Review: 2016 Fox 34 Float

The Fox 34 received a complete redesign from the inside out for 2016. The result: a fairly drastic reduction in weight and a much-needed performance boost. The improved ability of the Fox 34 was long overdue as Fox's main competitors have had the edge in performance for a few years now.

2016 Fox 34 2.jpg

2016 Fox 34 3.jpg


Features

  • New self-equalizing positive/negative air spring
  • Utilizes patented Float shock transfer port technology, first introduced in their circa 1999 Float shock
  • Smoother performance with reduced friction
  • Less vibration feedback through handlebar (thanks to the negative coil spring being replaced by an air version)
  • 219 grams lighter in 27.5 and 297 grams lighter in 29er
  • Highly tunable with air volume spacers that account for 10 CCs of volume per unit
  • Adjustable mid stroke and bottom out resistance
The heavily updated 2015 36 RC2 offered better small bump sensitivity and more adjustability than both it's predecessor and the 34 could offer, and it was only a matter of time before the lessons learned in developing the 36 would be used for the 34 chassis.

Roll on 2016 and the 34 borrows design cues and structure from the 36, featuring a slimmed crown, arch, dropout and, most crucially, the FIT4 damper is the same 10mm shaft architecture found in the FOX 36 and 40 which increases oil flow to the base valve.


2016 Fox 34 7.jpg

2016 Fox 34 5.jpg


While the FIT4 damper has three compression positions, Fox has done away with CTD and it's “climb, trail, descend” moniker for “open, medium, firm.” Another big change comes with the small "trail adjust" black knob, which tuned compression in the middle "Trail" setting, making way for 22 clicks of low speed compression adjustment in the open setting – just like RockShox’s Pike. Providing compression adjustment in the open setting makes sense as this is where riders will be looking to dial in the best possible descending performance. In addition, a dual circuit rebound allows the fork to keep up with high frequency impacts, and to recover from deeper hits in a more controllable manner.

The new FIT4 damper features a new self-equalizing positive and negative air spring, doing away with the negative coil spring used before. Since the negative air spring is self-adjusting when charging the main chamber air pressure, lighter and heavier riders are all served equally with the optimum negative pressure and small bump compliance.

34 NA2 topcap with spacers .75 view.jpg
Further adjustment comes in the form of volume spacers, yellow plastic blocks that interlock together. They adjust the spring rate and make the fork more progressive through its travel. Changing volume spacers in the 34 Float is an easy internal adjustment that allows you to change the amount of mid stroke and bottom out resistance. If you have set your sag correctly and are using full travel (bottoming out) too easily, then you could install one or more spacers to increase bottom out resistance. If you have set your sag correctly and are not using full travel, then you could remove one or more spacers to decrease bottom out resistance. The fork comes with one spacer installed right out of the box. For a 160mm travel fork, up to four spacers can be installed. For a 110 mm fork, up to seven spacers can be installed as there is more room inside the fork at full compression.

Ours came with the 3-position remote lever that simultaneously changes the setting on the fork and shock. While I do understand that some riders may like it, I'm not a fan. Every so often I will flick a shock into the middle Trail / Medium setting when out riding or when pedaling away on long up hill sections. I would, however, hardly ever take a fork out of the full open mode. Something that was highlighted with the 2015 CTD Forks / Shocks: descend mode wasn't really rideable which meant I kept the fork in the middle Trail / Medium setting, but if I were using this remote it would set the shock to the middle setting as well. This results in a compromise in terms of setup and on trail use. Maybe makes sense on a bike designed to race XCO, but I still need to be convinced that it has a place on a trail or Enduro bike.

2016 Fox 34 8.jpg

Rebound adjustment is done by turning the red knob at the bottom of the right lower. There are 9 clicks from slowest to fastest. I found Fox's setup guide to be spot on in terms of amount of clicks needed to match the psi I was running.


2016 Fox 34 6.jpg

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On the Trail


2016 Fox 34 1.jpg

We were fortunate enough to be sent a 130mm FLOAT 34 Factory Series to test on the Momsen Bikes VIPA TRAIL running prototype. Claimed weight for the fork is 1,81kg which is close to 300g lighter than the comparable model from 2015. This was achieved by removing 34g from the steerer tube, 31g out of the crown, 53g from the upper tubes, 49g out of the lowers, and 130g with the new Positive / Negative Float air spring. A job well done by the Fox engineers.

