Upcoming Review: FOX Float DPS Factory Shock

We’re putting the RockShox Deluxe RTC3 and FOX Float DPS Factory head to head, using the same bike as a testing platform, our long-term test bike – Norco Sight. We’re not going to get into too much tech, we just want to know how two different shocks feel on the trail, how easy they are to use and that’s about it.

Two new shocks for 2018, the RockShox Deluxe RCT3 and FOX Float DPS, both from the top of their class.

First up is the FOX, an all-new shock for 2018 with an improved construction and damping tune, we’ve already had a great test with the new shock on a Scott Spark where we swapped out a 2017 shock with the 2018 model and quickly went back to the singletrack to feel the difference.

Hear our impressions on testing a 2017 and 2018 FOX fork and shock back to back here: FOX 2018 testing.


FOX DPS, what?

The DPS shock is for the short-mid travel segment, compact and lightweight. The new construction drops weight and parts from the 2017 model, we weighed it 10g lighter than the RockShox.

The Factory model is the top of the line, with the lustrous Kashima coating and all the adjustments.


What now?

We’ve weighed it, fitted it, and have begun the setup process. We’ll send the RockShox RCT3 off to SRAM for a refresh service as it’s been fitted to the Norco for a while now, and then we’ll go back to back laps of a test circuit swapping the shocks back and forth.


What about long travel shocks, and forks, too?

Up the front, we have a new FOX 34 29 fork and await a new Rockshox Pike to compare, and our bigger long-term test bike is primed for a FOX vs RockShox hitout too, to the tune of; FOX 36 vs Lyrik and Float DHX vs Super Deluxe. The burly 160/170mm travel Commencal Meta AM 4.2 will be the test sled.

We have the FOX 34 fork on test too, get ready for a RockShox vs FOX bounce-off!

Check out the new FOX fork here, it’s super slick; 2018 FOX Float 34 29.

We’re looking forward to it! So, stay tuned.

FOX 36: The Evolution Continues

The all-new Fox 36 Float RC2.
The all-new Fox 36 Float RC2.

The new 36 lineup doesn’t feature any dramatic changes from its predecessor, however smaller adjustments should only improve on the excellent performance of the range.

We reviewed the last version of the Float 36 RC2, and you can read our in depth thoughts here.

Now, let’s see what’s changed and some new offerings of this iconic product!


MORE THAN AN ENDURO RACE FORK:

FOX-MY18-FS-36-black-side

We took the award-winning 36, integrated our EVOL technology, updated the air spring curves and damper tune to improve performance across the board. Between wheel size, damper, and axle options, the 36 offers a wide range of options to fit your all-mountain and enduro needs.

• New FLOAT EVOL air spring
• FIT HSC/LSC, FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper options
• 15QRx110 mm, 15QRx100 mm, or 15/20 mm convertible thru-axle • Travel options:

27.5” – 150, 160, 170 mm
29” – 150, 160 mm
26” – 100 mm (831), 160, 180 mm

• 1.5” tapered or 1-1/8” (26” only) steerer tube
• E-Bike-specific chassis available
• Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
• Performance Elite models feature black ano upper tubes • Matte Black

New Fox forks will include an air pressure chart on the back of the left side fork leg- hooray!
New Fox forks will include an air pressure chart on the back of the left side fork leg- hooray!

Small Tweaks Make Big Changes on the Trail:

A more linear air spring curve gives EVOL forks plushness off the top, extra mid-stroke support, and more tunable bottom-out progression.

  • •  EVOL is Extra Volume in the negative air spring
  • •  Creates a more linear spring curve through first 25%of travel
  • •  Increases small bump sensitivity
  • •  Greater mid-stroke support
  • •  More tunable bottom-out progression
  • •  Used in MY2018 32, 34, 36, and 40 forks
EVOL internals
The EVOL system will be used in all 2018 Fox forks.

FLOAT EVOL: Self-equalizing positive/negative air spring system:

  • •  Utilizes our patented FLOAT shock transfer port technology, first introduced in our circa 1999 FLOAT shock
  • •  New EVOL air spring has fewer dynamic seals
  • •  Less feedback through handlebar
  • •  Highly tunable with air volume spacers – Adjust the amount of mid stroke and bottom out resistance

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 12.41.49 pm


FIT HSC/LSC:

Using our proven Championship- and award- winning FIT sealed cartridge design, HSC/LSC is our most advanced damper.

  • •  High- and low-speed compression adjust
  • •  Rebound adjust
  • •  Low friction seal head design
  • •  Dual circuit rebound allows more controlled return from hard hits and quicker recovery from successive impacts
  • •  New damper oil with lubricating PTFE for improved compression and rebound flow

FOX-MY18-FS-36-black-d5


FIT4:

Our patented FIT4 (FOX Isolated Technology) closed cartridge system provides three on-the-fly compression damping positions—Open, Medium, and Firm—to adapt to varying trail conditions.

  • •  Three on-the-fly compression damping positions
  • •  22 clicks of additional low-speed compression adjust in the Open mode
  • •  Low friction seal head design
  • •  Dual circuit rebound allows more controlled return from hard hits and quicker recovery from successive impacts
  • •  Updated tune
  • •  New damper oil with lubricating PTFE for improved compression and rebound flow
FIT 4
The FIT4 cartridge features 22 clicks of low speed compression.

GRIP:

Inspired by moto fork damping systems, FOX’s award- winning GRIP damper uses our FIT sealed cartridge technology combined with a coil-sprung, internal floating piston. The system allows excess oil to purge through a specially designed port at the top of the damper to maintain consistent damping and increase durability. Performance Series forks provide Open, Medium, and Firm modes with additional micro-adjust between settings.

  • •  FIT-based sealed cartridge damper with self- bleeding moto design
  • •  Patent pending compression valve design gives wide range damping adjustment
  • •  Blended LSC/HSCLockout
  • •  Increased adjustment for this level of product
  • •  Remote option available
  • •  OE only
FIT Grip
Expect to see 36’s equipped with the GRIP cartridge on lots of bikes this year.

So that’s what Fox have to say about their new 36 range, but the true test will be out on the trail, so keep your eyes peeled for our first thoughts when we get our hands on a set!

Long Term Test: RockShox Lyrik

The RockShox Lyrik is the all-new big travel single crown fork for the enduro crowd, from 150mm and stretching up to 180mm travel and available in both 27.5″ and 29er wheel size.

For more details on what’s inside the Lyrik and what it is all about head to our First Bite piece here – Flow’s First Bite: RockShox Lyrik.

_LOW0024
Fit a Lyrik up the front and the rest will follow.

The Canyon Strive was a perfect bike to test the 160mm travel Lyrik RCT3 on, not only due to its appropriate travel amount and race-ready attitude but the fact that it replaced the comparative level Pike. Swapping from the Pike to the Lyrik gave us a clear comparison to how the burlier fork will go. Read more of our thoughts on the very impressive Canyon Strive here – Tested: Canyon Strive CF Race.


Details

TRAVEL – 160/170/180mm – 27.5″ , 150/160mm – 29″
WHEELS – 27.5″, 29″l
WEIGHT – 2005g – 27.5″ , 2032g – 29″/27.5″+
DAMPING – Charger Damper (RCT3)
AVAILABLE SPRINGS – Dual Position Air, Solo Air
ADJUSTMENTS – External rebound, low speed compression, 3-position compression (Open/Pedal/Lock)
UPPER TUBES – 35mm tapered wall aluminium, Fast Black
OPTIONS – BOOST 110 compatible option in 27.5″ and 29″/27.5″+

RRP – $1549 or $1649 for Dual Position version.


Setup

Air pressure: RockShox’s Solo Air forks are a snack to setup and their Bottomless Token tuning system is a real winner. We followed the air pressure guide on the rear of the lowers to find a base setting and fine tuned it on either side of that to find our desired sag using the inscriptions and red rubber o-ring on the right leg.

After a few test rides we decided on two Bottomless Tokens fitted into the air chamber to create a more progressive spring curve by reducing the overall size of the air spring volume. This may be a little too progressive for lighter riders on calmer trails, and we found two Tokens fitted inside a Pike quite a significant change. But with two Tokens in the Lyrik and the air pressures lowered slightly in tandem we found the fork not only incredibly hard to bottom out, the whole bike actually settled into its travel really well, and even on climbs standing up out of the saddle the fork sagged a touch further into its travel for a lower front end.

_LOW4508
Take the time to experiment with installing and removing the Bottomless Tokens inside the fork, it’s a quick and easy process and has huge impact on the ride character.
_LOW4586
Grrrrrrr.

