Mid-September in Jaarvso, Sweden. Ohlins invited us to ride their all-new RXF36 Trail fork and TTX Air rear shock. Their presentation started unusually; unlike most marketeer's who say their last 'great' (read: not-that-great) product was 'perfect,' and that their new version is now much more perfect, Ohlins had the balls to admit they had a tough time coming into the mountain bike industry, made some mistakes and delivered some products they now admit were sub-par for their gold-standard.
Overdamped and unreliable products with sticky bushings and failing seals were conceded to, but these new products should set the record straight. The RXF36 Trail fork and TTX Air promise performance and damping that Ohlins feel will beat the latest and greatest from the class leaders. What are they? The RXF36 Trail fork is aimed at everybody from trail to enduro riders, and the shock from XC to downhill. There's a multitude of different options and sizes, as well as plenty for the tuners and tweakers to get involved in. The RXF36 Trail fork drops in at $1250 USD / €1035 plus tax, and the TTX Air shock for $780 USD / €702 plus tax.
RXF36 Trail Details
• TTX twin tube technology
• Air spring travel: 120 - 180mm
• Coil spring travel: 130 -170 mm
• Spring and damper systems independent from chassis
• Re-tuned air spring system
• Stanchion diameter: 36mm
• Offset 27.5": 46mm or 38mm
• Offset 29": 51mm or 44mm
• Prepared for mudguard
• Race proven 'Setting Bank' for shim stack tunes
• Overall improvements for reducing friction
• Price: $1250 USD / €1035 plus tax ohlins.com
So what's new with the RXF36 Trail fork? Well, everything. The crown steerer upper's (CSU) stiffness has been increased by adding material to the crown and leaving more material inside the machined steerer tube, Ohlins say they did this as the 'class-leading stiffness' of the RXF36 lowers wasn't quite matched by the CSU. There is a choice of two offsets for each wheelsize: 38/46mm for 27.5", and 44/51mm for the 29".
The lower castings have been changed slightly with a different visual, and increased tire clearance for 2.8" tires in 27.5" and 29", and 27.5+ x 3.2" plus tires in the 29" lower. Travel options range from 120-180mm for either wheel size with an air spring or 130-170mm with coil.
So the main chassis of the fork has been improved, but so have the bushings, lubrication oil and seals. New wiper seals from SKF, a new lubricant, and bushings with more play – "Hang on, more bushing play? Do I want that?" Well, yes you do, to a point – Ohlins say that with their moto forks have much more play in the bushings means a smoother suspension action under load, but also creates a 'loose headset' type feeling, but this is harder to feel in the car park with the huge weight and inherent sag of an MX bike. They say it's harder to convince mountain bikers that this is a good thing and the older versions were too tight to give consumers the feeling they wanted. Working with their racing teams, they say that a happy medium has been reached with the new bushings. This should also help stop sticky forks; I had a RXF36 coil last year which became terribly sticky after a few weeks of riding, and there were many complaints from consumers with OEM spec forks.
The new air spring is independent from the chassis, unlike most air forks that use the stanchions and lowers as the external sleeve of the air spring. This means that different air springs can simply be dropped in and out to change travel, or maybe you are a racer who wants a freshly serviced air spring for race day without having to strip and rebuild the fork completely. This also means you can change to a coil spring and back to air; if you use an aftermarket coil spring kit in a Rockshox Pike, for example, it will score the inside of the stanchions making it not possible to return to using the air spring and get a reliable seal. The air spring itself has also been updated with a larger negative spring, which should give more supple small bump performance and mid-stroke support. Coil is still an option, and there new lighter weight (in grams not stiffness) coil springs then previously.
When it comes to the TTX damper, the larger 22mm piston of the old fork is gone, and the 18mm version that's found on the DH Race fork takes its place. Ohlins say they use the 18 mm piston for "improved small bump sensitivity, with increased damping pressure bandwidth the damping valve response and sensitivity has improved." To add to this, they have also worked on all the seals inside the damper to reduce friction, claiming 50% less breakaway force over the TTX22. There are 15 clicks of low-speed compression and rebound to fine tune, and four clicks of HSC. Slightly confusing is the fact that the first three clicks of HSC change the high-speed compression, but the fourth acts as 'climb mode,' turning it to the fourth position actually shuts off parts of the LSC circuit to create a firm LSC pedal platform.
