FOX FLOAT X2 Factory Rear Shock

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Tested: 2016 FOX Float X2 Shock

Rating: Vital Review

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord, Johan Hjord, and Brandon Turman

We first spotted an interesting new rear shock design from FOX’s Racing Application Development (”RAD”) program on Greg Minnaar’s World Champs bike in 2013. Fast forward to spring of 2015, and the DHX2 and Float X2 shocks were publically introduced, taking direct aim at the gravity crowd. Based on a twin-tube damper design, a first for the fox tail, the new shocks are FOX’s most adjustable offering to date. Together with the Float 36 RC2 fork we reviewed earlier this year, we laid our hands on the airsprung Float X2 and set off to find out how it performs on a hard-hitting trail bike.

2016 FOX Float X2 Highlights

  • Made for All-Mountain/Enduro/Freeride/DH use
  • Kashima coated body
  • External adjustments: low-speed

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord, Johan Hjord, and Brandon Turman

We first spotted an interesting new rear shock design from FOX’s Racing Application Development (”RAD”) program on Greg Minnaar’s World Champs bike in 2013. Fast forward to spring of 2015, and the DHX2 and Float X2 shocks were publically introduced, taking direct aim at the gravity crowd. Based on a twin-tube damper design, a first for the fox tail, the new shocks are FOX’s most adjustable offering to date. Together with the Float 36 RC2 fork we reviewed earlier this year, we laid our hands on the airsprung Float X2 and set off to find out how it performs on a hard-hitting trail bike.

2016 FOX Float X2 Highlights

  • Made for All-Mountain/Enduro/Freeride/DH use
  • Kashima coated body
  • External adjustments: low-speed compression, high-speed compression, low-speed rebound, high-speed rebound, air spring pressure.
  • Extra-Volume (EVOL) air sleeve
  • Tunable air spring via volume spacers
  • Travel options: 7.875 x 2.00, 7.875 x 2.25, 8.50 x 2.50, 8.75 x 2.75, 9.50 x 3.00, 10.50 x 3.50
  • Weight: 515 grams (8.50x2.50)
  • MSRP: $595 USD

Initial Impressions

You know how some parts show up all understated, almost timid? That’s most definitely not the case with FOX’s new Float X2 shock. With an extra-fat air can, 2 big adjusters and a matt black finish, the X2 looks nothing if not purposeful.

Of course, the X2 was essentially made for gravity applications, so the imposing looks come as no surprise. Our 8.50x2.50 tipped the scales at 515 grams, a weight penalty of 115 grams compared to the RockShox Monarch Plus it would be replacing.

The great novelty of the Float X2 (and its coil-sprung brother the DHX2) is the twin-tube damper design, a concept similar to that found on Cane Creek and Ohlins shocks. Twin tube refers to the construction of the main body of the shock, which houses one tube inside another (you’d be forgiven for thinking it has something to do with the two tubes housing the compression and rebound adjusters, but this is not where the name of the design comes from).

The purpose of the twin tube design is to provide a “recirculating” oil path, as opposed to a single-tube design where displaced oil has to travel back along the same path when the shock rebounds. This in turn is said to improve the reactivity of the shock and also helps avoid cavitation (which is when a quantity of oil vaporizes under intense pressure changes, which can in turn change the damping characteristics of the shock). A traditional "needle and port" valve provides low speed tuning, while the high-speed rebound and compression damping is independently adjusted via the "Rod Valve System" (RVS). RVS is an adjustable, spring-loaded shim stack - increasing the spring preload means you need a bigger impact to open the the circuit in question. There is also a final-stage blow-off valve on the main oil piston for those extra big hits. The following video provides a good illustration of the concept in action:

Much like the Float 36 RC2 fork we reviewed earlier this year, the X2 shows off with impeccable build quality and finish. Testing out the adjusters (3/6-mm allens required) the clicks were positive and easy to feel/hear. On the subject of the adjusters, there are more knobs to twist here than you might know what to do with at first. Fully adjustable (lots of clicks!) high and low speed compression AND rebound, adjustable air spring pressure as well as air spring progressivity thanks to a system of air can tokens. The X2 is not meant to be a plug-and-play type of product, rather one aimed at riders who know how to tune their equipment to get the most out of it.

