Tested: SD Components Dynamic Volume Chamber

What is the SD Components DVC?

The SD Components DVC is an Australian designed and made piece of kit, designed to improve the performance of your fork by giving you more control over the spring curve. At present, it’ll fit RockShox Pike, Lyrik, BoXXer and 2018 Revelation forks, along with the FOX 36 too.

It replaces the token/spacer system found in the forks listed above with a sealed, secondary air chamber, the pressure of which can be adjusted externally with a shock pump.

Fitting it is as simple as unthreading the old top cap, and threading in the DVC using the supplied laser-cut stainless steel tool. You adjust the main air spring via the valve number 1, while valve number 2 controls the progressivity.

Remove the old top cap, pop in the DVC. Easy!

What’s the idea here?

You’re likely familiar with the token or spacer system found in most new RockShox and FOX forks, where adding or removing spacers changes the fork’s air spring volume and therefore its progressiveness. The DVC takes this to another level, allowing you to make precise tweaks to the spring curve.

The DVC comes with a neat stainless steel pin spanner to install the kit.

The DVC isn’t just about providing ease of adjustment – it provides more flexibility over the fork’s performance, allowing greater independent control over the beginning and end-stroke.

The pressure in the main air chamber dictates the fork’s sag and the performance for the first half of the stroke, the pressure in the second chamber controls the level of mid-stroke support and the bottom-out resistance. Fine tuning the pressures of the two chambers allows you to really alter the fork’s feel.

One valve for the main air chamber, one for the secondary.

Why is it superior to a spacer system?

With a spacer system, you’re physically changing the volume of the main air spring, and as such any spacer changes, therefore, do necessarily have an impact on the fork’s initial bump performance. It’s a fairly rudimentary system really.

The Bottomless Tokens look pretty basic in comparison.

With the DVC, the volume of the main air spring is not impacted, no matter what pressure you have in the second air chamber. The second chamber only comes into play once an impact causes the pressure in the main air spring to exceed the pressure in the secondary chamber. As such, you’ve got genuinely independent control over these two aspects of the fork’s performance (beginning and end-stroke).

What did you fit it to?

We ran the DVC in a 170mm-travel RockShox Lyrik on the front of our Commencal Meta AM test bike. There was about a 20g weight penalty compared to the original Lyrik top cap with two Bottomless Tokens fitted.

One point worth noting is that the two valves are pretty prominent. On our bike, there were no clearance issues between the valves and the down tube, but on some bikes, with chunky, straight down tubes (like the new Treks) this could potentially be an issue.

How did it go?

Superb. Over the course of a few rides, we made fine adjustments, experimenting with small changes to the two chambers till we hit the sweet spot we liked. We wanted to maximise traction, so for a 65kg rider, we ended up with a main air spring pressure of only 43psi and with a touch over 80psi in the secondary chamber.

This netted a ridiculously smooth initial stroke, but with great support and bottom out resistance. With such a low pressure in the main air spring, the small bump performance was brilliant, giving a notably grippier front end in loose conditions.

If we’d wanted a stiffer mid-stroke, we could add a little pressure to the main air chamber. If a more linear feel was what we were after, dropping a few psi out of the second chamber would be the answer. We can see how useful this item would be for really heavy or very lightweight riders too, people who often struggle to get the setup they’re after.

So is it worth investing?

At $260, the DVC is not a cheap item, especially considering the stock RockShox/FOX volume spacer system works pretty effectively as it stands. The other consideration is that most people will find a fork setup that works for them and then rarely vary it.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of people out there who love to tweak, twiddle and fiddle, trying to get the absolute best out of their suspension, and the DVC definitely makes this process both easier and more precise. Enduro or downhill racers who are looking for the edge and who find themselves faced with changing conditions will certainly fall into this category.

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’s New Shock, the DPX2

Easily accessed adjusters.

This shock is aiming to combine the user friendly three-position compression adjustment of the DPS shock with the low-pressure damper design found the Float x2, a shock that has excellent damping control but which lacks truly relevant on-the-fly adjustability.

Performance series DPX2 shocks will get the usual Open, Medium and Firm damping mode, while the Factory version also scores 10-click compression adjustment of the Open mode for more precise tuning.

The shorter reservoir should help clear water bottles in tight frames.

Compared to the Float X, the dimensions of the top eyelet are smaller and the reservoir a little shorter, which should help it clear water bottles in tighter frames, a common issue when trying to squeeze a piggy-back shock in. The adjusters, particularly the rebound adjuster, are much easier to access too (tuning the rebound was a nightmare on the Float X).

The latest iteration of the EVOL air can.

We absolutely loved the performance of the DPS shock and the new EVOL air can when it was released a couple of years back (read our full review here), so it’s great to see that tech incorporated into a high volume air shock format.

Retail pricing of the new shock in Australia will be $829, with availability from mid-July 2017.

 

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!

Marzocchi Suspension to be Distributed In Australia Through SOLA

Marzocchi was founded in 1949 when Stefano and Guglielmo Marzocchi started Marzocchi Spa in Bologna, Italy. Marzocchi designed and produced the first upside-down full carbon single crown fork in 2000; in the same year as the development with Gary Fisher of the first 29” fork. Some milestones of note: the Monster, the Shiver DC and SC, and the first DJ forks, the 888 and the 55, the fork that made Enduro possible.

On November 13 of 2015, Marzocchi was acquired by Fox Factory Inc. Headquartered in Scotts Valley, CA, FOX designs and manufactures high-performance ride dynamics products primarily for bicycles, side-by-side vehicles, on-road and off-road vehicles and trucks, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, specialty vehicles and applications, and motorcycles.053

FOX’s strategic plan is to further expand the penetration of bike suspension products across more price points. When coupled with FOX existing legacy bike business, the Marzocchi product line will help drive improved sales and profitability over the long-term. 

Marzocchi’s extensive current range blends art, function and the latest technologies to deliver class leading forks & shocks suitable for demanding use in all mountain biking disciplines such as cross country, downhill, dirt jump, trail and enduro.320-lr_my16 moto-c2r2_swp

Both SOLA and Marzocchi are committed to delivering superior supply, spare parts service, warranty and support to the market to exceed the expectation of the Australian bicycle retailer network and customers. All Marzocchi products carry a 12 month manufacturer warranty.

SOLA, in addition to Marzocchi also distribute FOX, Bianchi, Cinettica and Netti.


For further information, please contact:

SOLA Customer Service

(02) 9550 1655

[email protected]

www.marzocchi.com

www.ridefox.com

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.

 

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.
Flow-Nation-Derby-2015-245
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.

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#

TESTED: 2016 FOX 34 fork and Float DPS shock

The hot new concept in the mountain biking for 2016 is…. trail riding! Yes, the kind of mountain biking that most of us do every day is exactly where we’re seeing the development focus across the industry, and this can only be a good thing.

FOX have aimed their heavy development artillery at two of the most important trail riding products in their line up; the 34 fork and the Float rear shock. We’ve been riding production versions of FOX’s 2016 34 and Float DPS shock for a few weeks now, and it feels good to be able to come clean with the details.

FOX 2016 22
34mm stanchions are just about all this fork has in common with its predecessor.
FOX 2016 14
The chubby waist immediately tell you that the new Float DPS / EVOL shock is a different beast to the previous Float CTD shock.

Putting it simply, these new products are shit hot. Ride transformingly good. Like you’ve taken the trail to a dry cleaner and asked ‘excuse me, but can you kindly press the living hell out of this, so the bumps disappear?’ But let’s take a look at what makes them work.


A couple of weeks ago FOX released their first tidbit of 2016 product info, with their new 27.5+ specific 34 fork. Hidden in amongst all the blabbing about new axle widths and the rise of fattish tyres (oh gawd) were a handful of references to new technologies that underpin the completely updated 34 fork.

