First Impressions: FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik

The FOX 36 changed the game forever, bringing performance and stiffness that rivalled many downhill forks to a single-crown package. With its then jaw-dropping 36mm stanchions it was unlike anything else on the market. Over a decade later, the 36mm legs remain – it really was leagues ahead of its time. We reviewed the 2015 version of this fork too – have a look here. We’ve got the top-shelf Factory version here, all glossy and lustrous with its Kashima coat legs.

The RockShox Lyrik is a relative new comer. It’s a direct evolution of RockShox Pike, which itself has proven the second most influential single-fork in this market segment, after the FOX 36. It shares the same 35mm stanchions and damper as the Pike, it has a more robust chassis to give it the kind of stiffness demanded by the Enduro market now. We reviewed the 2016 version recently and we were blown away by the way it chewed up terrain like a full-on downhill fork. Our test fork is the premium RCT3 model.

We’ve going to be running these forks on our Commencal Meta AM 4.2 long-term test bike – we’ve got them both in a 170mm travel version, with Boost hub spacing. On paper there’s very little between these forks. Let’s take a look at them now.


FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik:

Chassis and appearance:

With its 36mm legs and characteristically girthy lowers that have always been an attribute of the 36, the FOX definitely looks like the beefier fork, ready for a pounding. The Lyrik is a little more svelte. Black is a slimming colour of course, and the Maxle Stealth axle and lower profile rebound adjuster give it a cleaner looks than the FOX.

Axles:

Our Lyrik has the Maxle Stealth axle setup. It requires a 6mm Allen key, but looks super slick and won’t snag up on rocks. You’ll notice the large axle recesses on the Lyrik – these are for Torque Cap hubs, made by SRAM, which have a larger interface between the fork and hub. The FOX runs their QR15 axle setup, for neat tool-free wheel removal.

Weight:

There’s sweet FA difference here. With the steerers both cut to 185mm and with a star nut installed, the Lyrik weighs in at 1998g, while the 36 is 2027g.

Dampers:

Both forks’ dampers offer essentially the same adjustments. The FIT4 damper found in the FOX has a three position compression dial (open, medium or firm) along with low-speed compression adjustment that only effects the fork when it’s in the Open compression setting.  The Lyrik’s RTC3 damper mirrors the FOX – you’ve got three compressions modes, again with low-speed compression adjustment.

Air spring:

FOX has just introduced the EVOL air spring concept (previously found in their rear shocks) into their forks for 2018. There’s a larger negative air spring than previous generations, which makes for more sensitivity and less breakaway friction. The DebonAir air spring in the Lyrik purports to do the same thing – smooth off the top, more ramp at the end stroke.

To assist setup, both forks have a recommended pressure guide on the lowers, to give you a ball park air pressure to work with. The sag gradients marked on the Lyrik’s leg are super useful in this regard too.

In addition, both forks offer you spring curve adjustment via a token system – adding or removing spacers physically changes the air volume. We’ll begin testing both forks with two spacers/tokens in each as a starting point.

Axle to crown: 

While both of these forks have 170mm travel, the FOX has a slightly longer axle-to-crown measurement of 570mm vs 560mm on the RockShox. Something to keep in mind if you’re particular about stack height. Ok, enough waffle. Let’s get these onto the bike!

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!

Tested: DVO Diamond

The new kids on the block are off to a running start, DVO have successfully done the un-thinkable – taken on RockShox and FOX and delivered products that do a whole lot more that just hold their own in the most hotly contested realm of mountain bike parts, suspension.

DVO are a new Californian suspension company with seriously experienced and credentialed staff, their fresh approach to mountain bike suspension is really turning heads. After what seemed like an age of prototyping, their first product was released, the wildly desirable inverted downhill fork – the Emerald. DVO began with the downhill fork, sending a message to the MTB world that they are cutting their teeth in the Formula One of mountain bike racing; downhill racing. Their Jade coil-sprung rear shock and Diamond (someone there must love geology) single crown fork would then follow, released to eager hoards of suspension-savvy folks.

Brisbane-based suspension sales and servicing and custom tuning experts NSDynamics have picked up Australian distribution for DVO, a fitting relationship no doubt.

