Pinkbike Awards: Suspension Product of the Year Winner

Dec 19, 2018
by Mike Levy  


If you were riding mountain bikes during those crazy times when nearly anything went in the 1990s, you might know all about funny rubber bumpers being used as springs and something called "friction damping." That old stuff was primitive, and if you transplanted a rider from that era to 2018, Etto helmet and all, today's modern suspension would probably blow them away with its complication and otherworldly performance.

Fox's battery-powered Live Valve suspension is a prime example. With fast-reacting sensors that allow the system to adjust itself to suit the terrain, it can firm up when you need to put the power down, but it'll open the split-second it senses an impact. Actually, it's more like a split, split second, with Fox saying that Live Valve can respond in a mere .003 seconds. Fox was nominated twice this time around, as the highly touted GRIP2 damper impressed everyone enough with its action to be included here. With it, Fox brings effective high-speed rebound adjustment to our fingertips, and it comes in a package that offers impressive control and tuning range. RockShox is in the house to spoil Fox's party, however, with the return of externally adjustable high-speed compression damping now found on both the Lyrik RC2 and BoXXer World Cup DebonAir. But instead of countless clicks that may or may not be doing anything, RockShox has made their HSC dial a five-position thing so it's easier to wrap one's head around.








Let's be real here: None of last year's best suspension forks were holding us back, and if you swapped out the fork on the front of your bike for something a year or two older, it wouldn't exactly be the end of the world, would it? No, because they worked well, be it something with a FIT4 damper, a Charger damper, or a fork from a smaller company. But things can always be better, and they were in 2018 with Fox's GRIP2 damper cartridge.

Fox had designed the original GRIP system to go into so-called budget forks, but the basic layout turned out to be so effective that they turned it into something that truly does offer the rider more control than what was available previously. Oh, and you can tinker with high-speed rebound now as well.


Fox Grip2 damper overview


It isn't just that Fox added external high-speed rebound tuning to their fork - that's been done before - but it's how they did it. It'd take a few zillion words to explain it here, but Fox's Variable Valve Control (VVC) system is a more usable and effective way to tune HSR than has ever been done before, and it makes for a fork that offers even better action. Want to know more? Check out our in-depth GRIP2 breakdown to see how the VVC design works. The downside, at least right now, is that you can only get it inside of Fox's high-end 36 and 40 forks.

Live Valve impressed us immensely with its performance, but we also know that its asking price (an entire system, with a 36, goes for $3,250 USD) and use of batteries mean that the majority of riders won't be considering it. What about the new Lyrik RC2 and it's more adjustable damper? The fresh Lyrik RC2 is a step up from its predecessor, but we found the GRIP2-equipped Fox 36 to offer the best action right now, and it's the most adjustable to boot.


From the review:
bigquotesIt also re-confirmed my thoughts that Fox's new 36 and GRIP2 damper is probably the most potent off-the-shelf fork that you can get right now if you're into the enduro and all-mountain thing. It's also the only one that lets you externally adjust your high-speed rebound to best suit your spring rate, which is more of a tuning advantage than I thought it would be. Mike Levy








101 Comments

  • + 106
 Fox won fair and square. Unlike what happened to brendog.
  • + 3
 @ReformedRoadie: This deserves more upvotes than the OP
  • + 1
 Whats happened to brendog?
  • + 5
 @cragus-t: I believe this is a reference to last rampage.
  • + 8
 You meant to One Up dropper vs preposterous NX transmission.
  • + 1
 @ReformedRoadie: I can’t tell whether this is the sickest burn ever, or a tragic dad joke.
  • + 0
 I actually think this was quite a shocker
  • + 2
 @DH-Racer-GC: I gave your mom the shocker.
  • + 33
 Once again, the Girvin Flexstem doesn't get the attention it deserves.
  • + 25
 I have this Fork and it's insanely nice. That being said, there are known warranty issues that aren't 1-offs by design failures. They are by no means super significant tho they are existing and with that I'd put the Grip2 36 not over the Lyric but more of a tie.