When we say completely updated, we mean it. Barely a scrap of this fork is the same as its predecessor. Chassis, damper, air spring – all new. FOX have also done away with long-travel versions of the 32 fork. The 32 now tops out at 120mm-travel, with the 34 covering 120-160mm, and the 36 taking care of the 160-180mm segment. Clean, easy, makes sense.

FOX 2016 2

The new 34 is filthy light. A 150mm-travel version of the new 34 is lighter than an equivalent 32 series fork. Notably, it’s also a fair chunk lighter than a Rockshox Pike too. The biggest weight saving has been made in the air spring, with 90g shaved, by using an air negative spring, rather than the steel coil found on earlier versions – a change we saw pioneered on the 36 RC2 fork last year (read our full review here). The air spring is also more tuneable too, with volume spacers that can be fitted under the top cap to provide a more progressive or linear stroke. We’ve seen this concept on both the 36 and the RockShox Pike too, and it’s a useful feature for the more involved suspension tweakers.

FOX 2016 19
Hey there, Goldielegs.

The only downside to the new air spring is that the travel of the fork can’t be so easily adjusted. Previous versions could simply be spaced down, but the new 34 requires a different air spring assembly to change the travel.

34 air spring
The negative coil-spring assembly has been ditched for a lighter air assembly.
FOX 2016 6
In addition to three compressions modes (open, medium, firm) you can also adjust the low-speed compression setting in the open mode. Kinda like the RLC dampers from years ago! What do they say about fashion? It all comes back around.

Over on the damper side, the big news is that the CTD system has been axed in favour of the FIT4 damper. We could delve into a deep and brow-furrowing discussion of oil paths and damper shaft diameters here, but there are two main changes from a usability standpoint. The first 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.

FOX 2016 18
CTD is out, FIT4 is in.

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.

FOX 2016 10

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!

FOX 2016 9
The extra volume of the negative air spring has a stack of benefits. We’re happy to hear the EVOL air sleeve can be retrofitted to older Float shocks too.

But it’s not just the front end that gets the love this year, and FOX have also made some big changes to the Float and Float X rear shocks too. Most obvious change is the new EVOL (extra volume) air sleeve, which 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.

FOX 2016 16

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.51.58 pm
See, this graph proves it! The EVOL can flattens the spring curve, with a more supple beginning stroke, and more support in the mid-stroke.

 

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.

FOX 2016 7
There are still three main compression modes, with the middle setting have three levels of fine adjustment.

Ride time! Our 34 fork and DFP shock were fitted to a Yeti SB5. We selected this bike as our test beast, not just because it has been on our must-ride list for a while, but because its Switch Infinity suspension system was designed in conjunction with FOX. With 127mm rear travel, the SB5 can be run with a 130-160mm travel fork. Given the choice, we opted for a 140mm, to keep the bike more in the realm of a trail bike, and not push it into Enduro territory (Jared Graves has been racing an SB5 with a 160mm fork).

Following FOX’s setup guide, we ran 63psi in the fork, and set the rebound 9 clicks from fully closed. Ultimately we slowed the fork down even more, running it 7 clicks from full slow. We dialled in a few token clicks of low-speed compression too, though we’re not certain we really needed it. The shock was set up with just shy of 30% sag.

FOX 2016 12
A low-profile crown lets you get away with more travel up front (as is the trend nowadays), without jacking the bar height up too much.

Any brand new fork and shock will always feel good, but the way the wheels of our Yeti tracked the terrain from the very first ride was pretty insane. Both fork and shock are as close to frictionless as we’ve ever experienced – constantly in motion.

Interestingly, this responsiveness was probably appreciated even more in the shock than it was in the fork. On rolling and moderately rough terrain, the shock offered no discernible transition from compression to rebound either – it sounds ridiculous, but the sensation was hover-esque.

FOX 2016 8
The three position compression lever is as simple to use as ever.

We rarely find ourselves utilising the Climb mode on FOX rear shocks around our home trails, as they’re generally pretty rough. But what little experimentation we did certainly revealed a very firm level of lockout, so that should satisfy the hammerheads out there.

For suspension testing, the most challenging trail in our region is one that we affectionately call the ‘Milkshake’. It’s noted for having long, fast straights of rough sandstone, filled with holes that are just perfectly distanced to bottom out both fork and shock simultaneously. The kind of trail where you do a fair bit of teeth clenching and praying.

FOX 2016 1
Our favourite rocky testing ground.

It was here that the new 34 and DFP shock really shone, delivering the kind of stability you don’t normally expect for a bike with just 127mm of rear travel. We’re accustomed to that awful bucking feeling of running out of front travel right at the exact moment your rear shock starts to reach full extension, but our SB5 kept things bizarrely composed.

Yes, it’s a kick arse bike, but we feel a lot of credit must go the rebound control of both fork and shock. The way the fork quickly digs itself back out of trouble after a solid wallop, combined with the rear shock’s more gradual rebound as it nears full extension, gave us more confidence to wallop square edged hits. And the sheer smoothness and responsiveness of both fork and shock is pretty amazeballs too.

We can see a lot of riders opting to fit the EVOL can to their existing Float shocks, and the 34 fork is a huge improvement over the CTD equipped forks of the past couple of years. Obviously long-term testing will reveal more, but at this early stage FOX appear to have hit the trail-riding nail on the head with a freaking big hammer.

2016 FOX 27.5+ (Yes, 27.5 PLUS) Fork

FOX have warped the time-space continuum, revealing details of a new 2016 FOX 34 fork (and yes, it does feel like New Years Eve was just last week!) that telegraphs loud and clear just want the industry trends are going to be for 2016.

What are we talking about? Well, the keen eyed amongst you will have noticed that this is a 27.5+ fork – yes, 27.5 PLUS. If you haven’t heard of 27.5+ before, don’t think you’re behind the curve. The concept was unknown to us until a couple of weeks ago.


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

If you though the wheel size debate was resolved (or at least were hoping like hell that it had been!) then we have news for you. Another standard is on the way, and its name is 27.5+. Essentially 27.5+ swims in the murky waters between a 27.5 / 650B wheel, and a Fat Bike. It’s a 27.5″ rim, which rolls more like a 29er, thanks to the use of 3-inch’ish tyre. Cue forum meltdowns.

We’re going to withhold judgement until we ride one. We already understand the benefits of a large volume tyre on a 27.5″ rim (we’ve been using big rubber with wide Ibis rims on our Trek Fuel EX test bike for months) we do feel kind of befuddled about the necessity of new forks to support another standard.

While Rockshox have had the Bluto Fat Bike fork out for a long time, this is the first 27.5+ fork we’re aware of – read on for all the details. Points to note include a massively wide chassis, and a wider hub spacing (110mm).

 

Pages from Pages from FOX Factory 34 FLOAT 27.5+Pages from Pages from FOX Factory 34 FLOAT 27.5+-2

Pages from Pages from FOX Factory 34 FLOAT 27.5+-3

 

 

 

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: RockShox RS-1

RockShox RS-1 v2 11
Looks cool, right? The uninterrupted curve of the carbon crown doesn’t collect any mud either.

The RS-1 is an exceptionally ambitious undertaking. Over the course of the last two decades, the development of mountain bike suspension has followed the conventional train of thought that upside-down fork construction just wasn’t really the way to go for mountain biking. There have been relatively few attempts at developing inverted forks, and those forks that have been at least marginally successful have overwhelmingly been designed for downhill, where they have the benefit of dual crown construction and fewer weight constraints. Similarly, the use of carbon fibre has been largely limited to fork crowns and steerers, and attempts to use carbon in the lowers of a fork have commonly resulted in excessive stiction.