DVO Diamond-9
The trademark colours of DVO – vibrant metallic green. Don’t worry, they also come in black.
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On the front of our Trek Remedy 27.5 9.8 in Derby, TAS.

On test we have the Diamond, the single crown enduro fork, travel is internally adjustable between 140-160mm, has 35mm diameter legs and a 15mm QR axle. The air sprung fork can be externally tuned easily in five ways, testament to the dedicated focus from DVO to offer professional level tuning at consumer level.

We chose the 150mm version for 27.5″ wheels, fitted it to our super-sweet Trek Remedy 27.5 9.8 and gave ’em hell.

DVO Diamond guard-5

[divider]Diamond Details[/divider]

– 27.5″ and 29″ wheel options.

– Black or green colour option (phew!).

– 15mm QR axle.

– Custom mudguard fender included.

– Air spring.

– Closed cartridge bladder system.

– On the fly low speed compression adjustment.

– High speed compression adjustment.

– OTT ‘off the top’ negative spring adjustment.

DVO Diamond-4
O.T.T. Sensitivity adjustment on the underside of the leg, unique to DVO.

[divider]Setup.[/divider]

Setting up the fork was super easy, and for the purpose of this review we followed each step of the online setup guides from the DVO website. With the recommended air pressure, rebound and compression settings done by the book we were very happy with the outcome. The base settings were ideal and made for a perfect starting point for fine tuning either side to our liking.

Each little adjustment you make is clearly noticeable, this is one fork that rewards the keen tuner. With a bit of trial and error it’s easy to find what works best, and if you have a good grasp of suspension fundamentals you can both benefit from and enjoy the process the excellent adjustments offer.

Once you have a good idea of how the fork feels out on the trail, you could take the setup even further and more technical with extra customising of the fork’s internals with assistance online. The DVO website is stacked with videos, step-by-step tutorials and it’s provided in a way that is all very clear to get your head around.

DVO Diamond-7
High and low speed compression adjustment on top of the right leg.

O.T.T. It’s this O.T.T. ‘off the top’ adjustment that sets the DVO Diamond apart from the overwhelming duopoly of RockShox and FOX. Especially handy for heavier riders, the O.T.T. is the allen key dial under the left side of the leg that will allow you to tune the ride height and sag via the negative air spring. Dialling it in will increase the softness and suppleness of the initial portion of the travel.

Typically with forks we use most the negative air spring would be factory set, and not adjustable like this. But be sure to have an understanding of what is going on with the O.T.T. adjustment, too much or too little will mess with the fork’s height.

DVO Diamond-18

We’ve become very familiar with the ‘token’ system used in the RockShox Pike and Fox 34 and 36 forks we’ve been using. The simple process of adding and removing plastic spacers from inside the fork to tune the progressiveness of the air spring has been widely accepted and understood, in the case of the DVO Diamond you can still do this, but it’s back to the old school way of adding a certain volume of oil to the air chamber.

That said, we were happy enough with how the air spring rate felt to not want to tweak air spring volumes. It’s aimed at the enduro crowd and is meant to be ridden hard and DVO seem to have nailed the right curves with this one.

[divider]Let’s ride.[/divider]

Let’s cut to the chase, these forks are bloody great.

We all know what a really nice fork feels like to push on and the Diamond’s are next level, their supremely supple action will provoke and endless quantity of ooohs and aaahs from anyone who asks to cop a feel. Straight out of the box, our experiences were always very positive, right until the day we reluctantly sent them back.

In a perfect world a good suspension fork should reduce fatigue (especially in the hands), maintain front wheel traction, break down harsh hits, resist wallowing or diving under brakes, ride high in its travel and recover from big impacts without rebounding uncontrollably.

Well, the Diamond gets top marks in all grades.

We were most impressed by the way the Diamond does such a magnificent job of being ultra-supple and sensitive, whilst remaining perfectly supportive. For instance you could be riding hard out of the saddle, really leaning over the bars with the forks compressed deep into its travel through a corner and it will still react rapidly to extra impacts. The damping feels incredibly effective.

