Review: Ohlins RXF36 fork & STX22 shock

by
July 28, 2017

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review

James reports back from testing an Ohlins one-two duo of shock and fork

Brand:
Ohlins
Product:
RXF36 air fork & STX22 air shock
From:
Ohlins
Price:
RXF36 fork - £979.00 STX22 shock - £579.00
Tested:
by James for 4

Our James has been riding the full complement of Ohlins, front and rear, for the last few months. Let’s see how he got on…

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Long established and well regarded in two and four wheeled motorsports. Ohlins suspension is now available for your off-road push iron.

The Ohlins name is synonymous with success in motorsports. The Swedish suspension manufacturer has quite the reputation, the name alone carries some clout… with a long established and proven track record in motorsports of both the two wheeled and four wheeled, both on and off road. A couple of years ago a partnership with Specialized saw it venture into the world of mountainbikes. With Ohlins forks and shocks initially only available on select Specialized mountainbike models this meant that there was some exclusivity. Now Ohlins is more readily available for those considering an aftermarket upgrade.

The RXF36 air fork and the STX22 air shock are designed specifically for trail and enduro use. What have we got here then?

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Ohlins RXF36 fork.

Ohlins RXF36 air fork

Technical specifications

  • For 29inch and 27.5+ wheel sizes
  • 120/140/150/160mm travel
  • TTX damping technology
  • Uni-crown/steerer with integrated lower bearing race and tapered steerer tube
  • 36mm diameter stanchions
  • Low friction seals and bushings
  • 110 x 15mm BOOST axle spacing
  • 51mm offset
  • External rebound damping adjustment (24 click)
  • External high speed compression damping adjustment (5 click)
  • External low speed compression damping adjustment (24 click)

Weight for 120mm travel model tested – 2,050g (with steerer cut to 210mm and inclusive of star fangled nut)

 

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Ohlins STX22 shock.

Ohlins STX22 air shock

Technical specifications

  • Available sizes – 190x51mm, 200x51mm, 200x57mm & 216x63mm
  • Adjustable volume air spring
  • STX damping technology
  • One piece body and reservoir for low weight and high strength
  • Low friction seals and bushings
  • External rebound damping adjustment
  • External high speed compression damping adjustment
  • External low speed compression damping adjustment
  • Climb mode setting

Weight for 200x51mm model tested – 380g

We tested the RXF36 at 120mm and the 200x51mm STX22 on a COTIC FlareMAX.

Detail

At first glance it’s plain to see that Ohlins does things its own way… there are some stand out features and methods of construction that are unique to them and not the typical norm – the RXF36 fork features a one piece crown and steerer assembly. The crown race is integrated, so the lower headset bearing sits directly on the fork. The STX22 shock is similar in that the body and piggyback are made out of one piece of material each. A simpler yet more intensive way of construction. Stronger and lighter too.

Black with a smattering of gold and a touch of blue. Classy. Both fork and shock are well finished and have a high quality feel and look. With both high speed and low speed compression adjustment as well as rebound you have what you need to get set up just so… to suit you and where, what and how you are riding. With the black lever at the top of the left fork leg there are five clicks of high speed compression adjustment and a further higher level of compression damping that sets the fork very firm. This is featured for sustained smooth climbs.

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
TTX – twin tube damping technology.
Ohlind RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Integrated crown race – Doing things differently…
RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
One piece steerer and crown with integrated race for lower headset bearing.

Fitting the fork is as usual with one little difference to note. The integrated crown race makes for easier installation. There’s one less job to do…with no need to fit a separate crown race, simply source the required 45/45 degree bearing and slip it directly on to the fork. An aside of the absent separate crown race means that there is no additional lower headset sealing. Three threaded posts feature at the rear of the brace for fitment of an Ohlins specific mudguard. I fitted a Mudhugger to keep muck and clart out of my eyeballs and to help protect this area. In the time that I have been using the RXF36 there has been a little visible wear – there’s a slight loss of the black anodising where the lower headset bearing sits on the crown but no discernible damage here in the form of pitting.

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Three threaded posts for Ohlins mudguard.
Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Some gold, some blue…mostly black.

The RXF36 is an adjustable fork. It has low speed compression adjustment, high speed compression adjustment, rebound adjustment and in addition there’s a third air chamber for adjusting bottom out resistance. Not as plug and play as some… but, is it easy to set up? Yes. This is suspension fork that rewards setup time and knowledge of what does what. The manuals supplied with both fork and shock cover all aspects and adjustments, so there’s no ambiguity or guesswork. All dials adjust nicely with positive clicks. There are no excuses really, knowledge is power… read & tweak. Then enjoy!

Black dial for high speed compression adjustment, blue for low speed compression adjustment.
Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Ohlins. Gold! Rebound adjuster.
Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Bolt up axle & secondary air chamber at base of right hand leg for progression adjustment.

It’s not too difficult to achieve a good feeling and performance, it’s simply a case of understanding what does what and spending some time on set up.

