While buzz words and new tech can be good, sometimes it’s nice to simplify and just focus on producing a great product. The all new Fox 36 Float FiT does just that. Fox took existing, proven technology, placed it in an all-new lighter chassis, added a few cool-yet-functional features, and “ta-da!” The new-and-improved Fox Float 36!
When Fox went out and decided to reboot the 36 chassis, they really wanted to make sure they hit the market with a fork that could work for a wide range of bikes–from the weekend warrior trail rider up to a serious enduro racer. The advent of the new convertible front fork is a huge plus. No longer must I, or you, the reader, worry as much when it comes to choosing a fork that works with your existing wheels. That would definitely curb a person’s fork choice. Now with just a few minutes of work you can easily swap out the adapters and toss in the 20mm axle (both are supplied with the Fox float 36). The only thing you cannot choose is the steering tube: you’re stuck with a tapered steer (sorry folks).
The Fox 36 offers 160mm of travel and can be adjusted internally by repositioning the air spring rod, allowing you to reduce the travel all the way down to 110mm in 10mm increments. This allows you to tame the amount of travel to suit your needs. Keep in mind, though: travel adjustment may be something you’d want a mechanic to do for you as it does require a tool or two you may not have.
You can also adjust the air volume for a more progressive spring ramp up if need be–all with the simple removal of the air spring on the left side of the fork. This revamp reduces the overall weight by an impressive 94 grams.
On the damper front the familiar RC2 chassis allows for rebound, low-speed, and high-speed compression adjustments. The FiT damper that graced last year’s forks has been tweaked, with an improved seal head and an improved tune. Both of these things help reduce piston shaft stiction. To us mortals it means the wheel tracks the ground better with less front end dive over a wide range of shaft speeds.
The fork lowers are something to behold. I love the idea of the swappable axle. This is simple to do and should only take about 3 minutes or so:
FOX 36 RC2 – Converting to 15mm Axle from FOX on Vimeo.
The easy-to-swap lowers really sell the fork on their own.
Making the fork a post mount only for 180mm disks (or 203 with adapter) saves another 20 grams (average spacer weight) and stiffens the fork as well.
There’s no need for an adapter with longer screws any more, either. I can’t say I know one 160mm-travel bike that uses 160mm front rotors, anyway.
Out on the Trail
The second the new 36 was installed on my bike and gassed up to 78 psi using Fox’s guide, I was off on the trails. The factory settings for the 36 were pretty much bang-on, with the exception that I added one volume spacer on the air spring side and removed two clicks on the high speed compression dial. I like a slightly plusher ride that ramps up faster, and these settings provided it. Thanks to my adjustments I get more compliance on roots and rocks, using a bit more travel, but the added volume spacer increases the spring rate when I really get into bigger hits and jumps. I also added two extra clicks to rebound, simply due to my weight.
The highlight of the 36 is its stellar performance–as it should be! Once the settings were dialed, I pretty much never had to play with them again. Surprisingly, this fork feels livelier compared to the 34 it replaced. You might think that due to its increase in size (36mm vs 34mm stanchions) that the fork would feel a bit heavier in the front end. WRONG!
In fact, this 36, when cut and fit in place, was a few grams lighter than the 34 TALAS it replaced. Can I feel that slight weight reduction? No, not really. But I do notice a difference when traveling over the rough stuff in other ways.
The single most important difference from the 34 is the precise tracking ability of the new 36. I immediately noticed the improved tracking in the front wheel over all the nasty roots and rocks. I was even more impressed at the overall feel I get at the bar when traveling over the roughest of rock gardens. Imagine riding over crazy rocks with very little sting when the fork smacks around from one rock to the next.
Dampening is also controlled really well… it’s almost magical. I was surprised that a fork could be so balanced with tracking and dampening. You usually don’t get the best of both worlds.
The fork worked just as well at absorbing the bigger hits from drops and jumps. Since this fork only has 160mm of travel and is installed on my Bronson, I didn’t take it off any of the bigger jumps that I normally would on my burlier DH rig. Going fast and sucking up everything underneath it is the main purpose of this fork.
One particularly memorable test ride took place on Porcupine Ridge (in Ontario). This trail dishes out very gnarly terrain from start to finish and just doesn’t let up. How many rocks and roots can you handle? Well evidently the Fox 36 is up for whatever I can take, and more. I had zero issues of bottoming out or anything like that when hitting even those gnarliest of trails.
Overall the Fox 36 Float is as close as one could get to a perfect fork. It’s definitely on the very short list of top forks that I have ridden to date. The 36 is a huge improvement over other forks in the past, both from Fox and others.
Thanks to Fox for providing the Float 36 RC2 160mm for review.
Thanks for the great review. I have been looking to replace my TALAS as well with this. Compared to the much lauded PIKE, it seems a strong competitor, stiffer, and much easier to dial in custom settings. Do you agree?
I think my only issue with it is the difficulty taking off the front wheel. If you need to remove your wheel every time you ride to put your bike in your vehicle, it seems like a pain. Are you aware of any work around or a quick release that might somehow fit this fork to solve this problem? It would almost be easier to loosen the stem bolts and turn the bars sideways to get it into my truck, in lieu of removing the axle system. Stiff is good, but not at the expense of convenience.
“Stiff is good, but not at the expense of convenience.”
And really, if you have a decent bike rack or a tail gate pad, you shouldn’t have to take your wheel off anyway.
Of course, I’m speaking from my perspective, and from my perspective: it’s not debatable.
Of course I have a decent bike rack and a tailgate pad, but there is no way in heck I’m going to place my bike outside of my vehicle for 10-11 hours while I’m at work where I can’t keep an eye on it. Going home to get my bike after work is driving away from the trails, so that is not feasible either.
Aside from just the frame, components are easy to take off, so it’s best to lock it up.
I am sure I am not the only person in the world who needs to remove the front wheel (and/or the back) to get it in the vehicle. I’m just saying: the fork seems awesome, but it would be nice to see a thru-axle version or a way to convert it. I would sacrifice the stiffness for the convenience of locking it in my vehicle (where it’s also covered by my insurance).
There are Pro’s and Con’s to a QR axle..For one thing the QR could snap off if you hit it when riding along rocks. Yes it is convenient to remove the wheel.. No doubt. But I cannot see how you can make a QR work for two different wheel sizes.. Perhaps why they choose the 4 bolt option.
My Manitou fork has the four bolt retainer and yes, it’s a pain to take on and off but the added stiffness is worth it IMO.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the 36 is a great fork and the ability to change axles is nice. I’ve never had a problem with a QR thru axle, so I have confidence in them. I’ve broken just about everything else but that on my bike 🙂
Performance wise, how do YOU think the Pike stacks up against the new Fox 36?