X-Fusion Trace RL2 Fork - Review

Apr 17, 2014
by Mike Levy  
All three of X-Fusion's 29er specific Trace series of forks feature 34mm stanchion tubes, 15mm thru-axles, and an option to use the company's one-piece crown and steerer tube that sees both machined from a single unit rather than two that are then pressed together. X-Fusion says that the Uni-Crown design ''increases chassis strength at that junction by over 50%,'' which could be worth noting when you consider that it isn't uncommon for more traditional two-piece designs to begin creaking early in their life. The $659.99 USD RL2 is the least expensive option in the Trace lineup, and it therefore features the least amount of damper and spring adjustments: one dial for low-speed rebound, a blue dial atop the crown to control the lock-out, and an air valve to adjust spring rate. The damper isn't X-Fusion's highly praised HLR twin-tube setup, but rather a simpler cartridge unit. Travel options include a version that can do 120mm or 140mm via an internal adjustment, and one that can do 80mm or 100mm, but X-Fusion is simplifying that by planning to offer a single Trace that is able to be run at any of the four travel settings. Our 140mm travel, tapered steerer fork weighed 4.4lbs.

X-Fusion Trace review test
The Trace RL2 is simple, costs a reasonable amount of money, and performs exceptionally well. What more can you ask for?


Pinkbike's Take:

bigquotesWith a single compression and single rebound dial, and no spring rate tuning besides adjusting air pressure, the Trace RL2 is simpler than some more expensive options on the market. Does that hurt its performance relative to the pricier competition? Not in our minds, as the relatively easy to understand RL2 comes out of the box swinging. And that is really its strength: install the fork on your bike, set your air pressure and rebound rate, and hit the hills. We ended up running 5 - 10 PSI more than recommended for our weight but that's not uncommon, and the white Trace was impressively smooth straight out of the box, with zero break-in time needed for it to feel silky. That suppleness, combined with a good amount of progression in the later stages of the stroke, made for what felt close to being a compromise-free setup that provided both traction and bottoming resistance. Part of this is also down to the just-right amount of low-speed compression that helps to control the fork's stroke from diving wildly when on the brakes, and the 140mm Trace honestly felt like it had more useable travel than the more linear 150mm Marzocchi 55 Ti that it replaced. Chassis rigidity is on par for what we'd expect, with the tapered steerer tube, 34mm stanchions, and 15mm thru-axle adding up to a trail-worthy package that shouldn't disappoint anyone.

The Trace impressed us immensely with its on-trail manners, and it's obvious that X-Fusion has a good handle on how to make a relatively simple fork perform well. Having said that, we did find some foibles that, while not affecting performance, are worth mentioning. The first is the impossibly small hardware that holds its crown mounted compression dial in place, a tiny 1.5mm hex screw that we'd bet a lot of mountain bikers would round out within a few minutes. Why would they round it out? Because that little screw backed out a few times on us, and we didn't really want to put any Loctite on it given its small size. Now, we know this complaint is small beans, especially given how well the fork performs, but we absolutely despise such small hardware being used. Our other criticism is levelled at the fork's 'LockX' thru-axle that would work well enough if the QR lever didn't make contact with the casting when trying to back the axle out. It goes like this: release the QR lever and align it into the slots in the axle shroud, now start turning the lever to the left about three hundred degrees until it hits the casting, then re-align the lever so you have more room to continue to back the axle out. This is annoying, but we have to admit that the Trace's action is so impressive that we'd probably even look past the front wheel being held on with with nuts from the hardware store.

We can't keep being surprised by how well X-Fusion's forks perform given that we've now had plenty of time on a number of their offerings, but we have to admit to having our eyes opened each and every time we get on one. The Trace proves, once again, that X-Fusion is the real deal, and riders who give the fork a chance will not be disappointed.
- Mike Levy