Rebound: Once we were happy with the air pressure, it was on to the compression and rebound adjustment. The rebound was easy, we like our forks to rebound slightly faster than the rear shock, and via the big red dial we were able to find a good setting in the wide range available. Never did we have to run slower rebound to accomodate for the damper heating up during long descents and the rebound speed becoming faster, it handles heat and fade very well (at least on any trails we took them to).

Compression: The compression adjustment range is fantastic and very user friendly. We only ever used the three-stage pedal control on the smoothest of climbs or longer stints on tarmac to cancel out the action when really hauling on the bars, but we often toyed with the low speed compression dial (smaller one in the centre). We urge riders to experiment with this adjustment, with a good understanding of what it does, you’ll really be able to make the most out of the fork.

The 15-clicks of low speed compression has a dramatic effect on the way the fork holds itself up in the stroke, while some riders overlook this function as it may not have an obvious impact when pushing on the fork in the carpark, it is really quite profound on the trail. During a ride the compression damping is essentially what holds the suspension up, while the air spring is what extends the fork after an impact.

We experimented with lowering the air pressure at the same time adding low speed compression to gauge how effective it was, and we settled on a sweet point where the fork resisted diving under brakes and rode high in its stroke through the turns but would still remain active enough to the high frequency chatter on faster surfaces.

With the low speed compression backed all the way off the stroke is impressively supple and sensitive, but will bounce around more under your weight shifts during a climb or heavy braking.

_LOW0124
Our favourite little dial found on the premium RCT3 models; low speed compression.

Ride

If you want to know more on the blood and guts inside the Lyrik click here – Lyrik details please!  But after riding the Lyrik for six months we’re really able to make comment on its performance on the trail, and it rules.

_LOW4594
Beefy legs with a longer left side for the larger air spring.

Swapping the Pike to Lyrik didn’t turn any heads, the extra beef in the chassis is quite subtle to the eye and they both use 35mm black stanchions, graphics wise they are also similar in appearance. The larger air spring of the Lyrik does cause the left leg extend down further under the axle than the Pike, and the crown and arch are certainly chunkier upon closer inspection but otherwise they look alike at a quick glance. But there’s a whole lot more to it that the mighty Lyrik than just chassis stiffness, it’s ability to swallow up massive impacts is just absurd.

Impacts large and small all start with a the fork breaking through its static stiction point to get moving, and with a fork as smooth at this one the activity is immediate. The feedback from the trail transferred to your hands is minimal and when the biggest impacts are thrown at you the fork remains calm and controlled over and over again.

Feeling more like its big brother the BoXXer like any fork we’ve ridden, the fork is a burly descender.

_LOW4582
Enduro racers will love the descending prowess of this thing.
_LOW4587
Slick and smooth, the Fast Black coating and low friction seals make for a super-smooth action.

The Charger Damper won massive praise when the Pike first emerged, and the Lyrik also uses the impressive system. The way the fork remains composed in the roughest of situations is testament to the sophisticated and effective damper, you can feel the way it reacts to the impacts even when deep into its travel while remaining supportive and controlled. It’s dead quiet too, confirming that the Lyrik won’t get over its head no matter what you throw at it.

While we didn’t get our hands on a SRAM front wheel that uses the Torque Cap system, we still relished in the impressive rigidity and steering precision that the bike has with these forks bolted on the front. Some big forks can be too big sometimes, creating a slightly harsher ride as the front end can ping and glance off trail objects with little compliance, and we’ve noticed this with some of the Performance level FOX 36 forks we’ve ridden, the Lyrik doesn’t suffer from this at all, it’s just too sensitive.


Verdict

The Lyrik is a seriously impressive piece of kit, the buttery smooth and composed suspension action won us over on those long and rough descents, and even cranking our bike up rough climbs it was always keeping us moving in the right direction with its immediate reaction to impacts. In comparison to other forks we’ve tried and tested the 2017 FOX 36 Factory fork is also up there with it, while distinctively different in feel they are both leagues ahead in the 160-180mm category in our opinion. The new FOX damper does allow seperate tuning of high and low speed compression and is available with a 20mm axle, but we never felt the Lyrik was underdone in strength or adjustment in the slightest.

RockShox also produce the Yari, same chassis and air spring with a down specced damper for a saving of $500, a good option for sure.

For about a 100-120g weight gain over the Pike there’s a serious amount of appeal for the rider who charges trails harder and needs a longer travel to suit the bike it is fitted to. And after six months of as much riding as we can throw at it, the fork is running just as well as it was in the beginning. No creaking, loss of sensitivity or signs of wear.

Top marks for the single crown fork that rides damn hard.

_LOW1654
Here’s a 20 year throwback, the original RockShox Judy DH. Single crown forks have come a LONG way!

Tested: MRP Stage Fork

All MRP forks are hand-assembled in Grand Junction, Colorado using entirely metal internals and an extra large oil volume to give the Stage a whopping 200 hour service interval. MRP may be better known for their excellent chain guides, but after licensing the suspension brand White Brothers many years ago and more recently purchasing the Canadian rear shock manufacturers Elka, MRP have rebranding all their suspension components under the MRP moniker and they’ve been gaining momentum at a rapid rate with availability in Australia too.

The Stage comes in many flavours, from 140-170mm of travel, in both wheel sizes, attached with an Australian price tag of $1495 from your local bike shop. Built for the enduro and all-mountain crowd who might appreciate something a little different from the duopoly of FOX and RockShox, it uses 34mm diameter glossy black legs, a 15mm quick release axle, an understated matte black chassis with different colour graphic sticker kits supplied to individually match your ride. Weight is 1990g, a touch heavier than the comparable RockShox Pike and FOX 34.

Inside the Stage is what really matters, there’s magnets in the compression and rebound damping units and the external Ramp Up dial is super-trick.

_LOW0040


What adjustments

Air pressure setup is via a valve on the underside of the left leg, rebound speed dial on the other side, a compression/lockout dial up the top of the right leg but more interesting is the ‘ramp-up’ or air spring pressure adjustment on the upper left side.

_LOW0054

The Ramp Up adjustment gives you a level of accessible tune-ability that typically requires the use of tools and the installation of air volume spacers (like a RockShox Bottomless Tokens for example) but in this case the adjustment can even be made whilst riding.

By dialling in the adjuster the air spring will be reduced in size, and with a smaller air chamber comes a more progressive spring rate that will make it harder for the fork to bottom-out. Master the use of this in tandem with the air pressure and compression and you’ll really be able to make the most of the fork to your liking.

The little black button in the centre of the ramp-up dial is an air bleed valve, giving the rider quick and easy access to the spring by letting air out to reach the desired sag height. This is a nifty feature as the air valve is out of reach from the rider on the underside of the fork, and depressing it runs the risk of spurting out some of the lubricant fluid that resides in the air spring chamber.

But be sure to not accidentally press it during a ride, it doesn’t take much for all the air to be lost and you get a totally deflated feeling.

_LOW7107

Compression is a single adjustment controlled by a large sweaty hand and glove friendly 8-position dial on the top of the right leg. Where high end forks from RockShox or FOX have two independent and individually adjusted compression circuits, the Stage uses just one adjuster that manages its dual chamber air spring with a unique magnetic blow-off valve allowing the fork to react from fast impacts even when dialled in.


Getting set

Provided with the fork is a small cheat sheet card that’s crammed with setup advice and base settings to help with personalising the fork’s feel, and they’ve done a pretty good job with it indeed, we certainly found it quite accurate. Whilst the Stage is quite simple in terms of adjustability, it’s worth taking the time to fully understand how the air pressure setup procedure works, and to follow the steps closely.

_LOW7108

First you inflate the air chamber higher than you need to, then manually extend the fork (by holding the wheel down and pulling up on the bars) to fill the negative air chamber. To set the desired sag you simply start with higher pressure and by pressing the little black air bleed button you let air out until the desired pressure is reached.

The Ramp Up adjustment can be tuned any time, and is quite obvious when played with. Our best advice would be to get out on the trail and ride a short 30 second section repeatedly with a different setting to find your match. We also found we could run slightly less pressure when counteracted with increased Ramp Up and a couple extra clicks of compression, for a plusher initial portion of travel.


On the trail

Once we were happy with the setup we hit the dirt to get a feel for it, it wasn’t until our second ride we felt entirely sure it was bedded-in and working as smoothly as it should. It needs a good bounce to get its juices flowing if it’s been sitting still for at least a couple days.

