Has a lot to recommend it
The X-Fusion Trace 36 HLR suspension fork is over £200 cheaper than some other top-tier forks, and, aside from the price, there’s a lot to recommend it.
This HLR damper has sturdy external aluminium high and low-speed compression adjusters, and a low-speed rebound adjuster. Inside the cartridge, pathways keep different compression circuits independent, so there’s no ‘crosstalk’ between settings.
With carefully metred travel, X-Fusion’s damping control is fantastic, and the Trace feels race-ready and supportive. You can really sense the wheel tracing the ground and feel the nuances of terrain in your hands, all without excessive harshness. The Roughcut damper is also super-smooth on vibrations and chatter as well as sharper bump edges of all sizes.
The Trace ships with two volume reducer spacers in the air spring (three being the maximum), and we ended running almost 20psi pressure less than recommended (70psi for 83kg) for sufficient suppleness, as otherwise the fork felt too firm off the top and too hard to get all the travel. There’s a massive range of rebound, with about 18 clicks out from fully closed giving us a lively, but controlled, feel for our body weight and air pressure.
On tracks that contour rather than fall-line (like flatter, rougher trail centre surfaces or natural high-speed bridleways), the Trace feels solid, well balanced, and composed. Point it down steep technical tracks and tyre grip is excellent, but mid-stroke support falls a bit short, so the fork uses too much travel too easily. There’s not enough to push against to balance rider weight shifts, pop the bike off the ground and handle loads under braking.
This didn’t bring any issues with bottoming out – it’s rather the shape of the spring curve interacting with the coil negative spring only feels more supportive deep in the stroke. It’s something that’s hard to tune out with spacers and won’t best suit more aggressive riders. The Trace only comes in a longer 51mm fork offset too, so riders looking for the calmer, slacker head angle steering feel will be disappointed.
X-Fusion’s precise-steering chassis and RoughCut damper have definitely got the X-factor then, and if you like a softer, cushy, air spring feel in the mid stroke you’ll love the Trace’s comfort and grip. If it offered better support on the steepest enduro tracks, and a shorter offset option it could be a bargain challenger to the big players.
What was completely unexpected was the quality of damping from X-Fusion’s latest Roughcut cartridge. The Taiwanese brand is the suspension arm of A-Pro, which makes a lot of aluminium frames for big brands, and has recently invested in a new facility to refine and improve its suspension products. This strategy appears to be paying off.