Öhlins have released a brand new RXF34 m.2 downcountry/trail fork. The 34mm stanchion format is all-new and features evolved dampers, slimmed chassis and 120 or 130mm of travel.
Öhlins has been making a number of inroads into the gravity-orientated categories of the best mountain bike forks. The Swedish company, which comes from a background in motorsports, has managed to establish itself as a viable performance alternative to the mainstream Rockshox and Fox options that are more commonly seen.
With a focus on racing, Öhlins already caters for the downhill market with the DH38 m.1, most notably being ridden by the likes of Loic Bruni and Finn Iles on the Specialized Gravity team. The RXF38 m.2 and RXF36 m.2 forks cover enduro racing too, supporting a number of pro riders competing at the EWS.
Competition is a running theme with Öhlins focusing on delivering performance on the racecourse. Öhlins’ new RXF34 m.2 is a downcountry bike fork that takes this race ethos and packages it into a short-travel trail fork format. The question is, does this focus on eking out valuable seconds translate when it's boiled down and applied to a smaller fork that's aimed around having fun on the trail, rather than feuding between the tape?
Öhlins’ current smallest fork in the range is the 36mm-tubed RXF36 m.2 which blends rowdy trail riding and enduro racing with its DH evolved TTX18 damper. Equipped with 150mm to 170mm of travel, the RFX36 is a stout fork which has meant that Öhlins needed to take on a complete redesign in order for the RXF34 m.2 to meet the priorities of downcountry riding.
This isn’t Öhlins first 34mm fork but the RXF34 has a new downcountry-specific chassis. The result is a slimmed-down design that is built around a 34mm stanchion, a format that has proven to be an ideal blend of stoutness and low weight and is adopted by most other manufacturers in this genre.
Interestingly Öhlins are keen to emphasize the race-proven prowess of its design, despite the fact that downcountry mountain biking goes no further than hotly contested Strava segments in terms of competition. That said, knowledge of how different fork constructions handle the long and intense scenarios of downhill and enduro is undoubtedly going to be beneficial and should provide the groundwork to develop a downcountry fork that rides well.
The RXF34 m.2 has been designed to have a Custom flex pattern, the theory is to offer a fork that is still direct and precise under steering input but not overly stiff so that it feels unforgiving. The idea is that the fork has some compliance to take the edge off impacts that may not immediately translate to compression. While we certainly agree with the principles, until we manage some thorough testing we aren’t completely convinced that it's not just marketing speak for making the fork as light as possible without it feeling noodly.
Öhlins’ uses a closed-end outer tube design which it claims increases stiffness and impact resistance of the lowers. The 44mm offset drop-outs use Öhlins’ floating axle design, which has a pinch bolt on the right dropout to clamp the 15mm axle.
The legs are spread enough to clear a 2.6-inch tire and while most downcountry or light trail bikes can get away with a 160mm rotor up front, Öhlins says that the RXF34 m.2 can handle a 203mm rotor if you are looking to really drop the anchors - especially handy as the fork is rated for eMTB use too. Finally, there is a neat guide that bolts into the arch to keep your front brake hose.
Inside the fork, Öhlins have specced a new OTX18 trail optimized damper. Evolved from the TTX18 unit used in the more aggro forks, the OTX18 damper uses a single air chamber which not only makes it a claimed 27-percent light, but also increases sensitivity which should make it better suited to downcountry and the smaller, high-frequency impacts experienced.
The RXF34 m.2 features a new air spring as well with a positive and self-adjusting negative chamber. The negative chamber handles the initial feel and superb small bump sensitivity whilst the positive chamber now features a spacer system to tune air volume, rather than the ramp-up chamber on the bigger forks.
The ability to change the positive air chamber means riders have greater control over how the fork feels. Reducing the air volume (adding more spacers) makes the fork more progressive, ramping up the spring force required to compress the fork as it moves through its travel. The 120mm fork ships with four spacers fitted and the 130mm comes with three. Up to six spacers can be fitted to the 120mm and five in the 130mm, with the extra spacers included in the box. Adding spacers should be a relatively pain-free process as it uses a cassette lockring tool to unscrew the top cap and access the spacers.
There is further adjustability with the RXF34 m.2 having 15 clicks of low-speed compression adjustment using the blue dial on the top of the left fork leg and 15 clicks of rebound adjustment via a gold adjuster on the bottom of the left fork leg. There are two high-speed compression damping settings as well as a third zero position for extended climbing. These are controlled by a lever under the low-speed compression knob on the top of the left leg.
Forks only work as well as they are maintained and as Öhlins have previously been very good at providing post-purchase support, we expect this to be the case with the RXF34 m.2 too. The RXF34 m.2 will also be included in Öhlins Setting bank to help you tune your fork based on you and your riding style.
Check out Öhlins.com (opens in new tab) for more details. We have the fork and will be bringing you a full review once we have had a chance to ride it.
Tech Specs: Öhlins RXF34 m.2
- Weight: 1,747g (120mm, including three volume spacers)
- Axle to crown: 531 (120mm stroke), 541mm (130mm stroke)
- Colors: Black
- Price: $1,180 USD / €1,294 / £1,185