FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 Factory 2019 Fork

Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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Vital Rides the 2019 FOX Float 36 Factory GRIP2

With a brand new damper featuring 4-way adjustments and a more usable tuning range, the 2019 version of the 36 is smoother and better than ever before.

Rating: Vital Review
Vital Rides the 2019 FOX Float 36 Factory GRIP2

FOX’s heavy-hitting single-crown fork has gone from strength to strength over the past couple of years. Improvements in damping and sensitivity saw it claw back ground it had lost during a few darker years, to the point where it is now back to being regularly cited as one of the top performing forks in its category, including by this very website. That is of course no reason to stop trying to improve, so when FOX sent over a 2019 sample equipped with a brand new damper design, we were eager to get it on the trail to see what that they had come up with this time. Turns out it was well worthy of our attention.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Further improved small-bump sensitivity
  • More usable damping range
  • 4-way adjustable damping satisfies even the most detail-oriented tinkerers
  • Stiff, stable, and

FOX’s heavy-hitting single-crown fork has gone from strength to strength over the past couple of years. Improvements in damping and sensitivity saw it claw back ground it had lost during a few darker years, to the point where it is now back to being regularly cited as one of the top performing forks in its category, including by this very website. That is of course no reason to stop trying to improve, so when FOX sent over a 2019 sample equipped with a brand new damper design, we were eager to get it on the trail to see what that they had come up with this time. Turns out it was well worthy of our attention.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Further improved small-bump sensitivity
  • More usable damping range
  • 4-way adjustable damping satisfies even the most detail-oriented tinkerers
  • Stiff, stable, and confidence inspiring chassis
  • Competitive weight
  • High quality workmanship
  • Long service intervals and good performance over time
  • Can still be stingy with travel (could be viewed as a strength)

2019 FOX Float 36 Factory GRIP2 Highlights

  • Kashima coated stanchions
  • 7000 series aluminum chassis
  • New FIT GRIP2 damper with 4-way high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping
  • Max travel options: 180 mm (27.5” ) / 170 mm (29”)
  • Gloss Orange or Matte Black paint options
  • Short offset options available (27.5”/37mm or 29”/44mm)
  • Weight: 2040 grams, 27.5”, Boost, uncut steerer (verified)
  • MSRP: $1065 USD

Initial Impressions

When we tested the 2018 FOX 36 Factory RC2, we were thoroughly impressed by the improvements in feel and sensitivity that the EVOL spring brought, with its increased negative air chamber size and reduced number of seals. We nevertheless noted that the base tune would sometimes seem to hold the fork back from really opening up on smaller bumps, which would leave many riders running the adjusters on that fork pretty close to wide open.

For 2019, FOX completely revisited the damping side of the fork, with the goal of further improving small-bump compliance, tunability, etc and so forth – if the song sounds familiar it’s because it plays on pretty much every station whenever a new fork hits the market. However, in this case there appeared to be more than lip service at work, since the new GRIP2 damper is indeed a complete redesign.

The final, and perhaps most exciting improvement described to us was a wider and improved compression adjustment range, intended to allow for adding damping support without harshness.

Among the novel aspects of the new damper we find a leaf-spring based high-speed rebound circuit architecture (“Variable Valve Control”), which FOX says allows the rider to basically “revalve the rebound circuit by twisting a knob”. Other improvements cited include reduced internal friction and a “high-performance mid valve” claimed to allow “more effective shaping of the damping curve.” The final, and perhaps most exciting improvement described to us was a wider and improved compression adjustment range, intended to allow for adding damping support without harshness. On paper, that all certainly sounded like it would address the improvements we found ourselves wanting to see in the previous model.

Externally, nothing gives the 2019 fork away except for the presence of two rebound knobs under the cover. The chassis remains essentially the same, as there was no reason to update it. The 36 tips the scales at a very competitive 2040 grams, and it has never lacked in structural strength nor have we seen any longevity issues in previous iterations. However, FOX has now added shorter offset versions for those wanting to experiment with one of the latest trends in bike geo, and there is also a 170mm travel option for 29ers for 2019 (the previous version stopped at 160mm for the wagon wheelers). The 36 offers gobs of tire clearance and should be able to deal with any kind of rubber you care to throw its way, at least within reason. Go for the Boost version and 2.6 – 2.8 will fit easily.