A final word on the Extra Volume (EVOL) aircan. Although the X2 is a brand new shock, the EVOL aircan concept is a recent FOX development that can be found on the company’s more trail oriented shocks as well. The idea is that by increasing total air volume as well as the size of the negative air spring, the same shock can benefit from better small-bump action. This and more is what we were now eager to put to the test on the trail.

On The Trail

The Float X2 is fully adjustable externally, which means that the only thing you have to worry about when buying it for your bike is whether or not they make the right size, and getting the right hardware. The “base tune” of the shock is basically always the same, it’s up to the user to adapt the shock using the external adjustments to suit the characteristics of each particular frame. To be completely accurate here, the blow-off valve of the main piston features two shim stacks that are in fact reversible to change tune, allowing you to flip the shim stack if you need less blowoff. FOX told us pretty much everyone runs the stock configuration though. To get us going, we mounted up the shock and adjusted everything as per FOX’s recommended settings. We started out with 4 volume spacers in the aircan, which left us running 190 psi for 30% sag, with a 200-lbs rider.

Hitting the trail, the first thing that stood out was the smooth and supple action of the X2. Even compared to the “Low” tune Monarch Plus we previously had on this bike, the X2 had more of a “DH” feel to it. We won’t go as far as to compare it to the action of a coil spring, but it does get pretty close. The YT Capra we used for this test has a very progressive leverage ratio curve, which lends itself well to riding with a lot of sag. We quickly found that we could drop the initial air pressure and not experience any bottom out issues, and at around 180 psi the bike really came alive in the rough stuff.

Playing around with the volume spacers in the air can (which is a simple thing to do), we found that we could significantly affect the progressivity of the shock. With a total of 7 spacers (that number goes up to 12 if you run the 3.50 stroke version), there’s a nice and wide range available. We eventually settled on 3 for the Capra.

So what about all those adjustments then? Each adjuster has a wide tuning range (24 clicks per adjuster) going from pogostick open to fairly harsh/slow – but even if you close all 4, the shock does not lock out. The transition between low speed and high speed damping action is completely seamless on both sides, and there are also no “hot spot” clicks within the tuning range (some shocks have one or two clicks that have a disproportionately large effect on the damping action – not so with the X2). Want to run less pressure but not bottom out? Dial up the high speed compression. Want to glue the rear wheel to the ground over uneven ground? Dial up the high speed rebound. Need more support in the turns? Add a few clicks of low speed compression and away you go. The action of the X2 remains very smooth throughout the whole tuning range.

As for our settings, we ended up adding a couple of clicks of low speed compression as well as a couple of clicks of both rebound adjusters compared to the recommended settings.

The regular X2 shock lacks any kind of platform or lock-out switch, and we noticed a bit more pedal bob with the X2 compared to the Monarch Plus it replaced. You can choose to add a bit of low speed compression and rebound to reduce the bobbing, but as we previously mentioned, even if you close every available adjuster the shock does still not lock out completely. Since writing this review, we have also tested the X2 with a 2-position lever, which essentially shuts off the main compression circuit leaving the shock with a very firm pedalling platform.

In the absence of the 2-position lever, we’d say we gave up a few percentage points of climbing efficiency with the X2, but it’s not more than that. On this particular bike, the advantages more than outweigh the inconvenience of slightly more weight and a little bit more pedal bob. If your frame design relies heavily on the shock’s platform setting to climb well, you're better off with the lever-equipped version.

A final word on damping consistency. The twin tube design was among other things specifically developed to combat cavitation and heat build-up. We have not noticed any strange behavior from the X2 even during long and intense descents. Pounding rocks for 10 minutes left us with the same damping performance at the bottom of the run as when we started it. The only caveat we’d add here is that we tested during the cooler winter months – we’ll update this review when temperatures start to climb if we notice an effect on damping performance.

Things That Could Be Improved

This is going to be a very short list. Within the given design parameters, i.e. build a fully adjustable, DH-worthy airshock, we’d have a hard time figuring out what FOX could do better here. If you are worried about the extra weight, you’re probably not looking at the X2 in the first place. For enduro and trail bike applications, the 2-position lever version is easily the best choice.

