EXT Era V2.1 Fork

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Tested: EXT Era v2.1 Fork
Tweaks to air spring volume and damping lets the Era live up to its full potential.
Rating:
Vital Review
EXT Era v2.1 review

Extreme Racing Shox or EXT is an Italian suspension supplier with roots in motorsports, where the brand found success working with legendary racers like Sebastien Loeb who dominated the World Rally Championship for years aboard his Citroens. In 2014, EXT decided to try their hand at making products for mountain bikes as well, and brought over many of the technologies and the expertise they have been developing over the years. When the company launched their first suspension fork in 2021, we were impressed with the performance although we noted at the time that it required quite a bit of effort to properly dial in the air spring, and that it really only came alive when you pushed it hard on a big bike. EXT recently updated the Era to v2.1, which introduced a number of tweaks and improvements over the original, and we were of course eager to find out how it now stacks up. Keep reading to find out!

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Very high level of air spring adjustability
  • Stiff and robust chassis
  • Great balance between support and sensitivity
  • Effective damping adjustments
  • Quality finish and workmanship
  • Quiet
  • Slight top-out clunk detected in some riding situations
  • Somewhat heavy
  • Definitely not cheap

    EXT Era v2.1 Highlights

    • Made for 29” wheels, 44 mm offset
    • HS3 hybrid coil and air spring with 2 adjustable positive air chambers and high volume negative chamber
    • Extra-length steerer tube interface crown design: forged AL 7050 T6 to substantially increase stiffness
    • High volume Cartridge with Ø22 mm piston, separate compression and rebound oil flow
    • HDRV unique compression valve system Ø24 mm piston
    • IFP reservoir Ø24 mm piston
    • Dropout 15QR Boost Torque Cap compatible (15×110 mm)
    • Floating axle
    • 3-way adjustable, low and high speed compression and rebound
    • Low friction chassis: new DU bushing material from EXT WRC technology combined with dedicated EXT oil
    • Cartridge and air spring low friction system: innovative floating shaft guide combined with the EXT proprietary coating and superfinish chrome shaft
    • Shock pump and EXT fork oil included in box
    • Weight: 2275 grams (170 mm travel, uncut steerer)
    • MSRP: $1650 USD

    Initial Impressions

    Mostly unchanged from the outside compared to the v1, the Era v2.1 is still the same sturdy looking piece of kit with a subtle color scheme. The chassis is still based on 36 mm stanchions, but the lowers have now been updated with a floating axle similar to that found on Öhlins and later generation Fox forks. This design allows the lower legs to align themselves perfectly with the stanchions irrespective of any manufacturing variations in the hub of the wheel. The fork’s crown is a bit different from what we are used to seeing, with an extra length of casting protruding from the crown, providing a wider area for the steerer tube to be pressed into – the goal here being to reduce the risk of the dreaded creaking crown syndrome.

    Era 21.jpg?VersionId=M PHXlDl7f7hNXXkay9rbdaOIs
    Era 21-4.jpg?VersionId=X
    Era 21-8
    Era 21-9.jpg?VersionId=YbpaYSp3q

    If from the outside the Era looks a lot like just another fork, when you dig into the details there’s a lot going on here. The ERA features a three-chamber air spring system that has been further augmented by the use of a small integrated coil spring at the shaft end, intended to provide better small bump compliance and absorb vibrations (a similar idea to the Buttercups found on the latest generation RockShox forks, with the difference being that EXT uses a spring instead of elastomer inserts and it sits only on the air spring side, not on the damping side as well). The air spring features the usual main positive chamber and a self-equalizing negative chamber (which has been made bigger on the v2.1), but then there is also a third chamber that can be used to tune mid- and end-stroke support independently of the main air spring. Think of it as adding or removing tokens, only here you make those adjustments with a shock pump.

    era air spring.jpg?VersionId=3EXi4BjZFRL

    On the damping side, EXT uses a large, 22 mm diameter piston with independent adjustment of high and low speed compression. Low-speed rebound is also externally adjustable of course. An internal floating piston is used to compensate for the oil volume that is displaced during fork movements. There is also a High Dynamic Response Valve – or HDRV – that features two separate shim stacks for mid- and high-speed compression damping. The 2.1 version has been updated with a lighter rebound tune, and EXT service points also have access to more tunes developed by EXT’s R&D department if you want something special. Note that the small inline coil spring is always of the same spring weight regardless of rider weight, EXT says they chose it to work right across the rider weight spectrum.

    era damping.jpg?VersionId=bKbkZhK

    EXT use a variety of special surface treatments derived from the company’s World Rally experience to minimize friction wherever possible. For v2.1, they are using new and improved DU bushings that work in tandem with EXT’s own oil to ensure smooth sliding at all times, even when the fork is side loaded. They have also updated the top out bumper which now uses a different kind of rubber compound.

