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FOX 38 E-Bike Factory GRIP2 2021 Fork

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2021 FOX 38 E-Bike Factory GRIP2 Fork
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FOX 38 Factory E-Tuned: Big, Smooth, and Ready To Charge Hard

A great choice if you like to get rowdy with your e-bike.

Rating: Vital Review
FOX 38 Factory E-Tuned: Big, Smooth, and Ready To Charge Hard

Ever since a black and burly fork was spotted on Richie Rude’s Yeti back in 2019, the FOX 38 has become a common sight on lots of long travel, hard hitting bikes. Or should we say - rigs. The 38’s round lines, burly profile, gold sliders and impressive collection of knobs make it feel like a jewel out of the box - but don’t let the looks fool you, the 38 is down to work and it'll put in some after hours effort too if you'd like it to. To cater to the demands of electrified riders, the 38 now also exists in an E-Tuned version - which means that the damping has been specifically tuned for heavier e-bikes. We took delivery of one and bolted it onto our 24.5KG behemoth ripper to check if it can indeed steer this big boat with confidence and precision. Hop aboard, the ship is sailing.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Smooth transition from beginning to end stroke
  • Quiet hydraulics
  • Stiff and sturdy chassis creates a calm and well-mannered front end no matter the speed and gradient
  • Hard to find the balance between beginning stroke support and bottom out resistance
  • Quite pricey
  • Hard to use full travel in general

FOX 38 Factory E-Tuned Highlights

  • Hydraulics are tuned specifically for heavier e-bikes
  • More material around the bushings for added structural rigidity
  • Oval steerer tube for added strength with minimal weight penalty
  • 180 post mount - will fit up to 230 rotors
  • Kashima coating
  • Oil channels behind the fork bushings for constant lubrication up to the dust wipers
  • Grip 2 VVC damper (High/Low speed compression - High/Low speed rebound)
  • 15 mm quick release or KaboltX bolt on axle
  • Steerer: 1.5 taper
  • Offset: 44mm
  • Wheel sizes: 27.5/29
  • Travel options: 170mm
  • Weight: 2250 grams (29” version, as tested)
  • MSRP: $1249 USD

Installation and Set-Up

Installing the fork on the bike was straight forward - just cut the steerer to the correct length, bolt the brake caliper on and go out riding. Note that the 38 features a floating leg design, which makes installing the wheel a two-step process: tighten the axle as you normally would, then tighten the axle pinch bolt to secure the right lower leg. This system ensures that the lower legs are always perfectly aligned with the stanchions, without risking being affected by any differences in hub width for example.

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For the initial setup we used FOX’s own tuning guide and Specialized’s suspension calculator, since we tested the fork on a 2022 Levo. We started with 3 volume spacers inside the air chamber and the recommended compression and rebound settings provided by Specialized.

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On The Trail

One thing was sure from the get go - the 38 is a true captain when it comes to steering the ship. FOX worked hard to optimize the behavior of the 38, and the sum of all those features that were added in search of overall stiffness is very noticeable on this model. The bike we tested on was new to us, so it took us a little while to get used to the whole setup, but after a month or so of hard charging we were in a place to start making some more significant tweaks.

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After that first period of settling in, we found 2 major issues, if we can call them that. The first - this fork did not want to bottom out. The second issue had to do with the tires, which felt overwhelmed by the extra 10 kilograms going down the hill at the same speed as our 14.5 kg analog bike. Our tester addressed both of those issues together by mounting up a set of the heaviest, burliest set of tires he could find (not shown in these pictures). This modification evened the playing field and let us push this bike to its full potential. In doing so, we were now also able to push the fork the way we wanted to and find its limits.

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As a first step we opened the compression adjusters to see if it would make the end stroke more usable, the change was noticeable in the beginning stroke but had little to no effect on the end stroke. That is when we went to the volume spacers. We took out one of the three that were pre-installed in the fork and pumped the fork back up to the same amount of air pressure. We recommend that you repeat the process of pumping air and leveling the pressure in the negative chamber a number of times until reaching the desired pressure. The fork now felt softer with the same pressure so we added another 5 psi. Let’s again point out that this change came after we already started squeezing out all 170 mm of the fork’s travel by way of riding it faster and harder - it was now a matter of trying to find the perfect setup.

