FIND­ING THE RIGHT TUNE

FOX FAC­TORY TUNE IS A NEW SER­VICE THAT PROM­ISES TO UP­DATE YOUR EX­IST­ING SUS­PEN­SION SYS­TEM TO BRING IT BANG UP TO DATE - WITH­OUT THE HUGE COST OF COM­PLETELY RE­PLAC­ING YOUR FORK OR SHOCK.

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - WORDS AND PHOTOS: ROBERT CON­ROY

Bring your old shock and fork bang up to date with­out shelling out for com­pletely new gear thanks to the re­cently launched ‘Fox Fac­tory Tun­ing’ pro­gram.

In early July I headed with a se­lect group of edi­tors to the launch of the Fox ‘MY18’ on the se­cluded trails of North­ern Syd­ney. It was a chance to feel like a pro for the day with top me­chan­ics work­ing on our bikes, as we were also in­tro­duced to the Fox Fac­tory Tune pro­gram.

Shortly af­ter we ar­rived, we had our cur­rent com­pres­sion and re­bound set­tings noted down, our sag mea­sured and were sent out onto the trails with our stock sus­pen­sion set up. My Whyte T-130 would be the mule for this test, with a 2016era FOX 34 Fac­tory fork (140mm travel) and a 2016 Fox Fac­tory Float set up in the rear.

With a ‘base’ set­ting es­tab­lished - and a greater un­der­stand­ing of where the trails now flowed - I headed back to the Fox tent for my first in­tro­duc­tion to the 2018 changes. We would re­ceive the ad­just­ments in three stages: first a new Fit 4 damper, then a new EVOL air spring for our forks, and fi­nally a 2018 shock. On hand to lead us through the process and in­stall were some of the lead­ing Fox tech­ni­cians from around the globe. It was cer­tainly a priv­i­lege to have the likes of Da­mon Chen (Tech­ni­cal Sup­port/Tai­wan Fox) and Ea­monn Cleere (Fox Europe Tech­ni­cal Man­ager) work­ing on our sus­pen­sion.

FEEL­ING IN A NEW FIT 4 DAMPER - STAGE ONE

First up a new damper. My old 2016 damper was re­moved and re­placed with the new 2018 Fit 4 damper. What’s new is a re­con­fig­ured shim stack that pro­vides more sen­si­tiv­ity at the con­trols - but largely a lot more sup­port whilst rid­ing ag­gres­sively. I was told that the ef­fect felt at the bars would be min­i­mal com­pared to the EVOL air shaft that would come later, al­though with a two year evo­lu­tion­ary jump be­tween mod­els I should still feel some changes.

The assess­ment was right. I found there was an im­me­di­ate ef­fect, felt from the first climb. As the course rose ahead, the forks stayed within the first part of their travel. Through­out the in­ter­mit­tent small bumps and rock roll overs the sup­ple trac­tion re­mained. It was con­fi­den­cein­spir­ing and I didn’t feel like it would break. In par­tic­u­lar, when in an at­tack­ing stance, the front held true with sup­port that was promised. On the de­scents the whole ex­pe­ri­ence was sim­i­lar - a sup­ple feel­ing at the top and when the big­ger hits came there was sup­port and firmer pro­gres­sion.

AIR SPRUNG (EVOL)UTION - STAGE TWO

With a short lap on the damper done I headed back to the Fox Tent, ready for the new air spring. The big change this year is that the EVOL - or neg­a­tive air spring size - has been in­creased across the board. This means an in­tro­duc­tion to the forks and an in­crease in the shocks.

With only so much room in­side a fork to play with that ex­tra vol­ume has had to come from some­where. Fox have re­pur­posed some un­der-utilised space from the lower leg and in­cor­po­rated it into the larger neg­a­tive cham­ber air spring for 2018. With a larger neg­a­tive spring you will tend to run more air pres­sure to bal­ance the forces and in turn get a more pro­gres­sive spring curve. Some­thing that should marry to the new damper I sam­pled ear­lier and in com­bi­na­tion should pro­vide a plush feel­ing at the be­gin­ning, more mid stroke sup­port and more bot­tom out pro­gres­sion.

To com­pen­sate for this in­crease in the neg­a­tive spring, an ex­tra 10psi was put into my forks to hope­fully elim­i­nate that ‘too soft’ feel. I left my vol­ume spac­ers the same as my orig­i­nal set up at three. Rid­ing the first climb I found the ef­fect much the same as it had been with the Fit 4 damper, maybe a tad more sup­ple in the ini­tial stroke. De­scend­ing was a whole dif­fer­ent story, though.

