Admittedly, since I’ve been running a Fox 34 Step-Cast on my hardtail for some time now, I was not exactly eager to try the new 32 Step-Cast. The original 32 Step-Cast, while light as a feather, was an absolute noodle in the most unpleasant way. I was not the only one who felt that way either. After comments from the company’s top athletes and the general public, Fox knew the company needed to figure out a way to keep the weight down without sacrificing lateral stiffness for today’s rugged cross-country courses.
Welcome the revamped MY2020 Fox Factory 32 Step-Cast with a redesigned crown that claims to offer the same stiffness as the Fox 34 fork. The redesign added roughly 30 grams to the overall weight of the fork, but it’s still sitting at a svelt 1466 grams with star-nut, KaBolt, and 7.5-inches of steerer tube. The fork is offered only as 100 mm of travel, which is fine. For those who want 120 mm of travel, check out the Fox 34 Step-Cast, the larger stanchions will be appreciated, and it’s only a half-pound heavier.
For the most part, everything else carries over from the prior generation. The lowers remain unchanged. It’s available in the same wheel size options of 29″ or 27.5″ as well as Boost (110 mm) or non-Boost (100 mm) axle spacing. Top tier Factory models offer that gold bling with Kashima coated stanchions, lightweight KaBolt thru-axle, and a FIT4 damper in either three-position open, medium, firm or two-position remote. Oh, and if you want that pro status with those blaze orange lowers, this is your ticket to the gun show. For the budget-conscious shopper or those who dig the black on black, Fox offers the Performance series with an equally impressive GRIP damper and traditional thru-axle. Interestingly enough, the 29-inch Performance fork is available with a GRIP damper and two-position remote option, but the 27.5″ wheel size does not have a remote option.
Meanwhile, the FIT4 damper name carries over for 2020 models, but it’s seen a few tweaks here and there. The 8 mm damper shaft found in the Step-Cast forks is now used across the board in all FIT4 forks. An updated bladder construction and reconfigured shim stack are claimed to provide more sensitivity off the top while maintaining midstroke support. The rebound side is also updated with a wider-opening check valve and reconfigured shim stack. I can’t say I noticed any of these changes from the prior year FIT4 damper, but I also already thought highly of the FIT4.
This little cross-country fork surprised me. It’s pretty A-OK if you are a gram counter or a racer looking to make a name for yourself. I was not overly keen on the noticeably lowered bottom bracket height and steeper head angle compared to the longer-legged Fox 34. However, one thing I did not notice was a difference in the front end stiffness between the 32 Step-Cast and 34 Step-Cast. Kudos to you, Fox; color me surprised.
As expected, the FIT4 damper continues to impress. The 32 Step-Cast is supple off the top offering silky-smooth small bump compliance with a supportive midstroke for eating up larger hits. I know, that sounds like marketing jargon but I assure you, the 32 Step-Cast feels pretty damn good for a 100 mm travel fork on standard cross-country trails.
During the testing, I rode the typical playful lines that I usually hit with a 34 Step-Cast. The larger drops were without a doubt a bit more jarring with 20 mm less cushion, and I missed the extra pop when preloading the fork. With that said, the 32 Step-Cast did its intended job quite well, and then some.
World Cup cross-country racing and what the average person considers cross-country riding are two very different experiences. When these elite athletes are racing for a paycheck, mere seconds can separate them from all the glory and a complete bust. For incremental advantages where grams genuinely add up and performance must be unquestioned, the Fox 32 Step-Cast is a solid choice.
For the recreational cross-country rider who does not care about podiums or a half-pound, I honestly think you would have more enjoyment out of the 120 mm Fox 34 Step-Cast. It offers the same FIT4 damper, but that extra 20 mm of travel could provide you a little extra gumption to try something new. Maybe you’ll finally attempt that drop you’ve been eyeballing for the last year or perhaps add some Ratboy-like steez to your bump jump. That little bit of extra travel will surprise you, and really, that half-pound doesn’t make a difference in your ride experience.