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Long Term Review

2020 Öhlins RXF36 m.2 Coil Review

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Apr 16, 2020
Reading time

In late 2018, Öhlins let the cat out of the bag and released their new fork, the RXF36 m.2. At the time, it was tentatively labelled the RXF36 Trail but that label was confusing and undermined the capabilities of the new enduro/all-mountain fork. By the time it was ready for sale, Öhlins had updated the name to what we see today. Twelve months after the unveiling I received a 160mm 29er m.2 fork with 44mm offset and a coil spring to hold it at full attention. But I also have the air spring assembly ready to go. Thanks to the cartridge-based spring system, this can be swapped from one to the other.

Four months after first bouncing around with the RXF36 m.2 mounted, the fork has seen more abuse than most. Why so long? Öhlins went to great lengths to make the new RXF36 as durable as possible. During the product launch, attending media were told about increased material overlap at the crown and steerer, and how the stiffer chassis increases durability and prevents creaking. With this in mind, I wanted to test the long term durability and that requires heaps of riding. So how has it faired so far?

Highlights:

  • Air and Coil sprung options.
    • Coil provides 130–170mm travel. Air is 150–180mm
    • 160mm coil spring option tested
  • Different offset options available:
    • 27.5: 46 or 38mm | 29: 51 or 44mm
    • 29er 44mm offset option tested
  • New TTX18 damper cartridge
  • Retrofittable internals
  • SKF seals
  • Weight: 2,393g (w/ hardware/axle and an uncut steerer)
  • MSRP: 1,250 USD/1,190 Euro

ohlins-rxf36-m2-061019-ajbarlas-06012.jpg

The RXF36 has material where needed and Öhlins have removed it from anywhere they could do so without jeopardizing durability.

Stiffer Doesn’t Have to Mean STIFF

When riding the m.2 at the product launch it was hard to feel the difference in the chassis. We were on bikes we didn’t know and for many of the media in attendance, riding trails we didn't know. This made our ability to compare the new fork with what we were riding at home tricky but it certainly gave us a few hints. However, when I swapped the Smashpot-equipped Fox 36 on my G1 for the new Öhlins fork, the difference was clear.

Immediately after the switch, I noticed the difference the stout chassis made at the handlebar, even on smooth sections of trail. The response to steering input was more immediate with the m.2. That responsiveness has made the bike feel more nimble, with lighter actions needed for direction changes. I've also never experienced any deflection from the fork and it stays on line. The added stiffness didn't produce a front end that needs to be wrestled into submission. In deep compressions and through rough chunky sections, the fork remains composed and direct.

ohlins-rxf36-m2-061019-ajbarlas-06022.jpg

The RXF36 m.2 has a stout chassis that makes for a strong performer on the trail and Öhlins' use of a floating axle contributes to the glide and precision of the fork.


After more than 600kms on the fork, it remains quiet; no creaks, no squeaks, just accurate steering and support. In its coil-sprung form, the m.2 weighs a touch more than some competitors but lighter weight can come at a durability cost and this fork is proving very durable. For riders who've never had an issue with CSU durability, disregard my comments about creaks but the improvements in control and steering response are still worth consideration.

Another thing worth considering when assessing the accuracy of the fork is the choice of a floating axle design. When the m.2 was released, Öhlins was one of the only manufacturers* to use this interface and they have since their first MTB fork. The system provides improved alignment when the wheel is bolted in place, which allows the fork to work better through the stroke with minimal chance of bind. This improved alignment should also help the fork run well for longer with less stress put on the chassis.

*Fox has reintroduced a floating axle for their 2021 36 and the new 38.

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The diameter of the damper piston was reduced from 22mm to 18mm in the m.2. Öhlins says this makes the fork more comfortable and the damper action lighter, making it quicker to react.

Size Matters; That Smaller 18mm Piston

While durability and a creak-free experience were important to Öhlins, there’s more to consider. One is the updated damper, which benefits from many hours of testing under Loïc Bruni, who’s quite particular about his settings. While spending time with Öhlins and Loïc, his attention to detail and general set up fussiness were clear. Working with a rider that hyper-analyzes his equipment led Öhlins to develop the new 18mm piston. They've also generated a large bank of shim stack configurations directly from the race track, with the help of racers like Bruni, Graves and Curtis Keene.

