Review: New 2015 Fox 36 FLOAT and TALAS fork

FOX takes the fight to RockShox with new, much improved 36

26er 27.5 29er Forks

Fox 36 QR bolt Compare

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.

Fox 36 Multi

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.

Fox 36 Chart Geometry

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 36 Clear Model

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.

Fox 36 RC2 Damper Moab

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.

Fox 36 FLOAT Airspring

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.

Fox 36 Chart Float Travel Ranges

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.

Fox 36 Spacers Moab

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

Continue to Page 3 for riding impressions and full photo gallery »

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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  • tyrebyter says:

    20mm axle option with clamping bolts. Yes, definitely. Still a lot of money for a Chinese fork, but I’ll have to get over that.

  • Mtbr says:

    Tyrebyter- The 36 is not built in China, but in the US–Watsonville, Calif. to be exact. Many of the components are built there as well, though some are imported–Kashima coating comes from Japan for example.

  • tyrebyter says:

    So, I just found Fox’s Registration Statement to the SEC from July 2013 indicating their intention to move production overseas by 2015. Did they reverse course?

  • Mtbr says:

    Tyrebyter- Our understanding is that FOX has set up parallel production lines for manufacturing OEM shocks and forks to go on bikes that are produced overseas and sold worldwide. Aftermarket production will continue in the US.

  • MBR says:

    Maybe not a deal killer for 36mm forks, having to loosen four pinch bolts to remove the front wheel, but hope this doesn’t migrate down to 32-34 mm forks…

  • Outside! says:

    One more fork with cast in mud catchers on the back of the fork lowers bridge. Everyone does it, but it would be nice if function won out over form someday and the casting recesses faced forward.

  • Rod says:

    I AM in the market for a 120 fork……which one? Talk about getting confused.

  • Sylvain says:

    After 2 emails explaining my problems with my 2012 34 Float CTD 29er and no response from Fox, my next fork won’t be a Fox.

    I’ve spend hundreds of $ servicing my fork (3 times a year in a Rockies summer) and still works like a pogo stick. No advice, no courtesy email. Nothing from Fox. AND the steer tube in the crown creaks like crazy and it`s driving me nuts…

    Sad that my 1st generation ever Fox Talas (32 Talas, 26 RLC), Fox first fox ever produced, now on my daughter`s bike, works better. It`s over 8 years old!!! My old 36 Talas worked better too.

    But if you can`t get help from the source, I don`t buy it. Glad to see that Santa Cruz is spec’ing Pikes now on their Tallboy LTc…

    Doesn’t matter how good this 36 is. They seem to help only their racers and the bike media…

    Very disappointing customer.

    Sylvain Vanier

    • Sylvain says:

      It was a 34 Float 140mm CTD for 29er…

    • StJoeRider says:

      My sentiments too. I’m through with Fox. And I have several rides.
      My latest ride, a new left over 2013 FSR EVO Expert Carbon has
      an all Fox set-up, which I’m gonna swap out for RockShox. You
      don’t spend that kinda of money on a bike with no help or service
      from someone. Called Spesh, they blew me off. Called Fox, they
      blew me off. My LBS will help by selling me all new fork and shock
      from RockShox for wholesale to fix this deal. BYE BYE FOX!
      FOX SUCKS!

  • SC says:

    Interesting on the weight of the 2014 float 36 RC2. Are you SURE 4.85lbs is the weight of the float, or the Talas….;-)

  • Jombo Man says:

    If I spent $599 for a Fox Fork and then another 400 to 500 for a rear shock you bet I want help from the manufacturer. Place a complaint with the Consumer product protection bureau. Defective and Unsafe products are their speciality..Now that would get Foxes attention.. BTW thanks for all the advise. When I spend $8000 to $10000 on my next bike it will have ROCK SHOX all the way around.. Go to go..Momma is calling.. TTYL Jombo Man

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