August 20, 2010
Jonny's verdict on 160mm of golden legged, vulpine air travel for big hitting duties..
From: Mojo Suspension
Time tested: 3 Months
Modern suspension is a wonderful thing. Forks and shocks tend to work so well it’s hard not to get carried away and use cliched phrases like ‘buttery smooth’ or ‘plush’ to describe them, which would be a bit misleading as butter is best on toast and plush is what soft toys are made from. Toast and soft toys shouldn’t be the first thing that come to mind when you’re talking about quality suspension.
Anyway, I’ll try and get through this review without sinking too far into cliche. This Fox 36 Float RLC is the latest in their line of long travel single crown fork, with 160mm (6.3″) of air sprung bounce. It’s designed to be used for your average all mountain and freeride behaviour. The fork we tested was a standard 1.125″ steerer but tapered versions are available too. The 36mm stanchions bizarrely don’t look as strikingly beefy as when the forks were first introduced, probably due to everything else on modern bikes getting larger diameter in the meantime. Weight is impressive, with our pair weighing 2070g with a 200mm long steerer, making it the lightest 160mm travel fork that we’re aware of.
Externally, the first thing that stands out is the new Kashima coating on the stanchions. It’s a proprietary coating originally used in motocross applications and Fox have to ship the tubes to Japan to get coated before shipping them back to assemble the forks. There’s a lot of extra time and expense involved but Fox reckon it’s worth it, with a claimed 47% increase in durability over the old coatings as well as reduced friction between fork leg and seals.
The fork lowers are unchanged and use the same flip-levered 20mm through axle system as previous 36 forks to keep the wheel in place. It’s quick and easy to use and copes quite happily with mud and filth.
What has changed for 2011 is that the FIT sealed damping cartridge is now inverted. This means there’s less unsprung mass but to be honest the only thing you’ll really notice is that the rebound adjustment has now moved to the bottom of the fork leg rather than the top. On this RLC model you also get a lockout with threshold adjustment and low speed compression adjustment which now sits closer to hand at the top of the right hand leg. Air pressure is a single adjustment from the top of the left hand leg and the brake mount of the post mount variety, taking a 160mm disk directly or larger sizes with adaptors. You can also adjust the travel down to 100mm in 10mm increments by taking the fork apart should you want less travel but a burlier fork than a Fox 32 option.
Enough of the features, the proof is really in how it rides. I’m not going to allow myself to uses phrases like ‘spiking’ or ‘plunging through the midstroke’ which is just as well because this fork does neither. I’m not going to trot out the lazy comment that it’s ‘an air fork feels like it’s actually coil sprung’ but that does happen to be true as well. The Kashima coating really does make a noticeable difference to the amount of effort needed to get the fork moving and while the rest of the fork is looking a bit careworn due to it’s rather hard life, the gold stanchions still look as shiny as when they came out of the box. The damping is superb, with the low speed adjustment letting you tune the fork’s response when pedalling or balancing on tight, cruxy, nadgery bits of technical trail to your own preference and it’s surprising how little bob there is while still retaining sensitivity to the smaller things you run into while riding.
At high speed the fork deals with rough stuff in it’s stride, the stiff chassis letting you point the bike where you want – in fact it’s quite scary how fast you can pile into things on a fork that is a relative weight weenie in the world of big hitting forks. Yes, almost £900 is a lot of money but if you’re after a 160mm single crown forks then you’re probably more than aware that you’re in for a wallet-thrashing whichever manufacturer you go to. Although Fox say the Float is for the lighter ride of riding the 160mm 36 chassis can cover, I can’t see any reason why you’d want to buy the coil sprung Vanilla 36 or a TALAS over this Float, unless you really must have a travel reduction option – and that wasn’t a feature I missed at all.
Overall: It’s stiff, it’s light, it feels excellent, in fact it’s probably the best long travel single crown fork available now.
— Jonny Woodhouse