www.xfusionshox.com


112 Comments

  • + 300
 I had two shocks broken at sea otter. A vector HLR air and an RC4. I went to the fox booth and I was met with quite a bit of sass and no help. Walked over to the xfusion tent and was met kindly and they took my shock with no questions asked. They said it would be done in about an hour. I came back to see my shock fixed after a complete rebuild and when I asked how much I owed them they said go tell all your friends that xfusion is the best. Well here you go. xfusion IS THE BEST. and ya screw fox.
  • + 13
 I agree, I have their hlr coil on my aurum and love it!!
  • + 16
 @meafroninja Fox did the same thing to my buddy. They literally said, "well, did you put enough air in the fork?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Not to say most people dont have enough air in the fork but there are other ways of saying it. Happy X-Fusion took care of you, good on them and glad you are back on the trails and not back in the shop. YEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!
  • + 20
 Props to x fusion thats real customer service!
  • + 0
 that is funny cause it was the opposite for me. xfusion were kinda of an ass with me. then i went to fox n they were so chill and help me with out a question.
  • + 2
 I am waiting more than 9 months to get my fork fixed. It makes an annoying click soud. It's a vengeance from an specialized status. The fork works great. Just that click...
  • + 8
 vector HLR coil owner here, I can confirm their customer service is excellent! Though it must be said I have called Fox technicians twice and both times they were very helpful AND nice.
  • + 24
 why has the guy who got good service from fox been negged? Is pinkbike now an X-Fusion specific site?
  • + 9
 there was no story to his review. It was like "nah, fox is better cuz xfusion isnt." thats why he got neggy props.
  • + 10
 How do you break shocks at sea otter? Those trails are smooth and flowy.
  • + 4
 He didn't get any Sass because he asked a question, not because he brought a broken fork to Fox. Fox won't have customers if they keep sending out CTD crap and treating customers like this.
  • + 15
 I swore off Fox after getting nothing but condescending attitude and sarcasism from customer service. Word to the wise, Fox, being 2 kool 4 skool and smoking in the boys room isn't a sign of a bright future. Untuck your ears from your hat take care of your customers.
  • + 3
 Fox is made for Bendeho's, run by Bendeho's and owned by the biggest Bendeho of all.
  • + 1
 Ahh Spanish... I kept reading that as Bendy Hoes! Haha
  • + 3
 Well first off I will disclaim that I ride a Fox, but I worked at a bike shop for 2 years with plenty of different suspensions coming in the door and really don't care what brand I ride if it works reliably and how I like it. IMO that fork looks phenomenal! I have considered going to x-fusion or another brand lately because weighing in at only 132 pounds the fox spring is more progressive than I need. But on the subject of customer service I have had mixed conversations. One time I talked with a guy at fox about progressive springs and air volumes and he was super helpful in suggesting some ideas (less fluid over the air spring for more linear). Another time a guy simply told me to just try +- air pressure to get certain desired results and acted like he just wanted me off the phone. Recently I called Fox about wanting to replace my foam ring on my air piston with another seal ( 2 seals on the new gens) and he sent me the seal and float fluid free of charge. Now all be it, this wasn't a pricey part or anything, but I really think any company you go to can just have some bad character mixed in. But props to X-Fusion for being on the rise with both their suspension and customer service!
  • - 4
flag ZMC888 (Apr 18, 2014 at 18:13) (Below Threshold)
 People talking about 'screw Fox, I love X-Fusion'. They're both made in the same freaking factory in Taiwan! Practically the same tech.
  • + 3
 So? They may be similar products, but we are discussing the superior customer support from x-fusion. The products could be identical, but I'd buy X-fusion because they care about their customers.
  • + 5
 I think (as mjsotelo91 said above) Its all to do with who you get on the phone, and what sort of day they are having. Im certain that I have given some customers awesome service above and beyond the call of duty, then dropped something heavy on my foot and been a bit surly with the next customer. Unless you ALWAYS get crap service from fox and awesome service from x-fusion, i wouldn't pay too much attention to the odd bad day here or there...
  • + 1
 Hertz32. X-Fusion care about their customers? Maybe in the USA, and maybe for now, but it's a bit of a leap to suggest that they care about their customers in every country. If you love them that much go on...buy one you'll soon find out because you'll be sure to be putting in warranty claim or two.
  • + 19
 "it isn't uncommon for more traditional two-piece designs to begin creaking early in their life."
I've never EVER had this happen. ever.
  • + 20
 I have had it happen several times with Fox.
  • + 4
 What really funny is my Slants are currently away on warranty for creaking from the crown so it clearly works really well haha. Plus I also have had Fox forks do it and know of others.
  • + 5
 Bought Slant - performance was excellent. However - they creaked. Sent back for warranty, they still creaked. Got refund and bought Pikes. Guess what? The creaked even worse. Got them fixed under warranty - now they're perfect. Wish I'd not had the issue with the Slants though - just as good as the Pikes but half the price.
  • - 3
 My fox forks always creek
  • + 3
 Fox creaks are notorious, but they are mostly creaking on the crown-stantion interface.
  • + 5
 Lol, every fork I've ever had has creaked.
  • + 1
 *creak
  • + 10
 there's a simple reason Fox forks can develop creaks in the CSU

during factory assembly, the stanchions are press fitted into the crown using a smear of assembly grease

over time, and especially if the bike is regularly cleaned (using Muc-Off style cleaners) this grease leaches out, and you end up with metal on metal contact. not a safety issue but just plain annoying to have a nice bike that creaks when you brake hard or pedal!

