If you are going to build a new jump bike from the ground up, you need to gather all the best components you can for a comfortable and effective ride. A top dirt jump fork has to be at the top of this list.
Quality dirt jump bike forks will help you to get the very best cushioning when you land on your jumps. Remember, what comes up must come back down again. While it is great fun in those seconds when time slows down as you soar through the air, you can literally come crashing back down to earth with a nasty bump without the right shock absorption and protection. Top dirt jump bikes will have one of these built-in ready to go. But, if you are buying a frame on its own, you need to find something that you can install yourself.
In this guide, we will look at some of the best dirt jump bike forks out there. The products listed below are among the top models recommended by riders and often appear in leading bikes. Rather than highlight a wide range of forks from all sorts of makers, which could end up including some lesser manufacturers, we are focusing on three key brands. From there, we can look at some of the key features to look out for when choosing the right fork for your bike. First, an important question for new builders.
Should you put in a dirt jump fork at the back of the bike too?
You could add suspension to the front and back of your bike to take your riding a step further and want to handle bigger jumps and tricks. But, this would put your new bike into the territory of slopestyle riding. Also, you would need a different type of rear shock for this. There is no reason to pay out twice and get two forks if you only want to build a dirt jump bike, especially if this is your first foray into this sort of riding or building experience. For now, stick to finding the best suspension for the front.
Find Your Best Dirt Jump Bike Forks Through a Leading Brand
When you choose a new fork for your dirt jump bike, it is a good idea to spend a little more money to get something that is of quality. The best way to do this is to go to one of the leading brands and choose a suitable fit and specification from their range. There are three brands in this guide:
Manitou is here for its reputation as a long-standing provider of equipment. Fox because it has become a beloved choice by lots of riders. Rockshox because we see so many top dirt jump bikes with their parts pre-installed. The idea here is to give you a sense of what you can get, the subtle differences between models, and some of the standout features from the brand. Here’s a quick rundown of our list.
Best Dirt Jump Bike Forks: 2021
- Mezzer Pro
- Manitou Circus Expert
- Manitou Machete Pro
- The Fox 36 26 821
- 36 Heritage
- Fox 34
- RockShox Revelation
- Zeb Ultimate
- Pike DJ
Let’s start with Manitou. This is a company beloved by riders largely because they seem to have been around forever. Manitou started in Colorado in 1986, so have created forks and other parts for bikes long before we ever got into dirt jump riding. It all started with their suspension forks for mountain bikes and soon evolved into dirt jump and slopestyle bike forks. This means many years of expertise and evolution to create forks with the very best in designs and features. We found a statement from the company that talks about the pride they have in their high-performance suspension products.
There are lots of different models out there to choose from when turning to Manitou. Be aware that they can vary greatly in price depending on their purpose and build. This is a nice affordable choice that will work for those after a more traditional 26’’ set-up. But, they also have Pro models for bigger wheels, such as the Manitou Mezzer Pro 29 Fork, and this is way more expensive at a grand.
Also, be aware that there doesn’t appear to be a dedicated website for Manitou bike parts right now. We got redirected to different retailers, with Hayes coming up more often than not.
The Mezzer Pro is an expensive option for either 27.5 or 29’’ wheels. It has a classic look that won’t scream at other riders from a black frame, although the branding is nice and clear for people to admire. The reason that this one is so expensive is that you get a really stiff fork that is also very lightweight – giving riders the best of both worlds. There are 37mm stanchions within a Reverse Arch design, as well as a fully sealed MC2 damper and an IRT volume adjuster that the company state is a “life changer”. Add in the sensitivity of the Dorado Air Spring and you can see why riders rave about this one.
Next, we have something that is a lot more affordable for anyone that needs a quality fork in budget. This one doesn’t have the same clean look, but you can get it in white. It also doesn’t have most of the same impressive features as the Mezzer Pro – hence the drop-down in price. So, it probably isn’t going to be as “life-changing” for more experienced riders. But, that doesn’t mean that newer riders can’t appreciate the quality and adjustability of this fork. This model suits wheels that are 26’’ and has an 11/8” aluminum steerer, dual bottom-outs, 32mm 7050 aluminum legs, and the chance to adjust the rebound damping and the air compression. But, it is 1946g, so it isn’t the lightest option out there.
