FOX 2018 FLOAT 36 Fork

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First Ride: 2018 FOX Float 36 RC2 Fork

FOX refines its hard-hitting single crown fork, aiming for improved sensitivity and reduced weight.

Rating: Vital Review
First Ride: 2018 FOX Float 36 RC2 Fork

When we first tested the 2016 FOX Float 36 RC2, we found it to be right at the top of the big-hitting, single-crown fork class. Confidence-inspiring and sure-footed, it may have fallen just short of the best small-bump compliance available at the time, which it more than made up for with awesome levels of control when things got rowdier. Fast-forward to spring 2017, and we’ve just taken delivery of an early sample of the 2018 version. With changes to the airspring and improved seals, we were eager to see if FOX has managed to further improve on this already excellent piece of equipment. Read on to find out.

2018 FOX Float 36 RC2 Read More »

When we first tested the 2016 FOX Float 36 RC2, we found it to be right at the top of the big-hitting, single-crown fork class. Confidence-inspiring and sure-footed, it may have fallen just short of the best small-bump compliance available at the time, which it more than made up for with awesome levels of control when things got rowdier. Fast-forward to spring 2017, and we’ve just taken delivery of an early sample of the 2018 version. With changes to the airspring and improved seals, we were eager to see if FOX has managed to further improve on this already excellent piece of equipment. Read on to find out.

2018 FOX Float 36 RC2 Factory Highlights

  • Made for Trail/All-Mountain/Enduro/Freeride use
  • 36mm Kashima coated stanchions
  • New FLOAT EVOL air spring system
  • Tunable air spring via volume spacers
  • External adjustments: Rebound (19-clicks) // Low-speed compression (22-clicks) // High-speed compression (26-clicks) // Air spring
  • 150, 160, 170, and 180mm (26” only) stock travel options
  • Internally adjustable travel in 10mm increments (sold separately)
  • 26, 27.5, and 29-inch models
  • Offset: 44mm (27.5”) / 51mm (29”) / 40mm (26”)
  • Aluminum tapered (26, 27.5, 29) and straight 1 1/8-inch (26 only) steerer options
  • 15QRx110 mm, 15QRx100 mm, or 15/20 mm convertible thru-axle
  • 180mm post mount disc brake tabs
  • Weight: 2038 grams, 27.5”, Boost, uncut steerer (verified)
  • MSRP: $1049 USD as tested

Initial Impressions

Let’s start with the most obviously striking feature of our test sample: the color. You’ve likely spotted it under various sponsored riders already, and that’s pretty much the only place you’re likely to ever see it, since this particular paint job is limited to athletes, ambassadors, and select media only.

The normal color is still matte black for 2018, but new decals help create a generally fresh look that should be a whole lot easier to pair up with your color scheme than our decidedly bright, orange collector’s item. The Factory version we tested here gets the by now well-known to the point of near-ubiquitous Kashima treatment, but you can save a few bucks by opting for the “Performance Elite” series which uses the exact same internals with black, hard-ano stanchions instead of the bronze-colored Kashima goods. Beyond aesthetics, there are more significant changes below the surface or 2018: a larger negative air chamber (“EVOL”), and fewer dynamic seals. Both of these changes aim to improve small-bump compliance specifically, whilst also helping shave 23-40 grams off the air spring assembly.

Other changes include damper oils with PFTE for improved lubrication, and more axle/wheelsize/travel option combos (for example, the RC2 version we’re testing here is now available with a QR15 axle, which was previously limited to FIT4 forks only). Also note that the EVOL air spring will be used on all MY18 32, 34, 36, and 40 forks.

The chassis and rest of the features are largely unchanged, although the token system has been further simplified (the tokens now snap into place one over the other, the rod-based system of the previous model is now history). Adjusting the air volume by adding or removing tokens is literally a 5-minute job, you only really need to pay attention to the instructions when airing your fork back up afterwards (adding air pressure in several increments, making sure the negative air chamber is properly inflated along the way). On the topic of air pressure, FOX has now included a small chart with recommended pressures right there on the fork’s lowers, a handy little improvement over the previous version.

The 2 compressions dials and the rebound dial are still easy to turn and feature very distinct clicks, and the fork still presents a general impression of quality when you pull it from the box. All that left us to do was cut the steerer, and head for the hills.