Let's start with what you're really here for: the MY16 34 is a night and day improvement over the 2015 model. There's the usual tuning that needs to happen in order to extract the maximum out of the fork and to get it to your liking, but I can't imagine anyone riding this fork and not being able to feel the improvement in performance straight away. Forget what you know about the CTD 34 - this is not merely an incremental or evolutionary release.


2016 Fox 34 6.jpg

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No longer is setting up the fork one of compromise. All the changes made add up to a highly tuneable fork with a wide range. You could, for example, set the air pressure lower (within reason) for initial small bump sensitivity and then add air volume spacers as needed to make the fork ramp up in compression force to prevent bottoming out during big hits. Riders of all weights and levels can now tune the spring curve of their fork to maximize the travel for their needs.

System friction has been reduced to levels only ever read about. Making the 2016 FOX 34 buttery smooth all the way through its travel. Trail performance is controlled without showing any signs of "dive" under braking or when landing bigger jumps or drop-offs. I'm very happy to report that the full open mode is now rideable.


2016 Fox 34 4.jpg

2016 Fox 34 11.jpg


Out on the trail, I have not missed the external adjustment for high-speed compression as found on the 36 RC2. Maybe I don't ride hard enough or just too focused to hang when the speed picks up! Speaking of which, once at speed the fork tracks and steers with razor sharp precision showing no sign of flex or letting up.

Thanks to the sorted on trail performance there was no need to fiddle with the 3-position remote lever.

Verdict


While we obviously can't comment on long term reliability just yet, things sure are looking rosy for Fox. With the new 34 FLOAT FOX does not only close the gap created by RockShox's Pike, it takes it head on for the crown. It is plush, smooth and stiff all while being class-leading light. Fitting the FOX 34 Float to the VIPA TRAIL breathed new life into the bike and gave the frame the fork it needed to reach it's full potential.

Trail and Enduro riders rejoice.






50 Comments

Odinson, Jul 14 2015 02:11

"Like a South African wild tiger's tail". 

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Jul 14 2015 02:13

Brilliant... Now only if they'd come down in price!!

JXV, Jul 14 2015 03:06

So I was quite happy with my 2014 version of this fork ... until reading this. Sure it is heavier and less plush on small bumps than the Pike but it was what my bike came with.

R15k to upgrade is bit of a shocker although I'm tempted. I would likely go for the Talas version So I can drop the front for climbing.

Iwan Kemp, Jul 15 2015 07:25

Yeah, it's a lot of money, but at least you will be getting a piece of kit that is at the top of the game.

 

What bike do you have?

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Jul 15 2015 07:36

15k actually isn't all that bad for the Factory FIT version. That's still less than a Pike RCT3... 

NicoBoshoff, Jul 15 2015 08:24

15k actually isn't all that bad for the Factory FIT version. That's still less than a Pike RCT3... 

What does the Pike go for now then??? I thought it was around R13k?

Brawler, Jul 15 2015 08:36

15k actually isn't all that bad for the Factory FIT version. That's still less than a Pike RCT3... 

 

Pike is 12 or 13? Never seen it for R15k.

 

Here is one for R11299

 

http://www.capemulti...ame,ProductName

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Jul 15 2015 09:08

What does the Pike go for now then??? I thought it was around R13k?

my bad...

JXV, Jul 16 2015 04:35



What bike do you have?


TB LTc

Any merit going the Talas version? I like the idea of lowering the front for climbing.

camelman, Jul 16 2015 06:20

TB LTc

Any merit going the Talas version? I like the idea of lowering the front for climbing.

Just remember that usually you lose some tuneability with the TALAS as the spacers cannot be inserted in the air chamber due to the Talas mechanism. If Fox managed to incorporate the spacers in the TALAS version you have a winner on your hands. Iwan?