DVO Diamond guard-2

Or you could be charging up a trail toward a set of rock ledges and the moment the front wheel makes contact it’s like the forks are ready for it, immediately absorbing the impact without a moment of stiction, binding or hesitation. When a fork can do this so well, less shock is transferred to your hands and your momentum is less interrupted by the terrain on the trail, keeping you up to speed without having to work hard for it.

With this fork on our bike we were riding our regular trails faster than before.

With a quick flick of the slow speed compression dial the fork will ride higher and resists any slow speed actions that you would deliver, like pedalling or lunging around over the bars during a climb. It took us a while to get right though, as it turns in the opposite direction to all forks we’ve had time on.

On the harder descents the Diamond really comes into its own. The chassis stiffness is ideal, not too stiff but never feeling flexy. With the fork feeling so sensitive we found ourselves cornering harder with increased confidence, it works so hard at keeping the front wheel in contact with the ground that the traction on hand is amazing.

Holding your line on off-camber and rocky surfaces was a snack with so much traction and control.

Flow-Nation-Derby-2015-152
Green room – Derby, Tasmania.

During our testing we learnt not to set up the Diamond like we would with a RockShox or FOX fork, it just didn’t work that way as they are really quite different. Our DVO fork – once setup how we liked – felt quite a lot softer than the others, but on the trail the damping would prevent it from bottoming out like we may have expected.

Same goes with the slow speed compression, a little bit goes a long way in reducing unwanted bobbing or diving.

DVO Diamond-3

DVO Diamond-12

[divider]Verdict.[/divider]

The Diamond certainly does live up to the hype. It’s a really impressive product that will reward a keen rider’s attention to tuning.

The way it reacts to impacts so effortlessly and rapidly will surely make you ride very fast with maintained momentum, and you’ll most certainly be able to hold your line on rough terrain very well.

So, is the Diamond better than a RockShox or a Fox fork? Tough question, during our test we did have an issue with the damper (a knocking feedback, rectified by a just a dab of grease, and the O.T.T. dial went a bit stiff on us) that was swiftly rectified by the guys at NSDynamics, and we had it back in a couple days. But otherwise our experiences were overwhelmingly positive.

They are really quite good value, albeit a little heavy.

We’d say that the Diamond we tested felt better than any stock fork we’ve ever ridden, but when compared to a perfectly maintained and meticulously adjusted fork from either RockShox or FOX it’s splitting hairs to differentiate.

Investing in a DVO Diamond for your bike is a seriously good idea, we’d buy one.

Flow’s First Bite: 2016 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5

The best travel companions are fun, interesting and relaxed. But when it comes to bikes and not people to travel with it pays to be light, smooth and versatile, right?

It’s our pleasure to introduce to you our new Pine Lime Express – the 2016 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5.

The second half of our Flow Nation fleet that joins the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5, this 140mm travel carbon beauty is winning us over already after one week of enthusiastic ‘new bike frothing’ riding. We’ll be throwing this on the back of the car, and packing it in a box to fly and drive around as we feature our next season of must ride destinations.

Check out our Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 first impressions here: Flow’s First Bite: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5.

We’ll be putting in a lot of miles on this rig, and it’ll be used to test a lot of parts but in the meantime let’s take a look at how it came out of the box.

Trek Remedy  26
Remedy 9.8 27.5 for $6099.

Where does it fit in? With 140mm travel and fairly modest geometry, the Remedy sits just below the realm of the super-slack ‘enduro race bike’. It’s aimed to be ridden hard, but also isn’t going to shy away from flatter terrain, so to put the Remedy in a category we’d call it a big all-mountain bike.

There’s a near mirror of this bike with 29″ wheels available, same price, nearly the same spec just with 29″ wheels. We went 27.5″ for the fun of it, sure the 29″ may be faster but we’re not racing anyone.

It’s a well thought out bike, with nice features like a thinner rear tyre for less weight and faster rolling, the Mino Link little reversible chip in the rocker arm for geometry adjustment and frame protection underneath the down tube an on the sides of the seat stays.

Trek Remedy  2

Trek Remedy  4

FOX and Shimano. It’s a FOX and Shimano show here (with a RockShox Reverb seatpost sneaking in there) and the new 11-speed Shimano XT gives the Remedy an enormous range of gears, via the new wide range cassette and double chainring setup. We can’t sing louder praise for this new groupset, hear our thoughts in our full review here: Shimano M8000 11-speed tested. 

