Fox’s 36 fork has always sat near the top of our wild riding wishlist and for 2018 it’s got even better.
This is largely down to the new ‘EVOL’ air spring, which uses a larger negative chamber to provide a softer initial feel and more mid-stroke support. The FIT4 damper has been tweaked too, and now has a slightly more forgiving feel over high-speed hits.
The damper tune is good too, providing a relatively supple feel over small bumps yet not giving too much travel away when faced with harder hits
I found I needed slightly more air pressure than Fox recommended for my weight to get the correct sag (96psi, rather than 80–89psi), along with two volume spacers to get the fork ramping up nicely towards the end of its stroke.
Unless I was riding steep low-speed tracks, I kept the low-speed compression damping dial turned towards the fully open end of its range of adjustment.
On the trail, the performance of the new 36 is really impressive. When tested back to back with a 2018 RockShox Lyrik RCT3 (£970 / $1,030), the Fox fork felt noticeably suppler, offering more traction and a glued-to-the-trail feel.
I also noticed less hand pain and feedback on long, rough descents. Yet the Fox also offered a touch more support, remaining higher in its travel when thrown into gnarly rock gardens, never diving unexpectedly and bottoming out less readily.
That EVOL air spring makes the beginning stroke super-supple, so it doesn’t take much force to get the fork moving. This results in a planted feel and loads of grip.
Support builds gradually throughout the mid stroke, and the fork doesn’t ramp up too suddenly as you reach the end of the travel. It feels smoother than the Lyrik too — almost like it’s coil rather than air-sprung.
The damper tune is good too, providing a relatively supple feel over small bumps yet not giving too much travel away when faced with harder hits. Trail chatter or pedalling gets the fork moving through its travel easily, suggesting the 36 doesn’t have much in the way of binding friction.
The fork has a respectably long service life of 125 hours (the Lyrik’s is 50 hours). When my test sample was opened up after over 100 hours of riding everything from Italian dust to the finest Welsh slop, the foam rings under the wiper seals were a little dirty and servicing made it feel slightly smoother. But it wasn’t the night-and-day difference of a fork desperate for a bit of TLC.
My only gripe with the 36 is a noticeable top-out “thwunk” when pulling up hard on the bar. Fox promised a rolling change to the air spring to fix this, but my updated spring still tops out when really wrenching on the bar or bunnyhopping. Although noticeable, the noise isn’t that annoying during general riding.
Overall, the 2018 Fox 36 provides bags of hard-charging support with gobs of traction-extracting sensitivity. It’s comfortable yet confidence inspiring. If you’ve got the cash, and don’t mind the occasional top-out knock, the performance is top class.