Kiss & Tell with the X-Fusion Trace

Words Andrew Major
Photos Kaz Yamamura
Date May 4, 2016

I’m sometimes envious of riders who can jump on a bike set-up for a rider two weight classes in either direction, and shred. I’m not the-Princess-and-the-Pea but I am definitely particular about my setup. So it was a with a bit of trepidation that I bolted this un-ridden X-Fusion Trace onto the Cannondale Jekyll and headed out the door to meet Kaz for a ride.

AMajor_XFusion_NSMB_KazYamamura-12

Starring: Kaz’ famous stick! Supporting cast: X-Fusion Trace HLR & Cannondale Jekyll.

Psychology is a huge part of riding. After plugging in base settings – 20% sag, mid-point LSC, mid-point HSC, rebound to preference – the fact that the Trace was so well built out of the box boosted my confidence as I followed Kaz and his 150lb camera bag into our first descent.

The range of adjustment on the Trace’s Roughcut HLR damper is huge. It goes from as slow as not-quite-frozen gin to greased lightning on the rebound and from an empty void to brick-wall-firm on the compression damper with a million (metric measurement) clicks in between. It was easy to dial in base settings, but, as is common, I spent part of the ride and a couple of rides after, playing around for my optimum set-up.

These dials go WAY past eleven! There is a huge range of adjustment with many usable clicks around my preferred settings to truly dial in the Roughcut HLR damper.

X-Fusion’s forks include a handy sticker on the lower with a base setting for air pressure based on rider weight. As with most suspension forks I have ridden lately, I would guess they err heavily towards comfort and ‘that guy’ who has to bottom out his fork three times a ride to feel like he, and it’s always a he, is getting maximum value from his suspension. Even with running ~ 30% sag on the Jekyll’s DYAD shock I would have been getting pushed over the front on any remotely steep trails with the Trace’s base setting for my weight class. I would always recommend setting your suspension up based on sag, not pressure, and ~20% sag on the Trace combined with the Roughcut damper supplied great traction and support.

Dialing in the basic ride on some smooth fast trails: X-Fusion Trace riding high.

Rolling into the trails I could definitely tell that the fork was tight, tight but not sticky. The Trace doesn’t have the showroom plush feel of some other high performance suspension products. By the end of our ride I could already feel that the fork was starting to break-in and it will be interesting to see what it feels like after a couple of months of riding. I think it’s important to re-iterate that the fork is tight, as in the bushings/stanchion interface, and not sticky from a lack of lubrication in the lowers like a lot of forks I come across. Those forks need a service not a break-in period, even if they are new. That’s not the case with the X-Fusion.

Nice & Tight Bushings; Nice & Tight Trails.

Point & Shoot: Riding a confidence inspiring fork is a lot less work than climbing trees to photograph said experience!

In addition to it being my first ride on the X-Fusion Trace, it was my first ride in over a decade on Boogieman. My amazing local trail association, the NSMBA, their trail crew, local builder Dan Lui, and a handful of awesome volunteers have put in huge hours over the last couple of years dialing it in while maintaining its original character and I was shocked. Firstly, because I hadn’t ridden it in so long and it’s a beauty.

A Kaz-eyed view of Boogieman. An inspiring day on an inspiring trail.

Secondly, because you should always look before you leap. Riding blind and WAY too fast into a rolling ladder was looking to be a recipe for disaster as my rear wheel tried to pass above my head. I found the bottom out bumper on the Trace fork, and heard my rim touch despite ~28psi in a Magic Mary Super Gravity tire. The Trace kept its composure as I bottomed in and rolled out and was predictable through the entire event. Not how I generally choose to test suspension components, especially on the first ride, but definitely confidence inspiring going forward.

Kaz had climbed into his camera bag at that point, so after a moment of self-reflection I hit the roller a few more times at a more controlled exit speed and everything was beautiful. A good reminder to check yourself if you’re riding blind.

Look before you leap: the Trace’s bottom out bumper prevented a harsh, metal-on-metal, ending and possibly an intense make-out session with the ground on roll-in #1.

Lastly, because the engineering Dan & Co put into reinforcing this log ride is as epic as the ride itself. Thanks for all your hard work folks!

Definitely higher up than I remembered it… this is about where I told Kaz I’m afraid of heights. Rode it again a few days later just to be sure— ride it three times and you own it right? Probably also true for dialing in fork settings.

I think I’d be justified in calling the ride of the X-Fusion Trace a bit old-school compared to similar platforms in the high-performance fork category. Whether it be the RockShox Pike, Fox 34/36 Float, or the Ohlins’ RXF 34, most current forks are very supple off the top and then rely on a combination of their air spring curve and damper to provide mid and end stroke support.