Continuing our visual examination of the new goods, our sample came with a 15mm QR axle, which we like. It’s easy to set up and works great. 15mm and 20mm bolted through-axle options are also available. 180mm postmount for the brakes makes sense on such a beefy fork, even if it can make sourcing an adapter slight more involved, depending on your brake manufacturer. This being the Factory version, the stanchions are Kashima coated, but note that you can save a few bucks and tone down the shininess by opting for the Performance Elite version – it features black, non-Kashima stanchions with the same damping and internals. The gloss orange version we tested is now available to purchase as well, but there is of course also a matte black option that will probably be a lot easier to match with most builds…and on that topic, it was high time for us to install the fork and hit the trails!

On The Trail

There’s no denying that the orange color sticks out, but when paired with the right frame color we think it’s pretty fresh, although it’s entirely possible that we’ve suffered permanent damage to our sense of style from staring at all the wild color combos that the bike industry seems particularly good at coming up with. Be that as it may, get the matte black version if you want to fly under the radar.

That burly feeling is still there, with the fork retaining all of its poise over bigger obstacles, but it is now also much happier just plodding along.

Having ridden the previous two generations of the 36 (2017 and 2018), we were expecting incremental improvements only from the 2019 edition. However, the GRIP2 damper turned out to be significantly different to its predecessor, and we mean that in a good way. From the very first ride, a distinct improvement in small-bump sensitivity was apparent, with the fork “fluttering” over uneven ground in a way that the previous generation never did. That burly feeling is still there, with the fork retaining all of its poise over bigger obstacles, but it is now also much happier just plodding along.

After finding the sweet spot for the air pressure, it was time to play with the new damper. Starting from the rebound side, we ended up pretty close to the recommended settings for our weight and air pressure, at about 5 clicks out for high-speed rebound (of a possible 8 clicks) and 7 out for low-speed rebound (out of 16 possible clicks). The high-speed rebound adjustment is more difficult to feel the effect of, but we suspect the new rebound circuit architecture is the main reason for the increased “flutteriness” of this fork in general, with the high-speed adjuster just serving to fine tune the behavior here. All the dials are easy to work with and feature distinctive clicks.

On the compression side, we found that we could add a lot of both high and low speed compression before the fork would start to feel harsh, testament to the wider usable range that FOX was aiming for with the damper redesign here. Ultimately, we ended up adding one token to the air chamber and backing off on high speed compression quite a bit, as the 36 is still quite frugal when it comes to giving up its travel and this setting left us with a plush fork that still has enough in reserve to deal with bigger hits.

For reference, here are the settings we landed on for this 190-lbs tester (all clicks are from fully closed):

  • Air pressure: 75-80 psi (depending on terrain)
  • Tokens: 1
  • High-speed compression: 20/32
  • Low-speed compression: 8/16
  • High-speed rebound: 5/8
  • Low-speed rebound: 7/16

Things That Could Be Improved

With the arrival of the all-new GRIP2 damper, FOX addressed the only gripe we had with the previous version of the 36 Float Factory fork, which was a certain lack of small bump compliance and a somewhat muted response over trail chatter. We’ve given the 2019 version a 5-star rating because in our opinion, this is as good as it gets at present.

Long Term Durability

We’ve had this particular sample on the trail for about 1.5 months now, and it’s showing no signs of any weakness. This matches our experience with the previous version of this fork, which has remained trouble-free for a whole year with only a lower leg service for love. Not only has FOX extended the service interval of the 36, but it also seems capable of maintaining a very acceptable level of performance over time even if you neglect to service it for a bit, without any sharp decline in plushness.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The 36 was always a beast of a fork, but now it's become enough of a smooth operator to give Sade a good run for her money as well. With much improved sensitivity and a more usable damping range, the 2019 36 Float GRIP2 is the perfect choice for those looking to eke out every bit of performance from their big-hitting enduro rig. Add in a number of travel, wheel size, and axle configurations as well as all-new shorter offset versions, and you’re looking at one of the most versatile, trail-slaying forks available today.

More information at: www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 45 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Weight: 190-pounds (86kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan 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 190-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 Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Specifications

Product FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 Factory 2019 Fork
Riding Type Freeride / Bike Park, Trail
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29", 27.5+
Travel 140-180mm
Spring Type Air
Damping 4-way GRIP2 damper
External Adjustments High and low speed compression, high and low speed rebound, air spring pressure, air spring ramp up (tokens)
Crown Single
Front Axle 15mm x 100mm, 15mm x 110mm (Boost), 20mm x 110mm
Brake Mounts 180mm postmount
Steer Tube Diameter 1.5 - 1/1/8
Steer Tube Construction Alloy
Stanchion Diameter 36mm
Colors Gloss Orange, Matte Black
Weight 4 lb 8 oz (2,040 g)
Miscellaneous Weight: 2040 grams (27.5 boost, uncut steer tube, verified)
Price $1,065
More Info

​www.ridefox.com

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