Dirt Rag Magazine

This Just In: 2017 Fox 32 Step Cast fork


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Fox is set to release its new 32 SC (Step Cast), a dedicated cross-country fork that shaves a half-pound off the current model 32.

Engineers achieved this with an all-new chassis design. Looking for any way possible to shave weight they shrunk and narrowed the crown and arch so the upper tubes have a 120 mm spacing compared to 130 mm on non-SC forks, then they shortened the upper tubes. To match, the sliders have a built-in step casting that goes from normal wide around the tubes to narrower at the dropouts. Without this “step” there would not be room for the hub flanges, spokes and rotor. The lower section at the dropouts doesn’t sacrifice any rigidity or steering precision though, especially with a 110 Boost front hub. Of course, with this dedicated shaping there’s no room for travel adjust—the 32 SC is cross-country specific at 100 mm.

Internal cross section view of the 32 SC

Internal cross section view of the 32 SC

Internally, not much has changed from current model 32 forks. You’ll find a Fit4 damper with three damping positions: open, medium and firm, along with external low-speed compression damping adjust in the open setting. Aside from small tweaks such as an alloy piston and some mix and match voodoo parts to further decrease weight it’s the same internals including the removable volume spacers to further refine mid stroke and bottom out tuning. However, the Fit4 damper does have an upgraded tune specific to its intended cross-country usage. Weight is right at 3 pounds with an uncut steerer and Kabolt tru-axle installed for the 29 and slightly less for the 27.5.

Emily Batty of Trek Factory Racing puts the 32 SC through its paces.

Emily Batty of Trek Factory Racing puts the 32 SC through its paces.

The 32 SC will be available in 27.5 and 29 wheel sizes in three colors: gloss orange, gloss white and matte black. Prices for the Factory level are: $889 w/ manual adjust, $969 w/ cable remote adjust and $1,596 w/ iRD remote adjust.

It’s dubbed a 2017 model but we currently have one in-house for long term testing. So far results have been very favorable. Read all about it in the next issue of Dirt Rag (#191).

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The FOX empire grows, Marzocchi not dead yet


Fox Factory Holding Corp. (FOX, as we know them) announced October 19 that it will acquire some assets of Marzocchi’s mountain bike product line. This follows FOX’s acquisition of Race Face and Easton less than one year ago, a move that led some to speculate FOX would either ramp up its purchasing of other bicycle component companies or be bought itself.

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From the press release: “We are excited to announce the agreement to acquire certain assets of the Marzocchi mountain bike product lines, which we believe is a significant opportunity for FOX to further expand the penetration of our bike suspension products across more price points,” stated Larry L. Enterline, FOX Chief Executive Officer.

“The Marzocchi team has a long history of performance suspension experience and we believe that this highly complementary transaction will allow for the increased growth of the Marzocchi brand worldwide. We expect this transaction will bring together and strengthen two highly complementary product lines and allow for FOX to leverage its marketing, engineering, distribution, and supply chain resources to drive increased top-line growth and profitability.”

Marzocchi’s parent company, Tenneco, had announced in July that it was shutting down the Marzocchi business, but still exhibited Marzocchi forks at this year’s Interbike. FOX offers hundreds of suspension fork models covering every end of the spectrum except for truly entry-level product, so many are predicting that the company will utilize the Marzocchi brand at the less-expensive end of the market.

For a touch of history, remember that around 2001 Gary Fisher introduced 29ers to the mountain bike market with specially manufactured Marzocchi forks. We have come a long way…

FOX will release further details next month. Until then, check out the feature story we ran in Issue #180 about a tour of the FOX factory.

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Inside Line: Fox unveils new Float 34 fork and DPS Float shock


We’ve ridden a lot Fox 34 forks and Float CTD rear shocks and they’ve been reliable performers that just needed a few changes to really bring them to the next level. While you could send your suspension bits away for tweaking, it seems that Fox has been paying attention to what riders are after, and updated the Factory Series 34 Float fork and Float rear shock to make them more tunable for riders’ tastes.

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34 FLOAT

Last year, the Fox 36 fork was updated with a self balancing air negative spring, a positive change for riders outside the range of the one-size-springs-all coil negative spring. For 2016 this change moves to the 34 chassis, a great move for riders that could never balance sag settings, small bump performance and bottom out control.

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Fox’s FIT damper gets updated as well, and is now called FIT4, for fourth generation. It is still a sealed cartridge unit, but includes the 10 mm shock shaft from the well-loved RC2 damper in the 36. The larger shaft moves more oil through the damping valves, which in turn provides more ability to fine tune suspension action. A new dual circuit rebound valve should provide better follow up for repetitive hits and more control after big impacts.

The CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) compression damping setting names are replaced with the more technically correct Open, Medium and Firm settings. Most hard charging riders on the previous 34 never used the Descend setting, or needed excessive air pressure to prevent brake dive. The new damper should be able to avoid this with a 22 position low speed compression adjustment for the Open setting.

The positive/negative air spring system is self adjusting, via a transfer port, a technology Fox first used on the the Float rear shock in 1999. Makes one wonder why it took until now to put in the Float fork.  The main spring rate is easily tuned with air volume spacers to control bottom out and provide more mid-range support.

Strangely enough, most of this technology was revealed last week with the release of the 27plus specific 34 Float fork with Boost 110 front spacing, but few details were available for the new FIT4 damper and new air spring. The standard 34 retains its 15×100 axle.

FLOAT DPS

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DPS stands for Dual Piston System, which splits the compression circuit into two, one controlling the Firm setting (lockout) and the other for Open and Medium settings. Like the new FIT4 damper in the 34, the Open setting has adjustable low speed compression damping for fine tuning suspension feel.

The air can is new as well, and dubbed EVOL for extra volume. Rather than just cranking up the main spring size, the negative spring volume is increased in relation to the main spring. This decreases the force needed to get the shock moving, and increased the mid-stroke support to prevent the dreaded wallow.

Pricing and Availability

2016 FACTORY 34 FLOAT FIT4 fork – $875
2016 FACTORY FLOAT DPS shock – $450

Available May, 2015

We’ve got a matched set of fork and shock headed our way, stay tuned for first impressions, and a full review later this year.

 

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Inside Line: 2016 Fox Float 34 Fork for 27.5+ Tires


Fox kicks off the 2016 product news with an announcement that may signal widespread industry acceptance of the plus size tire as something more than an oddity: A Fox Factory 34 fork for 27.5+ tires.

34 27.5 Full big

Fox claims plenty of clearance for tires up to 27.5 x 3.25, travel from 110 mm to 150 mm, 51 mm offset, and the new 110 x 15 axle standard. Much like the rear Boost 148 axle released last year on Trek’s new Fuel EX and Remedy trail bikes, the wider hub spacing will create a stronger wheel due to less offset and increased spoke bracing angle. It does make one wonder why anyone  bothered with 100 x 15 anyway, since the 110 x 20 axle standard was pretty well established. Oh well.

34 27.5 hub

Also new is the latest FIT4 damping cartridge and a revised FLOAT air spring. RockShox has been bringing the heat with the new Charger damper in the media-darling Pike fork, we’ll see how the new spring and damper measure up as soon as we can get out hands on one.

Just to be clear, this is a specific chassis for 27.5+ wheels, it will not replace the standard 34. We don’t have prices or availability info yet, but this is a Factory level fork, so expect somewhere in the $1,000 range, and a spring-time release.

The question remains, which bike company had enough confidence in this wheel size to get this fork made? It is doubtful the Fox would develop this fork without at least one sizeable original equipment order. With travel up to 150 mm, will we see a 6 inch travel 27.5+ trail bike at Sea Otter next month? My guess is yes, and probably more than one.

While we wait for what the future holds, we are working on at 27.5+ project of our own, read about it here.

34 27.5

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The Flow Zone introduces QR axle for Fox 36 forks


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The latest generation of the Fox 36 fork is plenty versatile and capable, in all ways but one: fast wheel removable. The creative dropout design that can accommodate both 15mm and 20mm axles requires a tool to install and remove—not so fun when you get a flat out on the trail.

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The Flow Zone has a solution: a new QR axle designed specifically for 2015 Fox 36 forks. It affixes a pre-load lever to the drive side of the axle (still works with both 15mm and 20mm) and replaces the pinch bolts with two QR levers. After a 10 minute installation you can have the wheel in and out in seconds.

The Q36R was designed and tested by the folks at Flow Motion in Colorado and retails for $89. If you’re shopping for a new fork you can also order one straight from them with the QR installed.

The Flow Zone is also an expert service center for Maverick bikes and suspension, so if you want to get that old DUC32 running again, give them a call.

Video

See the Q36R installation video here:

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In Print: Tale of the Fox—Inside the FOX Factory


Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #180. Order one here, or best of all, order a subscription and never miss an issue.