Beauty first day on the X-Fusion. The Trace needs to be ridden to be appreciated: good support and traction from the Roughcut HLR damper.

Despite having a large coil negative spring, the Trace doesn’t fall into its travel the same way. As soon as you get past the static push test and get on the trail, the small bump performance and traction is excellent. The harder you push the fork the more you will appreciate the support of the Roughcut damper. You may not be blown away by a parking lot test on a brand new fork. Test Ride; Then Decide.

Ride it slow. Ride it fast. Just keep a foot on the gas. The Trace responds well to rider input and likes to be pushed into berms and technical trail features alike.

Smooth and fast, slower more technical lines, and stomping short technical climbs out of the saddle; it was a great first day on the Trace that set me up for the following rides. The fork has broken in quite a bit after a couple of pedals but it still likes to sit high and be pushed into trails.

Black & white striped pink-lightning-bolt socks. Don’t be jealous. Just e-mail Pete and ask him when the NSMB.com special edition of the same/same is coming out!

Outro fork image: I like the new graphics. I like the new damper. I’m looking forward to dialing in the ride.

I am interested to ride the trails I’ve recently hit with the excellent 2016 Pike that came stock on the Jekyll, because the  Trace rides differently. Over the course of the long term review I hope to use the Pike, which so many riders have experience with, as a baseline for comparison.


The start of a beautiful more-than-friendship?

Comments

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - May 7, 2016, 4:26 p.m.

I liked the review.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 7, 2016, 8:05 p.m.

Thanks Nat,

Like I said, I was anticipating a healthy back-and-forth… just not about shorts. I'm obviously a way bigger bike nerd than the average NSMB.com reader.

Still, appreciate everyone taking the time to read (or at least look at the pretty pictures).

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - May 7, 2016, 9:45 p.m.

I'll consider this fork seriously when the time comes because of this review. I liked the tear down also. I read this the day it came out and found the discussion disappointing too. I hoped it was a buddy poking fun then, but now it doesn't look that way.

After derailing a comment section here a few weeks ago I thought it best not to lose my shit again. Nevertheless, there are people here interested in this sort of content, and not only think people should wear what the fuck they want, but didn't even notice these sorts of superficial aspects of the article. I could go on, but won't.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 7, 2016, 10:24 p.m.

Oh, no harm no foul; I definitely give as good as I get. If I ever find out who it is/was my vengeance will be hilarious. I'll be sure to wear some 1/2 knee length shorts for the final review of the Trace 29″ so as to not derail the potential discussion.

I am glad you got some value out of the review!

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - May 7, 2016, 10:36 p.m.

I'm sure. It's not like it wasn't funny, or your retorts. It was vacuous is all. There are worse things.

Reply

zigak
0
ZigaK  - May 6, 2016, 9:02 p.m.

I see that you're using the index finger for braking. Is this the accepted finger or is it you expressing idontgiveaflyingf*ckwhatyouthinkwerealldorksanyway philosophy as is with the pants?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 6, 2016, 9:21 p.m.

Other than the North American edition of obscene gestures, I'm pretty sure the Index finger is the best finger for ~ everything?

Lets face it… opposable thumbs got us where we are today, but when it comes to the importance of digits the Index is next.

Reply

yish
0
yish...  - May 6, 2016, 7 p.m.

Note to bike component manufacturers, the next time you send Drew something to review, please throw in some "publicly accepted / mainstream" attire so that the discussion that follows the review article is actually about the component and not the wardrobe.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 6, 2016, 7:29 p.m.

TroyLee has already sent me some 'regular length' shorts to wear for bike review photo-shoot purposes so this doesn't happen again. I guess if you can't handle the 3/4 knicks then support TroyLee and their good works!

Reply

Jerry-Rig
0
Jerry Willows  - May 6, 2016, 8:37 a.m.

Great to see all the time Drew has spent in the Specialized wind tunnel paying off… enduro tucks in the corners ftw!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 6, 2016, 8:58 a.m.

Thanks Jerry -- when I'm not trying to get modelling gigs for Shant monthly I spend hours in front of a full length mirror trying to look fast.

Fake it 'til you make it buddy!

Reply

david-mills
0
David Mills  - May 5, 2016, 6:32 p.m.

My wife has those striped socks. I have the hot pink "^^^I'M WITH AWESOME^^^" socks, which I often pair with my Swrve shants. Solidarity brother!

Reply

aspl-representative
0
A.S.P.L. Representative  - May 5, 2016, 9:28 a.m.

