After a complete season of testing, we are able to present you with the most of entry-level forks, their performances and some tips in buying a model or another. Keep in mind that this class is represented by coil forks with two exceptions, endowed with air cartridges.
There are three major brands competing in this segment: Sr Suntour, Rock Shox and RST. Manufacturers such as Marzocchi, Manitou, Magura or Fox either do not build such forks or their models are too little widespread.
The cheapest fork from our guide is the Suntour XCT, available for just 30 euro, while the most expensive is the new Rock Shox Recon Silver TK, available in coil and air cartridge version which costs around 240 euro. Prices in this guide are those recommended by the manufacturer, but certainly there are shops selling them at lower prices. Most important, after you decide to go for a certain model, you must take some time to find the best price on the market.
All forks below have a 100 mm of travel, some with the possibility of being internally increases, up to 120 mm.
Is shared by two coil forks, Suntour XCT, and Rock Shox XC 28, both with heavy functioning, totally not impressive.
Manufacturing materials could have been better, and with 2.620 grams, the XCT is among the heaviest forks in this guide. You can read more about these forks, here: Suntour XCT and Rock Shox XC 28.
RST Blaze replaces RST Gila, but, except for better materials used for the sliders and for the crown, the fork is totally not impressive for off-road use. The price is not high, however when put to weigh, it shows not less than 2.5 kg. The complete test can be read here: RST Blaze.
Suntour XCM, perhaps the most common entry-level fork, has received some improvements for 2012, among which higher quality paint, better finishes and a neater look may be listed. Unfortunately, what hasn’t been changed too much is its functioning. Clattering on rebound is still present on some models (not all) and weight is huge, managing to successfully “rival” a downhill fork (2.732 grams). You can read more about this fork in the Ghost SE 2000 review.
RST Saturn is a nice try of the Taiwanese manufacturer to stir the niche’s waters and create some more competition. Finishes are fine, damping is decent but not refined enough, however price is really low. Unfortunately, weight is rather high (2.580 grams) and it doesn’t help it at all to take a decisive step in front of its competition. The full test can be read here: RST Saturn 3RL.
Rock Shox XC 32 comes with 32 mm stanchions, sufficient setting options such as a rebound setting and a Lock-Out, but it is not as refined as Rock Shox XC 30, for example. Weight is acceptable, and so is the price. Starting from here, you can take into account the other forks we recommend in this article. Read the full test here: Rock Shox XC32.
Even with 2 mm smaller sliders than XC 32, the XC 30 fork offers all its settings, plus a more refined functioning. It also stands out due to its significantly lower price but also because it is 100 grams lighter than XC 32. XC30 is the winner in the family of entry-level Rock Shox forks, and you can read more about this fork in our Ram XC TWO review.
It may come as surprise, but Suntour XCR can do better then many forks in this class, at least in terms of refinement and small bumps damping. And yet, a weight of 2,362 grams is pulling back this fork, which, in terms of functionality and price has a major role to play. Pay attention, if you want to buy this fork, I recommend you the one manufactured in Taiwan (arms slightly darker) rather than the one manufactured in China (black arms or very lightly colored). There is a big difference between these two. You can read more about this fork in our Trek 4900 review.
With a price tag around 160 euro, Suntour Raidon Air is the most affordable air cartridge fork on the market. Damping is decent, finish is acceptable (does not excel however) and the weight as it should be: 2,120 grams. The fork can be delivered with Lock-Out, and rebound setting comes as standard. Less enjoyable is that it flexes, and you can feel that even when braking. The full test cand be read here: Suntour Raidon Air.
Rock Shox Recon Silver TK Coil is the most refined coil fork. Its build is robust, it is sensitive enough to damp small bumps and it can be delivered with a lot of extras, including a QR15 wheel mount rack. It doesn’t have the smallest price but quality comes at a price. Read the entire test here: Rock Shox Recon Silver TK Coil.
The leader in the entry-level class, actually already one step in the mid-level class, is Rock Shox Silver TK Air. With only 2,069 grams, this is one of the lightest forks in this guide, is as robust as the coil model but it offers more refinement and more progressive travel due to the air cartridge. Suggested retail price is 240 euro; those who are patient enough to do a thorough online search can find it for less. The complete test can be read here: Rock Shox Recon Silver TK Air.
Comparative chart. Green marks the best values, red marks the worst.