I’ve had a few Fox forks, but always Fox Float 36 Rs. One dial, and air; plain and simple. That went out the window when my latest Fox fork showed up. There are way more dials and knobs than I’m used to (low and high speed compression, preload and rebound) and while I was a little confused at first, I’ve got them set up now and they perform flawlessly.
The super smooth gold Kashima coating on the fork does away with any breaking-in period on the stanchions; out of the box they felt plush and after six months of riding nothing much has changed. Fox includes three different springs with each fork, so you can set them up correctly for your weight. All the knobs are easy to adjust and have obvious notches so you know where you are in your adjustment.
Out on the trail the VAN kills it. It’s consistently smooth and, as with all Fox 36 mm forks, it’s super stiff and does exactly what it’s told. Thanks to the FIT dampening the VAN adheres to the ground, gives you a whole heap of traction and devours small bumps. On steeper terrain and bigger drop-offs it won’t be the fork holding you back; it seems the VAN actually inspires confidence.
The 2011 Fox 36 VAN 160 is almost faultless, but there’s an issue that’s bugged me with this and my last two 36s, and that’s the tool-less 20 mm thru-axle. It’s stiff and easy to remove, but I find that the quick-releases won’t do back up after riding in gritty dirt or the rain; the only fix is an Allen key to loosen them off. It’s not a biggie, but it negates the term tool-less. If this is all I have to complain about though, life’s pretty sweet. CALEB SMITH

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