Fox's 36 didn't receive a massive overhaul for 2018, but that's because it didn't need one. After all, there's a reason it's the most recent recipient of Pinkbike's Suspension Product of the Year award. However, there were a few areas that Fox decided to tweak in order to make the 36 even smoother and more tuneable. The biggest change is on the air spring side, which receives an increased negative spring volume, as well as a simplified design that eliminates a seal and makes it even easier to add or remove volume spacers.
Fox 36 Details
• Float EVOL air spring
• 15x100, 15x110, or 15/20mm convertible thru axle
• 26", 27.5", or 29" options
• Travel options: 27.5” – 150, 160, 170 mm, 29” - 150, 160 mm, 26” - 100 mm (831), 160, 180 mm
• Price: Factory – HSC/LSC $1049, FIT4 $979
Performance Elite – HSC/LSC $959, FIT4 $889
One of the features that sets the 36 apart is the sheer number of available configurations. Looking for a 26” fork with a 20mm thru-axle and 180mm of travel? No problem. How about a 29” fork with Boost spacing and 160mm of travel? That's an option too. And on top of all the wheel size and travel options, the 36 is also available with three different dampers. Damper OptionsHSC/LSC:
As the name suggests, this damper offers independently adjustable high- and low-speed compression damping FIT4:
FIT4 has three compression settings and 22-clicks of additional low speed compression in the fully open setting.
Currently an OE-only option on the 36, the GRIP damper uses a spring-loaded internal floating piston rather than the bladder design found on the two higher end dampers. There are Open, Medium, and Firm modes, with micro-adjust positions in between those three main settings. Air Spring Updates
The previous version of the 36 had a thin aluminum rod attached to the air spring side top cap, and adding or removing spacers required removing a tiny o-ring, sliding the desired number of spacers on, and then re-installing that tiny o-ring. It wasn't that difficult of a procedure to accomplish, but it was more involved than just unscrewing the top cap, pushing a volume spacer on and then closing everything back up, a design that was first used on the 34, and has now carried over to the 36.
Along with the simplified spacer installation, the 36's negative spring volume has been increased. Increasing that volume is intended to reduce the initial force needed for the fork to start moving through its travel, and to create a more linear feeling for the first 25% of the stroke. The 36 isn't the only fork getting the EVOL treatment—the 32, 34, and 40 forks will also have an increased negative air spring volume. Ride Impressions
The stock color of the 36's lower legs is a flat black, but the 160mm, 29” version that showed up at my doorstep had the bright orange lowers that usually signify that a rider is a Fox athlete. I'm not much of a social butterfly when I'm out on a ride (or ever, for that matter), but when you put a bright orange fork on a red bike it's even harder to fly under the radar, so I started heading deeper into the woods than usual in order to avoid playing 20 Questions with curious riders.
A sticker on the left leg lists the recommended air pressures, along with the suggested rebound settings. The range is fairly broad—it's in 30 pound increments—but it does provide a rough starting point. The recommended air pressures are approximately 5-9 psi higher than what was suggested for the previous, non-EVOL version due to the new air spring volume. I eventually settled on 73 psi and one 10cc spacer for my 160lb weight, with the LSC and HSC a few clicks in from fully open. I'd probably bump up those compression settings a little bit for riding harder packed trails, but because most of my rides involved soft ground, wet roots, and plenty of slippery sections of trail, I was looking for as much traction as possible.
The 36 was slippery smooth out of the box, and that smoothness was consistent throughout the entirety of its travel. No matter how rough the terrain, the 36 offered up plenty of mid-stroke support, and even when faced with sequential stair-step like sections of trail it never dove deeper than I wanted it to, remaining poised and ready for the next hit. That being said, I did find that my hands felt a little more fatigued after plowing through extended choppy sections of trail compared to the RockShox Lyrik that I'd had on my bike previously.
With the two forks set up nearly identically, I'd say the 36's tune feels more a little more 'race oriented', with support taking a slightly higher priority than overall comfort. Die-hard adherents to the 'stiffer is faster' school of thought will find a lot to love about the 36, while it may take riders looking for gobs of pillowy plushness a little longer to get the 36 dialed in to fit their needs.