Today we take a look at the Ohlins RXF 36 M2, this is a 170mm air sprung trail bike fork. With 36mm stanchions, this fork is intended for burly terrain, which is the sort of trail riding I love! During this review, I rode the fork on my Ibis Ripmo V2 at 170mm, as well as on both my Evil Offering v2 and Yeti SB130LR. And yes, I shortened it down to 160mm for the Evil and Yeti.
I have been on a Fox 36 and Fox 38 for the majority of this year and will be using those as a frame of reference when reviewing the Ohlins. At the end of the day, all of these forks are really, really good, and I would be happy with any one of them. However, there are indeed some specific instances where each one has an edge over the others- so let’s dive into that.
note: I purchased this Ohlins RXF36 fork myself from Jenson USA; however I did get a slight discount since I’m working with Jenson so much. This article was sponsored by Jenson USA, and any purchases you make from my links here will help earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you.
First off, let’s compare the Ohlins to what’s been an industry benchmark for front suspension- the venerable Fox 36 Grip2. On my Fox 36, setup has always been a breeze. I start at the manufacture recommended specs, and I am usually within the ballpark of the settings I like, though I know at this point that I’ll need to add a volume reducer or two to that 36. With the Ohlins I found it more finicky to set up, as it ended up taking me 2 to 3 rides and I still wasn’t quite sure it was perfect, with the air spring being the hardest part to get right.
At first, the fork was riding really high in the travel, even when inflated below the recommended PSI for my weight. Despite it riding high, I still ended up easily using all the travel with the first couple of settings. The bottom outs weren’t harsh, but they did still happen. It just seems like this fork preferred to ride higher in its travel compared to Fox. Keep this in mind if you are setting up your own Ohlins fork- this can be a BIG advantage as we’ll to in just a moment.
After getting the two air chambers set closer to my sweet spot it was time to get damping figured out. And that was really pretty easy! Here in the PNW, trails are often greasy, and traction is the main thing I am hunting for when setting up my bikes. Fox forks have a very open feeling to them, and I find myself running ~3-4 clicks of HSC & LSC. Yet with the Ohlins, I am running it fully open on both low and high speed compression, and it is still a little slower than I’m used to. Not bad, but about 5% slower than my ideal setting. Back when I was racing, I ran much stiffer setups than I do now, and this fork would have worked wonderful for that purpose. Yet for my active and “poppy” riding style, it didn’t quite feel as open as I’d like, though with more riding, it did open up slightly and improved.
This fork is great for heavier riders- I weigh 170 lbs and was finding the dampening just a bit slow for my weight. If you are any heavier than my 170 lbs I think this could be one of the better options on the market. I found the bump sensitivity to be fantastic. Once the air spring is moving it feels incredible.
One of the best things about the RXF36 is that with the dual chamber design, allowing for a higher ride height, the fork would be great on a bike you want to slack out and make more aggressive. In my case, I wanted to do EXACTLY that on my Evil Offering.
To get the most out of this test I figured it would be good to try the fork on other bikes. However the other bikes I wanted to try it on required 160mm of travel so I had to lower the fork. In order to do this you need to swap out the air cartridge for a shorter one. Unlike Fox you don’t have to pull the lowers to change the air cartridge. Simply use a (very thing walled) 14mm socket to loosen it on the bottom then pop it out of the top. Then throw the shorter cartridge in and your ready to rip!
What you’ll need to adjust the travel:
Ohlins fork oil- I just used Fox gold and it’s been fine: https://bit.ly/OhlinsFancyOilJKW
New air cartridge in the right travel length: https://bit.ly/OhlinsAirCartridgeJKW
*An absolutely minimalist 14mm socket. I tried something like 6 sockets until I found one that would fit.
Now it’s time to test how the Ohlins does on my Yeti SB130. The Yeti has a steeper head tube angle then the Ripmo. With more weight over the front end it had me sitting further into the travel than the Ripmo giving me better trail feel and traction. I liked this fork more on the Yeti than on the Ripmo- so glad I tried it on some different bikes!
From the riding I did before hooking up my Motion Instruments fork tracer, I knew this fork felt slow. It just felt a bit sluggish to me. After recording one of my rides the data confirmed what I was feeling- though it had indeed improved on the Yeti/160mm compared to the Ripmo/170mm. The Ohlins was posting a 1582 mm/s rebound time, and EWS racers normally shoot for 1800-2200 mm/s. Even fully open this fork was returning slower than ideal. Obviously roughly 200 mm/s isn’t that far out of the range, it was nice to have data confirm my suspicions that this fork is a little slow compared to a Fox 36. And remember, if you’re over 170lbs, this fork might be a great option over a 36, as it does have more air spring adjustment.
The Ohlins really shined on my SB130, but I had a suspicion it would be just what Dr. Shredworthy ordered for the Evil Offering V2. The Offering comes stock with 140mm fork and a 66.8 degree head tube angle. I haven’t ridden a bike with this steep of geometry in nearly a decade. But with the Ohlins installed at 160mm (plus a 1 degree angle set) it slackens up the bike, and makes it MUCH more suited for my riding style. The Ohlins sits high in its travel, and makes the Evil much more up my ally. I enjoy the higher BB height that results from this, and the slacker head angle puts more weight on that rear end- and that means lot of traction on steep, wet trails.
Final verdict? For riders under 170lbs, the Fox will be more of a turn-key solution. However, for riders over 170lbs, and with the patience to utilize the dual air chamber design, the Ohlins RXF36 is a great option with a wonderful on-trail feel. If that works for you, please hit my link here over to Jenson USA to learn more about the Ohlns RXF36.
Watch the full review here: