Take a look at how many bikes come with Float series shocks today. Other companies would kill for that kind of market share. In recent years the competition has really stepped it up, so if you’re in the market for an air-sprung shock, there are some serious alternatives to consider. The 2012 Factory-Series Float RP23 is Fox responding to that pressure. The 'Factory-Series' designation means that nothing is spared, inside or out - and the air-sprung damper bristles with features like super-slick Kashima coating on all sliding surfaces, 'Boost Valve' position-sensitive compression damping, a number of air-volume sleeves to tune the air-spring curve, and its 'Adaptive Logic' three-position low-speed compression adjustment. We put the Factory-Series RP23 through its paces on some big-mountain terrain for a long-term review.
Factory RP23 Details
Fox Factory Float RP23 Features:
- Kashima low-friction coating on shock body and internal shaft
- Adaptive Logic three-position compression adjustment
- Pre-set on/off ProPedal function
- HD Rebound
- XV (extra volume) air chamber
- Boost Valve position-sensitive compression damping
- Weight: 208 grams
- MSRP: $420 USD
Straight out of the box, you can’t help noticing the RP23's low-friction Kashima coating.
'Gold' and 'Shiny.' Those words are music to the ears of bike tarts everywhere and for our money, this is the best-looking shock out there. Kashima coated parts are sent to Japan where the patented (and expensive) process is applied, so we wondered why it looks like the coating was on the outside of the air cannister too. A quick call to Fox Racing Shox, and they explained that both the shaft and the inside the air can have a Kashima coating as there are seals sliding on each surface. Because the parts are immersed to receive the special coating, the outside of the air can gets coated too. The XV air-volume boost sleeve is not coated because it has no moving parts
The Factory-Series 2012 Float RP23 shock alongside the standard 2011 version.
There are some small but very useful details that Fox has added this year. It’s nice to have a little diagram beneath the ProPedal lever that clearly designates its features. In previous years there was always that embarrassing moment, trying to work out which position is which. They’ve re-profiled the rebound adjuster too, so it’s now easier to adjust with cold, fat fingers in wet riding gloves. Which is just as well, because they’ve doubled the number of clicks you get on the rebound, they call this HD rebound. You now get 16 clicks, rather than eight, but it is still in the same range as previous versions, so you can fine-tune your rebound more precisely.
Here you can see how different the 2012 rebound adjust is (on the left)
For 2012, fox has re-worked the adjustment on the ProPedal and re-named it 'Adaptive Logic.'
You still get three options for the little dial on top of the lever, but now they are numbered '0', '1' and '2' and it sets the shock's low-speed compression damping. The compression adjustment controls the shock when the ProPedal lever is switched to 'open.' Turn the two-position lever to 'ProPedal and you get super firm pedaling that is preset internally. Adaptive Logic's low-speed compression adjustments control ride-height and mid-stroke suspension action. The redesign gives the RP23 damper a wider range of tuning options without the complication and added weight of a piggyback-reservoir type damper. Get the right tune:
If you are thinking about buying a Factory-Series RP23 aftermarket, we would advise strongly that you buy it from a proper Fox supplier, as there are different tunes available for the boost valve, XV sleeve, compression and rebound damping, and ProPedal. We went for medium tunes on the compression and rebound, and 175psi in the Boost Valve. In fact, there are several hundred variations you can get, so to find the best one for your particular suspension design and and riding style, it’s best to ask the professionals and get them to help you select the right tune. Buy the wrong one you’re going to have to send it to them to get it re-tuned anyway. While we would have liked to see more tuning info on the Fox website, Fox's Race Program Manager sheds some light on the tuning options available:
|We offer both Light and Firm compression and rebound tune options for customers, in addition to higher and lower Boost valve pressures. All of these variables are dependent on rider weight, riding style/level, leverage ratio, and the amount of bike travel. The compression and rebound tunes are related to wheel/shock velocity. The boost valve pressure effects the damping force at a specific position in the shocks stroke. For example, if a rider prefers more propedal platform or firmness, we would raise the boost valve pressure. Another tuning change example would be if a 100 pound rider requires light air spring pressure, we would run a lighter (L) rebound tune. - Mark Fitzsimmons, Fox Racing|Inside the shock:
The new position diagram is really welcome
Inside there are enough features to keep even the nerdiest rider happy. This latest version is the product of constant development and you’ll find all the features from the last few years like the larger volume air can (XV chamber) to help the shock feel less progressive (so it ramps up less aggressively at the end of the stroke) and a Boost Valve. The Boost Valve
is the feature that Fox is most proud of. Working off of the preset pressure of the shock's internal floating piston, the Boost Valve meters the compression damping throughout the stroke, making the damping action position-sensitive, not just speed-sensitive like other shocks. For example; when you reach the end of the stroke, even if the shock is moving relatively slowly, a huge chunk of compression damping kicks in to prevent an abrupt bottom-out. Factory RP23 Performance
We’ve had the RP23 shock attached to a 140mm Saracen Ariel since August 2011. In that time we’ve put it through what our cigarette-packet math adds up to well over a hundred hours out on the trail, which is getting towards a years’ riding for an “average” rider (although what’s average, right?). Most of that time it’s been out in big, alpine terrain with 1000-meter descents. Being happier going down hills, rather than up them, we set the shock with about one-third sag, and pretty fast on the rebound.
