The Ride: Taking the 2015 FOX FLOAT 36 for a spin
Beauty in the rough: Moab’s Porcupine Rim is as rugged as it is beautiful, and a perfect venue for suspension testing. Photo by Colin Meagher
All the techno mumbo jumbo aside, the real question is how does the new FOX 36 ride, and more pointedly, how does it compare with the category-leading RockShox Pike? As we alluded to earlier, FOX gave us the perfect opportunity to answer those questions by having us bring the bike and fork of our choice of our choice to ride and compare at the Moab launch.
For the task, we loaded up our de facto 29er long-travel test bike, an Intense Carbine 29, equipped with the defending champion RockShox Pike. Confidently, FOX wanted us to ride our own forks on the first lap to get a feel for the terrain on a familiar bike. Thus equipped, our band of journos, led by Transition Bikes’ honch Lars Sternberg and FOX’s Ariel Lindsey headed out on a six-mile loop of Moab’s Lower Porcupine Singletrack, followed by a descent down the old Porcupine 4×4 road climb.
FOX Engineering Tech Ariel Lindsey goes for some style points on LPS at the FOX 36 press launch in Moab, Utah. Photo by Colin Meagher
The route gave us enough rocks, drops and jumps to test our dental work as well as our bikes, and actually made a perfect venue for testing the new 36. With our baselines established, FOX’s Darren Garrison installed the new 36 on each of our bikes and helped us set our sag, compression and rebound. From there, we did another LPS shake-down lap with Jordan and Lindsey taking us through some compression setting tests designed to show the forks massive range of adjustability.
FOX Suspension Tech Darren Garrison swapped out or existing Pike for a new 36 at the Porcupine Rim trailhead in Moab, Utah. Photo by Colin Meagher
Supple and silky
After some lunch back at the trailhead, we headed out for a stint down the full Porcupine Rim, starting with a third rip down LPS. It was in this session that we really started to get comfortable with the 36 and feel how its upgrades would measure up—which is to say very well. Gone was the stick-slip of the old 36, replaced by a supple, easy initiation of travel. As advertised, the motion felt similar to that of the RAD 34 and, indeed, the Pike—silky and sensitive straight out of the box.
LPS also gave us a great chance to get a feel for the 36’s low-speed compression. Rolling off some larger domed rocks into transitions, the fork smoothly ramped-up and resisted diving, allowing us to confidently roll or drop the trail’s bigger obstacles. It also conspired with the smooth off-the-top movement into travel to make for sure footed traction in the few sandy single tracks between rock sections. On climbs it held steady and resisted the urge to bob under power.
Did we mention we did a few rides in Moab? Here FOX’s Ariel Lindsey descends the very techy Jackson’s Trail along the Colorado River. Photo by Colin Meagher
Most of the ride down Porcupine is a cacophony of noise—chains slapping, rocks cracking, and the general clatter of barely-managed chaos. But in LPS’slower terrain, we were able to distinguish the 36’s audio track in isolation. And while it’s certainly quieter without the negative coil spring of old, the 36 is louder than the competition. Which is not so much a complaint as an observation—it doesn’t feel like it’s about to explode so much as it’s working hard. And its only loud enough to be of note when all else is quiet.
Switching to glide
After stopping at the Castle Valley overlook for a snack, the volume level cranked up both figuratively and literally. Porcupine’s mid-section is made up of a long, rough 4×4 road section Lindsey described as “jagged curbs pointed up at you.” It alternates between ledgy drops, football fields of crumbled boulder and little spans of red Martian sand. Throughout it all, suspension, tires and wheels get punished by high-frequency punches that seem unending at times.
FOX’s Mark Jordan hammers the continuous chunder of Porcupine Rim’s 4×4 section—a legendary test of suspension fortitude, general bike durability, and dental work warranties. Photo by Colin Meagher
And it’s in this merciless pummeling that the new 36 really shows its stuff. Without much more effort than hanging on, picking one of many bad line options, and keeping your speed up, the 36 manages the rapid-fire hits—along with the occasional rider error—quite well. Riding high in its travel, the fork absorbs and returns in a quick, controlled manner, keeping the bike on top of the fray and only succumbing to a beating when the rider fails to keep speed. Even here it still does pretty well, though less comfortably—more a result of the boisterous trail than any shortcomings on the fork’s part.
The damping feels spot-on and the overall movement buttery. At the same time, the chassis’ stiffness is evident, responding to steering inputs obediently with little back talk. All this despite tire pressures at 30 psi—a good 5 psi higher than what we run on the dirt-based trails back home.
Porcupine can be relentlessly rough for long stretches.The FOX 36 don’t care. Photo by Colin Meagher
Porcupine is known to be a bit of a masochistic endeavor—you love every minute of it, but you expect to hurt. At the end of this particular run—which, as always, is punctuated by the sublime Porcupine Singletrack finale—we weren’t as beat down as expected. Sure, the legs were a little sore from pedaling all day, but our shoulders and arms were fine. Could it be the fork? We definitely think it was a contributing factor.
It’s a good thing Miguel’s in Moab follows Utah’s strict liquor laws religiously (pun intended), otherwise day two’s ride might have been even rougher. Photo by Colin Meagher