Fox Float 36 Evol 160mm Suspension Fork

Today, I spent the early part of my day in a clinic put on by Fox Racing Shox, a California, US based company dealing in the arts of suspension for anything bike and then some. They have their fingers in suspension for aftermarket trucks, snow-mobiles, motor-cycles, you name it. They even have military contracts.

Fox is well known in the mountain bike community, at least in the United States. Other parts of the world? I don’t know. Haven’t looked into it. Unless you live in Taiwan, where Fox has a production and assembly facility for OE stuff. They notably known for their sweet downhill and trail forks, the 40 (pronounced ‘forty’) and the 36 (pronounced like it sounds).

The 36 has always been a favorite fork. I have had several Marzocchi’s for their feel. Then things went bad for Marzocchi when Fox started producing cool stuff. The Fox 36 series was an answer to all these folks who wanted a great fork that could handle downhill tracks. Every generation was successfully better than the former. So I rounded out my ownership of Fox by owning three of these. During that time I was trained by an outside Fox tech. He was thorough and created a pathway for me to have a successful career tuning and servicing Fox products. To date, there are only a few of us Techs in Utah that will overhaul your Fox RC2, RLC, CTD, whatever FiT damper.

The Fox Clinic:

Here’s the room at the Hampton Inn:

Learning some technical stuff at the Fox Clinic at an unnamed hotel in an unnamed city; room full of forks

One of the reasons I like these clinics is to get an update on the new gear that a company produces. It’s much more hands on than the stuff you see at Interbike or Outerbike, or on Pinkbike.com; I get to handle cutaways, play with oils, heft the coils and push on forks. By far the highlight today was depressing the 2018 36 Float Evol.

Fox 36 Float Evol Kashima 160mm 27.5″ tapered, RC2

It was buttery smooth and one could sense that this was the best trail fork that the company had ever produced. But hold on. What’s that, the first guy I met on this fork had some serious issues getting it set up? After several calls to the Fox service dept and sending it in for warranty evaluation the fork hadn’t improved.

Rider notes: the fork has an un-sprung dead spot at the top of the travel, making the fork feel like the front end was going to come apart. This was unnerving for a high-speed descent through the chunder.

Remedy:

The clinic left this question largely untouched. We approached a tech afterward explaining the situation. They explained what they thought had happened and that Fox had revised the air-spring in this fork do deal with this not-frequent occurrence.

The way the Evol air spring works involves the movement of the air spring seal head moving into the charged positive air chamber and passing a dimple in the stanchion that equalizes the negative air spring. The air instantly passes through this channel into the negative air chamber and if there is excess oil or grease in this zone the volume of air needed to equalize the spring doesn’t match up. This produces the exact issue that our guy was dealing with.

Sometimes you just have to pull a fork apart. This answered our question.




The rest of the clinic:

I felt like the other parts of the clinic were just addressing beginners in this category. Our shop as extensive experience with suspension and it is the most discussed topic in our day other than tire pressure. We did find out that Fox has introduced some new oils in the past 12 months that I hadn’t used: R3 and PTFE oils. Also they’ve introduced some new tools including seal drivers with a built in pilot shaft. For some reason this was revolutionary. Meanwhile, Marzocchi, now out of business, introduced their initial seal driver with pilot almost 2 decades ago. It never needed a revision.

Former generation Fox lower glide bushings

One more notable thing, the new bushings inside the fork’s lowers. The new bushings no longer have the slots. They are solid teflon bushing all the way around, just like in a RockShox forks lowers.

now the fox lower glide bushings look like this

If any of you have been inside a Rockshox and a Fox recently you must acknowledge the similarities of the working parts. Is there some kind of collaboration going on? Who knows. We know that pretty much Rockshox and Fox are both making very good products.

Now go ride your fancy suspenders.

Paris Agreement

We the American People of the United States stand a little disfigured and disenfranchised. The man who somehow became our president has pulled us out of the Paris Agreement. I, for one, am signing several petitions a day.

So I’m adding one here:

This goes beyond riding bikes, fixing problems in the shop, and eating yummy food. We have a president running our country who is in so deep with big business that he’s doing all he can to dismiss any science, any effort, any funding that might hinder the profitability of his cronies. Oil and coal seem to be his favorite. He says it’s for maintaining those jobs but clean and renewable energies already employ more people than the dirty, non-renewables.