If you want to drop the weight a little bit, the fiercely named Machete is 1704g. This could end up making a difference. A lot of this has to be down to the use of aluminum throughout. There are 7050 Aluminum 32mm stanchions, a deep-hollow forged aluminum crown, and the 32mm legs. Riders have the chance to change the rebound, compression, and air pressure with ease and can also appreciate the 100 and 120mm travel. This one is different in that it is compatible with 27.5’’ wheels. So, this might end up helping you make up your mind. It also looks cool with the big red M and isn’t that much more expensive.
Next, we turn out attention to another long-standing player in the game that has a massive range of quality forks for all needs. You can find models for specific purposes, and even some for E-bikes. Among them are great forks for dirt jumps, trails, and other off-road activities that can really help.
Fox is a great pick because they are so keen to innovate and bring in new features. A prime example is the new GRIP2 damper for 2021. This system uses patented VVC technology within a high-speed compression circuit for external fine-tuning. All users have to do is twist a knob for a non-invasive way to fix their settings. They also promise the same great tech on all Performance Elite forks.
You will notice a few things with these FOX bike forks when browsing their site. The first is that they all have numbers to show they are all part of the same series. It isn’t quite the same as looking for a name, so make sure you know which number it is that you want when ordering anywhere. There is also a lack of pricing on the website. They are very keen to highlight looks and features and then direct you on to local retailers. This means that you may have to shop around for the best deal.
Then there is the fact that there is a similar aesthetic through the brand, with a focus on the cute fox-tail Fox logo, orange font, and the bold number to indicate which model you have. With the Kashima coat on the top as well, you can’t help but know when you see a Fox fork – which is probably the whole point. However, don’t forget that there is a difference in the performance series models where they use a black anodized coat instead.
We have to start this section on Fox product with the 36 because this is their current dedicated dirt jumper. Therefore, you know you are going to get everything that you would expect from a jump bike. This is great for anyone that hasn’t done this before and isn’t looking to go too far out with their custom build. This model makes great use of the GRIP2 system mentioned above. It also looks great with the familiar branding and the Kashima coat on the upper tube. The model specification also includes a 1.5 taper steerer, 180 direct post-mount, 15TA x 100 axle, and a 100mm travel. This is is suitable for 26’’ wheels.
Anyone that is keen to make an impression with their bike may be interested in snapping up one of Fox’s Heritage Collection Forks. They are said to be in “extremely limited numbers”, but we still managed to get on the page and learn about them. This 36 fork is made for bigger wheels, either 27.5 or 29 inches. There is a 180 direct Post Mount, the same great GRIP” damper, and the Kashima Coat to finish it off. But, there is also a 160mm travel, a mount for an optional FOX 36/38 mudguard, and that stunning bronze color.
If you like the idea of adding larger wheels to your jump bike for a more custom look, but can’t go for the Heritage option, you might also like to use a Fox 34. This one comes in two different styles – a gloss black or a gloss orange – with the same Kasima coat on the upper tube to finish it off. The orange looks great, but this one is only available for 29 inch wheels. The black is for 29 or 27.5 inch wheels. If you do want a 29 incher, you can expect travel of 100mm, a 1.5 taper steerer, a 160 direct post mount, and the same great GRIP2 innovation. As for the weight, both options are very light at 1770 and 1790 grams.
If you read our guide to the best dirt jump and slopestyle bikes, you will have seen mention of some of the dirt jump bike forks that you can get as part of the fully-assembled bike. More often than not, these forks tended to come from Rockshox. What this immediately suggests is that this is a company that can produce some quality items with reliable features. It also suggests an idea of mass appeal if they are seen as the go-to option for new riders.
Now, Rockshox is actually part of the SRAM line, so you will need to go there to learn more about the specifications and to compare their line with greater ease. This will take you to a European site, so prices are in Euros, but you can find US suppliers with these products for a clearer idea of cost.
Fox isn’t the only team to get innovative with their product. There are lots of new models in this SRAM line and they also have an app that you can use to get your suspension set up. The TrailHead app works as a personal tuner, which is great for beginners, and also has upgrade information.