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Words and photos by Jay Goodrich

It took me all of 15 minutes from the time I parked my rental car in the visitor’s spot at FOX in Scotts Valley, California, to create a lasting impression I wasn’t that proud of. Yes, I became “that guy.” Almost immediately after shaking hands with Global Communications Manager Mark Jordan, my guide for the day, I trashed the testing lab within FOX’s world headquarters. To get into the testing lab, you have to go through security clearance that rivals entry into Langley. Within this facility, guys with clean-shaven legs and 2 percent body fat hook forks and shocks up to a crazy network of custom-designed hydraulic-actuated machines designed to abuse the attached components and eventually find their breaking points.

These testing machines are given names like “Bashful,” “Sneezy,” and “Grumpy” so that the guys with the clean-shaven race legs can decipher which machine is testing which part. They can tell you how many compressions your brand-new 140mm 34 Float 29 fork will take before it needs to be serviced, but, better yet, also how many compressions and rebounds that puppy will take without any service before it becomes a piece of recycled metal.

It was in this lab that I, in one of my most embarrassing events, decided to trash the place. Without even a scratch to myself, I managed to knock over the entire dual-monitor computer system that was in control of all those custom-made machines of destruction. It’s safe to say that Grumpy was pissed that I made it stop working and is now aching to test out any one of the FOX forks attached to my quiver of custom bicycles. Fortunately, they are all at home in Wyoming and nowhere near this place.

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Intelligently speaking

FOX recently relocated its headquarters to Scotts Valley to be closer to an environment that provides a network of trails for lunch rides and real-world testing for any idea they come up with. The headquarters house all of the day-to-day company operations, like design, marketing, material and assembly testing, a huge press room, a museum, and even a small machine shop. They took the building over from the Seagate hard-drive company, so some of the remaining colors and furniture ooze mid-’90s tech industry.

This leads me to the fact that everyone here seems to be really intelligent. We are talking IQs that rival the neighboring geeks of Silicon Valley. The difference here is that with muscled legs, the aforementioned 2 percent body fat, and healthy diets of kale salad for lunch after an hour ride, they would probably kick the physical crap out of 95 percent of those Apple folks.

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As you enter the museum, you realize that within the intelligent engineering side of life lies a creative mastery of all things that get air or travel really fast. The mid-’90s paint and furniture has been replaced with a super-clean, modern layout that rivals any L.A. architect’s best project. Even the door handles utilize the upper legs of their new 40 triple-clamp downhill mountain bike fork.

FOX was started by Bob Fox, an amateur motocross racer, in 1974 to solve a problem with the suspension on his motorcycle: too little travel and a poor spring rate with that travel. As Fox designed the first FOX AirShox, he concluded, “I learned that I loved racing, I loved competition, and I loved using math, physics, and engineering to help get an edge.”

Within months he had a working prototype built by hand on a friend’s manual lathe in a garage, and within a year he began production and sales of the FOX AirShox. His first year produced 200 units, but also worked through an improvement process. The desire to always improve became the core mantra for the business: “Enthusiast employees who have technical backgrounds come together to create solutions. ‘Good enough’ is not part of our vocabulary.”

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About the tail 

When Bob Fox began producing his AirShox, he was part of his brother Geoff’s company Moto-X, but within three years the AirShox division became so successful that Bob chose to buy out his brother and create a separate and new company: FOX Factory, Inc. Bob often states that his brother got the head of the business and he got the tail of the business when his newly created logo became the word “FOX” with a bushy red foxtail originating from the letter “O.”

The two brothers’ connection did not end at this point. Geoff was continuously selling the FOX Factory products through the Moto-X catalogue and through the dealer network that was already in place. Success and notoriety came quickly with a bunch of wins within the motocross industry. These wins led to further expansion throughout the motorsports marketplace. Snowmobiles, ATVs, UTVs, trophy trucks, and even a brief stint into Formula One at the Indy 500 led to even more industry successes and increased equity to add to research and design development.

Bob Fox truly wanted to keep his company’s philosophy within the dirt arena and not let it stray to the road-racing marketplace, although legendary car drivers such as Mario Andretti came knocking and, in turn, purchasing. As the popularity of off-road motorsports grew, so did the off-road bicycle market. FOX entered the mountain bike marketplace in 1991 with a rear shock named the ALPS 1. This shock never made it to production, but it was the steppingstone to the following year’s ALPS 2, the world’s first production bicycle shock. This then led to Cannondale spec’ing a FOX air-sprung shock for their 1993 Super V full-suspension mountain bike. Almost every year from there on out, there were innovations pouring out of FOX with regard to full-suspension shock technology.

