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Öhlins RXF 34 m.2 Fork

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Öhlins Enters the Short Travel Fork Market: Vital Rides the All-New RXF 34 m.2

Swedish squish for your downcountry ripper.

Rating: Vital Review
Öhlins Enters the Short Travel Fork Market: Vital Rides the All-New RXF 34 m.2

The latest forks from Öhlins have consistently left us very impressed, serving up great poise and control thanks to their refined air springs and carefully calibrated hydraulics. From the World Championship and World Cup winning DH38 downhill fork to the single-crown RXF 38 and 36, the range has always been focused on bigger bikes, but today Öhlins are announcing the arrival of the all-new RXF34 m.2, aimed at the burgeoning short travel trail bike or dare we say “downcountry” segment. We received a test sample a couple of weeks ago – keep reading to learn more about the new fork and get our first riding impressions.

Öhlins RXF 34 m.2 Highlights

  • OTX18 trail optimized damper
  • 34 mm stanchions
  • Wheel size: 29”
  • Offset: 44 mm
  • Travel: 120 mm and 130 mm
  • Floating axle design to decrease friction
  • eMTB approved
  • Weight: 1723 g (verified)
  • Post mount 160mm rotor size, max 203mm
  • Maximum tire size: 29x2.6”
  • Axle to crown: 541mm @ 130mm stroke
  • MSRP: $1,180 USD / €1,294 / £1,185 / SEK 13,744 (EUR/GBP/SEK pricing inclusive of VAT)

Initial Impressions

At first glance, it’s hard to tell the new RXF 34 from its bigger brethren. The design language and general profile of the fork look very similar to the 36 and 38, but digging into the details reveals the work done to tailor this fork for its intended application. The RXF 34 is offered with either 120 or 130 millimeters of travel, and as such it slots clearly into the existing Öhlins line-up in the short travel trail category.

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When asked about why there is no 140 millimeter option, Öhlins insisted on the fact that they really wanted to commit this fork to this category of travel and that anybody needing more would be better served by a 36 – but reading between the metaphorical lines during the presentation we felt like a 140 millimeter option may well appear at some point later on (although that would require a new CSU Öhlins told us, probably because the stanchions might not be long enough at present).

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Starting with the chassis, it is built around 34 mm stanchions and has been given a flex pattern that Öhlins says is “best suited to short travel trail riding”. It also features a “closed-end outer tube design” – basically a way to increase the air volume of the lowers. This decreases the natural (and essentially unwanted) air spring effect that the lower legs themselves produce at the end of the travel, which in turn means that you get more precise control over the actual air spring itself. This design also helped Öhlins reach their stiffness goals, which was another reason that it was favored over for example a "step-cast" option such as the one featured by FOX on their 34SC. The RXF 34 offers 44 millimeters of offset and only comes in a 29-inch version.

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On the damper side, Öhlins decided to ditch the twin-tube “TTX” design used in the bigger forks in favor of a lighter, single-tube version dubbed “OTX”. It’s 27% lighter and features a tune intended for “faster and more fluid” trail riding. Öhlins worked on achieving a good balance between traction, control, and weight, and as usual, they always aim to provide a good “usable range” of adjustments. That means that you won’t find potentially unusable settings at either end of the range of the compression and rebound adjusters, but rather a full set of clicks that can be selected if you need them. There are 15 clicks of low-speed compression and rebound, with 2 clicks of high-speed compression. The 3rd position of the high-speed compression dial actually activates “climb mode”, a heavily damped position that all but locks out the fork.

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The air spring of the RXF 34 is also all-new, and marks a departure from Öhlins’ usual triple air chamber approach. The new air spring features a classic dual chamber design with a positive main chamber and a self-equalizing negative chamber. To give riders the ability to fine tune the spring curve, the RXF 34 utilizes a token system to modify the volume of the main air chamber. Öhlins says they chose this design over the triple-chamber approach featured on the bigger forks in the range because it offers the ideal balance between strength and weight for this category.