The new XT is closer in performance to the premium Shimano XTR stuff than ever before, the brakes are so dialled and light under the finger and shifting is even more precise and solid to engage gears.

It does have a double chainring and front derailleur, we’ll be swapping to a single ring as we like the neater and less cluttered loop

A FOX 36 fork is not exactly a common sight on a bike of this travel amount, typically reserved for bigger 150mm+ bikes the big legged 36mm diameter legs look huge on the front of this bike and sitting down at 140mm travel its going to be amazingly stout when ploughed into rocks, woohooo! We reviewed the older version of the FOX 36 at 160mm on the front of a Norco Range, check that review out here. FOX 36 review. But with the new FIT 4 damper and a regular 15mm quick release axle, the new version is more user friendly and feels extra supple.

RE:aktiv: Out the back the FOX rear shock uses Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv with a 3-position damper. But the DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) dual air spring system has gone from the 2016 range due to the new FOX EVOL large volume air can giving the bike its targeted spring rate curves and suppleness.

We’ve ridden the RE:aktiv damper a few times, and it sure does remain active and supple whilst in trail and climb mode, breaking away the instant a bump hits the rear wheel. We find ourselves riding in the middle rear shock setting a lot, which keeps the shock riding high in its travel and with less wallowing, but thanks to the fancy damper it still takes a hit without spiking harshly.

Trek Remedy  10
The FOX/Trek RE:aktiv damper keeps things firm yet sensitive.
Trek Remedy  22
Chunky legs up front! A FOX 36 fork at only 140mm.

The other bits. Bontrager make up the majority of the cockpit components and the tyres. A big 2.4″ XR4 up front is a great sight, we’ve been huge fans of this exact tyre for a couple years now, the big volume and tacky tread wins us over every corner.

You could dress it up, or down. The Remedy is the bike we want for exploring new trails, it blurs the lines between an all-round trail bike and a hard hitting enduro machine with the ability to go either side really well.

If only the Remedy was available from their cool Project One custom paint job and spec program, this is a bike that we’d love to have as our own but we’d probably just select this colour and build with Shimano XTR Di2 anyhow… Did we say Di2? Stay tuned.

Demo a FOX Fork At a Bike Shop Near You

FOX Racing Shox Australia announce a nation-wide demo program in partnership with key retail stores.

To try out the latest FOX forks, contact any of the stores below for availability and conditions.

Atelier de Velo, Sydney NSW www.atelierdevelo.com   [email protected]

Ashgrove Cycles, Ashgrove, QLD 4060  www.ashgrovecycles.com [email protected]

Bicycle Centre Ballarat, VIC  www.bicyclecentreballarat.com.au  [email protected]

Bike Now,  South Melbourne VIC  www.bikenow.com.au  [email protected]

Edge Cycleworks, QLD www.edgecycleworks.com.au  [email protected]

Jonny Sprockets, Toowoomba City  QLD www.jonnysprockets.com.au [email protected]

Le Spit Cycles,  Mosman Junction, NSW www.lespitcyclery.bikeit.com.au   [email protected]

image003Mitcham Cycles. Kingswood, SA  www.mitchamcycles.com.au  [email protected]

NRG Cycles, Jindalee, QLD   nrgcycles.com.au  [email protected]

S&J Cycles, Morwell, VIC  www.sjcycles.com.au  [email protected]

Sealys Cycles, Mornington, VIC sealyscycles.com.au

TBSM Australia, Mortdale, NSW tbsm.com.au   [email protected]

The Ride Cycles, East Kew, VIC theridecycles.com  [email protected]

Up Front Bikes, O’Halloran Hill, SA www.upfrontbikes.com  [email protected]

Yarra Valley Cycles, Lilydale, VIC  www.yarravalleycycles.com  [email protected]

The Spin Doc, Bardon, QLD  www.thespindoc.com.au  [email protected]

Cannon Shock Works,  Clareville, NSW  [email protected]

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

 

 

 

Long-term test update: Norco Range 7.2

While Sydney has been doing its finest Scottish Highlands impression this past month, with more rain than The Weather Girls, we couldn’t ignore the urge to get to know our Norco Range 7.2 a little better. As you can see, we’ve even found time to make a couple of tweaks to this glorious machine. Read on for the first instalment of our long term test.