The Stage feels nice and supple and sensitive on the trail, reacting to the slightest impacts well. The chassis certainly felt amply rigid and stiff, we quickly got used to it on the front of our Trek Remedy and we began to ride it harder and harder with good confidence.

The first portion of travel is very supple and takes very little force to begin compression.

_LOW7101

Fine tuning the Ramp Up on the trail was as easy as changing gears, and remarkably effective. A few turns of the big silver dial makes the latter portion of the travel significantly harder to get to, and we found ourselves changing it a few times during each ride to suit the trail. With less Ramp Up the fork feels ultra supple and plush, suited to flatter terrain, but when the trails got steeper and impacts grew in force we’d benefit from dialling it in to help the fork ride higher in its travel, especially under front wheel braking.

The single compression dial was effective in cancelling out dive and bob on the climbs, even when cranked on there’s no harsh spiking if you happen to hit an unexpected impact. We lamented the lack of slow speed compression adjustments seperate to lockout though, we’re big fans of using plenty of compression to hold the fork up rather than a hard spring.

On the longer descents the Stage remained composed at all times and very predictable, you always knew where you were in the stroke, and never did a loud bottom out or harsh spike disrupt our flow.


How does it compare to the FOX 34 or RockShox Pike?

It’s a tall task taking on the big dogs of the industry, but in our opinion MRP do a pretty good job. In terms of value and long proposed maintenance interval maintenance the Stage is very impressive, and its on-the-fly Ramp Up adjustment has serious appeal to the type of rider who appreciates easy and obvious tuning.

Chassis stiffness is on-par, but weighs more than the competition. Wheel removal isn’t as simple as the FOX QR15 or RockShox Maxle, the MRP’s skewer system just takes some getting used to.

It’s the damping that sets the MRP apart from the best in the business. We’ve seen the FOX FIT 4 forks and RockShox forks with the Charger damper really take the support and control of mountain bike suspension to amazing levels, and new players DVO have also really stepped it up but we feel that the MRP Stage isn’t quite up there with the best. It simply lacks the mid-stroke support and rapid reaction to impacts while already into the travel. We spent plenty of time tinkering with all the adjustments to make the fork ride high in its travel, but never without sacrifice to bump sensitivity.


Verdict

Put an MRP stage on the front of your bike and you’ve got a premium piece of kit leading you into the trail, that won’t let you down. This quality product hand assembled in Colorado might not have the highest performing damper in the business, but it certainly stands out in terms of maintenance and ease of adjustment and never faltered once during our testing period.

_LOW0032

Flow’s First Bite: FOX 32 Step Cast Fork

The keen-eyed out there are right in thinking they’ve spotted this before – it’s already won races on the front of Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson’s bikes at the National Champs in Bright. Hard to miss the bright orange colour!

_LOW0040

The FOX 32 SC is an all-new 100mm travel fork (you can’t get it in any other travel variants). Using a narrower crown width and the Step Cast lower leg design, in the name of weight loss, the 29er fork drops a whopping 255g (225g for 27.5) over the comparable 2016 Float 32! That’s a tremendous weight saving. FOX claim it hasn’t come at the cost of any stiffness, but we’ll let the riding do the talking on that front when we put one to the test very soon.


Features:

-15QR x 110 Boost and 15QR x 100 Kabolt axle options
-27.5” and 29” wheel options
-100mm travel
-FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper for improved control
-Lockout for increased efficiency
-Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
-Gloss Orange, Matte Black, Gloss White

AUD RRP – $1449

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.36.59 PM
Three colour options.
_LOW0103
The narrow and heavily sculpted fork screams lightweight.

The Chassis: Put the SC for alongside a regular FOX 32 and you’ll see where the weight has been shaved.  The two most immediately notable differences are the narrower width of the fork, and the Step Cast design of the lower legs course. But just about all areas have come under the knife – the fork arch is much finer than the previous Float 32, and you can clearly see the tapering of the lowers from the bushing area towards the axle.

_LOW0021
Trim!
_LOW0107
Narrow crowns, quite dramatic to the eye.
Kabolt axle or 15 QR compatible.
Kabolt axle or 15 QR compatible.

Step Cast: With a narrower crown there still needed to be room for the spokes, hub and disc rotor, hence the step on the lower leg. The underside of the leg is also hollow.

_LOW0078
The lower legs of the SC fork.
_LOW0099
Creating space for the hub, spokes and rotor with the narrower stance.
_LOW0094
Like an ultra marathon runner’s cheekbones, there’s no unnecessary mass here.

The guts: The internals for the Factory model retain the FIT 4 damper with a 32 SC specific cartridge design. Adjustments remain with three position on-the-fly setting and the little black fine tune 22-click open mode adjuster too. A remote lockout lever is also available.

2017 will see the introduction of a new FIT GRIP three position damper is found on lower models (see diagram below).

With the SC fork still using the 32mm legs you’re still able to use the FOX air volume spacers to tune the progressiveness of the fork, a quick and simple operation we’ve done many times before with the 34 and 36 forks.

The damper is said to have a slightly lighter tune than the existing Float 100 forks too.

_LOW0111
Familiar dials up top, proven and popular FIT 4 damper and the air spring on the left side.
32-step-cast-cross-section
32 Step Cast cross section.
Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.27.22 PM
New three-position GRIP damper on lower priced Performance Series forks.

The 100mm 29er fork weight comparisons:

The 32 SC isn’t just a smidge lighter than the opposition, it’s a a LOT lighter, and all without the use of carbon too.

– FOX – 32 SC, 1360g

– DT Swiss – OPM O.D.L 100 RACE, 1485g

– RockShox – SID XX World Cup, 1485g

– SR Suntour – Axon Werx F-29, 1570g

– FOX – Float 32 100, 1615g

– Cannondale – Lefty 2.0 Carbon, 1600g

– RockShox – RS1, 1666g

– MRP – Loop SL, 1769g

– X Fusion – Slide RL2, 1814g

_LOW0123
Boost or non-Boost compatible.
_LOW0091
On the front of the stealth black Trek Procaliber, we’re ready to get our race on!
_LOW0118
Did we mention they are seriously good looking, too?

For more info – ridefox.com/32sc


 

Flow’s First Bite: Öhlins RXF34 Fork

Their distinctive gold and yellow rear shocks have been around for a while as stock items on big travel Specialized bikes, and for 2016 the collaboration between the Swedish suspension stars Öhlins and Specialized continues with the release of a new 29er trail fork – the RXF34 – soon to be available through Specialized dealers.

Öhlins are well-represented in the motorsport realm, famed for being the type of brand that don’t pay athletes to use their products but still see top Moto GP using their gear. Here’s a little more on the brand – Öhlins history.

There’s an air of ambiguity and respect around this brand due to their high reputation, hence we are floored to have one fork to review so let’s take a look at some of the unique features before fitting to our Specialized Camber 29er for a test run.

_LOW0112
Smart, understated and elegant, the RXF34 is an exquisite piece to look at.
_LOW0151
The subtle and smooth finish serves a refreshing take on a market dominated by RockShox and FOX.

From Specialized: “Partnering with a company like Öhlins – the world leader in motorsports suspension – means we get the pinnacle of shock design, tuned specifically for a Specialized bike, like a Demo or Enduro. These shocks have so much traction and control that they change the way you ride, while putting a bigger grin on your face – and a larger gap between you and your buddies. Over the past few years, Öhlins has been hard at work bringing their first trail fork to market, the RXF 34. The first trail fork to feature a twin-tube design, it has everything you love about their TTX rear shocks, only it now goes on the front of your bike.

We gave a helping hand to the development by testing and providing feedback on our Camber, Stumpjumper FSR, and Enduro platforms. The key to this amazing handling fork is having parallel and separated oil flow to control the pressure levels, ensuring initial smoothness while staying high in the travel with excellent bump absorption, traction, and stability – all hallmarks of the twin-tube design. The RXF also has three air chambers; two positive and one negative. This allows the shape of the spring force to be adjusted by the rider, such as increasing sensitivity without bottoming out.

Bringing it all together is a unique forged “unicrown” for the highest stiffness and tire control with less chassis flex. The result is a 34mm fork that’s more rigid than other brands’ 35mm forks, and it’s comparable with a 36mm fork.”


