Our first impressions and the feature set of the new 1099 Euro suspension fork were convincing but can the the performance satisfy the expectations? We went downhill hunting in the South Tyrol and used the fork on numerous rides on our Stuttgart home trails and on trips to the Bavarian Alps to see what it can really do.
Even after a few metres you can really feel that the new surface coatings do their job brilliantly. The fork is extremely sensitive and plush. The new thru-axle clamping system plays a big part here as it doesn’t (pre-)load the casting therefore causing excessive friction.
My basic set-up for a rider weight of 70 kg: 78 PSI, 12 clicks low-speed-compression, 12 clicks high-speed-compression. 14 clicks rebound (from closed). One air volume spacer.
The varying terrain in Latsch is one thing above all: demanding! Long, steep descents constantly change from high-speed sections to rock and root gardens sprinkled with a mix of tight and fast corners – perfect test conditions for a fork.
In rough high-speed sections the Fox 36 Float remains high up in its travel yet is still plush and willing. Towards the end of the travel a noticeable end-progression kicks in but it still provides an additional 1 cm reserve for the hardest hits. The fork is precise and sharp as a surgeon’s knife in rock gardens and on techy trails, the bike follows exactly what you point the fork at. We were impressed! On jumps the fork stays constantly defined and gives plenty of mid-travel support allowing the rider to get sufficient pressure on the front wheel just before take-off. On steep trails and when braking the fork sits up in its travel, which keeps your geometry stable and provides greater confidence.
In comparison to the Fox 34 fitted stock to our BMC the higher rigidity of the Fox 36 can cause the bike to jump or lose ground contact earlier. The difference in stiffness is especially noticeable in tight corners and during high speed line changes. Whilst the good natured 34 guides you through corners even without perfect body positioning and line choice the 36 is rigorous and demands more familiarisation and a skilled pilot. Overall the Fox 36 allows a more precise and aggressive riding style if you know what you’re doing.
During small, repetitive bumps we would have wished for a bit more plushness from the damping side in order to filter out vibrations. Having reduced the compression and high-speed settings by 2 clicks the responsiveness was improved.
In order to fully use up the available travel we decided to remove the air volume spacer from the fork. No sooner said than done we were rewarded with a slightly more linear spring rate using the same air pressure. Now we got the whole travel without ever noticing bottom outs.
Exactly how one sets up the fork depends on terrain, model (26″, 27.5″ or 29″) and personal preferences. The fact is: with the RC2 cartridge and volume spacers the fork can be very well and extensively tuned.
For every day use the lack of a tool free thru-axle gets on your nerves. Although leaving it off saves 65 grams it makes life harder when you have a flat or need to pack the bike into a car.
To finish off we must ask the question of how you can differentiate the Fox 36 and 34 platforms as the benchmark facts create considerable overlap.
The RC2-set-up offers racers and riders with good technical knowledge with plenty of options for individual tuning. What the 36 doesn’t offer is the on-the-go-CTD adjustment (3-level compression adjustment Climb, Trail, Downhill) as on the 34 which is completely adequate for normal use and much more simple to set-up and change on the trail. In addition the lack of a QR thru-axle, as mentioned earlier is more of a hinderance than a benefit in every day conditions.
Conclusion: the Fox 36 Float Factory RC2 2015 is extreme in every way. Killer looks, weight and performance in one great device. At 1099 Euro it certainly isn’t a bargain but offers high end, complex technology, well thought out featurers and overall a convincing complete package as long as you can tame the beast!
Words: Robin Schmitt Photo: Chris Trojer / Fox