The Fox Talas 36 RC2 fork is just the ticket for those who like to travel through the air with the greatest of ease while avoiding going splat upon landing. Fox has revamped its entire product line for 2010 and I just had to try the latest arrival: the Fox TALAS 36 RC2 (now with FIT damper). This fork is impressively stout, more adjustable than a NASCAR, and lightweight for its class (less than five pounds). How did Fox manage to cram so many features into such a lightweight package? Well, for starters the new FIT damper reduces the amount of oil required which in turn reduces the fork’s weight. FIT technology also eliminates the chance of oil aeration (turning from fluid to foam) which translates into better control throughout your ride.
Seeing that this fork is not cheap, do not attempt to install this one unless you have all the tools handy and are competent enough for the task. Let’s face it: when a bike part costs more than a thousand dollars it’s not something you want to make a mistake on unless you’re Donald Trump (and I’m guessing he doesn’t do his own MTB work). Now, having said that, once the steering tube and star nut are installed, the rest of the installation is actually a snap. Just make sure you have enough brake hose for full travel and the correct amount of load on the quick release skewers at the axle. Always follow the recommendations on the included interactive installation CD when setting the sag and use the table provided by Fox to set the correct pressure for your weight. Above all, remember to weigh yourself in full gear with water, otherwise you will be off and will need to add more pressure later.
Before setting up this fork I strongly recommend riding around a parking lot or on the street while jouncing the fork for a while to get all the fluids where they need to be. This one step I never skip – and keep in mind the “showroom push down” doesn’t cut it.
After bouncing around for a bit to get all the fluids well circulated I got down to business setting up my fork. The TALAS has four settings: air pressure (spring rate), low speed compression, rebound, and high speed compression. The images below show the controls for the TALAS rebound, high speed and low speed compression and finally the height control.
Sag is controlled via air pressure and is the first thing that needs to be set. Just follow the included CD instructions on selecting a starting pressure and you should be well within the ball park. This fork allows you to roll with either 100, 130, or 160mm of travel so I chose to use the fork’s full 160mm length for my sag measurement. Fox recommends a 20% sag which translates into 32mm at a 160mm length.
Low speed compression is set using the small blue knob and stacked dials on the right fork leg (they are covered with a black screw cap). When setting the low speed compression you’re looking for the point where you can hit the brakes or accelerate without having the bike pitch excessively. Ride hard and hit the brakes, noting how much the bike pitches forward. You don’t want too much movement but at the same time you don’t want the fork to stay rigid. Ultimately you need the fork to follow the trail and thankfully this setting can be tweaked both on and off the trail.
Rebound is the next setting to manipulate and you also can do this one the trail. Here you’re looking for a controlled return to ride height after the fork compresses. You don’t want the fork to feel like it’s tossing you off the bike on return (too little rebound) nor do you want the fork to come up so fast that it feels like the fork is losing travel over multiple bumps (too much rebound).
For me the high speed compression (big blue knob) setting was a bit more challenging and I ended up using more of a “seat of the pants” approach to get it dialed in. Most riders will probably only need to set this once after finding a satisfactory amount of control but those who live and breathe traveling through the air will probably want to play with this setting more often. Adjust your high speed compression setting so the fork doesn’t blow through its entire travel too quickly when taking a big hit. Keep adding damping until you have a controlled fork compression without the fork eating up all its travel and bottoming out (stopping abruptly in its internal bump stop). You will know you have too much high speed compression when you feel your wrists compress and an uncomfortable amount of force travels through your body on impact.
On the trails with the TALAS 36
On rutted, rooty trails the fork followed the trail as if my tire was glued to the ground. During my test rides there was never an instant when I felt the fork lose control over the front wheel. Granted, I was using a fairly lightweight but strong wheel set-up (Eskar S-works 2.3 and Sun-Ringle STR8 Track wheels), but clearly the fork took control and managed the wheel nicely over rutted braking areas without a single complaint.
Flying over larger jumps, drop downs, and waterfall rock gardens I felt very confident and in full control of the bike. The 160mm fork with its 36mm stanchions and the 20mm quick-release really kept everything aligned upon landing and soaked up jumps as if they were just bumps. Nailing every jump without having the front end want to bury itself in the dirt or push me off the bars was just fantastic. I love a fork that can do that!
Climbing with the TALAS is what I really liked because I could go from 160mm to 130mm to 100mm in just two clicks without having to remove a glove. This feature is a must for those who intend to toss this fork on an all-mountain or trail rig. At 160mm travel, climbing can be a bit tough and yes the steering will wander a touch (put a wider bar on and this is a non-issue). But turn the travel down to 130mm or even 100mm and you’ll have a steeper head angle and your weight will be better distributed over the bars – now you’re climbing with the rest of the group. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you will be as efficient as your buddy on his XC rig, but at least you can keep up!
Descending with this fork on a few ski runs at Blue Mountain, ON was ridiculously fun – I just cranked the fork up to its full travel (160mm) and went. At speed with this fork I felt like I was on rails with the added comfort of total control when landing jumps. I also found I didn’t need to add steering corrections when I hit patches of rocks or roots. Going fast and flying over doubles is what this fork lives to do.
Final notes on the TALAS
This fork rocks and Fox gives you everything you could possibly want in a lightweight, neat package. Not only do you get a highly capable fork that is very light for its size and travel but you also get a fork that can be dialed in precisely for any riding style. Overall this is a great buy so give your LBS a shout to see if you can get a test ride on a Fox TALAS 36 RC2 – I’m betting you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t let sticker shock deter you – in mountain biking you almost always get what you pay for!
How I Rate the Fox TALAS 36 RC2
|Tracking and steering||9|
|Construction and quality||10|
|Trail worthy 1 For light XC, 10 For extreme FR/DH||9|
|Overall performance quality out of 10||9.5|
Specifications from Fox:
WEIGHT (1 1/8″ steerer): 4.99 lbs (2.26 kg)
WEIGHT (1.5″ straight steerer): 4.90 lbs (2.22 kg)
WEIGHT (1.5″ taper steerer): 4.95 lbs (2.25 kg)
TRAVEL: 6.3 inches (160 mm) TALAS travel adjust 160-130-100
ADJUSTMENTS: Low speed compression, High speed compression, Travel (160-130-100mm), Air spring pressure, Rebound
LOWER LEG: 20QR thru-axle system; post-style disc brake mounting
STEERER: Standard: 1 1/8″, Optional: 1.5″ or 1.5″ Taper
FORK COLOR: Titanium
INTENDED USE: DH, FR, AM
Just a quick thanks to the good folks at Fox Racing Shox’s for the TALAS fork and Opus Bikes for their great bikes that they produce.