The Tuesday Tune Ep 13 - Inside Fox's "Budget" Fit Grip Damper
It seemed like only a matter of time until one of the major manufacturers developed a light, cheap, reliable fork damper with true shimmed valve performance. Fox's primary trailbike offering, the Fit4 damper cartridge - functionally an updated variant of its largely unloved CTD FIT cartridge predecessor - has got low friction nailed, along with (slightly) more support and somewhat more useful compression adjusters. The expanding bladder system and SKF damper sealhead means it gives up nothing to anyone on the smoothness front. All in all, while it's not for everyone, it's not bad.
However, while the CTD Fit cartridge attracted its share of criticism from riders and the media, it was a beacon of sheer brilliance compared to its Open Cartridge brother, found in the Evolution Series CTD forks. Cheaply made, with little regard to durability, smoothness, outright performance, adjustability or even serviceability, the Open Cartridge CTD damper may well be the product that Fox are the least proud of ever producing. Being fair and putting this in context though - initial expectations were relatively high, because Fox usually do their homework quite thoroughly, and it caught a lot of consumers off guard when they purchased a bike with Fox plastered all over it, that didn't deliver the performance or durability they were expecting from the Fox brand name. You'd be more than a bit upset if you bought a Mercedes AMG that blew up in the first week you owned it too. Had this kind of thing come from some of their competitors - and it routinely does - perhaps the media and market response would have been a bit less negative. Nobody wants a Koeniggsegg that's slower than a Ford Mustang though.
Regardless, a lack of shimmed rebound and a pressed-together compression assembly, with an oil-ingesting sealhead and lack of effective volume or pressure compensation meant that there really was no polishing that turd - it couldn't be made to be reliable or to perform very well without changing pretty well every part in the entire damper. And that wasn't for lack of trying either - we prototyped dynamic bleed compression assemblies and shimmed rebound pistons for these, but the cost of fixing every issue simply became too high to be realistic.
Anyway, the good news is that Fox have listened and built the Fit Grip damper for their more budget-conscious forks. Calling them low-end would be doing everyone a disservice because Fox don't actually cater to the low-end market per se, but they are Fox's lower-end damper right now. Especially in light of Mike Levy's recent review of the Performance Series 34 featuring this very damper, we thought it'd be appropriate to dedicate this week's Tuesday Tune video to investigating the innards of the Fit Grip cartridge here in the Vorsprung Suspension workshop.
Our conclusion? Simply put: it's a MASSIVE improvement over the previous generation Evolution-series Open Cartridges. While the compression assembly is a little basic and doesn't have a true shimmed valve as such, the adjustment is effective and the lockout/climb switch is cleverly executed. Meanwhile, the rebound assembly is a fully functional and effective shimmed valve with a wide range of adjustment. As you'd expect from its lower pricepoint, it's not quite as refined as the Fit4 or RC2 cartridges, but with decent performance and being designed in such a way that we expect better reliability than ANY other damper they currently make, Fox have done a solid job on the Fit Grip damper.