Rat-bagging the 2019 FOX 36 GRIP2 & FLOAT X2
Fox unveiled new dampers in early April 2018 and the integration of their GRIP damper, typically seen on their low-end forks, took many by surprise. This isn't the same damper seen in wallet-friendly options however, it's an evolution. In an industry where we normally wait for technology to trickle down, Fox showed us that it can climb up to the higher end models. The GRIP2 damper takes the coil sprung IFP of its simpler sibling but includes four-way damping, rather than two.
- Fit GRIP2 Damper
- Externally adjustable HSC, LSC, HSR and LSR
- Float EVOL Air Spring
- 150mm (FIT4 only), 160, 170 or 180mm travel
- 15 x 110 QR, 15 x 100 QR, or Kabolt 110 axle options
- 29-inch wheel 150mm and 160mm travel (tested)
- 27.5-inch wheel 160, 170 and 180mm travel
- 26-inch wheel 160mm and 180mm available w/ 15mm x 100 axle (convertible to 20mm)
- MSRP: Ranges from 899 USD for the Performance Elite FIT4 to 1,065 USD for the FLOAT FIT4 GRIP2 (tested)
The 2019 FOX FIT4 GRIP2 36
The 36 RC2 included both high and low-speed compression damping and one rebound adjustment. The new GRIP2 damper retains the compression adjustability but expands to high and low-speed rebound adjustability. Tunable range of the 2019 36 is claimed to be wider, and in practice this was quickly confirmed. On the RC2 model I ran the compression damper close to open, but with the new GRIP2 damper both low and high-speed compression have been set further in.
GRIP dampers work in a similar fashion to an MX fork. Where the old RC2 damper made use of a bladder system, the GRIP damper allows excess oil to move through the circuit. At some point, despite measures taken to keep them separate, this will happen with a closed system like in the previous model, and it will be service time. Encouraging this mixing allowed Fox to simplify the moving parts and permit constant lubrication thanks to the cycling of fluids. Fox touts improved durability and sensitivity.
These changes are immediately noticeable at the top of the fork's travel. The first time on the new 36 provided an almost vague feeling thanks to how well the fork moves over obstacles. Once adjusted to the changes, the fork’s comfort is incredible. With trail feedback further minimized thanks to these improvements, hand and arm fatigue on long, rough trails were mostly absent. On the previous model, fatigue was noticeable in these situations. Previously, having a well-functioning air-spring that's light off the top often made it difficult to get good mid-stroke support. This is far from the case with the GRIP2, which has an incredible mid-stroke. Support is excellent, the fork remains high in its travel until the big hits come and there's no harshness to speak of when set up well. The fork's deep, supported feel provides confidence in all situations.
The GRIP2 damper’s high-speed rebound circuit is different. Rather than add preload to the valve, Fox engineered the HSR to work with a leaf spring. This allows users to change the flex of the leaf spring based on how open or closed the adjuster is. Fox notes that it's similar to re-valving the shims in the HSR circuit. Providing riders with the ability to externally adjust this in a single crown fork is a win.
The high-speed rebound adjustment in the GRIP2 damper is quite beneficial. There are eight clicks of HSR adjustment and each click makes a noticeable change. Initially, I set the HSR to four clicks out, but I found the ride unfavourable. Adjusting it to three clicks out provided a noticeable change in performance and for me, more comfort. For reference, my LSR is set between five and six clicks out depending on conditions, but the HSR has remained great at three out. Twisting the rebound dials provides a pronounced ‘click’, making adjustments easy and accurate.
At the compression end, adjustments are easily made with more light feeling dials at the top of the right fork leg. The low-speed compression dial moves with clear detents and audible clicks. The HSC adjuster is a little different feeling and doesn’t make a loud noise, so adjusting this circuit required extra care. The HSC dial requires less rotation than LSC and until I became accustomed, one click often turned into two or three.
Fox increased the size of the negative air spring again in the 36 and they also were able to use fewer seals. As with the changes to the fork’s damper, these improvements increase the ability for the 36 to smooth out trail chatter. The air spring can still be adjusted with the use of volume spacers which clip together, and then to the underside of the air-spring cap.