I found this review of Mandrew's shants to be highly informative. Maybe he should reach out to Capri Sun to set up some kind of crossover sponsorship deal?

This comment brought to you by the anti-short pants league of 2016. Friends don't let friends wear short pants. Reach out to a capri wearer near you today.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 5, 2016, 10:09 a.m.

But then what would I do for knee protection?

Reply

aspl-representative
0
A.S.P.L. Representative  - May 5, 2016, 10:48 a.m.

The A.S.P.L. fully endorses the use of the following lower body attire:

a) Jorts, no knee pads, high top vans and a bad attitude, or b) knee length shorts with knee protection from the bicycle protection manufacturer of your choice.

If you'd like to fashion your own bespoke protectors from bark and old man's beard moss, we won't stop you but we will caution you that they may not be very durable.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 5, 2016, 12:35 p.m.

Look, it's not that I don't appreciate your advice… It's just that I've ascended to a higher plain of understanding and until you get here it's really difficult to have this conversation… but I'll try…

Mountain bikers, to the world at large, look like dorks. Grown adults riding bicycles through the woods, whether wearing bright yellow or matte black, yelling "STOKED! RAD! GNAR GNAR!": Losers.

We keep trying (the fact we have to try being the obvious problem) to be cool like BMX, Skateboarding, or Moto: we made superfluous helmet visors and aerodynamically inferior baggy clothes mandatory for DH Racing, we buy $120 T-shirts with bright colours and cool logos, and our fashion forward legion of Enduro-bros has us rocking hip-bags and goggles with 1/2 lids.

Now here you are attacking the lowly 3/4 short as if it's the difference between acceptance by the uninitiated and eternity as a sport of no-f*cks- given doers.

Your options? Hot sweaty pads that suck to pedal in; slightly less hot and sweaty pads, that suck less to pedal in, but are at best beefed up knee warmers offering no more abrasion protection than a breezier pair of 3/4 knicks; tree bark -- and as tempting as the bark is I'm just not that crafty.

But here's what you should REALLY be afraid of: I'm an evangelist of mountain biking AND I've taken uniform dressing to a level Steve Jobs could have only dreamed of… the only difference between my riding attire (any of a number of sh*t kicked pairs of Swrve 3/4 shorts and old IceBreaker t-shirts) and what I wear everyday is bibs or boxers.

So every time you're rolling by the coffee shop in your freshly pressed Troy Lee kit trying to make mountain biking look cool, just remember I'm out reinforcing the fact we're a bunch of dweebs seven days a week!

Reply

aspl-representative
0
A.S.P.L. Representative  - May 5, 2016, 1:20 p.m.

All hope is lost. We have rebranded ourselves, and will now be spreading the gospel of 3/4 shorts (or are they 4/5ths pants?) on a global scale.

For every 10th pair of shants seen on trail, we will donate a pair of crocs to a rider in need of functional post-ride footwear.

Thank you,

The All Shants in Perpetuity League, 2016.

Reply

Faction
0
Derp  - May 5, 2016, 1:44 p.m.

dude, killing it.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 5, 2016, 1:57 p.m.

It's the bike industry… so the 3/4 'standard' is a goal but really we're seeing a range from ~3/5ths to ~7/9ths.

Except for the Pivot brand shorts. Pivot's owner, Chris Cocalis, buys the identical sewing equipment to whatever is going to be used in Shortnam and then lays out stitch-by-stitch instructions on how his shorts are to be crafted so his frame never have any problems with creaking pressfit BBs… I mean… ummm… so the shorts are always exactly 3/4 length.

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - May 5, 2016, 10:29 p.m.

Bro brah, Race Face Charge Knee + shorts for the win. Job done, those shants aren't doing you any favours in a bro crash. Don't be a joe with the hobbit pants.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - May 5, 2016, 10:39 p.m.

Hmmm… Lazer approved wardrobe choices… I guess I should rethink my fashion faux-pas?!

Have to be honest, this article was totally fishing for bike nerds… I just thought we'd all be discussing something other than my shorts…

Reply

powderturns
0
Mike  - May 5, 2016, 11:30 p.m.

Dude, yes! This is why I wear Greg Norman (the shark!) golf shirts on rides and gradient (aka coke dealer/pervert) sunglasses.

Reply

dj
0
DJ  - May 5, 2016, 7:38 a.m.

i feel better knowing the stick is still out there. and a C-dale with an actual fork. almost looks odd.

Reply

john-mips
0
John Mips  - May 5, 2016, 6:13 a.m.

Striped socks…

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.

Trending on NSMB