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With both the meteoric rise of gravel riding these past few years, Fox updated its 32 Step-Cast Adventure Cross known as the 32 Taper-Cast Gravel Fork to the new 32 Taper-Cast Gravel Fork.
Fox is no longer the only heavy-hitting suspension manufacturer in gravel, as RockShox recently released the $799 RockShox Rudy Ultimate XPLR as part of SRAM’s wider XPLR gravel line.
The 32 TC is an updated version of Fox’s gravel-focused fork originally released in 2017. However, this new edition comes with a different structural design that steps away from the traditional front-facing arch.
The original 32 TC had a major drawback for many gravel riders: a maximum tire clearance of 40mm. The updated fork expands on this with room for up to 50mm tires, a necessity for many gravel rides consisting of either big rocks or sand traps. Paired with 40 or 50mm of travel and a Fit4 or a Grip damper, the 32 TC is designed to provide all that a gravel rider could want to tackle those rocky and rutted trails.
We tested the 40mm version with a Fit4 damper.
The RockShox Rudy XPLR is arguably the main competitor to Fox’s updated 32 TC. With a much more sleek and conventional design, the Rudy XPLR seems to be engineered with gravel cyclists in mind.
Starting from a clean slate in suspension design is never easy, but the Rudy XPLR seems to hold its own here. Equipped with a slimmer version of RockShox’s Charger Race Day cross-country damper, with either 30mm or 40mm of travel.
The Rudy XPLR is also capable of being equipped to e-gravel bikes, another rising subcategory of cycling. RockShox’s intent with this fork was to reduce the toll on the rider that can be dished out by the road, achieved through a suspension design that priorities smaller bumps while taking the edge out of the larger hits.
Just as with the 32 TC, the Rudy XPLR has clearance for 50mm tires, allowing for wider tires and better grip on loose and rocky surfaces. Additionally, the fork also allows for a RockShox fender to be attached via three bolts on the arch, a similar move to what Fox has been doing with its cross-country and trail forks.
While Fox is revamping the 32 TC, it seems to fall short of its true potential as a gravel fork. The Fit4 damper, while excellent for mountain bike trail and cross country riding, seems to be a bit over the top and difficult to dial in. I found that while it was more than capable of handling smaller bumps in the road, the larger ones would often make the bike buck towards uncontrollable.
The 32 TC also felt considerably heavier and more sluggish than the Rudy XPLR, even with the reigned in offset from previous generations of the fork. The weight off of the front end of the bike could make it feel as if it was pulling down through technical descents. While this is not shocking from a large piece of metal attaching the front wheel, it definitely requires some adjustment on the rider’s behalf used to a lightweight gravel front end.
The 32 TC is not alone in this either. While on longer rides, the RockShox fork could feel as though it was pulling as well, despite a cleaner and tighter design. However, the Rudy XPLR has a much more simple rebound adjustment interface. As is the case with many of RockShox’s forks, the Rudy XPLR has a simple rebound adjustment dial that either opens the fork or locks it out completely. Handily enough, there is an air pressure chart on the back of the fork to aid in setup.
Both of these forks have considerable value to an increasingly adventurous gravel community. As more gravel riders look to expand their options, a bit of front-end suspension may well be a welcome thing.