36 TALAS 180 FIT RC2 Review

by Brian Mullin on April 6, 2011

The TALAS 180 is a superb fork, offering a buttery smooth plush ride, and incredible riding traits, along with excellent features such as the TALAS (180-140) travel adjustment, FIT R2 damper, and slippery Kashima coated stanchions. Fox has a winner with this sucker, and you can call it a Rock Star (pun intended), and it really shows the advancements in fork technology, especially in the All Mountain and Freeride realm, where the boundaries are being pushed. This fork can be ridden up and down terrain, as its more than just a shuttle or lift serviced entity.

Fox 36 Forks
For 2011 the Fox 36 has two versions, a 160 mm (All Mountain) and a 180 mm (Freeride) fork. The 36 160 comes in three flavors, the TALAS, FLOAT and VAN, specifically: the TALAS FIT RLC, FLOAT FIT RLC and the VAN RC2 (coil). The 36 180 also comes in three flavors, the TALAS, FLOAT and VAN, specifically: the FLOAT FIT RC2, TALAS FIT RC2 and VAN RC2. Every version comes in an Open Bath only version, aka the R. There was a slight change to the TALAS version, as it now uses two steps instead of three. The 160 variant is 160-120, while the 180 is 180-140. The 160 version has changed to the RLC damper in contrast to the previous years RC2 (the VAN remains the same), while the 180 is all RC2. The 180 has an elongated bushing overlap, and a below axle tube design, for an increased stiffness and lower axle-to-crown.

The Fox 36 TALAS 180 FIT RC2 fork, has 36mm stanchions, a 20QR thru axle, either 1-1/8 inch straight or 1.5 inch tapered steerer, post style disc brake mounting (directly accepts 203 mm rotor only), two-position TALAS (180-140), FIT RC2 damper, Kashima coated stanchions, Black Diamond color scheme, and adjustments for TALAS, low-speed and high-speed compression, air spring pressure and rebound.

Technical Features
TALAS
The Travel Adjustable Linear Air Spring system (aka TALAS) on the 36, has two positions, allowing the fork to be dropped from its fully open 180 mm (7.1 inches) down to 140 mm (5.5 inches), using the knob on the top of the right fork leg. The travel adjustment gives the fork good versatility, offering climbing efficiency, or copious plushness and full travel. A pop up cap for the air pressure resides in the middle of the TALAS lever, and turning it to the lower setting causes it to raise.

FIT RC2
The FIT RC2 inverted damper is located within the right fork leg, and offers a wide range of low-speed and high-speed compression, and rebound adjustments (RC2=Rebound Compressionx2). The rebound knob is located on the bottom, and is encased with a protective cap, while the other adjustments are residing on top. The FIT (Fox Isolated Technology) system uses a damper cartridge, and the suspension fluid is isolated, so that it’s sealed away from air and crud, so that fluid aeration and contamination won’t occur, which causes damper performance degradation. The new FIT damper design reduces oil volume, which helps lighten the fork. The cartridge uses a rubber bladder, which provides low friction, and allows fluid expansion as the suspension system’s temperature fluctuates (heats up) during usage, creating a linear damping throughout the travel stroke.

Kashima Coat
The Kashima Coat technology has been used for years across the motorcycle and automotive industries, and Fox has teamed up with the Miyaki Company of Japan, to add this slippery coating to their forks. The hard anodized aluminum tubes are sent to Japan, where they add molybdenum disulfide via an induction process that deposits the material into pores of the anodized surface at 70 billion pores per cm². The MoS₂ adds better lubrication characteristics, higher hardness and abrasion resistance (durability), and a significant decrease in friction (stiction-free).

Impressions
I received the 2011 TALAS 180 just after Christmas, but it sat dormant waiting on my new bike arrival. Once the sweet Ibis Mojo HD frame arrived a month later, the bad boy was installed as quickly as possible. I have gotten around three months of good usage (or abuse-age) on the fork, and even though I tossed a new bike into the brain confusion of the test, the fork it has turned out to be one of the best forks I have ever used, period! It’s buttery smooth and a plush Meister, and has a very linear feel though most of its travel stroke. In a nutshell, the fork is firm on small bump compliance, plush from small/medium through large, and ramps up in stiffness for big hits, and has a nice bottom out bumper, which has some decent give. The fork is one stout beast, and I can’t feel any significant flex, no matter how much torture I can toss at it. The stiffness at the lower end of the forks is greatly enhanced by the double clamped 20mm thru axle, and the elongated bushing overlaps, and the underhung design of the lower tubes (2 inches below axle). I have slammed it into some heavy duty local technical terrain, such as Palmer Park, Pueblo South Shore and the Monument Preserve, and it has come through with flying colors.