Long Term Durability

We’ve been doing our best to torture the X2 for about 2.5 months now, with nothing to show for it except for the good times we had along the way. Mud, dust, and rocks have left no visible signs on the shock body itself, and the X2 performs as well today as it did when we got it. FOX recommends a full shock service (by a FOX-certified technician) after 125 hours, which is not particularly onerous for most casual riders. Note that a basic air spring service is not officially required before the 125 hours are up. We will test this assumption and more, and we’ll come back and update this review if we uncover any particular long-term issues down the line.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Smooth, coil-like performance in a highly adjustable, airsprung shock – the FOX Float X2 provides the perfect solution for those looking to drop weight from their DH bikes or add another dimension of descending prowess to their trail bikes. The tuning range is wide, but remains largely usable even at both ends of the spectrum. Finding a good base setting is well within reach of the intermediate rider willing to put in a bit of time with a pair of allen keys, while expert racers will be able to eke out every last drop of performance thanks to the multitude of tuning options available. Go for the 2-position lever version for your enduro or trail bike.

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.


Updated Float X2 Review for 2017

Rating:
The Good:

Light weight, Adjustable, Easy to adjust, Excellent bottom-out control, Small adjustment tool included, Updated lighter weight volume spacers

The Bad:

Absolutely nothing.

Overall Review:

UPDATE from my review from my earlier 2016 review:

My 2017 Fox Float X2 came in the mail 3 months ago and to my surprise, Fox improved upon it! For 2017, they are offering a compression (climb) switch for sizes 8.5 x 2.5 and smaller. I ordered a massive 10.5 x 3.5 for my Scott Gambler so it didn't come with that option but there are a few other updates that were pretty darn impressive.

NEW FOR 2017

As an update, Fox went away from the traditional thick bands to a plastic band that clips together when around the inner air can of the shock. In terms of weight, these new volume spacers weigh 1 gram more than the older version but are much easier to install and remove (even while leaving the shock on the bike if you really wanted to. Also, orange is the new black so the color is pretty

Overall Review:

UPDATE from my review from my earlier 2016 review:

My 2017 Fox Float X2 came in the mail 3 months ago and to my surprise, Fox improved upon it! For 2017, they are offering a compression (climb) switch for sizes 8.5 x 2.5 and smaller. I ordered a massive 10.5 x 3.5 for my Scott Gambler so it didn't come with that option but there are a few other updates that were pretty darn impressive.

NEW FOR 2017

As an update, Fox went away from the traditional thick bands to a plastic band that clips together when around the inner air can of the shock. In terms of weight, these new volume spacers weigh 1 gram more than the older version but are much easier to install and remove (even while leaving the shock on the bike if you really wanted to. Also, orange is the new black so the color is pretty cool.

The second update fox did was include a small adjustment tool for "easier" adjustments on the trail. This makes a huge difference and is nice just as long as your frames linkage doesn't get in the way.

On my 2016 Scott Gambler, the floating link is just right to block my from using it for my rebound. But that's too important right? Wrong. Huge bummer.

Because of science, I will include the weight of my 10.5 x 3.5 shock with hardware for a Gambler.

ORIGINAL REVIEW

After 4 months of riding on the new 2016 Fox Float X2 rear shock, here are my opinions about it.

Out of the box, I was very impressed with the overall craftsmanship of the piece. It’s so beautiful I was hesitative to even throw it on my Session; Okay, that’s a complete lie but the thing is beautiful. The next thing I noticed was the weight of the thing. Sitting at 494 grams (8.75” x 2.75” with 5 volume spacers installed) isn’t that bad at all! Stacked with High and Low speed compression and rebound, one could argue things couldn’t get better. Enough about first impressions, lets talk about the ride!

