Adjustable travel forks can be awesome or awkward — it just depends on the bike. After several months of use on two different bikes, I’ve found the perfect match for the Fox TALAS 29 that has allowed it to shine with a Kashima-like bling.
2014 Fox TALAS 29 FIT CTD Features:
- CTD switch for easy broad stroke tuning (right leg)
- Trail Adjust for fine-tuning the travel
- Air spring pressure
- Adjustable rebound
- TALAS travel switch (left leg)
- 15QR axle
- Post-style disc mounts
- Travel: 90 / 120mm
- Weight: 4.07 lbs (uncut, w/axle)
- Offset: 44mm (51mm is available, but hard to find)
- MSRP: 930
Trail-capable and Travel-adjustable Goodness
As suspension manufacturers have learned, most riders simply want their suspension to work. They don’t want to spend hours tweaking things or have to send them to an aftermarket tuning shop just to get the performance they’d like. Since 2013, Fox has tried to make things simple with CTD and Trail Adjust — allowing riders to make broad strokes in their suspension setup with the flick of a lever and fine-tuning for those who wish to indulge.
Here’s a little more on the function of Fox CTD and Trail Adjust:
With that video explanation, I don’t have to go into much more detail. One thing to remember is that Trail Adjust only applies to “Trail” mode as “Climb” features a fixed threshold and “Descend” is fully open.
The Test Bikes
During the course of nearly a year of testing, I’ve had the 32 TALAS 29 aboard the 2014 Ellsworth Evolve Carbon and the 2015 Santa Cruz Tallboy 2. Both bikes featured 100mm travel in the rear and are recommended with 100 or 120mm forks — thus making the TALAS the perfect match.
TALAS or CTD — Which One Wins?
With all the adjustments available on this fork (in spite of me saying it’s simplified), you might wonder how many of them I ended up using regularly. The answer is that I used the TALAS very regularly and the CTD less so. I just found that reducing travel was always more important than playing with the platform threshold.
While climbing, I would almost always opt for the shorter travel on both bikes as it brings the front end down for more efficient climbing. This is particularly welcome when ascending steep, technical pitches. That 30mm drop up front makes a big difference and made climbing even better. What’s even more amazing is that on both bikes, I could easily ride in 90mm mode through sudden descents or chunky sections without feeling completely overwhelmed.
So, for me, I prefer the travel adjustments for on-the-fly performance boosts as it made the most marked difference. I could climb more technical terrain without losing my front wheel and efficiency most certainly improved.
Stiff Chassis and Smooth Travel
Riding the 32 TALAS 29 aboard the 2015 Santa Cruz Tallboy, I’ve immediately noticed just how stiff this fork is. No, it’s not a 36, but the 32 mm stanchions and lowers really make for a laterally stiff fork. I have no problems pushing this bike hard and the front end always responds in a jiffy. Steering precision is fantastic and it does track well — within the reasonable function of the fork. I say that because highly-technical and rocky terrain will result in feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but that’s to be expected.
If you want bombproof performance in gnarly terrain, the TALAS 34 is the obvious choice, but for lightweight performance on an XC machine, the 32 TALAS is right on the money.
Smooth, Progressive Travel
All the dials and switches make noticeable differences in ride quality. As I’ve fiddled and tinkered, the sweet spot for me is still wide open. To improve climbing performance, I just reduce the travel. That said, on longer climbs, I did put the fork into Trail mode and leave it there — regardless of the travel selected. On both uphill and down, the slight platform only improved things on the up and was never noticeable on the down.
As far as setup goes, I typically opt for a little more sag to utilize the entire travel and make for a smoother ride. When I want the fork to sit higher in its travel, I’ll engage the CTD lever into Trail mode. Otherwise, I just enjoy the smoothest riding 120mm fork I’ve tested.
- TALAS travel adjust is perfect for 100mm XC 29ers
- Reduced travel mode aids climbing and still performs well in a pinch
- All the adjustments make a noticeable difference
- Stiff lowers improve performance
- Can tackle endless downhills without packing out
- Friction-free and extremely supple on nearly everything
- Can overwhelm it in burly stuff
- Square-edged bumps are a little harsh
The Bottom Line
I highly recommend the TALAS on the Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 and other similar 100mm travel XC 29ers (Ellsworth Evolve Carbon, Niner Jet 9 RDO or Al). I can’t think of a better fork for the Tallboy and absolutely love the TALAS travel reduction for climbing. It keeps the front end down and gives me a shot in the arm on long ascents. The weight penalty is minimal and well worth it on the trail.
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