Fox 36 TALAS 160 FIT RLC Review

Forks Pro Reviews

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Reviewed by Brian Mullin http://www.gramslightbikes.com/

I have been thoroughly enjoying the last couple of months testing the new 2011 Fox 36 TALAS 160 FIT RLC fork. It has been bashed, trashed and tossed into as many rugged conditions as possible, and it has turned out to be a light, stable and stout beast, that thrives in technical terrain. The features make it terrific package, and include adjustable travel (TALAS), the slippery Kashima coating on the stanchions, the new FIT RLC damper and a lighter crown.

Fox 36 Forks
For 2011 the Fox 36 has two versions, a 160mm (All Mountain) and a 180mm (Freeride) fork. The 36 160 comes in three flavors: the TALAS FIT RLC, FLOAT FIT RLC and the VAN RC2 (coil). The 36 180 also comes in three flavors: the FLOAT FIT RC2, TALAS FIT RC2 and VAN RC2. A slight change to the TALAS, it now uses two steps instead of three. The 160 variant is 160-120, while the 180 is 180-140. The 160 version has changed to the RLC in contrast to the RC2 (except for VAN), while the 180 is all RC2. RLC trades the RC2′s high speed compression for a lockout with threshold adjustment. The FIT RLC damper has gotten a revamp this year, and it’s lighter and has been inverted to mimic the 32 series. The 160 series went on a diet itself, with a new light crown and upper tubes.

The Fox 36 TALAS 160 FIT RLC fork, has 36mm stanchions, a 20QR thru axle, either 1-1/8″ straight or 1.5″ tapered steerer, post style disc brake mounting, two-position TALAS (160-120), FIT RLC damper, Kashima coated stanchions, Black Diamond color scheme, and adjustments for low-speed compression, lever actuated lockout, lockout force, air spring pressure and rebound.

Technical Features
TALAS
The new Travel Adjustable Linear Air Spring system (TALAS) on the 36, has two positions, allowing the fork to be dropped from its fully open 160mm down to 120mm, using the knob on the top of the right fork leg. The travel adjustment gives the fork good versatility, offering climbing efficiency, or copious plushness and full travel. A pop up cap for the air pressure resides in the middle of the TALAS lever.

t160_travel_new

The FIT RLC damper is located within the right fork leg, and offers a wide range of low-speed compression and rebound adjustments, along with a lockout, and lockout threshold adjusts. The rebound knob is located on the bottom, while the other adjustments are reside on top. The FIT (Fox Isolated Technology) system uses a damper cartridge, and the suspension fluid is isolated, so that it’s sealed away from air and crud, so that fluid aeration and contamination won’t occur, which causes damper performance degradation. The new FIT damper design reduces oil volume, which helps lighten the fork. The cartridge uses a rubber bladder, which provides low friction, and allows fluid expansion as the suspension system’s temperature fluctuates (heats up) during usage, creating a linear damping throughout the travel stroke.

Kashima Coat
The Kashima Coat technology has been used for years across the motorcycle and automotive industries, and Fox has teamed up with the Miyaki Company of Japan, to add this slippery coating to their forks. The hard anodized aluminum tubes are sent to Japan, where they add molybdenum disulfide via an induction process that deposits the material into pores of the anodized surface at 70 billion pores per cm². The MoS₂ adds better lubrication characteristics, higher hardness and abrasion resistance (durability), and a significant decrease in friction.

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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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  • Fabricio says:

    Hi Brian:

    How about high speed compression, that feature is missing or changed from previous models, instead they installed the lockout lever, I don’t know why, this fork is for another kind of use, many of us using this fork are All Mountain riders, we never miss the lockout from XC forks. Also what are those green spoke wheels???…looks weird jejeje.

    Nice review dude, I also have a ASR-7 close build to yours.

    Cheers

  • Brian Mullin says:

    I use the lockout all the time, on fire roads and smooth trails, so I like it as a feature, but it might not suit everyone’s taste. The high speed circuit is pretty decent as is. The green spokes are aluminum, and there on the very sweet Industry Nine All Mountain wheelset.

    Thanks for the compliment!

  • chris says:

