Ohlins RXF 36 fork review£995.00

Smashes about after a tinker

BikeRadar score3.5/5

This Swedish newcomer from motorsport legends Ohlins is a seriously stiff bomber but needs careful multi spring balancing and a lot of set up time investment to hit full potential.

The subtly contoured lower legs, 36mm stanchions and low brace make for an impressively stiff feeling on the trail. The single piece steerer and crown with built-in bearing race sit flush with the head tube for a very neat, stiff and squeak-free junction and keeps the fork's overall height low for its travel so it can sneak into 140mm fork bikes without upsetting the handling.

It’s a decent weight for its taut feel, too, and very closely comparable with the obvious Rock Shox Lyrik (2070g) and Fox’s 36 Float FIT (2040g). There’s currently just the single 29er/27.5+ wheel, 110mm Boost axle width, 51mm offset version, though. Tyre clearance is extremely tight with a big 29er, making Ohlins' own backwards-facing fender the only option – and even that’s tight in claggy conditions. 

You'll need to tune the main air spring and control chamber pressure for best results
You'll need to tune the main air spring and control chamber pressure for best results

The bolted axle and single sided pinch bolt dropout aren’t as fast to work with as a QR axle such as the Fox QR15 or Rock Shox Maxle axles.

Ohlins RXF 36 fork ride impression

Ultra-smooth low friction seals and bushings, together with high structural stiffness to avoid binding, make for an extremely sensitive and notch-free feel in the car park.

Other brands that use twin tube technology in their shocks – such as Cane Creek – have given up trying to make it work in their forks. Even Ohlins has dropped its TTX damping on its air shocks, yet it's managed to squeeze it into the RXF 36. That gives constant oil circulation and balanced pressure either side of the compression damping piston, theoretically boosting the smoothness of the system further. The TTX damper also gives three clicks of low speed and clicks of high speed compression adjustment, while rebound damping is also finely adjustable.

The fork's overall height is low for its travel so it can sneak into 140mm fork bikes
The fork's overall height is low for its travel so it can sneak into 140mm fork bikes

Making the most of the potential performance is significantly harder, though. The suggested pressures create an initially insensitive yet dive-prone feel that can really catch you out when the stiff chassis turns hard into a corner. That means you need to carefully and patiently find your own balance of main air spring (which automatically charges the small negative spring) and separately ramp up control chamber pressure to get an acceptable spring curve. 

Even then the RFX still needs propping up with a lot of low speed compression to carve and brake without diving. While that’s fine on smooth berms, the combination of air spring and twin tube damper characteristics lack the reaction speed, micro sensitivity and tenacious connection on rutted/rocky/pitted surfaces of the best forks in its category. 

That means that while the Ohlins RXF 36 fork can be made to feel great for smashing through big stuff without losing the plot, or with a Plus tyre in it to fill in the grip gaps, we consistently found the fork chattery and the wheel sliding wide rather than hooking hard with a higher pressure 29er tyre.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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