Öhlins RXF 36 EVO fork review

A stiff, stable fork but uncomfortable over relentlessly rough tracks

Our rating 
2.5 out of 5 star rating 2.5
GBP £1,085.00 RRP
Ohlins RXF 36 EVO

Our review

This fork will suit you if you're not bothered about rough-terrain comfort, you mostly ride steep, natural terrain and you like the Öhlins badge.
Pros: Stiff, stable and well-supported in big holes and steep terrain
Cons: Insensitive and uncomfortable over relentlessly rough tracks; still not particularly supple in the beginning-stroke, so not the subtlest over small bumps
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Since publishing the original version of this review in MBUK magazine and filming the below video review, Öhlins has taken apart the fork I tested at its HQ. It says the rebound valving was broken, making the fork slower on rebound than it should have been. Rebound speed can affect comfort dramatically, but when fully open, the fork didn’t feel too slow on rebound. I plan on testing another example of the fork soon, and I’ll update this review once I’ve done so.

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This fork was tested as part of a group test including ten of the best enduro forks. All forks were tested back-to-back on the same tracks, keeping all other variables as consistent as possible to ensure our findings are as reliable and accurate as they can be.

Öhlins has been honest enough to describe the reception of the original RXF 36 as “mixed”, and I found it both unsupportive and insensitive even when faced with competition that was miles off what it is today.

The EVO version is claimed to address these criticisms with a suite of updates. There’s a refined air spring with more negative volume to soften the beginning-stroke (before sag) while adding mid-stroke support after sag.

To reduce friction, it’s now got SKF wiper seals and looser-fitting bushings, which have a small amount of deliberate play.

Finally, a re-worked damper piston is designed to recalibrate the damping adjustment range towards the softer side.

Öhlins sticks with its three-chamber air spring design, which uses a self-equalising air spring comprising of positive and negative air chambers.

So far, so normal. But there’s also a another chamber (the ramp-up chamber), which sits above the positive chamber and is separated from it with an internal floating piston (IFP).

When the fork moves deeper into its travel, the pressure in the positive chamber builds. When the pressure in the positive chamber exceeds that in the ramp-up chamber, the IFP starts to move, thereby increasing the volume of the positive spring chamber and making the fork more linear.

The higher the pressure in the ramp up chamber, the less the IFP will move and so the volume of the positive chamber remains smaller. Thereby the pressure in the ramp up chamber controls how progressive the fork is without need to take the fork apart to add or remove volume spacers.

Öhlins RXF 36 EVO fork setup

The air spring pressure chart printed on the fork leg provided me with a good baseline setting, with 120psi in the main spring and 200psi in the ramp up chamber.

In the end I preferred reducing air pressure to 110psi and increasing the pressure in the ramp up chamber to 230psi, making the fork more sensitive but progressive.

It soon became apparent that I needed to fully open both low- and high-speed compression, and later rebound too, to get the fork to react to high-frequency or chattery bumps.

Öhlins RXF 36 EVO fork
Since testing, Öhlins has taken apart the fork and says the rebound valving was broken, making the fork slower on rebound than it should have been.
Steve Behr

Öhlins RXF 36 EVO fork performance

The chassis is impressively stiff when smashing into big holes and square-edged bumps — it never feels wayward or binds in high-load situations.

When riding short and steep tracks with hard cornering loads, the fork is predictable and steady even with the damping fully open.

However, the EVO’s damper is still too restrictive, even when fully open on compression and rebound. It’s reluctant to change direction and was the most uncomfortable fork on test over long, rough bike-park tracks with high frequency bumps, no matter what I did to the spring.

It was the only fork that forced me to stop on the roughest, longest bike-park test track due to hand pain.

This firm feel is fine for short, steep tracks, or those with jackhammer-wielding hands, but even on natural terrain the air spring still doesn’t settle into its early travel as smoothly as most modern forks, making it unhelpfully unsubtle when trying to tread lightly over off-camber roots.

As a small side point, tyre clearance is a little tight, especially when using a mudguard and big tyres.

How does it compare to its key rivals?

As I’ve said, it was the most uncomfortable of the ten enduro forks I’ve tested over fast, hardpack terrain with lots of high-frequency chatter. But it’s mid-pack when it comes to short, steep tracks, especially if you don’t suffer with hand-pain.

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This video shows how we tested the forks and how they compare.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1085.00
Weight 2,093g (29")
Brand Öhlins

Features

Features Travel Options: 29in - 120-160mm in 10mm increments
Travel Options: 27.5in - 140-170mm in 10mm increments
Crown to axel length: 568mm (29in x 160mm)
Spring type Air
Travel 160mm
Wheel size 29in/700c