The fork rides quite nicely on normal terrain, and it seems to sink down into its sag, and then finds a static zone where its sits without wallowing, deflecting terrain that it encounters, with no overt mushiness while spinning, so it doesn’t suck up valuable energy. On long flat sections, you’ll still feel a small amount of softness, but it’s a 7 inch suspension fork, and it does a mighty fine job riding on cross country trails, where this sort of beast shouldn’t seem to belong. It sits pretty tall in the saddle (568 mm axle-to-crown), and on occasion when encountering and steering through things on shallow terrain, doing small wheel hop’s or wheelie’s helps with more precise control, but you can smash into anything, and the fork allows the wheel to roll over objects. You can really drive the fork hard, and use all that plush suspension, and it still keeps a firm enough feel that it doesn’t dive into things. When it gets into anything remotely rough, tough and big, it rises to become a supreme master of the terrain, and it eats things up like crazy. It provides amazing traction characteristics as it follows and undulates with the terrain, making it stick like glue to everything in encounters.

“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!”

I really noticed how stable the bike remains when dropping into ugly and heinous terrain, while the fork itself undulates and sucks up things in its way. It seems to give the rider and bike the ability to stand up straighter. An example that comes to mind is watching a pro mogul skier flying down through the terrain, and their upper body stays static, while the legs (forks in this case) suck it all up. When it’s ripping down anything, it shines like a star, and whether it’s going fast or slow through any terrain, it seems to make things feel as though one was floating through powder (another skier analogy). Even when slamming it hard off a ledge, nose diving it or into a squared off rock, it doesn’t dive or toss your weight forward, and it seems to pull you along through rock gardens, ledges, etc., without any undo encumbrance. The lessening of fatigue in the hands and arms, is quite noticeable, and allows an extra amount of endurance on long rough sections and rides, as it keeps the energy depletion to a minimum. This fork needs an adjustable seatpost to maximize its usefulness, since you will be moving it up and down regularly on any ugly ride or technical terrain.

The two position TALAS has been very useful, and on technical climbs (even short ones) the 140 setting helps in taming the tall fork. When it comes time to climb something steep, just turn the TALAS knob (right hand side) clockwise, push your weight down, and the 140 travel setting is engaged. It worked wonders to help on climbs, and it gives better traction due to the optimized weight balance. The 140 setting isn’t as plush as the 180 (just a tad), and sometimes feels congested, but the slightly firmer feel and platform are nice while grinding up steep hills or doing technical maneuvers. It’s pretty amazing that this fork can climb so well, and I think the 140 setting is the perfect compromise point for climbing on this 180 fork. The lower height and weighting make the bike rail around switchbacks with ease, and allow quick slice and dice steering moves, and keeps a great sense of traction control to the rear end. To disengage just turn the knob counter clockwise, do a wheelie or unweighting of the front end, and its back to the full 180 travel. You can climb short sections in the 180 mode, but you need to be more careful of the body weighting, and keep the front end down and the seatpost high. Even being able to use either travel setting, on long arduous climbs, it’s a heavy air fork (2493.5 grams/5.5 lbs), and some energy depletion will occur, but the expense is well worth it for the joyous descent. At Palmer Park, which has trials like technical terrain, being able to lower it came in handy for many of the wicked short climbing moves, and it was nice to pop it to either 140 and 180 as needed. The tallness of the fork on the Ibis HD, produced a 1 degree slackness in the steering, and it sometimes made technical moves a tad dicey, though I have gotten used to it. I do wish it had a remote control lever for the TALAS, so that it could be actuated from the handlebars. I use the system so frequently, that a remote would be an incredible feature.

