Travel-wise the Raid SL has 130mm on the rear and nestles between the 165mm-travel Freak and the more marathon race orientated 120mm Crest. All Fusion full-suspension bikes use its exclusive Float Link design. It’s basically a true four-bar set-up with a chainstay pivot (Horst link), but instead of mounting the shock to the front triangle it’s anchored to the chainstay yoke just above the bottom bracket, so the shock is actuated from both ends. The obvious disadvantage is that the shock placement is about as bad as it gets for UK conditions. Fusion should have a mudguard available for it soon.
Fusion uses needle bearings and double seals on all of the suspension pivots so the rear suspension takes longer than most to bed in. Because of the stiction you tend to run lower initial shock pressures and as the back end of the bike frees up, you have to increase the spring rate to compensate. One of the problems with this approach is that the bike isn’t up to speed straight out of the box, and the suspension tends to work best just before the pivots need replacing, then you have to start the whole process again.
We don’t get to see a lot of Syntace components this side of the channel, and if we never see the Vector bar again it would be too soon. It has too much backsweep, not enough upsweep and, at 24.5in, it’s way too narrow. But possibly the biggest cross we had to bear were the Nobby Nic tyres. Yes they are high volume, but the thin sidewalls and unsupported side knobs make them uncontrollable in anything other than a straight line.
We know from experience that the pivots on the Fusion take time to loosen up, but the more we rode the Raid SL it seemed to get worse instead of better, and eventually it started creaking like a barn door flapping in the breeze. All of which we could have lived with if the bike was amazing to ride but, in reality, when the going got rough the rear suspension on the Fusion acted like a drag brake sapping speed on every impact. On loose fire roads if you went too fast it felt as if the Fusion would have you off at any minute, forcing you to limit your speed. It was more akin to riding a temperamental horse than a thoroughbred trail bike.
With a taller fork we could have combated the steepest head angle on test and stopped the front wheel tucking under, while a better handlebar would have improved the riding position. But possibly the easiest way to enhance the performance of the Raid SL would be to bin the Nobby Nic tyres as a decent set of rubber would have improved traction and handling tenfold. But even with all of the possible ‘upgrades’, on a three grand plus bike there is no getting around the lacklustre suspension performance of the Fusion’s rear end.
The bottom line is that for the price the Fusion Raid SL should have been a stellar bike, and the fact that it was light years way from matching the performance of the best bikes on test left us with no option but to score it down.
MBR RATING: 5/10