There's nothing wrong with six-inch enduro bikes, but some of us enjoy the ups of trail riding as much as the DH, reveling in pedaling every inch of our dirt loops. FOX Racing Shox builds the 34 Float 29 120 3Pos-Adj FIT4 Fork with 51mm Rake for those riders, adding a kicked-out axle to its newly reworked XC wagon wheel weapon. It's stiffer and lighter than the previous model, and it also hits the sweet spot of sub-5in travel that recommends it for aggressive XC or dicing through knotty root sections.
A fork with 51mm of rake decreases the bike's trail, which results in less "dead" space between the steering axis and the hub. The design is an attempt to offset the floppy, low-speed steering issues that arise from the longer trails produced by taller wheels and slack geometries, so handling stays 26er-sharp at all speeds, whether climbing, ripping, or navigating switchbacks and tricky terrain.
The FIT4 damper returns unchanged from last year. This includes the puffed out, 10mm shaft, which increases oil flow to the base valve, allowing the fork to ride high for quick, controlled recovery during everything from big, square hits to successive, small impacts. The 3-position Fit4 system also takes the reins from the old CTD system, changing the names from the overly-prescriptive categories of Climb, Trail, and Descend to a graduating scale covering Firm, Medium, and Open. While this change may read like an exercise in semantics, it entails a radical realignment of the 34 Float's capabilities that addresses virtually every issue we've had with CTD's damper in the past.
FIT4 also migrates the adjustable sub settings from CTD's median Trail mode to the new Open setting. Open encompasses both Descend and Trail in order to take full advantage of the fork's high ride by handling most compression duties. This makes the fork that much more relevant to five-inch situations, combining better small-bump compliance with more confident tracking across root lattices and rocky moonscapes. It doesn't wallow and handling stays on point.
The Medium setting migrates much deeper into the firm side of compression than the Trail setting did, so it'll suffice in most conditions that don't require use of the big-bottomed Open setting. The Firm setting remains self-explanatory: an XC lock-out for turning on the afterburners when terrain allows. It'll likely see much less use in the new system, but we still appreciate Firm while riding to the trailhead or transitioning on logging roads.
FOX's tinkering wasn't just confined to the damper, though, as the Float air spring now omits the negative coil in favor of a self-equalizing air assembly. This is similar to the air spring chamber system that made the re-worked 36 series such a success, and its omission of a steel coil is a key contributor to the overall weight loss. Finally, its system of spacers lets you easily temper the air shock's volume for dialing the mid stroke.