MTB Fork Cheap Vs Expensive (In-Depth Comparison)

MTB Fork Cheap Vs. Expensive

Mountain bikes are one of the best and most popular types of bikes available in the cycling world. The familiar name suggests it’s a bike for rough roads and uncomfortable terrains.

One reason mountain bikes are the most popular on the list of bikes with suspensions.

Suspension forks bring comfort to the powerful setup of your mountain bikes. The market offers mountain bike forks based on different budgets. What makes one different from the other?

Expensive mountain bike forks are expectedly better than the cheap versions. However, there are grades for all types of forks, including budget suspension forks. So depending on your riding habit and preference, you might not need the best, just the one that fits your budget and choice.

What are the Main Features of Cheap and Expensive MTB Forks?

MTB Fork Cheap Vs. Expensive

Many options are available in the market with a budget for mountain bike forks. There are no two exclusive categories of cheap and expensive; it is all about features and grades.

The suspension forks have various characteristics that determine their type and price. 

All suspension forks offer some comfort; that’s a given. However, the comfort level varies based on the combining features of such a fork. Some have more than one component to provide comfort.

These multiple components add to the convenience these forks provide during the ride. Here are the features and components of different mountain bike forks.

The list goes from the most simple and cheap to the most sophisticated and expensive options.

#1. Travel Distance

Mountain bikes’ typical terrains are rocky lands and roads irregular with bumps or soil with roots, fallen branches, and the likes.

There is one thing all these terrains have in common; they are rough on the wheels and the cyclist.

Every hit on a bump impacts the bike and sends a force upward through the cycle to the cyclist.

Travel is the power of front suspension forks to move up in response to the force without lifting the bike off the road. The movement also reduces the pressure on the cyclist.

Travel is a feature in all types of mountain bike suspension. It is available for cheap kinds of suspension.

The travel length is what differentiates between cheap and expensive suspension forks.

While some suspension forks have up to 50mm of travel, more expensive versions can travel up to 200mm (0.2m). 

Another feature of more expensive bike forks is the capacity to adjust the travel length when discussing cheap vs. expensive MTB suspension forks. Why is adjustment necessary?

Different terrains require different travel lengths. Also, seasoned cyclists are better at handling travel than new cyclists. 

The most expensive types of forks allow adjustment in three different positions. Cheap suspension forks may have just one or no position for adjustment.

Your budget and the kind of terrain will influence your decision. 

#2. Stanchions

Stanchions are a component in more expensive suspension forks. Your type of riding determines if this feature is necessary or not.

For example, joy and rough riders tend to go completely off the ground and land elsewhere. Stanchion tube diameter is essential for this type of riding. 

These components receive vertical impact during landing and other typical types of riding. The tube diameter ensures the bike does not move laterally when receiving vertical impact.

A driving style with a more significant vertical impact requires a stanchion with a wider diameter. The most expensive suspension forks have a stanchion diameter of up to 40mm.

#3. Dampening Strength

The dampening strength is another feature that separates cheap suspension forks from expensive ones.

While travel length is necessary to absorb force, dampening strength ensures the movement is with ease and comfort.

A lack of dampening strength will make the rider bounce up and down. Dampening force is a feature of the damper rod and oil bath in the high-quality suspension forks.

These two components control the rebound when you come back down. They also control the speed of compression.

This compression is a feature available only in the most expensive types of suspension forks.

#4. Speed Circuits

Speed circuits are also exclusive to expensive suspension forks. It is closely related to the dampening feature

. Speed circuits are sensitive to the speed of the bikes. It also detects the terrain and reacts differently to sharp and soft hits. 

This reaction is to help improve the dampening strength.

There are two systems in the circuit; high-speed compression circuits for sharp impacts and low-speed compression circuits that react to soft effects from the terrain. 

These significant features separate the cheap MTB forks from more expensive variations. Conversely, more features indicate an increase in average price. 

Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Suspension Forks

Other than the difference in features and components, there are differences in suspension forks that separate the expensive from the cheap ones.

If you are in the market for suspension forks with a budget, it is necessary to note this difference in making a choice. 

Here are some other differences between the two categories of suspension forks:

#1. Quality

Quality is one defining attribute of many suspension forks. You can have forks with the same features and components but differing qualities.

The production material is accessible for you to gauge the quality of a suspension fork. 

Some components are basically soft and easily damaged plastic materials. Other suspension forks of the same feature have more quality rubber components. 

#2. Durability

Cheap suspension forks are mainly for temporary use and on terrains with minimal impact. They are not the most durable in the long run.

As long as the riding habit is gentle, the mountain bike is only for occasional adventures. 

Expensive suspension forks are more durable, thanks to the setup and material. They have more power to withstand the pressure of rough roads and the impacts of fast driving.

These high-end forks are for extended-lasting use. 

#3. Reliability

Reliability is a function of in-moment issues. It is one thing to have the features that make riding comfortable; it is another to use them easily without error and faults. 

Cheap suspension forks are not reliable and not trustworthy for deep mountain hikes. A faulty suspension deep in the jungle can make for a terrible ride home.

Cheap forks do not offer the reliability that gives you the needed confidence to ride on rough terrains. 

Expensive suspension forks offer reliability when in use. They are less prone to faults and can withstand stress and impacts without needing an emergency fix.

High-end forks also ensure you have to visit the repair shop less often compared to cheap forks. So, in the long run, the vast money is worthwhile.

#4. Weight

One physical attribute you can easily use as an identifying mark between the two categories is the fork’s weight or the bike’s importance after installation.

Cheap MTB forks are lighter than expensive versions. This difference in weight is because of the many components in more costly forks.

While the heavyweight might indicate more difficulty in handling, it does have its advantages. A heavier bike can better withstand the terrain that is typical of a mountain. 

#5. Speed

The effect of the suspension forks and their weight on the bike is speed. Bikes with cheaper suspension forks are faster than those with high-end forks.

If you are looking for a suspension fork that does not sacrifice too much speed for your mountain bike, cheap ones are what you need. 

#6. Cost

There is no standard price for the two categories. The cost depends majorly on the number of features the suspension forks offer.

Other differences such as quality and reliability also affect the average cost. Differences in brand and customer reviews can also determine the price of suspension forks. 

The average cost for budget mountain bike forks is about $200.

More forks are medium in price and fall between $500 and $1000 in cost. Most expensive suspension forks can be as high as $2000. Read more about the Top 10 Best Dirt Jump Bikes Under $500.

Here is a table showing the summary of the major differences

DifferencesCheap Suspension ForksExpensive Suspension forks
QualityLess-quality materialsImproved quality materials.
DurabilityLess durable More durable and long-lasting
ReliabilityNot reliable for deep hikingNot prone to damages.
Speed FasterSlow
CostBetween $200 and $600Between $600 and $2000


There are many options if you are out in the market for budget suspension bikes. Considering these features, it is crucial to pick the one that best suits your intended terrain and cycling pattern.

Mountain bikes need suspension forks to give comfort and fun. The more expensive it is, the better the features. But there is an MTB suspension fork for all budgets. 

Josh Matthews

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