It's funny how today's high-end suspension is able to make what we thought was amazing just a few years ago feel decidedly unrefined. That's especially true when talking about forks, particularly those in the mid-travel bracket. The top manufacturers are now offering incredible performance in relatively lightweight packages for the front of your all-mountain and trail bikes, with FOX's fresh 36 and Manitou's new Mattoc as key examples, while the latest Charger equipped BoXXer (which was also nominated this year) can trace a lot of its qualities back to last year's winner, the Pike. The sole nominee for out back is Cane Creek's DBinline, a shock that looks to bring the company's wide adjustment range and distinctive feel to lighter duty trail bikes. Enough build up, though, because it's time to pick a winner.Suspension Product of the Year
FOX 36 160 FIT RC2
This year's award for Pinkbike's Suspension Product of the Year goes to the FOX 36 160 FIT RC2. Yes, it looks a lot like the 36 that came before it, but don't be fooled - this is an entirely new animal that is every bit as capable out of the box as last year's Suspension Product of the Year winner, but with more external and internal adjustments that allow a savvy rider to tune the fork exactly to their liking.
It would have been easy to discount FOX in 2014 given a few missteps on their part over the previous years and competitors that raised the bar during that time. It's probably fair to say that many riders did exactly that, and I'll even admit to not expecting much myself. That is, until late in 2013 when I rode a RAD-spec 34 fork, something usually reserved for Gwin and company, that made it very clear FOX was working non-stop to rebound in a big way. And did they ever. I got my first sampling of the new 36 160 FIT RC2 fork in May
of this year when I traveled to Moab for the launch, but this get together was a little different than other countless product debuts I've attended: FOX told me to bring my own bike - a Knolly Warden with a Pike up front - so as to be able to compare apples to apples. Such was their confidence that FOX wanted their new 36 to be ridden back-to-back against the Pike, no holds barred, which is exactly what I did. The result? ''The new 36 equals the Pike on all fronts, at least in my mind, and while the basic layout of their FIT cartridge and appearance of the fork remains the same, they've obviously made huge strides in the execution of both,
'' were my thoughts at the time. The 36 160 FIT RC2 takes the 2014 Suspension Product of the Year honors, but I've also ridden both a 2015 version of the same fork and the RAD 36 on the front of Jared Graves' Yeti SB6c race bike that spawned it - things are going to get even better in the near future, despite the already mind blowing performance of the 2014 fork. Photo Fraser Britton
I've since spent much more time on a handful of other 2014 36s, with all of them not just reinforcing that initial impression from earlier in the year, but also convincing me that the new 36 160 FIT RC2 is the best mid-travel fork on the market. It doesn't only come down to the fork's impressive action, though, because FOX has also listened to those riders who were asking for both more adjustability and more options. Performance aside, it's the 36's level of adjustability that sees it stand out in my mind. You've got the same low and high speed compression, and low-speed rebound adjusments that FOX has long offered, but there's also the ability to change the fork's travel to five different positions in 10mm increments by adding aluminum spacers to the underside of the negative spring plate, as well as being able to tinker with volume tuning spacers. Oh yeah, you can also run either a 15mm or 20mm hub thanks to the 36's axle adapters.
|This low-speed control, paired with the excellent spring rate, added up to what I like to call "invisible suspension." What am I talking about? It's a reference to when something simply works so well that you no longer register it during the ride, a sign that you've got a dialed setup going on. - Pinkbike, May 27th, 2014|