Here we are again, putting pen to paper, or fingers to plastic as it were, for another fork review. We shared a small raft of information about the updated Öhlins RXF34 m.2 fork not long ago, so we’ll stick to its performance review here. The main question we wanted to answer is how the RXF34 m.2 compares across the teeter-totter from the latest Fox 34 model.
Some chassis, air, and damping differences
Both forks are only made for 29″ wheels, and the Öhlins offers travel from 120 to 130m, whereas Fox spans 130 to 140mm. Part of the difference here is connected to the fact that Fox has a shorter-travel XC fork taking up the 120mm length, and Öhlins has yet to release a short-travel model. They both use volume spacers to adjust progressivity in the air spring, and both have dampers offering low-speed rebound adjustments below their high and low-speed compression clickers. The Fox 34 model has an additional rebound adjustment for a high-speed circuit. A floating axle reduces friction on the Öhlins fork, and the Fox uses a lightweight and simple Kabolt.
We tested the 130mm iteration of either fork with a 44mm offset to keep things simple.
Climbing considerations for the Öhlins RXF34 m.2 and Fox 34
Both of the 130mm forks have a wide-ranging low- and high-speed compression circuit, allowing riders to dial in the amount of travel movement they want while standing and climbing or blasting downslope. The RXF34 m.2 takes things a step further with an easily flipped switch to adjust the high-speed circuit that essentially locks out the fork on its firmest setting. There’s an argument that we don’t need lockouts outside of cross country, since no one else is racing uphill, but some riders might appreciate the switch for steep segments out of the saddle.
The weight of these two forks is similar, with our Fox sample weighing 1,841g and the Öhlins tipping the scale at 1,752g. That nearly 100g weight savings is worth consideration when weighing the price differences of $1,399 for the Fox model tested and the Öhlins MSRP of $1,180.
The descent dance
In a lot of ways these two forks roll alongside one another in lockstep, unflappable examples of impressive engineering, but for a certain style of descending the Öhlins pulls ahead impressively. If you enjoy pushing a short-travel bike to its absolute limit, riding it like you would a 160 to 180mm platform and on similar trails, I would recommend the RXF34 m.2 all day. Both forks can achieve all the buttery-forgiving-supple-smoothness you can ask for, and maybe the Fox does this ever so slightly better, but the additional support you can achieve with the Öhlins far exceeds the feathery sensation of “ever so slightly.”
I tried to achieve a race-feel level of support with the Fox 34 using every variable available and couldn’t quite get there. A retune with the Fox Factory Tune program would have likely done the trick but with the Öhlins RXF34 m.2, support was achievable out of the box. You don’t have to fully close the compression circuit to find proper mid-stroke support, and with a notably firm setup, there is ample traction.
As the fork runs out of steam in its final few centimeters the RXF34 m.2 has less to say about what the ground is doing, making for a tad smoother transition to bottom out than the Fox 34. Both of the forks can have a wicked-fast rebound from that bottomed-out position, which is particularly nice when you’re riding a hardtail and want the head tube to slacken back out quickly. The rebound circuits in these forks feel quite similar, and neither would sway me toward a purchasing decision.
If your only aim with suspension is comfort on the trail, the Fox 34 might be your best option. If you want the ability to achieve a high level of comfort, while also being able to tune a “racey” feel into your 120 to 130mm fork, the Öhlins is undoubtedly the way to roll. Folks who want 140mm of travel can choose to go with a burlier Öhlins RXF36 m.2 or a Fox 34, depending on the intentions of the bike in question.
- Price: $1,180
- Available through select local distributors.
- Simple air spring adjustment
- Ample support throughout
- 160 to 203mm rotor ready
Pros and cons of the Öhlins RXF34 m.2
- More expensive than the competition