Both the Fox 36 and Rockshox Lyrik have truly set the benchmark for long travel single crown mountain bike suspension forks. As they continue to evolve, Fox and Rockshox are both working towards the magic combination of ultimate trail performance and reliability. For this review, we are taking a look at the 2020 Fox 36 fork. With an updated FIT4 damper and an award winning FIT GRIP2 damper, the Fox 36 is one of the most versatile forks on the market. You will find the 36 on the top of the podium in both Crankworx Slopestyle with Brett Rheader and the Enduro World Series with Martin Maes. We know the 36 is impressive, but we want to know how impressive. Here we go!
The 36 fork is a staple in Fox's lineup of mountain bike suspension. You will find the 36 on everything from dirt jump bikes, your weekend warriors' every day trail bike, to race winning enduro world series bikes. The 36, just like it sounds, uses 36mm upper tubes for a stiff and rigid chassis. This fork is now offered in a variety of different configurations at different price points. The FIT GRIP2 damper is a 4 way adjustable sealed cartridge damper with Fox's new Variable Valve Control. Check out our full review of the GRIP2 damper! The alternative FIT4 damper gets an overall for 2020 that is aimed to improve sensitivity while maintaining mid stroke support.
The 36 is still offered in either 100mm wide or 110mm Boost axle configurations. With different travel options ranging from 150 to 180mm for both the 27.5 and 29 chassis, the Fox 36 is one of the most versatile forks on the market. Below you'll find more technical information on the Fox 36.
For this particular review, we are riding the 2020 Fox 36 fork with the Grip2 damper, 160mm of travel, 15x110mm Boost axle, and 44mm offset. The fork is mounted up to an all new Santa Cruz Hightower with 140mm or rear wheel travel. The bike is outfitted with Industry Nine Enduro 305 wheels with Maxxis DHR II EXO+ casing tires. Finished off with Sram Eagle XX1 AXS drivetrain and the new Deity Skywire carbon handlebars, this bike is ready for it all.
In 2019, Fox introduced the all new 4 way adjustable Grip 2 damper. The new damper design uses Fox's Variable Valve Control (VVC), a new way to control the high speed rebound damping by changing valve stiffness instead of adding preload to a shim stack. So what does that mean out on the trail? The fork's job is actually more about keeping your tire in contact with the ground giving you grip. Your arms and legs are there to absorb those big impacts. The Grip 2 damper seen in both the Fox 36 and Fox 40 is effectively more sensitive all without riding lower in the travel. Riding the 36 on the new Hightower, the Grip 2 damper allows you to ride the bike in the sweet spot of the travel without sacrificing grip or suspension sensitivity. That can be a tough balance to find sometimes and the latest Fox 36 makes tuning and setup easy.
One aspect of performance that is important to consider is the chassis. The 36 is definitely on the stiffer side of the spectrum compared to other options out there. Compared to the Rockshox Lyrik, when you point the front end where you want to go, the Fox 36 will take you there. The drawback to that is, the chassis is stiff enough that if you get yourself in tough spot out on the trail, the 36 might have your front wheel pinging off rocks and roots. There is a balance between stiffness/responsiveness and compliance/comfort and this is one aspect of performance that separates the Fox 36 from its competitors.
The Fox 36 is a top of the line contender for the most capable mid to long travel suspension fork on the market. The damping performance with the Grip 2 damper is a major improvement from its predecessor, keeping your tire in contact with the ground, and the 36 chassis allows you to be direct, precise, and assertive out on the trail. One thing different about the Fox 36 compared to other forks out there like the Rockshox Lyrik is that the chassis isn't as much designed for pure comfort as it is the aggressive rider. The Fox 36 is meant to be ridden hard and that's where it shines.
Max Morgan is 26 years old, and lives in Brevard, North Carolina. Max grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and started racing downhill at the age of 15. He has now been racing professionally for the last 9 years, competing in the UCI World Cup series and U.S. Pro GRT series. To learn more about Max, check out Max's rider spotlight here!