FOX Float X2
Those who follow World Cup racing may recognize the X2 from last weekend's coverage
of the Lourdes, France, downhill event where Aaron Gwin rode his to a nearly four-second victory. Sure, Gwin looked confident enough in Lourdes to race a wheelbarrow to the win, but anyone who watches how the top racers' bikes react to the terrain will surely have noticed just how planted his Demo appeared to be. No bouncing, no skittering, just staying glued to the ground like a slot car, which is said to be down to a very stiff and relatively slow rebounding setup. He also uses the air-sprung Float X2 because of the inherent ramp-up that its air spring provides, especially in concert with the custom made rocker link that adds even more progression to his suspension.
We've probably covered the Float X2 and its coil-spring counterpart
at least a dozen times by now, but FOX used this week's Sea Otter event to debut the production version of both shocks, meaning that you no longer have to be Aaron Gwin or Josh Bryceland to get your sport-class-racer paws on them.
The New 36
The big news with the both the Float and coil-sprung X2 shocks is a completely new damper design that's nothing like what FOX has employed in their mountain bike suspension in the past. The new layout is what's referred to as a recirculating damper, and it's called that because rather than the oil flowing back and forth in opposite directions as the shock compresses and rebounds like in a traditional layout, the X2 forces the oil to move in one direction up through the compression circuit and then out through the rebound circuit. This gives FOX more control over the damping ranges of the shock, as well as four-way independent adjustment of compression and rebound: low- and high-speed compression, and low- and high-speed rebound are all externally tuneable by the blue and red adjusters, as well as the hex slots at the center of each. Those who want to go even deeper are able to completely remove the modular compression and rebound assemblies to make shim changes, or even drop in a completely different tune.
While the X2's adjustability is new for FOX, there's yet more trickery hidden inside that isn't made obvious by any fancy anodized dials. I'm talking about the shock's Rod Valve System that is claimed to really help keep the bike calm and its tires stuck to the ground - is this part of the reason that Gwin's bike looked so composed during his Lourdes race run? The goal of the RVS design is to basically smooth out the transition between orifice and shim controlled damping - picture your bike railing a berm (a low shaft speed, orifice controlled moment) but then hitting a square edged braking bump (a high shaft speed, shim controlled moment) right in the middle of it. FOX says that the RVS system, which is basically a secondary, smaller shim stack that's on top of each valve, is able to ease the transition between the valve opening and closing at such times, which helps to keep the tires stuck on the ground where they should be.
FOX has become all about offering the riders all sorts of options when it comes to suspension, and that's continuing in 2016 with their new 36 fork. They're still offering their RC2 damped model, but they're also adding new 36s that have been spec'd with FOX's FIT 4 damper that had me so impressed with the 2016 34 fork that I recently reviewed
. The FIT 4 damper uses a three-position adjuster, but it's nothing like the CTD system that you might be picturing. ''The FIT4 damper uses architecture from the RC2 damper found in the 36 and 40, featuring a 10mm shaft design that increases oil flow to the base valve,'' explained Jordan in the review of the 34 a few weeks back. ''We improved the flow path design in the base valve for the three compression damping positions to provide more adjustment, sensitivity and control. We also increased flow through the rebound circuit for faster recovery from deep stroke hits.'' The three-position FIT4 damper is said to have a wider damping range than the old CTD system, and FOX also listened to many riders who were asking for a more traditional low-speed compression adjuster dial that would allow them to have more control over how the fork performs - there's now a dial to adjust LSC when the fork is set to the Open mode, with twenty two clicks that go from nearly overlapping the Medium mode to offering light damping.
FOX will be offering the 36 with the proven RC2 damper and lowers that can accept either 15mm or 20mm axles via removable inserts, but the FIT 4 36 will only be available in a 15mm axle model. There are also 36s to fit 26'', 27.5'' and 29'' wheels, and travel ranges from as low as 130mm on Talas forks to 180mm on fixed travel models.Super Lightweight Steel Springs
FOX's new steel springs are lighter than a titanium version of the same length and rate, which is something that may come as a surprise to many riders. I know that I was skeptical as well, but the three springs they had on display for comparison's sake - a standard steel spring, a titanium spring, and the new SLS spring - made it clear that the lightest one was the latter of the three. How did they do it? It's all about balancing the amount of coils and the wire gauge, as well as using high-end steel that receives an intensive finishing treatment.
All of the SLS springs will be bright orange, which I think looks pretty badass, and weight savings over a titanium version will vary depending on the rate and size. The 500lb x 2.75'' SLS spring on display was 40 grams lighter than the titanium spring next to it, but there can be up to a 100 gram weight savings in larger sizes. Better yet, the SLS springs cost a fraction of what titanium does, with an MSRP or $130 USD. Lighter and less expensive, who would have thought?
Be sure to check out all of our Sea Otter Classic images in this gallery.