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To round off this overview section, we also note that the RXF 34 keeps the floating axle design found on all the bigger Öhlins forks. This system allows you to make sure that the lowers are always perfectly aligned with the stanchions without being affected by front wheel hub tolerances, which in turns reduces the risk of unwanted friction. Additionally, the stanchions, bushings and seals all benefit from the recent refinements the company has made to minimize friction in the system as a whole.

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On The Trail

We mounted up the new fork to our YT IZZO test bike, pairing it up with the excellent TTX1Air in the back for the full Swedish Squish effect. This bike is a snappy and fun-loving short travel trail ripper, in other words just the kind of bike you’d be looking to stick this fork on. Replacing the stock 130mm FOX Float 34 Performance Elite was uneventful bar a quick hunt for a different postmount adapter as the RXF 34 features a 160mm mount on the chassis (whereas the FOX sports a 180mm mount).

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We started testing with three tokens in the fork (out of a possible five), somewhere around the recommended air pressure (~90 psi for this 88 kg/194 lbs tester). Set up like this, we were treated to the full “downcountry” experience, with the fork riding high in the travel and providing lots of support. We found it would work well on medium-sized hits, and the bottom-out control was spot-on too. However, it did lack a bit of plushness around the sag point, which in turn led to some issues with grip in rougher turns.

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We then proceeded to remove two tokens (leaving us with just one installed) and add about five psi of air pressure. The fork instantly become a lot more linear, and we found our sweet spot – pretty much the ideal balance between support and sensitivity. The aforementioned grip in rough corners was now markedly improved, and we still had enough bottom-out support for the kind of riding that we are most likely to be doing with this type of bike.

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After dialing in the air spring, only minor tweaks were needed on the damper. We’re currently sitting at about 10 clicks out for low-speed compression, fully open high speed compression and about 8-9 clicks out for the rebound (all clicks counted from fully closed). The clicks have a fairly marked effect on the fork’s behavior, although it’s definitely easier to feel two clicks than just one. The high-speed compression adjuster can be used to add a little big-impact resistance although the effect is not all that significant. The pedaling platform position (the 3rd click of the high-speed dial) all but locks the fork out to provide a very solid platform to push against if you find yourself needing that kind of thing (interval sprints or standing climbing, maybe?). As mentioned in the first section, all the adjusters have a very wide usable range, and you can pretty much run them as closed or as open as you might want to. There’s an extensive “Settings Bank” available on Öhlins’ website to give you a solid starting point if you need assistance with your set-up.

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To conclude our first impressions with a quick comparison: The new RXF 34 m.2 delivers a similar overall experience to the latest FOX 34, although we should point out that the latter also offers longer travel options. Both forks will accompany you well into the rowdier trails, without feeling overwhelmed despite the skinnier stanchions and the limited amount of travel on offer. On the other side of the spectrum, something like a RockShox SID at 120mm of travel could conceivably also end up on your downcountry build if you're really going for speed over travel, but based on our experience (albeit limited with the SID), it feels distinctly more "XC-ish" than the RXF 34.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Öhlins has by now accumulated 10 years of experience in the mountain bike world, and their offerings have evolved considerably during that time – winning at the very highest level of the sport and collecting numerous accolades in the press as well. The all-new RXF 34 m.2 joins the range to offer that same high level of performance in a lightweight package tuned specifically for the short travel trail bike market. With great poise and easy-to-use adjustments, the fork provides a dynamic ride and plenty of control when the going gets rough. If you need 140 millimeters of travel for your trail bike build you’re out of luck, as the RXF 34 maxes out at 130, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s any less capable – it’s not. 

More information at: www.ohlins.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 48 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // 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

Specifications

Product Öhlins RXF 34 m.2 Fork
Riding Type Cross Country, Trail
Wheel Size 29"
Travel
  • 130mm
  • 120mm
Spring Type Air
Damping Single tube cartridge
External Adjustments High- and Low-Speed Compression, Rebound, Lockout, Air Pressure
Crown Alloy
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Brake Mounts 160 mm postmount
Steer Tube Diameter Tapered
Steer Tube Construction Alloy
Stanchion Diameter 34 mm
Colors Black
Weight 3 lb 12.8 oz (1,723 g)
Miscellaneous Weight with uncut steerer, 3 tokens, verified.
Price $1,180
More Info

www.ohlins.com

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