Sea Otter 2012: X-Fusion debuts new forks, shock, and dropper post

By Eric McKeegan

First off, X-Fusion has quite a history with suspension manufacturing dating back more than 20 years, although the brand name X-Fusion has only been around since 1999. Fast forward to 2012 and the company will bring three new technologies to market: the Uni-Crown, a new stanchion coating “Gold Slick Ano” and a cartridge damper with a “Mid-Valve”.

We can see them all in action on the Trace, a new 29er fork with 34mm stanctions. It will be available between 80 and 140mm of travel in 20mm increments. A Syntace 15mm thru-axle keeps the wheel clamped down tight and there will be an on-the-fly travel adjustment option too.

If you look closely at the crown you’ll see there is no line between the crown and the steerer tube. That’s because it is all one piece, thus deserving of the name “Uni-Crown”. The entire assembly is forged and then machined from a single piece of aluminum, which makes for a heck of a stiff connection, and lightweight too. This will only be available on the Trace fork this year; expect to see it move to more of the line in the future.

Next up is the Mid-Valve. Trail bikes get more and more capable every year and riders are hitting the trails harder and harder. We all want a supple fork that doesn’t dive too much under braking and can handle big hits. The Mid-Valve is designed to do just that, kicking in around 30 percent into the travel to help keep the fork riding high in the travel and providing a much more controlled feeling ride. I’ve found myself running more air pressure than I’d like in some forks to help control dive and bobbing, it sounds like the Mid-Valve should address this issue.

Last is the stanchion coating, Gold Slick Ano. This is a very hard, non-porous coating designed for longevity and slipperiness. X-Fusion claims similar breakaway force compared to that other gold coating on the market, with increased durability.

The other newsworthy new fork is the Slant, a 34mm chassis compatible with 26 or 650B wheels. Travel will be available in 80-160mm in 20mm increments. It gets the Mid-Valve damper and Gold Slick Ano, but no Uni-Crown.

I didn’t get to ride either of these forks, but if the performance lives up to expectations I think we’ll see strong after market sales when these become available, the 34mm fork is going to be the hot upgrade for trail bikes.

X-Fusion makes a bunch of air and coil rear shocks too, their big news here is the minimalist Microlite shock. At 170 grams it is light, and tiny.

It is designed for XC racing only, although it seemed capable of dealing with the harsh conditions of the afternoons multi-hour trail ride, even if it became noticeably warm after a long rough descent. It has a lock out lever, rebound adjust and will be available in two sizes: 165×38 and 190×51.

Also new this year is the HiLo SL dropper post. Upgrades from the standard dropper post are Gold Slick Ano coating and the loss of 135 grams. The seat clamp saves a lot of weight, but it does lose the option of the under-seat activation lever, but you didn’t want that anyway, really. The remote is new, looking a lot like the sideways joystick design of the original Maverick Speedball post. This wasn’t surprising once we found out Paul Turner has been helping out at X-Fusion. The same Paul Turner who founded RockShox, and later Maverick.

Also in name-dropping news X-Fusion signed Brian Lopes and Anne-Caroline Chausson. These two are still dominant forces in the racing scene, with Lopes winning the first World Cup XC Eliminator race recently on an X-Fusion fork.

As sometimes happens there was scarce new product to go around, and the Specialized Enduro I ended up riding wasn’t sporting any new tech. But after a multi-hour ride with some serious terrain, I was still mighty impressed with everything I rode here. I think Fox and RockShox should be watching their backs, X-Fusion isn’t messing around.

Stats and specs

Mid Valve: The Mid-Valve provides extra mid-stroke damper support to ensure you use your travel efficiently and the fork remains at a neutral ride height. The mid valve exists in all of our RL2 dampers found on both 32mm and 34mm chassis’. Riders will notice the benefit of this additional compression circuit under heavy front braking, rough terrain, berms, G-outs, ect. While Mid-Valve improves this part of the fork’s ride the small bump sensitivity at the top of the travel will not be affected.

GSA: Gold Slick Ano is a super slick coating that improves durability, reduces stiction and offers better lubrication longevity.

Uni-Crown: Uni-Crown is a single piece crown-steerer assembly that increases junction rigidity by 40 percent. It’s forged, tooled down, then stamped to perfection before being anodized and assembled.

34mm Chassis: With the progression of trail bikes and rider capabilities the 34mm chassis provides better stoutness and rigidity without a big weight penalty over 32mm options.

Brand New Products for 2013

Slant Series

  • Wheel Size: 26 inch and 650B
  • Chassis: 34mm Tubes
  • Stock Features: GSA, X-15, Mid-Valve, RL2, ITA
  • Optional Features: DLA, Remote Lockout
  • Weight: 4.2 lbs, 1905 grams (160mm tubes) 4 lbs, 1840 grams (120mm tubes)
  • Estimated Price Range: $600-$750 US

Trace Series

  • Wheel Size: 29 inch
  • Chassis: 34mm Tubes
  • Stock Features: Uni-Crown (tapered only), GSA, X-15, Mid-Valve, RL2, ITA
  • Optional Features: DLA, Remote Lockout
  • Weight: 4.2 lbs, 1905 grams (140mm tubes) 4 lbs, 1840 grams (100mm tubes)
  • Estimated Price Range: $600-$800 US

Microlite RL shock

  • Sizes: 165mm/38mm, 190mm/51mm
  • Weight: 0.36 lbs, 170 grams (165mm)
  • Adjustments: Rebound, Lockout, Air Pressure
  • Features: GSA
  • Estimated MSRP: $500 US

Hilo SL dropper post

  • Sizes: 30.9mm, 31.6mm
  • Weight: 0.99 lbs, 450 grams (without remote)
  • Adjustment: 125mm
  • Stock Features: Handle Bar Remote, GSA
  • Estimated MSRP: $350 US