The axle is 15mm and relies on a good old bolt up method of fastening. There’s no quick release lever so don’t forget a 5mm allen key for wheel removal/install.

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Take a 5mm allen key with you.
The STX22 has low speed compression adjustment, and high speed compression adjustment.

The STX22 shock is a single tube design. Ohlins also offers a twin tube shock – the TTX22. The TTX22 is a coil shock designed for heavier duty use (enduro/DH) and as such is heavier than the air sprung, and light weight STX22 we have here.

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
Ohlins STX22.

The body and piggyback of the STX22 are machined from one piece of aluminium. Like the fork steerer/crown. Less means more machining!

Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
High quality construction and finish.
Ohlins RXF36 fork STX22 shock review
This lever goes to three (if you wish).

Both fork and shock have fairly long service intervals for oil change and rebuild of air spring and damper cartridge at a recommended 100 hours of use.

Feeling

Quality. Both fork and shock have a high quality, well put together feel. Setting up I went with recommended pressures and went for ride. With sag set and pressure at recommended level in the secondary chamber the fork behaved in a linear fashion.  I went with a little more air than the recommended setting in the secondary ramp up chamber for a more progressive feel and with low speed compression and high speed compression adjusted where I wished. This is a straightforward and simple adjustment to make with a shock pump, there’s no need to get inside the fork to fit spacers/tokens.

Pretty quickly I was able to adjust to achieve a fork that tracked well with good small bump compliance while behaving in a stable manner and maintaining composure.

There’s a real substantial feeling to the RXF36.  It’s stout and goes where you aim it. The one piece construction of crown and steerer and the 36mm diameter stanchions make for a confidence inspiring chassis. It’s stiff, there’s a real point and shoot accuracy and no twist or deflection experienced in messy terrain. And it can be set up so it’s quick to react with superb mid-stroke support and a nicely progressive end. Charging along the RXF36 feels smooth, and at speed there’s a real feeling of poise and confident control.

2017 COTIC Flare MAX review
The Ohlins pairing of RXF36 fork & STX22 shock offers a calm and confident ride with consistent performance.

We fitted the STX22 to our COTIC FlareMAX test bike which features progressive linkage actuated single pivot suspension (a.k.a. droplink). Setup with 30% sag I ended up with rebound set at 2 out of 6 clicks, low speed compression adjusted halfway at 4 out of 8 available clicks and high speed compression stayed mostly in position 1 sometimes venturing into position 2 and rarely position 3. Position 1 is the softest setting offering maximum traction and absorption. Switching between the first 2 positions of high speed compression there’s an incremental ramp-up with position 3 designed to be used for sustained fireroad climbs. It’s not a lockout but it does firm the shock somewhat in this setting. There’s less shock movement as such, there’s less traction on the bumps and an increase in pedalling efficiency, good for going up on smoother terrain not so great for lumps and bumps. I’m not a big switch flicker when climbing and the COTIC FlareMAX pedals just fine so I left this alone. Still it’s there and it works…

On the other hand I do like to be able to tweak low speed compression to find that sweet spot of grip and stability. It’s one of those ‘make a difference’ features that once you’ve tried it and experienced what it does… becomes a must-have. This is a great feature to have control over and be able to fine tune just how the bike behaves. If you are experiencing unwanted movement such as fork dive, you can do something about it. The low speed compression adjustment range is nice and broad, with eight available positions you can get things just how you like/achieve balance and a higher degree of control and composure.

2017 COTIC Flare MAX review
Woohoo!

The STX22 shock felt nice and supple from the get go. For an air shock there is a ease of initial movement and this low breakaway point translates to a floaty feel. Sensitive at the start of the stroke there’s a high level of grip and traction on the trail. Subjected to repeated high frequency hits the STX22 remained controlled and precise…with no discernable loss of damping performance. It quietly goes about its business with that suspension performance holy trinity of good initial grip early on in the stroke reacting well to small chatter. Then moving through there’s good support in the mid-stroke, with stability here and a progressive end stroke the STX22 has no odd function. It’s well mannered and you can concentrate of forging ahead enjoying your ride.

Progression can be adjusted either by addition of volume spacers or by adding oil. Adding oil is the quick way and is something that you can do yourself fairly simply. Adding (or reducing) volume spacers requires a visit to an authorised Ohlins service centre. Either way it can be changed if required to achieve a spring curve that is either linear or increasingly progressive.

In the time that the RXF36 fork and STX22 shock have been in use no issues have developed with either unit, performance has been consistent and trouble free.

And is Ohlins suspension better or just different than the other companies offerings? There are some really good forks and shocks on the market right now… taking a look at the Ohlins RXF36 and STX22 and assessing on their own merits – they are excellent performers.

Conclusion

The RXF36 fork and STX22 shock are high quality. There’s no doubt about that. They are very nicely put together, adjustable and deliver superb performance with excellent poise and control. If you want suspension that you can fine tune and delivers very good performance in fast and rough terrain the Ohlins RXF36 fork and STX22 shock are great choices for agressive riders and high speed trail/enduro bike use.

 

 

 

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