2015 saw a new incarnation of Fox’s popular Float 36 air sprung big-hitter, and a chance to regain ground against its omnipresent rival, the Rockshox Pike. And it had a strong start; the 36 was ridden to success under both the men’s and women’s 2014 Enduro World Series champions, Tracy Moseley and Jared Graves.
Aimed firmly at the all-mountain and enduro end of the mtb spectrum, the 36s are available in a huge variety of flavours – 26in, 27.5in and 29in wheel sizes, 140 -180mm travel options in 10mm increments, straight 1 1/8th and tapered steerers, and they come with the ability to run either a 15mm or 20mm bolt thru axle. It’s an array of options that should keep both old and new school riders happy.
The Float 36 retain their legendary burliness, while dropping some weight thanks to redesign of both crown and lowers. For a big fork they feel light when first picked up out of the box and that feeling remains when they’re strapped into the front of your bike and ready to go. The other immediate impression is of a fork that’s not overly tall for the amount of travel on offer; the 27.5in 160mm fork we tested kept the front end of the bike suitably low slung. The new 36 is comparable in height to its 34 stablemate which will aid anyone upgrading.
The thru axle is held in place by four pinch bolts, which if you’re a serial front wheel remover can be a hassle compared to other manufacturers’ offerings. Fox maintains that this gives better alignment. Inserts at the axle clamp area of the lowers are removable and allow a 20mm axle to be fitted in place of the 15mm if you prefer.
A new revised, suitably slippery, Kashima coating to the stantions combines well with very sensitive compression damping to create a fork which responds well to small bumps and trail buzz. As you head down the trail on that first fine tuning ride, it creates a very good first impression; the 36 is a supple fork which tracks incredibly well over terrain with no noticeable friction in initial activation. This is a very good thing.
Like its rival the Pike, the 36’s spring rate is also tuneable with the aid of spacers which snap onto the air shaft. It’s worth spending some time with this relatively simple home workshop process to get the fork feeling exactly as progressive as you want. The time spent tweaking during the initial set up phase is well worth the investment and there’s really no reason to be put off diving in, it really is simple. With a bit of trial and error tinkering with spring volume it’s possible to get a fork that cancels out trail chatter, sits nicely in its travel, and still keeps enough in reserve to soak up repeated big hits without diving through.
Complementing the tuneability of the air spring rate is the 36’s compression and rebound damping. There’s no lockout (a good thing in my opinion) and there’s no platform; instead you find nice and simple, fully adjustable, independent high speed and low speed compression damping. Each click of the dial is immediately noticeable in its effect, making adjustments easy to feel through the consequent performance of the fork and it’s easy to quickly dial in your preferred feel without resorting to guesswork. Again it’s a case of time spent initially experimenting with settings paying off with a resulting ride quality that surpasses most forks in its class.
So eight months in the Fox 36 has proven to be a reliable fork that has rewarded the initial time investment getting it fine tuned to deliver a ride feel and performance that nudges ahead of that offered by the Rockshox Pike – although I’m keen to see how it compares to the newly released Lyrik. It has a supple and smooth initial stroke that tracks well, and with two spacers fitted offers the mid stroke and progressive spring rate I’ve come to prefer on local technical trails. It’s a fork that feels confident, and reassuringly solid, whether taking big hits or steering through rock gardens, without any corresponding weight penalty for the level of stiffness it offers.
Overall: The Fox 36 is a good choice for anyone looking for a finely tuned big hitting fork. Smooth over small bumps while keeping plenty in reserve for when things get rowdy. It’s a fork with an impressive pedigree that’ll confidently lead you right up to the edge of your comfort zone and carry you out the other side.
|Product:||36 FIT RC2|
|Tested:||by Dave for 8 months|