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
The Ride: Taking the 2015 FOX FLOAT 36 for a spin

Fox 36 LPS Landscape

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 36 Moab Ariel LPS

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 36 Darren G Moab

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.

Fox 36 Jacksons Ariel Moab

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 36 Porcupine Jordan

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.

Fox 36 LPS Moab

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.

Fox 36 Miguels Moab

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

Continue to Page 4 for more 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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