Fox’s travel adjustable TALAS air spring has been a feature of their forks for years, but 2014 sees a proper redesign. With a new, hydraulic lockdown adjuster with two fewer moving (or ‘dynamic’) seals, and an air spring that has more in common with the Float, breakaway friction has been reduced.
In conjunction with a more progressive spring curve, it’s helped the dive issues that have plagued the TALAS system, and the overly linear air springs fitted to last year’s Fox range in general. Clip-on spacers can reduce the amount the fork drops to its low setting in 5mm increments, from a maximum of 30mm.
Opinion is split on whether travel adjustment and the large geometry change it creates is necessary on modern trail bikes, but the new system allows for finer tuning. We set it to give the full 160mm and a trail friendly 145mm, with performance feeling unaltered in either. In terms of model availability, 26in, 650b and 29in options are available, all with a tapered steerer and 15QR axle.
Our Factory fork uses the slippery and durable Kashima coating, with a sealed FIT Climb Trail Descend damper, Trail getting three positions of low-speed damping adjustability. Damping has been increased across the board to counter criticisms of poor support, and forks now come with a fixed ‘Hard’ tune in Climb mode.
While the extra support is welcome, for harder riding duties we still find ourselves running high air pressures and little sag – even when leaving it in Trail mode to curb its tendency to slide deep into the travel on steep sections or under heavy braking. On repeated high-speed, high-displacement hits such as braking bumps, it copes well with initial impacts but then delivers a sharp jolt through to the bar.
In less extreme trail situations, it’s the dictionary definition of plush and controlled. It pedals well with minimal bobbing, even out of the saddle. It’s much more supportive when cornering than before and, in this 26in version, the chassis tracks accurately, though not with the laser guided precision of the fatter-legged, 20mm-axled Fox 36.
At 2,070g it’s only 10g lighter than a non-travel adjustable Float 36, a fork that has high- and low-speed compression adjustment via the RC2 cartridge. Although CTD is simpler, harder riders on longer-travel forks are much more likely to both want and use this adjustability.
More worrying for Fox is the release of RockShox’ excellently controlled 35mm Pike fork, which comes in all three wheel sizes and is lighter (1,850g for the fixed 26in Solo Air). The 34 may well be improved, but the competition has got a whole lot tougher too.