By Josh Patterson, photo Justin Steiner
Ongoing refinements in air spring technology have made coil springs an increasingly rare commodity these day. For Fox Racing Shox, the long-travel realm is the last bastion of the coil-sprung fork. The Van series comes in 160mm (tested) and 180mm flavors and is designed for all-mountain and park riding.
Unlike the air-spring Float 36 series, the Van 36 FIT RC2 has separate high and low-speed compression circuits, allowing the rider to fine-tune the fork for the many different types of trail and rider input that could otherwise require one to make a compromise between performance and comfort.
For the uninitiated, low-speed compression damping mitigates excessive suspension movement during hard braking, i.e. brake dive, cornering, G-outs, and rider weight shifts. High-speed compression damping handles the big hits, high-frequency stutter bumps, and other sudden, high velocity impacts. Both compression adjustment dials are located on the top of the right fork leg, with the rebound damping adjustment knob located on the bottom of the right leg. Preload adjustments are made via a dial on the left leg.
Like the Float series, this fork employs FIT damping. Fox began using cartridge damping units on their high-end forks in 2010 to improve performance by reducing the amount of air mixing with oil, which can lead to inconsistent performance in open bath systems. For riders looking for a less techy and slightly more affordable option, Fox offers the Van 36 with an open-bath damper, no external compression adjustments, and no friction-fighting Kashima coating for $795.
The Van 36 FIT RC2 ships with the medium spring installed, intended for riders weighing between 150-180lbs. With gear, I’m on the very low end of this range. After one ride it was clear I needed to swap the medium for the lighter, 115-155lbs. spring. Any capable home mechanic can do a spring swap; it took all of two minutes.
With the light spring installed, all was well. Small bump sensitivity was excellent and the separate high and low-speed compression adjustments allowed me to fine-tune the fork’s performance to suit general trail riding, as well as more aggressive park riding. The test sled for this fork was the Ibis Mojo HD I reviewed in issue #155. I rode everything from XC-oriented singletrack to the stunts and berms at my local terrain park, and even spent a several days riding this setup instead of a DH rig at my local ski resort.
After a season of riding, my impression is that the Van 36 FIT RC2 will be overkill if you’re on the longer travel cross-country side of the all-mountain spectrum. I was never able to get full travel during what I would consider general trail and all-mountain riding. It was only when I rode this fork in the bike park and on extended downhill runs that it really came into its own. Fox Racing’s Race Program Director Mark “Fitzy” Fitzsimmons says this is by design. The fork’s damper prevents harsh bottom-outs, but will also make it difficult to use the last bit of travel on everything but the biggest hits.
“We don’t want the fork to be the limiting factor of what the rider can do,” says Fitzsimmons . There you have it—no excuses—pin it, push it, whatever you choose to call it, this fork was designed with aggressive riders in mind.
If you’re on the downhill or freeride end of the all-mountain spectrum the Van 36 FIT RC2 will serve your needs with ample stiffness, a wide range of usable adjustments, and consistent performance. If I were building up a bike for enduro racing, this would be my go-to fork.
- Price: $955
- Travel: 160mm
- Weight: 5.12lbs.
- Spring: Coil
- External Adjustments: Preload, Rebound, High and Low-Speed Compression
- Axle: 20mm Thru-Axle
- Country of Origin: United States
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