RockShox RS-1 v2 23
There are no leg guards on the RS-1, but it hasn’t been an issue… yet.

So the RS-1, with its inverted, largely carbon fibre construction certainly comes to the game with some serious stigmas to overcome! You get the feeling that RockShox have taken this one on as a real showpiece, to show what can actually be done when all the stops are pulled.

This clean slate approach sees a fork like no other. Carbon fibre is used for the bulk of the construction, and an entirely new axle/fork interface has been implemented to deal with the torsional flex that traditionally plagues inverted designs. With such a novel design, we naturally came into this test with a lot of questions; would the fork be stiff enough, would the unprotected stanchions prove to susceptible to damage, could the performance ever hope to justify the price? You can read all about our initial impressions of the fork here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-rockshox-rs-1/

Tasmania Flow Nation 154

Over the course of testing, our RS-1 has been fitted to the front of a Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29er (the RS-1 is only available in a 29er format for now) so we opted for an RS-1 with 120mm travel to match the bike’s rear end. The fork is available in 100mm and 80mm travel versions as well, and given its billing primarily as a cross country item, we’re sure the 100mm-travel version will be the most popular. Regardless, offering this fork in a 120mm version clearly sends the message that RockShox feel the RS-1 is up to the job of technical trail riding too.

RockShox RS-1 v2 7
‘Predictive Steering’ – the hub is a structural element of the fork as much as a part of the wheel.

We’re no engineers, but we can imagine the R&D and testing involved in creating this carbon beauty wasn’t exactly carried out over a sandwich or two on a Thursday arvo. Getting this thing right would have been a mammoth undertaking, and that’s reflected in the cost.

Let’s deal with the elephant on the trail first; the price tag. The RS-1 is very expensive, but take a look at it – this is not just another fork. We’re no engineers, but we can imagine the R&D involved in creating this carbon beauty wasn’t exactly carried out over a sandwich or two on a Thursday arvo. Getting this thing right would have been a mammoth undertaking, and that’s reflected in the cost.

With that behind us, onto the testing! Any initial questions we had about how RockShox would tame the matter of flex disappeared as soon as we got a proper look at the Torque Tube hub/axle system. The hub rotates around a massive axle supported by oversized bearings, all secured by a 15mm Maxle. There’s a huge amount of contact between the hub end caps and the fork dropouts too; the hub really isn’t just part of the wheel so much as a vital component of the fork (and therefore the bike’s steering) itself.

RockShox RS-1 v2 4
The Torque Tube hub uses a massive axle with huge, knurled end caps.

The catch (there’s always a catch) is that you’re currently tied to using either a SRAM or DT hub, though other manufacturers may come to the party soon. On the matter of the hub and dropouts, installing the wheel is a bit fiddly when compared to a conventional fork, as the legs can rotate/slide independently – we can imagine changing a front flat in the mania of a race could be frustrating!

RockShox RS-1 v2 5
The legs can move independently with the wheel out (exactly what the Torque Tube hub is there to eliminate!), which does make wheel installation more fiddly. Here you can see how the hub end caps really bite into the dropouts to gain more stiffness.

The gram counters out there will note that the RS-1 is actually a fraction heavier than RockShox’s lightest SID fork. There’s about 50g in it, but the RS-1 is still lighter than just about all its competitors, so this fork sits happily in the feathery realms demanded by racers. Racer types will also appreciate the handlebar-mounted XLoc remote lever which puts a lockout within easy reach of your thumb. For those less interested in racing, it’d be great to see this fork offered without the remote too for a cleaner cockpit.

RockShox RS-1 v2 13
For now, the RS-1 only comes with an X-Loc remote lockout.

RockShox have equipped the RS-1 with a new damper called the Accelerator, which follows the same sealed cartridge design principles utilised in the highly praised Charge damper now found in the Pike and BoXXer. It offers the Rapid Recovery dual stage rebound circuit as found on various other RockShox products, a system designed to get the fork back up its optimum ride height quickly after heavy impacts. Compression is managed by the new DIG valve, which is not externally adjustable. In fact, external adjustments are limited to just rebound and lockout threshold, which will appeal to many.

RockShox RS-1 v2 8
The Accelerator sealed damper uses Rapid Recovery technology for the rebound circuit, helping the fork resist getting caught low in its travel over big hits.

Over our first few rides, we struggled to find the right air pressure to give us the ride feel that we wanted. Running the fork at the recommended pressure felt too soft for us on the big hits, and we found ourselves blowing through the travel too easily. But adding more pressure to increase the firmness of the spring rate left us with almost zero sag and poor small-bump responsiveness. We found the sweet spot eventually by utilising the simple, effective Bottomless Tokens system which is also found on the Pike and BoXXer forks. These plastic threaded ‘tokens’ can be added to the air chamber to change the air volume and therefore the spring rate. Installation is super simple – just unscrew the top cap from of the air spring assembly air, screw in the token/s and you’re done. Adding two of these tokens (out of a possible three) gave us the perfect spring rate – we could now run the recommended pressure, obtain the correct amount of sag, and not worry about the fork riding too deep in its travel.

NB – We have since been advised by RockShox that the RS-1 in a 120mm version actually comes pre-fitted with two Bottomless Tokens. Our fork was an early release model.

Getting the ideal spring rate meant fitting two Bottomless Tokens. It's a five-minute job you can do at home, requiring no special tools.
Getting the ideal spring rate meant fitting two Bottomless Tokens. It’s a five-minute job you can do at home, requiring no special tools.

With the spring rate/pressures sorted, we were able to better appreciate the abilities of the Accelerator damper too, which does a fantastic job of unobtrusively dissipating hard landings, allowing you to hit full travel without any harsh spiking.

RockShox RS-1 v2 18
Production forks will be included with protective stickers to protect any cable rub damaging the lustrous finish on the precious carbon legs.

One of the theoretical advantages of an inverted fork is that gravity helps keep the seals bathed in lubricating fluid which should yield less friction, and all the chat/reviews out there about the RS-1 seemed to support this notion. On our test fork, it took a fair bit of riding to achieve the levels of smoothness we were expecting – unlike the RockShox Pike which is slipperier than a greased dolphin from the very first ride, the RS-1 took about five or six hours of riding to truly free up. Now, with a few weeks on board the fork, it’s a different story, and the RS-1 has a responsiveness that will rival the smoothest forks out there. Is it more responsive than a well-maintained conventional fork (for example, a FOX Kashima Float 120)? It’s hard to say objectively, but we’d definitely rate it as on par with the most supple cross-country forks we’ve ridden.

 There was no twanging or fore/aft wobbling going on, which we can only attribute to the extreme rigidity of the carbon steerer/crown.

RockShox RS-1 v2 15
Sag gradients make setup easier. The fork is also equipped with a recommended air pressure chart. As you can see by the sticker, the RS-1 is 29er only for now.

So, is the RS-1 stiff enough for hard trail riding? The short answer is yes; the Torque Tube axle design and massive carbon uppers ensure the RS-1 does not flex excessively. Of course there is some torsional flex, but we feel it’s in line with what you’d expect from a fork this light and designed for this style of riding, and we never found ourselves battling to keep the fork on line or fighting the bars when the going got rough. In all, we’d rate the torsional stiffness as being equivalent to a RockShox SID with a 15mm axle. Where the RS-1 felt superior to other lightweight 32mm-legged forks was when landing hard or slapping the front wheel down off a drop – there was no twanging or fore/aft wobbling going on, which we can only attribute to the extreme rigidity of the carbon steerer/crown.

Tasmania Flow Nation 177
Hooray for Hobart trails!