Fox cannot remove the stanchions to regrease (like you could with old press-fitted Marzocchi) because their crown is at the limits of strength / weight which means the initial assembly is a one-time process, they actually reject a number of CSU during this assembly as they have a tool which measures how much the crown has stretched when the stanchions are pressed in

I've had this issue on a number of Fox forks I've owned (and Rockshox to be fair..) and its always been taken care of through a warranty process, which involves a new CSU and fork rebuild. However once the 1 year warranty expires its crazy expensive to buy a new CSU and have the rebuild Frown
  • + 4
 On my -04 Kona Coiler I bent the steering tube (after punching into a large fir tree) on the Marzocchi that came on it. Marzocchi said to throw it away due to not being fixable and the possibility of the crown and/or stanchions being bent. I had a machinist press out the steering tube and a make a new one on a lathe. The fork ended up getting thousands of more miles on it without any problems.
  • + 1
 Fox also uses thermal induction heating the crown to around 350 degF then slamming the stanchions in place. This was developed mainly to elliminate having to clean up the teflon grease used otherwise. Still, they creak.
  • + 1
 I work at a shop and have seen many creaky steerers....
  • + 0
 I phoned TF Tuned when my Lyriks started creaking at the steerer/stanchion interface to see if they were ok to use. They said, "oh,oh, they're on their way out mate". I still used them as spares and they seemed ok!
  • + 1
 My totem did it the second year I had it and no warranty was offered they said I had a frontal impact even though I have other friends that had a problem with this with no frontal impact either
  • + 1
 SRAM give a 2 year warranty on their forks, Fox is only 1 year
  • + 15
 Is it so frigging hard to quote components weight in grams? Do not go all MBAction on us. Pounds are kinda accepted for frames and whole builds.
  • + 14
 I do know how to multiply. It is not the point.
  • - 1
 454 grams in a pound. It's really really really easy to do the math.
  • - 1
 yes , 1 kg is like 2,2 pounds
  • + 11
 do it in stones
  • + 5
 STONES!
  • + 16
 Use the fooking metric system Americans!! Its ridiculous, there is no excuse for the US to be still using imperial. And Canada!!! You're nearly as bad for using fluid ounces and lbs! Sort yer shit out!!
  • + 6
 'Merica. Land of the free*

*never mind the NSA, TSA, DHS, DOS, ACA, etc
  • + 0
 453.59 grams in a pound, jeez get it right
  • - 3
 There is no point to have five digits of precision when the quoted weight has only two. Which is another thing - accuracy of plus minus 20 grams is not good enough.
  • + 3
 I agree with you entirely; only quoting weights in one system is just... arrogant, especially given that Pinkbike is an international site, and given the proliferation of the metric system.

I also find it amusing, and unexpected, that you raise this point as an American. I'm a Brit living in Canada so whilst I can talk both, my default is metric.
  • + 3
 How about the weight in stones? So the Irish guy can understand
  • + 11
 I really like to see X-Fusion stuff more and more.
  • + 7
 I also praise X-Fusion customer service. Had a customer that broke their fork (Velvet) at XC nationals last year and they overnighted him a replacement. at my cost to him. He raced the next day and ended up on the podium.
  • + 5
 I am just getting into Xfusion, Just bought my first one (Xfusion RV1). One of my friends had his bike stolen with a brand new Slant, he only had 1 ride on the bike. A bunch of us pitched in to buy him a new bike and one of the guys who is a Xfusion dealer told them what we were doing. Xfusion immediately pitched in and hooked up the best deal I have ever heard of on a fork. Xfusion is my new go to suspension company.
  • + 3
 I have owned a Vengeance HLR, two Vector HLR coil shocks, now a Metric HLR and a Vector HLR air shock. Their products are the best. Not a lot of plastic bits inside but lots of machined aluminum. Very simple but very effective. From my experience racing MX and servicing MX suspension, X Fusion is the closest in feel and build quality. That's a good thing. Plus, the west coast distributor is the best! Check out Renegade Cycle Solutions at www.r-c-s.ca. He also makes fork mounted mudguards called the Canadian Shield. They offer greater coverage than the others and are less expensive.
  • + 1
 Yea, went over to R C S, and had my vector coil redone in under an hour.
  • + 3
 Would somebody just build a dern fork with interchangeable steer tubes...tapered 1.5 11/8 swap em out and be done with it...For someone who likes playing with different frames I for one would love it. Oh and before anyone says it cant be done...its 2014 there is a space station...it can be done and would be simple enough...
  • + 4
 Love my trace. Bought it in November and have no complaints. Simple, easy, and works very well... So much so, I don't think about it.
  • + 2
 A trace has been on my trail bike for over a year and am I completely satisfied. While it is cheaper than all the Fox forks i have used for many years, it offers equal quality. I recommend xfusion to everyone who asks. Why pay double the price for the same quality?

