Keep on climbing
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Marlborough, Massachusetts
Bikes: 2004 Calfee Tetra Pro
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There are two main characteristics of forks that have to match. First, there's the steering tube diameter; that's the thing that sticks up through the frame and that the stem clamps onto. There's a couple standard sizes, although 1 1/8" seems to be the most common. Secondly, there's threaded and threadless forks; threadless is the newer standard.
Getting the old fork out isn't that hard; the only thing holding it in there is the pressure from the stem and top cap from the above. Pull the stem and the top cap off, pull off the spacers, and the fork should slide right out.
Putting the new one in... You'll need to install a new crown race on the new fork, you'll need to cut the steerer tube length to the proper size, and you'll need to install a new star-nut / compression plug. None of it is very hard, but the official tools to do this aren't the cheapest. Search the forums and you'll find ways of making home-brewed alternatives.