Öhlins XC Race
Dec 18, 2023
Öhlins XC suspension is official. We knew it was coming. We first spotted the prototype Öhlins XC suspension at the end of last season leading into the start of this year. It wasn't exactly hidden, what with the iconic yellow-Ö-emblazoned forks popping up at the cross-country World Cups, and slimmed-down rear shocks smaller than anything we had seen yet from the Swedish racing suspension company that had confined their mountain bike offerings to more gravity-focused disciplines.
But now Öhlins XC suspension makes its official cross-country debut with a few race-ready RXC34 forks and a couple of twin tube TXCAir rear shocks…
Created to bring their iconic race-focused performance, race-proven damping, and tuning capabilities to those shorter travel mountain bikes now tackling the latest technical XC tracks, the Öhlins XC project has high hopes together with their factory race partner Team BMC Racing. They’ve set this season's goals on World Series podiums, and have their sights firmly on next summer's Olympics…
OK, so why is Öhlins getting into the XC game, and why did it take so long?
When we talked to the Öhlins MTB project development team about their move into cross-country, it was clear they had been eyeing the progression of XC racing, analyzing how they could make their mark. For years (decades?) XC racing had been dominated by weight weenies – not something Öhlins especially excels at. But XC has progressed.
Modern XC racecourses got more technical, and the cross-country race bikes evolved to keep pace. Wheels got bigger in diameter (29ers), tires got wider (now 2.4″ is almost a new standard), geometry got slacker, frame kinematics advanced with better built-in pedaling efficiency (more anti-squat), and suspension travel simply got longer (120mm is the new norm). The result is bikes with larger unsprung mass, more travel, more supple suspension movement, and the key point here for Öhlins… more opportunity to benefit from more advanced air springs and better damping.
Better performing XC suspension now holds more potential to genuinely claw back real tangible time-savings in a modern XCO or XCM race.
So Öhlins set out to create a system that can win World Cups, but also target the 2024 Olympics.
That quickly became a prestigious goal for the racing-oriented company coming from motorsports. They never had a product before that could target such a premier global human-focused event like the Olympics. To do so they needed top athletes, and rather than try to develop a team, Öhlins approached Team BMC Racing, now with former World Champ Jordan Sarrou.
And as Öhlins tells it, BMC happily joined in without trying the new gear, trusting in the Öhlins racing heritage.
Through the course of XC development, Öhlins settled on 34mm chassis for their new fork with 120mm of travel up front. And the paired that to 120mm of ideal rear wheel travel with a lighter version of their twin-tube air suspension tech that simply delivered more rear wheel control and better performance (over two different single-tube designs they worked on), even if it did mean a bit of extra weight.
Performance control and precise handling became the driving factors as Öhlins refined their XC suspension project – "enabling riders to push their limits on the most challenging XCO tracks".
Both front & rear, Öhlins has developed lightweight new damping systems with 3 compression modes – Open, Pedal, Lock – with individual kinematic curves tailored specifically the unique weight balance and rider power input you get from XC racing in each of these modes. Weight back and standing over the pedals when descending in Open mode. Weight forward and likely perched on the nose of the saddle attacking the climbs in Pedal mode. And forward out of the saddle sprinting in full Lock mode.
This range has been in development for a long time, not only is it raced at the highest level, it's now also available for XC riders around the world. Our focus on performance enables riders to have the confidence to go faster while being in control, on XCO tracks and on weekend rides.
Up front, the Öhlins RXC34 m.1 forks share a similar stiff external chassis, the same size stanchions, and the floating axle platform with the slightly longer travel RXF downcountry / trail forks.
But inside it's all-new.
The RXC fork gets an all-new OTX14 damper and an updated 2-chamber air spring, designed to provide "next-level traction and wheel control in a stiff chassis with a superior feel and excellent handling". The new RXC34 fork is designed around 100-120mm of travel (with a 130mm possible for OEMs) and 34mm stanchions for more stiffness, predictability & reliability.
(In a nod to serviceability, it is possible to swap air spring & damper internals between the new RXC34 and the existing RXF34.)
