The Fox 36 is arguably the most versatile fork in Fox’s lineup and is able to tackle everything, including gravity-fed chutes and the most technical downhill trails. It’s the choice of back-to-back Enduro World Series champion Richie Rude, and if it’s good enough for a guy that fast, it’s certainly good enough for the rest of us mortals. The new 36 may look much like the ones from years past, but as with all of Fox’s suspension, the magic is on the inside. We brought one of these burly single-crown beasts into our test fleet to see if the designers at Fox could improve on an already stellar fork.
Tech Info: Fox took its existing, podium-winning 36 chassis; added its EVOL air-spring technology; tweaked the spring curves; and dialed in the damper to make the new 36. The fork is available in 26- (say what?), 27.5- and 29-inch versions, with travel ranging from 150 to 180 millimeters. The new 36 is also available at multiple price points with different tube-coating and damper options. The 36 fork tested here comes with Kashima-coated upper tubes and independent high- and low-speed compression adjustments. The 36 fork is also available with the simpler FIT4 damper, which brings the price down by $70. The Performance Elite version, which is slightly less expensive, comes with black-anodized uppers and has the same damper options. Our test fork tipped the scales at 1986 grams (4.4 pounds) and sells for $1050. The more basic Performance Elite version with a FIT4 damper sells for $890.
The Evolution: The biggest difference on the new 36 is the EVOL air spring. “EVOL” is what Fox named its extra-volume spring, which increases the size of the air spring to deliver a more linear spring curve that’s supple off the top on small bumps and still has the support to handle big hits and resist bottoming. The EVOL system uses a larger “negative spring,” which is essentially the same patented technology Fox uses in its rear shocks to deliver less feedback by reducing the breakaway force. That’s fancy suspension-speak for, “They made it smoother and more tunable.”
Turn Up the Volume: The EVOL air spring has a higher volume negative spring than the previous design, but the positive air spring is still tunable using Fox’s volume reducers. These little plastic pucks snap to the top cap and take up space, effectively making the positive air chamber smaller without affecting the EVOL negative spring. Smaller air volumes are more progressive, which means they resist bottoming out more. The fork came to us with no volume reducers installed, and that’s how we rode it for the bulk of the test; however, riders who like to jump and huck off drops may prefer to add some of these volume reducers to keep the fork from bottoming.
On the Trails: We bolted the new 36 to our tried-and-true Pivot Mach 6, which was the perfect candidate, because we’d been running the previous-generation 36 on it for the past year. During the setup we noticed the air pressures were different than our previous fork. Fortunately, Fox provides a setup chart sticker right on the fork leg. We followed the guidelines and found them to be spot-on. We then set the compression and rebound adjustments to the middle of their range as a starting point and hit the trails.
The first descent on our new 36 showed us how buttery smooth Fox can make a fork right out of the box. Unlike some other forks that require a break-in period, this thing felt supple right out of the gate. Our initial setup was on the firm side with roughly 20-percent sag. We backed that off by dropping the air pressure and increasing the compression damping slightly to let the damper do more work to keep the fork up in its travel. Once we did that, the fork sat high in its travel but could dive through easily on big hits, all without giving up small-bump compliance. The FIT HSC/ LSC damper has a serious adjustment range that makes a huge difference in the fork’s ride feel. Bottom line: when you turn the knobs, you feel a difference. While it may be easy to tune your way out of a good ride if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s also an excellent feature for riders who know what they’re looking for. The range of adjustment will suit anybody.
The ultimate fork is the one that stays high in its travel, feels “fluttery” and smooth on small bumps, and still dives through to use every millimeter of its travel without feeling like it’s diving face first off a diving board into the shallow end of a pool. This is as close to the ultimate fork as Fox has ever come. While the separate high- and low-speed compression adjustments may be too much for some to wrap their heads around, learning to dial in the spring and damper combo will pay off. Even with a basic, and less than pro setup, the low weight and construction quality are still there to back this thing up. This is the best replacement for the already-stellar 36 we’ve been riding the past year. Fox won’t be seeing this test sample returned any time soon.
• Incredibly supple and controlled travel
• Great stiffness and steering precision
• Highly adjustable air spring and damper to suit any riding style
• Many sizing options for different wheel sizes and travel settings
• Impressively lightweight for this much travel
• Super-sweet orange color is only available to racers, but matte black is a good second choice
• Separate high- and low-speed compression adjustments take time to dial in. The FIT4 version is simpler but not as adjustable