The first pre-production mountain bike suspension shock by Fox Racing - ALPS 1.

A decade after introducing the first full-suspension air shock, FOX decided to tackle the front-suspension market as well. In 2001, FOX realized they had the technology, engineering, and resources to produce their first high-end mountain bike fork. Enter the Float and Vanilla fork models; the Float was air sprung while the Vanilla was coil sprung. It took the company all of five years to become the dominant force in the high-end mountain bike fork market.

Entering current timelines, FOX’s mountain bike shocks and forks now dominate its production and revenue stream. Being a top contender in mountain biking market share doesn’t mean that the rest of their production is going by the wayside, either. They continue to produce suspension products for most off-road racing markets, developing concepts like their Kashima reduced-friction coating and even producing OEM shocks for the Ford Raptor pickup trucks since 2010. With close to 1,000 employees and multiple facilities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, it is safe to say that this company is here to stay.

 Machines and the candy store

After my testing-facility debacle (again, sorry, Grumpy), we were off to the machine shop and then the production facility. Growing up with a father who was responsible for production in a machine shop, I felt completely at home with the noise, grease, and metal. The shop, right down the street from FOX world headquarters in Scotts Valley, produces most of the raw parts that go into the fork and shock assemblies. This place houses 45 CNC machines that run 24 hours a day, six days a week, with three separate shifts of machinists to keep up with the demands of FOX’s production facility in Watsonville, California. The parts they are producing here are milled to 1/10,000 of an inch in most cases.

Testing notes from the early days at Fox Racing.

After lunch, Jordan took me to the production facility. This place simply translates into a candy store for anyone who’s into putting FOX products on their mountain bike or off-road motorsports rig. There are rows and rows of products all in the process of heading to worldwide destinations after a small waiting period of one or two shifts for quality control. This facility, in similar fashion to the machine shop, operates 16 hours a day with two separate eight-hour shifts of technicians. Since the mountain bike industry is the largest revenue stream here, it occupies the largest space. With two separate assembly lines, one for forks and the other for shocks, final pieces roll off at a pace of about one completed component every 30 to 60 seconds. As you watch the process, you feel as if you are watching a car being built, although the timeframe is a mere fraction of what an automobile takes.

All the batches have random selections that are checked within the quality-control lab. That lab houses a machine made by Zeiss that is accurate to some crazy ten-thousands-of-an-inch number. This machine will 3-D model/measure any part that FOX produces to verify that it works within the engineers’ specified tolerances. If the random check doesn’t meet specs, everything is shut down to figure out why. This gives FOX the confidence that they are following their “beyond good enough” mantra all the way into the hands of their customers.

Time to ride

I spent an entire day in California touring just a portion of what FOX has going on. I got to see things that would force me to kill you if I told you about them, and even managed to shoot some photos that I was politely asked to delete. I was force fed more info on the fly than I have ever encountered. FOX is now celebrating its 40th year and the future looks to last even longer for this technology-based engineering company that focuses on helping us play in the proverbial sandbox.

Update

After this story was published, we learned that FOX had agreed to acquire Race Face and Easton Cycling, vastly expanding its portfolio and likely giving it more standing as an OE supplier.



 

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Out of the box: Fox’s Terralogic fork technology


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Call it fate. I recently purchased a Santa Cruz Highball frame and needed a fork to complete my build, and while I searched an email was forwarded to me from Fox looking for a tester for this fork.

The fork happens to be a Fox 32 Float 29, 100mm FIT Terralogic model, and yes, I’d like to test it. This model is available with either a 9mm drop-out or with an included 15mm thru-axle, which I opted for, and with either a tapered or 1 1/8” straight steerer. Kashima coated uppers, Terralogic threshold, rebound, and an air spring with updated damping for 2014 are all included.

The Terralogic technology was first introduced in 2004 and before that Fox partnered with Specialized to develop the Brain for its full-suspension rigs. If you’re not familiar, here’s the basics: when Terralogic is engaged, the fork rides as if it were locked out. Stand up, mash the pedals, pump the bars back and forth and there’s very little movement in the fork. When you hit a bump, the force from below activates the suspension by pushing the lowers up. As the lowers rise, a brass mass, which seemingly moves but really stays in place relative to the fork, reveals a piston for the oil to flow through and the suspension to become active. The amount of force needed for activation is controlled by a threshold adjuster. A return spring eventually pushes the brass mass back into place when the trail smoothes out, restricting again the flow of oil.

How does it work on the trail? Find out here.

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