About 10 years into their mountain bike business, it’s fair to say that Öhlins is getting the hang of it. After overcoming some initial growing pains, the prestigious suspension brand is increasingly present both in the aftermarket segment as well as the OEM market. The existing product line covers everything from trail to downhill, but there was a glaring hole in the range – until today. Keep reading to learn more about the all-new XC race suspension system from Sweden!
Öhlins RXC34 m.1 Fork Highlights
- OTX single-tube damper, bladder reservoir, large negative airspring
- Remote lever or manual versions available
- 3 ride modes: open, pedal, and closed
- Manual version also has 12 clicks of LSC adjustment available in open mode
- 0 – 4/5 positive spacers
- 0-7 negative spacers (factory/service center)
- 100-130 mm of travel
- 34mm chassis
- Carbon or alloy CSU
- 44 mm offset
- Built for 29” wheels
- Max tire size: 29x2.6 (74mm)
- Weights : 100 Carbon 1476g / 110-120 Carbon 1496g / 110-120 Alloy 1598g
- 100mm Alloy version will be available later
- 130 - OEM option only
- MSRP (Alloy): USD 1190, EUR 1495 (EUR price includes VAT)
- MSRP (Carbon) : USD 1390, EUR 1695 (EUR price includes VAT)
Öhlins TXC1Air / TXC2Air Shock Highlights
- TTX twin tube damper layout
- Remote lever or manual versions available
- Same 3 riding modes as fork: open, pedal, and closed
- 16 clicks of LSC adjustment available in open mode on manual, non-remote version
- “Serial shim stack” on bleed flow
- TXC1Air features a smaller, more progressive air chamber
- TXC2Air has a larger air chamber suitable for more bikes
- User friendly travel spacer and air spring spacer system
- TXC1Air Weight: 245g
- TXC2Air Weight: 255g
- MSRP: USD 565, EUR 695 (EUR pricing includes VAT)
Product Design Overview
To check out the new suspension components in person, we were invited up to Sweden together with a small group of other MTB journalists. Öhlins was founded by Kenth Öhlin in 1976, when he first applied the skills he had picked up in his father’s machine shop to making a rear shock prototype for motocross racing. It didn’t take long for an Öhlins product to win a world championship title, and even since then, the company has collected nearly 450 of them in various disciplines.
From Motocross and MotoGP to F1, Öhlins has seen great success in pretty much any discipline they have focused on, and while unbeknownst to many perhaps, they also supply a bunch of tech to the car industry at large (mainly in the form of their active suspension components that can be found on many sportscars featuring adjustable suspension driving modes). As of 2022, Öhlins became the official suspension partner of the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team (and they actually work with several other of the teams on the grid in a role that is not officially communicated around), and they are also the single supplier of suspension components to the current NASCAR racing platform. As for Kenth Öhlin, after the sale of a majority share of Öhlins to Tenneco in 2018, Kenth himself has opened Öhlins Utveckling AB, a separate company dedicated to cutting edge R&D and small series manufacturing in the realm of precision machining ("utveckling" means "development" in Swedish).
In more MTB-related history, Öhlins has of course seen great success in MTB downhill racing over the recent years, with the Specialized Factory Team running the Swedish squish on the bikes of junior World Champ and elite World Cup race winner Finn Iles and 5-time elite World Champ and overall World Cup winner Loic Bruni. The fact that 3 of Loic’s 5 rainbow jerseys currently hang in the MTB lab section of the Öhlins factory speaks volumes of the importance Loic attributes to his suspension partner.
With such illustrious racing history, it comes as no surprise that Öhlins always talks about performance when presenting their products. They don’t make any simpler, more affordable versions of their forks and shocks for example, even for their OEM customers. At the same time, they put in a lot of testing work to come up with a good “usable range” of adjustments out of the box, intended to be fully exploitable by amateurs as well as pros. This design philosophy carried over when they started developing their first XC suspension components (which they now present as a complete system, by the way).
