Öhlins RXF 34: Long Term Review

Words Andrew Major
Photos Kaz Yamamura
Date Mar 13, 2016

The temptation to just phone it in with this Öhlins update was almost overwhelming. I could just write that the “RXF 34 is an awesome, high-end, high-performance suspension fork” and then go for a bike ride. Actually, my plan was a little more involved and included dazzling you with some nice Kaz Yamamura photographs of a stick he found to prop up my bike and then bribe the few commenters who actually read articles before posting to keep their collective mouths shut with sardonically phrased compliments about their hairstyles and body odour. Oh, and then apologize profusely to anyone who actually noticed and was offended.

I mean… hey, look! A Stick!

Nice stick Kaz! Thanks for loaning me your bike Jimmy!

The RXF 34 is now well and truly broken in having served time on the front of my ’14 Kona Honzo, the Intense Carbine 29’er I borrowed for the first impressions article, and my friend James’ personal Carbine 29’er. I’ll be putting together one more brief update come summer when we rip down the RXF 34 to see how it has fared through some months of North Vancouver liquid sunshine, but with settings dialed in and the fork working beautifully this seemed like a good time to review it at peak performance.

Seals are still looking great. My long term goal is to replace them with a set of SKF seals as a performance comparison when the fork is serviced.

The Öhlins seals are still running smooth and leak-free, there has been no notable degradation in damper performance, and the air system is still impressively devoid of stiction. One of the advantages of swapping the fork between a number of bikes is that I’ve had the opportunity to regularly inspect the direct interface steerer tube for wear and there is none thus far. I do lube up the bearing/steerer interface with waterproof bearing grease and would recommend you do the same.

There’s that one-piece machined crown-steerer assembly with integrated crown race again. No wear at all from the bearing/crown interface thus far.

Someday I’d love to write an article on the Seeker-ization of test-writing, but for now, I’d like to just give some props to NSMB.com reader Chris from Another Bike Shop in Santa Cruz, California, who was happy to share some setup tips that had come to him through the grapevine of riders who had more hours on the RXF 34. On his recommendation, I abandoned experimenting with the base settings and significantly increased the air pressure in the secondary air chamber. This is still a relatively linear fork compared to many other options on the market; however, I am very happy with the settings I’m running for my 185lbs. On my shock pump, they are: Main chamber ~130psi, Secondary chamber ~260psi, Rebound -15 (15x clicks from closed), Low-Speed Compression -7 (LSC 7x clicks from closed), and High-Speed Compression in the mid setting (HSC +2 clicks from open). I decrease the main air chamber setting and LSC slightly for use on my Honzo, but I think it is an easily recommended starting point for a rider my size.

Mmmm… talk damper with me.

More secondary chamber air pressure… like WAY more.

Up, Down, Across: the Öhlins twin tube damper provides great support.

I find that the HSC setting, which is more of a mid-stroke adjustment as I noted in my first impression write up, now sits in the middle position (open + 2 clicks) all the time. I’m not a knob twiddler generally, but I never find the need to pop the fork into its Climb setting (max HSC) even for out of the saddle climbing efforts. The Öhlins twin-tube damper provides great support.

Traction galore and lots of travel left for the exit. The RXF 34 has gotten even smoother since it came out of the box.

I find I use full travel regularly with the RXF 34. This hasn’t turned out to be a negative, and I never bottom harshly, but compared to a Pike with 2-3 tokens the Öhlins’ is much more linear. It’s interesting because the fork has excellent support, as evidenced by the photos Kaz took, and at the same time, full travel is available when needed.

Full travel is being used, however, support is excellent at the same time.

WHOOOooooSH! Gratuitous puddle shot!

Every time I do a fork review I am asked to offer comparisons to other products on the market.

Based on their winning heritages at the very cutting edge of motorsports, similar layout and design, and similarly super high quality, the fork I would love to compare the RXF34 to is a BOS DeVille 29’er. Sadly, that fork doesn’t exist. But, if you’re a fan of the BOS DeVille, like I am, and you WISH it was available in a 29’er option then the RXF 34 is a great surrogate.

An oldie but a goodie. Thanks for all your trail work Pete! Every winter I pray for awful skiing conditions solely because it means I know you’ll be slinging dirt, rock, and lumber!

If you love the bottomless ramp-up of the RockShox Pike/Lyric forks or the huge range of tune-ability (air volume and damper) of the Fox 36 then you may not consider the more linear and more set-and-ride characteristics of the RXF. If you are looking for a high-performance air fork with the most coil-like ride, Öhlins owns that category.

