It’s been over a decade since mountain biking was simply mountain biking. Somehow, in the intervening years, cycling has become segmented into dozens of niches. From cross country to downhill, the variety of bikes and accessories for every specific occasion has swollen.
Get past the marketing haze and it’s obvious that cycling technology is outpacing Moore’s Law. The products keep getting lighter, stronger, and cheaper, and maybe (just maybe) you can have it all.
This year, Fox is introducing two new suspension products targeted towards the trail/enduro market that should straddle the happy medium of weight and performance, so you can have your cake and it eat too. Drop past the break to find out if they delivered.
Meet the New Fox Talas
With the emergence of new wheel sizes and the popularity of the Enduro racing format, rider demands have changed, and the new Fox Talas has been redesigned accordingly. The new fork is designed to offer flexible travel adjustments without any sacrifice in performance or reliability.
To that end, the new TALAS utilizes the same updated spring curve found in the new 2014 Float forks. The updated air spring increases compression damping throughout all the modes and in particular improves the forks performance in descend mode, by holding the fork higher in it’s travel during aggressive braking and cornering.
When the TALAS feature was originally created, it was envisioned as a climbing aid. Riders would utilize the short travel mode to pedal up hill and would descend in the long travel mode. As frame geometries have evolved and larger wheel diameters have come into vogue, riders have had to fight increasingly taller and slacker front ends up the hill. To combat this, the new TALAS employs the a similar spring rate in both short and long travel modes, so it can be ridden (or raced) aggressively in both travel settings. Which can drastically liven up the bike in slower or tighter sections of trail and make it easier to pedal aggressively through relatively flat sections.
In the old fork, the travel adjustment feature was achieved by two separate components working together in unison. The new design decouples the air and travel systems to improve reliability and decrease stiction. An in-line hydraulic system at the top of the fork leg utilizes one dynamic seal, as opposed to the three in the outgoing system, to reduce friction in the air spring for more supple travel.
Below the travel adjust cartridge sits an air spring that closely resembles the current Float cartridge.
Because the air and hydraulic systems are separate, servicing each component has been greatly simplified, and new consumer tune-able travel ranges are possible. For those who want to convert their 150mm Talas to a 160mm travel, or vice versa, a shuttle bumper located in the float cartridge can be swapped to increase/decrease travel by 10mm. In addition, 5mm clip on spacers (pictured on right) can be added on the outside of the hydraulic shaft to decrease the total travel in short travel setting by unthreading the top cap. In all, each TALAS fork has up to 30mm of internal adjustability.
The throw on the travel adjustment lever has been shorted by a quarter turn for easier adjustment and the entire assembly is retrofit-able into most existing TALAS models.
For years the much maligned DHX Air shock has quietly been ignored by both the aftermarket and OEM markets in favor of the excellent RP23 (and 2013 Float CTD) shock. The new Float X is targeted towards aggressive riders on bikes with 140mm-180mm travel that want more performance at a minimal weight.
The reservoir design uses increased oil volume to mitigate heat build up and the dual valving offers better damping control by distributing the damping loads. Each compression mode (Climb, Trail, Descend) has its own specific circuit to restrict or increase oil for for specific performance gains.
The Float X does away with the Propedal and boost valve adjustments of the DHX in favor of the new CTD nomenclature, which offers riders three on the fly compression adjustments, and five low speed compression settings. Hidden at the very top of the shock body is the rebound adjuster.
Redesigned CTD Shock Lever
The ability to cycle through different compression modes using a handlebar mounted lever isn’t new, but this new unobtrusive mount is. Using a single cable with a splitter, it’s capable of controlling both your front and rear shock. Laugh now, but this is the sort of thing racers need for the competitive edge in events like Enduro where timed descents are frequently littered with short steep climbs.
This year, the Fox TALAS and Float X press camp culminated with a wet weekend of enduro racing in Hood River, Oregon. When I touched down with my Rocky Mountain Altitude, I was greeted with pouring rain, and the weather continued to be as temperamental as a bad hangover for the duration of our stay. Over the course of a few minutes it frequently alternated between overcast and glorious and trail conditions benefited and suffered accordingly. With each new corner presenting a different challenge, our four day excursion was filled with incredible vistas and some amusing crashes.
The location, despite the inclement weather, was perfect for testing the new suspension products. The seven different Enduro stages and accompanying transfer climbs presented a unique opportunity to ride the components in a race environment, where every adjustment is critical.
With several shuttles throughout the day ferrying racers to the top of the mountain, climbing at this venue wasn’t particularly daunting, but the mud build up and one “pedaly” timed section made me extremely grateful for the travel adjust feature and firm climbing platform. What was immediately evident upon setting up the new fork is how smooth it feels. After years of disappointing reliability and horrible stiction, I had completely sworn off travel adjust forks, but the new TALAS is an altogether different beast. It feels like a Float – in both short and long travel modes.
The Talas also benefits from the completely revamped 2014 CTD tune, which increased the compression ratio of the air spring across the entire line up. As a result of the new tune, the fork is far more progressive than older models, and my initial 20% sag setting was too stiff. The new air spring calls for a pressure range between 100-200 PSI, but at 140 lbs geared with 125 PSI in the fork, I wasn’t able to use the full travel except for a few big hits. Since returning to California and riding more familiar (read as dry) trails, I’ve let out 10 PSI for my initial setting. Even with the ultra plush setup, the fork no longer wallows under hard braking or into corners.
In Oregon, while racing 10 minute long descents, the rebound and compression remained consistent on the Float X shock. But again, it wasn’t until I came back to California and rode through a sustained high speed rocky descent that I really appreciated the performance gains of the Float X over the 2013 Float. When pushed, the shock devours impacts that would have normally made the bike feel skittish.
In conjunction with the fork, the CTD modes pair well together, but the Talas feels more progressive than the shock equipped on our bike. This could be due to the leverage curve of our frame, but we’ll have to experiment with the frames geometry chips and shock volume spacers to learn for certain.
Overall, the new Fox Talas and Float X offer huge improvements over their predecessors and I wouldn’t hesitate to run either product. Both the previous generation Talas and DHX Air were good , but the execution left something lacking . For 2014, Fox has addressed all the complaints customers have had in the past about stiction, reliability, and performance, and have created a stellar kit in the process.