|Plus: Best weight in its class, fair damping, rebound setting, decent price|
|Minus: Steel upper arms, unaesthetic V-Brake mounts, insensitive to small bumps|
“Disciple” of the well known Dart, the new XC comes to meet the standards of those searching for a budget fork, yet capable of offering satisfying performance. Index 32 gives a clue of the thickness of this fork’s stanchions. If XC 28, another fork from this range did not succeed in impressing us, I can say that the 32 belongs to a completely different league. But, let’s not get excited too soon.
Rock Shox XC 32 is among other things the most robust from its range. Its arms follow the modern times standards, which can only be delightful. As functionality, it reminds a lot of the discontinued Rock Shox Tora coil fork, from which I suspect it borrows a lot of internal parts. Coils (as we cannot speak about an air cartridge in case of XC 32) offer decent damping when it comes to medium and big bumps, rebound is not brutal, and the preload adjustment does in fact work, stiffening the coil as much as it you consider it is necessary.
Obviously, smaller bumps are rather ignored by the XC32, and this understandable for this segment. And I am saying this because I haven’t yet met a budget fork which can be that sensitive.
On our test machines, the fork compresses 98 mm (from those 100 mentioned in the specs sheet) and offers a frontal rigidity of 222.7 Nm/degree. This is a good clue of how much it flexes when you brake or when you take turns utilizing the brake. To understand exactly what these figures mean, you should know that some forks barely have a rigidity of 170 Nm/degree, while others can reach a value of 280 Nm/degree. The longer the travel, the more complicated it becomes to build a rigid fork. Even so, some 160 mm travel forks have a rigidity of more than 250 Nm/degree, even under braking.
The weight of 2.182 grams (with cut steer tube) is even lower than the one declared by the producer, making this fork one of the lightest in its class.
Speaking about its competition, only Suntour XCR is able to keep up with XC 32, thanks to its refinement, but is still 200 grams heavier.
Next to the Preload command, you will also find a Lock-Out function on XC 32 (available with handlebar mounted command too) and also a Rebound adjustment which I particularly appreciated as it’s all happening in the entry-level class. Upper arms are steel made, while the magnesium lower arms help saving a dozen of grams from the total weight.
Unfortunately, the V-Brake mounts on the lower arms are completely unaesthetic. Perhaps two versions of this fork would have been preferable: one with disc mount only, and the other with V- Brake/disc mount.
As a verdict, Rock Shox XC 32 does not offer mind blowing damping, but it can take a medium track. It offers enough control for the money you pay, benefits from most adjustments now available in the industry and is one of the best options in its price segment. Should you want more, you’ll have to look towards Recon or towards an air cartridge fork.
Braking rigidity: 227.9 Nm/degree
Weight: 2.182 grams