The Black & Gold.

Should you buy an Öhlins RXF 34 fork? Stiffness is excellent, performance is on par with the best-of-the-best and the fork has proven to be very resilient thus far. The brand has legendary suspension heritage, it looks great, and the price is in the same ballpark as other top-caliber suspension products. Oh, and your riding buddy probably doesn’t have one.

Check with your local dealer as to how after sales service and support will be in your area and if they’re behind the product then I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the newest player in the high performance fork wars.


You had me at coil-like feel…

Comments

jason-carr
0
Jason Carr  - July 13, 2016, 12:35 p.m.

Hi Andrew, can you tell me a bit about how the fork felt on the Honzo? I'm building up a Last Fastforward hard tail. Thanks!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 5, 2016, 5:14 p.m.

Hi Jason,

Huge apologies for the delayed response -- I just saw this! You can always hit me at my NSMB.com e-mail (link at top of article) if you have a questions about an older article.

The RXF34 worked great on the front of the Honzo. I did find myself using +2 clicks (the third setting) for the HSC adjuster just to limit geometry change on smoother trails. Stiffness was excellent without being ridiculous on front of the steel hardtail.

I hope that helps!

AM

Reply

tocomotion
0
Tocomotion  - March 15, 2016, 11:10 a.m.

how about creaky crown/stanchions ? I'm tired of swaping forks under warrany (rock shox revelations 29er 130mm) , i'm on my third one, waiting for the 4th CSU to replace. maybe this one is the fork I need. what do you think? I'm like 205 pounds with equipment

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drewm
0
DrewM  - March 15, 2016, 11:56 a.m.

Really too soon to say. The vast, vast, majority of forks that creak do so at the stanchion/crown interface so in that sense the Ohlins fork is assembled in the same way (stanchions pressed into crown).

That said, Ohlins is not chasing the lightest-weigh 140mm fork crown with this product and both the crown and stanchions are pretty beefy, so if I was going with my gut I would say they will be more resilient/resistant to creaking crowns than many other products.

Hope that is helpful!

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tocomotion
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Tocomotion  - March 15, 2016, 1:06 p.m.

I read and heard a lot of Pike's owners with the same problem, creaky stanchions/crown interface, so the pike is out of my short list. My 2nd revelation started to creak with the second ride! a friend had the same problem but he was lucky and just needed one replacement CSU.
Now, this öhlins fork sure looks great, seems to work great but like others here, I have the doubt about the service, especially since I'm in Chile and there isn't an öhlins service center here.

well, thanks for your reply Drew,

Cheers.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - March 15, 2016, 2:42 p.m.

Cheers!

I'm increasingly of the opinion (my opinion) that RockShox was not wrong when they released their first long travel (4″) trail fork as a double crown (Judy XL / SID XL). If you deliver the offset in the crowns instead on the wheel like Specialized did with their late-90s Future Shock forks on the Enduro (great idea / crappy performance) then the only real issue -- knee contact climbing out of the saddle -- is a non issue.

Benefits of a dual crown (admittedly there would probably be some weight penalty): replaceable stanchions, no creaking, way less load on steerer, way more room to play with air volume, damper design, and for lubrication thanks to taller stanchions.

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jon-hillstrom
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Jon Hillström  - March 17, 2016, 2:43 a.m.

Funny you say that about the weight as I spoke to one of the Öhlins guys who built the fork. Apparently they had a product ready a year before they released the RFX 34 but it ended up being around 150-200 grams over target weight so they had to rework EVERYTHING to shave a few grams in all possible places. The current fork crowns are actually hollowed out by machining internally to shave a few grams.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - March 17, 2016, 10:17 a.m.

I believe it. The area of the fork that would be the crown-steerer tube interface (except that it is a one piece unit) is heavily machined/relieved. The lowers are also sculpted to maximize stiffness:material.

That said the crown stanchion interface is definitely beefed up and the stanchion tubes are fairly thick (see tear down photos). Please note that this isn't a complaint/concern. The RXF 34 isn't close to being the lightest fork in its class but the performance is excellent, build quality out of the box was some of the best I've seen, and I have no complaints about stiffness. If reinforcing the crown/stanchion interface resists creaking at the press fit and performance longevity continues to be excellent I'd gladly pay the very small weight penalty.

Reply

k4m1k4z3
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K4m1k4z3  - March 14, 2016, 1:19 p.m.

Looking forward to the SKF seals comparison!

Reply

drewm
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DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 10:14 p.m.