Features:

  • 120, 140 & 160mm travel options for 29-inch wheels
  • 34mm stanchion tubes
  • 15mm through axle
  • TTX Damping technology by Öhlins
  • Three air chamber system, two positive and one negative
  • External rebound adjustment
  • High and low speed external compression adjustment
  • Forged unicrown
  • Low friction seals and bushings

Highlights:

Chassis: The most striking feature of the chassis is the one-piece crown and steerer, not a common sight (X-Fusion are another MTB fork brand to do a similar one-piece assembly) and it’s said to offer comparable stiffness to a 36mm leg fork, even with its 34mm legs.

The RXF34 is 29er only at this stage but we bet a 27.5″ version won’t be too far off. The axle is 15mm with no quick release, rather it is secured via a 5mm allen key.

Fork weight is 2.07kg.

_LOW0147
The unicrown one piece aluminium crown and steerer.
_LOW0114
15mm axle fastened with a 5mm allen key.
_LOW0142
Batman would run these on his bike.
_LOW0069
Öhlins own sealing.

TTX Damping Technology: Since 2006 across all sorts of suspension products, Öhlins uses two individual tubes for each rebound and compression dampers to help reduce the oil pressure inside the fork. This is said to increase sensitivity whilst remaining supportive.

_LOW0101
Blue dial for low speed compression, black for high speed compression and on the bottom of the leg is the gold rebound dial.
_LOW0138
An air pressure guide located on the back of the fork leg.

Three air chamber spring control: The RXF34 uses three air chambers for a very tuneable ride feel. Two positive air chambers let you tune the progressiveness of the fork, similar to fitting a Bottomless Token into a RockShox fork.

Setup goes like this; start with inflating the main air chamber on top of the fork to your weight, and then inflate the third chamber on the bottom of the fork to your desired rate of progression and feel. Then you’re able to tune the two air chambers according to your bottom out preference and sensitivity.

High and low speed compression adjustments: There is external high and low speed compression adjustability, and rebound control.


We are yet to confirm Australian retail pricing, but if the USD $1150 is a guide they look to be in line with the top offerings from FOX, RockShox and DVO and available from Specialized dealers.

_LOW0108
The RXF34 is due to be fitted to our Specialized Camber 29 test bike soon.

 

Flow’s First Bite – RockShox Lyrik RCT3

If you need between 160 and 180mm of travel the Lyrik will take care of you.

The Lyrik is more than just a longer travel Pike, let us take a brief look at the details before we fit it to our bike and get out there.

What is it?

At first glimpse the Lyrik looks a whole lot like a Pike, but a keen eye will note the differences in its shape, the arch is thicker and taller and the lower legs are tapered and asymmetrical with longer leg on the spring side.

Specifications:

TRAVEL – 160/170/180mm – 27.5″ , 150/160mm – 29″
WHEELS – 27.5″, 29″l
WEIGHT – 2005g – 27.5″ , 2032g – 29″/27.5″+
DAMPING – Charger Damper (RCT3)
AVAILABLE SPRINGS – Dual Position Air, Solo Air
ADJUSTMENTS – External rebound, low speed compression, 3-position compression (Open/Pedal/Lock)
UPPER TUBES – 35mm tapered wall aluminium, Fast Black
OPTIONS – BOOST 110 compatible option in 27.5″ and 29″/27.5″+

Internals: The excellent Charger damper is shared with other forks but receives updated SKF seals to decrease friction. The negative air chamber is also larger than the Pike to give the fork a more supple and sensitive portion of travel at the beginning of the stroke, all in the aid of giving it a downhill fork feel.

Rebound tune ability: Riders on the heavier or lighter end of the spectrum can benefit from the ability to fine tune the rebound circuit via the shim stack inside the fork, just like you can with the BoXXer.

_LOW0095
Note the larger hub interface around the axle – that’s the Torque Cap contact area. More contact with the hub has lifted the fork’s stiffness.

Torque Caps: First introduced to us on the inverted RS-1 fork is the Torque Cap system, aiming to bolster the bond between fork dropout and hub. SRAM front wheels will be available with oversized Torque Caps to benefit from the increased stiffness, which isn’t ideal for those with existing wheels. Though compatibility isn’t an issue, any 15mmQR wheel sill still fit in the fork it’ll just take a little more concentration to line the axle up with the dropouts when fitting the wheel. 

Pricing: Australian pricing is the same as the 2016 Pike, RRP on the fork is the same as the 2016 Solo Air Pike in all wheel sizes – $1549.95.

And the Dual Position Air versions in all wheel sizes – $1649.95.

Alongside the RockShox Lyrik is the lower specced Yari, by using a their more basic Motion Control damper you save $500. Yari RC – $1099.95

We’ll be fitting the Lyrik RCT3 to our Canyon Strive to be more like Fabien Barel, check out his sweet setup below.

Stay tuned for our full review soon.

Flow’s First Bite: DVO Diamond fork

The world of mountain bike suspension has just about become a duopoly, with 90% of new bikes either specced with RockShox or FOX. We’re not bemoaning the quality of the current product one little bit, but it was cool a decade ago, back when Answer-Manitou and Marzocchi were competing head to head with RockShox and FOX.

**Updated – full review here: DVO Diamond review. 

DVO Diamond 6
Six position low-speed compression, with separate high-speed compression adjustment.

Clearly we’re not the only folk who think there is room in the mountain bike suspension market for more players, and we’ve seen a handful of more boutique manufacturer’s begin to nibble away at the dominance of the two largest brands. Companies like X-Fusion, Cane Creek, BOS, Elka and, the one we have on test here, DVO have already begun to attract more consumers, race results and market share.

DVO are the newest of these ‘alternative’ brands, and they’ve stormed onto the scene with some seriously credentialed staff, a great marketing approach and unique product. Their Emerald inverted downhill fork was their headlining first offering, but the new Diamond single-crown fork is where there’s the most potential for DVO to have some serious growth. With the brand now available in Australia through suspension tuning and service wizards NS Dynamics, we thought it was time to put the Diamond to the test. We’ll be running this fork on our new Trek Remedy 9.8 long-term test bike.

DVO Diamond 4
The Off The Top negative spring adjustment should allow you to get that initial part of stroke just perfect.

The Diamond is squarely pitched at the high-performance all-mountain/enduro market; with 35mm stanchions and 130-160mm travel (adjustable internally) it goes head-to-head with the RockShox Pike or FOX 36, both of which we’ve ridden extensively, which should give us a good benchmark for this fork’s performance.

DVO know they need to bring something unique to the table with the Diamond, and it offers an extensive but not unnecessarily complicated external tuning (with the option of internal tweaking via the shim stack).

DVO Diamond 3
The DVO Diamond is 15mm axle only.

There are independent high and low-speed compression adjusters, with the low-speed adjuster having a simple six positions so you can either set and forget, or easily toggle it on/off almost like a pedalling platform for climbing. Then there’s the Off The Top (OTT) negative spring adjustment which dictates the sensitivity of the initial stroke without impacting on the mid/end stroke. We think it’ll be ideal for maximising traction in loose, skatey conditions over summer without needing an overly-soft overall suspension feel. There’s also a cool integrated fender, which bolts to the fork arch and will keep crud away from the casting’s webbing and the fork seals.

DVO Diamond 2
A neat, bolt-on fender is included with the fork.

At 2136g on the Flow fruit shop scales, the Diamonds are heavier than their rivals, (around 100g more than the FOX 36 RC2, and almost 300g heavier than a Pike), but hopefully performance will trump grams. It’s also worth noting that you can get these forks in black too, if you’re not a fan of the signature green colour.

An in-depth review of the DVO Diamonds will be heading your way in the coming weeks, and we’ll make sure to keep you updated through our Instagram and Facebook too. This should be a great test!

Fresh Product – FOX Suspension 2016 Highlights

FOX go all out for 2016, and their new lineup receives a solid dose of the technology trickle down treatment. With a focus on their new mantra ‘Own the Trail, Track or Mountain’ FOX aim to cater for the needs of all the growing areas of the sport.

The big forking news for 2016 is the new damper – FIT 4 found in ALL forks going forward (except 36, 381 and 40), we won’t see any more open cartridge dampers in favour of the new FIT 4. We’ve already spent some time on the FIT 4 damper inside the new FOX 34 fork as well as the new Float DPS rear shock – read our full review here. http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-2016-fox-34-fork-and-float-dps-shock/

FOX 2016 2 FOX 2016 13 FOX 2016 10

[divider]FIT 4 Explained[/divider]

The first major change is the new adjuster configuration; there are three main compression settings (much like CTD, with open, medium and firm), but there’s also a completely independent low-speed compression adjustment. The central black dial has 22 points of adjustment, giving you a much broader and precise range of control over low speed compression, similar to the 36’s RC2 damper.

