2014 FOX TALAS Review

by Brian Mullin on November 5, 2013

FOX
never seems to rest on its laurels, and every year they crank out
something new for the biking world. For the 2014 model year, FOX has made two impressive changes to their suspension lineup, including the revised TALAS
fork and the new FLOAT X rear shock. The TALAS is an acronym for Travel
Adjustable Linear Air Spring system, and although the TALAS has gone
through many changes throughout its lifetime, this latest revision is
fairly substantial and sweeping compared to its predecessors.

I
have now been using the 2014 Factory 34 TALAS 29 140 FIT CTD w/Trail
Adjust for around four months now on my Ibis Ripley, and I am highly
impressed by the ride quality, travel adjustability, CTD capabilities
and improved air spring. I have taken the fork into all sort of
conditions, from mellow x-country, to bike parks, technical terrain, and
lots of just plain gnarly rock gardens, and I have been amazed at how
it has shone and was rarely fazed by much of anything. When pushed to
its limits, I squeezed out every last bit of travel possible, and
throughout its stroke, it offered smoothness and control and support.

Although
this is an upgrade over the previous year’s TALAS, albeit a pretty
substantial one, it might be easier to think of this fork as a sort of
brand new model. The new TALAS cartridge feels like they tossed out the
book on their predecessors and started with a clean slate, although it’s
fairly obvious that they took their engineering expertise into account
during its design. The new TALAS feels very FLOAT like in its feel and
travel, and unless you’re using the travel adjustment capabilities,
you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate them. The travel throughout its
stroke is supple and buttery smooth, with low stiction and drag, and
under the right conditions, it offers a very plush ride.

The
fork offers excellent small through medium bump compliance with a high
degree of plushness, and ramps up in stiffness for big hits and larger
stuff, though it feels a bit harsh on the bottom out bumpers. The fork
does require almost double the air pressure of its predecessors, and you
need to make sure it stays within a specific range else it can lose its
composure, especially on the low end of things. It really behooves one
to carry a shock pump if you’re going to be alternating between mellow
to aggressive riding, so you can keep the fork in its ideal pressure
setting. If you get the pressure too low, and you’re riding gnarly
terrain, you’ll find it diving on drops and under heavy braking, and
turning the CTD to Trail mode helps but doesn’t alleviate the issue.
It’s usually easier to leave the pressure higher to get the best support
and composure, with a very minor loss of sag and some softness at the
end of the stroke. On most normal trail usage, it’s never an issue, and
it’s only noticeable when dealing with very aggressive conditions.

The
34mm stanchions give a good stout platform and are supportive, and some
subtle flex is noticed when pushing them to the extreme end of things,
in conditions and terrain that a more substantial and heavy 36mm will
shine.

The
TALAS (Travel Adjustable Linear Air Spring) system was easy to use, and
I liked the short throw of the lever, and best of all was how little
difference in feel, there was between the short and long travel modes. I
sometimes rode it in the lower mode and would completely forget it was
there, though when you concentrated, the shorter mode has a subtle
amount of firmness in direct comparison. You can run it in either mode
without any undue loss of performance in the grand scheme of things.
With their optional clip-on spacers, you can fine-tune the travel adjust
in a total range of 30mm in increments of 5mm, taking a 140/110 set up
to 140/115, etc. Although using the travel adjustment does change the
geometry of the bike; I found the shorter mode extremely useful for any
sort of climb, since it offers better traction and weighting control,
and decreases fatigue. It was even more helpful if you tend to ride with
a taller than normal fork, which is more common with Trail and All
Mountain bikes.

The upgraded FIT CTD has increased damping, which
was much appreciated and worked extremely well, and offered less diving,
more support, control and composure. The three modes, Descend, Trail
and Climb were useful, though I really only used the fully open Descend
on anything remotely rough, and the Trail for smoother terrain and
climbs. I’d toss it into the fully locked Climb mode when I was on butt
smooth trails and fire roads. The Trail mode has three micro adjustments
of soft, medium and hard for additional tuning, but I left it in the
softest mode since that felt the most useful. The updated air spring
curve and reduced seals (from three to one) create an overall smoother
stroke and lower friction movement, for a better overall ride.

