FOX RACING SHOX is a 29-year-old company located in Watsonville, CA, USA. And have been specializing in manufacturing suspension shocks since 1974. Founded by Bob Fox, he designed the first Fox Shox for motorcross and later progressed to develop suspension systems for other types of motorsports such as off-road cars, snowmobiles, trucks, all terrain vehicles and of course, mountain bikes. Fox started producing front suspension for Mountain biking in 2001 and since then, they have advanced progressively each year, and have always seemed to produce the right type of suspension system for the many different styles of riding.
Fox air forks are primarily used for cross-country riding. You?ve probably seen Fox Talas, Float, FX (TerraLogic), and FRLT forks quite often. For the Fox coil shock series however, you?ve probably only seen the Vanilla series. But did you know that it has 2 other brothers?
New for 2005, Fox 36 and Fox 40. Think Fox 36 as a beefy version of the Vanilla. A single crown fork of 36mm stanchions and 6 inches of travel to be exact. Both the Fox 36 and Fox 40 can be used for freeride and downhill. In my opinion, the dual crown Fox 40 would be their flagship fork for downhill and extreme freeride. With oversized 40mm stanchions, 8 inches of travel, Titanium springs, internally adjustable to 6 inches with external rebound and compression adjustors, all that would definitely make going downhill a breeze.
When I first got my hands on the Vanilla R, I think I had a little orgasm? With 5 inches of plush spring travel and weighing at 1.81kg, just a couple of grams shy of the Fox Float (1.64kg), Rockshox Pike Race (2.25kg) and Rockshox Reba Race (1.7kg). Not too shabby for a coil fork, aye? The Vanilla R can take tires up to 2.4 inches in width, and is disc specific. The stock spring is a medium, for riders about 150-180 pounds (About 60-80kg). Also included are 2 other springs – a soft and a heavy spring. The soft spring would be for riders from about 115-155 pounds (About 50-70kg) and the heavy spring would be for heavier riders from about 175-210 pounds. (About 80-100kg)
You can lower the Vanilla?s travel to 100mm if need be. The factory setting is set to 130mm, so you would have to bring it down to your authorized Fox distributor and have it adjusted if you need change the travel.
The 05 Vanilla R has the usual goodies from Fox, like 12 clicks of rebound damping, magnesium lower legs, Fox oil seals with scraper lip technology. And new for 2005, an extra 5mm of travel and a new slim damper cartridge that helps eliminate cavitations and allows a wider adjustment range.
After having it fitted onto my bike, I took a minute to relish my new fork. It looks sleek without the brake bosses and the front of the bike felt relatively light. It looks slightly bigger than last year?s Vanilla, but definitely not overwhelming.
Differentiating between an OEM and an AM Fox fork is really simple. For AM (after market) fox forks, there are 2 fox stickers that read ?Genuine Fox?. One on the steerer tube and another on one of the lower legs of the fork.
The rebound adjustment is done on the left knob of the fork (red knob) and the right knob controls the preload adjustment (the initial force placed on the spring). A quick check to get the correct sag and I?m geared up to take her for a spin round the neighbourhood. Going through grassy areas and down short flights of staircases seemed so much more different with the Vanilla up front. I didn?t have to worry if my fork could handle the abrupt change in terrain or that if I landed hard, would the seals pop and squirt me in the eye. Yes, it made me feel invincible. (Who am I kidding?)
Bunny hopping from tarmac to pavements and then sprinting off seemed so responsive. I did not lose any traction while adjusting to different types of terrain and there was no loss in steering or maneuvering too. The fork soaked it all up and begged for more. I changed the standard settings and adjusted the rebound, making it more like a ?street? fork. Even on during longer and more demanding rides, jumping and playing around in built up areas, the damping system works beautifully. Not only did it manage the spring rate well, it always felt real plush from the get go.
But after about two to three weeks of usage, the rebound started to act up. I realized the rebound gradually got slower and slower by itself. On closer inspection, it seemed that there was something wrong internally. There was this ?click? sound coming from the fork when compressed, followed by this really slow rebound.
I headed to Kian Hong (Singapore?s authorized Fox service centre) and got it looked at, and found out that the damper system had some problems. (Ironic isn?t it?) Apparently, there wasn?t enough oil getting in to the damper cartridge, hence the retardation in rebound. (If I remember all that explanation correctly) Got a new damper cartridge fitted and the ride improved immensely!
Going through neighborhoods and roads seemed too nonchalant, the trails proved to be a better place for testing. You can feel the plushness especially in the trails. The roots, rocky section and climbs felt all too effortless. Climbing in particular felt great. The rebound was constant and smooth; it doesn?t feel like there?s a returning force coming back at me even when I?m hammering up the slopes. There?s no worry of blowing the air cartridge, as it?s a spring fork, no lock out function to worry about deactivating. Just ride.
That’s a wrap
There is no fix rule that a particular type of fork is better than the other. It?s actually the design and research put into it that counts. Some people prefer air forks to spring forks or vice versa. Bottom line; get the right equipment for the right kind of job. If you are a weight weenie or XC racer, you?d probably happier with air forks. But for people, who rather compensate weight for a plusher feel, would most definitely stick to the good old coil forks.
The 05 Vanilla R is a great all round fork. Bring it to the trails, play street or even random rides round the neighborhood. It offers a really plush ride throughout. The steering and the stiffness is also another excellent factor of the Vanilla R. What I like most is the rebound and the plush feel. (Did I mention that already?). The tracking of the fork is also commendable. Sudden turns and even rocky sections in the trails did not shake my confidence one bit. Though Fox forks are slightly pricier than that of other brands, keep in mind that you?re buying a product from a serious suspension system manufacturer that spares no cost in their design, engineering and quality assurance. The Vanilla R is a sweet fork with all the traits of its brethren. Stiff, with exceptional steering control and an excellent damper technology that offers a plush ride each time.