Our fears that the sliders would be easily damaged have not yet been realised. Admittedly, we’ve only had five or six weeks of riding on the RS-1 so far, but that has included a lot of rocky trails as well as two trips in a bike bag facing the mistreatment of budget airline baggage handlers, and we’ve not had an issue with the exposed lower legs. On the trail, we haven’t given a second thought to the sliders’ proximity to passing rocks, but overall we’d probably feel more comfortable if the fork did incorporate some kind of lightweight leg guards.

As an exercise in pushing the design envelope, it’s hard to think of a product in recent years that can out-do the the RS-1.

All up then, is the RS-1 a success? 100% yes. As an exercise in pushing the design envelope, it’s hard to think of a product in recent years that can out-do the the RS-1. It has achieved that previously elusive goal of creating a truly high-performance, lightweight, inverted single-crown fork, and RockShox deserve a lot of praise for managing this.

Tasmania Flow Nation 170

But is the RS-1 sufficiently superior to existing offerings to win over consumers and justify the price? That’s where things are less clear-cut, but we actually don’t think that’s the point. Why? The RS-1 is the kind of item that is only going to be bought by a very special kind of rider, the kind for whom having cutting-edge equipment is a priority. What makes the RS-1 so cool is that it delivers a product that succeeds where others have previously failed, offering a high-performance alternative to a conventional fork, without any of the usual compromises. Would we buy one? If we had the cash, yes, we would. But that’ll take a lot of saving!

 

FOX to Release Limited Edition Stealth Forks

Standard FOX forks ain’t bad ass enough for you? Spent way too much money on black colour-matching your bike to ruin the look with brightly coloured decals? Are you Batman?

Then FOX has the forks for you!

Fox will be releasing a limited run of Stealth Factory Float forks for 2015. With black decals, black adjuster knobs and a black heart of coal, these forks are available in three models:

  •     32 FLOAT 29 100 FIT CTD w/Trail Adjust
  •     34 FLOAT 27.5 160 FIT CTD w/Trail Adjust
  •    40 FLOAT 26 203 FIT RC2

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 7.16.34 am

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: FOX Float X CTD w/Trail Adjust

Gravity enduro is so hot right now. So hot. But when it comes to suspension, all that hotness is the enemy! Heat build-up decreases suspension performance, and that’s one of the biggest challenges facing suspension manufacturers today; how can suspension be kept light and efficient enough for the climbs but still deliver the control and consistency needed for serious gravity enduro use?

IMG_2970

The Float X is FOX’s answer to this question. We’ve now run the Float X CTD with Trail Adjust on two bikes (a Yeti SB66c and a Giant Trance Advanced SX), over the course of almost eight months, and we’re convinced it’s a winner.

Giant-Trance-Advanced-SX-51-710x473
Our long term test bike – Giant Trance Advanced SX

Giant-Trance-SX-update-4

The Float X may have the same bones as the regular Float shock, but the large piggyback reservoir clearly marks it as a different beast. The larger oil volume the piggyback affords is key; more oil equates to less heat, better damping performance and more control over long descents. There are other obvious external differences too, with the CTD lever located on the side of the shock reservoir, and the rebound adjuster in-line with the damping shaft.

IMG_3043

While we’re on the topic of the rebound adjuster – what the hell? We don’t know whose fingers the rebound adjust dial is designed for, but it’s practically impossible to adjust without an Allen key or small stick (a bloody stick!). Thankfully rebound is largely a set-and-forget element once you’ve established your baseline settings/pressures, but this aspect was very annoying during the first half a dozen rides when we were still making tweaks to the suspension setup.

IMG_3072
Teeny fingers, a stick or an allen key is the only way you’ll adjust the red coloured rebound dial.

So does it all work as planned? Can I get a ‘hell yeah’? If you’re accustomed to the feel of a regular Fox Float shock, you’ll immediately appreciate the on-trail differences of the Float X. For lack of a better term, the Float X just feels ‘plusher’, much more like a coil shock than the standard Float. On our Giant test bike in particular, the bottomless feel had us re-checking our suspension sag, convinced that we must be running things too soft, but it wasn’t the case –  the shock is just superbly smooth throughout the whole stroke.

The buttery responsiveness of the shock on small and medium sized hits is amazing. In our experience, FOX still has the edge over Rockshox when it comes to pure smoothness and suppleness. Whether it’s a product of better sealing tolerances, the new five-piece shock hardware, shaft coatings or lubricants, we’re not sure – we just know that the Float X has better small bump response than any Monarch Plus shock we’ve ridden.

IMG_3068
FOX’s five piece hardware in the shock’s mounts are a vast improvements over the DU bushes we’ve known for many years, reducing friction allowing the shock to pivot slightly when motioning.

When we pushed hard, the Float X always had the answer, and longer runs we didn’t notice any spiking or inconsistency that we’d usually associate with an air shock being taken beyond its limits. For us, the ultimate vindication of the Float X as a serious piece of descending equipment came when Jared Graves raced on this very shock at the Pietermarizburg World Champs… and almost bloody won.

IMG_2969

The CTD system is effective and easy to operate. With the lever on the side of the shock, it’s very easy to access. The three positions are clearly defined, and the Trail mode is a great compromise for adding some welcomed efficiency to a longer-travel bike. We did find that the lever could get a little jammed up in very sandy or dusty conditions though, so cleaning and lubing around the lever junction isn’t a bad idea occasionally.

IMG_2974 IMG_2973

Would we consider upgrading from a standard Float shock to the Float X? That’s a tough one. The performance benefits are there, and the weight difference is minimal, so it’s really a matter of justifying the spend. From our standpoint, we’d probably be more inclined to look for the Float X as desirable feature when considering a new bike purchase, rather than dole out the cash to upgrade an existing bike.

IMG_3076

We’ll be running this shock for another six or so months and we’ll update this review should anything new and noteworthy emerge, but for now we’re very impressed!

Tested: Rockshox Monarch RT3 rear shock

We won’t lie – in the realm of short travel air shocks, Rockshox have done it tough over the past few years. The FOX RP23 and CTD rear shocks are very good, and Rockshox just haven’t been able to keep up. So when we went looking for a shock to fit our new BH Lynx  4.8 29er frame, our first inclination was FOX.

Rockshox RCT3 rear shock-7

 

As it turned out, the BH uses a fairly obscure shock size, and while we couldn’t get a FOX to suit, we were able to get the new Monarch RT3 from Rockshox in the correct length. ‘What the hell,’ we though, ‘let’s give it a run!’ Turns out we’re very thankful that we did, as Rockshox seem to have really upped their game.

The new Monarch is, in a word, excellent. Compared to the previous iterations of Monarch shocks we’ve used, the most noticeable improvement is in its small bump sensitivity. This shock is as supple off the top of the stroke as any short travel air shock we’ve used, coming very close to the sensitivity of a Kashima coated FOX shock.

Getting your setup dialled is easy with sag markings on the shock shaft.
Getting your setup dialled is easy with sag markings on the shock shaft.

Setup is very easy, thanks to the sag markings on the shock shaft, particularly appreciated on the BH where the shock is quite tricky to access. The rebound damping range is suitably wide; there seems to be a rather large jump between each click of rebound adjustment once you get towards the slower end of the rebound range, but that is our only gripe.

Rapid Recovery. Won't help your lungs get over that last climb, will keep your suspension in the sweet spot.
Rapid Recovery. Won’t help your lungs get over that last climb, will keep your suspension in the sweet spot.

The Rapid Recovery damping is a new inclusion for this shock and it seems to work very well. Essentially, the rebound circuit is valved to ‘recover’ quickly from big impacts, allowing the shock to ride higher in its travel rather than becoming bogged down. It’s not the kind of thing you’re actively aware of on the trail, but on a shorter travel bikes it makes good sense, as you want to make the most of the bike’s available suspension travel.

