Tested: X-Fusion Metric HLR Fork
Review by David Howell // Photos by Dave Trumpore
Until the last few years, parking lot suspension experts have been talking about how good their “dampening” is, how supple their mid-stroke is and how their suspension wallows when they pin it through the gnar faster than you. We have all heard it. Well, more recently the familiar brands like RockShox, FOX, Manitou and Marzocchi have started seeing competition from less familiar names like X-Fusion, SR Suntour and DVO. And having heard excellent things from my friends that were already on X-Fusion products, I jumped at the chance to nerd out over the newest offering in X-Fusion’s trail/enduro lineup – the Metric.
X-Fusion Metric HLR Highlights
- Internally adjustable travel (160mm to 180mm)
- Air sprung using Flux Piston
- 36mm stanchions
- 26 or 27.5-inch compatible
- High and low-speed compression, rebound, and air spring adjustments
- Tapered steerer
- Bolt on 20mm axle
- Neutra Valve pressure relief valves (air bleeder valves)
- Carbon fork guards on lowers
- Maximum rotor size of 203mm
- Available in matte black and smoked chrome finishes
- Advertised weight of 5-pounds (2,268 grams)
- MSRP $1,000
Right out of the box I had to do the obligatory weight-weenie scale check to see if X-Fusion was trying to pad their advertised weight. My scale showed the fork coming in just over 100 grams UNDER advertised weight in ready-to-ride condition (including an uncut steer tube, axle, carbon lower guards and air bleeder valves). Continuing my examination of the fork, it was very obvious that X-Fusion has put time and money into the development of the Metric. The machining on the knobs and knob guards is very detailed and the finish immaculate. Adjustment knob guards on the bottom of the fork seem beefy enough to actually help protect the compression knobs from damage, should you be unlucky enough to smash them into something. All the adjustments are very smooth and the detents have a distinct click to them; firm enough to hold your adjustment where you set it, but not so firm as to be a nuisance.
After I got the steer tube cut and mounted up on my bike, I couldn’t help but notice how smoothly the crown blends with my frame – another example of X-Fusion’s attention to detail. Brake hoses or cables are held in place with a well thought out plastic clip and bolt instead of a zip tie. X-Fusion also includes a pack of colored stickers cut to go on the fork guards, a shock pump, owner’s manual and a packet of bleeder valves.
The carbon fork guards have a finish that may not suit everybody's style, but they look beefy and definitely give the fork a bit more of a bombproof feel. The guards cover the lower legs and feel strong enough to protect them from all but the most violent impacts. The Metric comes with an additional set of black, yellow, blue and red stickers to cover the raw carbon finish on the fork guards; however, they still feature the same design, which isn't necessarily appealing to everybody. The plus side about these fork guards is that they are held on by just four screws and could easily be taken off and painted or stickered up however you want.
X-Fusion includes Motion Pro micro bleeders which thread into the Neutra Valve ports on the back of the fork (just under where the dust wipers seat). Installation was very easy and required nothing more than an allen wrench, a large flathead screwdriver and a few minutes – instructions are included with the bleeder valves. These valves allow the release of pressure that can build up in fork lowers to give the fork the most consistent feel possible, with just the push of a button. The pressure build up can be caused by an elevation change, temperature change or just air that works its way into the lowers over the course of regular riding between service intervals. With the Neutra Valve you don’t have to drop the lowers of your fork to relieve that pressure anymore, which will be especially convenient for those who ride at varying altitude.
On The Trail
The Metric is stiff enough to allow my 230-pounds to track straight through rocks and off camber sections, though a subtle amount of flex can still be felt in very rocky sections of trail. Somebody lighter may not feel any flex at all. During my first ride I ran the recommended air spring settings without high or low-speed compression. Jumping every water-bar way too far and deliberately plowing straight into every big rock and root I could find, I could never get the fork close to bottoming out. The ride was just too harsh. I brought the air spring pressure down about 30PSI under the recommended pressure setting for my weight and bumped my low and high speed compression settings up to compensate. These changes brought around a night and day difference – this fork eats up anything you put in its path.
Both low and high speed compression dampers have a massive range so turning the adjustment knobs on this fork actually yields noticeable results, which is not something I can say for just any suspension manufacturer. This means that most every rider should be able to find settings they are happy with, without having to shell out for a custom damper tune. Despite using a lot of low-speed compression to compensate for air spring pressure changes, the fork does tend to dive a bit when set up this way. Personally, I was able to overlook the slight fork dive because the Metric made up for it with very smooth travel initiation and predictability throughout the full travel range.
Straight out of the box, the Metric is buttery smooth and instantly feels comfortable. Travel initiation from full extension comes without that bit of stiction everybody is used to feeling at the top of their fork travel. This meant the front wheel stayed planted on the ground during steeper, rougher climbs when I was seated. After just one ride, the predictability of this fork had me feeling very comfortable and confident on it – descending and climbing.
While it may seem like a gimmick at first, the Neutra Valves with the Motion Pro bleeder valves installed actually do work as advertised. I’ve always felt the progression of my air spring change between rebuilds or when I change elevation. These bleeder valves are a very easy way of keeping the fork feeling consistent throughout the travel range, despite whatever other variables get thrown in the mix. You can press the relief valve button and actually hear the air pressure equalize between the fork lowers and atmosphere on the side of the trail without tools. That is cool.
While I haven’t been unlucky enough to give the fork guards their first major impact test yet, they have warded off minor impacts with ease and still look great. Comparing the scratched, scraped and dented areas of my used and abused Lyric to the Metric, the fork guards on the Metric cover enough area to prevent most of the damage you would expect to see a trail fork suffer.
Things That Could Be Improved
Some improvements could be made on the front axle. I am sure that the engineers at X-Fusion have their reasons for using a bolt on axle, but a tool-free design is much more welcome on a trail fork. Also, the axle threads in to one side of the fork leg but although there is only one pinch bolt, you still need two tools to remove the axle– a 5mm allen for the pinch bolt and a 6mm allen for the axle itself. While not a deal breaker, just changing the hardware to use the same size tool would be an improvement over the current design.
I’m splitting hairs here, but the only other feature that could be improved is the angle of the brake hose guide. While it's very functional, the angle of the guide doesn’t line up at all with the natural path your brake hose wants to run.
Long Term Durability
X-Fusion designed the Metric with long term durability in mind. Carbon guards protect the magnesium lowers from damage, and even if these guards break they would be cheaper and easier to replace than a full set of lowers. X-Fusion also provides a full range of videos on their website which include servicing the lowers and performing travel adjustments on the Metric, making it easy to keep the fork in good working order. With plenty of harsh miles on mine, the fork is still holding up great - I have yet to see any oil find its way out and no bushing wear is apparent.
What's The Bottom Line?
While X-Fusion may not be the first name people think of when geeking out over suspension, forks like the Metric will surly give them strong footing in the suspension marketplace. Overall, I have been very impressed with it. The Metric stands out with a wide range in adjustments, light weight, quality construction and attention to detail, all of which come together to make X-Fusion's latest a great fork.
Visit www.xfusionshox.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
David Howell has been riding bikes for the last 11 years, with the majority of that being downhill and trail riding. He raced some downhill in Colorado, but now prefers dirt jumping, trail riding or downhilling with his friends. Working in shops for six years fueled his passion for riding all styles of bikes and has provided an in-depth knowledge of current parts and trends in the industry. His favorite trails are fast and have a good mixture of rough, rocky sections mixed with smoother flowy sections – natural jumps and berms just add to the fun. With a plow riding style and tipping the scales at 230-pounds, he puts the hurt on even the beefiest components.