494 grams (8.75” x 2.75” with 5 volume spacers installed)

494 grams (8.75” x 2.75” with 5 volume spacers installed)

Throwing it on my Session 9.9, the shock felt buttery smooth without any major adjustments. The Session’s frame design is quite linear and I noticed myself bottoming out quite frequently, even after twisting the low speed compression all the way on. After a few more days of this, I decided to take it off and install some volume spacers to help the shock ramp up and make those landings and g-outs less fierce. Fox has a perfectly clear page to help aid even the most mechanically incompetent riders through the process:Click Here. My specific shock same with 3 spacers installed from factory, I installed two more (total of 5) and it made a world of difference with my specific frame. (Note: I prefer 35% sag to keep the bike buttery smooth and with the 5 volume spacers, I don’t feel the harsh bottom-out anymore.)

For all you DH weight weenies (if is such a thing) or anyone looking at throwing this shock onto an AM or endure bike, each volume spacer weighs a meniscal 5 grams.

For all you DH weight weenies (if is such a thing) or anyone looking at throwing this shock onto an AM or endure bike, each volume spacer weighs a meniscal 5 grams.

Only after installing these volume spacers was I able to confidently let it rip. One of my favorite trails consists of 20+ jumps/drops ranging from 15 to 35 feet in size. The trail has never felt so smooth nor have I ever felt so confident than I have while using the Fox Float X2.

Granted I have this shock on a full blown DH rig. From what a lot of people have mentioned, this is also a shock worthy of AM and endure riding. Although I have never used this shock on my trail bike, I know it would feel amazing. The only reason why I haven’t made the swap from a Float X to this Float X2 on my trail bike is because the Float X2 doesn’t come equipped with a climb switch. I know that’s not a complete deal breaker when wanting the best bottom-out control and adjustability for a shorter travel bike but it’s something I have grown accustom to and would be hard to go without. To make up for this, I purchased volume spacers for the Fox Float X which has made a huge difference in harsh bottom outs all while keeping my CTD switch.

Talked with Fox on the phone the other day, they unofficially informed me that the 2017 Fox Float X2 will come with a compression “pro-pedal” knob that, although isn’t a complete climb switch as intense as the Float X has, will make the climbs up fire roads less dreadful. The 2017 Fox Float X2 will be available late May (2016) for consumers. They also told me that this compression knob can be installed to any previous 2016 Float X2 but will need to be shipped back to them for this service.

All and all, I have been very impressed with the 2016 Fox Float X2 shock. It is one of the most adjustable rear shocks on the market. After owning several Cane Creak Double Barrel shocks, I do have to say the Float X2 is certainly easer to set up as well. Being able to perform seal services yourself without having to ship off to an authorize service dealer sets the Float X2 above the rest. All this mixed in with easy to install volume spacers makes this shock pretty much unbeatable in performance and in being user friendly. My only complaint, if I were to dig deep, is that it currently doesn’t come with a climb switch (but will all change within the next 2-3 months). If you are looking for top notch adjustability that is easy to adjust and haven’t become accustomed to a climb switch, this shock is for you!

Fox Float X2 review

Rating:
The Good:

Very plush, amazing to ride on

The Bad:

Daunting to tune to your specs

Overall Review:

After having a blowout with the stock Monarch Plus R which came with my Norco Range c7.3, I made the decision to upgrade to something which will hopefully last me a fair bit longer. The Norco Range c7.3 uses a 8.5” (215.9mm) and 2.5” (63.5mm) shock size, and the Fox Float X2 is available in a size which fits perfectly. The bike was designed around an air shock, so I preferred to stick with that. The main reason I was interested in this is because of the terrain I ride mostly, which has a DH track, and very technical trails. It seemed Fox was working hard to make this a truly capable downhill air shock. After polling my loyal Instagram followers, the general consensus was that this is the best of the best for air shocks and I was eager to give it a go.

With the exception of adding/removing

Overall Review:

After having a blowout with the stock Monarch Plus R which came with my Norco Range c7.3, I made the decision to upgrade to something which will hopefully last me a fair bit longer. The Norco Range c7.3 uses a 8.5” (215.9mm) and 2.5” (63.5mm) shock size, and the Fox Float X2 is available in a size which fits perfectly. The bike was designed around an air shock, so I preferred to stick with that. The main reason I was interested in this is because of the terrain I ride mostly, which has a DH track, and very technical trails. It seemed Fox was working hard to make this a truly capable downhill air shock. After polling my loyal Instagram followers, the general consensus was that this is the best of the best for air shocks and I was eager to give it a go.