Before getting carried away with shim stacks and whatnot, it's important to understand that the new damper isn't the same as those found in previous Öhlins trail bike forks. The development of the DH38 fork with Bruni saw Öhlins change to the smaller 18mm damper piston from the existing 22mm. That change has been brought over to the m.2 fork and Öhlins claims it provides a lighter, more sensitive ride quality. The benefit should be less hand and arm fatigue, something often mentioned with the original RXF36 which rode a bit harsh. While the smaller, lighter-acting damper should reduce feedback, Öhlins said it also provides increased front-wheel traction thanks to the increased sensitivity.

When it comes to external adjustments, the m.2 offers 15 clicks of low-speed compression and rebound, while the high-speed compression circuit has just three clicks available. The HSC has a fourth position and when engaged, this setting firms up the low-speed circuit while allowing the fork to react when encountering higher shaft speeds. Its location on the HSC adjuster can be confusing but it affects the low-speed circuit when engaged. I generally don’t find pedal support settings useful, especially on bikes with modern geometry but it’s there if you enjoy using them.

ohlins-rxf36-m2-061019-ajbarlas-06013.jpg

The rebound adjuster is at the bottom of the left leg, which at times was confusing when reaching down to make a quick trail side adjustment. I'm used to the damper being on the right side!


Öhlins feels that providing fewer adjustments on the high-speed compression circuit gives riders the ability to quickly find a setting that works for them without being a limitation. The range provided should offer most riders adequate tuning but in the event that an optimal setup can’t be found, a different tune can be installed. There are also two different compression damper configurations available stock, depending on whether the fork is coil or air-sprung. The coil-sprung fork has a C60/R40 tune and the air-sprung fork comes with a lighter C50 compression tune. I'll test the lighter damper setting of the air sprung setup with the coil after switching the spring assemblies. That review will come soon but for now, everything was left as stock for the coil setup.

Over the last 18 months, I've learned that bikes with geometry like the Geometron G1 hold less mass directly over each wheel. That's seen me go down to a lighter coil spring compared to what Öhlins recommended for my weight. Öhlins provides seven spring weights for configuration and my review fork arrived with a black spring (10.6N/mm spring rate) and white spring (9.7N/mm). The fork was mounted with the pre-fit black spring but without getting out of the garage it felt too stiff. I grabbed the socket wrench and pulled the top cap, switching the spring for the lighter white option. It felt better but still wasn’t there.


After a couple of rides to confirm, I had the lighter weight blue spring (8.8N/mm) sent and it's been the ticket. There’s also the option to wind in the spring preload and tighten things up a bit more if needed and I’ve wound it in between 5 and 10 clicks, depending on bike setup. I’ve been able to utilize a good portion of the available external adjustability of the damper and have enjoyed the excellent ride quality of the fork. The coil spring does everything that's expected; it tracks the ground sensationally and provides excellent mid-stroke support, riding higher in its travel. That higher dynamic ride height while still providing heaps of grip and the consistent feel through the stroke are what I enjoy most about a coil-sprung fork.

For a few rides on varying terrain, I continued fettling with the damper settings. Adjustments produce usable changes to the feel of the fork and I haven’t found myself wanting more than what’s available. Eventually, I arrived at a setup that works great for me on 90% of the trails I ride. In Pemberton, the Whistler Bike Park and during shuttle days on Cypress in North Vancouver, I found myself adding a click of HSC. At these locations, I needed added stability from the front end. Stable is an appropriate word to describe the RXF36 m.2. Once set up well, the combination of the chassis, damper and coil spring make this one of the most predictable and balanced forks I’ve ridden. The grip across chatter is excellent but it performs equally well when hitting something hard or touching down to a harsh landing. Across chatter, it's active without getting too deep into the stroke but when the big hits come it takes the impact gracefully, returning to extension in a wonderfully controlled manner.

The composure and predictability have allowed me to get more aggressive coming into rough, choppy sections of trail. There’s less force needed to brace for impact on big hits, allowing me to remain more focused on what's ahead. Confidence in front wheel response has put me more at ease on the bike. Feeling less of the feedback from the trail has also meant there's been no trouble with hand fatigue or arm pump with my preferred bar setup. But the big hit capabilities aren't all, the m.2 holds the bike's shape exceptionally well on high-speed berm and jump trails while still providing heaps of grip. It's changed how I ride my G1 and as a result, after a couple of months, the sometimes additional click of HSC has been added more permanently.