The ini­tial sup­ple­ness was still there but I was go­ing through my mid travel much faster than usual. Whilst the bot­tom out feel is not as harsh as it was be­fore, I still found my­self in some

com­pro­mis­ing po­si­tions, jerked for­ward more so than usual. A re­turn to the me­chan­ics for an­other 15psi and the sit­u­a­tion rec­ti­fied.

A NEW SHOCK

For our last out­ing on the trail, our steeds were fit­ted out with a 2018 shock. Mine, a Per­for­mance Elite, Float DPS. The new ad­di­tions here were more EVOL - the can is now a one piece with a higher neg­a­tive vol­ume to give you that ex­tra floaty feel­ing - and a lin­ear spring. Ex­pe­ri­ence with EVOL in the

past showed that it was very sen­si­tive to pres­sure changes and we had to add an in­creased psi to find that bal­ance in the rear. This time I took the shock out as is.

Sup­ple in its ini­tial stroke, it cer­tainly felt smoother through the rib­bons of sin­gle track. Per­haps that’s due to EVOL and less break­away fric­tion to ini­ti­ate the shock than it had in the past. In many ways it com­ple­ments the fork, though when put in open mode to de­scend I found my­self chew­ing through travel. A re­turn for more psi, as sus­pected, and ev­ery­thing was back on track and more in tune with the front. It was now bal­anced in its mid stroke, with a sup­ple bot­tom out.

FOX FAC­TORY TUNE - WHAT TO EXPECT

If you’re sit­ting on some out-dated fork or shock, this is per­fect for you. Other than the reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing, Sola Sport (the dis­trib­u­tor of Fox in Aus­tralia) will be of­fer­ing all the changes de­scribed through the Fox Fac­tory Tune pro­gram. Any 2015 forks on­ward can be up­graded with the same Fit 4 damper and EVOL air shaft. In the

shocks you can re­quest to re­turn to the non lin­ear spring of the pre­vi­ous if that bet­ter suits your tastes.

If your heart de­sires, you can also re­quest a spe­cific tune - there will be a range of tunes avail­able from ex­tra light to ex­tra firm whether that be in your fork or shock. With so many op­tions, there will be some­thing for you.

As we went to print, prices were still be­ing fi­nalised, with an an­nounce­ment ex­pected to­wards the end of the year. Keep an eye on our web­site at amb­mag.com.au for all the de­tails when they are avail­able.

THE AF­TER EF­FECTS

Re­turn­ing to my reg­u­lar trail hub I was able to sort out the finer bal­anc­ing is­sues I’d ex­pe­ri­enced on test day. With such a small win­dow and such large changes be­ing made in North­ern Syd­ney, it would take an­other two ses­sions to get my fork and shock di­alled in.

I ended up tak­ing my forks back down an­other 5psi and dump­ing 20psi more than usual in the rear. This is not ab­nor­mal and is in fact some­thing we ex­pe­ri­enced with the first in­tro­duc­tion of EVOL back in 2015. I am still us­ing a bit too much travel a lit­tle more of­ten than I would like, so an or­der has gone in for a vol­ume spacer tun­ing kit to ad­just the pro­gres­sive­ness of the shock to get it matched bet­ter to the bike’s link­age and my lo­cal trails. Over­all, though, I find the per­for­mance bet­ter than it was - mas­sively so in the fork, al­beit a work in progress with the shock.

On the lo­cal trail I found trac­tion where I used to find slip­page, while square edged hits that once held me up now rum­ble be­neath my tyres. I carry speed through sec­tions I felt bogged down in the past. The big­gest ben­e­fit so far is that ex­tra mid stroke sup­port en­abling me to flow just that lit­tle bit more through the trail. You don’t know what you’re miss­ing un­til you have it.

Even though you’ll get the same hard­ware as I did, the over­all change in feel­ing will be dif­fer­ent - de­pend­ing on your cur­rent setup. If you are up­dat­ing a more mod­ern fork/shock you may not feel the same jump in per­for­mance com­pared to mak­ing the change from much older sus­pen­sion. Ei­ther way, for those with out­dated but pre­ex­ist­ing hard­ware this is the best op­tion on of­fer to up­date your ride and re­ally get the most out of your sus­pen­sion.

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