Fox has been a busy company lately – not only have they acquired Race Face and Easton, they’ve also been pumping out new product like there’s no tomorrow. It’s clear Fox has stepped up their game, and there’s lots of exciting product on hand for 2016. I’ve managed to get my hands on the new Fox Float X2 and the Float DPS rear shocks. Over several weeks of testing and flogging, I’ve got some thoughts to share on these two new offerings from Fox.
First up, I’ll quickly discuss the difference between these two shocks, that way you can decide if one suits your needs better than the other. The Float X2 is an all-new rear shock from Fox, and is intended for longer travel trail bikes, as well as downhill bikes. The X2 features a piggyback reservoir, and offers a wide range of external adjustability including high/low speed compression and high/low speed rebound – an unprecedented range of adjustments for any previous Fox rear shock. The Float DPS EVOL is the evolution of the previous CTD rear shock from Fox, intended for shorter travel XC and trail bikes. It features an all-new Dual Piston System, with three external compression settings: Open, Medium, and Firm. Read on about the Float DPS EVOL on the next paragraph, or skip down to the Float X2 review below.
FOX FLOAT DPS EVOL FACTORY
I have ridden many different trail bikes over the years with many different air shocks. My previous experiences with Fox air shocks are fairly limited though. I did have a Float CTD on my 2014 Intense Tracer 275, and while it was a decent performer, it wasn’t really anything to write home about. Fast forward to 2015, I have been riding an Evil Following for several months now. The bike came with a Rock Shox Monarch RT3 Debonair rear shock on it, specifically tuned for the bike. Quite honestly, it’s a great rear shock for that bike, and I had a feeling it would be tough to find anything better. My main complaint with the Monarch is that it’s too linear, especially bolted up to a shorter travel rig such as the Following – a bike that likes to be ridden HARD. I found that I was bottoming out at least two or three times during a normal ride. I ended up tracking down some Monarch volume spacers (which was no easy task), and installed two in the outer air chamber to make the shock more progressive. That definitely did the trick, and after that, I had no complaints on the Monarch.
The Float DPS EVOL is sporting a couple new acronyms as you’ve likely figured out. The DPS stands for Dual Piston System, which is basically the new CTD. This allows you to use the blue lever on the shock to switch between Open, Medium, and Firm compression settings. The Factory model (tested), offers an additional three clicks of low-speed compression adjustment in the Open setting for fine tuning your ride. The three main settings are distinct, although I find I only use the Open and Firm settings. Firm is nearly locked out, which is great for climbing. Open is exactly what it sounds like – wide open and ready for descending/big hits. The Medium is an in-between setting, generally intended for up-and-down trail riding with a mix of flat pedaling, and small bumps. The EVOL is an optional higher volume air sleeve, available on sizes 7.5”, 7.875”, and 8.5”. Evil recommended the EVOL sleeve for the Following, so that is what I received. The EVOL air sleeve is said to reduce the force needed to initiate travel, and provide improved small bump absorption. Volume spacers can also be added to fine tune progressivity. Other than those changes, the Float DPS is similar in appearance/layout to Fox’s previous Float CTD rear shocks.
It’s important to note that I did need to order a custom-tuned Float DPS for the Following. It is not a stock shock, straight out of the box. Fox offers a custom tuning program, wherein you can give them the exact specs/recommendations for your bike, and they build your shock to those specs. I got the base-tune specs from Evil, and provided them to Fox. It takes about 2 – 3 days to get a shock custom tuned at Fox, and costs around $85 on top of the $450 retail price of the shock. It is an added cost, but you do have peace of mind knowing that the shock is tuned exactly for your bike. It is best to inquire with your frame manufacturer to see if they recommend a custom tune. The exact shock tune for the Following is:
- Internal travel spacer to reduce stroke from 1.75″ to 1.68″
- Light compression tune (medium is stock)
- Light climb tune for Firm setting (medium is stock)
If you happen to be in the market for this shock, and you’re on an Evil Following, then we’ve got you covered. We have done the legwork to get a batch of these shocks specifically tuned for the Following, and since we’re stocking them, they do not incur the $85 upcharge. If you’re interested in getting one, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once bolted up to my Following, I set the sag to 30% (recommended by Evil), tweaked the rebound a bit, and headed to the trail. I did notice right off the bat how smooth the shock felt – buttery smooth would not be an overstatement. Right on par with the Monarch in my opinion, which is an improvement over previous Fox rear shocks. Seems the EVOL air sleeve is doing it’s job, but I’ll reserve my final opinion for now. Naturally my trail ride started with a climb, so I flipped the lever to Firm. This setting is quite firm, nearly locked out so it certainly quickens the bike on fire road climbs, and will remove pedal feedback on most bikes. For technical climbs, you may want to use the Medium setting for slightly more give. I found that the Following already has a fantastic pedaling platform, and eventually I ended up just leaving the shock in Open at all times.
