Back at the start of April we were invited by Mondraker to head to the south of Spain, visit their factory in Alicante, and ride a new bike. Nothing was forthcoming on what this would actually be but there were some guesses - definitely enduro, definitely carbon, and we were pretty sure that it would be 27.5”, but what more?
Fast forward a few weeks and under the heat of an early season Spanish sun we find out that out first guesses were pretty correct but, instead of being based on the Dune chassis as we had suspected, the Foxy was the bike to receive a carbon makeover. Enter the Foxy Carbon. As ever with a press camp there’s a lot of introduction and talk of design philosophy before you get to the actual bike, but once we did there was an eagerness to look at what Mondraker had come up with. In the flesh it certainly is a looker, with a svelteness and elegance that belies its 140mm rear/160mm front travel. Gone is the hump behind the steerer that was such a feature of earlier bikes, and in its place a sleek piece of carbon sculpture. So at first glance it’s a looker, but what about when you look deeper - is there any substance to back those looks up? We were certainly inclined to believe so after hearing the details, especially after our positive experiences with both the aluminium Foxy and the Dune XR as reviewed here.
Given this is Mondraker’s first foray into the world of Carbon enduro frames, you’d be forgiven for wondering if it was perhaps going to be a bike of function over form. Instead, Mondraker appear to have spent significant time with designers experienced in carbon manufacturing to create a frame that is both sound from an engineering point of view, as well as aesthetically. They have then gone straight to one of the best factory’s for producing bikes from the black stuff. This isn’t necessarily the cheapest way, but it is the way to do it if you want a bike that works, and works for a long time. The frames have had a lot of attention paid to offsetting the forces going through both the headntube when running bigger forks, as well as the linkage and bottom bracket junctions, which are crucial to a stiff bike. The frame utilizes an EPS core which is then wrapped in carbon, layered as necessary to be strong and stiff where required (and provide crash damage protection) while remaining thinner where it’s not needed.
• 2.1kg for bare frame excluding shock (medium)
• Stealth Technology Carbon / Optimized swingarm
• 140mm rear travel
• 140mm front travel (160mm on XR)
• 27.5” wheels
• 142mm DT Swiss axle
• 160mm post mount rear
• Removable Direct Mount front derailleur
• Forward Geometry
• Zero Suspension System
FOX 2015 changes
FOX Gold Oil – fortified with low friction molybdenum, a key feature in Kashima.
Improved seal head in FIT cartridge to reduce friction between damper shaft and seal.
Updated damping; sensitive low-speed with bulked up mid and high-speed ranges.
Stanchion finish improved to decrease friction further once Kashima has been applied.
Improved and more ergonomic CTD control lever, controlling both fork and shock simultaneously
FOX Tuning Program
Picking up on the options offered by many tuning houses, FOX will now be offering an official tuning program for consumers, much along the lines of the RAD athlete program. Granted, the changes available won’t be quite so personal, but it will allow you to get your fork tuned and updated to the latest spec with greater ease than previously. It’s going to be available for all CTD forks, and come in three distinct levels:
Stage 1 – For owners of existing forks looking to update their fork to MY15 spec, in both damper and chassis. This will be available across all Evolution, Performance and Factory forks.
Stage 2 – Full MY15 FIT cartridge installed to allow Evolution owners to upgrade from their open bath damper.
Stage 3 – For all Performance, Factory and Stage 2 Evolution forks, Stage 3 introduces custom valving. It will be available in several levels, including two which increase damping over the original settings, and also a softer valving for those that prefer to use more travel more of the time or for lighter riders not fully utilizing the standard settings.
2015 FOX First impressions
After receiving much criticism for an overly soft standard tune on the MY13 CTD products it’s fair to say that FOX have been hard at work to overcome this. MY14 was a significant improvement but the MY15 seems to be almost the same again and very close to how you, or at least we, would choose to valve a fork. In Climb mode, well it does what it says. Trail mode is the mode we would find ourselves in a lot with the older forks, primarily to overcome the overly soft Descend setting. Our first real taster of the new 34 CTD was in Trail on a rocky mountain path. Damping seemed better controlled, and as a result of this we were able to reduce the air pressure over what we would have previously used, reducing skittishness on the loose surfaces while maintaining support further into the travel. First impression here was good. Flicking the new and more ergonomic (although still not perfect) CTD control lever to the Descend mode was done with a little trepidation, partly because we knew that this was the previous Achilles' heel, and partly because the upcoming trail wasn't really the place to be a test pilot for something you weren't too sure about.
After just a few corners, though, and it was clear that vast improvements had been made. Supple to start with, yet easily reigned in and controlled as you went deeper into the stroke. It was a little disarming to expect the fork to dive where the old model would have been on its knees, only to find it still with a third of the travel left and begging for harder hits. Some big G-outs should have unstuck them but didn't and overall we were left impressed in the improvements. It will be telling to take them to our local trails where we know exactly what each fork will do on any given day but for now, signs are very positive that FOX have got it right.