Issues:
- travel suckdown
- Ambiguous damper clicks (not just the extra 16 useless clicks but the fact that it's challenging to figure out where they start). If you put it on a dyno, it's got about 12 dead clicks on the open side and roughly 3 or 4 on the closed side

Fox has a warranty fix for the damper but I don't think they have a known solution for the suckdown other than an airspring service until it happens again. Lots of people have this tho not a lot of people realize it is my guess (you have to measure your usable travel and manually extend your fork by hand.
  • + 4
 The suck down has been across a few years and occurs on the Fox 40 as well. It's a blob of grease that gets stuck during assembly causing the negative travel to increase pulling down the overall travel. Happens much more if you are running a lower PSI for a lighter rider which happened to me. You can service it yourself with a simple tear down of the air spring. My fork went back as it came straight from the factory this way but since then, it's been figured out to be a rather simple fix if you have the ability to dive into the fork a bit (no pun intended). The Grip damper though in either form Grip/Grip2 is a pretty awesome setup.
  • + 3
 @ejflyingeye: my port is open. I self serviced it when I first got it. It sucked down after that and I thought maybe it was my service. Sent it to Fox. They swapped airspring with shorter travel to fit my bike build and still has suck down
  • + 4
 The damper clicks are an issue with every fox product I own including vehicle suspension. Something I really wish they'd sort out. If you think it's annoying on a bike it's nothing compared to adjusting grit covered dampers in a wheel well.
  • + 5
 Take that fork apart and get the 4lbs of slick honey out of the lower.
  • + 2
 Shall we add that vvc is a load of bollax way of saying it uses a leaf spring shim restricter instead of coil spring backed shim restricter. So same effect as other highspeed adjustments done in a minorly different way, and definitely not actually special really.
  • + 1
 you have to pressurize the air spring to extend the lowers before sealing the damper.
  • + 3
 And the constant creaking issues. MRP Ribbon coil ftw.
  • + 2
 @taquitos: I have done some modeling and characterisation of Ohlin's vehicle dampers, I found that the LSC adjustments follow an exponential profile, whereas HSC is parabolic. It's related to the flow characteristics and iI imagine Fox dampers are similar. It's likely why it feels as though most of the clicks change nothing.
  • + 19
 Anyone think it's ironic that the Innovation of the Year was a suspension product, but the Suspension Product of the Year was a different product, and the innovation didn't feature at all in the suspension category?
  • + 1
 I was just about to write this very comment ^ good enough for innovation of the year, but not suspension product of the year?
  • + 10
 @projectnortheast: It might be one of the most innovative designs this year, that doesn't mean it's the highest performing or the most improved product.
  • + 13
 I wouldn't say it's ironic at all. Innovative doesn't mean best. I'd argue that almost nothing that is truly innovative is initially the best in its category because, by definition, it does not have the extensive testing and feedback that an existing technology has.
  • + 1
 @goldfly: Exactly that. Still an interesting observation that it didn't even feature though
  • + 14
 DVO for the win.... servicable, feels just as good (i think better than fox and rs), rebuilds farther apart, support directly from DVO. Got a problem...call them and they will walk you through the service. Ohhh and they will customize your tune and send you the shim stacks you need. It took me two weeks to get an answer from fox that helped nothing last time I needed help. I dont want to tear things apart after every 3 days of riding. I think there are contenders out there that are not RS and Fox.
  • + 4
 Of course there are other contenders! MRP Ribbon won this award last year...
  • + 5
 Glad to see this comment. I still cannot understand the hardcore fox fanboys. Are you just infatuated that they make moto suspension too?? DVO is leading the pack in many ways IMO, gotta love small passionate companies with great customer survice!
  • + 0
 DVO is a nice product for sure, but the coil negative spring means you won’t see me on one, that top out feel is heinous...
  • + 11
 Incremental steps at this point. Definitely beneficial but generally ity-bity improvements are happening in mountain bike parts.
  • + 4
 Suspension has kinda made it. That’s why Fox are putting loads of dollar into making it electric; where else d’you go? I think this damper is great though, not only does it work well but in theory they’re looking at making it not explode. From Fox that’s pretty cool cus their forks feel like shit unless you service them every day so at least they’re thinking about it.
Maybe that’s the next step, shit hot performance and service intervals that are over 24hrs life.
  • + 1
 @iqbal-achieve: Yeah, this should help extend service intervals since it can recycle the bath oil. Pretty cool design, used in brappers
  • + 6
 So wait...they created a damper to hit lower price points at a lower development cost & production cost, realized it worked...so they just jacked up the price so they could profit way more on it rather than pass the savings to the consumer and give us a break?
  • + 6
 no.... they developed a damper to hit lower price points. they then found out that in developing the technology that it had a lot of evolutionary potential and followed it to the next step. the grip damper on my 36 rythm is nice enough but feels nothing like my 36 grip 2. the base technology is similar but the two end systems have very different feeling and behavior.
  • + 6
 but but its a spring backed IFP and not a bladder and thats baaaad right?? - the internet
  • + 4
 "What the f*ck is an IFP" - 99% of pinkbike comment section right now
  • + 1
 @Loki87: Internal Floating Piston for all those asking
  • + 9
 @Loki87: international floating playstation
  • + 1
 identifiable flying object
  • + 2
 Im a little confused as to why they state this is the only fork on the market with exterbal high speed rebound as the durolux has had it for the past few years, ive had alot of time on the durolux and spent some time on the grip 2, the main diffrence to me was just the weight of the durolux but both are excellent forks and im glad to see the bladder was ditched as it makes it far more user friendly ro service at home with an ifp
  • + 4
 Still don't understand how this won. This is basically a marzocchi damper. Suntour has had R2C2 dampers for years now.
  • + 0
 I don't know why you got down voted, they literally have.
  • + 4
 But if you ride Mz's Dynamic Bleed version back to back against the Fox 36.... Fox are light years ahead.
  • + 4
 My suspension of the year? All products with easy acces to spare parts and the posibility for self servicing.
  • + 2
 That's the redtube damper from marzocchi girls....Google it
  • + 1
 "If you were riding mountain bikes during those crazy times when nearly anything went in the 1990s, you might know all about funny rubber bumpers being used as springs... "