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In terms of tuning your fork using all the adjusters it is important to mention a few things:

  • There are a lot more low speed clicks than high speed clicks
  • The low speed click takes more turning for one click increment, for example: the whole 7 HSC clicks take a third of a circle or 120deg to cover the whole tuning range compared to the 3.75 full turns of the LSC dial
  • The same goes for the rebound adjusters
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It seems a little counter-intuitive and confusing at first, but it’s not that big of a deal in reality. Especially since we found the settings to be a “set and forget” kinda thing, once you hit your sweet spot. For this 75-kg, hard-charging racer/tester, we ended up setting the fork this way:

Air pressure:
95psi with 2 tokens

Damping adjustments, clicks from the closed position:
LSC 5 out of 16
HSC 6 out of 7
LSR 5 out of 14
HSR 5 out of 8

We should absolutely mention that the fork’s performance was more than decent out of the box but for the price, “factory” sticker and everything else, it was important for us to seek out the best setup and performance we could find. Eventually, after working out our preferred setup, the performance we were able to squeeze out of the fork was great. It is both supple and supportive in turns while remaining incredibly composed going full gas in a straight line over whatever the trail has in store for you. Other than the performance of the damping, the structural rigidity contributes to precise and controlled handling. As we mentioned earlier, FOX put in a lot of effort to build a stiff and burly fork and it turned out successful.

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A couple of features worth a special mention: the oil channels on the back of the lower legs are a great addition, making sure that oil can reach the upper seals and bushings to keep everything running as smooth as possible. We also like the bleeder ports, these help equalize any pressure build-up in the lower legs that could otherwise interfere with your spring curve (especially interesting for those who ride in areas with significant elevation changes).

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Things That Could Be Improved

This is a premium piece of kit, and as it often does, the price tag stings a bit. The truth is that the price is competitive with most other options available at this level of performance (depending a bit on where you live, as prices do tend to vary significantly across the globe from brand to brand).

We mentioned that we had a problem to use full travel without the fork sitting deep in the travel and we assume that this problem is in part due to the extra weight of the bike. At rest, the bike’s suspension would sag a couple of millimeters both in the front and the rear. During hard landings we felt the front wheel deflecting and later we saw a live example while shooting video with the bike - that made us wonder if this fork could have benefitted from using a proper 20mm thru axle like FOX’s DH fork, the 40.

Long Term Durability

After 5 months of hard use, there’s not one durability issue to report. We’ve had no problems nor have we noted any performance degradation. Other than some scratches on the casing, the fork is still in perfect condition.

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What’s The Bottom Line?

If you're after a burly fork for your next build or looking for ways to upgrade the suspension and steering ability of your heavy duty, (and heavy!) e-bike, the FOX 38 E-Tuned has plenty to offer you. With buttery smooth sliding and plenty of tunability this fork will steer your big rig with confidence while the quality damping makes for smooth sailing in even the roughest of waters.

Note: if you or your bike are lighter than average and you’re only running 140-150 millimeters of rear travel you might want to check the 36 model which offers all the same advantages in a lighter and more compliant package.

For more information, head on over to www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

Yonatan Yatom - Age: 27 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Height :6'0" (1.83m) // Weight: 161 pounds (75kg)

Yonatan is a born racer and a bike addict. As a true competitor the only thing on his mind when lining up in the start gate is the finish line. With a background in local enduro and DH races and even the occasional appearance in an Enduro World Series on his resume, Yonatan has more recently applied himself to building bigger legs and trying his luck racing XC as well. Throughout the week he’ll be manning the spanners at the bike shop, reading about new stuff on the internet, and thinking about how to improve everything he rides. Yonatan’s riding style is fully pinned, smooth, and quiet but he can be nasty to his bike when needed.

Specifications

Product FOX 38 E-Bike Factory GRIP2 2021 Fork
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Freeride / Bike Park
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Travel 170mm
Spring Type FLOAT EVOL air spring
Damping GRIP2 damper with VVC
External Adjustments High-speed compression (with VVC): 8 clicks
Low-speed compression: 16 clicks
High-speed rebound (with VVC): 8 clicks
Low-speed rebound: 16 clicks
Crown Single
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Brake Mounts 180mm direct post mount (up to 230mm compatible)
Steer Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Steer Tube Construction Alloy
Stanchion Diameter 38mm
Colors Kashima gold stanchions with Shiny Black lowers
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous E-Bike Chassis – made specifically for the rigors of e-bikes with a stouter chassis and longer durability due to added material to strengthen critical areas; the design also uses tuning originally done for enduro use, which fits the needs of the E-MTB and overall e-bike uses

Floating Axle – creates perfect chassis alignment and eliminates unwanted friction between the upper and lower fork legs for smoother suspension movement throughout the range of travel

Lower Leg Channels – increase the air volume in the lower legs, reducing pressure ramping which can prevent full travel, and circulate lower leg bath oil, continuously lubricating the foam rings and bushings as the fork goes through its travel

Bleeders – release pressure build-up in the lower legs with the press of a button

Lower Leg Arch – provides the clearance needed at full compression between shorter offset forks and larger headtubes profiles; the design also shaves weight while maintaining stiffness and strength

GRIP2 Damper with VVC – adding the proprietary Variable Valve Control (VVC) system to the GRIP2 damper's high-speed compression circuit allows for external adjustment of what typically requires complete disassembly of the fork

Optional FOX 36/38 Mud Guard – proprietary and sturdy 4-point direct-mount attachment

Offset options – 44mm
Price $1,249
More Info

2021 FOX Suspension Lineup Unveiled

FOX website

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