While the fork performs well, no one part makes it what it is. The combination of Öhlins' effort to reduce friction and the more stout chassis combined with the floating axle make it what it is. Currently, I struggle to find a fault with the fork, at least for riders interested in running a coil, which is a bonus in its own right given how few are available today.

Your bike, riding style, terrain etc. may differ but here's where I've ended up. Also worth noting is that during the winter months, I opened the damper settings a click or two from these:

  • Bike: GeoMetron G1, size “Extra-Longest"
  • Fork: Öhlins RXF36 m.2 Coil
  • Travel: 160mm
  • Spring: Blue (8.8N/mm)
  • Sag: 30mm / ~18%
  • HSC: 2 Out (pedal platform is 0) / LSC: 12 Out
  • Rebound: 12 Out

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The fork still has air pressure recommendations on the back of the right fork leg, for when the air-spring is slid in. Stay tuned for that.

Verdict

Four months on the fork and it's been subjected to everything from gentle trail rides to punching out laps in Whistler. The RXF36 m.2 remains creak-free and the supportive chassis feels great when heavily loaded or directing through an arc. Best of all, it provides gob-loads of grip and composure, keeping the bike shape consistent and traction high in all conditions and terrain. It glides through its travel but in a controlled manner that doesn't pull the rider around at the bars.

I haven’t dropped the lowers yet but it will get a freshen up when the damper and spring are switched for the upcoming air spring review. When completing that I’ll make sure to check back on how the chassis is holding up and how the air and coil compare. I do, however, enjoy the consistency and lack of attention needed from the coil spring.

More information on the Öhlins RXF36 m.2 is available on the website.

AJ_Barlas
AJ Barlas

Age: 39
Height: 191cm/6’3"
Weight: 73kg/160lbs
Ape Index: 1.037
Inseam: 32”
Trail on Repeat: Changes as often as my mood.
Current Regular: Every test product spends time on Entrail

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Comments

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - April 15, 2020, 11:50 p.m.

Hi,

thanks a lot for your review!

My thoughts on the M.2 Coil vs Fox 36

Stiffer - yes, it is, no question. My Fox was more flexy.

floating axle design - is very cool

Spring 9,7N/mm (55lbs) which would be for a 82kg rider weight - I use this one for my about 95kg, with a little bit more sag. Havn’t testet the 10,6N/mm which I would also have… But I’m not that guy who drops crazy or rinding so hard :)

Mid-stroke support - much better than any air! Love that feature!

„play“ fork gilde - I notice that a little bit under riding, but no real problem.

Fender - I’m looking forward to reseive my RRP bolt on:)

My setup:

https://www.vitalmtb.com/community/mikethebike,46639/setup,41230?page=2

Bike: Santa Cruz Megatower, XL with Push 11.6

Travel: 170mm

Spring: 9,7N/mm

Sag: about 34mm

HSC: open

LSC: 0-5(from open) still try to find the perfect setting. Any recommendations, how I should choose it? I would be very grateful for your help!

Rebout: 4-5 from close

Do you know if a disk rotor with 220mm would be supported? I ask Öhlins but didn’t get an answer…

Thanks!

Mike

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 17, 2020, 7:33 a.m.

Glad to hear you’re enjoying the m.2 as well, momjijimike. I’ll see if I can get that info regarding the max rotor size.

Reply

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - April 17, 2020, 8 a.m.

Very nice, thanks for your support! Greetings, Mike

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 20, 2020, 10:17 a.m.

Mike. I’ve received confirmation from Öhlins that their forks are compatible with a 220mm rotor. Grab that extra stopping power! 🙂

Reply

momjijimike
0
momjijimike  - April 20, 2020, 11:23 a.m.

Oh, cool, great! Thanks for forwarding the info!

Reply

bailey100
0
william bailey  - April 16, 2020, 4:55 a.m.

Great review.
How would you say it compared in overall ride quality to the Fox 36 Smashpot fork ?

Cheers !

Reply

grimwood
0
grimwood  - April 16, 2020, 7:52 a.m.

Along the same lines as William above, how is the bottom out control vs the Smashpot? That’s one of the features I like most about the Smashpot...

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 17, 2020, 7:36 a.m.

I’ve found the stroke of the m.2 to be very controlled with no trouble using excessive amounts. Similar to an air fork, I’ve generally had 10mm travel to spare for those big oh shit moments, which is how I prefer to setup my forks, so that’s nice. 

