Fox Racing Shox has been methodically working to simplify its shock and fork tuning options without taking away their ride performance. The focus of this activity is on its trail and cross-country offerings, the categories where most of its customers fall into, and where the benefits of a simplified setup and use strategy are most welcome. Remote fork and shock damping are not new and Fox was late to the table with its three-position CTD Remote system, but Fox rarely rushes a project, and after riding it, we discovered some noteworthy attributes, specifically for trail an all-mountain riders. Fox sells two Float shocks with the remote setup, one with and one without its position-sensitive Boost Valve. In this feature, we review the top-range Float CTD Boost Valve Remote shock, as well as its handlebar-mounted control.
Fox took some heat for its simplified 'Climb-Trail-Descend' system, but as we discovered, with the addition of a handlebar remote, that the three options become user friendly.
The Boost Valve, first used on the RP23, employs an air
-pocket, trapped under the boost piston that allows internal
shock pressure to compress it against the valve stack.
Float CTD Boost-Valve Remote Highlights:
• Intended for XC, Trail and AM use
• CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) low-speed compression options are preset at the factory
• Cable -operated system driven by twin-lever handlebar remote.
• Cannot be retrofitted to existing Float shock without replacing the damping dial assemblies.
• Fully adjustable low-speed rebound and spring pressure.
• Spring-rate is adjustable via internal air-volume spacers
• Low-friction composite eyelet bushings
• Internal Boost Valve increases compression damping as IFP pressure rises to prevent bottom-out.
• Eye-to-Eye x Travel options(inches): 7.50 x 2.00, 7.875 x 2.00, 7.875 x 2.25, 8.50 x 2.50
• Weight: 0.46 lbs / 208 g (shock only in shortest option)Lever mech: 80g +/- housing and cable
• MSRP: $460 USD
Fox CTD remote levers have an ultra positive indexing mech,
so there can be no question about a successful mode shift.
Climb-Trail-Descend are three preset low-speed compression settings that Fox believes will give trail riders the most effective options - nearly locked out pedaling firmness in the Climb setting, a compromise between pedaling firmness and suspension action in the Trail selection, and a wide-open shock for fast and furious riding in Descend mode. Non-remote controlled Float CTD shocks also feature a black ring beneath the blue CTD control that gives the rider three levels of pedaling platform when the 'Trail' option is selected. Those extra compression damping settings are missing from the remote version of the shock, presumably because there was not enough room to fit the cable housing stops in the limited space in the damping control head.
Being asked to comment about the Fox remote CTD lever at first glance is like having your girl ask you if she is fat - there is no proper comeback. There probably is a vantage point from which the CTD remote looks perfectly proportioned, but I have yet to find it. There are two large levers on the CTD remote. The longer silver one pulls cable and the shorter black lever releases cable. As ugly as the remote looks, it operates remarkably well, with a
decisive sound and a positive engagement. The escapment mechanism that indexes the lever is a track, cut into a stainless steel plate - a design that has been in use for a thousand years and which should last a lifetime without missing a click. The cable entry point is exposed, so you won't need a plumber to replace a cable. Its hinged clamp has a three-position shoe which allows the user to set the lever plus or minus 20-millimeters fore and aft, and Fox designed a clever threaded cap that allows the lever assembly to be reversed. This means that the Fox remote can be configured under the left grip for single-chainring bikes, as well as left or right in the conventional top-mount position.
A look at the zig-zag track of the escapment mechanism (left). Three positions are available on a sliding track (center) to adjust the ergonomics of the levers. Fox learned that simply squeezing a derailleur cable with a set screw (like many fork-crown remotes do) leads to failures in the field. The CTD pulley uses a more elegant through-hole strategy.
Float Boost Valve Shock
Few dual-suspension XC or trail riders exist who are unfamiliar with the air-sprung Fox Float series shock. The Boost Valve version features a small piston that fits inside the damping piston of the shocks that exerts pressure on the compression valve's washer-stack as pressure builds inside the shock. The Boost Valve function automatically slows the shock as it reaches full compression, but it does not affect the damping to a great extent while the shock is in the sag position, where its small-bump sensitivity is most important. By altering the pressure behind the shock's internal floating piston (IFP), Fox engineers can tune the progressiveness of the shock. The Boost Valve tune is printed on the lower seal-head of the air can in PSI. Seal friction can be a problem for air sprung shocks, so Fox employs its Kashima coating throughout the body and the air can, which has been simplified with an enlarged head to add substantial air-volume to the air can. Rather than offering a number of air can volumes, Fox now downsizes the air-spring's volume when necessary using plastic spacers. Low-speed damping functions are stacked at the shock head with a conventional red rebound dial on top of the blue, three-way CTD dial. Fox discovered, like most top suspension firms, that the shock's eyelets were a source of friction, especially at high loads when the shock was asked to move quickly, so it developed a slippery new composite bushing system that makes a noticeable improvement over the metal-backed DU bushings it used in the past.
