Over the last 10 years, Fox suspension has been one of the leaders in mountain bike suspension. From the beginning, Fox was always going racing and has its roots deep in motocross suspension. Now a days Fox is an industry giant in the mountain biking world, known for their passion and drive to continue developing the best performing mountain bike suspension on the market. Today we are diving in to Fox's new Grip 2 damper, the next evolution in a sealed cartridge FIT system. The Grip 2 damper is a 4 way adjustable damper that you will find on Fox's gravity focused forks, the 36 and 40. We have been loving the performance of the Grip 2 damper and decided to have our guy Max Morgan take a deeper look at how the Grip 2 handles out on the trail. Check it out!
Now of course before the Grip 2 damper there was the original Grip damper, or Grip 1. The engineer that designed the original Rockshox Charger damper when the Rcokshox Pike was relaunched was the same man behind Fox's Grip damper. The Grip 1 damper uses a simplistic design and still performs well out on the trail. You will find the Grip 1 damper in the Fox Rhythm forks as well as in the Marzochi Bomber 58 and Marzocchi Bomber Z1 forks. The Grip 2 damper is a natural progression from its predecessor, giving you more freedom in adjustability and tuning.
The Grip 2 damper uses what Fox calls their Variable Valve Control (VVC). Fox claims that VVC is a revolutionary way to control the high speed rebound circuit by effectively changing the valve stiffness rather than preload on the shim stack. VVC uses a leaf spring to adjust the valve flex on the high speed rebound circuit.
The Grip 2 damper also uses a new sophisticated mid valve design that Fox claims gives more control shaping the compression curve. This is in the hope to give the rider confidence inspiring mid stroke support without brake dive. Fox also claims that their latest high performance damper is their lowest friction configuration yet.
Max has been riding Fox's Grip 2 damper on a Fox 40 and 49 downhill fork for a little over a year now. Here the Fox 49 is mounted up on a Santa Cruz V10 with 29 inch wheels. One of Max's favorite spots to get out and ride my downhill bike is at Windrock Bike Park and so most of the riding done for this review has been on the rugged and rough terrain at Windrock. For rear suspension, Max is running a Fox DHX2 coil shock with a 475lb SLS spring. With Industry Nine wheels, Maxxis tires, Flat Tire Defender foam inserts, and a full Deity Components kit to finish things off, this rig is one to drool over!
The first thing I noticed right away was just how compliant the Grip 2 damper was. Before riding the Grip 2, I was on a Fox 40 with the RC2 damper. Now I always thought the RC2 damper was good, but after riding the Grip 2 damper, I realized how much more my wheel was tracking the ground. When your wheel is tracking the ground better, you have more grip and can be more confident on the trail.
When I did the initial setup on the fork with the new damper, I used the same amount of air volume spacers and pressure in the air spring to start. Because the fork rode much more compliant, I ended up adding 1 additional air volume spacer and adding about 8 psi more than on the RC2 fork. This gave me the best of both worlds, allowing to fork to stay high in its travel and not dive under hard braking as well as loads of grip and traction. Finding the balance between ride height and traction is the key and the Grip 2 damper makes things pretty easy. After almost a year now on the Grip 2 damper on the 40 chassis, I use 6 air volume spacers and about 84 psi depending on the track. I weight about 165 lbs (75kg).
Because there are 4 different adjustments on the damper, both high speed and low speed compression and rebound, it is possible to set up the fork incorrectly. From a very surface level view, having a fork that is more over-sprung and underdamped will give you better performance than vice versa. When you are setting up your Grip 2 damper for the first time, start with all of the damper settings close to the middle of their range and focus on the air spring. You will be considering things like ride height, traction, and bottom out resistance when it comes to establishing a baseline. Once the air spring is close, then start tinkering with rebound and compression. Remember the damper adjustments are their only to make fine adjustments!
The Grip 2 damper is the next generation of Fox's top of the line damper. Replacing the RC2 damper, Grip 2 offers a 4 way adjustable damper with high speed and low speed compression and rebound adjustments. Coming from Fox's RC2 damper, the Grip 2 damper is much more compliant and does a great job keeping your tire stuck to the ground when you want it to be. This sensation gives your grip and traction when you wouldn't be expecting it and in the end the confidence to ride your bike aggressively and with control. After riding the Grip 2 damper for almost a year, I am a big fan and thinks it's one of the best performing dampers on the market!
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!