The second big damper change that users will notice is an all new rebound assembly, which is designed keep the fork riding higher in its travel, particularly after big impacts. Beginning stroke rebound (i.e. for smaller impacts) can be set quite slow, for a more stable and planted ride feel. But on bigger impacts the fork will rebound more quickly to recover from heavy compressions, helping avoid getting bogged down deep in its travel. 

Finally, FOX have made some huge leaps in terms of service requirements for their forks. Through better sealing and more advanced lubricants (especially the new Gold Oil), service intervals are now 120 hours of riding, which is far cry more manageable than the 30-hour intervals of yesteryear!

All the rear shocks also receive some new features, with the DPS (Dual Position System) and EVOL (Extra Volume) in the popular Float series.

[divider]DPS and EVOL System Explained[/divider]

The EVOL  air sleeve will be retrofittable to older FOX shocks too. This is more than just an extra volume air can, as we’ve seen in the past. The EVOL air sleeve is all about increasing the volume of the shock’s negative air spring. This has a number of positive effects.

Firstly, there’s improved bump sensitivity in the initial parts of the stroke. Secondly, the EVOL air sleeve provides an overall flatter spring curve, with more support in the mid-stroke (helping alleviate that wallowing feeling that can afflict some longer-travel air sprung bikes). Finally, the EVOL air sleeve helps slow down the shock’s rebound as it nears full extension, which should reduce the likelihood of getting ‘bucked’ over the bars after heavy compressions, particularly off the lip of a jump.

There has also been a huge re-think of the shock’s damping, which has led to the new Dual Piston System design and the ditching of the Boost Valve system. Again, we’ll avoid teching you out too much here, and stick to what’s actually noticeable for the user.

While the external damping adjustments are the same (CTD lever, with three position Trail Adjust), the firmness of the lockout (or Climb mode) has been increased significantly. At the same time as making this setting firmer, the level of damping control provided once your blow through the lockout has also been improved. On Boost Valve shocks, there was often inadequate compression control once you’d pushed past the initial lockout platform, but this has been rectified. If, like many cross country racers, you like to run your shock in Climb mode a lot, this change will definitely be appreciated.

See the highlights from FOX below:


 FOX 34

ALL NEW 34 SERIES – for aggressive trail riders in a super lightweight package

New lightweight chassis

New FLOAT air spring

New FIT4 damper

•Ideal travel options: 120-140mm 

•Weight: 34 27.5 160mm = 1746 g / 3.85 lb 219g / .48lb less than MY15 – 34 29 140mm = 1769 g / 3.9 lb 297g / .65lb less than MY15


2016 FOX 2

FOX 32

32 SERIES – Lightweight XC Series

New FLOAT air spring

New FIT4 damper

•Ideal travel options: 80-100mm 

2016 FOX 1

FOX 34 27.5+

ALL NEW 34 27.5+ fork – built for larger tires and a sense of adventure

•Max tire size 3.25

Boost 15x110mm axle

New FLOAT air spring

New FIT4 damper

•Travel options: 120mm/140mm 

1af3cbbf-7a1d-43c0-a9d2-ad7e994e4b71

FOX 36

36 SERIES – Award-winning 36 lineup expanded

New FACTORY FIT4 damper and new 15QR axle option 

FACTORY FIT HSC/LSC (RC2) damper and convertible 15/20mm bolt-on axle option

Retains 36 FLOAT air spring with internal travel adjust via spacers

Updated RC2 damper tune and dual circuit rebound 

•Ideal travel options: 150-180mm 

2016 FOX 4

FOX 381

ALL NEW 36 831 – Designed for dual slalom and dirt jumping FACTORY FIT HSC/LSC (RC2) damper and convertible 15/20mm bolt-on axle option

Specific 36 831 FLOAT air spring

26” only

1-1/8” and 1.5 taper steer tube options

2016 FOX 3

FOX 40

40 SERIES – World Championship-winning design

New FLOAT air spring

Updated RC2 damper tune and dual circuit rebound 

Available in 27.5” and 26” 

2016 FOX 5

FOX Float DPS

ALL NEW FLOAT DPS – Our most capable inline shock ever

New full lockout and three on-the-fly settings: Open, Medium and Firm

New DPS damper 

New EVOL air sleeve option

FACTORY Series feature 3 clicks of low-speed compression adjust in the Open Mode.

2016 FOX 10

FOX Float X

FLOAT X – The Enduro World Series-winning Enduro and all-mountain shock

New EVOL air sleeve option

New damping tune with added compliance and control

FACTORY Series feature 3 clicks of low-speed compression adjust in the Open Mode.

2016 FOX 7

FOX Float X2

ALL NEW FLOAT X2 – Our highest performing air shock

New RVS technology for seamless damping transitions

New recirculating oil damper with independent high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping

•Main piston features two valves stacks that are reversible to change tune

2016 FOX 8

FOX Float DHX2

ALL NEW FLOAT DHX2 – World Championship- winning design

  • New RVS technology for seamless damping transitions
  • New recirculating oil damper with independent high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping
  • Main piston features two valves stacks that are reversible to change tune
  • New SLS (Super Lightweight Steel) spring option 

2016 FOX 6

 

Super Lightweight Steel (SLS) springs are lighter than titanium at more affordable prices

  • Proprietary surface treatment and stress relief process removes residual stresses from the spring, allowing them to withstand higher stresses
  • Each spring is optimize by using a smaller wire diameter and less coils, creating a lighter spring
  • Technology developed for highly stressed valve springs in drag racing cars
  • Fits all FOX coil shocks
  • Available in 25-pound increments
  • Sizes: 2.75” stoke – 300-550#, 3.0 stroke –300-525#, 3.5 stroke – 225-400#

Fresh Product: 2016 FOX Kabolt 15mm Axle

Working with our Racing Applications Development team, Geoff Kabush asked for a lighter, bolt-on axle that would allow for quick wheels changes during a race. The Kabolt was born and soon other FOX athletes – from enduro racers to slopestyle riders – were asking for it. 

Holding titles that range from X Games with Brett Rheeder to Cross-Country World Championships with Julien Absalon and Catharine Pendral, FOX’s RAD program has been supplying racers with Kabolts for several years. Now they will be available for all FOX forks with 15QR axles.

  • 15x100mm weight: 34.5g
  • 100mm version is 40g lighter than our 15QR (54% weight savings)
  • Available in 15x100mm and 15x110mm widths
  • Compatible with all FOX 15QR forks
  • Installs with a 6mm hex

The King is Back: FOX 36 Float RC2 Review

Fox 36 Float RC2 6
Retro graphics just add to the appeal.

FOX knew they had to hit back hard this year with the relaunch of the 36; since the arrival of the RockShox Pike 18 months ago, riders had been leaving FOX in droves, clamouring to get a Pike onto the front of their all-mountain/enduro rig. It was time to stop the rot!

The vehicle FOX chose to launch their counter attack is the venerable 36 series. While there were other long-travel, single-crown forks before the 36 was released almost 10 years ago, it was this massive 36mm-legged beast from FOX that showed what was truly possible. For years, the 36 series set the standard of performance, stiffness, tuneability and versatility, and the fork’s status became legendary and legions of hardcore riders still regarded it as the leading single-crown fork… until the Pike arrived.

It’s no surprise that FOX want to reclaim their crown, and after a few weeks of riding the 2015 36 RC2, we think the King of All-Mountain might be back to regain his throne. Read our first impression of the FOX 36 here. 


FOX have thrown a lot of firepower at the 2015 36, and it really is an entirely new fork. Or we should say forks, plural, because there are variants galore, in 26, 27.5 or 29” wheel sizes, with Float or TALAS (travel adjustable) options, and travel from 140-170mm. Our test fork is a 160mm-travel Float RC2.

Fox 36 Float RC2 12
The new crown is slimmer, for a shorter axle-to-crown length, but has more overlap with the stanchions. FOX claim that creaking crowns are a thing of the past.

An obvious standout is the huge reduction in weight; the 36 Float now weighs about the same as the FOX 34 series (2.04kg for our fork) fork and is within 200g of an equivalent Pike. Not only is it lighter, but it’s also lower, with a the new crown assembly offering a shorter crown-to-axle length, so you can run a longer travel fork, without bumping up the ride height.

