Install & Tuning
I’m running the fork with a 20mm axle, but I took a moment to see how the 15mm axle/adapter system worked. When the adapter collets are installed properly, the parts have a precise, snug fit, and if I were running 36 with the 15mm axle, I wouldn’t be worried about anything coming loose.
Setting the 36’s sag and air pressure went smoothly, with no real glitches, but tuning the fork to my liking did take a bit of fiddling.
Ultimately I ended up running a psi slightly lower than what Fox recommends. I weigh ~ 170lbs, so I started off with the recommended 72 psi, but I found this gave the fork a somewhat harsh, chattery feel, and it didn’t seem to be using all of its travel. I backed off from Fox’s recommended mark in 1-2 psi increments, compensating with a click or two of high-speed compression, until I was happy with the tune.
My current settings:
- Pressure: 65 psi
- Low Speed Compression: 11 clicks
- High Speed Compression: 9 clicks
- Rebound: 12 clicks
For what it’s worth, I didn’t need to add an additional volume spacer to the fork for added ramping (the 36 comes with one pre-installed). Fox does include several extra volume spacers, however, if you’re a heavier rider or prefer a more progressive spring curve.
As with any high-end suspension component, a few psi can mean a world of difference in how the 36 feels. The fork is also highly adjustable, allowing for 25 clicks of low speed compression, 22 clicks of high speed compression, and 19 clicks of rebound adjustment in total. This wide adjustment range allows you to tune the 36 very precisely, unlike the RockShox Pike or the 34 Float. The Pike only has a three-position compression adjustment (open, mid, and firm), with no independent high and low speed compression settings.
All in all, it might take a bit more time and fiddling to unlock the 36’s potential compared to the Pike, which does offer a very nice feel out of the box. However, unless you’re uncomfortable / unfamiliar with suspension tuning, this shouldn’t be of much concern. With some time and attention, you’ll be able to get the 36 dialed in just how you like it.
As I mentioned above, the new 36 is incredibly supple at the beginning of its stroke, and feels like it’s fully broken in right out of the box. I can say with confidence that this is by far the smoothest 36 Float that Fox has ever produced, and it is certainly on-par with the Pike in this respect.
However, it’s not just the new seal heads and fancy Kashima coating that account for the 36’s smooth stroke; the fork’s new air spring unit and FIT cartridge are far better than those found on the under-damped 2013 180mm 36 I own, and the over-damped 2014 model that used to adorn my Chilcotin.
Fox had to get the new 36’s tune right to compete with the Pike, and they sure did.
The new 36 rides higher in its travel than previous models and doesn’t dive under hard braking (like my 2013 36 Float). The fork still remains quick and active on small stutter bumps at high speeds, though; I never managed to get it to “pack up” in chatter/brake bumps.
More generally, I’ve been very impressed by how well it handles small to medium sized hits. The fork has a very controlled curve rate, a predictable feel, and plenty of mid-stroke support that’s awesome for pumping the bike through dips and rocks.
Fox 36 Float vs. RockShox Pike
While very good in its own right, I will say that the 36 is not quite as smooth as the Pike when it comes to erasing small and mid range bumps and providing a cushioning effect on the riders hands. Comparatively, the 36 feels stiffer and yields a bit more feedback in sustained bumpy sections. I actually prefer the feel of the 36, but others may prefer the slightly more cushioned ride of the Pike.
I think the 36 wins over the Pike when it comes to absorbing big hits. Again, the 36’s chassis is stiffer laterally and fore and aft compared to the Pike’s, which I found most noticeable on step-downs and during harsh, high-speed collisions.
To say the 36 is confidence inspiring would be selling it short. I find myself looking at every rock as a launch ramp, knowing the fork has me covered on the landing. I can attack tricky rock sections more aggressively than I can with the Pike or on older versions of the 36, and I’m continually surprised by how composed the new 36 remains when punched deep into its travel—in this way I view it more as a scaled down DH fork than a burly trail fork.
In sum, in the world of high-performance forks, it’s hard to go wrong with the Pike, the new 34 Float, or the new 36; they’re all very, very good. Which one you choose will depend on personal preference, you local trails, and how familiar you are with precise tuning.
The 36 allows for more adjustability and handles big hits a bit better than the Pike, while the Pike is slightly lighter, has better small bump feel, and offers simpler, but more limited adjustments. Like the Pike, the 34 Float offers more limited adjustment options than the 36, but is slightly heavier and stiffer (better at handling big hits) than the Pike. See Noah Bodman’s review for more direct comparisons between the 34 Float and Pike.
Personally, my nod goes to the 36 because of its stiffer chassis and wider range of adjustments over the Pike and 34 Float.
The redesigned 2015 36 Float is the best iteration of the fork Fox has made to date. With a very supple feel, great performance on big hits, and an impressive tuning range, in my opinion, the new 36 Float is the best fork in its class.