 

Similarly to a FOX CTD shock, there are three compression damping positions; open, platform and a ‘locked’ setting. We rarely use the locked setting, but the middle platform setting is ideal on our test bike, and we’ll regularly go for a whole ride with the shock in this setting if the terrain is smooth and grippy. We particularly like the way the lever operates to toggle between the different modes. Whereas on a FOX CTD shock, the lever only moves approximately  30 or 40-degrees between each setting, with the Monarch there is a full 120-degrees between each setting. Simply put, you’re never in any doubt about which setting the shock is in.

Three clearly defined, easy to use compression settings: open, platform and locked.
Three clearly defined, easy to use compression settings: open, platform and locked.

Rockshox have some catching up to do when it comes to their shock mounting hardware. Compared to the new five-piece FOX hardware, there is a lot more friction with the Rockshox bushings. Fortunately, you can actually use FOX hardware in a Rockshox shock, although neither manufacturer would recommend it! (We did, running it on the end of the shock that encountered the most bushing rotation, and there have been no problems.)

We ran a combo of FOX and Rockshox hardware. It's not recommended, but it works.
We ran a combo of FOX and Rockshox hardware. It’s not recommended, but it works.

All up, we’re really pleasantly surprised by the new Monarch RT3 and we’ll be sticking with this shock for the long term.

Fresh Product: Rockshox Monarch Plus RC3

Small package, big punch.

In 2014 the new Monarch Plus has even more to offer. Providing traction-gaining suppleness, giving you more control over any type of terrain – all in a lightweight bombproof package.  Proven Rapid Recovery, and Solo Air technologies come standard for this lightweight big hitter. Now with twice the rebound range, the new Monarch Plus allows you to take your riding to levels you never thought possible with a short and mid travel air shock.

Flow’s First Bite: FOX Float X CTD Shock

To address the fast developing world of long travel trail bikes, all-mountain bikes and enduro racing bikes, FOX have released an air shock that combines the qualities of their lightest air shock, the FOX Float CTD, and the impact gobbling downhill shock – the FOX DHX.

We’ve mounted it in our Yeti SB66 Carbon test mule, replacing a Float CTD w/Trail adjust. So far the wide range of compression adjustability, and coil spring-like feel that it exhibits has made the bike feel even more like a plush downhiller. The lockout is nice and firm for tame uphills, and road sections, and the three micro adjusted ‘trail’ settings are clearly defined and super effective. Even descending in each mode still reveals the right amount of sensitivity to keep traction, without unwanted compression.

FOX Float X shock-3
Filling the gap between FOX’s lightweight shock, and their coil-sprung downhill shock, this Float X will boost performance of bikes with 140-180mm of travel.

The rebound dial is tucked away out of finger’s reach and will require a small allen key or even a stick on the trail to adjust. That may irk some people, but at least rebound adjustment isn’t really needed to be adjusted during the ride. Plus we find that on some Float shocks with light resistance on the rebound adjuster, the little red dial can creep open and unwind at times, speeding the rebound up without us realising. This won’t happen with this shock.

FOX Float X shock-5
The CTD adjustments sit off to one side, and are so very easy to access. Plus with such a wide range, each of the five settings can be used effectively to tailor the bikes pedalling efficiency to suit the terrain ahead.

From the outside it appears that FOX have taken the large volume DHX Air, with its piggyback chamber, and added the very user friendly on-the-fly compression adjustments found on current FLOAT shocks. The large blue lever is off to the side of the piggyback chamber, making for very quick and effective adjustments. But there is more going on than that inside this advanced piece of equipment, as we plan to figure out as our testing continues. We just need to find some mega long downhills to push its limits.

Our shock exhibits a little squeak on hard compressions, as the oil flow moves through the damping unit, which we’re sure will vary from shock to shock. Of the Float X shocks we have ridden so far, this is the first with a squeak.

FOX Float X shock-7
The Float X also has a larger volume of oil than the normal Float shock, for more consistent performance during long descents.

So stay tuned for more, but for now our first impressions are very positive and we just love the way suspension companies are pushing the development of this relatively new area of the market. It will let us ride lighter bikes harder, further and safer!

Fresh: RockShox Updates The Monarch

Monarch RT3 paved the way last year with the introduction of Rapid Recovery with it’s all new damper design: now the rest of the family follows. The entire Monarch family now is tuned with Rapid Recovery.

Monarch RT3

REFINE, REFINE, REFINE

In addition to the new Rapid Recovery rebound tune, Monarch XX, RL, RT, and R have improved compression circuits that improves compression bump performance while expanding the tuning flexibility for bike brands, allowing even further refinement to their chosen tune. these refined beauties run smoother, quitter and more consistant than any previous version of Monarch.

WALKING ON AIR

that new bulge at the bottom of the new air can isn’t an extrainous industrial design feature, it’s a redesign of the negative air volume in the Solo air spring system that improves small bump performance.

On top of that, Monarch RT3, XX, RL, RT and R now features a high volume eyelet option called HV-i. it allows for a higher volume, less progressive shock without the bulk or weight of the full High Volume air can. HV-i couples perfectly with bikes that need a little less progression, but don’t need the full High Volume air can system.

RT3 in white.

ICING ON THE CAKE

New and improved seals help keep the Monarch rear shocks performance constant and reduce friction, retaining Monarch’s position as the best performing, most-versatile air shocks on the market.

Click to make me bigger.

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.

 

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″]

 

RockShox Revelation World Cup 2013 Fork Review

“Are you sure about this? I mean, a carbon fibre crown on an all-mountain fork…”

We’ll admit it – there was something a little odd about fitting a 150mm-travel fork with a carbon fibre crown and steerer to the front of our Yeti test bike. After all, carbon forks are usually the domain of road or cross-country race bikes, not hard riding six-inch all-mountain sleds. But, as George Michael says, “you’ve gotta have faith”, and so we did.

RockShox have been utilising one-piece carbon crown/steerer assemblies on their high end forks since way back in 2002. Admittedly back then it was the lightweight SID that got the carbon treatment, but the Revelation World Cup has been available in this carbon format since 2011.

Is it stiff enough? Why, yes, it is. In fact the carbon crown/steerer on the Revelation World Cup is claimed to be stiffer than the alloy crowned version of this fork.

We’ll cut straight to the chase – this fork feels just as stiff, strong and confidence inspiring as any 32mm stanchioned, 15mm-axled all-mountain fork we’ve ever ridden.  This test fork actually replaced a 2012 FOX 32 TALAS, so it’s easy to make a comparison between the carbon and alloy crown/steers, but we’d be lying if we claimed to have noticed a difference in stiffness between the two forks. After five minutes on the trail we completely forgot about the carbon bogeyman and got down to riding this fork just as hard as we would any other.

Weight is the obvious appeal of the Revelation World Cup. Ours clocked in at 1625g on the Flow Dream Crush (scales), but this figure moves closer to 1700g once you add in the expanding plug for the headset (you can’t use a standard star nut with a carbon steerer). All up, once we’d trimmed the steerer, we were a little surprised to find we only dropped about 100g from our bike. Sure, this is a decent amount of weight to shed, but the carbon kind of creates the expectation you’re going to drop kilos off your ride!

The RTC3 damper has plenty of external control on offer, including independent low-speed compression adjustment, which we used extensively.

