Foes is a unique manufacturer in a lot of ways. As other niche brands have ramped up production and started to cross over into the mainstream, Foes has clung to its small-is-beatiful roots. It’s also following very much its own path when it comes to the bikes themselves. Foes has the exclusive use of Curnutt shocks – Charles Curnutt was the man who invented the platform shock technology more often seen used under license by 5th Element and Manitou. But the Curnutt shocks that Foes uses differ in some important ways.
The most noticeable difference is that they’re big. Like, really big. This is because Foes’s big thing these days is super-low leverage ratios – while most manufacters are in the 2.5-3:1 range of wheel travel to shock stroke ratio (with bigger ratios on the long travel stuff as the availability of standard shocks diminishes), Foes is now running 2:1 across its whole range. Which means that the shock on the 10in (250mm) travel DHS Mono has a stroke getting on for twice what you’ll find on any other shock.
Foes does this for a number of reasons. Lower leverage ratios mean lower spring rates (hence the sparsely-coiled springs) and hence a plusher ride. Greater oil volume means more control, and the loads on the pivots are reduced, so everything can be made lighter.
All of which brings us the the Foes XCT. Foes has had the 5 or 6in travel FXR in its range for a couple of years, but for 2007 the FXR will be 6in only, parking it in the all-mountain arena. The shock is quite short by Curnutt standards, but still somewhat rangier than many found on bikes of this sort of travel. The suspension design is a simple single pivot, with a swing-link at the shock controlling side loads.
Out on the trail, the XCT actually feels a little odd at first. This is mainly because it delivers distinctly different sensations to almost every other bike out there. We were initially convinced that it wasn’t all that plush, but after a while realised that what was actually happening was that the suspension was only moving as much as it needed to rather than tending to overtravel. Similarly, it didn’t feel like it had 5in of travel, but only because it was pretty much free of pitch and wallow. It’s certainly a stiff frame, the handling is very agreeable and it proved very difficult to get in over its head. But it’s sufficiently different that we’re reluctant to draw too many conclusions from a short ride – we suspect that the Foes is a grower…
One undeniable downside of the whole big shock thing is that you’re making the heaviest single part of the frame considerably heavier. This can be countered a bit with the optional Ti spring, although obviously that’s a considerable extra cost. Foes will soon be delivering bikes with Curnutt air shocks, though, which’ll go a long way to allaying weight concerns.