The suspension arms race is not over. FOX has announced that its long-running RC2 damper is no more, and today launch the new top of the line FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 damper, and we’ve been riding one for a month.
Last year, FOX blew us away with their new EVOL 2018 fork, the 36 was again the king of the big hitters. For a season, orange was the most popular choice for the discerning performance focussed rider, but then, the new Rockshox Lyrik RC2 upset the apple cart. Today, FOX have launched the new GRIP2 damper, with new Variable Valve Control, 4-way adjustability and reduced friction, orange or red, the choice has never been tougher.
The new FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 Air Spring
GRIP2 is FOX’s new top-of-the-line damper, a complete redesign from the RC2 which has topped FOX’s lineup for more years than we can remember. The new GRIP2 fork contains a larger EVOL negative air spring, with fewer dynamic seals in the self-equalizing system. The larger the negative air spring the more it pushes against the air spring, overcoming the initial stiction and giving a more linear spring curve through the first section of travel. This should result in better small bump sensitivity, the fork can react faster and more sensitively as it has to overcome less friction to get moving. The end stroke progression of the GRIP2 air-spring can still be tuned easily with air volume spacers.
FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP 2
- Fox FIT GRIP2 damper
- 4 – Way high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping
- FLOAT EVOL air spring
- 15 QR x 110 mm, 15 QR x 100 mm or 15/20 mm convertible thru axle
- 29” 150 and 160 mm
- 27.5” 160, 170 and 180 mm
- 26” 100, 160 and 180 mm
- 1.5” tapered or 1-⅛ (26” only) steerer tube
- $ 1,065 (€ 1,399)
The new FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 Damper
FOX’s new GRIP2 is not a revision, it’s a redesign, bringing a host of new adjustments. Unlike the RC2, the new damper is 4-way adjustable, HSC, LSC, HSR, LSR, and uses Fox’s latest Variable Valve Control (VVC) for the rebound control, this supposedly gives an effect more like changing the actual shims in the rebound stack rather than simply adding rebound.
Riding the FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2
With 4-way adjustment and the complexity this can bring to setup, we were pleased to see FOX supply a useful tuning guide with the fork, so out of the box, we set it up as recommended for an 80 kg tester. 80 PSi of pressure, giving 16% SAG for a more active riding style (the fork has one volume reducing token out of the box), 6/5 clicks of high/low-speed rebound damping respectively, and 6/10 clicks of high/low-speed compression damping *all values from fully closed. We ran the fork for a while to settle it in and after a short period the FOX GRIP2 really started to impress, the fluidity of the fork is nothing short of incredible. Movement through the stroke is very, very smooth, but where it’s most noticeable is in the transition between compression and extension, there is no ‘hit and respond’ feeling, just a continuous feeling of riding on a spring.
The actual spring curve feels very similar to the RC2, running high and easy in the travel, it never feels that it’s delivering much travel, but at the end of the trail when you check the O-ring and see you have been getting plenty. During setup days we tuned the fork a little more to our style, adding a token for more progressivity, reducing the pressure to 76 psi for a touch more initial compliance, 2/2 clicks less compression damping to suit the slower winter trails and speeding up the rebound a little as the long Pole Evo-Link 140 is an inherently stable bike so suits a slightly lighter rebound tune. It did not take long to tune a setting that we were super happy with, and when pushing hard the fork was nothing short of electric. Monstrous grip, no diving and 100% confidence on the limit.
Do we need High and Low-Speed Rebound adjustment?
If you’re not into the more nerdy side of the dark arts of suspension this is the point where it would be best to jump directly to the conclusion…….. OK, still here, you must be a nerd like us! Most of the significant changes in the new GRIP2 is the independent High (HSR) and Low-speed rebound (LSR) circuits. H and L speed, when it comes to rebound has nothing to do with the ‘speed’ of an impact, but the size of the hit. HSR functions to control the rebound of the biggest hits where the air spring is most compressed and the pressure pushing back is the highest. As the fork extends again, the pressure pushing from the spring becomes less and the oil flow changes from the HSR to the LSR damping circuit.
For most riding situations (think the first 2/3rds of the travel) the LSR damping circuit controls the return of the spring, and most forks simply pre-set the HSR at the factory. Even though the two circuits are independent, taking the adjustments to their extremes shows there is a lot of overlap in their influence on the overall rebound damping, It’s perhaps better, and simplest to think of the HSR damping as setting the range of the LSR damping. If you’re a heavier rider, adding more HSR damping will give you a wider range of LSR adjustments, and vice versa for lighter riders, a bit like a custom tune for riders who fall out of the 80 kg average. Most riders would be best to just set the HSR to the recommended setting in the tuning guide or risk becoming lost in a sea of settings, then adjust the LSR to find a good rebound. But for suspension nerds or very light or heavy riders, the ability to adjust the HSR should give a more usable rebound range.
Is it better than the 2018 FOX Factory FLOAT EVOL RC2?
To be fully honest, it’s impossible to say. Every year, the performance gap closes, the outgoing FOX Fit4 RC2 is just so good that jumping on a ‘box fresh’ FOX GRIP2 and saying’ it feels way better’ without extensive back to back testing with ‘brand new’ forks and dynos would be nothing short of journalistic bullshit. All we can conclude after a one month test period is that the GRIP2 is a phenomenal damper, with almost no perceptible friction or pause between the compression and extension phase it captures the feel of a steel spring, but better as it has the complete controllability of air. Recovery of the fork is exceptional and it seems to handle big weight shifts without losing its composure.
Which is better, the FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 or Rockshox Lyrik RC2?
FOX Orange or Rockshox Red? That is going to be the question for those with big wallets this year. The FOX 36 GRIP2 or the new and near perfect Rockshox Lyrik RC2? We have not had the opportunity to back to back test the forks, but in all honesty, both suspension manufacturers are at the top of their game and both forks offer scintillating performance as expected from their premium prices. Many riders will make the choice simply to match their rear shock brand, either way, they will be in for an amazing ride. As riders, we have never been so lucky – now if only they were more affordable.
The new FOX GRIP2 damper takes everything that made the Fit4 RC2 damper ‘the one to beat’ and adds more control to the rebound circuits and reduces friction. On the trail, this results in blisteringly fast performance. For most, this level of adjustability is impractical, but the ‘tuning guide’ settings feel great out the box.
More info at: ridefox.com
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey