, and still like it  

120mm or 100mm travel

Out of curiosity, why do you want a little more travel? Have you thought about adding an extra token to the fork? It does help depending on what you are trying to do on the bike.  

I would be okay with 100mm travel but I definitely want more stiffness than 32XC forks offer. So I'm looking into Revelation because of it's burlier 35mm stanchions which, I think, will offer less flex. If the Revelation would come in 100mm I wouldn't be asking this question :/.  

Thank you all for such informative replies. This was my first post in these forums and you made me feel really welcome. I think I will be moving away from the Chisel and looking into enduro style hardtails like Nukeproof Scout or Commencal Meta, since weight is not an issue and I'm looking for durability.  

karlotikas said: Thank you all for such informative replies. This was my first post in these forums and you made me feel really welcome. I think I will be moving away from the Chisel and looking into enduro style hardtails like Nukeproof Scout or Commencal Meta, since weight is not an issue and I'm looking for durability. Click to expand...

I think I might just go with the Commencal and follow your advice to put more air into it. I just learned that it also comes with two bottomless tokens pre-installed in the Lyrik, so that will help too.  

120mm or 100mm travel

I think this is a better plan than buying an xc frame and long-forking it. Even if 20mm isn't much of a difference structurally (whether it'll void the warranty or not depends on how forgiving the mfg warranty is), it does much with the geometry. And whether that's a positive change is going to vary from one bike to another, and from one rider to another. There are lots of good rowdy hardtails on the market these days that it might pay off to take a little bit of time at least, and make some comparisons on paper. I've got half of a Guerrilla Gravity Pedalhead sitting around while I slowly accumulating parts for a build. Drives me a bit crazy, because I think this is going to be a seriously hella fun bike.  

120mm or 100mm travel

On a 26" (wheel) XC racer, I went with a 120mm fork when it was spec'ed for a 100mm. Granted this was years ago, but I still have that bike, and I totally ruined the ride. It was instantly obvious, and it became an unruly climber, with no apparent benefit on the descents. I am not saying that this applies to your bike, but with mine it was a huge lesson learned. You won't see me messing with fork lengths unless it's established that it is ok on that particular frameset. Just my experience.  

120mm or 100mm travel

I've increased fork length my 20mm several times. Yes, it is noticeable but not a disaster. You may have to alter the stem length to compensate but if you want to try it, go for it.  

120mm or 100mm travel

It's far far apples to apples, but we put a 120mm on my daughter's Gary Fisher Tassajara GS. Originally a 100mm hardtail, womens geometry, and a 26"er. In that case, it works nicely. The resulting change in head angle is great. Bike is more playful, and it didn't get too light on the front end going up steep techy stuff. Going down works better for her as well, as she doesn't need to drop off the back of the seat as much, plus there's the added travel which allows a little more adjustment for subtle stuff. It was a win-win in her case.  

120mm or 100mm travel

My 6' 185lb kid has been on a Chisel the last couple seasons. He's never complained it felt flexy.  

I added a 120mm fork to a steel spot longboard frame that was designed for a 100mm fork. I did alot of research that gave me tons of responses that it would be fine After half a summer of riding the bike the downtube snapped in half while riding smooth rollers(pump track style rollers). The added 20mm changed the geometry enough that the downtube just gave up and snapped in the middle without any impact.  

120mm or 100mm travel

With all due respect, steel tubes do not fail as described above.  

Now that will break a frame.  

120mm or 100mm travel

I've run forks 20mm longer than design spec (100mm on bikes designed for 80) on 2 different bikes (ti and aluminum) for a collective 5000+ trail miles without issue. I prefer the way they ride with the longer forks. YMMV based on your technique, terrain, and bike choice.  

I'm 25lbs lighter than you, and been riding a Chisel Comp (Large), which comes with a 100mm Judy Gold (a little bit worse than the Reba); can definitely feel the fork flex while riding it aggressively, and it loses performance under heavy breaking (when compared to my full suspension trail bike with a 130mm Pike RTC3). Also considering to upgrade the fork to 120mm (maybe Fox 34 or Pike), but still unsure if it will void the warranty. If that's the case, I'll get a 100mm SID. Flex on the frame is not a big deal, I actually think it makes this bike more comfortable (it is really comfortable, even on longer rides...). I don't actually feel that I'm losing any power while pedaling, and even under heavy load, the wheels never touch the frame/brake pads... The Chisel climbs really fast, and is also pretty good on the descents (I feel more confident on the Chisel than on some older full suspension bikes). I'm beating all my Strava PRs on the climbs by ~20%, and I'm ~20% slower on the really technical/rocky descends (when compared to my Santa Cruz 5010). I'm really happy with my Chisel, and it definitely fits my desired use for it. But if your goal is to decend fast, on technical terrain, would probably go with something like the Santa Cruz Chameleon or Kona Honzo. (Or just buy a full suspension bike)  

You could get a MRP ribbon sl that is adjustable from 110-130. See what you like. 35mm stanchions I believe and under 4 lbs.  

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Premium performance at down-to-earth prices. Judy Silver now has new options available to support compatibility with short and full fenders. Judy Silver TK level forks give you stiff steel upper tubes and TurnKey™ lockout.

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The XCR 32 LO R AIR is SR SUNTOUR's first offering of an  air sprung fork in our XC category of suspension forks. It features externally adjustable rebound, and air spring for a more precise set up and a hydraulic lockout that can be used on the fly. The 32mm chassis is robust enough to handle XC single track and it utilizes our proven sealed cartridge design that requires minimal service work. 

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    107 posts · Joined 2009. #8 · Apr 17, 2011 (Edited) Depends on how it climbs. If you already struggle on the steepest, going to 120mm will see you pushing. But, if you have no problem climbing, then going to 120 will def improve descending. The way forward is adjustable travel.

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    All the Specialized Chisel pre-builds come with a 100mm Reba, but since I'm a heavier rider (205lbs - 93kg) I want to put a beefier fork in it, specifically 120mm travel Revelation with the new 35mm stanchions. This means that axle to crown length would increase 25mm and I would probably gain an additional 1 degree of head angle.

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  21. "sr suntour xcm hlo suspension fork 27.5 1 1 8 threadless steerer 120mm

    Shop "sr suntour xcm hlo suspension fork 27.5 1 1 8 threadless steerer 120mm travel 100x9mm disc black" ... Basic replacement suspension fork 100mm travel Coil spring / preload adjust Steel steerer tube Post mount disc & V brake … read more. Black Threaded 1" Suspension 100 mm. Ships Free ...

  22. Judy Silver TK

    Features. New graphics package with E-MTB endorsement option (15x110mm) TurnKey lockout gives 'on/off' control. Fits Tires up to 2.8" (15x110mm) Fast Black finished 30mm steel upper tubes couple stiffness and lightweight with a premium look. Plush coil spring or highly tunable Solo Air spring.


    The XCR 32 LO R AIR is SR SUNTOUR's first offering of an air sprung fork in our XC category of suspension forks. It features externally adjustable rebound, and air spring for a more precise set up and a hydraulic lockout that can be used on the fly. The 32mm chassis is robust enough to handle XC single track and it utilizes our proven sealed cartridge design that requires minimal service work ...