With the suspension world playing catch-up, Fox Racing Shox continues to lead the pack in ride quality and innovation on every fork in the lineup. I’ve had the 2009 Fox 32 FLOAT® RLC 15QR as standard equipment on the Kona Dawg Supreme, so I decided to write a quick review of the performance of that fork in general.
Impressive to say the least, every Fox fork I’ve ridden as of late has delivered in spades. And with the introduction of the 15QR platform, Fox is hoping to remove all 9mm quick-releases from mountain bikes in the future (bless their souls!).
About the 2009 Fox 32 FLOAT RLC 15QR Fork
The FLOAT offers lightweight performance in a 140mm (5.5 in) air-sprung package. With all the adjustments to make the garage monkey happy, but with simple performance to work well out-of-the-box, the Fox FLOAT 32 is a performer. For 2009, the FLOAT not only got the 15QR option, but also went through a weight reduction program that would make Jenny Craig proud. This refinement included new lower legs, crown and steerer.
Here’s what Fox says:
Our FLOAT® trail fork, famous for its lightweight and incredible damping performance, goes under for a nip and tuck for 2009. A new crown, steerer, and lower leg combine to shed weight and increase stiffness. Damping is again refined for seamless transitions for traction and cornering, and our new 15QR thru-axle system option offers incredible stiffness and steering precision. At 5.5 inches, FLOAT is THE choice for your lightweight trail bike needs: light, tough, and looking good.
Features of the 32 FLOAT:
- Travel: 140mm (5.5″)
- Adjustments: Low speed compression, lockout force adjust, lever-actuated lockout and air spring pressure
- Lower Leg Options: 15QR or 9mm QR with post-mount disc brake
- Weight: 3.97 lbs (15QR w/axle) or 3.74 (9mm QR)
- MSRP: $750 ($665 @JensonUSA)
2009 Fox 32 FLOAT RLC Fork Review
With the advances in air spring technology over the past few years, lightweight trail bikes can take advantage of the weight savings and performance offered by today’s air-sprung forks. There are a handful of great options that come to mind, but the headliner has and continues to be the Fox FLOAT and TALAS air-sprung forks.
Just recently, I had someone ask me if they should go with the Fox FLOAT (air) or Vanilla (coil) 32 fork on their Yeti 575. After talking back and forth, I just told him flat-out that unless he’s going to do big hits, drops or pound the Whistler bike park on a regular basis, he wouldn’t necessarily NEED the Vanilla. The difference in travel quality on a trailbike is negligible and the weight savings (1/2 lb.) is just what gram-savers desire.
Don’t get me wrong, the Vanilla is an awesome fork (read my Fox 32 Vanilla review), but suppleness is no longer squarely had in the coil-sprung crowd–the FLOAT delivers a supple ride with enough adjustments to change its attitude with a few twists or pumps of air.
The much-debated 15QR axle on the FLOAT is a simple design that provides similar trail stiffness to a 20mm thru-axle. I’ve long sworn off the standard 9mm axle, so it doesn’t make much difference to me whether it’s 20mm or 15mm–it’s all good. And, with most wheels offering interchangeable 9mm, 15mm and 20mm axle options, compatibility is much less of a worry.
On the trail, the FLOAT performs on par with what I’ve come to expect from Fox. A few trailside air adjustments to get the right feel (for me, 70 psi) and a couple of clicks of the rebound knob and I was set for all-mountain thrashing.
Once broken-in, the FLOAT displayed suppleness that was once only found on coil-sprung forks. But, should you wish to have a little stiffer initial stroke for XC race performance, the low-speed compression knob makes quite a difference. And, should you wish to lock it out entirely, you can do so in a fine-tuned fashion using the adjustable lockout force knob (blue dial on bottom-right lower). I loved this on long climbs since I could dial in the blowoff pressure just how I like it.
Lateral stiffness on the trail is superb as this fork simply tracks where you point it. I had no worries as it soaked up rock gardens and drops galore with smooth, controlled precision.
The overall package is easy-to-tune and has performed without a hitch over the past three months. This fork will provide years of use with the proper maintenance and care.
Good 32 FLOAT
- Sub-4 lb. package
- Smooth, air-sprung travel
- Lateral stiffness on par with beefier forks
- Sturdy 32mm stanchions
- Easy tuning adjustments you can feel on-the-fly
- Lockout fine-tuning adjustments are great for long climbs
Bad 32 FLOAT
- No travel adjust (must buy TALAS)
- 15QR option may require a wheelset and rack upgrade
The Bottom Line: 2009 Fox 32 FLOAT
An air-sprung fork never felt so good. Smoothness on both small bumps and large hits, the 32 FLOAT is an excellent trailbike fork for those not needing travel adjustments.
NOTE: For 2010, Fox has introduced the FIT damper and entirely new internals for the entire 32 fork lineup. I’ve got my hands on a 2010 Fox 32 TALAS RLC for review and will compare how the new FIT system performs with the damper on the 2009 model… stay tuned.