The 36 I’m riding uses their FIT HSC/LSC cartridge damper. It uses a rubber bladder to compensate for oil expansion. The cartridge design lets Fox keep air and oil separated in the fork, preventing emulsification. Additionally, it uses significantly less damping fluid than an open bath design, saving weight. It also is very similar to the design used for RockShox’s Charger damper.
The alternative damper you can buy the fork with is the FIT 4 damper. It keeps low-speed compression adjustment, but swaps the HSC adjustment for a lockout style adjustment.
The high-speed compression, low-speed compression, and rebound adjustments all offer both good range and good resolution. There are 22 clicks of HSC adjustment, 24 clicks of LSC and 20 clicks of rebound adjustment. It is hard to make the fork feel terrible with any of the adjustments short of just cranking the rebound all the way closed.
It is really nice to be able to crank up the high and low-speed compression without making the fork feel harsh. Yes, if you push it too far, the fork can lose some suppleness. But, I am easily able to set it up to ride high in its travel and keep it feeling plush. It is in this regard that it feels distinctly different than the Pike. That is handy because even with 4 of the largest orange volume spacers, the bottom out resistance isn’t as strong as on a Pike with my preferred setting of 3 volume spacers. The effect of the compression damping is strong. Run without any spacers, I find that a Pike bottoms easily and dramatically. I never had that experience with the 36, even without any spacers. If I pushed through the travel slowly I could find the bottom, but the compression damping kept me from hitting it with much energy.
The counterpoint is that the Pike still might be plusher. Let me be clear though, the difference is subtle. Confusing matters is the fact that the Pike doesn’t really have a break-in period while the 36 decidedly does. Give the 36 5-6 rides and then you can start comparing it to the Pike.
I swapped back and forth between a 160 mm Pike and 160 mm Fox 36 and the differences were huge. The Fox tended to sit higher in its travel and was immensely laterally stiffer torsionally and fore-aft. It changed one bike from feeling like a long travel trail bike to feeling like an Enduro weapon.
The stiffness difference is smaller and less meaningful than between the Pike and the 36. I found the Yari to be sufficiently stiff. The 36 is still definitely stiffer. And I comfortably say that was without downsides for me. The damping performance is unquestionably superior on the 36 in all ways. It is more supple and more tunable.
I haven’t spent any significant time on the new Lyrik, but I think it would be the closest comparison to the 36. I expect it would be more plush, not quite as stiff and not quite as supportive.
26” 20 mm through axle RockShox Lyrik
The 36 might feel more similar to the older Lyrik than these other forks. But the 36 is stiffer and significantly plusher, and the compression adjustment is more impactful. There is no question it is an updated fork.
The 36 is the stiffest single crown fork I’ve ridden on a 27.5 bike and I appreciated every bit of that stiffness in rough sections of trail when I wanted to steer precisely. The updated seals and damping make the small bump sensitivity very comparable to RockShox, but not better. Even with the maximum of 4 large air spacers, it still feels a bit more linear than the RockShox offerings and it likes to ride much higher in its travel.
If I want the smoothest ride possible and easy wheel removal, I’ll buy a Pike or a Lyrik, the Pike for less than 150 mm of travel and a Lyrik if I want 160 mm+. If you want to charge the roughest trails with the most confidence and/or prefer a more linear feeling fork I’d definitely recommend the 36 with the bolt through axle, either in the 15 mm or 20 mm trim.