    I run a 180 Talas and use every millimeter of travel on big hits. But I also run really low pressure. I am about 200lbs with gear and started with 60psi then went down to 40 because I wasn’t using all my travel and ended up at 45. This does provide supple suspension but that is what I want and about the right amount of sag, 25 to 30%. I’m completely anti stable platform unless I’m on pavement, which is almost never. I’m not sure if the mid stoke stiffness you spoke of could be reduced if you lowered the pressure but if it can’t that is a kill for me buying the fork as you are in mid stroke most of the time you are riding, around here. We don’t have long fire road climbs. I drop down to 140mm regularly for technical steep climbs or if I want to speed up the steering on a twisty trail or reduce bob a bit on a smooth(er) long(er) climb. I have gotten used to reaching down to turn the knob but wish there was a handlebar lever option then I’d use it even more. No one is going to stop to do this unless they are resting at the top of a climb. You listening Fox? I road a first generation 36 Talas fork for years and didn’t realize how poorly it performed until I got my ’11 180.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Chris, Thanks for the info, it’s nice to have varying input on forks! Not sure how big of hits you are taking, but it is a rare fork that I have ever gotten full travel out of, and only on really big hucks? Again, my numbers were for an average max travel (rock gardens, technical terrain, etc.), it is not my riding style to push the travel limit to the bottom out bumpers on every ride. The suggested pressure for your weight is 70-80psi, at 155lbs, mine is 50psi, which is what I used during an Interbike test with the 180, and gave me 35mm sag (approx.) A decrease of the air pressure on the 160 barely softens the stiff mid stroke, but it increases fork dive, and the platform starts to wallow. I am trying to set up a TALAS 180 test, but not sure if it will happen? Remember, 180 is a Freeride fork and the 160 is a All Mountain/Trail fork, totally different beasts.

  • Chris says:

    Brian, I’m sure if you road my bike set up for your weight you would think it felt wallowy at first until you adjusted. I used to ride with my forks set like you do to keep the ride up at the top of the travel but after a while I got tired of getting beat up and not using the available travel so I started experimenting. I wanted the bike to feel more like an enduro motorcycle than a stiff bicycle. I’m not doing big drops and if I was I would have to increase the pressure. I lowered the pressure until I was using most of the travel on rough trails at speed and all of the travel on bigger hits. The 180 is so tunable I use the slow and fast compression settings to keep it from feeling overly squishy and control the air spring but it’s still very compliant. I talked to Fox about it and they said that I was on the right track and should start with sag and go from there using dampening controls, and that low pressure wouldn’t hamper function. My slacker headtube angle transfers less weight to the front end than your XC frame; although I do run a 130mm stem with 10′ drop to get my weight as far forward as I can for climbing. I’m running a freeride fork and a downhill frame as a XC bike and other than the 35 pound weight there are no drawbacks from my perspective. I have 7″ of rear travel too. Over the years every time I go up in travel I like it better and can ride harder terrain up and down hills. I’m sure there are a lot of guys out there who would think I’m just plain wrong. To each their own. I go for 50mm sag on the 180.

    Thanks for the review and consideration for my input.

  • 2CH says:

    I was really hoping for a better in depth review actually, as I’m contemplating getting this fork for next season. How can you objectively review a fork when, in my opinion, it wasn’t set up properly for you?

    I’m with Chris on this one – I think you’re running your air pressure too high… I am about 220# and run my fork at around 58-60psi (2010 TALAS) and it’s about right. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the ride. I get the correct sag (~25-30%) and the fork feels nice and plush without too much wallow. If I run Fox’s recommended pressures I find it WAY too stiff and I get the punishing wrist bashing midstroke that you speak of. Forks are meant to be bottomed out once in awhile — on every ride — and as long as you are not constantly slamming it to the bump stops off of every little thing it’s perfectly fine. Otherwise, what’s the point of having 160mm of travel if you’re only using 140 of it on your rides??

  • Brian Mullin says:

    2CH, sorry you didn’t appreciate the review? I tested the 2010 TALAS and it is a whole different beast than this one, it did not have a stiff mid stroke, in fact my review states ‘Excellent mid stroke plushness’. I am not sure how you decided the fork wasn’t set up properly for me, as I spent 3 months of field testing, adjusting the pressure in varying terrain, and used what worked best for my weight, style, terrain and bike. I have been setting up forks since the Rock Shox RS1 days (89′), and have tinkered with the innards of many forks, changing out high speed shims, oil, etc. With most forks (especially Fox), getting 80-90% of travel is fairly normal, check out some of the Fox MTBR.com threads on the issue. On my 140′s I get 125-130, on my 160′s I get 135-145.

    Chris and 2CH, both of you guys are big, I weigh 155 lbs, and no matter what pressure I run, I am not going to get all the travel. Fox (and most manufacturers) creates their forks to cover everyone, but they must account for hard hitters and bigger people, hence they over build them. Sag and air pressure measurements can be pretty inaccurate and can have a wide range of readings, so all must be taken with a grain of salt.

    I ride super technical trails, and regularly slam the fork into and off ledges, usually at slower speeds due to the terrains nature, and if I ran the fork with low pressure I would get too much fork dive, which I tested. Even being able to adjust the high speed (as on the TALAS 2010) doesn’t cure the issue. I just added an additional video of some other terrain I ride.

    Thanks for talking about the topic, getting comments and thought provoking threads going, which helps us all! Like Chris stated “To each their own”.

  • humdinger says:

    Hi,
    Great review as always, very thorough. I’m a little confused how the Talas can be everything the Float 160 RLC Kashima I had wasn’t. This fork could be setup quite supple over the small stuff, but to achieve this meant low air pressure and thus no support mid-travel, and the first square-edged bump sent the fork straight through the travel…. Not good. I then put small increments of air in, and got the complete opposite, mid-travel support but no small bump compliance… Yet you say this Talas does achieve both… Curious for sure
    I’ve happily sold the Float now and bought the Marzocchi 55RC3 Ti partly based on your review I might add! How would you rate the zocchi against this Talas?