No worries here - assemble the system, take the slack out of the cable and clickety click, the CTD remote is good to go. Set your shock spring pressure in 'Descend' mode to ensure that compression damping won't create a false reading, and don't be shy about setting the sag as low as 30 percent, because you'll have all the pedaling firmness you'll want at the push of a lever. Float shocks have a negative spring that activates in the first 15-percent of the shock's compression stroke and it resets to your chosen shock pressure. Don't make the mistake that many users do and assume that the half-inch of sag that the negative spring creates signifies a proper setup. It will settle there at 300psi. Always set your sag beyond the negative spring - 20-percent or more - to get it right.First Impression on Trail
Most of us will use remote ride settings until their novelty wears thin, after which we tend to leave the shock or fork in the selections that give us the best overall ride. Not so with the CTD. The action of the levers seems odd at first and the fact that the suspension never fully locks out in Climb mode blurs the rider's ability to discriminate between settings. Oddly, we discovered that we began to regularly use the CTD Remote system after a more lengthily time interval. The advantages begin with the notion that those big levers make a lot of noise - the good kind of noise - because each selection comes with a reassuring 'clack clack', there is no angst while the rider waits to sense the impending change. When you aren't interested in the levers, they remain in position, well away from your hands, so you don't get the urge to reach for the wrong lever when you are frantically trying to shift your way out of a stupid error. Later, when the CTD Remote is showing signs of age, the longer levers keep the feel of the levers consistent as the cable gets dusty and doesn't slide so well in the housing.
We paired the CTD Remote system with a Fox 34 Float CTD 150 fork so we could play with matched suspension settings. As we are well familiarized with the Float shock, there were no surprises to be discovered on the trail, which was a combination of super fast hardpack, littered with embedded stones and a number of boulder drops. Together, there were enough features with which to measure small bump sensitivity in each mode, as well as to gauge the shock's performance during larger events.
There is a moderate, but beneficial improvement in pedaling effectiveness in Trail mode and it comes with a slight increase in ride stiffness. That said; the difference between the ride quality in Trail and Descend is not so great that it would compromise handling should one forget to switch the shock wide open for a downhill segment. (Something we managed to do, often.)
In climb mode, however, the rear end rides noticeably higher and the compression begins to approach lockout. Such an evil combination of forces drives the fork low into its travel and makes descending in technical situations a succession of 'Hail Mary' moments. The ride-height lift in the rear that Climb mode is also a gift, because when you are climbing, it prevents the rear suspension from sagging into its travel and thus provides a much more powerful platform for the rider to get the job done. Experimenting with ride height changes revealed also, that Trail mode provides additional support for the shock while climbing. In the end, we switched between Trail and Descend, only using the Climb position for extended suffer-fests on relatively smooth terrain, as Climb mode compromised rear-wheel traction up steep or loose ascents.Pinkbike's take:
Fox Racing Shox
|Cross-country competitors who prefer rear suspension must have some sort of remote lockout to go wheel to wheel with attacking hardtail riders. Trail riders, however, have distinctly different needs and the Fox system seems to lean more in our direction than for racing purists. For one thing, the CTD remote takes up a lot of real estate on the handlebar - something that trail riders have in abundance, and more importantly, the heavier action of the levers and the milder, more traction friendly Climb and Trail compression settings seem to be tailored for the needs of a trail/AM type rider. Granted, Fox can fine tune the magnitude of each of the three CTD settings for dedicated XC racers, but for our needs - riding rapidly changing terrain with an emphasis on enjoying technical descending - the stock package is surprisingly well adapted. We banged the levers repeatedly and they look no worse for the wear. We are admittedly against complicated gizmos bristling from the bars, but in the end, CTD enhanced our trail experience - and we used the three options a magnitude more often than we would have, had we needed to reach under the top tube to access the standard CTD lever. - RC|