Still very much alive in the year 2018 courtesy of Lauf. ^_^
  • + 3
 Level-up, FOX. For 2019 I'm upgrading to those 0.001 second response Neurons to bend my original Internals -- Elbows and Knees.
  • + 3
 I have a GRIP 2 36 but I am just waiting for the DVO ONYX SC 29 to drop and its gone. I miss my diamond on almost every ride.
  • + 1
 "
It's also the only one that lets you externally adjust your high-speed rebound to best suit your spring rate
"

How can this be the only one when Suntour has been offering this for a good while in their Durolux forks?
  • + 2
 First reviews from journalists comparing FIT4 and GRIP2 said they couldn´t figure out the difference... Now some time later for christmas become awarded... good job.
  • + 2
 Will people please stop heaping praise on Fox until they make a CSU that’s good for more than a few months, or at least have the foresight to have sufficient spare parts..!
  • + 2
 Been over a month, they have had my fork and shock. "waiting for parts" really?
  • + 1
 I feel your pain @Jokesterwild: 4 months waiting last year, and 6 months this year. All the while either not riding, or going out on a fork that Fox say is dangerous...
  • + 1
 With major improvements from Rock Shox on their Charger 2 damper and MRP's Ribbon I don't see myself ever buying another Fox fork - their QC issues have become far too pervasive.
  • + 2
 not a fan personally....we blinded by their exposure and media hype. Better options out there all round in my opnion......we are all critics
  • + 1
 How many miles do you have on one? It's impossible to ride it and not realise how good it is.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: i just find them too harsh for me. Personal preference.
  • + 1
 @klerric: Harsh? Did you have it set up correctly?

I'm coming off a broken hand with pins and screws. The G2 is a freaking life saver with small bump chatter.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: I found large bump too harsh. No as supple as Rockshox/DVO...like a i say personal preference....like marmite
  • + 3
 After 2 totally ridiculous Rockshox failures, I'm back on Fox and very happy.
  • + 35
 Funny because my experience is the exact opposite. Shows that you shouldn’t extrapolate from a small data set.

JP
  • + 2
 What were your rs failures?
  • + 0
 Just wait till it fails and you are out a month plus. And then the "repaired" product comes back only to fail two rides in. Yeah loved my Fox parts till they ALL failed. And yes I have them serviced regularly...
  • + 6
 I've moved on to MRP and DVO...
  • + 0
 @Jprestidge: Same here. The movement in my 36 lowers is intolerable. RS here I come.
  • + 5
 You won't have any better luck over there IMO. RS is 1 season stuff. Fox is atleast 1.5 season, ha ha ha.
  • + 3
 @kmg0: Agree, RS peso pinches so bad. Not enough oil in my new fork or rear shock, both stuck down and rolled a seal on the air shafts with maybe 10 hours ride time, way less than the 50 hour service and I'm not a shredder by any means. Sad they are willing to loose customers over fractions of a penny in oil. Not buying anything new from them ever again.
  • + 2
 @vonroder77: @kmg0: That's unfortunate. I really hate spending $1200 for something to fail after a few days of riding. Maybe a boutique brand like MRP or DVO might be a better option.
  • + 2
 @chriskneeland: I always pop lowers when brand new, and know how to fix most stuff in house, but my girl's monarch+ air can destroyed the damper body even with regular service. Unfixeable without $200 in parts
  • + 1
 @chriskneeland: Did they not take care of it? The 34 on my Smuggler was bad out of box, and they gave me a little hassle BUT then they eventually replaced them. All better. Did see one or two 34 on Scott's spit out their sealhead on the damper, but it was atleast covered under warranty.
  • + 1
 @kmg0: Never sent them in. At first I thought that my front brake pads or rotor was loose. But then it just kept getting worse. Turns out the lowers have some play in them. I've seen several people in the forums say the same thing. Figured it was just one of the unfortunate characteristics of the fork. Had any luck with Fox rectifying similar issues?
  • + 1
 @chriskneeland: Nah mine is proper, but like I said, the 34 was loose, and they remedied it. I think the RS stuff works great, but it doesn't last as long. I know they updated the shocks for damper body wear, but I can't do anything cause they aren't doing them in 200x57 AFAIK
  • + 0
 Air, oil, springs, valves, chambers, and seals: How many different combinations have we seen over the years? I forever wonder how we can perpetually recombine these technology primitives into improving results. Don't we eventually max-out?