Foxy First Impressions
When it comes to the full build options of the Foxy Carbon there are several specifications available, including one with an aluminium rear triangle to keep costs down. However, for the purposes of this launch there were two bikes on offer; the 140mm Foxy RR and then the XR which came with a 160mm 34 Talas CTD up front. We spent most of our time on board a medium framed XR with a 30mm stem, and although a large with a 10mm stem would have been an interesting comparison, we felt very comfortable on the medium and instantly felt at home once rolling it onto the trails. The longer front centre might still feel a little alien to some riders, and it's something that will undoubtedly take a little time to get used to if you're usually on shorter bikes, but take that extra time and it will reap rewards. It allows you to increase pressure on the front wheel in turns while keeping your body's balance in check, and that in turn enables finer tuning of your position to balance the available grip more effectively. Combine that theory with the 'tweener wheels and it's a bike which certainly makes a compelling argument for itself. Even in tighter turns, where you might expect the bike to feel a little ungainly, it can easily be moved around once you learn to trust the extra grip available through the front wheel.
One of the most noticeable aspects was the combination of the relatively long front (obviously a key factor in the Forward Geometry) of 635mm and the relatively short 430mm chain stays which allowed for a very 'poppy' bike, especially out of corners. In contrast, the 1193mm wheelbase and 'tweener wheels gave it a confidence inspiring ability to take aggressive riding on blind trails in stride. While that long top tube will leave many thinking that the bike won't climb, that just resolutely isn't a problem as long as you stay seated and keep traction over the back wheel. The front wheel won't lift, and the rear wheel will simply dig in and drive you forwards. This is helped in part by the sub 12kg weight.
On both the ridgeline trail and in the Fanososa bike park the bike felt balanced, sprightly and seemed to feel slightly more insulated than our experience of the aluminium bike produced. That latter point was a minor edge but was definitely tangible, as was the 400g weight saving. The trail information is all still there, it's just the micro frequency, or trail buzz if you will which seems to have been dialled out, and that is definitely no bad thing on harsher and rougher trails.
Cable routing is internal with neat entry and exit, with thought clearly applied to ensuring that the cables are smoothly routed. Mud clearance is now among the best in class too thanks to the new style swingarm which only has a single carbon spar running the distance between chain and seat stays. Even a 2.4" Maxxis Ardent and thick clay on one of our test rides didn't produce any issues, which bodes well for winter riding.
Geometry is such a key factor in a bike's abilities, and the right geometry can really allow a bike to punch above its weight in the strictest sense of the available travel. Get it right and it allows the bike to feel stable, adjustable and confidence inspiring, and on first impressions the Foxy Carbon is one such bike. Just two days of riding on a new bike isn't going to expose every handling trait but it does give you a flavour of what is on offer before being able to put it through its paces on your local hill. Given that the two days offered up natural rocky and loose terrain, followed by smooth and more manicured trails, there was enough breadth to feel that the bike is cohesive without any undue concerns of what it might do in any situation. It's stability and stiffness paid dividends on the rough and rocky descents, while the Zero Loss suspension, so impressive on the Dune XR, also proved more than capable in the shorter travel guise. Descending was sure footed with a progressive curve coming from the floating shock arrangement, and this seemed to resist bottom out very effectively, even on flat landings and G-outs, mirroring our experiences of the aluminium bike. Climbing performance was similarly impressive, to the point that on loose climbs you could leave the shock in Descend and remain seated to gain maximum traction without feeling the bike squirming and bobbing about beneath you. Production bikes will also come fitted with 760mm bars rather than the 740mm on the test examples which will give more scope for riders to get the cockpit feeling just right.
In terms of specification, the Formula T1R brakes have historically been a little hit or miss, but once bedded in they performed suitably well in the warm and dry environment. Crank Brothers' wheels still aren't a favourite but they do seem improved over earlier models, and the SRAM XX1 performed as faultlessly as you would expect it to when new. It is still a joy to experience how quiet a bike can be once you swap to a narrow-wide chain ring and ditch the chain device, and still a little amazing that the chain just won't drop no matter how hard you try to make it do so. The On Off finishing components are all comfortable, and as already mentioned the 740mm bars will be replaced with 760mm for production to give a little more front end control for those with wider shoulders. Ardent tyres from Maxxis are also a good (and light
) all rounder, even in 2.4" format, and full marks to Mondraker for electing to fit the proper Tubeless Exo casing, too.
Foxy R Carbon £4,399/€4,599
Foxy RR Carbon £4,999/€5,999
Foxy XR Carbon £5,999/€6,999
Foxy XR Frame £2,699/€2,999
As far as first impressions go, the Mondraker Foxy Carbon seems to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to being a great enduro style bike. It descends well enough that you'd be forgiven for thinking it has more travel than it does, it deals with fast trails as well as it does with the slower and more technical bits, and the weight gives it an agile nimbleness that belies its physical length that is so key to its stability. That weight is also a real boon when climbing, for it accelerates well, while the supple Zero Loss suspension finds traction easily on loose surfaces. It certainly doesn't come in as a cheap bike by any means, but as the top-end of what is available and coming fitted as it does with some of the best componentry, it never will be a cheap bike. It does move the game on from the already successful and highly competent aluminium Foxy, but only in the subtleties, and you would certainly not suffer should you decide that the Foxy Carbon is out of reach. If you can afford it, then first impressions are of a very capable bike, and one that we can't wait to spend more time on closer to home to see how it stacks up as a long term ownership proposition. – Alasdair MacLennan
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