There are options galore with this fork. The Revelation is available with two different dampers and two different air springs (plus axle options – 15mm or quick release). In terms of of dampers, there’s an XX version or the Motion Control DNA RCT3 damper. The XX version gains a cool XLoc remote lockout, but the damper is less sophisticated and not as controlled when really pushed hard. We’ll prioritise bump performance over a remote lockout any day, so we selected the Motion Control RCT3 option. When it comes to air springs, you can choose from the lightweight new Solo Air system or the heavier (add 80g) Dual Position air spring, which gives you on-the-fly travel adjustability. To save weight, we went for the Solo Air spring.

The RCT3 damper is worth a quick explanation too. You’ve got three positions, controlled via the blue lever; an open position, a ‘threshold’ position (which adds compression damping to give a pedalling platform) and lastly a lock-out position which stiffens the fork’s action dramatically. In addition, there’s also independent low-speed compression adjustment with 15-clicks of control. This low-speed compression adjuster only affects the fork when the damper is in the open position.

Installation went smoothly, aided by a neat brake hose guide, easy-to-use Maxle axle system and well finished brake mounts. With the Solo Air spring, there’s very little setup needed. However, following the recommend air pressure guide on the back of the fork leg proved fruitless; we needed to run closer to 95psi to get enough support on bigger hits, while the chart recommended we run just 75psi. This isn’t the first time we’ve had to run well above RockShox’ recommended pressures either.

The Maxle Lite 15mm axle system. Elegantly done!

The most immediately impressive element of the Revelation’s performance is its buttery smooth responsiveness to every impact. Even with higher than recommended pressures in the air spring, the fork reacts to every little murmur in the trail surface. The Revelation scores RockShox’s Dual Flow rebound too, which keeps the fork lively at the top of the stroke, but slows the rebound down on bigger impacts. All this translates into more traction at the front wheel and less fatigue.

The pressure chart on the fork leg should not be taken as gospel. Use it as a starting point for your setup and go from there.

We did find the fork a little too eager to use all its travel on steep rollers and compressions in the trail, diving at inopportune moments for a few “oh-shit” experiences.  We countered this tendency by adding low-speed compression damping to sit it up in its stroke more. In the end, we settled on about 6 or 7  clicks of low-speed and just left the damper there. This gave more support, though the fork’s action is still quite linear.  Bigger, harder riders may find the fork’s tendency to use its travel generously takes a little bit of adapting to, bit with careful pressure selection and damping adjustment this is all manageable.

Impressively, there’s little reduction in small bump responsiveness even with the low-speed compression wound on, though the mid-stroke does feel a little harsher. We’ve rarely found the need to use the fork’s threshold or lock out positions, only occasionally activating the threshold option for road climbs.

It’s hard to comment on the fork’s long-term durability with just a couple of month’s use logged. The only issue we’ve encountered so far was easily fixed;  our fork had a loose valve core and was losing air in between rides until we tightened it up. Otherwise all seems good – we’ve had nothing but positive experiences with RockShox forks in terms of bushing life and long service intervals over the past couple of years.

All up, this fork gets two thumbs up. It’s remarkably smooth, light and with more than enough tunability to get the performance right for you. Taking the carbon plunge turned out to be a good move!

An unexpected bonus of the carbon crown: no more dirt flung up inside the steerer tube!

FOX 34 Float 160 CTD w/Trail Adjust

In all-mountain riding the ‘bigger is better’ mantra generally applies with any component that you fit to the front end of a mountain bike. But going bigger, beefier, stiffer or stronger normally means more weight, and overcoming this tradeoff is a battle for the product engineers. We want it strong and stiff, but we won’t put up with undue heft. We were very happy to get our hands on the new FOX 34 Float in a 160mm travel version to see if FOX had succeeded in treading this fine line.

The 34 series straddles the divide between FOX 32 and 36 forks. We think it’s going to convert a lot of people to 160mm-travel bikes.

 

This fork makes a lot of sense: 160mm-travel bikes are increasingly common as they get lighter and more efficient, but the popular FOX 36 fork often found on these all-mountain bikes is a pretty hefty little number. With more and more people looking towards the 160mm category as the do-it-all bike, FOX wanted a way to offer the same amount of travel and stiffness, but to lose a little weight and facilitate the use of lighter 15mm axle wheels. Enter the FOX 34.

The magic number? 34mm stanchions represent a huge stiffness increase for a 200g weight penalty. Is 200g too much?

As you’d have guessed from the name, this fork is all about legs. Beefy new 34mm diameter legs to be precise. Previously, FOX forks of 150mm-travel and below used 32mm legs with a 15mm axle. In longer travel applications (anything 160mm and up) FOX used 36mm or 40mm legs combined with 20mm axles. The new 160mm-travel FOX 34 is pretty much the perfect hybrid, combining the new 34mm diameter legs with the lightweight and widely used 15mm axle standard.

2mm difference doesn’t sound like much, but the new 34 fork is more robust all over. You certainly notice the beefier appearance right away when you look down at your front wheel.

Weight wise, it’s right in the middle too; the 34mm fork is 200g heavier than a Float 32 150mm fork and almost 200g lighter when compared to a FOX Float 36.

Fitted to a Yeti SB66 Carbon, the tall 160mm travel fork wasn’t the perfect match to the 150mm travel rear end, the fork is however adjustable internally down to 150mm if desired. We plan to drop it down to sharpen up the bike’s head angle slightly. A 34 TALAS is also an option, with adjustability from 160mm down to 120mm for the steep ascents. Interesting to note; the FOX 34 at 160mm has an axle to crown height that is 7.4mm lower than FOX 36  – running the 34 160mm doesn’t mess with the bike’s geometry nearly so dramatically as would occur with the 36.

With 160mm-travel, the 34 was little longer than we’d normally run on the Yeti SB66. Still, it’s around 7mm shorter in terms of axle to crown length than a 160mm-travel FOX 36 fork.

 

Visually, it’s surprising how much chunkier this fork appears when compared to 32mm forks. And the extra beef is 100% noticeable on the trail; this fork is seriously stiff! You become used to a degree of deflection, twisting and flex with most lightweight trail forks, but with the 34 this was drastically reduced.

The confidence we found when piloting the fork down rough and steep lines was higher than we have been accustomed to, and we were able to adapt our riding technique to make the most of it. In short we had a lot less care about what we were ploughing our front wheel into, and focused that energy into the fastest line choices. Straight-line speed was a highlight too, and a lot of this has to be attributed to the stiff chassis.

The stiffer chassis does transfer generate more feedback than a 32mm fork – the classic ‘when is stiff, too stiff’ debate. A Float 32 does feel smoother, as the thinner legs offer slightly more compliance. Lighter riders may notice this, but a heavier or more assertive rider shouldn’t be fazed by it.

The 15mm axle is key to this fork’s appeal. It opens up the prospect of using lighter hubs and wheel sets in these long-travel applications.

In typical FOX style the fork’s action is unrivalled, the control and consistency is simply unreal. The rate of compression is quite linear, finding us in the deeper part of the stroke a lot and letting us get full travel without too much effort. This is all due to the completely redesigned air spring, which finally addresses the issue of it being hard to get full travel out of FOX Float fork. If you prefer a more progressive fork action, the more savvy suspension tuners may benefit from adding a little oil to the air chamber, to reduce the air volume.

Our test fork came to us feeling a little dry and sticky unfortunately, so the sensitivity over small bumps was not quite 100%. A little stanchion lube (Finish Line Teflon suspension lube) applied to the pretty gold Kashima legs instantly, but temporarily, gave us the smooth action we expected. To resolve the issue properly requires a quick 30min service – simply yank the lower legs off and perform a seal and foam ring lubrication. We also found storing the bike upside down to allow splash oil to soak into the seals helped the fork feel smooth at the beginning of the ride.

Kashima Coat. It looks good, and it works well. Unfortunately our fork required a strip down and relube to get proper performance – the seals were unusually dry from the factory.

