It took more time than expected, but long-travel 29ers are finally here. Wheels, tires, geometry, and frames are relatively dialed, and you can pick from a number of different all-mountain 29er forks from Fox, RockShox, and Manitou, among a few others. And now X-Fusion joins the big wheel, big-travel party with their brand new Trace 36.
Up until now, it was only X-Fusion's forks with 34mm stanchions that used the Trace name, but that's changed for 2018 with this new model and its 36mm upper tubes. Longer travel forks - this one goes up to 170mm or down to 120mm - combined with 29'' wheels often require a burlier chassis, and X-Fusion started from scratch for the new fork. The approach was actually backward to how things are usually done, I was told, with them using a sort of reverse FEA system to determine the amount of material required for critical areas, whereas the more common approach is to pare a design down until you reach a compromise in weight, rigidity, and strength.
The finished Trace 36 sports an entirely new and shapely crown, and the lowers see an arch with deep lattice work and no extra material hanging about. Total weight is a claimed 4.4lbs / 2,000-grams, which is a very competitive number for a big 29er fork.
Moving inside, there's an all-new air spring system that ditches X-Fusion's old steel negative spring for a self-adjusting air setup. This obviously helps to shed some weight, but the self-adjusting design also means that the negative spring will match the positive spring as required.
You can't manually adjust the negative pressure, but it's definitely a step forward from the old coil-sprung layout. Accessing the spring leg to add or remove volume-reducing tokens requires a cassette tool, much like on the newer Pike and Lyrik forks, so say goodbye to silly wrench flats that were always way too shallow to save a few grams.
Control is looked after by their Roughcut damper (pictured above), a sealed unit with an expanding bladder to compensate for oil displacement and to provide back-pressure to limit cavitation. The two dials at the fork crown are for low- and high-speed compression, while the dial at the bottom of the leg controls low-speed rebound, and the whole damper can be pulled out without needing to bleed it or perform a full rebuild.
If you know X-Fusion, you know that their forks are usually priced lower than the larger brands, at least when it comes to comparing MSRPs across the board, and it's no different with the Trace 36 that will retail for around $899 USD when it becomes available in March of 2018.