The new 36 is the best fork I've ridden. It’s incredibly consistent regardless of the terrain, allowing the bike to hold a strong shape whether under heavy breaking in steep, holed out sections of trail, or high-speed chatter. Aggressive rider weight shifts do little to unsettle the fork and the spring provides the closest feel to a coil sprung fork I've felt.* It grants confidence to get over the front and push the bike into situations where others have left me hesitant. Having put more than 600km’s on the fork, I’m well past the service interval. And yet it still feels amazing in the dry, beat up trails we’re currently experiencing in the Coast Mountains of B.C. There’s no stiction, the seals are still working perfectly, and it hasn’t put a foot wrong.
*The 2019 Lyrik is said to be on par. Cam is currently testing that, so keep an eye out for a complete review.
The 2019 FOX FLOAT X2
While most of the Float X2 remains unchanged for 2019, Fox updated the rear shock’s air can. The grub screw at the base of the can has been replaced with a circlip. This made it possible to bump the shock’s recommended maximum pressure up 50 pounds to 300psi. Internally, a mechanical bottom-out bumper has been added, providing a more progressive end-stroke. Some trail bikes feature relatively linear spring curves and combined with the Float X2’s linear stroke (thanks to the EVOL air spring) the new bottom out support could be helpful.
Fox informed me that the integrated bumper serves two functions. It acts as a bumper, similar to those seen on coil shocks, but also as a variable volume spacer. The effect of this is claimed to be less ramp at the end of the stroke from the air spring alone. Another subtle change is a slight angle on the air valve, easing shock pump access. It’s a small but positive change.
Setting up the 2019 X2 was easy since it was replacing the previous model on the same bike. Volume adjusters, dials, and air volume were set identical to the 2018 model. Everything felt similar but there was a subtle change noticed even prior to making it onto the trail. With the shock being brand new and no trail time, the change was pushed aside to begin with. On the trail and up to speed, the X2’s altered end stroke was more pronounced. The integrated bottom out bumper had a noticeable effect on how the bike reacted during bigger hits.
On my test bike the change created a sharp feeling in the last half of its travel. Adjustments to the damper during the initial ride weren’t enough to quieten this for me. Two of the three volume spacers from the X2 were promptly removed, with pressure and damper settings adjusted to suit. This improved the performance, allowing the air more space to compress as the suspension went deeper into the stroke. There were further trail-side damper adjustments made but on my G16, I still found it a little sharp for my liking.* In rough terrain I found the bike pitched my weight forward with the new shock. Changes to the fork to balance the effects helped, but then the front wasn’t performing at it’s best. Adjusting the rebound circuits on the shock adversely affected traction elsewhere as did further adjusting the compression.
*The G16 has a progressive suspension curve of ~56% and as I discovered, doesn’t need the help of the integrated bottom-out bumper
Switching between the 2018 and 2019 X2 shocks proved that on the G16, I don't feel the X2 benefits from the bottom out assistance. For me, the G16’s progressive suspension curve worked exceptionally well with the previous X2, sans mechanical bottom out. However, there are many bikes that should be more compatible. Some may also prefer to run more damper and work with the extra ramp in the air spring. Without testing on other bikes I cannot confirm this (though I aim to try in the future), but any rider that finds themselves stuffing their shock full of volume spacers is a good candidate for the 2019 model. Testing with the G16 and Fox X2 is currently ongoing, but these have been my findings as of writing.
As with the 2018 shock, damper control is exceptional, with a wide, tunable range to meet most rider and bike requirements. The increased maximum pressure of the XV EVOL air can will also be welcomed by anyone who requires higher pressures.
Together the updated dampers pair exceptionally well. While the less aggressive curve of the 2018 shock is preferred on my bike, the new suspension was still remarkable. Externally it may not seem like much has changed with the 2019 suspension, especially the Float X2, but in practice the updates are significant. Adjustability is among the widest there is available and although it may be too much for some, those seeking the most control of their bike, who are happy to twist dials and write notes, will not be disappointed. Head to the Fox website for more on the 2019 Fox 36 GRIP2 fork or Float X2 shock.