The FOX 36 was the original high-performance, long-travel single crown fork. When FOX first brought this beast to market in 2005 its 36mm-legged chassis seemed absurdly chunky, like some kind of cartoon drawing of a fork. But the 36 weighed far less than its looks would indicate, and it soon became the gold standard for hardcore all-mountain riding.
Since then, this segment of mountain biking has blown up like a gouty toe, and performance of long-travel single crown forks has increased at a ridiculous rate; lighter, stiffer, more control on both the climbs and descents. Rockshox launched a huge salvo in the war for all-mountain dominance in 2013 with the Pike (which we’ve reviewed here), right at the same time as FOX were copping a bit of a battering as some riders found their forks under-damped and occasionally suffering from stiction issues.
But FOX have rallied the troops and resurrected that original no-holds-barred ethos of the 36 for 2015. While we haven’t got our new test fork onto the trails yet, at a glance, we’d have to say the results of their efforts are pretty damn impressive.
The new 36 really is new, there’s an awful lot to talk about with this fork, so we’ll save the full discussion of all the features for our final verdict. But what stands out to us is how far FOX have gone in their efforts to combat friction with the 36 – each and every 36 that rolls off the production line is fitted to a dyno that checks the fork for bushing friction. The fork also runs the new FOX Gold Oil lubricating fluid, which is claimed to reduce friction by 33%, and the damper seal head is now a very expensive, very slippery SKF number. The polishing process for the legs has been changed too.
The weight of this fork is another highlight, FOX have scraped every excess gram out of the lowers and our test fork weighs in at 2044g. Part of the weight saving comes from a new air spring assembly; rather than running a coil for the negative spring, the 36 uses a negative air spring which automatically equalises with the positive chamber. This arrangement should not only be lighter, but should deliver the best possible ride quality, no matter what the rider weight (unlike the coil spring, which was optimised for a 75kg rider).
The 36 is available in a pretty impressive range of configurations, with options for 26, 27.5 and 29″ wheels, travel adjustable TALAS formats, and in 160mm or 170mm versions. Worth noting too, is that travel can be internally adjusted with the Float versions of the fork, right down to 11omm. Interestingly, the 36 can be run with either a 15mm or 20mm axle – that’s a unique option we didn’t expect. Next up, we’ll be fitting this fork to our new Norco Range Carbon 7.2 long-term test bike. It’ll be replacing a Rockshox Pike, so making a head to head comparison of the performance should be easy.