MXA PRODUCT TEST:
FOX FACTORY PODIUM SHOCK
WHAT IS IT? The first motocross shock from Fox Factory in over 25 years (and perhaps the most innovative shock since the 1976 Fox AirShox).
WHAT’S IT COST? $895.00 (with spring).
CONTACT? (800) 369-7469 or www.foxracingshox.com.
WHAT’S IT DO? There was a time when no one ran the stock shocks that came on a production motocross bike. When they bought a bike, they automatically switched to Girling, Arnaco, Curnutt, Koni, Hiiesalu, S&W, Boge, Ohlins, Marzocchi, White Power, Bilstein or the Fox AirShox. During those glory days of the ’70s, racers would ditch the rudimentary stock suspension components in order to buy better suspension from any one of the aforementioned companies.
The Bottom Out Control (small dial) is incredibly creative and functional.----->
Not all suspension was created equal, though, and there were many different concepts on the market. Of all the aftermarket suspension companies, the Fox AirShox was the most successful. It dominated the sport of motocross in the late-’70s (and was used by Kent Howerton to win the 1976 500 National title and Marty Smith to win the 1977 500 National Championship).
Now, after a 20-year hiatus, Fox Factory is back in the motocross game. But don’t confuse Fox Factory with Fox Racing. Although they were once the same company, the Fox brothers, Geoff and Bob, split the company into two divisions decades ago. Geoff took the clothing company and Bob took the development company.
Working with Gavin Gracyk, Michael Willard and the Star Yamaha team over the last couple AMA National and Supercross seasons, Fox has developed the Podium shock. After an almost two-year development cycle, Fox Factory is back in motocross and ready for you to see what they learned over the last 20 years in offroad trucks, Indy cars, mountain bikes, quads and snowmobiles.
WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with the Fox Podium RC3 shock.
(1) Adjustments. Talk about clicker options! The Podium comes with 24 adjustable clicks on high-speed compression, low-speed compression, rebound and the proprietary Bottom Out Control. Why is adjustability beneficial and more adjustability even better? The more options you have, the better chance of finding the perfect setting for your terrain, riding style, weight and speed.
Fox’s one-bolt preload adjuster is amazing in its simplicity. It makes preload adjustment a snap.----->
(2) Bottom Out Control. What sets the Podium shock apart from every other shock on the planet (and cements the Fox shock as the most advanced shock ever produced) is the Bottom Out Control. It is essentially a third compression adjuster that is based on the bottoming cones used on front forks. Inside the shock a tapered cone is hydraulically slowed by entering a one-degree tapered chamber at the bottom of the shock’s stroke. This close-tolerance taper fit is capable of hydraulically locking the shock to keep it from bottoming. Additionally, Fox included a needle-style bleed screw on the Bottom Out Control that allows the last 30mm of travel to be tuned. This is a great feature. It lets a rider set his suspension up perfectly for small and mid-size bumps and then use the Bottom Out Control to stop it from slamming through its stroke on jumps. There is no doubt that this single invention makes the Fox Podium shock worth the money. Imagine how many times you have gotten your shock to work perfectly on 99 percent of the track only to have it bottom over one jump or in a tricky G-out situation. On the Fox Shock, you can iron that out with a couple clicks. This is revolutionary.
(3) Spring preload. Awesome. Fox went to school on KTM’s single-ring preload adjuster and Enzo’s Technica adjuster and built the ultimate one-bolt mousetrap. Here is how it works: (a) The shock spring and threaded adjuster ring are locked together with a drift pin. When you turn the spring, you turn the adjuster. (b) The preload ring is held in place by a non-turning lock ring. It looks like the KTM preload ring, but you don’t have to turn it to adjust the preload. It is a lock-down device only, which means it is always positioned in the correct spot for easy access. (c) Ever wonder how many turns you have spun the shock’s preload ring? The Fox Podium shock has an incremental scale that tells you how many millimeters you have turned the shock preload ring—one turn equals 3mm. (d) You don’t have to hit the Podium’s preload ring with a hammer and punch. The shock body has precision threads that are less likely to bind up, so the only thing required to change the spring preload is to loosen one Allen bolt and spin the shock spring by hand. It couldn’t be easier.
(4) Clickers. Every dial on the Fox podium shock has click detents (including the high-speed compression and Bottom Out Control). No more having to count how many turns out you are on the high-speed compression. All you have to do is count the clicks. This is sweet.
The Bottom Out Control used the same technology as a bottoming cone on a fork, but with adjustable bleed.---->
(5) History. The MXA wrecking crew sat down with Bob Fox and asked him why he was returning to the motocross market, especially at a time when the economy is bad and racers have turned away from aftermarket shocks, and he had an interesting answer. "It's got nothing to do with business. It's about the challenge to create something superior. I just wanted to do it. To me, it is deja vu. It feels good, and it is cool to go back to motocross. This is where I started. If in three years it’s one-tenth of our mountain bike business, that will be a good thing. We think that our technology can be applied to motocross."
(6) Performance. The MXA wrecking crew tested two different Fox Factory Podium shocks: one for a 2009 CRF450 and the other for a 2009 KX450F. Straight out of the box, the KX450F shock was a massive improvement with Fox’s in-house settings. It gave us the tools to totally eliminate the wallowy feel of the KX450F’s rear suspension. Plus, once we got the first half of the stroke working the way we wanted, we used the Bottom Out Control to make finite adjustments to the second part of the shock’s travel. We heartily recommend the KX450F Podium shock.
On the 2009 Honda CRF450, we struggled with midstroke harshness (and in the end Fox revalved the shock to suit our tastes). We wanted a more fluid feel through the stroke and felt that Fox’s box-stock setting was a little too far to the Pro side of the setup. Fox reacted quickly, set up a series of test sessions and changed the valve stack on the production run to be compliant. Fox was amazingly efficient when it came to making changes. During our testing, the shock was still in its early valving stage. We made several suggestions and Fox not only complied with our requests, but went with their test riders back to the test track to check out the changes we wanted. And we had them do it three times. As a result, Fox is continually updated the standard settings that will come in the shock. That is dedication.
(7) Tuning. Fox Factory will make all the parts available to every hop-up shop on the planet so that the Podium shock can be fine tuned for every speed, weight and riding style. You can still use Factory Connection, Pro Circuit, Race Tech or any other shock tuner to customize your valving.
There are miniature zerk fitting at the heim joints.
WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? When Bob Fox invented the aftermarket shock business, he sold more than 20,000 shocks a year. That business model probably isn’t realistic in today’s marketplace (because of the total number of bikes sold and the improved quality of stock shock absorbers). The Fox Podium is on the right track, though, because they are offering technology that no one else has (and few have ever seen).
Trust us, the Fox Podium shock is noticeably better than the stock unit. It has more adjustability, performs better and can cover a multitude of terrain. It is a breakthrough shock—almost as historically significant as the original Fox AirShox.