After several weeks on the Float DPS, I have given it a proper thrashing, and taken it on some rides that would make most air shocks shake in their shoes. Most notably, I recently did the Disneyland heli-drop in Squamish, BC which entailed nearly 6000 feet vertical descent in a relatively short distance. In fact, one segment of the trail is referred to as “The Hellevators”, which is no joke. Steep, loose, and heinous are a few words that accurately describe this segment of trail. In fact, three years ago I would have been on a downhill bike on this trail, no doubt. Bikes and suspension have come a long ways though, so I found myself perched at the top of The Hellevators on board a 120mm travel 29’er with my Float DPS rear shock and 34 Float 140 fork. If there’s anywhere to prove your guts and gear, it’s this trail. The Float DPS really has performed flawlessly since I mounted it. I have not had to fuss with anything, and simply put, the shock feels great. Most notably, the Float DPS is very lively and supple – more so than any of the Float CTD’s I’ve ridden in the past. I found it to be just progressive enough to resist bottoming on most hits. Occasionally I will bottom out on super harsh hits, but that’s to be expected. I have not had to fuss with any volume spacers like I did with the Monarch – the shock feels dead on. Even on super long, sustained descents (AKA Hellevators), I don’t notice any signs of stiction or heat-related performance loss. The shock simply took hit after hit, and seemingly endless steep, rigorous descents with zero complaints. Small-bump sensitivity is excellent, I did not notice any hangups in fast and loose chatter.
Fox has definitely made some great improvements with the Float DPS, and I think it is a well-rounded trail bike shock, that can take a surprising amount of punishment. It is a huge step forward in my book from the previous CTD shocks without a doubt. My only gripe is minor, and it’s going to hold true for most inline-style shocks. The truth of the matter is, if your bike requires a custom tune, this shock will not perform at it’s best unless you have it tuned at Fox for an extra $85. You can buy a Float X2 for $595, and essentially custom tune the shock yourself since it has full external adjustability. But of course, the Float X2 is quite a lot heavier, and will not fit on all bikes (the Following included). That’s where Rock Shox has Fox beat – we have the ability to fully tune a Monarch shock right here at Fanatik in our suspension department, saving you the hassle of sending it elsewhere to have it tuned. Until Fox provides us with the tooling and parts to perform in-house tunes on their rear shocks, that will be par for the course, though still not a huge deal in the big picture. And like I said earlier, if you happen to be in the market for “Following-tuned” Float DPS, we’ve got you covered at no extra cost.
Fox Float DPS EVOL Factory Quick Specs
- Verified weight: 276 grams for 7.25″ x 2″
- 3-way adjustable compression (Open, Medium, Firm) with three added fine-tune clicks in Open
- Adjustable rebound
- Adjustable air spring
- EVOL air can available on 7.5”, 7.875” and 8.5” sizes
- Polymer DU bushings
- Kashima coated stanchion and air can
FOX FLOAT X2 FACTORY
Now, onto the Float X2 – an all new big-hit air shock targeted towards the gravity crowd. I ride a 2015 Devinci Wilson Carbon downhill bike, and I’ve always been keen on finding an air shock for it, which has proved to be no easy task. The Wilson Carbon uses a 10.5” x 3.5” shock size, and Devinci really does not recommend running an air shock on this bike due to the stroke length and suspension kinematics. The bike was designed around a coil shock, which is understandable. That said, I had seen photos of prototype versions of the Float X2 mounted up to various downhill bikes throughout the 2014 world cup race season, and it seemed Fox was working hard to make this a truly capable downhill air shock. When Fox released it earlier this year, I was eager to give it a go.