Acknowledging that today’s XC looks quite different from the old-school version, Öhlins wanted to develop a product that would bring a clear performance advantage on “modern XCO” tracks, for pros and weekend warriors alike. They based much of their work around modern XC bikes with lower and slacker geo, and more anti-squat built into the suspension linkage layout. Wider tires were also accounted for.
Starting out with the architecture, Öhlins went twin-tube for the shock and mono-tube with a bladder for the fork. The shock gets a “serial shim stack”, essentially a second shim stack that controls the main bleed flow, while the fork gets a more classic damper layout. Öhlins found that the serial shim stack allowed them to squeeze better performance out of the open mode of the shock (and they explained that for "production reasons", it was currently not possible to fit that tech into the fork damper).
The fork is built around the same 34 mm chassis as the RXF34 trail fork (the dampers/air springs can be swapped from one to the other BTW), with a floating front axle to ensure optimal alignment of the lower legs to the stanchions, while the shock comes in both a traditional and a trunnion mount version (and two different air can sizes between the TXC1 and TXC2). The fork is available with either a carbon or an alloy CSU, the former dropping about 100 grams on the scales in return for a $200 USD premium.
Recognizing that any serious XC racing requires the ability to adapt or lock out the bike’s suspension, a lot of work was put into coming up with the appropriate ride modes. Öhlins eventually settled on three distinct modes both for the fork and the shock, which sets them apart from most competitors who only offer two (with some exceptions, like Scott for example). Öhlins also found that a specific rebound tune that focuses on control of slow movements when a seated rider goes over larger obstacles had a significant effect on performance (they call this their “R35” tune, FWIW). The three ride modes affect both low and high-speed compression damping, which provides for three distinct damping curves as illustrated below:
The three modes can be accessed in two different ways, depending on the model of your fork and/or shock; the “manual” version has a classic little lever on the shock itself, while the “remote” version is connected to a remote lever on the handlebar (there is a conversion kit to go from one to the other as well). Öhlins spent quite a lot of time and effort on developing the ride mode handlebar lever, which needs to be able to cohabit with a dropper post lever as well in many cases (more and more XC racers are using a dropper post these days). The lever pulls two cables at the same time, connected to both the shock and the fork. The standard versions of the shock and fork require 7.5mm of cable pull to activate the different modes, which makes them compatible with levers from Scott and Orbea for example. Öhlins also provides adapters if you want to connect your suspension to a lever with 5.5 mm of cable pull, like the DT Swiss lever that the BMC team riders use.
The manual versions of the shock and fork get an additional external LSC adjuster, which affects the open mode of the shock. These versions are more aimed at the non-racer crowd, who don’t require on-the-fly switching between ride modes but might benefit from being able to fine-tune their amount of LSC for different trails for example. FYI, the LSC of the remote version CAN actually also be adjusted, you just have to open up the cable pulley assembly and adjust the LSC manually underneath it. By default it is set somewhere in the middle of the range.
Öhlins is pretty big on serviceability, and they’ve aimed to make a few features accessible to home mechanics in addition to the service centers. It’s really easy to manipulate both the travel spacers and the volume spacers on the shock, allowing you to set the stroke and the air spring progressivity to match your ride. Similarly, playing with positive air chamber volume spacers on the fork is also really easy, while any adjustments to the negative air spring spacers have to be done at the factory or a service center.
On The Trail
After the factory tour and product presentation we were whisked away to a nearby trail center, called the Sigtuna Bike Arena. This small but growing trail center is the fruit of voluntary labor, with a local group of trail builders working under the umbrella of the Sigtuna Sports Club to create a public trail center open to all. At present the center features a blue-graded flow trail loop as well as a more technical red loop meeting XCO specifications (with additional trails and lines being added now on a continuous basis). With a mix of fun flow and techy, punchy little up and downs, it was a great spot for some XC testing.
The test bike fleet included a few Specialized Epics, and we quickly laid our grubby little mitts on one of those as they certainly meet the “modern XC” criteria (in other words, they’re pretty fun little trail bikes too). With shred-worthy geo and a proper dropper post, we felt right at home (even though our choice of long riding pants looked distinctly out of place for this particular product launch haha [facepalm]). The Epics were built with the TXC1 shocks (with the smaller, more progressive air cans), and RXC34 forks set at 120 mm of travel.