On The Trail

The FOX 36 features a 180mm postmount brake mount, which may make sourcing an adapter for your brake/rotor combo somewhat tricky sometimes – because for reasons unknown to man, the 160-183mm adapters are NOT the same as the 180-203mm, even though the numbers would lead you to think so. Turns out that 23mm is not always 23mm, something to do with the offset and with the bike industry being incapable of making your life any easier (although FOX does sell specific adapters as well, which could come in handy if you come up short elsewhere). In our case, we solved our problem with a small spacer, which always feels a bit janky but has not affected performance.

We’ve kinda gotten used to it…put it down to occupational hazard after years of exposure to some of the more creative color schemes out there…

The rest of the installation procedure was painless, although that orange color is nothing if not bright. Viewer discretion advised (we’ve kinda gotten used to it…put it down to occupational hazard after years of exposure to some of the more creative color schemes out there). To start our testing, we copy pasted our settings from the previous version of the same fork, and we hit the trails.

The Dead Sea view...
...and the trail that leads down to it!

Predictably, since there have been no major changes announced to the base tune of the RC2 model, the new fork behaves very similarly to the previous version. Back to back testing did reveal an improvement in small bump performance and general “plushness”, but not to the point of requiring any drastic changes to any of our settings. To be completely fair, it’s hard to know if the improvements we felt were due to the new fork syndrome (a new sample with fresh oil and grease), or if the larger negative air chamber and the removal of one dynamic seal should take the credit. Probably a bit of both. As far as our settings go, after just a couple of weeks of testing we’ve settled on one token and about 70-75 psi of air depending on the trail (for this 88-kg tester). The 36 is frugal with travel, and does not need a lot of pressure to support you, even on steeper trails or during heavy braking. We run high speed compression about 4 clicks from fully open, with a bit more low speed compression for support.

For the rest, the 2018 model retains most of the feel of the previous version, with a slightly muted response to chatter, and lots of poise and control over the rough stuff. This really is a fork that comes alive the harder you push it, and it rewards you with a feeling of control that can make you believe you deserve that special color after all (purely a case of wishful thinking, of course…). Steering and braking response is excellent, and the fork never feels overwhelmed, even on bigger features or flat landings. We tested the Boost version, and whilst we can’t say we can quantify any stiffness gains, we certainly got used to its beefier looks. Throw on some meaty tires and it’s almost like you’re riding moto.

On the topic of clearance, the Boost version obviously offers tons of space for any kind of rubber you might want to run. Specifically, the new breed of “mid-plus” tires will fit in with room to spare. We also welcome the addition of the QR axle on the RC2 model – clearly a smart move to include a quick way of removing the wheels for fixing flats or working on the bike in general on this high-end, race-oriented fork.

Long Term Durability

This is just a First Ride type of review, so we cannot provide any real insights into the long term durability of this specific sample. What we can say is that we’ve been riding the previous version for over a year now, and apart from the simple lower leg service it has not required any maintenance nor has it started to act up in any way. It might be a bit more prone to bushing bind at this point but it’s also overdue another lower leg service, so we wouldn’t hold that against it. The finish is also particularly durable, with the crown surviving a full year of being transported on our tailgate pad without any wear on the paintjob (we’ve had other forks that have been polished raw in that particular area with the same treatment). All signs point to excellent longevity here.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Float 36 is among the heavy hitters in the burly trail fork category. The 2018 refinements do not offer any drastic improvements – but none were really needed, either. If it’s ultimate small-bump compliance and comfort you are after, you may be better served elsewhere, but if you want gobs of control in a smooth and stiff fork that will confidently take on anything the trail can throw at you and come back asking for more, the 2018 FOX Float 36 should definitely land right at the top of your list.

More information at www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

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Specifications

Product FOX 2018 FLOAT 36 Fork
Riding Type Dirt Jump / Urban, Downhill, Freeride, Trail
Wheel Size 26", 27.5" (650b), 29"
Travel
Spring Type Air
Damping Hydraulic
External Adjustments Hi/Lo Speed Compression, Rebound, Air Pressure, Air Volume
Crown Forged
Front Axle 15mm x 100mm, 15mm x 110mm (Boost), 20mm x 110mm
Brake Mounts 180mm Postmount
Steer Tube Diameter Tapered 1 1/8 - 1.5
Steer Tube Construction Aluminum
Stanchion Diameter 36mm
Colors Black
Weight 4 lb 7.9 oz (2038 g)
Miscellaneous 26": 100, 160, 180mm
27.5": 150, 160, 170mm
29": 150, 160mm
Price
  • $889
  • $1,049
More Info

​www.ridefox.com

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