Just to clarify: there is a good chance that the stock "Ohlins" seals are made by SKF. They make a lot of high quality seals (including internal seals) for bike and motorsports applications. I'm just very curious to see how their own branded product compares to the Ohlins seals.

Thanks!

Reply

david-pjesky
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David Pjesky  - March 14, 2016, 8:25 a.m.

I absolutely love mine on my Enduro 29. Coupled with the ttx coil shock, completely transformed by bike, particularly in the corners… it's faster. at 220 pounds, I definitely needed to increase both main and secondary pressures above recommended, but I found the sweet spot. Thanks for the review.

Reply

bristecom
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Bristecom  - March 14, 2016, 9:07 a.m.

I also got that combo for my Enduro 29. It is so much better than the Pike and Monarch Plus DebonAir I had on there before! Feels more stable, comfortable, and predictable. Although I'm still playing around with the settings on the fork.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 9:11 a.m.

Same as with David, once you have some settings you're ~ happy with it would be awesome if you could post them up (and your ~ weight). Thanks!

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 9:08 a.m.

Thanks for reading David!

If you have a chance, and don't mind, could you post your preferred air pressure settings, rebound (clicks out from full slow/closed), and low speed compression (clicks out from full firm/closed)?

Even accounting for variation in shock pumps it would be cool to have a few examples of base settings (by weight class) so anyone reading has a starting point if they buy an RXF 34.

Reply

david-pjesky
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David Pjesky  - March 14, 2016, 9:21 a.m.

Yeah, I am actually quite close to your settings. 130 main chamber, 230 ramp up chamber, 12 clicks from closed on lsc, 1 click from closed on hsc.

I thought that I was 20 psi above my recommended main chamber setting, but apparently I was reading the label wrong, I am right at the exact recommended setting on the main chamber for my weight. 220 lbs.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 9:26 a.m.

Awesome; thank you

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - March 14, 2016, 5:58 a.m.

If it compares favourably to the BOS Deville which I love as well then I'd rock it. Sounds like a winner.

Reply

drewm
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DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 7:14 a.m.

Love the new haircut!

Thanks for reading; 49-South is going to be well covered for service/warranty between Ohlins & Specialized. My only wariness living in 49-North is how the product will be supported (see Ohlins rear shocks on Specialized Demo last year) in peak season but if you have a open mind, or a backup fork, this is a beauty.

Big manly men may want to also check if there is a max pressure for the secondary chamber because you're going to pumping it up high.

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eric
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eric  - March 14, 2016, 3:13 p.m.

drew, can you tell me more about the 49 north issue? Thanks

Reply

nopow
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Nopow  - March 14, 2016, 3:46 p.m.

We had trouble with service (Ohlins USA) with our ttx22m. Done with them. Fox X2. . . . . . float 36!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 5:01 p.m.

Hi Eric,

I've heard a lot about challenges getting Ohlins MTB shocks serviced in Canada last year, particularly in peak season.

As part of this series of articles, as noted in comments in the past articles, I reached out to Specialized Canada to find out if they were expanding their service/warranty operation in Canada, or partnering with existing suspension servicing businesses, or partnering with well equipped key dealers (like FanatykCo in Whistler) to increase after sale service/support especially with Ohlins air shocks and forks coming on line and presumably many more awesome new products to follow.

The answer I received was that Specialized Canada would continue to handle all service and warranty. Maybe I'm reading into it too much but in this case no news (status quo) is probably not good news.

Hope that answers your question/is what you were looking for.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - March 14, 2016, 5:07 p.m.

I'm sorry to hear you had challenges with getting your shock serviced. This was last year (first year of product)?

By all accounts, in the USA, Ohlins USA and Specialized have massively stepped up support for this year and will continue to grow service/support going forward. Hopefully if you have another opportunity to try Ohlins' product support is excellent.

Thanks!

Reply

nopow
0
Nopow  - March 15, 2016, 12:07 p.m.

We were told (USA) that specialized does not service Ohlins stuff. Don't get me wrong Ohlins stuff is very good but having trouble with service is not fun. Fox's new susp. Stuff is maybe better and they are helping my son out too:)

Reply

eric
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eric  - March 21, 2016, 2:48 p.m.

The Specialized Service center in SLC services ohlins product, STX22, TTX, RXF34 parts landed last week. I'd like to know more about who told you that Mecca, Thanks.

Reply

eric
0
eric  - March 21, 2016, 3:09 p.m.

Thanks Drew, Is there a PM function on these comments?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - March 21, 2016, 3:52 p.m.

Hi Eric, not as far as I know but my email is usually linked to the header:

andrew.major@nsmb.com

Reply

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