And it isn't like i'm cheap. The bike is a canfield nimble9 spec'd with carbon bars, carbon wheels, carbon cranks, thomson stem and post, titanium seat rails, chris king front hub, true-precision stealth rear hub, spank spike pedals... and yet I went with an xfusion trace. I am willing to spend stupid amounts of money if it results in better gear. And yet I chose the trace over a fox fork.

In other words, these forks are great!
  • + 2
 i once had an issue with a velvet fork, that in no way fell under the realm of quality of workmanship. the bike was loaned out, and put through gross abuse. i called x fusion to see about a new crown and stanchions, and they went way above their obligation. they have a loyal customer, and advocate for life! if you havn't tried their stuff you owe it to yourself. top quality product, save some bucks, and customer support on a level i've never seen before!
  • + 2
 Love the hell out of my Metric HLR and Vector HLR Air. Not only are their products bombproof and cheaper than all the competition , but they also go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to backing up their products. Mike D, John, Joel, Clarke, forreal XF crew will get you sorted. Definitely gonna be running full xf on my future bikes.
  • + 1
 I have the same! Just waiting on my frame to build it up
  • + 1
 Got mad respect for any company that still bothered making a 180mm fork. The metric is suuuper dope, as a tip though, run the pressure slightly lower than recommended, makes it feel all the better.
  • + 1
 I've set mine at 160mm
  • + 1
 I've got the same set up on my Banshee Rune. It's a stellar fork and shock combination. Can't wait to get out and beat the babe to see how they really perform.
  • + 2
 i have their new 36 chassis - the metric -and their vector air on my sb66 (oh ya i have their hilo seat post too). that set up has so far been the most incredible suspension tune that ive ever ridden. i havent ridden on a huge variety but the customer service alone sells me on the product now. id love to see more full reviews on their other products. im thinking about picking up their dual crown now
  • + 3
 Got a pair of X-Fusion Sweeps, and they never cease to amaze me, and thats before I add in the cost side of it. Absolute bargain that many people will miss out on simply because it isn't Fox or RS.
  • + 1
 Vengence Vector here awesome performance, exactly as WayneP says amazing. Bought a Fox digi pump while back, battery gone flat, asked Fox how to replace it, answer you don't buy a new pump WTH the most expensive shock pump in history and for a 1.50 buck battery CR22 I have to buy a whole new pump, no easy way to open her up fully sealed. LBS did it, replaced battery pump works but no gauge working, most expensive battery ever, thanks Fox.
  • + 3
 I took my crappy feeling 40 float to the fox booth at seaotter. While the dude there wasn't very cheery, he upgraded the fork to 2014 free if charge. Fork feels amazing now.
  • + 1
 Rockin the Vector HLR Coil on my Mojo HD. By far the best performing and easiest to set up shock I have ever run (Rock Shox, Fox, Marzocchi, etc...). The X-Fusion folks are top notch and will do all they can to ensure that you enjoy the best experience possible with your suspension. Good on ya guys! Keep it up. Smile
  • + 1
 I have the trace that came on my Norco shinobi. the fork has worked flawlessly for almost a year. also have the o2rl rear shock once again an amazing product. I ride about 5 days a week for about 4 hours each time with no issues love there products
  • + 4
 Good for x-fusion for earning a such a positive review! Hope this sends some more buisbess their way!
  • + 3
 I was just looking at x fusions site today thinking, PB hasn't put up much from these guys lately... Glad to hear it's quality stuff
  • + 1
 ive been running x fusion slide rl2's for over a year and have to say they have performed perfectly & still butter smooth im glad the likes of fox and Rs are being shown up for over pricing & under performing
  • + 1
 What they need to work in is a demand planning system, this fork is always out of stock. I need to wait until May 15th to get my hands on one of them
  • + 2
 Brian at RCS serviced my fork and did a rush job getting me back on my bike ASAP...great service!
  • + 2
 @Pedalhound - it's been 8 months when are you going to post the final review?
  • + 4
 Xfusion=the best
  • + 1
 Need a shootout with the equally affordable Manitou Tower Expert or Pro...!
  • + 2
 x fusion and marzocchi are the best suspension manufacturers.
  • + 2
 888 up front and vector hlr out back for me.
  • + 1
