Fox Racing Shox's 2012 line will include two new forks: a Float Ti cross-country flagship and a new '34'-series 29er fork with 140mm of travel. Other changes include broader use of the Kashima Coat surface treatment and lower friction internals for their rear shocks, in addition to the new RP23 Adaptive Logic damper we reported on last week.
Fox will also revamp their hierarchy, grouping their top-of-the-range products under the banner Factory Series, their second-tier RL level products (save for RL Remote) under the name Performance Series (FIT cartridge but no Kashima coating) and their most basic R level components (open bath damping) as Evolution.
The Float Ti was first shown at last year's trade shows under Fox's RAD (Racing Applications Development) banner. This new lightweight fork features a tapered steerer and crown cast from 6/4 titanium. Available with 80, 100 or 120mm of travel, and 9mm quick-release or 15QR dropouts, it's said to weigh from 1,315g (2.9lb), depending on spec. The sample Fox had on hand at the Sea Otter Classic was 1,450g with a full-length steerer tube.
The Float Ti will come as standard with the Kashima Coat upper tube treatment and a choice of RLC, TerraLogic or RL Remote FIT dampers. The fork comes with a special expander wedge instead of a star nut, a titanium preload bolt and Kashima coated top cap — just for good looks.
Fox's new Float Ti features a titanium crown and steerer tube to save weight
Fox say the one-piece cast titanium crown is lighter than the standard F-series two-piece design, which allows them to drop substantial weight (upwards of 200g) from the fork, yet offers the same strength. Jim Noonan, Fox’s bike marketing manager, reckons the crown-steerer assembly offers a ride feel that's as stiff as the alloy version but "smoother". “It’s got that sort of magic Ti bike feel,” he said. “That resilient, nice, feel.”
34 29 series chassis
Also new for 2012 is a 29er fork that splits the difference between Fox’s 32mm and 36mm models, with upper tubes that measure 34mm. It'll be available with 140mm of travel, with both Float and TALAS springs (the latter offers adjustable travel down to 110mm), and RLC (Performance) and RL (Evolution) damper options.
The lowers have all-new casting architecture and 15QR through-axle dropouts. Claimed weights for the 34 series range from 4.32lb to 4.78lb. The TALAS RLC sample we weighed, with a full-length tapered alloy steerer, tipped the scales at 4.62lb (2,100g).
The 34 is an all-new 29er-only chassis for 2012 with 34mm stanchions
The 34 range also serves to introduce a new FIT damper with a ‘Trail Tune’ that will further separate Fox’s cross-country and trail lines. No matter the chassis designation — 32, 34, 36 — all Fox FIT forks with 140mm or more travel will be ‘Trail Tuned’ for 2012.
This is a modification rather than a wholesale damper redesign, with changes made by way of shim stack architecture. Cross-country forks will keep a higher level of low-speed compression, while longer-travel forks will have improved bump sensitivity, with the focus on sensitivity and downhill control rather than efficiency.
Rear shocks: Kashima infiltrates the line; HD rebound on Float; low-friction seals
Out back, Fox have been just as busy. The Kashima Coat — a lubricating molybdenum disulfide coating deposited, via electrical induction, into micro-pores on the surface of hard-anodized upper tubes or shock shafts to reduce friction — is available across the entire ‘Factory Series’ line, from the new Float RP23 Adaptive Logic Boost Valve air shock to the DHX Air and RC4 coil dampers. The reduced friction can be easily felt by hand when the air spring is deflated.
Kashima now graces all of Fox's top models and will be available as original equipment on 2012 bicycles; this year the coating was only available on aftermarket forks
Fox will also offer a new High Definition (HD) rebound adjustment on the 2012 Float dampers. This gives a slightly wider range to each of the rebound tune levels as well as finer adjustment within the range, with an average of 14 clicks instead of the current eight.
The company have also continued their incremental refinement of damper internals for 2012. In the spirit of their exclusive partnership with the Miyaki Corporation for the Kashima surface coating, Fox have announced a new partnership with SKF to produce an exclusive co-design for low-friction main seals. In a side-to-side demonstration, the new seals offer noticeably reduced friction, which can again be felt by hand.
Fox's new SKF main seals
Fox have made similar gains within the sealing system of the FIT cartridge damper, where a new seal head assembly offers a similarly notable reduction in friction. This manifests itself in the form of a more sensitive shock stroke that offers better bump compliance. In most usage the refined dampers allow riders to use less air spring pressure and more damping to better control the overall sensitivity of the fork. Fox’s friction reduction efforts benefit the entire line, not just the top tier — though obviously, the FIT damper modifications aren't found on the open bath forks.