FOX has unleashed a slew of new air shocks, fueled by the recent trend of enduro racing. Prototypes have spent considerable time under racers in enduro formats—a perfect testing ground for products aimed at everyday all-mountain riders as well as racers, FOX says. But perhaps more surprisingly, the mid-travel all-mountain market isn’t the only segment getting some air.
Float 40 FIT RC2
Gravity riders have long sung the praises of coil-sprung suspension—plush and active, weight be damned.
But FOX has unveiled a completely redesigned air-sprung version of its popular 8-inch dual-crown 40—which has gone largely unchanged since 2005—throwing convention out the window, along with the coils.
The general consensus from FOX racers seemed to be in favor of a more progressive fork. This, along with an eye on weight, tunability and stiffness, drove the development phase and several RAD (Racing Application Development) prototypes have been spotted over the past two years leading to quite a bit of speculation. FOX tried several new designs, including inverted forks with 36-millimeter stanchions and a pneumatic-assisted coil spring, which added a more progressive spring rate, but did nothing to shave weight. It also lacked the tunability racers wanted. They all wound up in the scrap heap.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem to most, FOX settled on an air spring for its new gravity fork. Spring rate is adjustable via shock pump from 45 to 80 psi, and is designed to be linear early the travel and ramp up toward the end, providing the progressive feel racers wanted. The RC2 damper is all-new with a Kashima-coated shaft—yes, on the inside where you’ll never get to oggle it—and lacks bottom out, thanks to the air spring. Compression ratio is internally adjustable via an allen key thanks to a new nine-position compression piston.
The lowers are entirely new as well, reshaped with materially used sparingly when possible and beefed up where necessary, like near the brake mounts.
The net result is that the Float 40 FIT RC2 is a full 1.15 pounds lighter—and intentionally less stiff—than its predecessor.
It is perhaps the latter that requires some explanation.
“When we did our chassis study, which included an inverted fork design, our athletes preferred a chassis with slightly less torsional stiffness than the previous 40,” Mark Jordan, FOX global marketing and communications manager, told The Link. “They liked how it tracked and how it felt at the handlebars.”
It turns out that having less torsional stiffness kept traction better in turns, but where test riders wanted to keep the ultra-stiff characteristics of the previous 40 was in fore-aft flex, or lack thereof.
Other nifty features include the pinch bolts on the crown being moved to the front to reduce frame bump when the bars are turned and an air-bleed system to allow riders to painlessly equalize internal pressure at altitude; no more “burping” forks with zip-ties, potentially scratching stanchions and ruining seals in the process.
“Much like a moto fork, the large size of the 40 makes big elevation and temperature changes affect it more,” said Jordan. “Relieving the internal pressure in the lower legs helps lessen the seal pressure on the upper tube and it makes a big difference on the 40 due to its size and travel.”
Expect a mid-season release of a 27.5-inch version as well.
Float X CTD Rear Shock
As for the enduro/all-mountain goodies mentioned earlier, the Float X CTD rear shock seems to be stealing the show since a prototype was spotted back in January on FOX race program manager Mark Fitzsimmons’ bike and he confirmed it was aimed at the enduro segment.
The Float X CTD replaces the DHX Air in the FOX lineup, adopting the CTD technology in lieu of the Boost Valve and Pro Pedal, allowing for greater tunability. In addition to the Climb, Trail and Descend modes, Trail mode features three different low-speed compression adjustments. After taking notes from riders on 2013 product, FOX has stated that CTD across the board is retuned for 2014 for more midstroke damping and a firmer climb mode, and the Float X is no exception. Rebound adjustment remains unchanged.
“The Float X is a completely new shock and was designed to cater to modern trail, all-mountain and freeride bikes, so it’s a big update from the DHX Air,” said Jordan. “We wanted to produce a reservoir shock that could handle rugged terrain while offering the on-the-fly adjustments of the CTD system. So Float X offers easier tuning, great damping performance and the benefits of the CTD system.”
With enduro racing driving development, FOX knew a lighter, more pedal-friendly platform was desired that could still remain consistent on rough, extended downhills.
The latter is accomplished with the piggyback reservoir, much like the DHX Air, meaning increased oil and flow for a more consistent feel as the shock heats up during rough rides. But the Float X is an entirely new design that also sees trickle-down features from the new DHX RC4 coil shock, like better damping and lower internal pressures for better small-bump sensitivity.
The ups will be a little easier thanks to the aforementioned stiffer Climb mode and better midstroke damping in Trail mode. The fact that the Float X sheds 70 grams from the outgoing DHX Air doesn’t hurt either; an 8.5-inch by 2.5-inch Float X only weighs 365 grams.
The Float X is the only CTD rear shock that can be converted to accept a remote if it was not originally set up as such.
34 TALAS CTD
The TALAS forks also see a makeover, with the 34 160-millimeter model taking center stage. While the TALAS has been popular for some time due to its ability to reduce the travel—and front end height—for climbing, critics always pointed out that it never seemed quite as plush or stiction free as the FLOAT models. Internally, it had many more seals than the FLOAT. According to FOX, that’s all changed.
“The new TALAS system uses an air spring design that is similar to FLOAT with an inline hydraulic travel adjuster,” Jordan told us about the simplified internals. “When TALAS was first released, the system changed travel by transferring air between chambers. The 2014 TALAS system uses fewer seals in the air spring, so has less friction and a more precise travel adjuster with the hydraulic system.”
On paper, it has a suspension curve that looks extremely close to the FLOAT.
The new system is also now a self-contained cartridge system that can also be purchased separately and retrofitted to update compatible late-model FOX forks—both air and coil.
The new TALAS—along with all other CTD forks for 2014—has received more supportive mid-stroke damping in all three modes to reduce brake dive and prematurely blowing through the travel. Travel is now reduced by 30 millimeters instead of 40. The 34 TALAS will be available to fit both 26 and 27.5 (650b) bikes.
by Don Stefanovich