Other immediately noticeable differences include the absence of FOX’s CTD damper system, with an RC2 damper taking its place. This is a very good call. The CTD damper has never really found favour with the more high-performance end of the all-mountain market, where many riders come from a downhill background. It was felt that the CTD system lacked damping subtlety and control, and FOX have never managed to shake the stigma of their 2013 forks which were noticeably under-damped for hard impacts, forcing many riders to run their fork in the ‘Climb’ setting on descents in order to prevent the fork from diving. The new RC2 damper has external control of both high and low-speed compression, via big blue knobs, identical to the setup on the FOX 40 downhill fork.

Fox 36 Float RC2 9
The RC2 damper has independent high and low-speed compressions adjustment and offers greatly superior, incremental control when compared to a CTD damper.

There’s no quick-release axle system, instead FOX have gone for maximum stiffness, with a dedicated bolt-up axle system that uses a 5mm Allen key to lock your wheel in tight. Again, this is a wise call we feel – the stiffness of the 36 was one aspect that made this fork legendary, and it makes sense to reinforce this advantage. Ok, taking your wheel out is a pain, but it’s a trade-off that we can live with. The axle system can cleverly take 15mm or 20mm hubs too, with reducers to accommodate either setup.

Fox 36 Float RC2 10
No quick releases here. The 36’s axle is a true bolt-up system, just like on the FOX 40 downhill fork. Note the protective cover for the rebound knob too.

Less obvious changes are highlighted by an all-new air spring assembly, and FOX has ditched the steel negative spring of earlier forks, using a self-equalising air spring for the negative chamber. This change plays a key role in reducing the fork’s weight, as well as improving the fork’s performance, especially for riders at either end of the rider weight spectrum.

Fox 36 Float RC2 2
Glamorous in gold. The Kashima treated stanchions are part of the battle against friction.

Reducing friction was seen as a key battleground, and FOX have gone all-out to make the 36 as slippery as possible. Externally, the Kashima coated legs are now polished using a different process that apparently traps more oil particles in microscopic pores in the aluminium. Internally, two completely different styles of oil are now used for lubrication and damping purposes; the new Gold Oil fluid used for lubricating the lower legs/sliders is claimed to be more slippery than a jail house soap bar. A new seal head on the damper cartridge with reduced friction completes the package.

But how does it bloody well ride? We fitted our 36 Float to our Norco Range C7.2 long-term test bike, where it replaced a Pike RC. We were tempted to run the FOX at 170mm, but for the sake of a direct comparison with the Pike, we went for 160mm instead.

Norco Range 7.1 First Bite-1
Our Norco Range C7.2 long-term test bike, in its original format with a RockShox Pike.

Getting the fork setup for our weight was aided by FOX’s new recommended pressure guides, which are found on their website. You simply punch in the four digit code that’s marked on the fork, and the site will bring up the manuals, setup guide and such for your exact fork. For our 62kg test rider, the site recommended 58psi, and the sag and spring curve this pressure delivered felt 100% spot-on! If you did want to change the fork’s feel, FOX now gives you the option of fitting air volume reducers (just like you can do with their rear shocks, a similar system to the RockShox Bottomless Tokens). We followed FOX’s recommended mid-range settings for the high/low-speed compression too, and got down to it.

The notion of a bed-in period seems to be non-existent with the new 36; the almost complete absence of friction that this fork exhibits from the very outset is just amazing. From the first 100 metres of our very first ride, you could have sworn this fork already had 10 hours of riding on it, so good is the small bump response. It’s so supple, the displaced air from a passing magpie could make it move. This fork is as close to frictionless as we’ve ever felt in a single-crown fork, and because the chassis is so stiff, there’s never any hint of binding or increased friction when you start asking the tough questions.

Fox 36 Float RC2 7
The 36 won’t accept a 160mm front rotor – it’s a 180mm direct mount.

It didn’t take long to appreciate the benefits of a true low-speed compression damping system, rather than the CTD damper, either. Whereas the CTD system feels like a trade-off between bump response and support, a few clicks of low-speed compression made a huge difference, keeping the 36 supported under brakes, without losing any of its ridiculous bump response.

But it’s when things are really rough and rowdy that the 36 does its best work. Occasionally you ride a product that completely changes the way you see or ride a trail, and the 36 is one such product. It gave us a feeling that we’d normally only associate with a very well setup downhill bike; a sensation of having more time to react, as if the trail was coming at you 20% slower, when you’re actually riding faster than ever before. The feeling was that our front tyre was glued to the ground, affording us more braking traction and cornering bite, and the roughness of the terrain just did not translate to the bars, leaving us more relaxed and feeling more fluid on the bike.

Fox 36 Float RC2 3
Can you see the dropout reducers? Remove these guys and you can run the 36 with a 20mm front hub.

On our Norco, already a super stiff bike, the addition of the 36 just took it to the next level. Line choice became as irrelevant as an election promise. This fork simply does not flinch! That feeling of spiking, or twanging or imprecision… all gone. Basically, if you have the guts and the strength (or the cleat tension) to just run into something, the 36 will encourage you to do it. It’s like there’s a group of teenagers sitting by the side of the trail, heckling you until you try something really stupid.

So, is the 36 a better fork than the Pike? For general trail riding, the Pike has the edge with both weight and it’s more user-friendly in terms of damping controls, plus it has the Maxle quick-release system. But if the focus is on the descents, then we’d have to say that we’re in awe of the FOX 36, and we think it’s the new leader in this arena. The stiffness, the completely amazing smoothness, the way it gobbles up hits from the smallest pebble to the nastiest ledge drop – all these things and more make us very fond of the new 36. Welcome back, FOX.

Fox 36 Float RC2 13

 

 

 

TESTED: Formula 35 fork

Getting your hands on a product with which you’ve had no previous experience is always enjoyable: will it open your eyes to a whole new product line, or it will reaffirm why you’ve generally stuck with an offering from the better known brands?

Formula 35 fork v2-10
Without any of the glittering finishes we’re accustomed to seeing on fork legs, the Formula 35 does look a little bland – the performance is anything but.

The Formula 35 is definitely one of those products. We didn’t even know that Formula made suspension forks! So it was with a little bit of excitement and a little bit of trepidation that we removed the FOX fork from our bike and fitted up the Formula 35 before heading to Mt Buller for three days at the Kona Bike Buller and then to Rotorua for five days of riding.

Our test fork was the 650B version, but Formula also make the 35 to suit 29ers.

Features and setup:

As we noted in our first impressions piece, it’s a very light fork, coming in at 1750g. This is a class leading figure, over 100g lighter than a FOX or RockShox with equivalent features. That alone is reason enough for many riders to give the Formula a go, but there’s much, much more to like about this fork. Part of the weight saving comes from the axle which does not have a quick-release function, requiring a 5mm Allen key for removal. Overall, the finish quality of the 35 is pretty good, though not quite in the same super slick league as FOX.

Formula 35 fork v2-5
You can actually get the Formula 35 with a quick release axle too, but the low weight and clean looks of the tooled axle are appealing.

The unique arrangement of damping adjusters on the right fork leg control the low-speed compression, lockout and lockout threshold adjustment, while rebound is at the bottom of the leg. For our riding, the only dials we touched were rebound and low-speed compression, both of which have a very usable range.

The fork’s air spring runs at a lower pressure than most, and for our scrawny 63kg rider just 53-55psi was all that was needed to provide the ideal sag and spring rate.

Formula 35 fork v2-4
We found the pressure guide to be quite accurate – the pressures required are far lower than many other forks.

Travel is adjustable internally, from 160mm down to 120mm; the fork is supplied with two 20mm spacers and two 10mm spacers, so you can add these in combination to select your desired travel. We fitted one 10mm spacer, bringing the fork down to 150mm which felt like a good fit for our Giant Trance Advanced SX test bike (140mm rear travel). The process is pretty easy, just pull the lower legs off, remove the air spring assembly and clip the plastic spacer onto the air spring rod. Refitting the coil spring onto its little retaining perch is the only fiddly element.

Formula 35 travel adjust-5
Plastic spacers clip onto the spring rod to reduce the travel from 160 – 120mm in 10mm increments.

Rather than standard fork oil, the Formula 35 is lubricated with Jagermeister. Ok, that’s not true – the fork’s splash oil and air-spring lubricant is actually a product called Ballistol, which smells like a herb-based liquor! We’d never seen this stuff before, and a bit of searching revealed that it’s usually used for lubricating gun mechanisms. Hopefully it’s easily sourced locally.

Formula 35 travel adjust-7
Smells like liquor, keeps things smooth. We’d probably prefer it if the fork just used regular fork oil though.

