Words by: Liam Woods
With new products leaking all over the race circuit at the end of last year's season, as well as some early racing this year, it was clear Fox was going to come out with some new products for 2021. Now that they have been out for a few weeks, we are here with a closer look at the latest Fox lineup, what’s new, what’s changed, and what products might suit you best.
We put out a comprehensive blog on the Fox 38 when it first came out earlier in April. Along with the new Fox 38, there is also a new Fox 36, a new Fox 40, and some new rear shocks, the Fox Float X2, DHX2, and the Fox DPX2. There is also a new Fox Transfer post that has seen the saddle clamp head get a redesign, a reduction in weight, and most importantly the overall length and stack height have been reduced to get more dropper travel on more bikes.
The Fox 36, 38, and 40 get a new lower leg design that includes a ton of new features that lead to much smoother and better feeling forks. The most notable is the new round arch design, which is a pretty major change. It helps increase strength as well as create more clearance when the fork goes full bottom out on frames with large headtubes.
Next, all forks now get lower leg air bleeders, which help relieve the pressure that builds up in the lowers after a few runs or when going up or down in elevation. This does not touch the air spring. The two are separate and this is just air trapped in the lower of the fork, which causes increased friction on the seals as well as increases the progressivity of the fork, but not in the controlled way of an engineered air spring.
Another thing Fox did to reduce friction was the introduction of the floating axle. With the floating axle, Fox can control the binding of the lowers since the axle isn't being pinched into the fork lowers, but rather held tight. Lastly, and yes finally, the bolt-on front fender everyone has been asking for is here, and is actually designed further than most bolt-on fenders we have seen. It has two mounting points in the back of the arch as well as two more mounting points on the two air bleeders on the lowers.
Not only are bikes getting more and more capable, but the speeds they can hold are faster than ever. Not only that, but many riders are not exactly "in shape" which can lead to even more stress being placed on the bike. The Fox 36 previously held all the duties for any long travel enduro bike from 150mm and even down to 140mm up to 170mm for a 29” and 180mm for a 27.5” bike. While the Fox 36 is an amazing fork, some riders like Richie Rude who are not only ungodly fast, but are also very solid and strong individuals wanted more. I’ve heard the rocks move out of the way for Richie and I don’t blame them. Those types of riders can really put some punishment on some of the strongest parts, and that includes the Fox 36, especially at 170mm. Now the Fox 38 handles all the duties from 160mm-180mm for both 29” and 27.5”. The Fox 38 is offered in both 27.5” and 29” travel options in a range of Black and Orange lowers, along with a limited-edition Heritage version of the Pistachio Green.
Jeff took it out for a ride and immediately he could tell just how gnarly this fork is. He said it really feels like a 40 in the best way. The fork's stiffness along with the improved damper really helps it handle hits of small to large with ease and settles you into the travel rather than harshly giving you feedback. While Jeff is a very confident and capable rider, he, like myself, is only 150lbs and not really who this fork is fully designed for. For that, we called in our buddy Chris Muntz who not only weighs a little more than us, but he is fast, strong, and really likes to nerd out and test new products. Below is what he thinks about his time on the Fox 38.
“I started out with the recommended settings of air pressure, and the damper recommendations for a 200lbs rider. I also didn't change the volume spacers on the air side from the way the fork came to me. After a few runs, I felt like the fork was just a bit soft and that was actually a surprise because previous Fox forks sometimes felt a bit harsh with stock settings and air pressure. After a few runs I ended up with about 10 psi more than what was recommended and added 2 clicks of high speed compression and 2 clicks of low speed compression. With adding some air pressure I also needed to change the rebound from the recommended setting and added 1 click of HSR. This put the Fox 38 in a very good setting for my weight and riding style. I think most riders would really like the recommended settings straight from Fox as I tend to ride my forks just a bit more stiff than the average rider.
After a good bit of time on this fork, I can say the main benefit to it is the way it deals with big, high speed impacts. There’s no instance of spiking/binding and the fork is able to deal with these events with a more linear feel. I’d compare it to feeling like jumping into a pile of pillows as opposed to a pool of water. Water has the initial slap as you break the surface, then you fall into it, and you decelerate. This is how most previous forks felt to me; an initial spike and then the fork would go into the travel. The new 38 feels more like falling into pillows, very soft initially and ramps up predictably as you get into the travel, without excessive harshness or feedback.