 I just got the slant, but the trails are still covered in snow. Beyond excited to try it out soon though
  • + 2
 Thats some nice Kashmirasha.
  • + 2
 What you did there, I see it!
  • + 1
 felt like it had more useable travel than the more linear 150mm Marzocchi 55 Ti that it replaced. wow that's a big claim.
  • + 1
 I build one frame for this fork, dead rabbit zomb i29. Really happy with the fork, works very well.
  • + 1
 Is HLR an option with the Trace?
  • + 1
 RST- this how you do it!!
  • - 1
 I love my Trace...check out my initial thoughts on it:
www.themountainbikelife.com/2013/07/x-fusion-trace-rl2-product-preview.html
  • + 1
 Please update your initial review
  • + 1
 Soon! I just had a little warranty work done on them and they are even better now....just amazing bang for your buck.
  • - 3
 Cool enough... but as with any other "value" priced option I've seen reviewed on here it gets a glowing review... but then some 'minor' issues are pointed out that, apparently, shouldn't overshadow how lovely and cheap and simple this fork is.
That bolt rounding out and then creating an immense hassle for me when I want to service/ adjust my fork seems like more than a minor issue and a bit of an oversight on X-Fusion's part... hopefully they have a solution.
  • + 3
 Ummm, Rockshox RCT3 dampers use the same size hex for the lsc knob, and it can come loose too. Really not a big issue. 20 mm maxles have some issues staying tight if you don't adjust the allen key in the lever over time as the cam wears... Again small issue. More importantly they really like everything else. Really.
  • + 2
 There are numerous different grades of thread locking compounds, a light compound would be fine to use on a bolt that small and would stop it coming loose without being hard to loosen, pretty ignorant point to make in a review tbh, albeit something the mfr should address in assembling the product
  • + 1
 Hsc on almost every single totem, boxxer and lyrik I've seen has used a 1.5...
  • + 1
 And gold slick ano is hawt
  • + 1
 Now if X Fusion just hired a new graphic designer for their forks...
  • + 1
 They look badass in person, especially the black version. Quite a few people ogle the trace on my bike, wanting to know what it is, how much it cost, etc.
  • + 1
 I love my Sweep! and my vector air
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: when will we see a review of the metric???
  • + 1
 I wonder if other versions are lighter. 2kg is quite heavy.
  • + 4
 Not terrible for a 29" wheel 140mm travel fork.
  • + 6
 A float 34 140 fit ctd is 2.04kg, and a Revelation RLT 140mm (9mm QR) is 1.8kg.
That's an amazing weight considering it will cost 1/2 of the Fox or RS.
  • + 1
 Pike is 1876
  • + 4
 Axxe, is there anything you don't complain about? Cheap/strong/light. Pick two!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • - 6
flag Axxe (Apr 17, 2014 at 22:52) (Below Threshold)
 Yes, there is. I do not complain about my intelligence and reading comprehension skills. Because there is nothing to complain about. Wish others could do the same.
  • + 2
 @willie1 just look at his profile picture. That should explain it all...lol
  • + 2
 Axxe, the Pike is also twice as much as the Trace...
  • + 1
 These forks sound awesome
  • - 1
 X fusion do some cracking forks but allways let down buy a creaking stering tube
  • + 1
 You must have missed the part about the one piece crown/steer-tube. It is flat out impossible for that part of the fork to creak.

I'm guessing you have an older version...
  • - 3
 great forks.....service is a nightmare
  • + 1
 m-jeff are you contacting x fusion in the usa or the canadian distributors? i go direct to the american service center and had nothing but great luck and quick service, been really happy.

my only complaint is that to change the travel in the metric and vengence, i need to press a pin out with a arbour press, not the most common shop tool or easy to bring to a race, i think that this could be achevied witha hex key , as well as a couple more holes in the rode to give you more travel options , quickly.
  • + 1
 I originally tried to deal with x-fusion themselves....nothing. The Canadian distributor seems pretty on top of things, but I was more making reference to the technical service with their forks. I to was trying to lower my slant, and had a hard time finding tools. Even with access to an entire service shop.
  • + 1
 with this day and age of making shocks rebuildable , the way x fusion has designed there travel adjust is just insane , there is no need, maybe saves about $3 by not tping and treading the pins to adjust travel

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