Ride:

To help overcome any initial friction in the fork’s stroke (as is sometimes associated with air springs) and to provide maximum small bump sensitivity, the 35 actually relies on a coil spring for the initial part of its travel. Coil-sprung forks are a bit of a rarity in this style of riding now, but by combining a coil with an air spring as well, the fork is able to deliver an ‘old school’ plushness while keeping the weight and tuneability benefits of an air spring.

The feel this configuration delivers is one of the defining characteristics of the fork – it has a very lively, responsive and plush feel in the beginning and mid-stroke. Over roots, loose rocks and repeated medium sized impacts, the fork chomps up the bumps. Or more accurately, we should say ‘slurps’, as you can hear the damping working away with every hit, making little sucking noises.

Formula 35 fork v2-1
Blue = low speed compression. Gold = lockout. Black = lockout threshold.

Occasionally there’s also a little bit of noise from the coil spring, a slight metallic clunk sound, particularly over hard repeated hits, but this doesn’t seem to be accompanied any decrease in performance.

Because of the very plush beginning stroke, there is a tendency for the fork to bob when climbing out of the saddle. More low-speed compression helps, but comes at the expense of that buttery smooth bump response. Like most fork lockouts, we found this feature of limited use; we dialled the lockout threshold right back to minimum and only used the lockout on the road.

Formula 35 fork v2-3
The hollowed out fork arch is fairly minimal and we did feel that the Formula was a fraction less direct and stiff than some of its competitors.

On our first couple of rides we found it quite difficult to use the last two centimetres of travel. A quick call to the distributor (Eighty One Spices) and we were advised to reduce the amount of oil we were running in the fork’s air spring chamber. Adding or reducing the oil volume that rests on top of the air piston allows users to tube the spring curve. Formula are also producing future versions of the fork with a slightly shorter air piston rod to deliver a more linear spring curve as standard. After removing a few mills of oil and dropping the pressure by two or three psi, we found the sweet spot.

This is a fork in which small setup changes can make a real difference, so be prepared to experiment for the first few rides. Once we had it all dialled in, the fork’s spring rate felt absolutely perfect, happily using the mid-stroke and ramping up neatly as it approached full travel. Checking the o-ring revealed we were getting full travel, but not once during testing did we feel the fork bottom out harshly.

On the whole, we’d rate the Formula’s sensitivity and spring curve as being as good as any other offering on the market. In fact, the only area in which we could mark the Formula down a smidgen is its performance on sudden, super-harsh impacts, such as launching into a corner full of braking bumps. In this instance, the fork seemed to make the rider work a little harder than with a Pike or FOX. This sensation didn’t feel like a damping spike, more a product of the fork’s lightweight construction sending a bit more lateral twist through to the bars. Hey, we’re being picky here!

Formula 35 fork v2-7

With around 50 hours of ride time on the fork so far, we have noticed a very small amount of oil seepage from the seals. It’s certainly not a blown seal (we’re talking a couple of millilitres here) but it’s enough to indicate that perhaps the seal tolerances are a little on the loose side in the name of reducing friction. Keeping up the regular oil changes and topping up the lubricating oil will be important in the long run to keep stiction at bay. As noted before, stripping down the fork requires an Allen key and 10 minutes of your time, so this kind of maintenance isn’t really a headache.

Overall:

We’ve got to say, we’re very impressed. We definitely didn’t expect this level of performance from a such small player in the suspension arena. The weight, the lively and plush ride quality and the ease of service/tuning are all big ticks for the Formula 35, and there are precious few negatives to complain about. It’s always nice to see a little bit of Italian exotica too.

Tested: RockShox Pike RCT3

Stiffer, slicker and shinier than a frozen porpoise, the new RockShox Pike had us frothing with delight only moments after a bounce and a boing around the workshop floor. How could just one fork make us so impressed?

 

We fitted the 26" Pike RCT3 to our Yeti SB66 long term test bike. A great fit, as it helps to realise the full potential of the aggressive riding nature of the frame, by leading the way into the trails with oodles of confidence.
We fitted the 26″ Pike RCT3 to our Yeti SB66 long term test bike. A great fit, as it helps to realise the full potential of the aggressive riding nature of the frame, by leading the way into the trails with oodles of confidence.

Well, you know that feeling when you lift your front wheel up into the air, let it come down hard and the front end of your bike goes ‘boinngggg’ with a little flex, a shudder and that jarring feeling in your wrists? That simply doesn’t happen with the Pike, we would slap the front wheel back to earth with careless brutality and all we got was a solid and composed thud as the impact is soaked into the blackness of the Pike with no negative twanging at all. We knew from then on, that this was going to be a good fork. Fitted to our Yeti SB66 Carbon, it took our riding to the next level of hard charging.

2
The heavily sculpted chassis is obvious to the eye. RockShox have trimmed material from where it isn’t needed, hence the unique shapes in the crowns and lower legs.

Options.

The name Pike isn’t new. For those that have been around for a while, the Pike was a popular 140mm fork with the big 20mm axle launched back in 2005 and was a winner for hard riding. Now it’s back, in black (or white) and re-designed from the ground up. You could say that this is RockShox’s answer to the venerable FOX 34 fork which has captured a lot of marketshare and spec in 2013 with its burly construction yet lightweight physique. The Pike is $200 cheaper and 100g lighter than the FOX 34 26″ variant, very impressive.

The Pike will be available in all three wheel size options 26”, 27.5” (650B) and 29”, and in variants of travel – 140mm (29er only), 150mm and 160mm – to suit the fast-growing realm of long travel and lightweight trail bikes that we especially love. It fills the gap between the RockShox Revelation and Lyric, aiming to keep weight low and rigidity high with a heavily sculpted chassis. Damper performance is given a boost to match the fork’s potential for hard riding, with the new Charger damper controlling the action – more about that below.

A wildly asymmetrical shaped fork, with more material on the braking side, and less on the spring side. Clever.
A wildly asymmetrical shaped fork, with more material on the braking side, and less on the spring side. Clever.

Construction.

The new Charger damper with Rapid Recovery is an all-new system found inside the Pike’s right leg. The Charger damper is a big step away from what we’ve seen from RockShox over the years with their Mission Control and Motion Control systems. The Charger Damper is a sealed unit, containing the damping oil inside a rubber bladder. With no air mixing in with the oil, a more consistent action is achieved, as its free from inconsistencies.

This is not necessarily a new design, just new for RockShox; FOX employ the bladder design in their FIT fork too and it’s also seen in the motocross suspension world. Some SRAM elite list Blackbox riders have also been spotted prototyping this damper in the BoXXer fork, so we can expect it to expand out to other models in the future.

Rapid Recovery is a rebound damping circuit that helps the fork to return to the top of the stroke as fast as possible to allow the soft and supple initial part of the stroke to be used more often, giving the fork its remarkably smooth feel. We definitely noticed how well the fork reacted through repetitive braking bumps for example, and resisted packing down in the bottom of the stroke well. 

One thing that impressed us a lot was the new Maxle Light axle, a far easier and simpler system for quick release wheel removal. We always felt the Maxle needed simplifying, and the new system takes the cake of any 15mm axle fork with its ease of use and ergonomics.

The black coating on the legs polarised many people we came across. Some were reminded of cheap Manitou forks of a few years ago, some thought it looked great. We love it, and fitted to a black bike, they look hot. It’s only an anodised coating though, not like super slippery SRAM Blackbox forks that Sam Hill and company ride. That coating is for slick performance, not looks, but at this stage it’s too expensive for production.

The Pike uses beefy 35mm diameter legs, like the BoXXer downhill fork. You will find 32mm legs on the SID, REBA and Revelation etc.

Two air spring Pikes are available, the Solo Air which is featured here, or the Dual Position Solo Air. The Dual Position gives 30mm of adjustability, to help climbing by lowering the height of the front end of the bike when inclines get steep.  The Solo Air fork is also supplied with a pair of red plastic spacers named ‘Bottomless Tokens’ that are for installing into the air chamber (a very simple process) which reduces the size of air volume for a more progressive feel. We didn’t feel the need to use them.

Though most of our testing was conducted on a 26″ bike, We have also ridden the Pike on 29ers, including the long travel Specialized Enduro with the Pike at 150mm travel. Even with the longer legs of the 29er fork, it felt very precise when steered through rough trails.

The three stage adjustment 'open-pedal-lock' is spot on, and a range of slow speed compression adjustment is there for fine tuning in the 'open' mode.
The three stage adjustment ‘open-pedal-lock’ is spot on, and a range of slow speed compression adjustment is there for fine tuning in the ‘open’ mode.

