X-Fusion Trace HLR – Teardown

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Apr 26, 2016

Shortly before this 140mm X-Fusion Trace Roughcut HLR fork arrived for testing, I found myself in a three-way conversation about what constitutes value for high performance mountain bike products. I’ll save you the details but the general sentiment was that, once we are talking about forks in the $1000+ range, a couple of Benjamins (that’s a handful of Elizabeths for us Canucks) only becomes a factor if two products are relatively equal in every other category.

Many consider X-Fusion the leader in terms of features and ride quality per dollar. Because this is a premium all mountain fork I plan to focus on the features, quality, build, and performance against other top caliber forks, independent of price.

X-Fusion Trace HLR : high speed compression, low speed compression, and rebound adjustable air fork. The poet in me wishes it was an X-Fusion Sweep so I could have titled the article “Deep In The Sweep.” The Trace is reported to weigh in at 1930 grams (4.25 lbs)

Most high performance suspension forks are damn impressive these days so when I start digging into them it’s always about finding details that set a product apart. In the case of the Trace it was when my friend James at SuspensionWerx removed bolt number two that we had to pause and geek out a little bit. You don’t have to be a bike nerd to appreciate the little o-ring on the foot nut that seals dirt out of the rebound knob. If you live anywhere with a bit of muck you can appreciate how much crap finds its way into your rebound knob. If you aren’t going to cap it then I say seal it.

Yes, it is a very small detail, but to me using an o-ring to seal the rebound knob shows that the guys at X-Fusion ride, work on forks, listen to folks that do, or all of the above.

Over the last few years most manufacturers have significantly improved their out-of-the-box assembly quality, but if you push on enough new forks you’ll still come across some dry ones. You’ve probably heard “oh, it just needs to break-in” but there is a big difference between tight bushings and dry seals.

The build quality of this Trace is excellent. Easily on par with the Ohlins RXF 34 I reviewed previously. And it is one of the best built forks I have seen. The foam rings are soaked in oil and all the internal components are well lubricated/greased.

Foam rings, seals, and bushings all well lubricated.

The heart of X-Fusion’s top performance forks, or at the very least their most talked about feature, is the Roughcut HLR bled damper. Part of the Tao of X-Fusion is their focus on all metal construction and the HLR damper is made of very nicely machined aluminum components. Like many companies’ highest performance forks, the Trace is using an expanding bladder system that is fully purged of air.

X-Fusion’s much talked about Roughcut HLR bled damper.

Quality construction.

The range of adjustment on the HLR damper is huge with multiple usable settings regardless of how much air pressure you run. Even with over 100psi I am nowhere near the end of the rebound adjustment range. I am still playing with the LSC and HSC adjustments as there is a great usable range. The detents are exceedingly positive and the shimmed damper offers notable variations in performance every couple of clicks.

Nicely machined aluminum adjusters.

Roughcut all laid out at SuspensionWerx.

Finished with a bleed.

The Trace uses a fairly standard air system with a large coil negative spring to help initialized the air system and a smaller coil top-out spring to keep things smooth and quiet. As with the damper their focus on all metal construction instead of the plastic parts found in many competing products extends to the air system (air piston aside).

Well greased coil negative spring and coil top-out spring.

Well lubricated air seal.

Another interesting feature of the Trace’s air system is the large bottom out bumper. Rubber bumpers like this generally compress ~50% of their height at full compression which, much like the bumper on a coil shock, will keep the fork’s internals from being damaged or the rider from experiencing harsh mechanical bottom outs.

Quality manufacturing and a large bottom out bumper.

I’m trying not to go on a mini rant here, but many companies now print base settings on their forks; despite this measuring your sag is the best way to determine your air pressure. Not only does the accuracy of a pressure gauge vary from one pump to another (often wildly) but many companies seem to err towards comfort with their recommended settings resulting in setups that are too soft for riding aggressive terrain. In the case of the Trace my air pressure to achieve ~20% sag translates to going up two weight classes on their recommendation.

Many companies now print base settings on their forks; however, as always measuring your sag is the best way to determine air pressure.

As I am writing this I already have my first ride on the Trace Roughcut HLR and, while I am definitely still playing around with settings, my general impressions are very good. It is confidence inspiring to see how well put-together the fork is out of the box and it feels great – although it is definitely still tight and in need of more break in. I’m looking forward to sharing my first impressions shortly.

MSRP £550/ CDN$1000/US$800

Click here for more on the Trace…

Thanks James at Suspensionwerx!


Have you ridden an X-Fusion lately?