I'm not trying to be crabby about it when I say this, but I just want to buy the finished, optimal, adjustable product, not beta test new attempts with every purchase.

As awesome as it is, is GRIP2 the end-all/be-all for the next decade? I'll bet not. And if not, what valve or seal or chamber design was overlooked in 2018 that will make GRIP2 obsolete? Couldn't some top engineer or machine learning system just nail down the most optimal design for any given fork length and be done with it?
  • + 2
 They could, but what would they be selling you the next season?

If you want reliable, perfect setup and product cycles over 1 year, take a look at the smaller companies and especially coil forks/shocks.
I like what formula, Manitou and DVO are doing and there are always Avalanche, Push, FAST and a few other small tuners/custom builders who use technology that has been proven for ages.
  • + 1
 You reported it, how did you not test it and put it in the mix. I’ve had all of em. Trust, baby!
trustperformance.com
  • + 4
 A gripping result!
  • + 2
 bit of a rebound from what I expected
  • + 6
 No puns are left. I guess I'm packing up.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy @mikekazimer how do you set your Fox 36 Grip 2 up? I'm still trying to find a good balance of support, suppleness and travel with mine
  • + 1
 I believe the RC2 is a better damper. Maybe not as plush but better support for faster riders! After all grip was a cost saving idea. . . . . . . .
  • + 2
 So is this the same system found in 4 year old Marzocchi 380s? Looks very familiar...
  • - 1
 Don’t agree with this entirely. Rockshox had HSR years ago on their old Mission Control Boxxers! Could one adjustment really make that big of a difference to crown them the winner? I thought the Live Valve was more impressive. Sure it costs more then 3K but it is a step forward in new technology. Who cares if most people can’t afford it, it’s a revolutionary design with a reaction time that is very impressive. To each their own though. Guess I need to trade up my Lyrik to try out this new Grip2 damper
  • + 5
 The way HSR adjustment worked on the mission control damper is way different than this. I have not riddent the GRIP2 but on paper they are both very different concepts.This actually controls the damping (the gradient of the damping force curve) while the RS solution for HSR only controls preload (at which point is the "blow off" going to happen, but not the gradient of the curve after the blow-off happens). With the GRIP2 you can practically "re-valve" the fork without openning, this means that Greg Minnaar could virtually run the same fork as you, just different settings. With the RS damper, if you were Greg Minnaar using an average joe shimstack you would probably end up being too soft in HS, which you would then patch with too much preload giving you too much damping in mid-speed. So for him you open the fork and set up a stiffer HSR shimstack, but then for the average joe you end up choking the rebound, which you then patch by backing off of HSR to the point were you have no LSR at all.
  • + 2
 Its not just one adjustment. The entire package just works much better.
  • + 1
 A minimalist like me will LOVE the grip ONE damper. And will not need to empty his pockets.
  • + 1
 What’s the difference between the GRIP damper and the suntour r2c2-damper?
  • + 2
 This should've gone to marzo instead
  • + 2
 Glad a good down country fork won this year.
  • + 1
 I like fox forks i also like rock shox forks , but I don't like these tight under pants ( UK tv add )
  • + 1
 Suspension product of the year should be oil.
  • + 1
 What about Manitou Mattoc?
  • + 1
 I would choose CaneCreek Helm coil or Formula Selva over it. Smile
  • + 1
 The suspense was killing me...
  • + 1
 Get a grip fux sux
  • + 0
 So basically Marzocchi won product of the year Smile
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