The Fox 36 is one of the longest serving forks on the market has had a huge overhaul for 2021 and is now totally different, in and out.
Editor’s Choice 2020
Although the new 38 has stolen most of the limelight, the all-new Fox 36 still shines brightly as one of the most adjustable and composed high performance trail forks on the market. Updates for MY20 that are carried through to 2021 include a new chassis with big, curvy brace and new dropouts that can be adjusted for perfect alignment and minimal friction. There are bleed valves, too, on the lower legs to release trapped air that builds up as the fork gets hot. But the real star of the show is the Variable Valve Control damper. The result is a really light approach to small bumps but stacks of support through the mid stroke. While the Fox 36 commands a premium over its nearest rival, it’s worth every penny if you’re seeking those last few percentage points of performance.
New headline Fox 36 features include a curvy chassis with bulging brace, a new GRIP2 damper and clever QR system with a floating sleeve to precisely align hubs and reduce any binding between upper and lower legs.
Fox’s reshaped lowers significantly boost stiffness, and incorporate lower leg ‘channels’ and air release valves on the back of the magnesium lowers. The former circulate internal bath oil to continually lubricate bushings and foam rings to reduce friction, while the bleeders equalise any air pressure that can build inside and prevent full travel (or reduce sensitivity and responsiveness). There’s also a new bolt-on Fox mud guard, but it only extends backwards and isn’t really substantial enough for winter conditions in the UK.
The Fox 36 EVOL air spring uses a proportionally bigger negative chamber than most for a more linear spring curve and self-balances if you cycle the fork. Clip-on volume spacers can tweak the spring for more or less progression as needed.
The latest GRIP2 damper is four-way adjustable with a really trick variable-valve-control system. This VVC feature was already on the Factory 36’s high-speed rebound circuit, and now affects compression damping too. It works by way of a tiny rotating leaf spring that adjusts the fulcrum – or balancing point – of the oil flow shims, thus fine-tuning valving without having to rebuild the entire damper.
We’ve had tons of experience on the old 36, so how do Fox’s changes add up? Well, it’s immediately plain that performance is now even better, and if the air spring is in the right ballpark, Fox’s damping feels supremely smooth and delicate everywhere from hellish rough sections to the smallest ripples and stones. Hands hover across the terrain, but there’s still a constant, positive support to push against and sense what the tyre is doing.
Since the damper now has a significantly lighter touch, the ‘working’ range runs right from ultra-fluid to stiffer and more controlled, and, at 82kg, we are more in the middle of the dials at both ends here.
The new 36 never gets flustered and absorbs hits of every size calmly with an initial dull slurp that feels like your tyre has less air pressure inside. On one local trail section with brain-rattling high-speed moto whoops, it danced over crests without jiggling vision and balance, while most forks jackhammered and pitched the back end of the bike in their wake. Touch and bump absorption feel consistent whether absolutely hauling into square edges, or plopping off slow speed steps too.
The latest Factory Fox 36 feels like floating in a bath of oil, but also informs enough about the terrain to ride precisely and actively by never being too wallowey or mushy. The superb performance comes at a considerable financial premium to its closest rival – the RockShox Lyrik – however, plus all the new features add a chunk of weight over the older model.
In terms of ultimate performance, Fox’s new 36 is a superior product. The brand’s latest design has really got all bases covered, and although you have to pay a premium for it, if you’re after the ultimate damping performance and gentle touch, all the details in Fox’s revisions add up, meaning you can ride harder and smoother with a properly classy and rounded feel from the latest GRIP2 iteration. The self-lubricating design should reduce lower leg service intervals, which was previously required more frequently than a Lyrik to keep in tip top shape.