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.
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: