Float On: Fox Updates the FLOAT and Introduces the FLOAT SL


Float On: Fox Updates the FLOAT and Introduces the FLOAT SL

Today, Fox Shox announced an updated FLOAT rear shock and a brand new, lightweight version called the FLOAT SL. After pouring over the PDFs, we figured it was worth pulling out of the quick-hit Radar Round-Up to give it its own spotlight. It’s more than just the next iteration of the most popular rear shock on the mid-travel market. It’s a sign of the times.

The Fox FLOAT shock has been around for over two decades. It’s an institution. So much so that it almost feels boring amid the industry-wide proliferation of knobs, dials, reservoirs and reducers. It’s not enduro-specific or XC-specific. It’s always just been what you put on a “normal” bike. But few products see such widespread use and have such widespread impact. So, today’s news is big news. The inline Fox FLOAT just got updated, and the new, XC-focused FLOAT SL has been added to the lineup. So, let’s dig in.




Before we dig in, let’s get some context. If we map the evolution of the three most recent generations of FLOAT shocks, it hints that the new FLOAT reflects a fundamental shift in how riders want their shocks to behave.

The decade-old FLOAT CTD offered “Climb, Trail, and Descend” modes. Higher-end models allowed the middle Trail setting to be adjusted between three firmness settings. At the time, Fox probably assumed that full-suspension owners would spend most of their time in the Trail setting because its firm platform presumably made a bike more versatile. So, that’s where they offered the three-position fine tuning. But as bikes were getting more efficient, firm platforms became less desirable.

So, the following generation FLOAT (the FLOAT DPS, or “Dual Piston System”) relocated that three-position adjustment to the most supple setting, now called “Open.” They also separated its hardest “Firm” setting into its own dedicated damping circuit so that oil could flow more freely and offer a lighter feel in the “Medium” and “Open” settings.


The adjustments on the new FLOAT take a different approach. Now, that blue lever only has two positions: Open and Firm. After going all-in on the Trail mode on the CTD, then shifting focus to the Open mode on the DPS, to now abandoning the Medium mode altogether, Fox has realized that fewer and fewer riders want, or need an over-engineered pedaling platform. The shims that manage oil flow in the Open mode now have zero preload, meaning there’s not a threshold that the compression speed has to pass before the oil can flow into the low-speed circuit. What that means is riders have a more pure control over their low-speed compression. A lot like they do on more tunable shocks like the FLOAT X, which also just has an Open and Firm mode. Speaking of the Firm mode, Fox has added the ability for bike brands and, presumably, tuning shops to adjust that Firm mode. Potentially, that could accommodate riders on one end of the spectrum who want an old-school lockout, and riders on the other end who do still want a pedaling platform.

The air spring also changed, with larger volume for lower pressure and better small-bump sensitivity. And there’s a more substantial rubber bumper that makes for a smoother transition from the late-stroke into bottom-out. Between small-bump and bottom-out, Fox has updated the volume reducers available in the FLOAT with smaller size increments for finer tuning.



All of the above changes made to the mainline Fox shock might make it less adept at satisfying the rather traditional XC racer. They still want firmer, more supportive full-suspension bikes. And they still want them to be light. In the past, dedicated XC bikes may have specced the FLOAT DPS SV to achieve this, with its Small Volume air can. The new FLOAT SL does have a smaller air can than the now larger, more-linear FLOAT, and it sticks to the DPS adjustment layout.



The three-position compression damping adjustment is only on the Open mode, with a Medium and Firm mode for hammering. Likely, you’ll see a lot of the remote versions of this shock, since those may be part-time affairs for some riders. Interestingly, the FLOAT SL is available in a pretty wide range of lengths, up to 210mm. That’s a common length on 120 or even 130mm bikes. It’ll probably be a popular choice for riders looking to go the ultralight route on bike like the Transition Spur or Pivot Trail 429.

But if you can’t tell, we’re more excited about the mid-travel FLOAT. There’s one in the mail, so we’ll have a review of it in the works shortly.

Read more at Fox.