On a bike like our Rallon, the suspension is one of the things that require special care and attention. We’ve debuted and adjusted new FOX fork and shocks. Specifically, the Fox 38 Float GRIP2 Factory fork and the Float X2 Factory shock and DHX2 Factory shock.
The test took place at the Team Camp we held in Lousã (Portugal) in early March. “For FOX, cooperating with Orbea and the team riders is important for developing and improving our technology,” says Jordi Cortés, Race Support Manager of the US company.
“The good thing about working on-site with the FOX specialists is that we get the best results in a lot less time.” Says Primož Štrancar the Orbea FOX Enduro team Manager. Štrancar emphasizes “we focus on the sensations of the riders, to suggest changes in the suspension configuration.” Damien Oton, the new team leader, shares this vision & quote; “The sensations of the rider are important, but testing material with FOX engineers and benefiting from their vision is crucial to me. They are the top experts when it comes to configuring their suspensions,” he observes.
THE BASE FOR COMPETITION
“The Team Camp has allowed us to try out the new FOX suspensions in the field and understand how our athlete’s ride. We use this time to define a basic suspension set up that we will use as a starting point for all competition. There can be slight changes from one race to the next, by having a base setting we can anticipate changes and react quickly,” Says head mechanic Javi Lorenzo.
The secret is to find the right setting for each race.
Starting with the sag, the trend in enduro is to go a little softer with the longer travel bikes, trying to make the most of each centimeter. “FOX recommends a 20% sag in the fork and 25-30% in the shock; we work in this range, although we can vary it a bit, depending on the terrain and the rider. For example, we might vary between 22% and 28%, respectively,” Javi observes.
SAG, COMPRESSION, AND REBOUND
In addition to sag, both compression and rebound values, affect how the suspension behaves. The sag is adjusted by changing the air pressure, or by adjusting the spring rate (depending on the type of shock used).
Compression and rebound are the two main parameters that determine the control over the suspensions. Both vary according to the terrain and the riding style of each competitor. They control the fork sag speed and recovery, respectively.
“One of the things that have surprised me the most about the new Fox 38 fork,” says our mechanic, “is that we can work with greater pressure without losing sensitivity; we’re talking about nearly 20 PSI more.”
The result: greater comfort. Even though we use more air pressure, we still have very good initial sensitivity, and the progressiveness of the fork does not change too much. The riding position remains stable and we take advantage of the full travel.
FOX also confirms these first impressions: “We’ve developed a fork from scratch, full of innovations that provide performance and feel similar to that of a downhill fork.”
“Another interesting aspect is the new air bleed system on the lower fork legs,” Javi adds. Sometimes, due to the altitude and other factors, air can build up between the uppers and lowers, affecting the feel of the fork. By pressing with your fingers on the two ports located on the back of the lowers, you can easily release this built-up air and maintain the good feel of the suspension.
A TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH
“I would also call attention to the changes in the compression valve,” he adds. The compression valve has been changed and the adjustment dial now has fewer clicks, but they are more noticeable and all are effective.” This is noticeable in both the fork and the shock dials, which have also been redesigned.
The new FOX fork comes with a new cartridge, new bottles and a new anchoring system on the wheel axle. The system is locked with a safety screw that prevents the axle from coming loose. “This contributes to the greater rigidity of the entire unit,” Javi Lorenzo says.
Another aspect highlighted by our mechanic is the increase in the sanction size from 36 to 38. “This way, the fork better supports all the forces it is subjected to in increasingly more demanding enduro competition.”
If the 38 fork represented a revolution, the X2 shocks (both coil and air) have also been completely revamped. “They are now better suited to high and low-frequency performance and with an evolution in the pedaling platform that keeps the bike more composed on the rough train, with a surprising level of reactivity,” FOX indicates.”
Coil shocks are not less common for most riders. That is exactly why we should comment on its efficiency and certain improvements implemented by Fox.
The main characteristic that determines the spring rate used on a coil shock is the weight and style of each rider. Springs have different stiffness levels: 400, 425, 450, 500, etc. The number determines the pressure needed (expressed in pounds) to compress the spring one inch, and so the rider’s weight is what influences the selection of spring type. Therefore, if we want to cover a wider range, we would have to have springs with different levels of stiffness to find the right one for each weight.
THE IDEAL SETTING
The FOX testing process, like the testing performed in Lousã, is rigorous. It all begins with a basic sag and rebound adjustment.
From there, we listen to the rider and offer advice to the rider at each step, until he/she becomes familiar with the product,” he indicates. In this phase, we will fine-tune the fork and shock, according to their needs. There is great capacity for adjustment and personalization, which requires a bit of time.”
FOX applauds the arrival of a top rider like Damien Oton to the Orbea FOX Enduro Team, commenting on the fact that he used another brand of suspension on his former team.“We want to exceed his expectations, and from what we’ve seen at the Team Camp, we’re doing just that, which tells us that we’re headed in the right direction. He also brings a very positive attitude and a great sense of humor,” they say.
The leader of the Orbea FOX Enduro Team tells us about his approach to testing.
“First, I like to know the trail very well, to assess the changes in suspension perfectly on each pass. I always look for a smooth suspension that keeps me from suffering too much physically, but one that at the same time does not penalize speed on the flatter stretches. Achieving this balance is the most complicated part. When I think I have everything ready, I start to do laps. The stopwatch does not lie.”
In the quest for the perfect suspension setting, his teammate Vid Persak has the habit of starting with the standard settings recommended by FOX. “Then I choose a short route of 1-2 minutes and on each repetition, I try different things until I get the right setting,” he says.
The young rider, who has been using FOX components for five years now, believes that the progress made in terms of this time has been “enormous.”
“The suspensions from last season were already terrific,” he remarks, “but the new ones are on a whole different level. The system is efficient, easy to configure and with a wide range that adapts to any terrain and way of riding. The improvement in speed and traction capacity seems incredible to me. I feel that the 38 fork adapts to my style and will let me surpass my limits. In summary: after the Team Camp, I return home with the bike 100% ready for competition.”
MORE SENSITIVE AND PROGRESSIVE
For Gabi Torralba and Edgar Carballo, members of the Spanish National Team, it is “super important” to hold a Team Camp like the one in Lousã at the start of the season. “It does a lot to help us be effective and to lay the foundations for competition,” they assure.
“The evolution in the new FOX products is incredible,” Gabi says. The suspensions are much more sensitive and progressive. I love it because the ride of the bike is greatly improved: it becomes more stable, much less nervous.”
For Gabi, a testing day begins with the selection of a 2-minute downhill stretch to do many repetitions quickly.
“First I go down once or twice to warm up and feel good on that stretch,” he explains. Then I try different settings, just looking for good sensations, without recording any times. Once I think I have a good setting, I start to do a few timed descents and continue to make changes; if possible, one by one, to notice the differences and see how the bike reacts, my sensations and the times. I use all of this to make comparisons.” Finally, Portugal marked the debut of Edgar Carballo in this team dynamic. This is his first season, but he has been competing with FOX for many years now. His perspective is also particularly interesting since he comes from the world of DH.
“I came to the Team Camp in Lousã looking for greater front stiffness to make the bike a little more precise, and I’ve found it with the new 38-series fork. The improved internal cartridges are also very noticeable. With greater air pressure than the 36 series, they have provided greater sensitivity.”
“From the Team Camp, I am taking away several configurations that I will use during races to fine-tune them as much as possible,” he concludes.
The competition will be the verdict, but the initial sensations hint at great times ahead.