In this review, our customer Brian decides to swap out his 2016 Rockshox Pike for a 2018 Fox 36 Float with the RC2 HSC/LSC damper and 160mm of travel. He is running the 27.5" model on his Intense Tracer. Brian breaks down why he went with the 36 over other offerings, how installing the 36 went, and how the Fox 36 performs out on the trail. Check it out!
This past fall I purchased a new, old-stock 2016 Intense Tracer and also ended up receiving a new wheelset over the holidays. Unfortunately, after initially attempting to install the new wheels, I found out Intense had oddly specced the bike with a boost rear and non-boost Pike fork. Instead of trying to piece together a mismatched wheelset, I took this opportunity as an excuse to upgrade the bike’s fork. Out of the many options, I had narrowed it down to the two industry staples, the Fox 36 and Rockshox Lyrik. Internet and local bike shop opinions on both forks seemed to be split at 50/50. I ended up choosing the Fox 36.
The main selling point for me wasn’t the fancy Kashima coated stanchions (although I will admit they do look nice), it was that Fox offered two different dampers for the 36, the FIT4 3-position and FIT HSC/LSC. The ability to fine-tune both high and low-speed compression on the RC2 model made it a clear winner for the type of riding I enjoy. I’ve found that on all of the past forks I have owned/ridden, I rarely ever used the lockout. I’m not really picky with low-speed compression settings and usually just set it and forget it. As long as the fork doesn’t bob during climbs or feel too stiff going over small bumps, I’m happy. My main issue with a lot of the other forks on the market is the lack of high-speed compression adjustment. The ability to fine-tune the damper on how it reacts during big hits and unpredictable terrain is a huge plus. The 36 RC2’s tool-less dials make adjusting LSC and HSC easy when on the fly and I no longer worry about bottoming out.
Installation was straightforward like any other single crown fork. Hack off some of the steerer tube, press the start nut in and throw on a crown race before installing it into the head tube. A star nut and additional volume spacers are included in the box. Fork setup was also very simple. I used the factory setup guide as a baseline with 67psi in the air chamber which gave me around 20% of sag and kept the one volume spacer that came pre-installed. Both low and high-speed compression was set to 15 clicks from closed. Rebound was 7 clicks from closed. Small attention to detail like the protective aluminum cap over the rebound adjustment knob to prevent it from being damaged and threaded holes behind the crown lowers for a fender are a nice touch too. The first couple rides out resulted in a bit of fiddling with the compression and rebound knobs before finding settings I was happy with. Surprisingly, I ended up with settings not too far off from those recommended by the factory. 18 clicks of LSC, 16 clicks of HSC, and 9 clicks of rebound, all from fully closed.
I have to say, I thought my previous Pike was good, but the Fox 36 blows it away. I was never able to fine tune it the way I can with the 36. The RC2 FIT damper does an excellent job at soaking up big hits while remaining supple on small bumps, and even staying composed when climbing. Surprisingly, it feels like I have more than 160mm of travel now. The new EVOL air spring feels extremely plush on small bumps, but still progressive enough as its compressed. I haven’t felt the need to add any additional volume spacers yet but I’m very excited to see how this fork handles park riding this spring.
After about a week of owning the fork, I decided to add Fox’s Kabolt axle which really cleaned up how the front end looks and even saved a bit of weight over the stock 15QR axle. It’s also worth mentioning that Fox makes the 36 RC2 in an all-black Performance version if you’re looking to save some cash. While the Kashima coating is a real eye catcher, I’m not completely convinced it reduces stiction by a significant margin. Although it may not make you a better rider, the Fox 36 is a real confidence inspirer. It’s one of those forks that seems to become plusher and more predictable the harder you ride it, making it really live up to its reputation and my expectations.