Otherwise, the two perform similarly but I had to lighten the valving on the HBO on the Smashpot to get a smooth bottom of stroke, before that it was too abrupt for my weight and tastes. Hope this helps!

Edit: It’s worth mentioning that the coil sprung m.2 weighs quite a bit less than the Smashpot 36.

Reply

GladePlayboy
+1 AJ Barlas
Rob Gretchen  - April 16, 2020, 6:34 a.m.

I am running the M.2 Air version currently with the TTX air shock out back...very impressed with this setup.

Reply

thegromit
0
RYAN STIMAC  - April 16, 2020, 9:19 a.m.

Do you mostly run your G1 at the 162 travel? Why didn't you test the for at 170?

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 17, 2020, 7:38 a.m.

Hi Ryan. I do run the G1 at the 162mm travel setting. Not sure whether you asking about the 170mm travel fork or the rear of the G1, but the G1 geo is based on a 160mm travel fork, which is why I have that. ✌🏼

Reply

thegromit
0
RYAN STIMAC  - April 17, 2020, 9:13 a.m.

Sorry that was poorly worded, I think I meant fork* not for. I always thought the G1 was based off 170 fork but after further investigation it looks like the reference number are 567mm which is closer 160mm fork. I have a G1 and have only rode a 170mm fork and 175mm rear. Have you run any other mutator setup with your bike, or LT version?

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 17, 2020, 3:50 p.m.

Hey Ryan. Yeah, I was confused early on too and had to double-check with the guys at GeoMetron before getting the fork. 

I have run a few of the mutators and have just fired up more tinkering given the global situation. It's a good time to putts about with changes and keep the degree of speed and difficulty low I reckon.

I've run the 10mm SS mutator, lifting the BB and steepening the HTA and STA. I didn't like the changes that made to the suspension though and returned to stock. Then I tried the shorter rear stay mutator and am now playing around with the 0 to 3.5mm SS mutator in that setup. Each change is making a noticeable change to rear suspension feel. This is all with the 162 setting. I'll only toy with the longer once I am 100% on where I want the geo to lay, then it will start all over again, haha.

Reply

deleted_user_8375
0
[user profile deleted]  - April 16, 2020, 1:44 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

dan_l
0
dan_l  - April 16, 2020, 5:38 p.m.

It’s very few and far between that a media outlet doesn’t provide glowing reviews. Too many negative ones and they stop receiving product to review.

Reply

ChazzMichaelMichaels
0
ChazzMichaelMichaels  - April 16, 2020, 7:03 p.m.

What's made where for Öhlins now? TTX coil rear shocks in Sweden, air shock and everything else in Taiwan?

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 17, 2020, 7:46 a.m.

The air shocks are made in Asia and if I recall correctly, so are the forks, but they changed their operations over there to better control product quality. 

From our story on the Swedish HQ:

In 2018, the Taiwanese facility was updated, adding a large production facility for Öhlins staff and engineers to replace contracted employees. These steps were taken to prevent some of the production problems seen in recent years and to increase efficiency by having full control of the line and the process.

Reply

Shinook
0
Shinook  - April 18, 2020, 4:52 a.m.

I've been on this fork for the last 2-3 months or so, it's fantastic. I agree with everything in the review. 

It helps also that Ohlins support has been great, too. I sent them a ton of questions and have had a lot of back and forth with them even after I bought it, they've been responsive the entire time. 

I was a bit leery going to a coil fork due to the lack of midstroke support and bottom out resistance that I had heard about from coil forks, but that hasn't been the case at all for me with this fork. I found it surprisingly progressive. 

Similarly, I also had to go down in spring sizes. I ended up trying 3 different springs before also settling on the blue one (2020 Enduro, 190-195lb rider). I found about a 4-5% ride height difference between springs. 

The thing that surprised me is just how usable all the settings are. If you close off the compression and rebound, it doesn't feel awful, same if you open them all up. You can feel the difference, but it isn't like other forks where there is a truly awful setting on the damper side.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - April 20, 2020, 10:16 a.m.

Glad to hear you’re enjoying your move to coil with the m.2, Shinook. Your notes on the usability of the damper range are very true, while I personally may not use it closed down, it isn’t completely unusable for the right person/situation.

Reply

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