We ﬁrst met the X-Force 0.2 during What Mountain Bike's Trail Bike of the Year test last winter, but issues raised during testing mean it didn’t make the ﬁnal line-up. Now the German company and their UK distributors Raleigh have returned with a revamped X-Force that’s deﬁnitely more of a contender if you want a cruiser not a chaos engine.
Corratec are heading in the right direction with the running changes they've made to the X-Force 0.2. It now handles much better in cockpit terms and is smoother on rolling singletrack. Overall control levels still don’t come close to similar weight bikes and it’s not as cross-country/trail responsive as lighter bikes with similar technical limitations so there’s still a way to go before it becomes a ‘go to’ choice.
From the airbrushed paintwork, to the eclectic kit mix and unique suspension design, the Corratec is designed to be noticed. Suspension and cockpit changes make it smoother and more agile, but start pushing it hard and the unpredictable suspension reaction from both ends, plus unstable, low traction tyre and rim behaviour, make it a bike to beware of not believe in on black runs.
Ride & handling: Limits are soon found on testing terrain
With a short stem and wider bar, the revised X-Force feels better than the ﬁrst incarnation. In the non ‘Pro Pedal’ settings the fox float RP23 rear shock settles into its sag smoothly, while the DT Swiss XMM Single Shot 140 fork tends to stay tall and unsagged, which tilts the frame angles back for a more conﬁdent cornering feel. There’s enough stretch in the long top tube for easy breathing and climbing, even with the shorter stem. Add the easy to ﬂick on suspension ﬁrming of the RP23 shock, plus remote lockout on the fork, and while a relatively high weight means acceleration is steady, it spins ﬁne once you’re rolling.
The fork is precise and accurate on smoother trails, and the back end only sways if you straddle the bike across ruts. Things become less consistent once you get more dynamic with the bike. Even after weeks of ﬁne tuning there is little trace of useful control from the ﬁxed high and low speed damping circuits of the Single Shot fork. Even with relatively high air spring pressure, causing small bump skating, it plummets through its stroke under high-speed hits or drops.
The Fox shock has made things smoother over small to mid-size bumps and it drives well through rolling singletrack and copes with repeated obstacles such as steps. If the frequency or size of the trouble changes, the nodding shock becomes unpredictable in its response, combining with the fork to create a potentially serious situation. In common with most low pivot swingarm bikes kick back on step-ups or square edge impacts is obvious too.
While the frame is reasonably stiff and the cockpit dimensions are sorted, unpredictable suspension attitude as you enter and push through corners makes it hard to judge limits. Add the narrow rims undermining the stability of slide prone Continental 2.4in Mountain King tyres meant it regularly felt like we’d punctured one end or the other and it didn’t encourage aggressive cornering. On the bright side, the modulation of the powerful Avid Code brakes is exceptional.
Frame & equipment: Stiff frame, power-amplifying brakes and solid shimano XT transmission
Corratec has always made distinctive bikes and the X-Force mainframe is no exception, if in a slightly dated way. The head tube is a full 1.5in oversized unit rather than a 1.125in top, 1.5in bottom tapered can. Strangely the ﬁtted fork is a conventional straight 1.125in steerer piece, so you’re only gaining frame stiffness rather than fork stiffness beneﬁts. The curved down tube gets a small throat gusset rather than just relying on hydroformed tube shaping.
The Twin Circle shock system is another Corratec innovation, with the front end of the shock held inside a free swivelling trunnion mount that in turn sits inside a large keyhole section on the seat tube. The back end sees asymmetric rectangular chainstays pivoting just above and behind the external bearing bottom bracket (BB) shell. The drop-outs are state of the art, with the rear wheel secured with a 12mm RockShox screw-thru Maxle rear axle and post-mounted rear brake clamping the 203mm rear rotor.
The rear pivot sits on the seatstays not the chainstays, giving the X-Force a simple swingarm suspension action, albeit with the shock driven via a short kicker linkage. Underside cable routing helps protect the frame from rocks, and there’s room for a bottle mount ahead of the shock. There’s plenty of mud space around the big tyres too. The pivot and threadlock problems that saw our ﬁrst sample disassemble its rear while riding appear to have been sorted, with only occasional Maxle loosening to worry about.
There are other signiﬁcant changes from our original bike. The 110mm stem and a 660mm high-rise bar that consigned the Corratec to under leveraged, barge steering terror in technical sections has been replaced by a 70mm stem and a 710mm bar. This added nearly half a pound, but our stem wasn’t the ﬁnal production version, which may be lighter. Corratec has also changed the rear shock from a RockShox Monarch RT to a Fox Float RP23. That’s currently an optional change, but will become standard spec for 2012.
While Shimano XT transmission provides a solid propulsion bedrock, the rest of the spec is on the eclectic, European side. The DT Swiss XMM 140 fork is a lightweight, stiff tracking choice but uses the cheaper Single Shot damping system. The Continental 2.4in Mountain King tyres are big on volume and low on weight, although the Italian Zzyzx rims pinch them pretty narrow at the base. The four-cylinder Avid Code brakes with power-amplifying, heat-dissipating 203mm rotors are designed to deal with the Alps.