High performance racing bicycle technology and technique
Mountain Bike - FOX 32SC Fork and Float DPS Damper
Thursday, June 7th, 2018

 

FOX 32SC Fork and Float DPS Damper

 

Robert Matsusek

 

A review of the FOX 32SC Fork and Float DPS Damper.

 

FOX has created something distinctive with their 32SC fork and Float DPS damper. I had the opportunity to subject them to a long-term test and do some profound tinkering. Let’s take a look at the FOX 32SC Fork and Float DPS Damper.

 

The FOX 32SC and Float DPS damper

The FOX 32SC and Float DPS damper

 

First off let’s take a look at the FOX 32SC and Float DPS damper’s features and options.

 

Fork Options/Features.

 

15QRx110 Boost and 15QRx100 Kabolt axle options
27.5” and 29” wheel options
100 mm travel
FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper for improved control
Lockout for increased efficiency
Factory Series models feature;
Genuine Kashima Coat
Colour options – Gloss Orange, Matte Black, Gloss White

 

Damper Options/Features

 

Lever actuated Open, Medium and Firm modes
Open mode adjust tuning range (1, 2, 3)
Rebound: Air spring pressure

 

Air Sleeve and Body Finish: Kashima Coat

 

You get three colour options, it's orange for me!

You get three colour options, it’s orange for me!

 

From the start FOX’s target has been point-blank: the 32SC was to be their lightest XC fork ever. The question though is how to merge a skinny fork with certain amount of robustness? With suspension forks, low weight is associated with a lack of performance and flex. If that is the case, I appreciate it when a brand makes an honest statement in regard to targeted rider weight range or limit.

 

FOX clearly emphasise that their 32SC doesn’t make short cuts in performance, meaning they meant to live up to their renewed and massively improved damping performance and adjustability. There are numerous tests out there that proved FOX’s point, so I have been focusing more on my personal project, namely to push the boundaries and fiddle around.

 

For my XC race riding style and race weight of 58 KG the FOX 32SC and DPS damper are literally custom-made. That said never in my life have I dug this deep in regard to tuning. Besides testing all the adjustability the FOX 32SC features, I tested different oils [viscosity], oil volume, tokens, etc. And for good measure I installed a tuning cartridge.

 

What's under the hood?

What’s under the hood?

 

The factory set-up had me 90% satisfied. However, I wanted to fine tune it even more: how to get this fork more effective on steep uphill tarmac without applying a lock out function? A certain movement will always be there whether you like it or not. And that’s fine with me, since I am an advocate of an active and dynamic suspension.

 

The FOX DPS Factory damper had been subjected to the very same procedure. It was fascinating to fine tune both parts simultaneously. Normally it shouldn’t cause any challenge to set them up, but I meant to make it an experiment for the above reason. So I wanted to prove my point to exploit FOX’s capabilities even further. To make an analogy, it’s like a chip tuning of a car engine.

 

The whole tuning marathon started with FOX’s Float air spring which is adjustable with air volume spacers. Due to my riding style I could use it even without the spacers or just with one in there. They provided enough progression for my riding style and managed it with zero unwelcome bottom out.

 

 

Next I tinkered with different oil viscosities and volumes. During this process I tested five different fork oil brands. I even went so far as to try water with motor oil too! I would never ever recommend this tuning measure, even though I’m not the only one to have tried this. In order to exclude any harm to the seals, after my engine oil affair I swapped the seal for new ones. In doing so I also tested non-FOX bushings too. Compared to the original one, only the Enduro proved to be slightly smoother.

 

I appreciated the greater oil flow through the base valve which is a given by the FIT RC2 10mm shaft architecture. Its specific cartridge design and damping-tune allows more controlled return from hard hits, and faster recovery from successive impacts. This behaviour has been augmented by lower oil viscosity.

 

Here's the step that gives the fork their Step Cast name

Here’s the step that gives the fork their Step Cast name

 

For me it has been very useful that FOX provides spot-on low-speed compression adjustment. That has been the area I tuned the most, since, as mentioned above, I tried to work with locking the fork out. Could I achieve a similar effect at the same time? Back when I tested FOX’s earlier iterations, my attempts failed big time. But I deem FOX’s newest fork a massive improvement.

 

I was surprised how little time was necessary to break in the fork. Chances are it’s also associated with my experimentations with different viscosities, etc. But truth be told, the factory performance was supple. After every test ride I was surprised to learn how far the rubber ring moved on the stanchion, meaning it used almost its whole travel. Every time it’s been such a smooth affair, I didn’t really feel it moving. Its small bump suppleness didn’t come up short either and that without excessive diving.

 

On the fly adjustments are made via the fork top

On the fly adjustments are made via the fork top

 

It’s futile to compare it to longer travel forks, but I have been satisfied even when a base factory oil was applied. Even in lockout mode, which is reasonably firm, there is always a nice smooth sensation. The mid setting adjustability enhances this feeling even more. I am not seeking the ultimate comfort, after all this fork is targeted for a performance rider. But a definite amount of suppleness is very welcome – most of all during longish stage races and 24 hour solo rides that this fork had been subjected to.

 

The FOX 32SC is a great illustration of fork technology progress. Compared to other brands I tested previously, FOX gave me a larger realm of optimisation. Both, in terms of factory adjustments and that of applying different methods. Again, my experimentation was triggered by my curiosity, could I can fine tune it to my liking, weight, riding style, etc even more.? By no means do I endorse some of the methods I have been experimenting with. But if someone is so inclined to go beyond the factory-set potential, there is a realm to do so.

 

Stiffness: It goes without saying that it has been completely adequate for my riding style and weight. My subjective negative feeling of not being stiff enough has only been caused by its visual appearance. After all, by way of its construction and sculpted legs the 32SC fork is unusually skinny. I came to accept it quickly, however. I didn’t manage to twist it with 160mm discs rotors.

 

 

Float DPS Damper:

 

I went through the very same test procedure and tuning methods with the Float DPS Damper. Numerous oil viscosities, and alternative seals were tried in order to elevate its performance. The results were a mixed bag. The bottom line, I have to humbly admit, is that FOX’s factory adjustability and settings are damn good. Yes, indeed, I managed to tune it to my liking even more. But it is just me. If your requirements are in line with FOX’s performance and features, you’re good to go without the hassle of never-ending tuning with non-FOX parts

 

There's plenty of adjustability available

There’s plenty of adjustability available

 

Long term durability

 

Thus far, no issues at all, which is not always a given. After all, both parts endured endless tinkering, taxing racing, all with minimal maintenance, I expected some sort of wear, damage even. I am intrigued by how both will fare long-term. As I said, both the fork and damper endured arduous races and rides under harsh conditions. I think basic maintenance and periodical complete service is all they will need to keep them running. I had been moderately sceptical given the fork’s minimallistic construction. But not only is it robust and reliable enough, the thing amazes me the most is its deep well of possibilities to exploit its potential even more.

 

 

The newest iteration of the FOX 32SC fork and Float DPS damper taught me one thing: yes you can go ahead and tune them beyond FOX’s given features. And you can be successful in doing so. After we all have different expectations and personal preferences. But it amazes me how much you can do with the FOX 32SC and Float DPS damper. The only investment is your time and commitment to follow through. Test ride it over and over again.

 

Another test installment will follow with the next experimentation session. Thus far though: well done FOX!

 

Buy FOX 32SC

 

FOX

 



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