By Ron Koch
Fox Racing Shox took us to a motocross track to show its 2010 mountain bike line for a reason. They wanted to show first hand how technology crosses over and influences the Fox brand as a whole. It was an eye opening experience since we got to sample all the goods including Ford’s new Raptor off-road truck in the rolling hills surrounding Santa Ynez California. It has also been home to some pro mountain bike races at the nearby Firestone Vineyard so it is an ideal location to test the new mountain bike suspension line.
Over the years, Fox has been steadily making refinements to its product and this time the 32 line gets serious attention with a closed cartridge damping system used in the 40 and 36 line. The FIT (Fox Isolated Technology), RLC, and RL dampers replace the previous open bath system and come with various advantages. Not only is it lighter by a claimed 71 grams (RLC) because of its reduced oil capacity, but since the cartridge is purged of air the oil cannot become aerated so performance will remain much more consistent. Since it’s a closed system, room must be made for both displaced oil and heat expansion. So Fox chose a simple bladder system, which in theory produced little if any friction unlike a floating piston would. Inside the cartridge is a new shimmed rebound circuit that Fox says offers a more speed sensitive rebound for better wheel tracking and overall control.
While Fox was reworking the internals they moved the rebound knob from the top to the bottom of the right leg and relocated the lockout threshold knob on top where the rebound used to be. That’s a smart move since rebound is something you rarely if ever change mid ride, but the lockout threshold is something you might adjust on the go for changing trail conditions. As in previous years compression damping is updated and refined with particular attention paid to the low speed circuit.
All of Fox’s air forks receive revamped air spring curves that should make it easier to utilize all of the fork’s available travel, and TALAS forks receive a larger and more ergonomically friendly travel adjust lever. 36 and 40 FIT RC2 forks receive tuning updates for 2010.
Since the chassis was just updated last year, few changes are made to the system. However, the tapered steerer is now available on all 32 models including 29er versions and so is the 15QR thru axle system. And that’s right down to the 100mm travel model so it’s possible and likely we’ll see a XC bike with tapered steerer and 15QR setup in the near future. The 36 line will have the option of 1 1/8″, tapered, or 1.5″ steerers and have 20mm thru axle dropouts (just like in the past).
Fox claims that with all the changes the 2010 F100 RLC will weigh under 3.19 lbs. The old R level forks disappear from the aftermarket lineup and are replaced by the RL - so last year’s open bath rebound and lockout adjustable fork becomes Fox’s entry level offering.
Updates to Float Line and Rear Shocks
Big news in the rear shock department is the addition of Fox’s Boost valve technology in the Float RP line. The position sensitive damping technology has been used for quite some time now in the gravity oriented DHX line. Unlike the DHX boost valve which comes into play in the latter third of the stroke for bottoming control, Fox designed the Float RP’s Boost Valve to effect more of the beginning of the stroke to achieve pedaling efficiency in the ProPedal setting. Fox brings the DHX RC4 shock that we saw in prototype form last year to the public for the first time. The new shock has high and low speed compression adjusters as well as Boost valve technology.
Since Fox and bike manufacturers can only target an average rider weight, ability and riding environment, a lot of folks can get more out of their suspension with some custom tweaking. Fox will be offering a new program it calls ProTune that will allow Fox product owners to send in their suspension and have it tuned and or upgraded to more current technology - exactly how current is still to be decided. Exact details are being figured out so keep an eye on Fox’s website for detailed info on this exciting new program in the next few weeks.
Like in past years, Fox set us up on the current, in this case ‘09 suspension and sent us out on a test loop that consisted of a mix of Firestone’s XC and downhill courses. Then they changed the suspension on the Yeti 575 and sent us out on the exact same loop. The only difference was the new suspension and the consistency of the cow poo that changed from the flinging type to more of a tire and ground clinging consistency.
The verdict: the 2010 32 TALAS 150 FIT RLC fork was immediately noticeable with its greatly improved range of low speed compression damping. You can now crank it up and get a real platform feel that nearly negates the need for a lockout and keeps brake dive at bay. Unlike the ‘09 model there is no harshness on bumps with high levels of low speed damping dialed up. It’s almost as if the lockout circuit and low speed circuit overlap in function since you can achieve similar results with the either. It’s really nice having the lockout threshold on top of the leg too. The RP23 shock is just as noticeable if not more so on the 575 since you now ride with ProPedal on all the time. Instead of setting ProPedal in one of the tree available settings and turning it off for the descents I was now leaving it on all the time.
Instead of blowing open with harshness, the Boost Valve equipped model transitions smoothly even in the most aggressive #3 lever setting. It really transformed the 575 giving it more active climbing traction and a wallow free feel. It seems as though you’d now use the ProPedal settings and open as a rear end attitude or ride height adjustment for the descents instead of just opening it up for every downhill. It was just a short ride on one bike so look for a more detailed review as we gain more experience on the new suspension but the first impression is a very good one. Expect the new 2010 fox product to start showing up in shops around June.
After the test ride we got to sample the motocross bikes, quads, side by sides and a fast lap in Ford’s new limited edition Raptor F150. Although the smaller toys were a hoot the truck is really something you have to experience to believe. Its Fox suspension let the professional driver hit things at 80 MPH that would easily damage a stock truck. Look for more on the Ford Raptor and new Fox suspension in the pages of Mountain Bike.
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