The Revelation is a model that is commonly mentioned by riders as a great pick because of its design and feel. SRAM has recently updated this fork for a better look and feel. A big selling point here is the DebonAir air spring, which they say improves the fine-tuning. There is also a nice new motion control damping system and 35mm Fast Black upper tubes. You get a travel of between 120mm and 160 mm, a 180mm rotor size and it is suitable for either 27.5 or 29 inch wheels. Just be aware that this new and improved look means you get it in either gloss or diffusion black, no other color.
The Zeb Ultimate came up as a must-have new model, so we had to take a look. This one is around double the price of the Revelation, so it needs to be able to prove its worth. It certainly seems to be a smart model. It has a Charger 2.1 RC2 damper that allows for independent high and low speed compression as well as rebound adjustment. You also get a stiff 38mm chassis and the same high-end DebonAir air spring as before. The travel on this is higher, with between 150 and 190mm, the rotor size is also larger at 200mm but you get quality aluminum with a range of colors and finishes. The downsides here are potential issues of compatibility and higher weight of 2265g.
Finally, the Pike DJ is another classic recommended by riders. It might not be as new and fancy as some of the other options available, but it still does the job. This one isn’t that cheap either, but it has some great features. Riders like the impact of the Solo Air top cap to help them bottom-out. There is also a Charger damper that is perfect for dirt jump riding and the same strong 35mm chassis. This one is compatible with 26’’ wheels, with a 160mm rotor size, 35mm aluminum upper tube, and a travel of 100mm and 140mm. There is also the nice addition of a gloss silver for a bit of extra shine.
Buyer’s Guide: Important considerations when choosing your new dirt jump bike fork
When choosing the dirt jump bike forks for your custom build, it is important to consider the following:
- the compatibility with your bike frame
- the strength of the materials used
- the quality of the shock absorption
- the ability to adjust the fork for personal preferences
- the weight of the fork
- the way that it looks
- The cost
Compatibility is essential here. You need a good idea of what shape and size the components are to be sure they will work with your frame. This means the hub diameter, headtube size and wheel diameter Look at the dimensions in the product listings and also make sure that you have a full understanding of what your frame is like.
The strength of the materials determines longevity. Forks tend to use different materials in different areas. It is usually magnesium or aluminum on the lower parts and either aluminum or a tough chromoly steel on the Stanchions, crowns, and steerer tubes. If you aren’t sure about a material, walk away, or contact the seller.
The quality of the shock absorption brings comfort. To be honest, all brands are going to tell you that their suspension is awesome and you can land anything with no problem at all. The best thing to do here is to look up user reviews, where you can, to see what other people say about them. The fact that all these brands here are so highly respected shows that you can get some professional forks with a nice feel. But, not all lower- grade forks will offer that.
As for adaptability. This should be clear in the specification. It really does help to be able to turn a little knob and adjust the way that the fork responds based on your needs or preferences. As you saw with Fox, they have taken this on-board in a big way.
Next, there is the issue of the weight. When you start adding features and tough materials, the slightest change can add a few grams here and there. Once you start doing that, you end up adding extra weight to the bike. From there, this could hinder your aerial prowess. So, it helps to consider the weight of parts from the start. Again, companies should have this clearly listed. If not, they might be trying to hide something.
The way that it looks isn’t really that important compared to the performance and build. But, you have to think about the placement of this big fork on the front of your bike. Do you want it to match in with your frame, to sit there understated and out the way, or to shine out to highlight your bike’s capabilities to other riders? That is where you can start deciding between those boring black forks that blend into the background and the fiery orange ones that tell others you mean business.
Finally, there is the cost involved with these dirt jump bike forks. You can get some forks that are dirt cheap if you are on a budget, for around a couple of hundred dollars. But, they might be a bit limited, heavy, and not made to last. On the other end of the scale are those into the thousands with high-end features and extras that you might not really need just yet. Aim some something in the middle if you are new to the sport but serious about something with some quality.
When you keep all these considerations in mind, and compare your options carefully, you should find that you get a fork that is perfect for your needs. Start by taking stock of what you already have and your requirements from the fork. Then you can begin browsing options at leading manufacturers. The models above are great examples, but they aren’t all that is available. So, take your time to check out any other solution in your price range, or anything that is perhaps recommended by rider friends. Once you are sure of the best fit, get it ordered and get ready to be one step closer to finishing your perfect custom dirt jump bike.