Closer Look: 2013 Fox 34 Forks and CTD Damper

Trail riders rejoice! It’s no secret that Fox’s 32 forks aren’t as stiff as some of us would like them to be. But as the old adage goes, if you’ve got a problem, get a bigger stanchion… err hammer. With so many trail riders choosing forks with larger stanchions such as the Fox 36 (which was often overkill), it makes sense that Fox officially designates the new 34 forks as trail forks. With travel ranging from 140mm on the 29er versions to 160mm on the 26″ versions, the new Fox 34 forks are geared in every way towards the trail rider. That being said, there’s other things going on in Fox’s new line that make the new 34 forks the perfect all mountain forks. 

The biggest change, aside from the size, is the new CTD compression damper. Compression damping is somewhat of a mystery to many people, but is really not all that complicated when described in terms of function. Here is one way to think of it: we’ve all seen or been in a car (an old Buick in my case) where every bump caused the car to bounce up and down seemingly without end because of a condition generally known as “blown shocks.” What is really happening is that the compression and rebound damping for the car aren’t working properly because they control how the spring (preload) moves. The rebound circuit controls how the fork – back to bicycles now – returns to it’s full travel, and the compression controls how the fork compresses, or in the case of completely cutting off oil flow, whether it compresses at all (i.e. lock out).

If you’re still with me, let’s dive deeper. There are two types of compression that can be adjusted, low-speed – we’ll call it LS, and high-speed, or HS. LS compression controls the general movement of the compression stroke, and HS acts literally as a threshold for the LS. An easy way to think of it is LS controls the fork under rider inputs such as braking or out of the saddle sprinting, and HS controls how the fork moves through big hits and high speed/high frequency hits.

The CTD damper takes the guess work out of compression settings

On the old RLC damper (that is rebound, lockout and LS Compression) there was no HS compression adjustment available, only LS, and a blow-off threshold adjustment on the lockout which only comes into play when the compression circuit is closed (ie. locked out). What became clear though was that the use of a lock out on a trail fork is unnecesarry. What would be better is the ability to adjust the HS circuit to suit the varying demands placed on the AM bike and rider. But instead of leaving you to guess and check if your LS and HS settings are dialed for a particular trail, Fox engineers dialed them in to 5 different settings to match 5 different types of trails. And that is CTD.

CTD stands for Climb, Trail, Descend. The five settings come from a climb mode, 3 trail modes, and a descend mode. Both the LS and HS compression settings are tuned to provide the most performance for the given mode selected. This means in descend mode the LS and HS settings are different than in the trail modes, which are different than in the climb mode. This allows every rider to get the maximum benefit of a factory tuned suspension. Fox did the leg work so we can enjoy the ride.

As far as actual feel, Climb mode is for climbing or riding across town to the trail. If all you ride is smooth single track with virtually no obstacles, the climb mode may work well for you. It has the most LS compression, yet is definitively not a lock out. The Trail modes are where most riders will spend most of their time. Each Trail mode has progressively less compression damping with the softest mode giving you anti-squat during hard braking but still being supple enough for heavy descending. The Descend mode has very little compression damping allowing the fork to move through its travel quickly and easily be it from braking or from square-edge impacts.

The other side of this argument is that Fox did all the thinking for you and some won’t be happy about that. The good news is, all the 2013 36 forks have RC2 compression dampers in them; that’s Rebound, LS and HS compression adjustability. So you can tune your fork exactly the way you want it. This also means you have the power to make it ride like garbage, but you’ll have only yourself to blame for that.

The CTD damper comes standard on Fox’s factory line of 32 and 34 forks for 2013.