I have been riding the 36 TALAS 160 for a couple of months now, and I am really liking it, as it has some unique properties and features that benefit the type of riding and terrain that All Mountain riders will usually encounter. It took a long time to break in, which is an oddity for Fox forks that I have ridden, and it only recently came into its own.
The Kashima coating is an excellent feature, and offers a buttery smooth ride, decreased friction, less stiction, and a wonderful tactile feel through the handlebars. The coating notably increases durability, showing up as fewer abrasions and gouging on the tubes surface, and it certainly looks pretty sweet in its subtle gold color. I have ridden the same fork, with and without the coating, and there is a perceptible difference.
The small bump compliance is superb, which has always been a hallmark of Fox’s suspension products. It takes the perfect edge off the little bumps, stutters and rocks, giving a smooth ride, and lets it float along the trail. Once the fork rolls into its mid stroke, it really stiffens up considerably, and gives a somewhat harsh ride, especially on mellower bumpy terrain, and you feel as though you battle the handlebars around, and get pulverized through the wrists. At first I found it a hindrance, but when riding into more technical terrain, through rock gardens, up and down ledges, and ugly stair step climbs, the stiffness really helps keep the front end down and planted, giving it excellent traction and offering paramount stability and steering control. Once the travel veers past the mid stroke and ventures into the large bumps and big hits, the fork becomes quite plush, and has a silkiness to its feel, without any sensation of being overly squishy. I really enjoyed the plushness at the tail end of the travel, as it made jamming through rock gardens, flying off things and blazing down steep sections enjoyable, and much less fatiguing. I can’t comment on big hucks since I don’t do any of that, but on small jumps of 3-5 feet it did just fine. It still ramps up when you get towards the bottom out bumpers, but you really need to be slamming the fork hard to access the section of the travel. Like any fork, it was difficult to extract the full amount of travel on a normal daily ride, unless it was tossed off some big stuff, and I would usually get an average maximum of 140mm.
The big 36mm stanchions, beefy arch and 20mm axle add up to an impressive front end, that gives excellent control, stability and inspires confidence. Plowing down rock gardens, technical terrain and pretty much anything ugly belays a great deal of control, and it just keeps the front end connected and glued to the ground. This beefiness, induces higher speeds, and more leaping off bigger objects, and general silliness.
Here is some videos of my local terrain where the fork was tested. The terrain in both videos is deceptively steep, with good ledge drops and fork slams:
The air is added on the travel adjust side, and you just twirl the TALAS knob clockwise and the cap pops up, and can be spun off, though it’s difficult using gloved fingers. The useful air pressure range for adjustments was very narrow, and anything outside the window made the fork either too harsh or wallow with a propensity to fork dive. I rode with the air pressure between 55 – 6o psi, and found that ideal for my 155 lbs. The sag is controlled by the air pressure, and Fox recommends between 25-40mm, but I rarely go by the book, and instead tweak it until it feels right on the local terrain and my riding style. I set the rebound slightly fast, but kept it pretty close to the middle.
The FIT RLC damper worked just fine, and I really liked the lockout on my local fire road or on the street, since it saved a lot of wasted energy. It was extremely easy to operate on the fly, with a simple turn of the lever clockwise for lock engage, and the reverse for fully open. I do wish it had an adjustable platform damper, so that you could play with the stiffness (supple to firmer to lockout), allowing you to run a lower air pressure, without adverse issues. I didn’t really use the lockout threshold adjustment, and left it fully open, so that I got an easy blow out on stutter bumps, meaning it gave me about 15mm of mini travel if I hit something hard. I rarely used the lockout on normal trails, since the fork’s mid stroke was quite stiff. If any fork dive reared its head at slower speeds, a slight increase of the low speed compression alleviated it, but it never really seemed to be much of an issue if the pressure was kept correct for my weight. Making any refinements using the low speed made discernible delineations to the fork, and I used it when required. I did miss the ability to do external high speed adjustments, but it wasn’t that big of an issue, and there will always be some sort of compromises with different features, and in addition the high speed circuit is pretty darn sweet as is.
I used the TALAS feature on every ride I did, and I found it to work nicely, and it was a welcome addition on a long travel bike, giving one the versatility of having a Cross Country or an All Mountain setups. When you can drop a fork on a climb, your weight is more balanced and neutral, with better steering and traction control, and less wheeling. The two position 120mm and 160mm travel settings worked well for the steep climbs that I deal with in Colorado, though on occasion, a 130mm setting may have been a more appropriate compromise? Both settings have a similar spring rate, sag and bump response, so they felt near identical throughout their respective travel strokes. Although Fox recommends not to change the travel on the fly, I did it all the time, as the ergonomic knob was easy to turn, though the engagement needs to be done quickly in a controllable section. To engage the lower travel position, reach down and turn the TALAS knob clockwise, and bounce your weight forward or push down hard on the handlebars, and it drops to 120. To disengage, and return to the full travel, reach down and rotate the knob counterclockwise, and do a mini wheelie, and it returns to 160mm. Though it was still slightly notchy compared to the Float, it is greatly improved over its predecessor’s.
Taking the front wheel off and on was an easy process, since the 20mm thru axle system was pretty user friendly, and bombproof. You simply flick open the QR levers at the bottom front of each fork leg, pop out the axle lever, and use it to unscrew the axle, which is threaded into the opposing dropout. Reverse the process for installation. With everything clamped down, I never felt any slop nor flex in the fork, and the legs were stout and stable beasts, and tossing them into the ugliest terrain I could find did nothing to their composure. The additional rigidity offered by the two clamps holding the axle is pretty amazing, and offers an excellent solid platform for the fork. I spoke to the Fox engineers at Sea Otter about their use of this somewhat primitive system, and in direct comparison to a Maxle type of QR, it provides greater rigidity.
I haven’t had any issue with the fork during my short period of abusiveness, and there has been no signs of any weeping nor leaking from the seals.
- Total weight – 2158.2 grams
- 20mm axle weight – 62.2 grams
- Crown to Axle – 546 mm
- Average max travel – 142mm
- Lower travel setting – 122mm
- Sag – 28-37mm
Although the stiff mid stroke was appreciated in technical terrain and on some flat sections, it does tend to take it abuse on your wrists, and after a hard day of riding, and sometimes felt like you were beaten up, so a slight softening of the stiffness would be appreciated. Although the lower travel setting of 120mm worked well for steep terrain, it was a bit extreme for most situations, and a 125 or 130mm would be a better compromise. This fork took an extremely long time to break in, and some consumers might be upset with the fork’s performance until that time period is accomplished.