Iwan Kemp, Jul 16 2015 01:40

Just remember that usually you lose some tuneability with the TALAS as the spacers cannot be inserted in the air chamber due to the Talas mechanism. If Fox managed to incorporate the spacers in the TALAS version you have a winner on your hands. Iwan?

 

Only way to do something kinda similar on the Talas would be to add some extra oil. Volume spacers on the Talas is not an option as it's a complete, closed unit.

Iwan Kemp, Jul 16 2015 01:42

TB LTc

Any merit going the Talas version? I like the idea of lowering the front for climbing.

 

Regardless of bike I always say go fixed travel. A TBLT is not that tall or slack that you shouldn't be able to ride around max fork travel on the steepest climbs. 

Iwan Kemp, Jul 20 2015 02:43

Have checked pricing between the 34 and the Pike and they are more or less the same. Couple of 100 bucks either way so it'll come down to which retailer will give you the best deal.

 

I am of course talking RRP here.

Eddie Stafford, Jul 20 2015 02:59

Is that a light on the downtube of the test bike? Why?

Plentipotential, Jul 20 2015 03:05

What does the Pike go for now then??? I thought it was around R13k?

 

http://www.chainreac...6/rp-prod136304

 

GBP 600.00 about R 11500.00 delivered to my sons door and get a mate to bring it home for me. Way better than a Fox.

Plentipotential, Jul 20 2015 03:11

Or you could go with last years deal for GBP 430.00

Iwan Kemp, Jul 20 2015 03:17

Is that a light on the downtube of the test bike? Why?

 

It's a Fly6 HD Camera / Tail Light combo. Easiest to mount all over the bike, easy to use and takes great video. Used to track suspension set up and performance. This is what the bike looks like on the day (Other cams / lights were removed for the shot)

 

11380750_1466474303669926_10776065_n.jpg

raptor-22, Jul 20 2015 03:17

System friction has been reduced to levels only ever read about. Making the 2016 FOX 34 buttery smooth all the way through its travel.

 

 

 

 

Can you please tell us at what temperature this was ascertained?

 

Butter is not very smooth at high and low temperatures......

 

 

 

Nice review and seems to bear out what I have found with the 2016 Float 32

Iwan Kemp, Jul 20 2015 03:49

Can you please tell us at what temperature this was ascertained?

Butter is not very smooth at high and low temperatures......


Wine cellar room temperature

raptor-22, Jul 20 2015 04:32

Ok I see.
Last question. Was the fork actually ridden? It's very clean for a tested mtb fork

Iwan Kemp, Jul 20 2015 04:41

Ok I see.
Last question. Was the fork actually ridden? It's very clean for a tested mtb fork

 

Yes. I keep my stuff clean so it'll last longer and I show the same respect and care for review gear. Nothing that'll stop the flow of kit as quick as returning something in a beaten up state. 

I like review pics to show the gear. Ride pics can be muddy, dirty and fun.

JXV, Jul 20 2015 04:55

Yes. I keep my stuff clean so it'll last longer and I show the same respect and care for review gear. Nothing that'll stop the flow of kit as quick as returning something in a beaten up state.

I like review pics to show the gear. Ride pics can be muddy, dirty and fun.

Raptor 22 there other reviews of this new fork that mention similar improvements in the feel and riding experience.

Not sure why you are taking Iwan on about his review. Your 'butter' comment borders on sarcasm and the latest one suggests that the reviewer wrote the review without actually riding the fork.

raptor-22, Jul 20 2015 05:04

I don't know. I read these reviews and they all beautifully written .Iwan reviews well but I don't know him/her .

All these reviews read similarly with a smattering of personal taste thrown in.

So sorry to offend it's just like the doping saga you know, difficult to believe the bikes are actually ridden when they look like they rolled of a showroom floor.

raptor-22, Jul 20 2015 05:06

Ps "buttery smooth " is not a concept I am familiar with. Smooth is though but buttery smooth is such a mtb cliché.
I've read about 5 reviews on this fork with similar clichés so it just makes one suspicious

LazyEnduroRider, Jul 20 2015 05:08

Raptor-22, if you had a look at my bikes you'd most likely also think they never see dirt.

 

Iwan's stuff is always meticulously maintained. I make my living ensuring that attention is paid to detail, some of us just roll like that.