Up until now, Ohlins Racing has limited its mountain bike endeavors to building rear shocks and replacement parts for some of the biggest suspension and bike manufacturers in the US, but the legendary Swedes are expanding their scope to include forks. The brand's signature blue and yellow is now present on the seals of the all-new, 29in RXF 34 120 Fork, which is the result of a partnership with one of those US manufacturers and represents Ohlins bringing its not inconsiderable expertise to the off-road fork world for the first time.
Since Ohlins is so exclusive that it doesn’t even offer top moto athletes free gear, we're not surprised that it came up with a design that's truly unique in the mountain bike field. The RXF 34 is the only fork on the market to feature a twin tube damper, which separates the rebound and compression oil flow. Since the twin tube design lets the oil flow parallel and independently, the fork maintains optimal pressure at all times, riding higher with a smoother initial stroke. It maintains consistent, predictable small bump compliance across successive hits to leave you more in control of your lines and with more responsive traction.
The fork also includes an addition to its other leg, adding an extra positive chamber to the typical air spring loadout of one negative and one positive. The presence of two positive chambers means that the resistance can be dialed externally — yep, without internal spacers — to alter the compression curve, so the fork can be set to maintain that initial suppleness but ramp-up harder to avoid bottoming out on big hits. The RXF 34 climbs with confident traction but won't sell you out by diving on rowdy descents. Given the host of absurdly versatile all-mountain 29ers we've been seeing unveiled over the past year, this added versatility in fork suspension is not only a plus, we suspect it'll become a necessary feature by the next product cycle.
And now we get to the elephant in the room: those 34mm stanchions. When we first saw a spec sheet for the RXF, we scrolled through looking for a 35 or a 36mm model and were surprised when the only models we saw were 34s. But Ohlins claims that its forged unicrown design is actually stiffer than the ubiquitous 35mm models and on par with the latest generation of 36mm models that have defined the trail market to date — all while benefiting from the reduced weight of 34mm stanchions.
The RXF doesn't feature a proper lockout switch, but the high-speed compression adjustment will effectively smother travel when cranked all the way. It's also built with an integrated crown race, so the list of compatible headsets isn't as long as with forks that make you supply your own race. Given those limitations, lower headset bearings with a 40mm internal diameter (52mm external) and 45-degree bearing angle are the only compatible option. Finally, the fork has a recommended tire clearance of 2.35in, which puts it squarely in line with the happy-medium of mid-sized tires that — we think — provide the best balance of cush, traction, and non-mushy trail feel.
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I'm having a hard time locating specs for which headsets are compatible. Will a King Inset 3 headset work with the integrated crown race on this fork?
This fork is not compatible with the King headsets. It is compatible with any lower bearing that is 40mm ID/45º lower bearing angle, such as the Cane Creek 40 series, etc.. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.