The FOX 36 GRIP2 needs no introduction. Before the FOX 38 usurped its throne, it was the undisputed king of the enduro sector, painting many podiums orange. For 2021, the FOX 36 is back with a new design. Can it once again challenge the monarchy?

FOX 36 GRIP2 FLOAT Factory | 2.18 kg | € 1,459 | Manufacturer’s website

The new 2021 FOX 36 launch may have been overshadowed by the FOX 38, but the now-skinny 36 has benefitted from many of the new features found on its big brother, the 38. The godfather of enduro forks has seen some major updates and has been repositioned as an all-mountain fork, with the new and bigger FOX 38 taking on enduro, 160+ mm duties. Gone are the long travel options, the fork will now only be available aftermarket with 150 or 160 mm travel with 37, 44 and 51 mm offsets. However, a 170mm OEM model will be supplied on some bikes. The new FOX 36 will be available in Factory, Performance Elite, and E-Bike models with GRIP2 or FIT4 dampers. The 2021 model features the same distinctive round arch that claims to increase chassis stiffness, incorporates new air channels inside to help control pressure build-up in the fork and allow more effective lubrication, as well as adding air bleeders to the back of the lowers to let you equalise atmospheric pressure. Just like the new FOX 38, the GRIP2 damper has been overhauled, and now features an eight click VVC (variable valve control) valve on the high-speed compression circuit, previously only found on the rebound circuit. The GRIP2 damper is a sealed cartridge combined with a spring-backed internal floating piston. The unique feature of the damper is that it has a specifically designed port at the top to purge excess oil, maintaining consistent damping. Anyone who is familiar with the FOX GRIP2 damper knows that it’s highly adjustable, with high- and low-speed compression for both rebound and compression. That means you can perfectly dial in your fork – if you have the patience. The spring curve is also adjustable using volume spacers, with space for up to 5 in the 170 mm model if you ride like Richie Rude. New for this year too is that the FOX 36 is approved for up to 225 mm rotors.

The EVOL air spring is a tried and tested performer, active and sensitive throughout the stroke.
The GRIP2 damper provides four-way adjustability with high- and low-speed control of both the rebound and compression circuit.
New air bleeders on the rear of the fork legs allow internal pressure to be equalised with atmospheric.

Setup of the FOX 36 2021

Out of the box, the FOX 36 has an almost overwhelming number of adjustments. However, following the FOX setup guide let us quickly dial in a base tune that works well. FOX recommends more high and low-speed compression than we would normally run and while this was good for bike park riding, we found the heavily damped fork favoured big hit protection over small bump sensitivity. For the loose and steep trails, we were testing on we wound off 2–4 of clicks of low and high-speed compression, giving more grip without impacting the stability and support of the fork. We also ran faster low-speed rebound for better recovery over small bumps. We added one volume spacer to increase the spring rate progression (making up for the reduction of high-speed compression) and once those changes had been made, the fork felt insanely good. Overall, despite the extensive tunability, the FOX 36 setup guide makes it easy to get in the right ballpark with a wide sweet spot of performance.

The FOX 36 2021 on the trail

On the trails, the FOX 36 performs as expected – brilliantly. With a number of years of incremental evolution behind the EVOL spring and GRIP2 damper, the fork is now a master of composure through the roughest of trails. While we had no complaints about a lack of stiffness before, the new ZEB and FOX 38 have defined a new standard. Does this mean the FOX 36 now feels like a wet noodle? No, not at all, but when run back to back, it is more compliant than the bigger hitters and easier on the hands through long, rough trails. Conversely, that also means it’s slightly harder to keep on a direct line through rough terrain should you want to muscle through. The differences are marginal though: a centimetre wider line here, a little less speed on an off-camber there Unless you are very heavy or setting track records, you will be unlikely to notice a huge difference. However, what is noticeable about the FOX 36 GRIP2 is how balanced the spring and damper feel together, behaving predictably at all times and dishing out just enough suspension to smooth the trail while never getting flustered. Being honest, the 2020 FOX 36 GRIP2 was already an outstanding fork and the new 2021 model doesn’t feel observably better on the trail. However, we did notice the supreme suppleness of the initial stroke stays fresher for longer between services. Opening the 2021 fork at our normal FOX 36 service interval showed that the dust seals were still well lubricated, indicating that the air channels are doing their job. We never got to fly to the Alps to test the bleed ports’ pressure equalisation, but after rowdy shuttle runs we never heard any hissing when the buttons were held in. Instead, all we got was a dribble of bath oil and we soon stopped pressing it. Overall, when well set up, the FOX 36 is a star performer, feeling effortless through natural and enduro trails. It allowed us to ride as fast as we dared, without worry that the fork would do something unpredictable.

Tuning low-speed rebound for chatter and high-speed for full compression recovery, the FOX 36 is the measure of composure and total confidence!

In an arm wrestle, you’d no doubt bet on the big 38. However, the 36 strikes a good balance between stiffness and compliance that is more comfortable on long natural descents and alpine days.
The new round arch design is designed using computer modelling and analysis to maximise chassis strength.
The fork features adjustable high- and low-speed rebound.

How does the FOX 36 GRIP2 compare to other models?

If we were a bike park enthusiast or a heavyweight we would buy a FOX 38, but if we were more into hammering natural alpine singletrack or shredding tight trails, we would choose the excellent FOX 36. Compared to the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, its direct rival, it boasts slightly more sensitive small-bump compliance. While it does not run as high in its travel as the Lyrik or Manitou Mezzer PRO, mid-stroke performance is very supportive and smooth and we never felt as if we were lacking support. However, great as the FOX 36 is, ultimately, the RockShox Lyrik delivers almost the same performance for a lot less.

The FOX 36 is a star performer and we would always be happy to see one fitted to a bike. The 2021 model improves the formula further.


On the trail, the FOX 36 Factory feels, well, like a FOX 36. It’s a fork at the very top of its game. The GRIP2 damper gives huge control over the rebound and compression circuits with both high- and low-speed adjustment and once dialled in, grip and support are exceptional. While it loses the internal battle against the 38 in heavy-hitting bikepark applications, it is an attractive lighter option for the all-round user. However, it is still a very expensive fork and the competition is hotting up.


  • amazingly balanced performance
  • full control over ride feel


  • expensive
  • more involved setup

Other 36 models

FOX offer the 36 in a variety of models. Besides the tested top-shelf 36 Factory GRIP2, the Performance Elite (€ 1,339 ) offers the same on-trail performance. The forks are identical save for the gold Kashima coated stanchions that are claimed to improve durability and performance even further. Even though it is also available in the Factory Range, the FIT4 damper equipped 36 can not match the great on-trail performance of the GRIP2 model. However it is still a very good fork with easier setup and, if you still think you need it on a trail/enduro fork, a three position climb switch. In addition, FOX offer two 36s optimized for eMTBs. The 36E Factory comes with a specifically tuned GRIP2 damper, whereas the Performance model uses the same chassis as the Performance Elite without the bleeders. The chassis is paired with the simple but great GRIP damper with adjustable low-speed compression.

For more information, check out the Manufacturer’s website. If you want to learn more about mountain bike forks and see how the FOX 36 stacks up against the competition, check out our 2021 suspension fork group test!

All forks on test: DVO Onyx SC D1 | FOX 36 2021 Grip2 Factory | FOX 38 2021 Grip2 Factory | Manitou Mezzer PRO | Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil | MRP Ribbon Coil | Öhlins RXF36 M2 Air | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021 | RockShox ZEB Ultimate

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Words: Photos: Finlay Anderson