It hasn't exactly been a secret that Fox was working on a new single crown fork – Richie Rude showed up with one
at the final round of the Enduro World Series last year and the rumor mill immediately kicked into high gear. The wait is over, and now it's official: meet the new Fox 38. As the name implies, it has 38mm stanchions, and it's the stiffest single crown fork in Fox's lineup.
The 38 is brand new, but many of the design features are also found on the new 36 and 40 – you can read more about those two forks here
Fox 38 Details
• Intended use: enduro
• Travel: 160, 170, 180mm
• Wheel size: 27.5" or 29"
• Stanchions: 38mm
• Lower leg bleeders
• Damper: Grip 2 w/ VVC, Grip
• Offset: 37mm, 44mm, 51mm
• Optional mud guard
• Floating thru-axle, QR and Kabolt options
• Actual weight: 2430 grams (29" w/ QR thru-axle)
• MSRP: $949 - $1199 USD
• More info: www.ridefox.com
The 38 is available with 160 - 180mm of travel for either 27.5” or 29” wheels. Prices range from $949 - $1199 depending on the damper and stanchion coating. Color options include orange, black, and a limited edition 'pistachio' version.
Weights start at 2180 grams for the 27.5” version, and the 170mm 29” fork I'm currently on weighs 2430 grams with the QR thru-axle installed. For comparison, that's about 200 grams more than a 2020 36. Details
Just how much stiffer is the 38 compared to the 36? Well, according to Fox it's 17% stiffer fore and aft, and 38% torsionally stiffer. Those are significant numbers, especially since the 36 wasn't exactly a noodle. That increased stiffness was achieved in part by increasing the stanchion diameter, but the new arch and crown designs also contribute to those numbers.
The arch shape, which is also found on the new 36 and 40, is designed to provide plenty of clearance for oversized headtubes, even when a reduced offset crown is being used. The last thing you want is your headtube hitting the fork arch at the bottom of the stoke; this new shape should help ensure that the forks are compatible with all modern frame designs.
The 38 also gets an elliptical steerer, which puts more material where the steerer is pressed into the crown, another measure that was taken to make sure the 38 was as solid and sturdy as possible. There's also finally a bolt-on fender option - no more ugly zip ties required.Floating Axle System
The 38 uses a floating axle system with one pinch bolt that's designed to ensure that everything is aligned, preventing any unwanted friction between the uppers and lowers. There's an aluminum sleeve inside the drive-side dropout that's able to move a few millimeters horizontally in order to perfectly match the dimensions of the hub. Getting it set up the first time a wheel is installed is simple – loosen the pinch bolt, insert the wheel, slide the axle through, close the QR lever, compress the fork a couple of times to make sure everything settles into place, and then tighten the pinch bolt.
After that, if the fork has a QR axle it's not necessary to loosen the pinch bolt for wheel removal – you can slide the axle in and out with it tightened down. With the Kabolt-X version, that pinch bolt will need to be loosened and tightened each time.Lower Leg Channels / Bleeders
All of the top level, longer travel forks in Fox's lineup get bleed valves for 2021. That little button on the back of each leg can be pushed to allow any air that's built up inside the lowers to escape, improving small bump sensitivity and making sure that the fork can achieve full travel when necessary.
That raised channel on the lowers also allows the fork's bath oil to recirculate, which keeps the foam rings and bushings lubricated and running smoothly. What's Inside?
That's enough words about the exterior of the fork – what's going on inside this thing? The proven Grip 2 damper is still an option, but it's received an update in the form of Variable Valve Control (VVC). Previously used for the damper's high-speed rebound, it's now used for the high-speed compression damping as well. VVC uses a small leaf spring that changes the fulcrum point of the shim stack in order to regulate how easy or difficult it is for oil to pass through.
There are 8 clicks of high-speed compression adjustment on the Grip 2-equipped 38, along with 16 clicks of low-speed compression and 9 clicks of high- and low-speed rebound adjustment.First Ride
In a different world, I would have had hours and hours of ride time on the 38 at this point, but unfortunately I've only been able to sneak in two rides so far, which means the testing process has just begun.
Fox's setup guide is comprehensive, and provides a good starting point. I'm running 84 psi for my 160 pound weight, with the high-speed compression set 5 clicks out and the low-speed compression 10 clicks out; we'll see how that changes once I get in more miles.
I didn't (and still don't) have any complaints about the stiffness of the 36, but the 38 does feel even more solid. One of the trails I use for testing has a nasty compression that leads into a sharp right turn, a section that puts a significant amount of twisting forces on any fork. The 38 took it without flinching, and it didn't seem like I needed to muscle it around as much as I would with a flexier fork.
Of course, more stiffness isn't always the answer, as anyone who's experienced hand pain or arm pump from bars, wheels, or suspension components that were overly stiff can attest. Again, it's early days in the testing process, but so far I haven't experienced any unwanted feedback from the fork. It already feels buttery smooth, and the blend of support and small bump sensitivity is top notch.
Two rides in and all I want to do is head out for my third, fourth, and fifth rides, which is always a good sign. Look for a more in-depth review in the future, once I've finished smashing straight through as many rocks and roots as possible.