With the exception of adding/removing volume spacers, the Float X2 can be almost fully adjusted externally. Offering separate high/low speed compression and high/low speed rebound, as well as air spring pressure, this is exponentially more external adjustability than Fox has ever offered on a rear shock. While the 2.5” stroke Float X2 I am testing isn’t the longest model available, this is thoroughly gruelling test, and should provide a good idea of what this thing is capable of.

While you can definitely install and adjust your shock and volume spacers yourself, I had my Local Bike Shop install and tune mine for me.

My testing grounds for this shock has consisted mostly of the Toowoomba Mountain Bike Park (better known as Jubilee Park). This is a relatively unknown park for anyone outside of Australia, but it has some of the best Singletrack available, and features a Downhill track which Jared Graves helped design. We’re currently in a relatively cold summer for Australian conditions, but we have still seen days of 35°c and upwards. This will help test out the shock, as heat dissipation is a key point of the shock working properly.

At first glance, you can see that the Float X2 is going to be a plush rear shock, but it is quite surprising as to how well it handles under pedalling, and it takes almost zero effort to initiate the travel. It actually feels slightly stiffer off the top of the stroke than the previous RockShox Monarch Plus R rear shock I had mounted on the bike, but once the travel starts to come in to play, brake bumps and small chatter are absorbed with seemingly no effort. They are simply non-existent at best, and barely negligible at worst as they disappear into the travel of the bike.

One of my main complaints with the RockShox Monarch Plus R was the bobbing feeling you got while putting more pressure in to the pedals. While you didn’t physically feel the loss of power through the travel, it was definitely apparent through the movement alone. The Monarch was quite good at activating the travel for bunny hopping, or getting the back wheel in the air. With the Float X2, it’s super easy to bunny hop the bike and be playful when I feel like it, even easier than I possibly imagined it to be. Following the Float X2 manual, I set the psi and the suggested low/high rebound and compression to follow suit, and I haven’t felt the need to adjust that at all. That may seem strange, but it’s actually close to perfect for my particular air spring pressure setup (I set mine to 180 psi). For smaller or bigger riders, and for shorter or longer stroke models, you will likely need to adjust them accordingly, but try out the suggested settings first. A 3mm allen key is needed to adjust low speed rebound/compression, and a 6mm allen key for the high speed rebound/compression. As with most aftermarket upgrades, Allen keys are not included with the shock. Fox also made sure to set the piggyback to the side slightly, which assists with adjusting the settings if necessary.

Heat dissipation has a big part to play in how air shocks perform, especially on longer sustained descents, or over high speed technical sections. I definitely put the Float X2 through it’s paces, lapping Jubilee Park on 35°c+ days. I didn’t notice any issues with the X2 after such long rides. Some people have made mention that towards the end of long sessions, the shock would start making a bit of noise. I couldn’t hear any noise coming from it, so either I wasn’t working it hard enough, or it was very capable of dissipating that heat build up.

I have only had the shock for a short while, but so far, I have not once been inclined to switch back to the Monarch Plus R. I can say with decent certainty that the Float X2 is a solid choice to replace an air shock, even going so far to say that it would work fairly decently on a downhill bike. If you’re looking for a solid, reliable, and hugely adjustable big-hit air shock, the Float X2 is definitely worth the cost.

Review written by Jon Willis - aka @Mtn_bike_geek

Specifications

Product FOX FLOAT X2 Factory Rear Shock
Riding Type Downhill, Freeride / Bike Park, Trail
Spring Type Air
External Adjustments High/low speed compression, High/Low speed rebound, air spring pressure
Available Sizes 8.75" x 2.75"
9.5" x 3.0"
10.5" x 3.5"
Weight 1 lb 2.2 oz (515 g)
Miscellaneous RVS damping system
X2 oil flow architecture
EVOL (extra volume) air sleeve
Kashima coating on shaft
Rod Valve System (RVS)
Price $619
More Info

ridefox.com

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