Very much an elite level enduro race fork - and a great one
The Fox 36 has always been the enduro fork to beat. And 2019 sees some major changes to the FIT damper design that’s guaranteed to keep it that way.
Out goes the old RC2 damper cartridge; in comes Grip2 at the flagship Factory level.
Externally there’s no obvious change to the 36 platform, but travel on the 29in version has been increased to 170mm, and both wheel sizes now come with short fork offset options, 44mm for 29in, 37mm for 27.5in.
The Grip2 damper retains it high and low speed compression and rebound adjustment, but Fox has changed the way the shim stack on the 4-way adjustable damper works.
Take the new Variable Valve Control (VVC) high-speed rebound adjuster for example. Rather than adding pre-load to shims to increase the level of high-speed rebound damping, the VVC valve uses a leaf spring to alter valve flex. According to Fox the range of available adjustment is akin to having the damping re-valved. That’s probably a somewhat inflated claim, but we did find the useable range of rebound adjustment much better than on the old RC2 damped 36.
Friction has also been reduced, and Fox has reworked the compression side of the damping circuit too – the new Mid-Valve adding extra support by manipulating the compression curve more effectively. It’s here though, that the Fox 36 loses out to the superior sensitivity of the RockShox Lyrik RC2 – it’s just not as good at eliminating high frequency buzz.
It’s got stacks of support though, and somewhat amazingly you can still achieve full travel on the biggest hits without the fork ever feeling too soft or wallowly off the top. That’s a rare trait indeed on any air-sprung fork and it’s what makes the Fox 36 the best choice here for riding steep, natural woodland tracks. Dropping into holes, clattering across roots, it just eats it up, the bike and rider remaining perfectly composed throughout.
Get the Fox 36 on relentless, rough, rocky terrain however and it feels a touch over damped on compression and slower to react than the RockShox Lyrik. Which is fine on shorter race stages or if you’re super fit, fast and always ride aggressively.
In that respect the latest Fox 36 Grip2 is very much an elite level enduro race fork and a great one at that. But for the average rider looking to juggle racing with a full-time job and other commitments the RockShox Lyrik has a more useable range of adjustment, it’s easier on the hands and the money you save will help cover race entries.