The last couple of weeks I have been testing (review forthcoming) the Cane Creek Angleset with the fork and bike, and it has allowed a steepening back to the normal 67 degrees, and it has greatly increased the precision, control and the steering attributes.

The fork runs pretty good right out of the box, with all the factory adjustment settings, just using the appropriate air pressure setting for sag. However, to take the full privileged of this wondrous fork, you need to play with the tuning, as it makes it immensely functional, for your body weight, riding style, and terrain. Caveat emptor, as I made some changes recently per someone’s recommendations, and it screwed the fork up for me, and I had to revert to factory for it to feel some semblance of normality. I weigh 155 lbs, and I alternate the air pressure between 40-50 psi, which gives me around 45-30 mm of sag, and I change it depending on the type of terrain I will be riding in, the speeds I will be traveling at, whether it might be a long climb or steep crazy decent or jumps, and so on. Please go by the amount of sag, as I have found that the high pressure shock pumps are widely inaccurate in the pressure readings at lower psi. I tweaked some of the setting’s past their factory defaults (middle of settings), making the Low Speed Compression 17 out of 26 (+4), to alleviate some slight fork dive, the Rebound at factory, and the High Speed to 14 out of 23 (+2).

The fork is an 8 inch post mount for the brakes, so no adapter was required to run a massive 203mm rotor. At first the 203 mm rotor seemed like overkill, but now I am liking it, and after doing some sick steep runs on my local nemesis trail, which has brutally ugly rock slabs and ledges, I am a convert, and I just recently added a 180 to the rear for a nice synchronous pair. Braking was exemplary, working in great synergy for the control of traction, steering and speed.

Measured Specs:

  • Weight (uncut) – 2493.5 grams/5.5 lbs (1 1/8 inch straight steerer)
  • TALAS – 183 mm and 146 mm/7.2 inches and 5.75 inches
  • Axle to crown – 568 mm/22.52 inches

Bottom Line
The 2011 Fox 36 TALAS 180 FIT RC2 is one amazing fork, and it has a uber butteriness and superb plushness throughout almost all of its 180 mm (7.1 inches) stroke, without any determent’s like diving or wallowing. The fork is very stout, using a great combination of the 36 mm stanchions, elongated bushing overlap, and a below axle tube design, for an increased stiffness and a lower axle-to-crown (568 mm). The Kashima coating has been very durable, and adds another layer of buttery smoothness to an already slick fork. The TALAS system is easy to use, and has been incredibly useful and functional, and the 180 mm and 140 mm combination are a great tag team. The tunability of the adjustments is quite nice, and alerting the rebound, high and low speed compression, and air pressure, opens up a plethora of micro functional changes to the fork characteristics.

This is an excellent fork, and it has opened up riding to a new level, and has made technical and rough terrain more enjoyable, and less abusive. It climbs like a goat, and descends like its floating on air. Fox has created a world-class fork with incredible attributes, and a slew of synonyms comes to mind, such as outstanding, superlative, phenomenal, but I am just going to call it the new Benchmark in forks!

Strengths

  • Plush Meister
  • FIT RC2 damper
  • TALAS 180-140
  • Stiff
  • Highly tunable
  • Slippery and durable Kashima coating
  • Excellent traction and braking characteristics

Weaknesses

  • Expensive
  • Needs remote control lever for TALAS

MSRP: $1065.00 – $1080.00

Overall Rating: 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Fox Company Specs:

  • Visit the TALAS 180 website at http://www.foxracingshox.com/bike/11/forks/36_TALAS/180_FIT_RC2
  • Weight
    • (1 1/8″ steerer) 5.40 lb / 2.45 kg
    • (1.5″ taper steerer) 5.37 lb / 2.43 kg
  • Travel – 7.1 inches / 180 mm with TALAS [2-position] 180-140mm
  • Adjustments
    • Low-speed compression
    • High-speed compression
    • Travel – TALAS [2-position]
    • Air spring pressure
    • Rebound
  • Damper – FIT
  • Stanchions – Kashima Coat
  • Lower Leg – 20QR thru axle system,
  • Post style disc brake mounting
  • Steerer
    • Standard: 1 1/8″
    • Optional: 1.5″ Taper
  • Spring – Air
  • Color – Black Diamond
  • Intended Use -DH, FR, AM

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