Conclusions
The 2014 FOX 34 TALAS is an impressive fork, due to the substantially
upgraded TALAS cartridge, revised CTD damper, upgraded air spring curve
and reduced seals. The new TALAS feels buttery smooth and supple, and
just darn plush, but it still retails good composure, support and
control. The short and long travel modes feel very much the same, with a
slight firmness to the shorter setting, with little performance loss
with either. I really enjoyed having the capabilities of the travel
adjustment, and used the shorter mode on long and steep climbs, and
found it increased traction and reduced fatigue. The 34mm stanchions are
fairly stout and sturdy, and only when pushed extremely hard is a
subtle amount of flex felt. The CTD system is simple and the three modes
are very useful, though it comes at a loss of more tunability that
separate low and high speed compression adjustments would allow. I used
the Descend and Trail mode quite a bit on rides, and found the Trail
mode helpful on smoother and rolling terrain by decreasing energy loss
and inherent wallowing, and giving better overall tracking.

The
2014 FOX 34 TALAS offers a great ride, that is plush, smooth and supple,
with support and control, and the significant features of the two-level
travel adjustment and CTD damper are highly useful and functional.

Strengths

  • Reduced stichion and breakaway force – fewer seals
  • Upgraded air spring curve
  • Plush, smooth and supple
  • Revised CTD
  • Upgraded TALAS

Weaknesses

  • Harsh on bottom out bumpers
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Low pressure can cause dive issues – only on aggressive terrain
  • No Low and High speed compression tuning capabilities

TALAS Specs:

  • 26″ – 32 140mm/110mm and 150mm/120mm (3.73 lbs), 34 160mm/130mm (4.3 lbs), 36 160mm/130mm and 180mm/140mm
  • 27.5″ – 32 140mm/110mm (3.83 lbs), 34 160mm/130mm 4.3 lbs)
  • 29″ – 32 120mm/90mm (4.2 lbs), 34 140mm/110mm ( 4.6 lbs)
  • Pricing – $1085 to $1120

Technical Overview of the New TALAS Features

The
complete TALAS redesign gives better ride performance and alterable
travel settings, and it utilizes an updated air spring and a new travel
adjustment system and fewer seals.

CTD
The CTD
has the three on the fly adjustments (Climb, Trail, Descend), and in
addition, there are three fine tuning settings for the Trail mode (soft,
medium, firm). For 2014, they increased the compression damping on all
CTD models, and the Descend mode has more support and better control and
keeps the fork up higher in its travel, while the Trail mode has an
all-around tune and the Climb mode gets a firm tune. The 32 and 34 FOX
chassis retains the CTD damper, while the 36 versions get the RC2.

Air Spring
The updated air spring uses a similar design to the 2014 FLOAT, with
fewer seals (from three to one) for smoother and lower friction
movement. The left graph shows how much easier it is to initiate or
activate the travel due to lower breakaway friction, while the lower
dynamic friction makes the first 2/3 of travel closely mimic a coil
spring, before ramping up at the end for bottom out support. The right
graph shows how similar the long and short travel are, and that the
short mode is just as rideable in a wide variety of conditions.

TALAS
Taking inspiration from the 2003 TALAS rear shock, they have decoupled
the travel adjustment from the air spring, and now use an inline
hydraulic adjust system that is cartridge based for easier
serviceability. The two-position travel adjuster uses two check balls to
regulate the oil flow, and the oil doesn’t cycle except during travel
changes.

The
difference in travel (between long and short) can be altered by adding
5mm plastic clip-on spacers, and it’s easily done by un-threading the
top cap and popping them on the cartridge shaft. For example, you could
change the default long/short travel settings of 140mm/110mm to a
140/115 or 140/120, opening up a slew of tunability for the TALAS. In
addition, the total travel is customizable by adding 10mm shuttle
bumpers at the bottom of the air spring assembly, to a maximum of 30mm
for the 32 and 34 chassis, and 40mm for the 36.

The TALAS lever has been upgraded, and is easier to use on the trail, with a shorter 55-degree throw.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Damian Ortelli November 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

So would it be worth the coin to swap my 13 talas 160/ 650b for the 14 model?

Reply

Damian Ortelli November 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

So would it be worth swapping the 13 34/16/650b talas I have for the 14 model?

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet November 21, 2013 at 4:17 am

The 2014 TALAS is definitely worth the upgrade. Good luck!

Reply

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