Fox Racing Shox 36 TALAS 180 FIT RC2 Review

Forks Pro Reviews

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Impressions
I received the 2011 TALAS 180 just after Christmas, but it sat dormant waiting on my new bike arrival. Once the sweet Ibis Mojo HD frame arrived a month later, the bad boy was installed as quickly as possible. I have gotten around three months of good usage (or abuse-age) on the fork, and even though I tossed a new bike into the brain confusion of the test, the fork it has turned out to be one of the best forks I have ever used, period! It’s buttery smooth and a plush Meister, and has a very linear feel though most of its travel stroke. In a nutshell, the fork is firm on small bump compliance, plush from small/medium through large, and ramps up in stiffness for big hits, and has a nice bottom out bumper, which has some decent give. The fork is one stout beast, and I can’t feel any significant flex, no matter how much torture I can toss at it. The stiffness at the lower end of the forks is greatly enhanced by the double clamped 20mm thru axle, and the elongated bushing overlaps, and the underhung design of the lower tubes (2 inches below axle). I have slammed it into some heavy duty local technical terrain, such as Palmer Park, Pueblo South Shore and the Monument Preserve, and it has come through with flying colors.

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The fork rides quite nicely on normal terrain, and it seems to sink down into its sag, and then finds a static zone where its sits without wallowing, deflecting terrain that it encounters, with no overt mushiness while spinning, so it doesn’t suck up valuable energy. On long flat sections, you’ll still feel a small amount of softness, but it’s a 7 inch suspension fork, and it does a mighty fine job riding on cross country trails, where this sort of beast shouldn’t seem to belong. It sits pretty tall in the saddle (568 mm axle-to-crown), and on occasion when encountering and steering through things on shallow terrain, doing small wheel hop’s or wheelie’s helps with more precise control, but you can smash into anything, and the fork allows the wheel to roll over objects. You can really drive the fork hard, and use all that plush suspension, and it still keeps a firm enough feel that it doesn’t dive into things. When it gets into anything remotely rough, tough and big, it rises to become a supreme master of the terrain, and it eats things up like crazy. It provides amazing traction characteristics as it follows and undulates with the terrain, making it stick like glue to everything in encounters.

“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!”

I really noticed how stable the bike remains when dropping into ugly and heinous terrain, while the fork itself undulates and sucks up things in its way. It seems to give the rider and bike the ability to stand up straighter. An example that comes to mind is watching a pro mogul skier flying down through the terrain, and their upper body stays static, while the legs (forks in this case) suck it all up. When it’s ripping down anything, it shines like a star, and whether it’s going fast or slow through any terrain, it seems to make things feel as though one was floating through powder (another skier analogy). Even when slamming it hard off a ledge, nose diving it or into a squared off rock, it doesn’t dive or toss your weight forward, and it seems to pull you along through rock gardens, ledges, etc., without any undo encumbrance. The lessening of fatigue in the hands and arms, is quite noticeable, and allows an extra amount of endurance on long rough sections and rides, as it keeps the energy depletion to a minimum. This fork needs an adjustable seatpost to maximize its usefulness, since you will be moving it up and down regularly on any ugly ride or technical terrain.

The two position TALAS has been very useful, and on technical climbs (even short ones) the 140 setting helps in taming the tall fork. When it comes time to climb something steep, just turn the TALAS knob (right hand side) clockwise, push your weight down, and the 140 travel setting is engaged. It worked wonders to help on climbs, and it gives better traction due to the optimized weight balance. The 140 setting isn’t as plush as the 180 (just a tad), and sometimes feels congested, but the slightly firmer feel and platform are nice while grinding up steep hills or doing technical maneuvers. It’s pretty amazing that this fork can climb so well, and I think the 140 setting is the perfect compromise point for climbing on this 180 fork. The lower height and weighting make the bike rail around switchbacks with ease, and allow quick slice and dice steering moves, and keeps a great sense of traction control to the rear end. To disengage just turn the knob counter clockwise, do a wheelie or unweighting of the front end, and its back to the full 180 travel. You can climb short sections in the 180 mode, but you need to be more careful of the body weighting, and keep the front end down and the seatpost high. Even being able to use either travel setting, on long arduous climbs, it’s a heavy air fork (2493.5 grams/5.5 lbs), and some energy depletion will occur, but the expense is well worth it for the joyous descent. At Palmer Park, which has trials like technical terrain, being able to lower it came in handy for many of the wicked short climbing moves, and it was nice to pop it to either 140 and 180 as needed. I do wish it had a remote control lever for the TALAS, so that it could be actuated from the handlebars. I use the system so frequently, that a remote would be an incredible feature.

The tallness of the fork on the Ibis HD, produced a 1 degree slackness in the steering, and it sometimes made technical moves a tad dicey, though I have gotten used to it. The last couple of weeks I have been testing (review forthcoming) the Cane Creek Angleset with the fork and bike, and it has allowed a steepening back to the normal 67 degrees, and it has greatly increased the precision, control and the steering attributes.