The shock on our Saracen Ariel test bike probably cost more than one of the beater cars in the background of this photo.
The first thing we noticed was how easily it slides into its travel. With the Kashima coating, Fox has created an impressively supple shock that just gets better as it beds in. We’d go as far as to say that this has the least stiction of any air shock we’ve used. Out on the trail with the pro-pedal off, that translates to good small-bump performance and plenty of grip, it is noticeably better than previous versions of the RP23. If you really give it some stick, you can find the edge of that grip, but you have to go looking for it. With the 140mm Saracen that we had the shock strapped to, we could never smooth the trail out like we could with a big DH rig, but the RP23 kept things surprisingly smooth. Even when we got onto flat-out, chattery stuff, the bike stayed composed, taking the edge out of the rocks, while keeping enough in reserve for ugly things that came up. Big-hit performance:
In the middle of the stroke with the low-speed compression in the '0' (fastest) position, we found occasionally that we wanted something more to push against to pop the bike. That was the exception not the rule though, and we were impressed by the way the new RP' managed its travel. At the end of the stroke it was a civilised affair, unless we got our huck-to-flat on, we rarely noticed we were using the whole lot. In the entire time we had the shock we can’t remember more than a couple of occasions when we felt a real harsh hit as it reached full travel (and generally it was our fault, not the shock's if we did).Adaptive Logic in action:
If we had only used the shock in the big mountains we’d have been tempted to suggest that the Adaptive Logic
wasn’t much use. On that kind of rough, natural terrain we only used the shock in the wide open position to descend. When we got onto man-made trails where we wanted to pump the bike more it really came into its own though. With the Adaptive Logic set to the number one position, it gave just enough extra compression damping to work the bike, something more to push against, while keeping the bike more composed. We didn’t go up to position two that often, but it was nice to have the extra firm option. Fox really has worked out what trail riders need with Adaptive Logic. Sure you get much more range of adjustment, on a DH shock, but you can adjust the Fox RP23 on-the-fly out on the trail. The RP23 gives you quick, simple and meaningful changes to the way your bike feels to adapt to whatever may be ahead.ProPedal:
There isn’t much to say about the ProPedal action. If you’ve used a Fox shock with ProPedal any time in the last few years you know what you can expect. For anyone who hasn’t, simply, it dials in a shedload of low-speed compression damping at the flick of a lever, meaning the bike barely bobs even if you mash the pedals. All you need to know is that it has always worked well and Fox has not meddled with its winning formula.General issues:
Reliability is the second most important issue for a shock. The RP23 shines here too, we haven’t had to touch or think about it since we’ve had it. We are slightly past the recommended service interval now, but practicalities have meant we haven’t had a chance to get it looked at and it’s still working fine. You can service the main parts that will wear out yourself, like the seals and the mounting hardware. However, for a full service the shock will need to go to a professional as it's charged with high-pressure nitrogen inside, which is not something to be messing about with.
One criticism that people have about air shocks is that they don’t work on long descents. That’s quite frankly nonsense these days and the RP23 is no exception to that. On big descents (we’ve tested the shock on descents up to an hour long) it did heat up, you only have to touch the air can after to be certain of that, but this didn’t affect the performance too much. Sure, you do lose a little bit of damping performance if an air-shock gets seriously hot, but no matter how long or ugly the descent, our RP23 stayed controlled and composed.Pinkbike's Take:
|We only need three words to sum up this shock: still the benchmark. While the competition have been closing in on Fox, they have upped their game again with the Factory Series RP23 and it is still the air shock that all others will be measured against. If we had to pick another three words to describe it they would be supple, controlled and reliable. We pointed the test bike down the gnarliest trails we could find and it never came up wanting. If you are not sure just how good the new RP23 is, ride one for a week and then spend a few hours on any air shock from one or two years ago. You'll appreciate how far things have moved on. The Factory RP23 is a class act. - Matt Wragg|