2013 sees FOX introduce a new damper too, called CTD – it stands for Climb, Trail and Descend. In short, the new damper is all about simplifying adjustment options and helping the fork and rear shock to work in unison. A lever on the right fork leg lets you select between Climb (firmest compression damping) or Descend (least compression damping), or an in-between ‘Trail’ setting. The ‘Trail’ setting has three levels of adjustment too, brilliantly called Trail Adjust – you simply set it to the level that’s right for you and leave it, kind of like the three ProPedal settings on an RP23 rear shock. (NB. The less expensive forks lose this Trail Adjust function). While some people will lament the loss of the low-speed compression dial found on the RLC or RC2 dampers, it’s definitely a far more user-friendly system for the average rider.

We like the CTD Trail Adjust damper and it will certainly help remove some of the mystery out of suspension tuning for many riders. It’s easy and intuitive to operate on the trail and matches up perfectly with the CTD rear shock too.

In response to the fairly linear rate of travel, we rarely rode the fork in the Descend mode; even on the roughest descents we opted for the Trail mode in setting one or two. This offered greater support, especially under front braking, without detracting too much from sensitivity.

So is the FOX 34 platform a winner? Hell yes. Stiffer than 32mm, lighter and lower than a 36mm fork, the 34mm fork is a no-brainer for the fast growing realm of all-mountain bikes. And of course, with longer travel big-wheelers appearing everywhere, the stiffer chassis of the 34mm fork is going be increasingly important in controlling the inherent flex found in the longer legs of a 650B or 29er fork. So yes, bigger is better in this case, and in our eyes it’s added weight in the right place. And you cannot beat the look of those gold Kashima legs, hot stuff indeed.

 

 

Interview: Christoph Ritzler – Fox Racing Shox

Name: Christoph Ritzler.
Role: Managing Director for the European sales office for Fox.
Home: Bern, Switzerland.
Slices of lemon bun eaten during this interview: Just the one [good restraint].

 

Christoph, you’ve been with Fox for 11 years, roughly the same time Fox developed their first mountain bike forks.

Yes, one year after the first fork. But I was in the industry for long before that. I started racing mountain bikes, if you could call them races, back in 1984. I’ve worked with Tange, the tubing company who also made forks for a time, I was the first Specialized importer in Switzerland too, I also was in charge of Rockshox’s European business for eight years.

Tell us more about Fox’s move into making suspension forks in addition to shocks.

Bob Fox started Fox 38 years ago – he was a motocross racer, unhappy with the equipment, so he started making his own shocks and forks. Back then motocross forks had a stanchion tube diameter of maybe 36mm, but Bob Fox made this fork that had 44mm legs that was huge for the time. It really shook things up.

1989, he developed the first mountain bike rear shock for Cannondale, before their bikes even had front suspension. Then for many years Fox made only rear shocks. Interestingly the opportunity to make forks arose when Rockshox were moving away from San Jose in California. Some of the engineers didn’t want to move, so they contacted Bob Fox and began the mountain bike fork project. Some of those engineers are still there today!

The rear shocks were the driving force, but the forks were the start of something bigger, taking a $10-20 million company to a company that’s 10 times that size now. [private]

Is mountain biking the biggest side of the business?

It is, but the other sides are catching up. And interestingly, they’re catching up because we apply mountain bike technologies to the other areas – things like reducing weight with air springs, bottom-out control from our mountain bike shocks has moved into the motocross realm, and the linear air springs from our TALAS forks are now in snowmobiles and quads.

We’re also doing OEM supply for automotive businesses, like the new Ford Raptor which has suspension and off-road capabilities that you wouldn’t have been able to buy off the shelf before. There’s a general drive for lighter weight suspension overall, especially as we’re seeing more electric vehicles.

Can you give us an overview of how and where a fork or shock comes together?

Now we must define what we mean by ‘made’. There are certainly technologies that are simply not available in parts of the world any more, so different elements are completed or sourced in places all over the world.

For example, the tubing that we use, that used to be US made, that capability is gone in the US. Easton tubes are now made in Taiwan, so that’s were the tubes are made. Now if it’s a Kashima tube, it goes from Taiwan to Japan for coating, before coming to the US for assembly. You can see already why a lot of the costs are logistics costs. In some ways it’s crazy, but in other ways it allows us to focus in the US on the key processes that have the biggest bearing on the outcome of the product.

Foundries, castings, forgings – it makes no sense for us to do that in the US – obviously we need to have the right materials, but in the US we concentrate on the elements that are really tolerance critical.

I would say that the quality of suspension is the sum of its tolerances – we make relatively complex products that depend entirely upon how well all of the individual parts work together. It’s controlling those tolerances that dictates how sticky or not a fork is, the fluditity of the damping curve, how smoothly it transitions from compression to rebound. All of these details that dictate if a fork will feel good on the trail, that’s what we control in the US.

We have 45 CNC machines at Scotts Valley (California, USA) that operate 24hrs a day, six and a half days a week, and these machines do all the finishing of the incoming parts prior to the assembly. When you’ve got a fork bush that needs to fit perfectly to within 3/100ths of a millimetre, and that will make the difference between smooth and sticky performance, those are the processes we need to control ourselves.

Tell us a bit about the feedback process from consumers, distributors and racers.

Very little feedback comes directly from consumers, purely because their first point of call should be their distributors in their country. It’s very important what Greg Minnaar wants from his product, but his needs are very specific versus that of the products that we ship around the world.

So most of our feedback comes from distributors, through their service and warranty work. If there is an issue they haven’t seen before, we ask them to ship us the product and goes to the Quality Review Team and they define it is a manufacture issue, a design issue, materials, or is it connected to some environmental conditions.

Environment is important – sometimes you have a part or material that works everywhere, but then you go to Norway and the seal fails! It can be something in the soil, the particular conditions of the dirt, sand, even the humidity or temperature. For example, our automotive distributor here in Australia has a particular problem with quad bike shock seals, but only in Tasmania, so all the shocks in Tasmania get different seals that are little bit more sticky but which hold up to the soils there. Or in Holland, the people there tend to ride a lot of trails that are ancient dunes or beaches, and the conditions are so aggressive it can actually wear holes through the lowers, from the inside out. Sometimes, no matter how good your testing, the real world catches up in some places.

You can get situations where it comes back to a supplier too – like a few years ago we had problems with some air shocks getting ‘stuck down’. It turned out the supplier we had been using for years changed their own materials supplier, and when the temperature got below five degrees, the seal had problems.

Fox and Shimano have been working together for a few years now. How did that come about?

Yes, they have worked with us on 15QR axles, remote levers and more. The reality is that we are not a cockpit company, so even if we do a good job, we will not do it as well as a company that has expertise in that area. Plus, quality wise, Shimano is the best supplier you can have for the quality of the products, no doubt about that.

When it came to 15QR, it was a new standard, and the industry is not always happy about new standards. So partnering with Shimano, who could support the new standard with the necessary hubs and explain the new standard, it was important.

With Shimano too, the development is very thorough, step-by-step, so it made sense if were to bring in a new standard to do it with a partner like them. It takes more time, but it was worth it 100%.

A couple of years ago we saw Fox touting a fork with cast titanium uppers, but it never appeared. What happened?

That was very frustrating. Some background. Our forks have always been heavier than the other guys – with good reason, but still the lightweight has sex appeal. Also, we believe in metals and in that context, titanium is very sexy.

The prototyping was very interesting because of the technology that was involved. There was a casting process that was basically rotational, so it put all the materials on the outside to create a ‘skin’ – it was completely hollow. It was fantastic technology in principle, so advanced that there were only a few companies in the world that could consider it. But there were even less companies who could give us the quality and consistency we needed, so after a while we just had to say, ‘that’s it, enough’.

