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The Downduro Project: Dual-Crown and a Dropper Post, Öhlins DH38 m.1 Review 17

What's it like to run a dual-crown fork on your enduro bike? Is climbing affected much? And how does the new Öhlins DH38 m.1 perform? So many questions, so many answers!

The Downduro Project: Dual-Crown and a Dropper Post, Öhlins DH38 m.1 Review

Do you wear goggles on every ride? Have you maybe even gone Full Enduro, but you feel like something is still missing? Super Enduro sounds fun, but what if it isn’t Super enough? It could be time for…. Downduro!

When Öhlins offered to send over the latest incarnation of their downhill fork for testing, we decided it would be a good opportunity to see just how far you can push your enduro build and still have a bike that can be used to earn your turns. Watch the video or keep reading to find out how we got along.

 

Öhlins DH38 m.1 Highlights

  • 180 or 200 mm travel, possible to rebuild to 120-170 mm
  • Compatible maximum tire sizes 29 x 2.8 and 27.5 x 3.0.    
  • Designed for 200mm disc 
  • 110mm Boost DH hub standard
  • Floating axle for minimum friction
  • Offset options 46/50/54/58  
  • E-bike approved
  • Cartridge-based damper and air spring
  • Race proven setting bank
  • MSRP excluding VAT $1600 / €1,442.63 / £1,254.46 for the fork and $350 / €315.58 / £274.42 for the crown

m.1 Version - Key New Features

  • New lubrication and functional grease to decrease the breakaway force and make the fork feel smoother
  • New seal head design with reduced friction that also enables increased oil levels for better lubrication
  • Option to tune the negative chamber to be bigger for improved comfort or to add spacers for increased feedback and control
  • Utilizing the pressurized piston design taken from the highly rated RXF36 m.2 ensures even more consistent damper performance
  • New needle design to increase adjustability of low-speed compression and rebound

m.1 Version - Additional Enhancements

  • Improved durability and serviceability, both in terms of construction and because more parts and kits are shared with RXF36 m.2
  • New construction of ramp-up tube to increase durability and minimize service down time
  • Redesigned high-speed and low-speed compression damping adjusters for better click feeling
  • Cassette tool interface implementation on both damper and air spring for easier take-down servicing and lower risk of scratching during maintenance
  • Refined one-way valve controlling twin tube oil flow, another design developed from the RXF36 m.2
  • As for all of our products, damping levels and friction are tested for each manufacturer individually. High performance and quality makes happy and fast riders

Initial Impressions

The DH38 first appeared a two years ago, and it went on to earn excellent reviews and race results under World Champ Loic Bruni and the Specialized Factory team. We rode the fork at the launch in Sweden and we came away well impressed with the sensitivity, support, and adjustability on offer. For this new m.1 version, Öhlins worked on a number of improvements intended primarily to reduce friction and improve sensitivity, as well as increase the serviceability thanks to a number of shared parts with the recently introduced RXF36 m.2 single-crown fork. The DH38 chassis remains the same, built around 38 mm stanchions with 4 different crowns providing different offset options. The lowers are compatible with 29-inch tires up to 2.8 inches wide, or 27.5-inch tires up to 3 inches wide. The standard travel is set at 200 mm, but can be adjusted all the way down to 120 mm if you wanted to do something really weird. For our 27-inch YT Capra CF “downduro” project, we opted for a 180 mm version with a 46 mm offset crown, leaving us as close as possible to the geometry of the 27-inch RXF36 single crown fork we were replacing on that bike. We also picked up a pair of Nukeproof’s all-new Horizon wheels, they are rated for enduro and DH riding which made them a perfect match for this build. To finalize the changes, we also mounted up a pair of e*thirteen’s latest AT tires, with a downhill casing in the rear and the enduro casing up front.

