Fox Live Valve launched a few years back on a very limited number of bikes. It promised to be the ultimate in suspension performance. Since then, It seems to have faded into the background. Recently Fox dropped Live Valve 1.5. Today we’re going to dive in and see what the fuss is about with an in-depth breakdown. How does it work? Is it worth the price tag? Is it the right move for you? Stick around to find out.
What is Fox Live Valve and how does it work?
Fox Live Valve is a series of sensors and electronic bits that control your suspension automatically while you ride. Think of it as tiny little magical elves inside your suspension twisting and turning knobs based on feedback from the trail. Or at least, that’s how I like to think of it. In reality, it takes data from sensors on the bike at a rate of 1000 times per second. It then does a whole bunch of nerdy math to make adjustments to the fork and shock based on that input. There are solenoids in the fork and shock that open and close your compression as needed. If you’re super noise sensitive, these solenoids might bug you as they click a little. The idea is that the system will be firmer/closed until you hit a bump. Once you hit a bump, the system will open the suspension for more traction and control. Once no more bumps are detected, the system will close down the compression again giving you the firmest pedaling platform that the bike can offer.
For example, picture yourself climbing on a fast, open fire road. The Live Valve system is going to be closed/firm for maximum efficiency. Then you hit a short rolling section with bumps and rollers. The system will open and close based on what it’s reading from the trail. The sensors include accelerometers and inclinometers to determine impacts and the pitch of the bike. Once the bike is pointed downhill, the system pretty much remains open for comfort, traction, and control. At least that’s how it should work in theory. There are some moments when the suspension can think it’s right when it’s actually wrong. More on that later.
Fox Live Valve now comes with an app that makes setup and use much easier. Within the app, there are multiple customizable ride settings based on rider preference. These settings are Climb, Firm, Sport, Comfort, and Open. Each has its own unique offering in terms of ride quality. Within each setting, you’re able to adjust the bump sensitivity on a scale of 1-5. At setting 1, a smaller bump will activate the system whereas at setting 5 it will take a larger bump. I’d suggest playing around with these settings a bit to find what best suits you and your style. With the app, it’s really easy to switch back and forth. I was surprised to see how noticeable the differences between them were.
Fox Live Valve Setup
The process for setting up your bike with Live Valve is going to be almost identical to setting up a regular non-electronic system. You’ll need to make sure the Live Valve system is off or in “Open” mode within the app. Turn the compression adjusters on the fork and shock all the way to the soft/open setting (you can make these firmer later if you need). Then, set up your sag and rebound like you normally would.
After setting sag and rebound, connect the Live Valve system to the app via Bluetooth, select your settings and head out for your first ride.
For this breakdown, I’m using a Fox Live Valve system on a Giant Trance X. It’s a bike I’ve spent a fair amount of time riding so it will be a good test mule. It’s a fast and efficient bike to begin with, so I have high hopes for the Live Valve system.
Fox Live Valve: Ride Impressions
I’ll start by telling you what I was looking for while riding his bike. I like the Trance X. I think it’s a great well-rounded trail bike. It goes uphill well and descends fairly well. I like that it’s an efficient climber without really needing a lockout switch. That being said, if I had the opportunity to use an automatic, magical elf-controlled lockout switch that promised more efficiency, I wouldn’t shy away from the opportunity. There’s one big qualifier here, though. I don’t want those elves to get in the way of the bike on the downhill. So, if Live Valve offers better support for climbing without feeling weird on the downhill, I’ll call it a win.
I started my testing in the Sport setting. From Fox’s app, it seemed to be the most neutral setting. I wanted to start somewhere in the middle and then work my way to the extremes. My ride, as most do in Utah, started with a climb. The bike felt fast, firm, and efficient. The dirt road was mostly smooth so I didn’t notice too much happening with the LIve Valve. Once we hit a more rolling section of the trail, I started to hear the clicks and could feel the suspension opening and closing. I was pretty surprised to find that it got it right pretty much every time. When the bike pitched up, the system would close down given there weren’t big bumps. When the trail was flat, the system stayed closed until I hit rocks and roots. I was also pretty surprised to see how quickly it reacted. It turns out that 1000 times per second is pretty fast.
I was the most concerned about the downhills. I didn’t want to have the suspension locking out when I hit a flat section for a couple of feet or have the suspension lockout mid-corner. For the most part, Live Valve did a great job of letting the bike remain open any time the bike was pointed downhill. Even a minor downhill grade was enough to keep the bike open. I made sure to ride a variety of descents from steep and rough to smooth and fast. I wanted to find any weirdness if there was any to be found. On the steep stuff, I never felt the bike switch back and forth. The sustained downhill grade kept everything open. On the flatter, flowier stuff, I noticed a couple of times when the bike would close off when I didn’t want it to. Most of these were uphill rollers before berms.
The place I noticed the most weirdness was jumping. On steep jump trails with small jumps, the bike works just fine. I don’t think there was enough time or enough flat/uphill terrain to close the system. It’s on the flatter trails with bigger jumps that the system gets confused. It seems to interpret a takeoff for a climb. You can see the problem there. It locks out the suspension mid-pump and can throw you forward — it’s not a great feeling. If I rode more jumps, I’d turn Live Valve to the Open setting at the top of the trail to eliminate any inconsistency.
I switched settings quite frequently on my test rides as I tried to dial it in. I ended up landing on Comfort most of the time with a couple of short stints in Climb. Climb sounds a bit counterintuitive at first. You might think it’s purely for going uphill as fast/firm as possible. That setting would actually be Firm. Instead, Climb tunes the rear of the bike while leaving the fork open. It keeps the front end from locking out and riding too high in its travel. When your fork sits too high, the bike leans pretty far back, making the front end light and wandery. On flat and downhill terrain, Climb switches over to Sport. I wish there was an option to run a Climb/Comfort mix instead of Climb/Sport.
Overall, I was a pretty big fan of Live Valve. It offers a bit more support for climbing while not doing too much weird stuff on the downhill. I’ll call it a win.
Who is Fox Live Valve for?
I see Live Valve being a great option for two kinds of riders.
The first are those looking to eke out every bit of efficiency from their bike. These folks fall into two subcategories for me. Those looking to go as fast as possible uphill on short-travel XC and downcountry bikes. They don’t want to waste any energy as they tear their friends’ legs off. The second subcategory is the folks on long-travel, slack rigs who could use a helping hand on the climbs. At the time of posting, there aren’t many Live Valve-equipped bikes for those folks. Maybe Fox can make that happen. I’d gladly take it if they offered it on a long-travel bike.
The second group of folks I think would really enjoy Live Valve are the “set it and forget it” riders. You set the suspension up once, do a couple of rides to find the setting you like, and then you never touch it again. The bike makes all the adjustments for you to maximize your suspension performance. If you’d rather ride your bike than mess with your suspension, it’s a great option.
So there you have it. Hopefully, we start to see more bike options with Live Valve. Hit us up with any questions and we will do our best to get you answers.