X-Fusion Trace Roughcut HLR review£695.00

Strong 29er fork gets impressive new damping

BikeRadar score4.5/5

X-Fusion forks have been offering impressively consistent control and rock solid reliability at great prices for several years now, with options for everything from lightweight cross-country riding to full-on downhill hammering. The new 140mm (5.5in) travel Trace Roughcut matches the firm's proven 29er trail chassis to top-end damping, and the results are outstanding.

While the new ‘Roughcut’ damper sounds like a dumbed down version of the HLR cartridge used in the X-Fusion Metric and RV-1, it’s actually an evolution that offers improved performance and more user-friendly adjustment. For a start, the new damper piston means less stiction than with HLR and way less than with the RL2 damper of the standard Trace, so you get proper trail-hoovering traction and “ooh, plush” small-bump sensitivity from fresh.

Things are noticeably improved at the ragged edge of extended rocky/rooty/steppy sections too, where – like all but the best, most expensive forks – the rebound of the Trace used to become inconsistent. That’s because Roughcut is a fully sealed bladder damper (like RockShox’s Charger and Fox’s FIT dampers) so there’s no danger of air getting into the damping oil and causing cavitation, where the damping piston hiccups as it pushes through bubbles rather than consistent-resistance hydraulic oil. We’ve taken this system (the HLR version) to the maximum load, stump smashing, suicide straight line limit on the RV-1 and Metric for over a year and so far the new Trace has delivered similarly super-rich and supple control.

Where the original Trace really shone was with its superbly measured midstroke compression, and its successor doesn’t disappoint in this area either. While the new fork still feels too soft off the top, you’ll still rarely see the travel ring push past 60 percent under braking or steering and the fork slingshots berms or stutter-bump corners with superb poise and tyre-flattering support. Both high- and low-speed compression damping are independently and widely adjustable via easy-to-adjust leg top knobs too, while 36 clicks of fine-tuned rebound adjustment is available at the bottom of the leg.

The single-piece crown and steerer design makes it feel much more secure than other 34mm legged 29er forks – and it's not far off the benchmark Fox 36. At under 1,900g with a cut steerer it’s a reasonable weight, and while it doesn’t stretch to 160 or even 150mm (6.3 or 5.9in) like the 29er versions of the 36 and Pike, travel can be internally adjusted from 140 down to 80mm (5.5in to 3.14in).

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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