As we commented in our First Bite initial impressions piece, it’s uncommon to find a bike this battle-ready off the shelf. Normally we find at least a couple of items to fiddle with before hitting the trails (for example, stem length, tyres or chain ring size), but this was not the case with the Range. Converting the wheels for tubeless is the only must-do before rolling out the door. The Alex rims do say they’re tubeless ready, but this is pretty misleading, as all the label really means is that they can be run tubeless if you fit an appropriate kit. While the bike regrettably isn’t supplied with a tubeless kit, we were able to successfully seal it all up with Stan’s No Tubes tape/valves/sealant. The Maxxis High Roller II tyres are tubeless ready, so it all snapped into place and held air perfectly.

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Oops! First ride too!

Getting the suspension dialled was step number two, which is made easy thanks to a pressure guide on the Pike RC fork and sag indicators on the Monarch Plus shock.

We’ve been running 65psi in the fork, which is right on the recommended pressure. We’ve had great experience in the past with the Pike’s Bottomless Token system, which alters the progressiveness of the fork, so we’ll be trying out lower pressures and adding a Token or two to see how this changes the ride. In the meantime, we’ve also just received the new FOX 36 to test, so we’ve duly fitted it up and we’ll be taking it out for it its maiden voyage next week. The 36 is 170g heavier than the Pike, but it looks sweeter than an Iced Vovo and we’re dying to ride it. You can read all about our first impressions here.

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Off goes the Pike, on goes the FOX 36.

At present we’re running around 167psi in the Monarch Plus rear shock, for just over 25% sag. We’ll experiment with slightly lower pressures too, as we’re yet to hit full travel with the current settings. We had initially thought that the Monarch could be a weak point in the bike’s performance, but that idea soon went out the window. The 2015 Monarch Plus is far and away the smoothest, most responsive rear air shock we’ve experienced from Rockshox – finally they have an trail/all-mountain shock that can match the performance on the Pike. We just hope it stays this good in the long-term.

 

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Unfortunately we damaged the rear brake line, right where the line joins into the banjo fitting.

Unfortunately our first outing resulted in not one, but two mechanicals, the blame for which lies squarely at our feet. First, we collected a stick that had the audacity to be tougher than it looked, and we snapped out a spoke in the rear wheel. On the same outing, we also damaged the rear brake line. In our build process, we didn’t leave enough slack in the rear brake line to account for large degree of rotation at the bike’s dropout pivot. As such, on a large impact, the line has been pulled too tight and developed a small rupture right at the point where the line enters the caliper banjo fitting. Arguably, the line shouldn’t have suffered this damage, but it was yet another reminder for us to always check a bike’s brake/cable lines through the full range of suspension movement. Lucky for us, we’ve just recently received a set of SRAM Guide RSC brakes to review, so we’ve fitted them for the interim until we get a chance to put a new line on the original brake. Because the Range uses an internally routed rear brake line, fitting a new brake was a little more involved, but at least the ports for routing the line are of a decent size so threading the line isn’t as hard as some.

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The rear brake line is internally routed, which made replacing the rear brake a bit more involved.

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While the original rear wheel is out of action, we’ve fitted the bike with a set of beautiful carbon SRAM Roam 60 wheels which we have previously reviewed. They’re far lighter than the original wheels (by some 400g!) and they’re stiff as a frozen fish finger. With the weight saved on the wheels, and the weight added with the FOX fork, the Range now weighs in at 13.4kg including a set of Time ATAC MX4 pedals.

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We’ll report back next month with a bit more information about how the Range rides, once we’ve had a chance to get it onto a wider variety of trails.

 

Video: Lars Sternberg gets his braaaap on!

This is a vid for any of you out there who’ve made motorbike noises while you’re on the trails! Lars Sternberg rips apart some slippery, rooty, loamy wündertrails with his new FOX 36 leading the way.

We’re not sure where these trails are (maybe Washington state?) but, man, get us there. They remind us a lot of the trails in this vid with Luke Strobel too.