RCT3 stands for rebound, compression and threshold. Or as RockShox put is Open, Pedal, Lock and is adjusted via the big switch on top of the right leg. The little dial in the middle is the low speed compression, which effect the forks reaction to pedalling, braking and slow compression forces. We dialled it in a third of the way, and were happy with the way it helped counteract the fork from bobbing when sprinting hard out of the saddle.

The new Maxle Light - a blissfully ergonomic and simple system. Flip open and wind out, that's all.
The new Maxle Light – a blissfully ergonomic and simple 15mm axle quick release system. Flip open and wind out, that’s all.

Riding.

Off the top the suspension stroke of the Pike feels remarkably soft and supple, far more so than the RockShox Revelation we tested recently. The new seals, with only one lip not two, and a slotted bushing system in place of the solid bushes, allows for more oil to move up and around the internals to keep things moist and slippery.

To date, our best experience aboard the Pike was at the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro at Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra. Race day came and it was time to really let the brakes off and push hard through the turns to try and beat our mates. There was one long right hand corner with particularly rough braking bumps leading into it that made both hanging on very hard, and the use of brakes tricky as the tyres just skip about wildly. The natural reaction would be to wash off speed and take it easy through the turn to avoid a total wipeout, but there was racing to be done and we hit the turn hard and fast. We did the opposite, we pushed the front of the Yeti right into the bumps and let the brakes off. The fork resisted packing up, and was noticeably active through each individual braking bump, allowing the tyre to track along fine. We came out the other side astonished at how well the fork dealt with what would typically be too much to handle.

The Pike offers phenomenal support when deep into its travel, we never felt like we were diving through to the lower part of the stroke unnecessarily and it had a very positive impact on our riding style. We began lining up rocky or rutted trails and hitting them hard, pushing the fork into them with reckless abandon, simply to see how well it handled it. We found ourselves booting off water bars excessively high, and landing hard on purpose, relishing in our new favourite forks hit-soaking ability. It felt like we were riding a fork of much more travel, it felt like we were riding a BoXXer.

Sag indicators and a recommended pressure chart make for simple setup, especially the sag guide and little red rubber band.
Sag indicators and a recommended pressure chart make for simple setup, especially the sag guide and little red rubber band.

Verdict.

We’d go as far as saying that the new Pike is RockShox’s finest long travel fork yet and the new technologies that they have applied are clearly working in their favour. It’s so very smooth and supple, stiff and precise, adjustable and ergonomic. The weight is impressive, lighter than the FOX 34, the we think the shiny black legs look hot to trot.

This would be the most amazing upgrade to your bike, or keep an eye out for the Pike specced on bikes in the upcoming season. It really is a killer fork, lifting your speed and control in the roughest trails.

This is going to be one very desirable product.

Fresh: RockShox Announces The New SID and Revelation

The new RockShox SID and Revelation retain all the character, which made them two of the most successful XC and Trail forks ever, while enhancing control and comfort for all riders.

SID XX 29QR

Both are now available in 26”, 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes to serve all mountain bikers. SID is the most successful XC racing fork ever, with a tally of Olympic, World and World Cup titles too long to mention, available in travels from 80 to 120mm. Revelation combines the best of RockShox engineering to provide a trail fork from 120 to 150mm of travel with record breaking weight. Both SID and Revelation feature the Motion Control DNA damper, which has been reworked and updated to deliver the best performance on the trail.

Revelation RCT3

DIG VALVE: THE TRAIL SPECIALIST

The Dig Valve is the name of the latest addition to the damping circuit on both SID and Revelation. RockShox has re-designed the rebound piston to accommodate the Dig Valve, which provides the optimal level of control for both low and high speed compression, carefully controlling the oil flow to provide the rider with the right amount of support and impact absorption. The piston redesign allows the use of Rapid Recovery, a rebound tune that allows the shock to recover faster between consecutive bumps, for greater traction and a more controlled ride.

MOTION CONTROL DNA

Motion Control DNA is available exclusively on SID and Revelation, in four models tailored for each individual riding style:

XX – Designed for riders looking for more efficiency. The XX Motion Control DNA damper features RockShox’s XLoc hydraulic remote lockout for the lightest, most ergonomic go-fast solution.

RCT3 – Designed for riders looking for more bump gobbling performance. The new RCT3 damper features three distinct knob positions – Open (with low speed compression adjust.), Threshold and Lock.

RLT – Designed for riders who are looking for more stable ride. Featuring the adjustments of Motion Control – compression-to-lock with adjustable threshold.

RL – For riders looking for a more simple approach to suspension set up. The Motion Control DNA spring tube and refined Dual Flow rebound mated to compression-to-lock adjustability with a factory set threshold.

Click on me to make me bigger.

 

FOX Releases 2014 All-Mountain Suspension

FOX introduces an updated 34 TALAS fork and completely new FLOAT X air shock.

FOX—the industry-leading ride dynamics company—has announced the release of two 2014 all-mountain products with the 34 TALAS CTD 160 fork and FLOAT X CTD shock.

The FOX 34 and the FLOAT X

The 34 TALAS

The 34 TALAS features a completely redesigned TALAS travel adjust system and the FLOAT X is a new reservoir air shock platform.

The 34 TALAS fork has key design changes that translate to smoother travel and improved handling. The updated CTD tune provides more damping support in each mode for better efficiency and control.
The TALAS system uses an air spring design similar to FLOAT, giving it superior bump compliance for more comfort and traction on the trail.
Mated to the air spring is a hydraulic travel adjuster that provides quick, crisp travel changes between 160mm and 130mm. All 2014 TALAS forks use the new travel adjust system.

The FLOAT X CTD

The performance advantages of the FLOAT X’s reservoir design make it ideal for aggressive all-mountain riding. The increased oil volume and dual piston damping system produce an incredibly responsive ride while maintaining a consistent feel through rugged terrain.
The base valve on the reservoir gives the Climb, Trail and Descend modes a wide adjustment range to perfectly match trail conditions.

Specifications

FOX FACTORY 34 TALAS CTD w/ Trail Adjust 160

  •   New TALAS travel adjuster
  •   160mm/130mm travel range
  •   3 on-the-fly settings with Climb/Trail/Descend
  •   Trail Adjust tuning range (1, 2, 3)
  •   Air spring pressure
  •   Rebound
  •   15QR thru axle
  •   26” and 27.5” wheel options
  •   4.33 lbs. / 1,964 g (26”)

FOX FACTORY FLOAT X CTD w/ Trail Adjust

  •   New reservoir air shock platform
  •   3 on-the-fly settings with Climb/Trail/Descend
  •   Trail Adjust tuning range (1, 2, 3)
  •   Air spring pressure
  •   Rebound
  •   Low friction hardware
  •   Remote option
  •   0.8 lbs. / 365 g (8.5 x 2.5, no hardware)

Air-sprung FOX 40 revealed!

 FOX—the industry-leading ride dynamics company—has announced the release of two 2014 gravity offerings with the 40 FLOAT RC2 and DHX RC4. The 40 utilises an air spring and lightweight chassis and the DHX RC4 offers improved damping circuits and new adjustments.

 

Taking a clean slate approach and two years of development through FOX’s RAD (Race Applications Development) program, the 2014 40 FLOAT RC2 features a completely redesigned chassis and FLOAT air spring, dropping over a pound of weight from the previous model. The new chassis has the same strength as the previous design but all of the major components—the lower legs, crowns and upper tubes—have been optimized to lower the fork weight to 5.98 pounds (2711g). The FLOAT air spring is not only lighter than a coil system, it also offers incremental spring tuning and the addition of an adjustable compression ratio to modify the progressiveness of the spring curve.

The 2014 DHX RC4 borrows technology used in FOX’s Podium motorcycle shock. The damping loads between the main piston and reservoir piston are balanced to provide a more sensitive feel and better responsiveness to direction change. In addition, the shaft diameter has been decreased to ½”, which decreases friction and increases traction.

If you’re after more technical detail, Fox have assembled a comprehensive rundown. Read it all here.

Lefty Conversion – The Results

You may recall a little while ago that Flow posted a special “how-to” on converting your standard forks to Cannondale Lefty.  Some loved the idea and have been asking how it all went.

Did it make out bike handle better or worse?  Was it even noticeable?  Did it changed the geometry too much?  Was it worth it?

Now we bring you part two of that video – the results to answer all those questions. Check out this Flow video to see how we think the conversion changed our BMC test bike.

[SV_VIMEO id=”53913596″]