For a while, my limited experience of X-Fusion left me a little wary of the performance and durability of its products. However, that was years ago, and the brand now seems to be making real inroads into a market dominated by Fox and RockShox.
The launch of the new Vector HLR air and coil shocks brought about the opportunity to try out the air version on my Orange Alpine 160. The Vector HLR is designed as a high-end rear shock aimed at the gravity side of the market — the stock Fox RP23 on the Orange is a similar price but lighter and not so gravity-focused.
After a period of bedding in, I took the Vector to the Forest of Dean and Flyup Downhill’s efficient uplift service for a day of riding. Conditions were pretty testing thanks to the 150-plus flood alerts spread across the UK at the time. The car park test seems to work in the favour of the Fox, which has a plusher, longer-travel feel, compared to the slightly dead-feeling X-Fusion, but off-road it’s another story. After a few runs finding my way down the hill on the RP23, I swapped to the X-Fusion at the same sag level with all compression damping and bottom-out wound off. After the first few rooty corners I was impressed — bumps were absorbed without fuss, giving me the impression I had more time to see the trail ahead, pick lines and, if needed, hop. Controlled and planted were the words that sprang to mind at the bottom of the run. The X-Fusion seems particularly good on mid-sized hits such as braking bumps, and the improvements over the RP23 were very noticeable.
Over the next few runs I experimented with the low and high-speed compression damping, but the feel of the shock from the first run was hard to beat. I eventually settled with four clicks of low-speed compression but high speed wound fully off. I noticeably bottomed out through one section dropping onto a fire road, so also wound in the bottom-out adjuster, which did its job without affecting the rest of the performance.
The actual adjustment controls aren’t as ergonomic as a Fox, with the rebound control especially tucked away and hard to turn without using an Allen key once some grit is involved. Unfortunately not all riding is downhill and although there isn’t much bob from the shock, especially once some low speed is wound on, the X-Fusion seems to naturally sag into its travel on climbs, with negative consequences.
Overall, the X-Fusion seems a slightly less polished physical product than a Fox but in terms of performance and weight, the shock is right up there and a worthy competitor for any of its rivals.
MBR rating: 8
Specification: Sizes: 200x57mm, 215x63mm, 222x69mm, 240x76mm, 267x89mm / Adjustments: High and low speed compression damping, rebound, bottom out resistance and reservoir pressure / Weight 465g (215x63mm) / Contact: upgradebikes.co.uk
This test appeared in the August issue of MBR.