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The fork runs pretty good right out of the box, with all the factory adjustment settings, just using the appropriate air pressure setting for sag. However, to take the full privileged of this wondrous fork, you need to play with the tuning, as it makes it immensely functional, for your body weight, riding style, and terrain. Caveat emptor, as I made some changes recently per someone’s recommendations, and it screwed the fork up for me, and I had to revert to factory for it to feel some semblance of normality. I weigh 155 lbs, and I alternate the air pressure between 40-50 psi, which gives me around 45-30 mm of sag, and I change it depending on the type of terrain I will be riding in, the speeds I will be traveling at, whether it might be a long climb or steep crazy decent or jumps, and so on. Please go by the amount of sag, as I have found that the high pressure shock pumps are widely inaccurate in the pressure readings at lower psi. I tweaked some of the setting’s past their factory defaults (middle of settings), making the Low Speed Compression 17 out of 26 (+4), to alleviate some slight fork dive, the Rebound at factory, and the High Speed to 14 out of 23 (+2).

The fork is an 8 inch post mount for the brakes, so no adapter was required to run a massive 203mm rotor. At first the 203 mm rotor seemed like overkill, but now I am liking it, and after doing some sick steep runs on my local nemesis trail, which has brutally ugly rock slabs and ledges, I am a convert, and I just recently added a 180 to the rear for a nice synchronous pair. Braking was exemplary, working in great synergy for the control of traction, steering and speed.

Measured Specs:

  • Weight (uncut) – 2493.5 grams/5.5 lbs (1 1/8 inch straight steerer)
  • TALAS – 183 mm and 146 mm/7.2 inches and 5.75 inches
  • Axle to crown – 568 mm/22.4 inches

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Lee Lau says:

    “The Kashima coating has been very durable, and adds another layer of buttery smoothness to an already slick fork. ”

    To be honest. I can’t tell the difference between Kashima and non-Kashima. Perhaps it adds wear-resistance but I haven’t used the fork long enough to tell

  • Chris says:

    I was also blown away when I got this fork last summer. It works better than anything I have owned up to this point. At some point I want to try out the Manitou Dorado as I have only heard good things about it but for a single crown for I think the 36 180 is hard to beat.

    One think I wanted to comment on was the use of the Talas feature. It seems that there is a lot of negative press about this feature out there, or that if nothing else they say it is not of any benefit. Personally I find that in the right situation such as climbing really steep sections or going around sharp switchbacks it actually does help to be in the 140 mode. I’ve actually tired a steep climb several times without success then remembered that I could drop the fork and cleaned it the next time. It is also good for longer climbs with out of the saddle efforts because the lower setting will reduce bob. Another place it is a plus is on downhill sweep turns because it speeds steering up a bit and reduces dive.

    So to others, don’t write it off because someone else has said it doesn’t help until you have given it some time. I just wish that there was a bar mounted actuator to go between 180 and 140.

  • Mark says:

    Kashima: Scam. Doesn’t make much of a difference in the durability of the stanchions and no difference I’ve noted in friction. Marzocchi and Rock Shox has been making forks for years with conventional, durable anodization, yet Fox can’t figure it out.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Chris: Thanks, never did try the 140 going down switchbacks? You just reminded of a weakness that I will add, bar mounted actuator!
    Lee: The Kashima and non-Kashima difference is subtle, but it’s smoother, and I mainly feel it as less stiction.

  • Lee Lau says:

    Brian – it might be that Fox’s non-Kashima coated forks are so good. I’ve got a Kashima and non-Kashima 160 and I can’t tell the difference in a blind test

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Mark: Marzocchi now uses Nickel coated (and the EVO has Ti Nitride), while Rock Shox still has normal ones, though they have been playing coatings themselves. I live in a very sandy, dirty and rocky place, and the Kashima coating has shown less scratching and gouging in direct comparison to the normal coatings? Öhlins has been using coatings for shocks (motorcycles) for a very long time. Regardless of marketing hyperbole, I think it actually works, and the durability is definitely obvious, while the smoothness is more subtle.

    Lee: stop riding your bike blind!

  • nicholas poetker says:

    Great review!
    You gave great detail to the fork and its awesome riding attributes.
    I have been on the 180mm float for about 6-7 months now correlated with a banshee rune and love it.
    The fork is superb with all the same riding ability as you have mentioned about the talas.

    However My one gripe is the fork which seemed very stiff without any noticeable flex has become very flexible recently.
    It kind of scary. The forks action is superb and unharmed but it makes the loudest of pops and clicks as I tune corners hard or land a jump or drop.
    Just pushing the fork still in the parking lot makes horrendous clicking cracking nosies.
    I dont know if this is of good measures but its becoming increasingly worse.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    Outstanding review!
    The fox is a smooth stable fork and would be enjoyed by anyone!
    RidEOn!
    Niko

    • Derek P says:

      you need to get a rebuild your oil seals and dust wipers have become to loose and the stanchions are just rattleing around inside the lowers

    • Derek P says:

      you need to rebuild your fork and replace all the different seals because they have become weakend by the long use and now your stanchions are rattleing inside your lowers.

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