After a little setup work, we headed out to lay down a few laps. Right from the start, it became obvious that Öhlins had pretty much nailed it when it came to the fork. Supple yet supportive, it delivered loads of grip in the technical sections while remaining very energy efficient and providing a solid platform to push against, whether during climbing or on the descents. We spent some time in the open mode of both the shock and fork, and found that setting to be a great compromise between comfort and efficiency. The bike was fun to ride and handled itself very well both on the ups and the downs.
The Epic is not a particularly progressive bike, and we found ourselves having to bump up the pressure in the rear to keep up with the front. We only had a couple of hours available, so we couldn’t really do any more involved tuning, but we suspect that this frame might benefit from a few more tokens in the shock. We didn’t suffer from excessive bottoming out, it was more a question of finding a balanced setting between the front and the rear, and getting the bike to ride a bit higher in the rear on the climbs. Reducing the sag and increasing the LSC helped a lot here – and yes, pedal mode was also very useful in this scenario (more on that later). A few words on the rebound tune of the shock as well: we cranked the rebound down to almost the slowest setting on the shock, as it seemed very fast in general to us. Now, the bike never felt unsettled even with the rebound in a more open setting, but this was slightly curious nevertheless. Öhlins did specifically mention that they worked a lot on slowing down the rebound on very slow events, which may be what confused us: we wanted our “parking lot” rebound to feel a bit slower, but out on the trail, the bike performed – including on some slightly bigger features. Bear in mind that this shock was explicitly designed to go fast and conserve energy on an XCO loop, so we should perhaps not be surprised that it does things a bit differently compared to the enduro shocks we spend most of our time on.
We also got a few laps in with the remote lever version of the fork and shock. In playing with the different settings on the fly, we really came to appreciate just how efficient the pedal mode was. We’re quite used to pedal modes feeling a bit harsh, but this was not the case here. The bike remained very comfortable, only showing slight signs of harshness when landing bigger moves or hitting rougher sections at speed. On the flip side, we found ourselves actually gaining a lot of speed and hanging up less in technical settings when in pedal mode. This seemed a little counter-intuitive at first, but it becomes logical when you examine the damping curves of the different modes: the pedal mode is actually less progressive than the open mode, which we think translates to an ability to carry more speed over obstacles like roots and rocks. It kinda made the bike skim over that stuff instead of trying to absorb it, but without any real extra harshness. Quite a fun feeling, and surely an advantage in a racing situation as well (although the BMC team racers in attendance mentioned that they spend the vast majority of their time in the open mode when racing, which was also interesting and a testament to just how technical XCO racing has become at the highest level these days).
Regarding the suspension mode lever, it took a little while to get the hang of it but it was intuitive enough after a while. The dropper lever placement is definitely less than ideal though, as it ended up really far away from the grip and required us to reach for it to activate it. We think that some more tuning might be required in this area, and maybe the whole thing can be made a bit slimmer. It did say “prototype” on ours still…
What’s The Bottom Line?
Most manufacturers will always claim that they “tune for the application”, but sometimes that doesn’t extend beyond a few simple changes to a shimstack. When Öhlins decided to enter the world of XC, they did so with the intent of bringing a real performance benefit to racing – and they want to win, that’s in the company DNA. The new RXC34 m.1 and TXC1/2Air were designed from the bottom up to help elite racers and weekend warriors alike gain a performance advantage on XCO-type terrain, and based on our initial impressions, they have succeeded (they also already have an XCO World Cup podium from Nove Mesto na Morave in 2023). The feature list is long, with 3 ride modes that can be adjusted on the fly, serial shim stack tech in the shock, and damping and air spring tunes that have been extensively tested, and we found that this translated to suspension components that were quite easy to set up and that delivered a really dynamic and well-controlled ride out on the trail.
More information at: www.ohlins.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord - Age: 50 // Years Riding MTB: 18 // 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.
Photos by Johan Hjord and Jeff Thoren/Öhlins
View key specs, compare, and review Öhlins in the Product Guide.