Alongside the plethora of high-end mountain bike suspension forks out there from Fox, RockShox, Öhlins, MRP and Cane Creek, the £450 X-Fusion Sweep RL2 is pretty darn cheap in comparison. Is it cheap on performance too? We gave a set to local Calderdale skipping stone, David Hayward, to find out. Over to David for the review!
Us bike reviewers are a sensitive bunch of weenies. We get to try out a lot of kit. Every ride, at the back of our minds, there’s something analytical going on. Over time the comparisons build up, layer upon layer of impressions for each part of a bike, eventually coalescing into a princess-and-pea level of sensitivity.
X-Fusion Sweep RL2
This X-Fusion Sweep RL2 is a budget fork, with the more basic of their two dampers. When you’re used to comparing £900+ forks and figuring out which of them you think is best, a budget fork is a challenge to think about without being a massive asshole.
Arguably, I am a massive asshole for saying any of the things I have above. Being a bike reviewer is an immensely privileged position that means I get to play with a lot of toys and figure them out.
So rather than doing a Big Thinky Face and trying to pin these on a “BAD-GOOD” spectrum that has my favourite fork at “GOOD”, I’ve ridden these thinking more about what and who they’re for.
What You Get
These are quite simple forks. Tapered steerer, 34mm stanchions, 110mm boost spacing, 15mm axle with a chunky, simple quick release. Travel can be set from 100mm to 160mm, meaning they could fit on pretty much any modern mountain bike. These ones were factory set to 160mm.
They weigh 1,905 grams, which isn’t too shabby – lighter than some high end forks costing twice as much, and only 60 grams or so behind others.
In terms of compression, they have just two modes: open, and locked out. The lockout is a fully rigid lockout, which I appreciate, living somewhere with lots of steep road climbs to get to the descents. If you do a lot of technical climbing though, no middle mode might annoy you. Beyond that, there’s an air valve at the top of the left leg, and a rebound knob at the bottom of the right one.
Andi had trouble getting consistent sag results when setting it up, and we think that’s due to stiction in the seals – more on that in a bit. So instead of setting sag, once I had these I just did repeated runs on a very familiar descent, while adjusting pressure and rebound to see how much travel I was using.
X-Fusion’s weight chart, on the back of the fork lowers, suggested I should be running about 85PSI, which is higher than I run any fork, so I started with 80PSI. That only used about 120mm of the 160mm travel, even throwing in some airtime, so I dropped it to 65 and finally 60PSI before getting close to full travel. Even then, it was only on moderate sized drops – nearly 30PSI lower than the recommended pressure – that I could do that.
It’s worth bearing in mind, these forks have a 50PSI minimum pressure, which given my results above might not suit riders who weigh much less than my 79Kg in full kit.
The air spring on these is quite progressive, so it definitely gives you plenty of leeway for throwing in occasional bigger stuff. Even running them soft, you’ll end up with travel to spare on most rides.
I ran the X-Fusion Sweep RL2 on my favourite bike, paired with my favourite front wheel (yes, out of the front wheels I own, I have a favourite). Because of this, I know any flaws I discerned weren’t a consequence of some other bit of kit or lack of familiarity projected onto the fork.
Unfairly, using the same bike, I tested the Sweep back-to-back on familiar trails against a 2016 Pike RCT3. Not only was that Pike freshly serviced, to add insult to injury I’d upgraded the seals to PUSH low friction ones too. I always got on with that fork, and it basically sings now. While that was very unfair, it did tell me a lot about both forks.
Riding The X-Fusion Sweep RL2
I mentioned the stiction in the seals already. It was, unfortunately, noticeable while riding too. This isn’t such an issue on choppy trails, where there are plenty of hits to get the fork moving and keep it that way.
It does mean though, that there’s almost no small bump compliance. Looking down at the fork lowers, this is really visible when rolling along a typical uneven UK road with lots of small, very rounded bumps. The fork lowers don’t move at all, feeding that sort of gentle chatter straight through to the stem and bars. Once the forks are moving, they keep moving in both directions and feel supple enough, but they need squarer small hits just to get that started.
Overall, as well as a bit of trail buzz, the effect of all this was to slightly reduce my confidence. In the last year I’ve been getting faster, bolder, and mopping up many little familiar bits of tech that used to intimidate me. I’ve built some new skills and reflexes, from them came greater confidence, and I’m hitting corners a lot more aggressively than I used to. Trying it all on this fork dialled that back a little though.
Whatever the damper is doing on rough trails, overall it seemed to fractionally reduce traction. I stress, this is in comparison to forks that cost twice as much. It meant on the Sweep, I’d drift a little wider than I meant to in corners. Following on from that, I’d go into techy sections a little slower and more doubtful. In tight switchbacks, I also dabbed more than usual.
All that said, the Sweep RL2 did still get down everything without pooping itself or ever really getting me into trouble. I wasn’t much slower on them than any other forks, and even set a couple of personal bests – they were just a little less comfortable than I’m used to.
Again, those chi-chi ultra-expensive suspension platforms will tune all of this right out with big negative springs and low friction seals. While lacking those on the Sweep might not slow you down that much, it will make a difference to your immediate comfort and late-in-the-day fatigue levels. If I owned a pair of these, upgraded low-friction seals are one of the first things I’d look at. PUSH don’t seem to make any, but it appears SKF might.
The second thing I’d look at is whether or not I could afford £150 extra to just buy the Roughcut HLR damper version. I’ve not ridden that, but multiple people I know have and told me it’s significantly better than the RL2.
So Who Are These For?
Ignoring discounts, there’s not much around at this price point now. We’re entering a time when even the lower end of fork manufacturer’s ranges have RRPs of £500 – £700.
Add to that the wide travel adjustment range of the Sweep, and you’ve got something that could fit on a wide variety of bikes without voiding any frame warranties (instructions here – dust off that arbor press!) Or send it to Upgrade Bikes.
So I think where the Sweep RL2 really fits best is in replacing the steel noodles that come on the front of entry level bikes, then possibly being carried over to the next frame.
If you’re just getting into mountain biking, it’s easy to get bedazzled by carbon-this, titanium-that, four-figure-the-other. Ultimately though, every time you double the cost of a component or build, the gains tend to be proportionally smaller. The Sweep is a fork that could grow with you.
Nine years ago, I’d spent a couple of years riding a £350 hardtail, with a triple chainset and very basic steel coil fork that couldn’t have made up much of that price. I was just progressing beyond the limits of that bike. At the time, I honestly would have struggled to tell the difference between the high end suspension platforms I ride now, and this Sweep. Both would have been welcome replacements for the 2.5 kilo pogo-stick-slash-boat-anchor I’d been riding.
My riding and experience have progressed so much since, but had the Sweep RL2 been around in 2010, I really would have benefitted from a year on one.
X-Fusion Sweep RL2 Overall
X-Fusion’s Sweep RL2 isn’t the most refined fork out there, but it is capable. If you already have a bike with a really high end fork, you’re going to notice the difference between it and this. If you’ve found the limits of an entry level fork and are looking to replace it though, the Sweep RL2 is a worthy and versatile upgrade.
|Product:||Sweep RL2 27.5|
|From:||Upgrade Bikes, upgradebikes.co.uk|
|Tested:||by David & Andi for 2 months|