By Justin Steiner
Travel: 120mm/100mm/80mm (internally adjustable)
Stanchion Diameter: 32mm
Steerer: Aluminum 1 1/8″
Spring: Air (main), Coil (negative)
External Adjustment: Low Speed Compression, Lockout, Lockout Force, Rebound
Disc Mount: 74mm Post Mount
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
History is repeating itself within the suspension fork realm. Many early forks relied on cartridge dampers that had a tendency to heat up and fade during extended downhills, or blow out altogether, leaving your fork no more effective than a pogo stick. Open bath dampers solved both of these issues simultaneously, providing much better ride quality and consistent suspension.
Flash-forward to 2010 and Fox is touting their new FIT RLC damper, which is a sealed unit said to reduce weight by 71g and reduce oil aeration (air bubbles in the fork’s oil) for more consistent performance. As air bubbles pass through a damper, the effectiveness and consistency of the damping will diminish.
The F29 is available in 120mm (tested), 100mm, and 80mm versions with either the standard QR or 15QR lowers. The 120mm version can also be spaced down to 100mm or 80mm, while the 80/100mm fork cannot be extended to 120mm. The 120mm fork’s stanchions are slightly beefier than the 100/80mm chassis in order to handle the extra leverage of a longer fork.
For 2010, the 15QR dropout system has been integrated into the F29 platform. I’m extremely happy to see the 15QR system so readily embraced, as it provides a noticeable stiffness boost over a traditional QR design. In use, the F29 seems stiffer fore and aft than the 120mm Reba I tested in issue #141, but lateral stiffness is a wash.
The RLC model (tested) features adjustable rebound damping, lockout with threshold, and low-speed compression damping. The rebound and lockout force adjuster knobs have swapped places on new models, with the rebound now on the bottom of the right-hand leg and lockout force on top, nested in the lockout lever. This setup makes sense, as rebound damping is generally a set-and-forget adjustment, while you’re more likely to adjust the lockout threshold mid-ride. Fox is offering a handlebar mounted remote lockout on the F29 chassis for 2010.
On the trail, the new FIT damper retains all of the positive attributes we’ve come to expect from Fox’s quality suspension—large or small bumps, it just works seamlessly. Fortunately, this new closed system doesn’t suffer from any of the issues of the old cartridge style dampers—no leakage or fade here—as manufacturing technology has improved drastically in the interim. The new damper also offers a wider and more effective range of low-speed compression adjustment, which helped to combat brake dive.
Like Eric mentioned in the Rocky Mountain review in issue #146, I did have trouble achieving the full 120mm of travel. Fox assures us the travel is available; we’re simply not riding the fork hard enough—likely true given the snow riding of late.
If you already have a non-FIT damper F29, is it worth upgrading? Yes and no, I’d say. The wider range of slow-speed compression damping is nice, but not worth the price to upgrade an already solid fork, in my opinion. However, the addition of the 15QR dropout system is a worthy upgrade. Of course, you could simply install 15QR lowers on your existing F29.
If, however, you’re in the market for a new fork, the F29 should be on your short list. The 15QR option and the versatility of a 120/100/80mm fork are invaluable. I installed this fork on my personal full-sus bike, which was designed around a 100mm fork, in order to rake the front end out just a touch. Having the option to revert back to the 100mm setting should I choose is good peace of mind when investing this kind of money in a fork.
Fox warranties all of their products against manufacturing defects for one year.