The Float X2 is Fox’s first rear shock that can be almost fully adjusted externally (with the exception of adding/removing volume spacers). It offers separate high/low speed compression and high/low speed rebound, as well as air spring pressure, which is more external adjustability than Fox has ever offered on a rear shock. Generally speaking, the longer the stroke, the harder it is to find an air shock that is up to the task. The 3.5” stroke Float X2 I am testing is as long as they come, so this is truly a tough test, and should provide a good idea of what this thing is capable of. Out of the box, my Float X2 came with five volume spacers installed in the EVOL air sleeve. You can install up to twelve in the 3.5” stroke model, so I found an extra seven volume spacers in the box (thank you Fox for including these in the box!). I adjusted the air pressure to hit my target 38% sag, but after a couple rides, it was clear that I needed to add some volume spacers. I found that I was bottoming out on relatively small drops and g-outs. I popped in two more volume spacers, and that did the trick – no more bottom outs, and the shock felt properly progressive on board the Wilson.
My testing grounds for this shock has mostly consisted of Whistler, which as we know, provides a huge variety of terrain and variable conditions. This has been a hard year on the Whistler bike park, with temperatures soaring into the 90’s on a regular basis, and record-breaking dry periods. That spells disaster for trails – I can honestly say that in my ten years riding Whistler, I have never seen the trails in worse condition. Not great for personal enjoyment, but GREAT for testing a rear shock! Seemingly endless brake bumps, massive holes, and generally blown-out trails were the norm while testing the Float X2 – not to mention hellishly hot weather.
The Float X2 is a ridiculously supple rear shock, it takes almost zero effort to initiate the travel. Granted, part of that is because of my particular setup on my bike, but it’s impressive nonetheless. It actually feels more supple off the top of the stroke than the previous Rock Shox Vivid R2C coil rear shock I had mounted on the bike. Brake bumps and small chatter are absorbed with seemingly no effort, they simply disappear into the travel of the bike. One of my main complaints with the previous Fox DHX rear shocks, especially on longer stroke models, was their overall dead and overdamped feeling. Fox made every effort to overcome that issue, and they achieved a much more lively feeling platform on the Float X2. It’s super easy to pop the bike and be playful when I feel like it, which is important to me even though I’m on a race-oriented DH bike. I did find that I needed to set the high and low speed rebound adjustments wide open to get the bike feeling how I wanted it. That may seem strange, but it’s actually just about on point if you reference Fox’s tuning guide for my particular air spring pressure setup (right around 110 psi). For bigger riders, and for shorter stroke models, you will likely need to run both rebound adjustments 5 – 10 clicks from open. The same holds true for my compression settings, I run them just 2 – 3 clicks from open. A 3mm allen key is needed to adjust low speed rebound/compression, and a 6mm allen key for the high speed rebound/compression. Allen keys are not included with the shock. Thanks to the tilted orientation of the piggyback, it is easy to make adjustments on the bike.
Heat dissipation plays a big role in how air shocks perform, especially on longer sustained descents. I definitely put the Float X2 through it’s paces, lapping Whistler bike park on 95° days. I did notice, towards the end of those long laps, the shock would start making a bit of noise – I could tell it was working hard to dissipate that heat build up. The shock stanchion itself was actually too hot to touch on some occasions. Even still, I noticed very little loss in damping performance and/or suppleness, so while it may be hot to the touch, and making a bit of a noise, it doesn’t seem to be affecting the overall ride quality.
So far, after a couple months of testing, I have not once been inclined to put my Vivid coil back on the bike. It’s just sitting in my toolbox, neglected and all alone. I can say with decent certainty that the Float X2 is a solid choice to replace a coil shock on a downhill bike, and a great way to drop some significant weight. I saved nearly a pound on my bike when I installed the Float X2. Since I have only tested the big-gun 10.5” x 3.5” model, I can’t say for certain how shorter stroke versions of the shock performs on AM/Enduro bikes, but I’d venture a guess to say that it will get the job done with very little effort. If you’re looking for a solid, reliable, and hugely adjustable big-hit air shock, the Float X2 is a worthy contender.
Fox Float X2 Factory Quick Specs
- Verified weight: 575 grams for 10.5″ x 3.5″, 472 grams for 7.875″ x 2.25″
- Externally adjustable high/low speed compression and high/low speed rebound
- Adjustable air spring
- EVOL air can stock on all sizes (7.875” x 2” – 10.5” x 3.5”)
- Polymer DU bushings
- Kashima coated stanchion and air can