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.

Fat Bike Packing day 1 of 3

Headed out from home in down town Heber, Utah, I was in the completely wrong hour of the day and I knew it. The sun was in its full strength for the day and it was near 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I knew the hours following the ride would be fitful and I was right. But that could mean anything from a minor headache from the heat to full blown heat exhaustion. Whatever awaited me at the terminus of the days’ ride would be acceptable. It was time to head out.

With everything packed and my shift done for work all I had to do then was kiss my wife goodbye and hit the road. I left her with all the maps of the areas I’d cover, which Forest Service roads I would be on and what timing to expect. At the end I would meet her in the high alpine area of the Mirror Lake Highway through the Uintah Mountains, a location approximately 60 miles from home. I would either find her or her car. We had radios for getting in touch once I was close enough to where she would be in the mountains on Sunday.

She watched me ride off in a romantic kind of way, sweet and exciting. “I’ll see you in a couple of days,” she said with a kiss. Or that’s how I remember it. Anyhow, it was me and the open road. Traffic on surface streets was light. I was on the most rural roads of our rural city. It was hot. After 7 miles the pavement ended. It was all dirt from that point. I took a photo of the bike all loaded down to mark the occasion.

I had lightly chosen my gear for this, based on the availability of Specialized’s bike packing bags and my experience in backpacking. The “Specialized Adventure Gear” suited me well, was up to the task, and looked good. However I would like a different choice of color than black… my lightest and most minimal gear was with me. I had a few things along I wouldn’t take again.

The view from my route

With water and repair gear I had 34 pounds added to me and the bike. My final post will be a gear review. For now, on with day one’s ride. I made the dirt road by 5:00 PM. That was an hour later than I had hoped. I was also hoping that the canyon I was going to be climbing would be sheltered from the sun. Disappointed as I found no shade. Fortunately the road had been recently graded and relieved of most serious ruts. Once the road pitches up it doesn’t relent. I had programed the route into my GPS which has this annoying yet informative feature that shows where you are on the elevation profile, in real time.

I realize the chart doesn’t do this climb justice, but the brute of the climb was over the last 8 miles climbing 3500feet with a bike that was 34 pounds heavier than normal. The benefit was knowing when to anticipate breaks in the climbing which would last for mere seconds. The last climb of the immense slog appeared to have no end, at no point could I estimate a break or relief, it just kept on climbing. And the hours were passing. I knew that there was no way for me to make Wolf Creek Pass that night. I had half an hour of daylight by the time I finished the climb.

With a heavy bike and tired legs I finally hit a plateau in the climb and the ridge line riding started. I needed to find a camp so I wouldn’t be setting up in the dark. The place I found was next to some drunk bow hunters. They went on into the night. “Remember that old time back at Stinky Springs?” and other nonsense that they reminisced sung across the gentle breeze of the cool mountain air.

My one man tent was a great shelter and pretty comfortable. I was a 15 mile bike ride from home. I had a nice phone call with my wife, something that surprised us both because of the seemingly remoteness of my location. We said good night and I turned in, sleepily hearing the nonsense that my drunk neighbors were rambling.

But sleep was fleeting. The exertion and heat had rewarded me with a moderate headache. It was the price for traveling when I did. It made it near impossible to sleep. My heart rate wouldn’t settle either. I promised myself that I would sleep in if it were possible but when morning came I couldn’t’ help but leave that camp. Adventure awaited me and I knew it.