    On The Trail

    We took delivery of a 140 mm version of the Era v2.1, which was mounted up to our Transition Smuggler together with Era’s excellent Aria air shock (read our review of the Aria HERE if you haven’t already). The installation was uneventful and all the parts came together as expected.

    on bike-2
    on bike-4.jpg?VersionId=LAyam.IoGeFG4 5cR4huN0o6
    on bike-8

    When we tested the first generation of the Era fork, we noted that it was a bit stingy on travel and that it could take a lot of force before you ever got close to seeing the end of the fork’s travel, especially on a shorter travel bike (we tested the original with both 140 and 170 mm of travel). Right from the start it became obvious that the v2.1 behaves a bit differently. The updated negative air spring dimensions makes it easier for the fork to initiate travel even at moderate pace, and the lighter damping tune has left it feeling less stiff, even with just 140 mm of travel available as tested here. The first generation was not an uncomfortable fork, but you could feel that it needed hard charging to really come alive, and we found it worked better with more travel. V2.1 is easier to live with, without losing its poise when things get a bit wild.

    riding-2.jpg?VersionId=FIeFKhk2KdlL.hLLw5Z

    With the v1 we ended up running considerably less pressure than recommended in the second air chamber to make the fork less progressive. With the v2.1 we were quite happy with the factory recommendations, just dropping a couple of PSI from the secondary chamber in the name of hyping up our tester’s suspension tuner claims – the fork was really performing well out of the box.

    riding-7.jpg?VersionId=dYh28LmiEOXTKRJ4Rj1i.AmpAN9pL

    The damper provides a wide, usable range of adjustments. We ended up backing off the high-speed compression compared to the suggested settings, but we still have 5 clicks left to fully open. Low-speed compression sits in the middle of the available range, as does the rebound, for a 90 kg tester who still charges the trail on a good day despite getting on in age a bit. Set up like this, the Era v2.1 is impressively supple and comfortable, while maintaining the high ride height and great amount of support that we praised the v1 fork for. It handles bigger hits with ease, shrugging off flatter landings or rougher trails without breaking stride. There is a hint of a top out clunk in certain situations, but only if you really pay attention to it. Similarly, the fork makes a bit of a metal-on-metal sound when it bottoms out hard, but not in a harsh way.

    riding-4.jpg?VersionId=xuQbjIlcd

    Things That Could Be Improved

    As we just mentioned in the previous section, there is a tiny hint of a top out clunk in certain scenarios. It’s not something that ever bothered us on the trail, but some people might be taken aback by it. The low-speed compression adjuster is also still a bit sticky, and the clicks are hard to feel, just like on the v1. Very minor complaints about an excellent fork.

    Long Term Durability

    We have almost five months on the trail with the Era v2.1 at this point, and we have not noticed any performance degradation. It has been holding air really well, and all the adjustments are still working as they did on day one. The fork has seen some wet and muddy rides over the past two months too, and it’s still sliding smoothly without having had any service done. We’ve tested several EXT products to date, and most of them have been holding up really well (we had one E-Storia shock blow the damper but it was a relatively easy fix to get it back up and running again).

    What’s The Bottom Line?

    When the Era was introduced three years ago, it made a lot of noise in the market. We were always impressed by the amount of control it offered, but it wasn’t easy to set up for comfort and the damper felt best suited to a more aggressive riding style. The v2.1 is much easier to live with out of the box, and we don’t feel like it has given up any of its capacity for hard charging. It is now a more versatile fork which strikes the perfect balance between comfort and support, ready to live up to its full potential for more riders, while still allowing tinkerers to really get into the nitty gritty of tuning it just how they like it. Cheap it is not, but it’s a very well-made product that will deliver the kind of performance you should demand from a fork with this pedigree and price tag.

    More information at: extremeshox.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 Nils Hjord

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    Specifications

    Product
    EXT Era V2.1 Fork
    Riding Type
    Dirt Jump / Slopestyle
    Enduro / All-Mountain
    Freeride / Bike Park
    Trail
    Wheel Size
    29"
    Travel
    Option 1: 140mm
    Option 2: 150mm
    Option 3: 160mm
    Option 4: 170mm
    Spring Type
    Hybrid dual-chamber air and coil
    Damping
    IFP, single
    External Adjustments
    High/Low Speed Compression, Rebound, Dual-Chamber Air Spring
    Crown
    Extended cast single crown
    Front Axle
    15mm x 110mm (Boost)
    Brake Mounts
    180mm PM
    Steer Tube Diameter
    Tapered 1-1/8" to 1.5"
    Steer Tube Construction
    Aluminum
    Stanchion Diameter
    36mm
    Colors
    Black
    Weight
    5 lb 0.2 oz (2,275 g)
    Miscellaneous
    • HS3, Hybrid coil and air spring: with 2 adjustable positive air chambers and high volume negative chamber
    • Forged AL 7050 T6 crown design to substantially increase stiffness (new for V2.1)
    • High-volume cartridge with Ø22mm piston, engineered circuit to separate bump and rebound oil flow
    • HDRV unique compression valve system Ø24mm piston
    • IFP reservoir Ø24mm piston
    • Dropout 15QR Boost Torque Cap® compatible (15×110mm)
    • Main strut low-friction system: DU bushing material from our WRC technology combined with dedicated EXT oil
    • 2023 forks have a Lower DU guide bushing upgrade
    • Cartridge and Air spring low-friction System: floating shaft guide combined with the EXT proprietary coating and superfinish chrome shaft
    • Includes: EXT special lube, high-pressure pump, and M5 star nut for steering tube
    • Weight: 2275 grams, 170mm travel, uncut steerer.
    • Max tire size: 29" x 2.5"
    • Offset: 44mm
    Price
    $1,650.00
    More Info
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    Where To Buy
    Free shipping on orders over $50 (continental U.S. only).
    International shipping available. Some exclusions apply.
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