Still out of it we learnt a lot about maximising our abilities in lightweight design, so in fact our 2013 forks are lighter than the titanium fork was going to be anyhow. And affordable too! We never really talked about the price, but that fork would have been so expensive.

What about carbon?

We have definitely been looking at it. The weight savings really are minimal, but what is really interesting with carbon is rigidity, structural stiffness. But it’s not for all applications or all our needs. The things that are important, like parallelity, or where tubes must be round, not quite round, but perfectly round, this is where carbon is not necessarily the best fit for our needs.

Many things are possible – coatings on gliding surfaces theoretically. If you dream up the ultimate carbon fork it would definitely be a fantastic product, but it’s not producible in a steady, consistent form yet. We have also tested carbon in lowers already; they were stiffer than magnesium, but none was lighter.

I will not exclude composites from us in the future, but it’s not close.

Talk to us about electronics in suspension.

Well, I think it’s logic of any consumer good – it’s coming. The big questions will be, ‘What do you actually need? How much technology? How much money?’ Then this must be offset against whether or not it’s actually beneficial to your riding experience.

What we’re offering today with our iCD (Intelligent Ride Dynamics) electronic lockout is the equivalent of Shimano’s Di2 shifting. It does the same thing as what you would do mechanically, but it does it more quickly and more reliably, more intuitively. For whom is that important? For racers – the people who have the real need to be focused on everything but the lockout. For trail riders, it’s not so important.

It’s a convenience, a reliability enhancement. It can also bing some risks, for example weight and costs.

The next step is to add some intelligence to it, and this is what the Ei system of Lapierre has done. It’s a very nice system. It does with electronics what we have been developing with hydraulic damping over the years, i.e. making the suspension something you do not have to think about so much.

So to improve upon what we have achieved with damping, it becomes a question of how complex do you want the system to become. How many sensors do you want, how much weight do you want to add? Do you need heart rate? Global position system with the maps pre-programed? It’s all possible, but the question is the added cost against the added value to your ride.

I would say the Lapierre approach is impressive for a first approach. The average rider benefits from it without having to understand it. It’s like my iPhone – I just want it to work well, I don’t need to understand how it does it. And on the trail, I just want to have a good riding experience, I don’t need to know how it happens. That’s what most people want.

The other question is how to use electronics without taking away too much of the feedback that the rider uses, maybe unconsciously, to handle the bike.

Obviously electronics gives you 100 times more possibility to play with different things, but if people care or not, we don’t know yet. It’s a huge investment for everybody, no doubt, but at the same time if you don’t do it, you’ll be dead in a few years. It’s going to multiply the costs for the whole industry too, all the way down to the bike shops that will need to learn all about it and servicing it.

The other aspect too, is that no matter how good the electronics, the suspension that works the best is the one with the precise tolerances, with the nicely made valves, with the attention to detail.

This is the first year we’ve seen Fox enter the adjustable seatpost market. Can you tell us about the challenges there?

I think, like suspension, it’s one of those products that makes a huge difference to the riding experience. Especially on longer-travel bikes that have a higher bottom bracket. For me, personally, being a so so rider, an adjustable seatpost lets me lower my position on the bike in technical terrain but without having to have a low bottom bracket which would make it hard to pedal.

For us the decision to get into the seatpost market was because no one was making a post that was reliable enough – we were reading stories of people taking a second seatpost along with them on long rides in case their adjustable post failed. It wasn’t good enough. So our approach is take make something with Fox quality and Fox reliability.

When you look at a seatpost, it’s actually a very unusual design from a structural standpoint. It narrows as you get towards the point that must bear the load, there’s a lot to fit into a very narrow tube, and it’s hard to have bushings that glide nicely without any play too. When we embarked on the project, we were impressed by how complicated it proved to be.

It wasn’t long ago that we saw a Fox prototype inverted downhill fork pop up (on Aaron Gwin and Gee Atherton’s bikes). What happened to that project?

The upside down fork was aimed at a few things. First, it was about trying to make a lighter fork, and also a different feel in terms of the stiffness. It was fantastic through the rocks, but no good in a high traction corner, it was not stiff enough. The only way to get around it would have been a bigger axle, and then you would need to change hubs and all kinds of things. We even tried full steel chromoly axles, but it was not stiff enough.

We definitely gained in some regards, but in berms and under hard cornering loads, it was not precise enough. And it’s not like flex is always a bad thing, but this was to a level where it overrode the benefits. Still there were certain things we learnt that have made it into the new race fork.

Are there any particular athletes who have really added to the products through their feedback?

There are some racers you ask for feedback and they shrug their shoulders! There are others who are super analytical, who come back five or six times at every race until they feel they can master the track. Some guys can really formulate what they feel, and it’s not always the fastest racers who make the best testers. They might know what they need, but they cannot communicate it so well. So it’s our job to find the right language, to take that feeling from the rider’s hands to the engineers.

What a racer communicates may not be best for the public too. A few years ago when we released the Gee Atherton fork, which had Gee’s own damper settings, people were returning it, saying it was too harsh for them. They just weren’t fast enough to ride it.

It’s the same when you look at someone like Aaron Gwin. If you ride his bike, it is hard work. I could not ride his bike down a downhill track – I would be shaken! Where other guys are making their setups super plush, his bike is so hard. He could ride a fork with 120mm travel at some races, that’s all he uses sometimes. He needs suspension to save his arse when it really goes wrong. Everything else, he’s doing somehow. When I ride downhill, I need suspension so the tyres stay on the ground. He does it completely differently, he has his own physics.

Look at cross country racers too. When you see someone like Julien Absalon descending, he looks like he his rigid, but somehow he goes through rocks and he doesn’t bounce off anything! It’s like he dissipates energy somehow differently.

Finally, what is Fox’s finest achievement?

I think Fox’s finest contribution is that we’ve made suspension systems that are quite long-travel, efficient and lightweight. Honestly now, a six-inch bike weighs as much as my titanium race hardtail did in the 80s. And I think Fox has played a big role in that.

It’s funny how development happens incrementally. I remember back in 1988 I was in Moab and I was fit then. I was riding a bike with 2.2” tyres, huge for back then, but I could barely ride every day because I was so sore. Then I went back a few years ago, I rented a six-inch Turner bike, and everything felt too easy! I was not physically challenged. And I was looking at these trails I had to walk down back in 1988, and everybody, cyclists all abilities, were riding them. And I think Fox has been a real driving force in that.

 

A few questions from our Facebook page:

 

Will there be RC2 dampers on Fox 34 forks next year?

No – we see RC2 dampers as being better for gravity, for riders looking for the ultimate tune. more tuning is common. CTD is for all-round riding, which is where 34 forks will be used.

Will I get full travel from my Fox fork in the future?

For 2013 we’ve changed our air springs a lot. You will get full travel on all the new forks.

What are Fox doing to reduce their maintenance intervals? I just want to set and forget for 12 months.

How much do you ride, and where do you ride? There are certain bikes that are harder on the rear shock for instance too, where the rear shock is used as a structural element, or where it is more exposed to dirt and mud. For sure, on some bikes and some people, you can ride much longer than the recommended service intervals, but others not.

Mountain biking is a sport where you take some metal, some oils, some dirt and then you shake it. How long can you shake it before you need to service it? That’s the question.

On the newer forks, or forks with the new SKF seals, you can ride for longer and not have as much crap get in to your fork. In the little world of fork seals, it’s a real technology jump.

The new five-piece mounting hardware also reduces service time, it gives up to ten times the durability when compared to a DU bush arrangement. It also gives the same load reduction as Kashima coat. [/private]