The 'Settings Bank' is a range of pre-set shim stacks for various rider needs. Full custom stacks are also an option for people who need something extreme.
Maybe the most important thing that Ohlins haven't shouted about enough is their 'Setting Bank'. The Setting Bank now offers eight off the shelf shim stacks for compression and for rebound, as well as further customization being possible. All consumers should get the correct tune for their needs from the start when buying aftermarket to give them a 'usable range' on the adjusters. This means turning to fully open or closed on the adjusters should leave the shocks usable. If you are a 60kg rider buying an XXL Specialized Levo eMTB from a shop you are highly likely to get the wrong tune.
TTX Air Details
• Adjustable low-speed compression
• Adjustable rebound
• High-speed compression adjuster inc. climb mode
• Air spring volume spacers included in kit
• Metric 190/210/230/250mm lengths
• Trunnion 165/185/205/225mm lengths
• 'Setting Bank' for shim stack tunes
• Optional stroke reducers
• Weight: 410g 210mm x 52.5mm Specialized fitment (claimed
• Price: $780 USD / €702 plus taxohlins.com
Ohlins' previous STX Air was a single-tube style damper, where the all-new TTX Air takes the twin tube tech from their TTX22M coil shock and combines it with a lighter and easier to tune air spring. Weight is claimed to be 410g for a 210mm x 52.5mm Specialized fitment shock.
Although a twin tube design, there is only no external adjustment for high-speed rebound, LSR (12 clicks) and LSC (10 clicks) can be adjusted, along with three clicks of HSC including the pedal platform as mentioned above on the RXF36 Trail fork. The pressure in the air can equalizes with the negative chamber automatically as usual, and like most modern air shocks volume spacers can be added to tune the spring curve. Like the fork, there is a Settings Bank dedicated to the shock, giving 15x different tunes, plus custom settings.
Durability, friction, performance and sideload management are factors that all need to be balanced for an air shock, and you can't change one without affecting the others. Again, Ohlins admitted they had some problems with their STX Air shock after focusing too much on the performance factor which led to problems with sealing and sideloading, especially on some frames where the shock becomes a structural part of the frame. The TTX Air has improved dynamic lubrication, sealing and surfaces, bushing overlap, seal preload, and is stronger overall to cope with these problems, but they claim the improvements using the latest technology have also increased the performance.
There are between four and ten volume spacers that can be used depending upon the size of the shock. The air spring can also be fully removed and serviced without affecting the damping system. And the last feature is that the stroke of the shock can be reduced by using spacers, just in case you need less travel.
As always on these press camps, you rock up tired after a day in a germ-tube and head straight to a new trail, in different weather, with a bike you never rode before that's adorned with the latest suspension you have never seen until now. I chose a Specialized Stumpjumper to ride, which is somewhat different to the downhill and eMTB's I have been riding for the last few months. The bike was set up with a 150mm travel RXF Coil, and the TTX Air rear shock to handle the 140mm travel. Both had the standard 'Setting Bank' shim stacks, we set the pressure and spring weight and we were good to go.
After the first couple of runs, the rear end was too soft compared to the front, and after adding a few PSI, it was spot on. So good, in fact, I didn't want to change anything for the rest of the day. The damping front and rear seemed to be lighter than the Ohlins products I have used in the past; I left everything nearly fully open, and would like to try lighter stacks in the future to put me more in the middle of the adjusters. The fork and shock did everything that you want from suspension: they were supple at the beginning of the stroke, plenty of support in the middle and enough at the end to keep you out of trouble. Both units were also extremely quiet, and there was no sign of heat affecting the performance, although the Jaarvso tracks are fairly short. I think it's a great sign when you're not really sure what the suspension is doing, but you are having the shred of your life. That's exactly what it should do – if you are constantly thinking about what it is not doing right for you, that's a huge distraction away from the trail coming at you.
Overall, it was great to see Ohlins admitting to mistakes and explaining what they have done to right the wrongs. Many might see this as marketing BS, but I believe them, and every point they made makes sense. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, and we will need to spend more time on the fresh produce this winter to see if the claims hold true in the real world.