Generally, there are two versions of the fork – a standard model with a forged alloy crown and pressed 1.5″ tapered steerer. Then, a lighter Carbon model with a one-piece molded carbon crown & tapered steerer – saving about a hundred grams. Each can be internally adjusted for 100, 110 & 120mm of travel. And could be extended to 130mm of travel in the future with a 130-specific air spring.
But there's also a third Race model, which combines the carbon crown/steerer with a lighter, shorter set of stanchions that are 100mm of travel only – saving another 20g off the regular Carbon fork.
Like in the new XC shocks out back, the RXC34 m.1 forks feature 3 ride modes: Open, Pedal, Lock.
-Open, ramps up progressively for more support at higher speeds and increasing forces. -Pedal doesn't build up as much force seated, taking advantage of the large negative air spring so the fork & shock can be more plush-Lock is locked but still very little movement for traction
The new RXC34 (and the TXCAir shocks) are available with manual mode sectors or a combined remote lockout lever. Öhlins developed a modular remote that combines with dropper post remotes, but also wanted to ensure compatibility with other existing systems. They operate on standard 7.5mm of cable pull per mode to be compatible with Scott TwinLoc & Orbea Squid remotes, and Öhlins offers a 5.5mm pull adapter so riders can use their new suspension with the DT Swiss remote like the BMC team have been racing on.
The new XC forks feature:
The standard aluminum crown Öhlins RXC34 m.1 fork comes in 110 or 120mm of travel, at a claimed weight of 1598g. A 100mm version will be offered in the near future. The 110/120mm RXC34 Carbon fork weighs in at 1496g. And the lightest 100mm travel Öhlins RXC34 Race fork with carbon crown & steerer is said to weigh just 1476g.
Out back, the TXCAir shocks were developed as a lighter, more compact version of the Öhlins TTX twin tube technology to give XC racers the ultimate plush rear suspension performance and peak damper tuning for maximum rear wheel control. Öhlins says the TXCAir is highly adjustable, and comes backed by a "race-proven setting bank to match rider style and bike linkage" across most modern XC bikes.
Öhlins developed two shocks with volume options to fit more constrained bike designs, but also to give riders options regarding their desired progressive nature. The TTXC1 Air is the standard volume shock with a tapered end to fit into tight spaces (available in 2 shorter strokes). The TTXC2 Air is a high-volume variant for more customizability (37.5 40, 42.5, 45mm stroke settings).
The larger volume TTXC2 Air shock can have its volume adjusted with internal spacers to dial in the perfect feel. And both TTXC1 & 2 can be adjusted internally with simple clips to achieve any of their possible stroke settings. That means shops have fewer shocks to stock to fit more bikes, but also that end consumers can play around with the rear travel of the bike by tweaking shock stroke.
Both were developed together as a single system, effectively combining optimized LSC & HSC for remote shock versions, and separating out LSC for manual lockout shocks (in the Open mode only).
Both are available with standard or trunnion mounts to fit almost any modern XC bike. The TTXC1 Air is remote lockout only, while the 2 is remote or manual (but rebuildable between either option).
The new XC shocks feature:
The smaller volume Öhlins TXC1Air shock will be offered in 165/190mm lengths with 37.5/40mm stroke, or 185/210mm length with 47.5/50mm stroke. TXC1Air shock weights start from 245g.
The full-volume TXC2Air is offered in 165/190mm lengths in all four 37.5/40/42.5/45mm strokes, and also in 185/210mm lengths with 47.5/50/52.5/55mm stroke settings. Claimed TXC2Air shock weights start at 255g.
The new 29er Öhlins RXC34 m.1 Air fork with the alloy crown & steerer retails for $1190 / 1495€, in 110mm or 120mm travel variants for the time being. The lighter RXC34 m.1 Carbon Air fork sells for $1390 / 1695€ also with 110mm or 120mm travel. No word yet on the even lighter 100mm RXC34 m.1 Race Carbon Air fork pricing.
No matter what variant of rear shock you need, all versions of the new Öhlins TTX1 Air & TTX2 Air sell for the same $565 / 695€.
More than just a cross-country race setup and blurring into lightweight trail too, the new Öhlins XC suspension isn't quite available just yet, but you shouldn't have to wait too long. Series production is expected to be in full swing at the start of July 2023. So, the new forks and shocks will be available through regular Öhlins bike shop retail networks, starting in 4-5 weeks’ time.