The Swedish firm’s stunning debut in the world of suspension forks, the RXF 34 looks set to be a hit
The RXF 34 is Öhlins’s first mountain bike fork. Yes, the Swedish suspension specialist has had retrofit damper cartridges for Fox 40s before, and keen eyes may have spotted its signature gold damper dials popping up on RockShox Pike forks during the development process.
This, however, is the first time Öhlins has designed a mountain bike fork from the ground up.
Let’s start from the outside and work our way in. As the name suggests, the RXF 34 has 34mm upper tubes (or stanchions) — 1mm less than a RockShox Pike and 2mm less than a Fox 36.
What the RXF lacks in girth, however, it more than compensates for with the extra stiffness of its forged one-piece crown and steerer assembly — steerer tubes are normally pressed into the crown.
We found similar stiffness gains when we tested the X-Fusion Trace fork last year, but the really clever part about the Öhlins design is that the headset race is forged directly into the crown.
Built-in crown race
Not only does this do away with the need for crown race setting tools, it also eliminates the square edge between the crown and steerer to prevent a concentration of stress in this critical area.
At the opposite end of the fork, Öhlins has shunned the convenience of a 15mm quick-release lever, favouring instead a self-centring 15mm axle that requires a 5mm Allen key to remove the front wheel.
For your trouble, Öhlins guarantees perfectly aligned lowers and reduced friction in return.
29er only for now
Chassis-wise the RXF 34 is only available for 29in wheels, but you can choose between 120, 140 and 160mm-travel options, and run 27.5 Plus (upto a 2.8in tyre) with about as much tyre clearance as a non-Boost RockShox Pike.
Internally, the RXF 34 gets a lower pressure twin-tube damper design, just like the TTX rear shock. You’ve got rebound adjustment at the foot of the left leg, with high and low-speed compression up top.
We ran all of the damping dials fully open and the fork still felt a little sluggish. It wasn’t packing down on repeated hits, but given that I only weigh 75kg, it’s fair to say that the damping range is skewed towards heavier riders. Either that or the fork needs more than a couple of rides to fully bed-in.
Triple air chambers
In the opposite leg, the RXF gets a triple-chamber air spring. It has a regular positive air chamber, with a self-equalising negative, and the third chamber is an independently adjustable bottom-out air spring.
This means there’s no need to fit volume reducers to adjust the spring curve, which makes it super easy to tweak settings on a ride. Using the recommended pressures printed on the back of the lowers, the fork felt too firm off the top and it was riding too high in the travel.
Reducing the pressure in the main chamber, while upping the pressure in the bottom-out chamber, dramatically improved the breakaway feel of the fork. And due to the extra spring force deeper in the stroke, the rebound damping didn’t feel as sluggish either.
Being a completely new fork design, we’ve still got more fettling to do before we totally get to grips with the RXF 34. We also need to back-to-back test it with the Fox 36, on more demanding terrain, to see how it stacks up against the category leader.\
One thing’s for sure, though, Öhlins has hit the ground running at full speed with the RXF 34. And if this fork was from any other brand, we’d be blown away.
Maybe our expectations are too high simply because it’s an Öhlins product, but we expected the RXF 34 to be amazing, rather than just good.