By Stefan Abram
Perhaps a leak – or maybe a deliberate tease – but three-time Olympic mountain biker, Geoff Kabush, has posted to his Instagram what looks to be an as-yet-unreleased gravel fork from Fox.
Although some gravel bikes are currently available with front suspension, compatibility issues are preventing the wider adoption throughout the gravel genre.
The recently released Canyon Grizl gravel bike, for instance, is rated for use with a suspension fork – but aren’t many currently out there that will fit the head tube. Hopefully, this new Fox fork will address those issues by coming in the requisite range of steerer tube diameters.
In terms of travel, we’re definitely not bordering on cross country mountain bike levels here. Fox’s current gravel fork comes with 40mm, and the amount of stanchion on show here looks to be broadly similar.
A photo posted by on
It’s great that the fork looks to be designed for flat mount brake calipers. Most suspension forks use the post mount system, which means if you’re currently running Shimano’s GRX groupset you’d to swap out the front caliper for a mountain bike one in order to get it to fit. Moving to flatmount here stands to save a lot of headaches.
It’s difficult to tell what thru axle diameter the fork is designed for just from the photos. Hopefully, it will be 12x100mm to match the dimensions most commonly used on gravel bikes. But that’s by no means a foregone conclusion, we’re starting to see some of the beefier gravel bikes already switching to 15x100mm thru axles, even with rigid forks.
The question of what tyre widths will be compatible looms large. The pictures show a 700x40c in there at the moment, and while it doesn’t look a squeeze, we wouldn’t say it’s capacious in terms of space. Fox’s current gravel fork is only rated for up to 40mm, so hopefully it’ll be a little more than that.
Somewhat surprisingly, the fork has a reverse crown – which has historically been the preserve of Manitou, as the brand with the patent. However, this will be expiring in the coming months, opening the door to other brands to make the most of the weight saving design.
The question of: ‘Are suspension forks even necessary on gravel bikes?’ still has yet to be given a definitive answer. The technology certainly does have its drawbacks, there is the extra weight to consider and the additional maintenance, along with the simple fact it’s just another thing which could potentially go wrong on a ride.
Suspension bob is another drawback – although this can be largely solved with a remote lockout – but the perennial issue with telescopic suspension is ‘stiction’, which describes the breakaway force required to actually get the suspension to begin to move through its travel. Small bump sensitivity is difficult to engineer into this style of suspension fork – but that’s one of the biggest reasons for people to reach for suspension.
But the addition of front suspension to gravel bikes does stand to open up the type of trails that can comfortably be traversed on a gravel bike even further – and a greater range of riding is rarely a bad thing.
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