The Van 160 is an incredible fork, and offers superb compliance, control and steering attributes, along with excellent small bump interaction, and of course, typical coil spring plushness and linearity. What sets this fork apart from its competition, are the responsiveness and laser like steering capabilities that it has in any terrain and speed, and during any type of maneuvering. It functions fine in normal everyday terrain, but excels in the gnarliest stuff that it can be tossed into. It has plenty of buzzes and whistles, including the FIT Rc2 damper, SKF seals and slippery Kashima coated stanchions, but at heart it’s a simple coiled fork, that requires very little tuning outside an initial setup.
Fox 36 Factory Forks
Fox revamped their product line in 2012, and divided things into family groupings, that cover their entire suspension line, and everything is now divided into three entities: Factory, Performance and Evolution.
FACTORY – Best: has their latest, greatest and most advanced technology
PERFORMANCE – Better: FIT on 32, open bath on 36 and 40, less advanced technology and adjustability
EVOLUTION – Good: entry level, open bath forks, simpler technology
The 2012 Fox 36 Factory forks come in two versions, the All Mountain 160 mm and the Freeride 180 mm. The 36 160 come in three flavors, the TALAS, FLOAT and VAN, specifically: the TALAS FIT RLC, FLOAT FIT RLC and the Van RC2 (coil). The 36 180 also come in three flavors, the TALAS, FLOAT and Van, specifically: the FLOAT FIT RC2, TALAS FIT RC2 and Van RC2. Every version comes in an Open Bath only version, aka the R. There was a slight change in 2011 to the TALAS version, as 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 damper in contrast to the previous year’s RC2 (the Van remains the same), while the 180 is all RC2. The 180 has an elongated bushing overlap, and a below axle tube design, for an increased stiffness and lower axle-to-crown.
The tested 36 Van 160 FIT RC2 fork, has 36mm stanchions, a 20QR thru axle, either 1-1/8 inch straight or 1.5 inch tapered steerer, 6″ post style disc brake mounting, FIT RC2 damper, Kashima coated stanchions, Black Diamond color scheme, and adjustments for low-speed and high-speed compression, spring preload and rebound. It comes with two extra coil springs, with a lower and higher spring rate, and retails for $949-955 (steerer dependent).
The FIT RC2 inverted damper is located within the right fork leg, and offers a wide range of low-speed and high-speed compression, and rebound adjustments (RC2=Rebound Compression x 2). The rebound knob is located on the bottom, while the other adjustments reside at the 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. Fox has tweaked the FIT damper with new internals, and the new seal head has less stiction at the start of its stroke, and in direct comparison (on a simple test unit at Sea Otter), it was definitely a noticeable feel, and felt much smoother, without any notchiness.
The Kashima Coat technology has been used for years across the motorcycle and automotive industries, and Fox have 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 (stiction-free). The Kashima coating has been tweaked for 2012, and it appears as a darker color, and is slightly more slippery.
SKF Wiper Seals
Fox has partnered with the giant Swedish firm SKF, who is famous for their motorcycle seals, to use them on their forks. The seals use a different compound, shape and height, which greatly reduce friction and stiction. This new seal lip design and contact geometry works in synergy with the Kashima coating for a smoother and plusher stroke.
Fox teamed up with Shimano to create a strongly performing 20mm thru-axle. The axle is lightweight and stiff, and uses a tool-free design for ease of use. The screw-in axle uses clamps on each leg, to increase stiffness, and make sure that the fork has maximum rigidity in adverse conditions.