As a respected downhill and cross-country racer in the bike industry, Fox Global Marketing Communications Manager Mark Jordan practices what he preaches.
By Mike Cushionbury. Photos by Colin Meagher.
Fox’s RAD program is the center of the company’s suspension building process. As the moniker implies, it’s all about racing and development to refine every part of a fork and shock. From materials to valving to spring curves, each component of its suspension is finely tested and tuned by everyone from engineers to marketers to professional athletes. Mark Fitzsimmons, Fox’s race program manager says it’s just part of the Fox culture.
“A lot of things are being raced on for future release but some will never come out. RAD was all downhill and cross-country and now it includes enduro racing to tie in all-mountain and trail product.” He continued by saying the discipline of enduro allows Fox to make a better product for these categories through racing and as a high performance company it’s important to get that kind of feedback. As an example, the CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) adjustment came out last year and Fitzsimmons says they’re still trying to redefine what it is this year through race testing.
Seven-time Supercross champion and all-time win leader a.k.a. “The King of Supercross” Jeremy McGrath came out to test product and try his hand at enduro.
“We got a lot of feedback on CTD last year on spring curve and damping. It was good for the casual rider but our racers had much more feedback. They wanted increased compression damping across the board—that’s why most riders have been using the Trail setting most of the time.” Race testing also helped Fox address diving in turns and under breaking.
The first two products to come out of the RAD enduro program are the 2014 TALAS adjustable travel fork and the Float X shock. Fittingly, the introduction was held in Hood River, Oregon, during the first stop of the Oregon Enduro Series.
The biggest improvement for the TALAS is a redesigned air spring design that’s similar to what you’ll find in the 2014 Float damper and a change in the spring curve. Namely, it’s no longer linear. The goal was to make the higher and lower travels have exactly the same progressive curve, feel and performance that mimics model year ’13 coil springs.
Feedback Fox received was that the 2013 TALAS hammocked in the middle of the curve in the short travel setting—essentially flattening in the middle before ramping up at the end of the stroke. This often made riders feel like they couldn’t push the fork as hard as they wanted to so they avoided using the shorter travel setting. Compression rate has been firmed up across the board on all models along with a new tune for Trail and Climb mode has been increased to what Fox calls, “a firm tune.”
The CTD settings have also been expanded. The adjuster has five low speed compressions setting (much like what the RP23 shock uses) for Trail mode. This allows riders to easily custom tune their low speed compression.
According to Mark Jordon, Fox’s global marketing communications manager, Fox has moved to CTD and the five-click setting over dedicated high/low compression adjusters because it’s easier to understand and offers better on-the-fly adjustment for cross-country, trail and all-mountain users.
“For 2014, our Factory forks use two types of damping systems based on fork series. The 32 and 34 fork series feature the CTD damping system while the 36 and 40 series use the RC2 damper with high and low-speed compression damping,” he said. “There are a few reasons why we went to the CTD system for 32 and 34 forks. With CTD, the fork and the shock have identical adjustment names that are based on terrain modes rather than damping terms, making it easy to understand and providing common naming between the fork and shock. The Climb, Trail and Descend names help riders identify what each setting does but can be used any way the rider sees fit, for example riding downhill in Trail mode. The CTD naming also matches our seatpost to keep things simple and easy to understand.”
CTD gives riders three on-the-fly settings (previous designs only had two) and an additional three clicks of adjustability to fine-tune the Trail adjustment mode. According to Jordan this is important for riders needing to adapt to varying terrain. “When you break CTD down in terms of damping settings, it provides five low-speed compression settings with three that can be accessed on-the-fly. The ease of switching settings allows a rider to change low-speed compression without the need for a tool or stopping on the trail.
The new TALAS uses an actual cartridge damper (previous models utilized the fork leg as part of the structure) and an inline hydraulic travel adjust system. Travel is changed through pressure on a check ball valve. Oil changes the travel to make it a true hydraulic travel adjust rather than relying on air pressure. This hydraulic travel design averages about a 40-gram weight increase. Also new is an internal shuttle bumper that can easily be switched to change total travel up to 20mm from standard (with a 160mm max.) At the other end of travel, 5mm spacers can be easily installed by removing the top cap to reduce travel range if desired.
Available travel and wheelsizes with be 160mm for 26” and 27.5” and 140mm for 29ers. A CTD cable remote will also be available with a splitter to operate both the shock and fork.
Fox’s new Float X is its first CTD all-mountain shock designed for what the company calls “aggressive enduro riding,” optimized for 140mm to 180mm travel. Because the firmer Climb mode (which is matched to the fork) has it’s own valving circuit Fox can make it much stiffer without affecting Trail or Descend characteristics. Like the TALAS, the Float X has three on-the-fly CTD compression settings with an additional three clicks of adjustability in Trail mode (1, 2, 3.) A handlebar remote option is available and Fox claims that later this year its enduro racers will be using electronic iCD versions as well.
Initial ride impressions
Due to a mid-week storm our early Oregon testing was limited to a few muddy weekday rides and a Saturday of enduro racing in what turned out to be prime conditions. As claimed, both the fork and the shock have increased Climb platform that eliminates the sometimes sluggish feel under acceleration on rear suspension designs that have less anti-squat built in.
The additional adjustability of CTD with its multiple compression clickers adds an increased degree of personalization into the design allowing riders to tailor settings to terrain. Front end diving under braking is also noticeable absent and the shorter travel setting feels entirely usable, especially on the pedaling, high speed sections of Hood River’s courses. As we’ve come to expect from Fox, overall performance appears to be excellent. But, due to the limited time we’ve had on the components we can’t provide a full review just yet. For that, look for issue #173 of Dirt Rag after we’ve spent a few months riding and testing the product.