05 November 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: 2008 Fox 32 Vanilla RLC

The 32 Vanilla RLC is the coil spring version of the Float RLC. It has 140mm of travel [fixed], uses a standard quick-release, and weighs roughly 4.4 pounds. I bought the 32 Vanilla RLC to match with a Maverick ML 7/5 frame which I have been riding for a good while. It replaced a Pace fork which I loved the feel of, but could not keep out of the repair stand. When looking around, I decided I wanted a reliable fork, and the Vanilla series has always had a reputation for being bomb-proof.

I have owned some Fox forks in the past, and the compression damping has always seemed too high (even on the lowest setting). To be fair, I have a personal preference for fast moving squishy forks, and I realize that many people like their forks more heavily damped. I hoped that the Vanilla would not share this trait with its air sprung brethren and, although it is more to my liking, it still seems over-damped. However this gives it good performance over medium to large bumps with travel that is progressive and controlled. Small bump performance suffers a little– especially uphill when the fork has even less weight on it, but this is a totally acceptable trade-off for the medium and big hit performance.

There was no noticeable stiction, although I probably wouldn’t notice unless it was quite bad. The RLC has external rebound damping and low-speed compression damping adjustment, a manual lockout and blow-off valve adjustment (for the lockout). They all work well and are easy to turn with your hand. My only real complaint with this fork (and many others) is that there is no mid-to-high speed compression damping adjustment. It seems that Fox has decided to set the high-speed compression damping at the factory, and we can’t change it. This is true of the whole Fox 32 range and is a pet-peeve of mine. That being said, the factory setting is a very good all-around setting for most people.

I have come to really like this fork though. For the Maverick geometry, I found I needed to switch to a lighter spring than recommended for my weight, and this was just the ticket to make it work well for me. It tracks as well as any fork I have ridden, and is very predictable in its travel. I have ridden in the foulest weather and in the scorching heat and it has had zero problems.

The 32 Vanilla RLC retails for about $499, while the 32 Vanilla R (no lockout or external compression damping adjustment) runs $419


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