The new FOX 36 fork dropouts (left)—which revert to the fixing configuration FOX used prior to 2008—are more complex but lighter than the QR 15 version (right). The latest version does, however, allow the use of either a 15 or 20mm thru-axle.
Chassis Part 2: Convertible 15mm/20mm thru-axle system
Though most forks have drifted to 15mm thru-axle configurations, FOX sought to give riders the choice of running either a 15 or the stiffer 20mm axle that’s been the hallmark of the 36 for years. FOX accomplishes this by supplying a 20mm “native” thru-axle, as well as a 15mm version that uses a pair of side-specific adapters that nest in the fork dropouts.
In either configuration, the non-drive side is threaded, and the axle is tightened until bottom-out to establish a perfectly straight fork leg alignment, according to Jordan. The four pinch bolts are then tightened to fix the axle in place.
The 36’s fixed-axle differs from pinch-clamp designs that have the potential to introduce side-loads and skew the fork-leg alignment creating friction, according to Jordan.
Chassis Part 3: Industrial design revisions
With an arch and dropout design based on the 40, an optimized five-taper tube section, bushings overlapped to reduce friction and wear, and a 180mm direct disc post-mount, the lower leg casting got the lion’s share of the 36’s industrial design revamps. But FOX also put significant effort into the upper assembly, optimizing the steerer tube for weight and stiffness, reducing the crown’s press-in height to minimize axle-to-crown length, and by introducing an even finer polish to both the internal and external upper tube surfaces which are already impregnated with FOX’s slippery Kashima coating.
Axle-to-crown length effects how high the bike’s front end and handlebars sit. With 27.5- and 29-inch wheels, riders are more keen than ever to keep this measurement as low as possible, and FOX have done well by reducing a-to-c by 9mm on the new 36.
Chassis Details: Don’t you forget about me
While the tapered 1.5-inch steerer tube has become the standard for bikes the last few years, and bigger wheels are all the rage, FOX recognizes that there’s plenty of perfectly good bikes out there with both 26-inch wheels and straight steer tubes. To accommodate, they’re offering 1-1/8-inch steerer, 26-inch wheel versions of the 36 FLOAT in 160 and 180mm, the 36 TALAS in 160 and 180mm, and the 36 VAN in 180mm. FOX apparently gets that despite all the 27.5 hype, it will take decades for its install-base to match the 26er.
FOX brought along a nifty clear model of the 36 that shows off its parts configuration and details. And no, you can’t ride it. Photos by Colin Meagher
Internals Part 1: Improved FIT RC2 damper
FOX first used a version of their sealed-design FIT RC2 damper nine years ago on their 40 DH fork. The design promises consistent performance along with a high level of external adjustability for high- and low-speed compression, as well as rebound. In the version they’re using on the new 36, FOX wanted to dial-in better smoothness and suppleness, particularly at the beginning of the stroke. To do so, they lowered the oil weight and borrowed the seal head design from the RAD 34 which they say offers better small bump sensitivity without sacrificing support.
While RockShox’s Charger Damper borrows from FOX’s long-used FIT RC2 damper design, the new version of the latter (above) had to do some catch-up in terms of feel. As you’ll read in our ride test later, the update seems to have done the trick.
Internals Part 2: New FLOAT air spring
The 36’s new FLOAT air spring has changed dramatically from its prior iteration, particularly its negative spring, whose job is to help smooth the start of the fork’s travel as well as its top out feel on return. Gone is the negative coil spring of old, and in its place a self-equalizing air chamber design that uses a bypass port to ensure consistent axle-to-crown length regardless of rider weight or spring pressure. It also saves some weight and eliminates noise associated with the coil spring.
The new FLOAT air spring promises to be more responsive, lighter and quieter.
Internals Part 3: Travel and air volume adjustments
In order to give a rider maximum tuning and travel options FOX has made internal air volume and travel changes fairly simple on the new FLOAT. Aluminum spacers that install under the negative spring plate govern travel and can reduce the fork’s travel up to 50mm in 10mm increments. We’re usually ones for more travel, given the option, but Jordan points out, for example, that people might want to run a stiffer, more supple 36 on a shorter-travel bike that’s designed around a 140 or 150mm fork without disrupting its geometry. And since the 36 weighs about the same as a 34—and now has the same axle-to-crown length—why not? Conversely, the 36 might be just the ticket for dirt jumping—meaning it’s got much more application latitude than we’re used to seeing in a fork.
The FLOAT 36 can be reduced up to 50mm in 10mm increments from its native travel length.
At the same time, travel reduction will likely require a reduction in air volume, so the fork ramps up accordingly. The FOX 36 ships with plastic volume spacers in 7.6 and 10.8cc increments that make the fork do just that. Though such a change would likely take some trial-and-error, the spacers simply snap on the shaft, making the process fairly straight-forward.
The FLOAT 36’s travel and air volume adjustments give the fork incredible range, meaning you can set it up for a marathon XC event like the BC Bike Race or lower it and ramp the spring curve for dirt jumping. Most riders will keep it between those extremes, but it’s nice to have options. Photos by Colin Meagher