He doesn’t seem to give a damn about the environment and if he came in to have his bike worked on he’d leave with a wrench stuck in his face. He is intentionally trying to debunk science about climate change. He’s put a big oil guy, Scott Pruitt, as director of the EPA. He wants to mine the resources found in our national monuments and parks. But the thing is, the information is already available and you can’t just shut this down and blind the people from what’s happening. So please, do your part.

The list of anti-environmental policy is terribly long. Please sign this petition from Moveon.org. And others. And make calls to your representatives. Do something. Also, ride bikes more.

Department Store Bikes (part 2)

Ok.. In this post I want to discuss how a bike is built properly. I’m going to keep it as simple as I can so it can be a short post, hoping to not further bore you with my ranting.

derailleur bolt barely threaded into derailleur hanger

Here’s a classic move, components installed half-ass and adjusted to work in a half-ass position. In this picture you see that the derailleur bolt is only a couple threads installed into the derailleur hanger, or where it mounts to the frame of the bicycle. I wish I had pictures now to show what the results of this kind of installation looked like. Anyhow, poor shifting is the least of your concerns. Once the derailleur becomes detached it can dangle from the chain and end up in the spokes of your spinning wheel, bringing the wheel to an immediate stop.

If you’re not ready for the rear wheel to abruptly stop spinning then you’ll have to compensate for the bikes abrupt deceleration by flying over the bars in one of many different crash scenarios.

Check all your bolts. All the time.



In this next example, we have a new bike from Walmart discount stores. On top of it being new it is a full suspension bike. This typically means that the rear assembly of the frame is bolted together housed in bearings and shims. If even one of these bolts isn’t properly fastened and seated to torque the bike could spontaneously self-destruct:

Proper assembly of bikes is critical to your safety. Don’t underestimate the value of a well built bike and a well assembled bike. If you’re going to get a department store bike then at least pay a local bike shop to snoop through it and make it safer to ride. Note: “safer” not “safe”.

Ridin’ the Train

Get your wrenches ready – to throw at people

At a point in time when there was great poverty and starvation, calamity and horror, the Draisienne was invented. Somehow, the folks in the United States misspelled this so badly it wasn’t even relate-able. It didn’t have pedals. It was around 1812. (Bicycling Science, MIT Press, 18)

Since that time there have been folks like me fixing the offspring of the Draisienne, what has become today’s bicycle. In Europe this is still a respected trade as cycling is very much a part of daily life and critical to getting around. Here in the United States, cycling is primarily a recreational diversion. Although, folks will use them to get around the cities, you won’t see so many of them in use on the country-side. Of course as you drive along the country road you’ll see a few of these machines and their owners dead in the ditches on the shoulder as they’re continually targeted by terrible humans driving automobiles. Some call this “roadkill” when it’s a deer.

So the machine abounds. The bicycle is used worldwide for getting from place to place quicker than walking. It’s a workhorse. To fuel it you need to eat potatoes. But like all machines they break down and cause heartache. This is where we, the mechanics of bicycles, come in. We save the day. We’ve been charged with the safe riding of all cyclists, except those who choose to buy their velo from a department store.

In the US more and more folks are riding bikes as entertainment and means of fitness. It means I’ll always have work. But as long as I work on these machines I will never have a retirement plan, a pension, insurance, or really anything other than a bike and place to lay my head.

“Well you chose that career!” People say. Their rationale is that it’s a high-schoolers job. Have you seen what happens when a high-schooler repairs a bike? Have you seen one of these species fix anything after 2006? I’m having problems with my high-school employees sweeping and staying awake; their brains generally resemble soft oats and their ability to express their thoughts is about as lackluster as the wind tipping an over-flowing garbage can. I do what I do because I’m exceptional at it. I am sought out. Good mechanics fix actual problems. When I go away and pursue a “real job” your bike stops functioning the way it should.

If your bike stops working because your shop’s high-school mechanics can’t fix it you’ll go to the next shop and find other high-school mechanics. You’ll pay real money and come away with more problems. You’ll get over it and repeat the process. And then you’ll mutter, “My old mechanic was an asshole but he sure could fix a bike.” Then you’ll move onto other sports, like curling or something equally inert.