  • Brian Mullin says:

    humdinger, did you ride the fork for a long enough period of time for it to get broken in? The TALAS is also slightly notchy in direct comparison, so not a apples to apples. I think the Zocchi is buttery smooth through most of it’s range, but it ramps up stiffly towards the very end, while the TALAS has a more plushness on hte bigger hits. The TALAS stiff mid stroke allows a great platform for movement on technical terrain, while the Zocchi wallows just a tad. It is tough to compare air and coil forks, and they each have there benefits, and deficits, but coils sort of rule IMHO. How about an adjustable travel coil! That would be a design nightmare?

  • 2CH says:

    Thanks for the bit of clarification actually…

    I did appreciate the review, very much. What I should have said was I was hoping for a more positive review, rather than “better” I suppose. And I’m totally not slagging your qualifications or anything — I guess what I didn’t realize is how different the 2011 forks with the RLC damper are than the ’10s. If you were able to get the same amount of travel out of the 2010 fork without the stiff midstroke then maybe the FIT cartridge is not all it’s cracked up to be. Great for XC I’m sure, but maybe not for AM or FR applications.

    Good point about the inaccurate pressures too, my gauge on my shock pump could be out of whack as it’s never been calibrated to anything, and I consistently get different readings between my pump and buddies’ pumps.

    For me, I wish they wouldn’t have taken the RC2 damper out of the TALAS forks this year. I love being able to reduce the travel for climbing, but I would never use the lockout and the stiff midstroke does concern me a bit since as someone pointed out above that is where a fork spends a lot of its time.

    • leel says:

      2CH, To be blunt FIT equipped forks are crap compared to your RC2 fork. My 2010 36Talas 160 RC2 is quite a bit better than the 2011 36 Talas 160 with FIT performance-wise

  • SDB says:

    Hi Brian

    First of all, thanks for this review, it was very informative.

    I ride very technical trails similar to, but even more technical then the one in your first Vid. I also sometimes rent a long travel bike for downhill.

    I want to replace the stock fork on my Specialized Enduro Comp. In your opinion, should I get the 160 or 180 talas model for my type of AM riding?

    Also, is the stiff midstroke a problem? I am very light and as 2CH says, “that is where a fork spends a lot of its time.”

    Thanks,
    SDB

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Get the TALAS 180, it is one of the best forks I have ever used, super plush, and very linear through most of it’s stroke.

  • Cristobal says:

    Hi Brian

    I’m doing all mountain and technical trails and I take 2 meter drops at the most.

    I just tried my 36 talas 160 for the first time today.

    And…, you r right.

    The combination of this 2011 model variables is totally different from the previous year’s models.

    You have to get the right pressure (in my case 60) to be able to get the most of the low pressure and Lockout adjustments. If you do that, you will get the full travel performance.

    THANKS

  • Pat M says:

    These forks( non Kashima) came with my Covert V3 build kit. I weigh in at 185 lbs in my riding gear, if wanted 20% sag I’d have to have the pressure at 35 psi. I was new to the sport back then in June 2011, the forks never felt plush in the initial travel and they dove lots. I’d run them at higher pressure and have no small bump compliance. June this year I spoke with Mojo (the fox importer for the UK) I could get the jist that the new this was an issue with the 2011 Talas, not their fault as they didn’t make them but advised which my LBS also did to send them in to get serviced. Got them back with the new skf seals, they’d been dyno’d and set at 60 psi, got on the bike and sag was at 14mm, 18mm short of 20% recommended sag. I went out and rode it how it was sent and it was good when put through it’s travel but still no small bump compliance,plushness. Whilst my forks were in for their service I’d heard about the the new 2014 talas/cartridge, and asked about installing it as it’s retro fittable, it was too soon, Mojo had only one of them which was being used by a team rider.
    September rolled round and I’m still not happy with forks and toying with getting Bos deVilles as the stiction on these I think are terrible, I spoke to Mojo again about the new Talas cartridge, they had them in so I sent forks off, 4days later I went down to get them, met Chris Porter owner of Mojo, nice guy, got shown the improvements that had been done. I got them back on my bike and it was like Night and Day, much much less stiction than before I can now feel what the tyre is doing! I’ve got 20% sag and no brake dive! A friend of mine that has 160 Van said they feel like his when he just pushed on them! They never felt anywhere near like his fork when pushed on his ones.

    So IF YOU HAVE 2011 36 160 RLC TALAS FORKS GET THE NEW 2014 TALAS CARTRIDGE. They’ll feel much better :-). even the 12-13 forks will benefit. I saved myself some money by not having to buy a new fork.

    Sorry for the long post.

    regards

    Pat

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