If you want a quick answer for the best mountain bike forks under 300 dollars, I will go with the DFS Air Fork RLC. I like this fork because it is lightweight, can accommodate 27.5-inch wheels and offers an insanely smooth ride, while still maintaining its rigidity. It is also a hybrid fork that can be used in a myriad of different ways.
If you are into mountain biking (and if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are), then you have probably encountered a time or two when your suspension has gone bad. Of course, your natural inclination was to get a new fork, that’s when you realized how expensive they are. We’re here to help with that.
But before you go out and spend your hard earned cash on a fork, let’s take a look at the different types and how they differ. Let’s get to what you really came here for. What are the best mountain bike forks under 300 dollars?
- 1 Best Overall Under 300: DFS Air Fork RLC
- 2 Runner-Up for Best Under 300: RockShox Recon RL
- 3 Best Budget Mountain Bike Fork: RST Aerial
- 4 Honorable Mention: DNM USD-8 Downhill Mountain Bike Air Fork
- 5 Bike Forks
- 6 Choosing the Right Fork
- 7 Things to Remember
Best Overall Under 300: DFS Air Fork RLC
This is an excellent hybrid fork that allows for some downhill use, without sacrificing too much weight. Which is precisely why I picked it. I’ve never fully understood the idea of getting a bike for enduro riding and a separate one for downhill riding. Don’t get me wrong; I understand how different the two bikes are. But the thought of buying two different bikes is absurd to me.
That is where the DFS Air Fork RLC shines. It has wide enough stations to be able to handle tough trails but is light enough that you can still climb hills. Plus, it has dampening abilities and can adjust to 100-mm’s in travel.
This fork fits on the traditional 26-inch wheels, and can also accommodate the every so popular 27.5-inch wheels. If you need something that works when going uphill, as well as, down hills. This is the best MTB fork for the money.
Runner-Up for Best Under 300: RockShox Recon RL
I would be hard-pressed to say the fork we just looked is far and away better than the RockShox Recon RL. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that this RockShox fork is 1B to the DFS’s 1A.
What I love most about this fork from RockShox is the lightweight construction of it. You’ll notice it too, the moment you get your hands on it. But even with its delicate feel, this fork is far from fragile. The lockout and rebound features work about as well as you can ask for a shock at this price to ask. And the travel on the fork is 100-mm.
So how does the RockShox stay so lightweight while being as sturdy as it is? Simple, the combination of being an air shock and constructed of aluminum with a hollow aluminum crown plays a huge role.
I should also note the quick release axle is pretty awesome too and great for transporting your bike on your bike rack to and from trails. Oh, and if you are currently using spring coils on your fork. You are going to love the switch to air compression forks.
Best Budget Mountain Bike Fork: RST Aerial
Okay, so this isn’t going to give you an exceptionally smooth ride, nor is going to take you over the most rugged of terrain. But if you need a fork that you can throw on your bike today and be on your way, then this will do the job.
One huge plus is that it fits 29-inch wheels, which are becoming increasingly more popular on bikes today. There is something strikingly pleasant about riding on these large wheels. I’m not sure what it is, maybe one of you out there can explain it to me.
It utilizes a hydraulic lockout feature and is an air suspension, an enormous upgrade from the coil springs on most entry level bikes.
The RST Aerial is a wonderful addition to make on an entry level bike, but I wouldn’t go any further than that. It should not be used for downhill riding or even jumps. But for the new mountain bikers out there, I would recommend this over your stock fork in an instant. The RST Aerial is the best budget 29er fork.
Honorable Mention: DNM USD-8 Downhill Mountain Bike Air Fork
This is one that I really wanted to get in here, even though it doesn’t necessarily fit the description of the article. But because it is close to the 300 dollar price range, I felt it warranted a place as one of the best budget MTB forks.
If you are a downhill rider, then you (absolutely) have to get a downhill fork. There is just no way around it. And the DNM USD-8 double crown fork is your best option if you are on a budget. This fork has 203-mm travel and a is beautifully smooth air suspension, and the 35-mm stanchions add to the rigidity of the fork as well.
If you are the type of rider that likes to take risks, hitting jumps and going down ludicrously steep hills, then you are the type of rider that will benefit from a fork like this one.
But what’s the best thing about it? The answer to that is simple; this fork is nearly 800 dollars LESS than most other double crown mountain bike forks. I mean, you can’t argue with that kind of savings.
I should mention though; these forks will not fit fat tires. I’ve noticed a lot of people are making the mistake of getting this fork with fat tires.
This DNS fork is by far the best downhill suspension fork I have found at this price point, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a budget version a double crown fork. The only downside is that it won’t last you nearly as long as a fork that cost in the thousand dollar price range.
The core of a bike fork is the same for all models, and they are all made up of the same elemental components. Those components are; crown, stanchions, lowers, axle, steerer, cable guide, and the brake mount.
Seeing as these are all components that make up a fork, they are all essential to the fork. But we are going to zero in on three of the most important elements to look out for when shopping for a mountain bike fork.
The steerer is the component that attaches to the handlebars, and wouldn’t you know it; the steerer is what steers your bike. They come in aluminum alloy or carbon, with the latter being the lightest version.
When getting a new fork, you should make sure the steerer is the right size for your bike. That doesn’t just mean matching it up to your handlebars though; it should also be the right size for your frame.
The crown of the fork is the part just underneath the steerer, and they come in two different ways. Traditionally, a fork will have a single crown, while some of the more expensive ones use a dual crown setup. This is for added stiffness when traversing rough terrain, but also comes at the cost of carrying extra weight.
The axle, similar to a vehicle’s axle, is where you place the bike wheel. You can find these in 15mm axle or even a 20 mm axle. Of course, larger axles give the bike some added strength, but like forks that use two crowns, it adds quite a bit of weight to the bike. This is useful for downhill riders. The smaller axles will offer quick release tabs, but they aren’t as strong as the larger axles. Conversely, the larger axles are stronger, but there is no quick release functionality with them. You’ll have to choose which is more important to you.
Choosing the Right Fork
Usually shopping for a good product is a fairly easy process, simply look at a product, check the reviews, and if they are good, then you buy it. Unfortunately, nothing is ever quite so simple when it comes to mountain bikes, and anybody who’s been doing this for long enough will attest to that.
There are tons of forks out there, and most of them have great reviews. But there are different biking disciplines, meaning the fork that works for one guy, won’t necessarily work for another.
Think of it this way; you wouldn’t put a Nissan Skyline suspension on Chevy Silverado, would you? Of course, you wouldn’t. I the same way, you can’t put a suspension for cross country or trail purposes, on a bike that you use for downhill riding. At least not if you want to be able to climb hills without straining a muscle.
Also, one of the key components you will want to look at when getting a new fork is what’s called “travel.” Travel is the distance the fork can travel from top to bottom, before bottoming out. If you like to punish your bike, then you will want something with a large travel distance.
There is plenty more to learn about forks, but the basics have been covered.
Things to Remember
I’ve given you some of my favorite aftermarket forks for your mountain bike, and I stand by this list. But please keep in mind that all of the forks mentioned here are for beginner to intermediate (and I struggle to include intermediate) riders who aren’t putting their bikes through hell.
While these are the best bugdet suspension forks, they are still budget forks. If you are looking for the best of the best, then you are going to need to spend 500+ dollars on a fork. But if all you need is a good fork that you can count on to give you a smoother ride and more rigid suspension, then I think you are going to enjoy these.