Photo

The DH38 fork weighed in at 2858 grams, a weight penalty of about 750 grams compared to the single-crown RXF36 that came off the bike. Together with the other component changes we made, we ended up adding about 1.2 kgs to the overall bike weight. Nothing too dramatic, but lifting the bike up and moving it around the extra heft is certainly noticeable.

On The Trail

The extra weight is of course one of the major factors to take into consideration when contemplating a dual-crown build. You’ll also notice the drastically increased turning radius, and for those who shuttle, you’ll also notice that the bike now plays less nice with the tailgate of your truck. Would these inconveniences be worth it? Heading out on our regular enduro loops, the bike felt a little heavier, but seated pedaling performance was about the same as before. Standing up and mashing the pedals creates a lot of bob up front, as you’d expect from a long-travel, plush fork. There is no lockout to play with on a DH fork, so take that into account if that is the kind of climbing you enjoy doing. With the axle-to-crown measurement within a couple of millimeters of the fork it replaced, we didn’t feel like we were hanging off the back any more than before, and overall pedaling performance really remained quite similar.

When the trail pointed downwards, it should come as no surprise that the DH38 began to shine bright. As the speeds picked up, we found the fork noticeably more poised than the single-crown RXF, and the increased stiffness really made a difference on steeper trails and under heavy braking. The DH38 provides ample support but also plenty of sensitivity deep into its travel, which took a lot of drama out of the trails we ride day to day. The extra “ramp-up” air chamber is a boon for those who like to tinker with their set-up, and it allowed us to really find the sweet-spot between support, sensitivity, and bottom-out control. The fork does feel less poppy than the single-crown RXF36 it replaced here, and the extra weight also means you’ll have to pull a bit harder to make those bonus gaps on the trail – but you’ll soon be going faster than you were before, which probably makes up for it. And when it comes to the bigger hits, the DH38 feels absolutely bottomless, even in the shortened version we tested here. In summary, as the trail gets gnarlier, the DH38 provides incrementally more confidence and control than its single-crown brethren, and our test bike really felt like it started to blur the lines between downhill and enduro. A DH bike that you can easily pedal to the top? Yep, that’s pretty much where we landed with this project.

The adjustments on the DH38 provide what Öhlins calls “usable range”, which means that even if you run them fully open or closed, you can still use the product. We settled on fully open high-speed compression with just a few clicks of low speed compression for support, with the rebound in the middle of the 16 clicks on offer for control. The main air spring was set at about 120 PSI, which is the recommended pressure for this test rider’s weight (~87 kg/190 lbs), while the ramp up chamber was set to 200 psi, a little bit less than the recommended starting point. We found this set-up to provide plenty of support while maintaining sensitivity at all points in the stroke, only occasionally using up all the travel on the biggest hits. Bottom out events are very well managed, and we never once felt like the fork was about to be overwhelmed.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Is a downduro build in the cards for you? If you tend to rack up the miles on a lot of your rides, or if your trails are a bit less steep, we’d probably stick to a single-crown set-up to retain a bit more liveliness in the bike’s character and keep the weight low. If however you often find yourself riding steeper and gnarlier trails, or if you happen to live pretty close to a bike park, putting a downhill fork on your enduro bike starts to make a lot of sense. It provides a level of confidence and control that a single-crown fork will be hard pressed to match. Thanks to the lower crown being less tall than on a single-crown fork, it’s also actually pretty easy to maintain your bike’s geometry if you go for slightly reduced travel on the DH fork. Having a DH fork on standby for park duty along with an extra pair of wheels could also makes a lot of sense – in either case make sure your frame can take it, as not all enduro frames are built to handle a dual-crown fork. As for the fork itself, we’ve got nothing but good things to say about the new DH38 m.1. It provides all the adjustability you could ask for, and awesome comfort and control out on the trail.

More information at: https://www.ohlins.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 47 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Weight: 190-pounds (87-kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Video and Photos by Johan Hjord


View key specs, compare products, and rate the DH38 m.1 fork in the Vital MTB Product Guide.


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