Swedish goldsmith Öhlins is getting into the downcountry business with the new RXF 34 m.2. Or whatever sub-140mm travel suspension is called this week.
Öhlins RXF 34 spec
- OTX18 damper
- 34mm stanchions
- Wheel size: 29”
- Offset: 44 mm
- Travel: 120 mm and 130 mm
- Floating axle design
- Weight: 1,730g (actual)
- Post mount 160mm rotor size, max 203mm
- Maximum tire size: 29×2.6”
- Axle to crown: 541mm (130mm)
- SRP: £1,185 inc. VAT
The new RXF 34 m.2 fork sports, yep, 34mm stanchions and comes in tow travel guises: 120 and 130mm. Travel is not adjustable. Well, not without a near wholesale change-out of its guts. Pick your travel and stick with it.
29er only. Obvs. 44mm offset only.
Somewhat typically for Öhlins, damper performance and air spring characteristics are the main focuses with the RXF 34 m.2.
Chassis-wise, it’s not exactly a heavy fork (1,730g on our Digital Scales of Justice) but it’s kinda reassuring to see that Ohlins hasn’t chased grams down an irrelevant rabbit hole in a bid to out-weenie a RockShox SID or Fox StepCast fork.
Having said that, weight saving was at least partly a concern/target with the RXF 34 m.2; it has a new damper that is 27% lighter than their existing TTX18 damper that’s found in their other longer travel, bigger stanchion forks.
The price is very Öhlins. £1,185 inc. VAT. If that sounds daunting, try it in Swedish Krona: SEK 13,744.
As we said, what is brand new for this RXF 34 m.2 is the damper. It’s not a TTX jobber as those found on its 36 and 38mm stanchion forks. The new damper for the RXF 34 m.2 is called the OTX18 damper.
Where the TT in TTX stood for Twin Tube, the OTX damper is a One Tube design.
It can’t have been an easy decision to move away from the TT design that Öhlins has preached about for the past X number of years. But that’s what they’ve done with the RXF 34 m.2.
Essentially, on Twin Tube dampers the compression and the rebound are independent of each other.
What are the limitations of One Tube designs? The issue with One Tube designs is that the rebound damping can have an effect on the compression damping. Not a massive amount but it does have an effect.
It can be impossible for proper Princess And Pea performance-minded racers to have their damping cake and eat it. Er. In other words, sometimes it’s just not quite possible to have your compression to behave in one precisely desired way if you also want your rebound to behave in one precisely desired way.
With the RXF 34 m.2, fundamentally, it was seen that the modest of travel didn’t sufficiently require such a complex damper design. It would also be something of a squeeze to fit a Twin Tube design into a 34mm stanchion fork.
Not only that, but it could be argued that the typical 120-130mm rider is not a finicky racer and won’t really be unduly affected by the limitations of One Tube design as they ride along their downcountry trails.
The issue that some of you may instantly be thinking is, if this fork doesn’t have the fancy Twin Tube damper, why does it still cost over a grand? It’s an interesting question.
The RXF 34 m.2 does have decently broad range of damping adjustment. 15 clicks of low-speed compression and the same for rebound. There are two settings for high-speed compression (well, there’s three if you count the ‘lock-out’ position)
And as always with Öhlins there is a large and extensively-tested setting bank available for those who wish to fiddle with their shim stacks and ting.
The damper is not the only thing that is new here. There’s also a new air spring.
And like the move from Twin Tube to One Tube dampers, the new air spring on the RXF 34 m.2 ditches something. Namely, the third ‘Ramp Up’ air chamber.
The RXF 34 m.2 has a more commonly laid out air spring incorporating a positive chamber, a negative chamber (self equalising) and the end stroke ramp-up is taken care of via volume spacers. Three spacers come pre-installed (on this 130mm fork we tested), with a maximum of five advised.
According to Öhlins’ graphs, the point in travel where the volume spacers begin to have an effect appears to be earlier in the travel compared to other brands. It looks like ramp up begins in earnest somewhere not too far after the middle of the travel.
That alone is interesting. Will it eliminate the nothingy deadness that can plague the middle parts of rival brand’s suspension forks?
The overall chassis of the fork is something that has seen a lot of R&D. The RXF 34 m.2 uses the whole of the lower leg for holding… stuff. There’s minimal weight-saving, space-saving compromising on the RXF 34 m.2. There is stuff inside each of the lower legs all the way until their very ends.
More room for damper stuff. More room for air spring stuff.
More room should mean more consistency, more predictability, more tunability.
Also, more material should basically mean more stiffness too.
Speaking of which, the RXF 34 m.2 uses the same floating axle design found in the RXF36 m.2 and RXF38 m.2. There is no QR thru axle option. Bolts is all. Claims: increased stiffness and also decreased friction.
How does it ride?
I wish I could be the People’s Champion and say that it rides pretty much like a fork that costs half, or even two-thirds, the price of this. But the RXF 34 m.2 is pretty freaking amazing.
It’s not about what this fork does do. It’s more about what it doesn’t do.
It’s getting back on other 120 or 130 – heck even 140 and 150mm – travel forks and realising their shortcomings that’s the revelation here (no pun intended RockShox).
It’s supple without being saggy. Unlike a lot of air forks that seem intent on showing off how soft-touch at sag-point they are in a car park/garage/bike-shop/trail-head, there’s ridiculously minimal stiction of the RXF 34 m.2 but it doesn’t sink an inch as soon as you look at it. It has firmness there.
In the heart of the travel, where most of the interesting mountain biking happens most of the time, the RXF 34 m.2 feels a lot like a coil. Coil riders will appreciate what this means. Being ‘coil-like’ doesn’t mean it feels non-resist, collapsing, linear/falling-rate. Coils feel firm and supportive but with a super-low-friction free-motion.
You don’t feel like you’re hitting the buffers when riding stuff that pushes the blue O-ring up to the crown either. It makes you realise that 130mm travel doesn’t have to be a grin-and-bear-it battle of holding-on and riding-it-out. 130mm travel can be a whole lot of travel if it’s done well.
If you’ve been running 140-150mm forks on your 120-130mm bike in a bid to get some extra performance out of it, you’ll appreciate the RXF 34 m.2. You can get your seat angle, reach and bottom bracket height geometry back to where it should be whilst also improving the suspension performance.
The new air spring was the most immediate thing we noticed with the Öhlins RXF 34 m.2. That and the slippery, easy moving-ness.
Any niggles? It still flexes fore-aft under braking like all sub-35mm stanchion forks do. It’s not as flexy as other 34mm forks out there but there’s no way it’s on a par with 36mm+ forks.
As to whether it flexes to any significant degree on any other plain, we can’t honestly tell you. It’s easy to witness fore-aft flex under braking (you just look down at the fork while you’re braking) but lateral flex is not something so visually obvious.
Does flex matter? Fore-aft or lateral or rotational? Well, yes. Flex results in bushing bind. Bushing bind impedes free movement of the up and downy bits.
Anyhoo. Don’t go expecting any major leaps forwards in flex with this fork. Öhlins may be Swedish wizards but they haven’t squared that particular 34mm circle.
What the new RXF 34 m.2 does do is give ‘short’ travel forks a much needed reality check. It’s no longer good enough to be surprisingly not-bad. 120-130mm forks can be impressively damn-good now.
We’ll give these forks a few more month’s of test riding and report back.
While you’re here…
|Product:||RXF 34 m.2|
|Tested:||by Benji for 3 weeks|
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