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Suspension

Ohlins RXF 29 fork and STX 22 damper

First impressions of the Swedish trail/enduro fork and damper

Anything delivered to us from Ohlins now comes with a huge amount of expectation given what we saw on the inside over in Sweden and the gold level performance of the coil TTX damper which we believe to be the best by some margin.

This RXF 29 fork at 160mm travel was mounted along with the STX 22 air damper on the rear of a Specialized Enduro 29. Previously fitted with a Fox 36 fork and a Ohlins TTX coil damper, the units would have to deliver on a king size scale to displace such a forceful pairing.

Detail – Ohlins RXF 29 Fork

So what’s being promoted here? A couple of of key attributes stand out. Ohlins say the RXF fork is “guaranteed to remain high in the travel while also ensuring smoothness and predictable bump absorption” and that its 34mm chassis is comparable in stiffness to a 36mm stanchion fork. With a 46mm offset it’s also said to be stiffer than some other brands 35mm chassis’. The fork is available in 120/140/160 mm travel options.

Spring wise its three chamber air spring consists of two positive chambers and one negative chamber which will enable a rider to change the shape of the spring force to balance stiffness, ride height and give a plush, responsive ride. Two air valves to increase sensitivity without bottoming out – positive on the top, ramp up chamber in the bottom it’s simply a case of dialling in your required ride characteristic via these valves.

Other features include the high and low speed compression, rebound and a 15mm axle and also the fact that its tapered steerer doesn’t have a flat seat for a crown race. Instead it interfaces directly with the 52x40x7, 45×45 degree lower bearing which is found on Specialized frames without using a replaceable race. It’s a nice touch and should you not be using such a bearing the worst case is to order a lower off Cane Creek.

PerformanceOhlins RXF Fork

Base settings as recommended on the fork lower and based on a size XL Enduro 29 are good to their word for rider weight offering a supportive ride that never bottoms. This combined with a chassis which dished out very, very good stiffness was a great start. What the fork was not delivering was the sensitivity we expected based on the recommended pressures.

Increasing the lower bottom out pressure a touch whilst lowering the top pressure by about twenty psi had a positive effect on the grip whilst still maintaining the support, although we could still feel some vibration through the bars at full extension. The rebound also had a slight hesitation in its nature when going deep down into the stroke.

The smaller 34mm stanchions were interesting. Now it’s easy to make assumptions on a fork based on chassis size when in reality we still have a very, very good feeling on other smaller sized products such as the Fox 34, Bos Deville and the Manitou Mattoc at 34mm which are never far off the best in class – but larger – 36mm Fox 36. So we couldn’t help but bolt on the Fox 36 (and Ohlins coil TTX damper) to compare how the RXF performed.

The bottom line here is that the Fox 36 is still slightly ahead for a hard charging bike like the S Works Enduro. The 36 has a slightly smoother first third of travel. Having said that for most occasions the RXF is a great fork with easy to use adjusters and a quality ride characteristic. Its certainly not wanting in anything, apart from that rebound speed when fully loaded and it simply didn’t have the pitter patter of eager damping over flat root. We simply expected it to be better than the 36 but still, a very, very good unit and really supportive amongst the big hits, and so far utterly reliable.

Detail – Ohlins STX Damper

At 380g the STX damper is considerably lighter than the big hitting TTX coil which is 450g without the spring fitted. It’s a far less complex damper however than the TTX and has been designed more for trail and enduro applications although its downhill performance is said not to have been compromised. The damper features a large piston diameter balanced by a large compression valve ensuring internal pressures are kept in control.

Adjustment is similar to the TTX. The external rebound adjustment high speed, external compression damping adjustment low and high speed are a dawdle to use and tune into and although the damper also utilises Specialized’s Autosag feature we prefer to simply work out the optimum sag via the one air valve.

Performance – Ohlins STX Damper

On the trail we were keen to see whether the STX (ST meaning single tube) got anywhere near to the coil TTX (TT meaning twin tube design) given that it’s less complex but said to offer the same performance.

Let’s be clear from the outset it’s a good damper but doesn’t quite match the TTX, not amongst the bigger breakers at least. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good in a hell of a lot of places. The TTX delivers a breathtakingly effortless ride (especially when fitted to Specialized Demo) through the hard stuff, the STX meanwhile is very good. The STX meanwhile has a lively ride, an ability to be set up to rider weight more accurately and in reality is a considerable weight saving over the TTX.

On trail the grip is good and the adjusters easy to access, use and set up. We spent much of the time in the lighter compression setting but found the middle setting to be usable too. In fact the difference between the three compression settings wasn’t huge but certainly noticeable on flat root where the light setting was at its best. We felt the damper not to be so keen on higher pressures but when we lowered the bike with an offset and went slightly under pressure pushing the rider back and into the travel it became a different beast. Yes the TTX dealt with the bigger blows better than the STX but overall a fantastic trail/enduro damper.

VERDICT

Whilst the pairing were not the all-conquering units we kind of expected they undoubtedly play the game at a high level. You’d have to be super picky to turn your nose up this stuff. It’s true they can be improved slightly but this is bloody good kit with really low service intervals and a reliability which we have found has yet to have any questions over. The acid test is that we certainly wont be rushing to take the RXF/STX off the S Works Enduro.

RXF Fork: £849

STX Damper: £499

Contact: specialized.com

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