From a stiffness standpoint I don’t have much to say. It’s stiffer for sure. And I didn’t feel like it was overly harsh in the few days I had on it. I’ll need some more testing to say if the added stiffness is beneficial in every riding scenario but with the time I have on the fork I can easily say that this is a huge improvement not only for Fox but for all mountain bike forks. It's stiff, smooth and has a very predictable control on hard hits.” - Test rider Chris Muntz
The Fox 38 might not be for everyone, but if you are a rider on the heavier side, you ride really fast and push the limits of what a bike is capable of, or if you are in the 170mm-180mm front travel range, then the Fox 38 might make a lot of sense for you. I mention the 180mm because previously the Fox 36 wasn’t offered in 29” for 180mm. Either it just wasn’t designed for that or some testers at Fox found the limit of what the 36 was capable of. Either way, the Fox 38 is not available in 180mm for 29” wheeled bikes.
Yes, the Fox 36 is still an amazing fork and might be the better option for many riders out there, like myself. I weigh 150lbs and typically ride 160mm-170mm travel up front. The Fox 36 receives many of the new features we see on the Fox 38 as mentioned above. That includes the updated Fox Grip2 damper now with Variable Valve Control on both the HSR and HSC, which helps settle the fork into the compression settings as well as return smoothly without any spiking. Along with the new arch, the lower leg bleeders, the floating axle, and the bolt-on fender like the big sibling the 38, the 36 also gets a heritage color edition, and this one is the Root Beer Brown.
Just like the smaller siblings, the Fox 40 also gets the redesigned lower arch and a bolt-on fender. The Fox 40 already used the floating axle and the lower bleed ports on previous models. Like the Fox 36 and 38, the 40 also gets a heritage color, Battleship Grey.
Most of Fox’s fork lineup for the smaller forks, the Fox 34 and Fox 32, is mostly untouched besides some new graphics. One cool thing to see in the Fox 34 line is the inclusion of the Grip2 damper. This now means you can have a lightweight trail bike fork that you can also get high tunability with your suspension settings. We thought that was pretty cool and helped get some improvements on the shorter travel bikes as well.
The Fox 34 is one of our favorite forks. The versatility of the fork is what we like the most. When installed on the right bike the Fox 34 can be ridden on epic 5+ hour rides or taken to a bike park for some laps. Balancing the weight to stiffness ratio as best as possible, the Fox 34 is for the everyday trail rider. It's also available in the 34 StepCast, which is chiseled down as much as possible to reduce weight and be totally designed around 120mm of travel yet retaining the 34mm stanchions.
The Fox 32 and 32 StepCast are the ultimate cross country racing weapons. When you are looking for the lightest fork option from Fox to throw on the front of your lightweight hardtail or full suspension, the Fox 32 SC is trimmed of as much unnecessary fat as possible.
One of the best air rear shocks on the market just got better. The Fox Float X2 received some improvements to further boost just how well this rear shock performs. There are some new features like the updated damper, high-flow main piston, the progressive MCU bottom-out bumper, updated HSR with VVC, and a matching HSC and HSR adjustment to the Grip2 damper in the Fox forks.
The Fox DHX2 is the coil rear shock offering from Fox, with plenty of wins behind it, it's a seriously good shock. For 2021 the DHX2 gets tons of new improvements, many of which you also see in the Float X2 like the new chassis, an updated damper, high-flow main piston, the progressive MCU bottom-out bumper, updated HSR with VVC and a matching HSC and HSR adjustment to the Grip2 damper in the Fox forks.
The Fox DPX2 gets some small improvements in the tuning department with a new base valve. The DPX2 is a great trail bike shock and pairs nicely with either a Fox 34 or Fox 36 fork.
The Fox Transfer has become one of the most reliable dropper posts on the market, and for 2021 it gets a whole new update. From the internals to the externals, there are lots of new changes with the Fox Transfer dropper post. The saddle clamp head utilizes a new design that not only helps with installing seats but helps improve the overall stack height of the post. There is also a slightly shorter insertion depth, meaning you can probably fit a longer travel dropper in your bike if you were previously maxed out on the old-style Transfer post.
- 175mm, 30.6mm shorter than 2020 Transfer, 8.6mm insertion depth reduction
- 150mm, 38.7mm shorter, 15.5mm reduction
- 125mm, 43.5mm shorter, 20.3mm reduction
- 100mm, 48.4mm shorter, 25.2mm reduction
Fox really came out with a crazy new updated line for model year 2021, with 3 new forks, 2 new shocks, a new dropper post, and some smaller updates to the rest of the line. Most notably the Fox 38 fork has been getting all the love, and that’s because it's a completely new model bridging the gap between the Fox 36 for trail and enduro riding and the Fox 40 for downhill riding. Along with the updates to the Fox 36 and the Float X2 and DHX2, Fox suspension looks sharp and performs flawlessly as usual.
This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.