Trending on NSMB

Comments

rifa-hendriana
0
Rifa Hendriana  - May 2, 2016, 8:01 p.m.

where can I get bleed tool for roughcut damper

Reply

steve-low
+1 Andrew Major
steve low  - April 27, 2016, 5:05 p.m.

Fantastic article mate, great to see a bit of an insight into what we dont see!! X-fusion forks are everybit as good as RS and FOX just dont have all the marketing hype and history behind them. Ive been on a pair of 160mm sweeps for 18 months and in that time ive converted a few friends over to the big X! They have been in the market for a fork and weve had a set of Pikes and my sweeps doing car runs swapping 3 times during the day and 2 friends both couldnt justify the extra $$ for the RS.
My sweeps started out as HLR dampner and i upgtaded to the Roughcut which was a noticeable difference. Where the X are better is in that area of being super plush but still being a workable ride. I do like RS feel but i find them, in compatison, a bit lifeless!??! In fairness i havnt ridden Fox's to any extent so i cant comment ( would be intetesting though as i hear the new 36 have great feel and pop too!?). The old HLR was good but not as good as a charger but the old price still made them a good price to performance option. Now with the Roughcut its a no brainer! They are every bit as good, if not better, and cheaper!! The bike industry is so full of BS in that its all just marketing. SRAM especially are plastered everywhere you look. Sure they do make good products BUT when a smaller player like X-Fusion can put out products that are definitely better quality ( ?? ) at a lower price it makes you wonder how much profit someone like SRAM are making off of the back of marketing and dare i say making a product that wont last as long so you keep spending money on them!? Im not bashing SRAM and RS they make great products but i do think some of us are a bit brainwashed by all the hype!?

Reply

blake-conquistador-motley
0
Blake Conquistador Motley  - April 27, 2016, 6:52 a.m.

Now x fusion just needs to make a well damped shock that doesn't top out

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - April 27, 2016, 7:08 a.m.

Hi Blake,

I admit that I have only tried X-Fusion's most basic inline air shocks, which models have you ridden?

I've heard really good feedback on their higher performance coil shocks, but it seems most feedback about their air shocks is from basic models.

Reply

nopow
0
Nopow  - April 27, 2016, 12:18 p.m.

As good as Xfusion stuff is they are not at the level of Fox and RS's top offerings!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - April 27, 2016, 1:58 p.m.

In what respect Mecca?

Reply

nopow
0
Nopow  - April 27, 2016, 2:23 p.m.

Cam. so let's look at the RV1. Which is their top offering. Weights more, damping not as precise. Had trouble getting the right rate spring. Offset and overall fork tube length different. Wish I could down load a pic with boxxer wc, RV1 and 40's lined up to compare. I will say they are built well though( boxers lasted 1 month). We are currently running 40's and they are solid.

Reply

Faction
0
Derp  - April 27, 2016, 4:20 p.m.

The older models with the HLR damping is not quite as supple as RS, Fox, and Manitou's forks, but I'm guessing the new Roughcut is. Build quality and reliability though, XF is very much a player.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - April 27, 2016, 11:54 p.m.

The XF Trace performs differently than the newer RS (Pike/Lyric/RS-1) and Fox suspension with self-adjusting negative air springs. It definitely won't win a on-the-shop-floor-push test against these companies but out on the trail I think it offers a competitive option.

If you like more support from your fork damper, especially near the top of the stroke, the Trace stands tall and as soon as you are into the sag point (I'm running ~20% sag) it has good small bump and initial traction.

As Wayne noted, and as was hopefully evident in the article, the build quality is awesome. XF have also really taken a hard line in terms of machining ~ all the internal components out of aluminum where many companies use plastic for weight and cost savings .

Anyways, to each their own, and I don't see a value in saving a couple hundred bucks on a fork that doesn't work for you when there are lots of great options, but I do think depending on personal preference the new Roughcut HLR X-Fusion forks are worth a look.

Reply

Faction
0
Derp  - April 27, 2016, 9:24 a.m.

No problems with my Vector HLR coil and HLR air shocks

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - April 27, 2016, 6:28 a.m.

Well done as usual Andrew…

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - April 27, 2016, 7:42 a.m.

Thanks Rob!

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - April 27, 2016, 12:13 a.m.

wow… just wow. i'll admit i'm not reading these all the way through andrew… but if i was in the market for a new fork i would have a hard time buying one you hadn't torn down - this kind of insight into the guts of an expensive and potentially fraught purchase is invaluable; you should be earning a medal for this

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - April 27, 2016, 4:07 a.m.

Thanks Omar; I really appreciate it.

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - March 25, 2019, 5:01 a.m.

long term follow-up: i just bought a trace. based in no small part on your teardown insights and review. thanks again andrew

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.