Fox Racing Shox
to test the company’s completely overhauled TALAS adjustable-travel system and its new Float X shock. The location was appropriate, as it coincided with the first stop of the Oregon Enduro series—both new products are ideal for enduro-style riding—they are versatile, high-performance shocks intended to let you climb, and to smooth out ripping descents.
Notably, the company’s range of TALAS forks have a new air spring cartridge that makes them perform better in both of their two travel settings. Fox also revised the spring curve to keep the forks controlled in the middle of its stroke. The TALAS system now feels more progressive, stiffening slightly as it moves through its travel to prevent bottoming out. It’s also less sticky, which creates a smoother ride that feels similar to Fox’s lauded Float forks
. Not stopping there, Fox, gave the forks a firmer tune to better prevent diving, especially in corners. To accomplish all this, engineers changed the travel-adjust system from pneumatic to hydraulic, which made the new version 40 grams heavier than older ones, but our initial rides showed that the improved ride justifies the extra weight.
In addition to overhauling the TALAS system, Fox also unveiled a new shock. The Float X replaces the DHX Air, and retains a piggyback design that helps the shock absorb more heat (so it won’t fade on long, rough descents) and allows finer tuning of the damping circuits than a traditional inline design.
I raced the new TALAS fork and Float X shock on a Yeti SB95c
at the Oregon Enduro Series race in Hood River. Right away, starting on the first practice run, I could detect a difference in how the fork performed. It no longer feels like a travel-adjust fork that compromises some performance to gain adjustability. Instead, both travel settings on the new system works as well as Fox’s Float forks. The fork feels smooth and sensitive; the spring curve feels spot-on, and both travel modes can be used in a variety of terrain and situations.
Testing the fork and shock on a familiar bike, Yeti’s SB95c, gave us a good sense of how they performed. (Colin Meagher)
On subsequent laps, I noticed more subtle benefits that stem from changes to the damping tune, and from the more progressive spring. With the 2013 CTD Trail Adjust fork, I ran a little less sag than Fox recommends and kept the fork in the firmest two settings for better support and to prevent bottoming. The third position (intended for descending) felt too soft to me, especially on fast, rough descents. With the updated damper and spring, I set the fork to the recommended sag and used the Descend mode more frequently.
Compared to the 2013 Factory-level Float CTD that had been on my test Yeti, the Float X has a much firmer Climb mode—it almost feels like a lockout. In Descend and Trail modes, the differences are subtle. The Float X seemed to keep the bike more tightly connected to the ground. Both shocks are smooth, but with the new model I felt less pitching and skipping, and the kept the bike locked on the trail.
I did notice a couple quirks about the Float X's layout. The rebound knob is tucked just underneath the upper eyelet bushing, which makes it hard to adjust without a pick or small hex wrench. Fortunately, you should only have to set the rebound once, so it shouldn’t be a big issue. Also, because of how the shock is oriented on the SB95, the CTD lever was near my knees and snagged on my kneepad and changed modes—several times I started down the trail in Descend mode and finished in Climb. But this might only be an issue on a small number of frames.
The Float X replaces the DHX Air, but retains the tunable, heat-resistant piggyback design. (Colin Meagher)
New Air Spring
The 2014 fork gets an all-new spring and hydraulic travel-adjust cartridge. In previous models, the spring and travel-adjust system weren’t located in a cartridge and instead used the stanchion walls as the air chamber. Because the new system is housed in a cartridge, it can be dropped in to most existing TALAS forks, though Fox has not shared pricing details yet.
The new spring and travel-adjust system also addresses many of the previous TALAS shortcomings. While loved by many, the previous forks had been criticized for feeling hollow and lacking mid-stroke support (represented by the flat section in the chart below showing the spring curve or 2013 TALAS forks.
The new TALAS has a more linear spring curve, that eliminates the mid-stroke wallow of previous iterations. (Courtesy)
For the 2014 models, Fox was able to match the spring curve of its fixed-travel 2014 Float forks (which is more progressive than the 2013 Float models). The new curve has a more linear pitch, which translates to a smoother, more progressive feel. Like previous models, the fork ramps up at the end of its stroke to prevent bottoming out.
Crucially, the spring curve remains the same in both travel settings, so the fork behaves similarly in either one. The previous TALAS, shown in the chart below right, behaved differently when you changed travel.
With the new air spring, Fox was able to considerably reduce friction, which makes for a smoother fork. The previous TALAS mechanism used a system of air chambers that required three seals to keep air from leaking. The new hydraulic design eliminates two of them. With fewer seals, there is less friction. As Fox's fork engineer Andrew Laird explained, the TALAS' air-spring shaft is smaller than the Float's spring shaft, and therefore creates less friction. The 2014 TALAS spring actually creates less friction than on the new 2014 Float forks, Laird said.
New Travel-Adjust System
The new hydraulic travel-adjust system has a reserve of oil, an inner and an outer reservoir, and a pair of one-way valves (sealed by check balls) that control oil transfer between reservoirs. Moving oil from one chamber to another changes the fork’s travel.
In long-travel mode, oil is trapped within the inner reservoir. To shorten travel, riders flip a switch atop the fork leg. That releases one of the check balls and allows oil to flow from the inner reservoir to the outer reservoir. Switching back to long-travel mode releases the opposite check ball, allowing the oil to return to the inner reservoir.
The new forks come in three different wheel sizes with adjustments for both the high and low travel setting. "Shuttle bumpers” reduce the max travel of any fork by up to 20mm (disassembly required), and clip-on spacers (that are much easier to install) to reduce the range of travel adjustment in 5mm increments. So any fork has a number of travel options.
The fork comes in three stanchions, and models for all three mountain bike wheel sizes. Users can use internal spacers (called “shuttle bumpers”) to reduce travel by up to 20mm on any fork. (Courtesy)
In the aftermarket, Fox is only selling the TALAS fork in the company’s premier configuration—CTD Trail Adjust damper in models with 32mm and 34mm stanchions (the stouter 36 comes with the RC2 damper with adjustable low-speed and high-speed compression settings). Prices range from $880 (26-inch, 32mm legs) to $1,130 (26-inch, 36).
Float X CTD
The new shock has a piggyback reservoir like the DHX Air it replaces, the new is more tunable. Instead of the DHX’s two-position switch that turned the Pro-Pedal platform damping on or off, the Float X uses Fox's three-position CTD Trail Adjust system. It is also compatible with the company's latest three-position handlebar.
Though heavier than an inline shock, the piggyback holds extra oil and moves damping away from the air spring. That allows the shock to better absorb and dissipate heat, which can throw off performance. The design also uses two valves that share damping duties, which allows engineers to refine the individual circuits—the Climb, Trail, and Descend modes—with minimal effect on the others. That's why, for example, the Float X's Climb mode feels firmer than on the standard Float shock.
The 2014 Float X kept our tires glued to the ground, even over slick, sharp rocks. (Colin Meagher)
The Float X also lacks Boost Valve, one of Fox's premier tech features. The valve improved damping across the board but it most notably increased the shock’s firmness near the limits of its travel to prevent bottoming out. But according to Fox’s Mark Jordan, newer frame designs have more progressive linkages, which eliminated the need for a progressive damping feature like Boost Valve.
The Float X comes in six sizes in lengths commonly used for bikes with 140mm to 180mm of travel. Fox claims the shock weighs 365 grams, which is about 100 grams heavier than an inline Float, but 70 grams less than the old DHX Air. It will only be sold through shops with the high-end Factory package with Kashima Coat and CTD Trail Adjust. Expect to pay between $575 and $595.