First Look! 2013 X-Fusion Forks, Hilo SL Dropper Post and the 165g Microlite Rear Shock!

2013 X-Fusion Microlite ultra lightweight rear shock

X-Fusion’s 2013 lineup covers all of their mountain bike product lines with either entirely new products or significantly updated technology and features, plus a very sweet taste of things to come for the range.

A couple of highlights are a new forged one-piece alloy crown-and-steerer combo and the 165g (claimed) Microlite rear shock shown above. If you’re keeping track, that’s only a few grams heavier than the claimed weights for DT Swiss’ XR Carbon shock and about 100g lighter than Rockshox’s new carbon Monarch XX, though that one does include a hydraulic remote lockout.

Across the line, the focus was on making the forks stiffer and better performing in the early and middle range of travel.

“In 2012, we realized riders are riding harder, more aggressively, and that current suspension wasn’t meeting their needs,” said John Hauer, marketing manager. “Really, we create products for ourselves, and as we rode harder, it wasn’t meeting our needs. We developed Mid-Valve, a secondary shim stack compression circuit that manages oil flow throughout the entire stroke. It reduces things like brake dive and keeps compression consistent. Even with that, we were looking for better performance.”

2013 X-Fusion Microlite ultra lightweight rear shock

For 2013, they developed their 34 line (34mm diameter stanchions), and improved durability, stiction and weight. For the first two, they developed their new Gold Slick Ano coating that’s impregnated with Teflon. It’s a non-porous hard anodized coating that improves lubrication movement. Hauer says non-porous nature of the coating means it’ll last longer than some competing coatings, and the small bump compliance is improved. Compared to their standard stanchion, it reduces breakaway force by about 14lbs on the forks and about 8lbs on shocks. They say test results show it’s just as slick at Fox’s Kashima coating, and they’ve tested it to hold up for more than five year’s worth of riding. This will be available on the Slant, Trace and Vengeance forks, the Vector Air and new Microlite shocks (shown above), and their new Hilo SL dropper post.

2013 X-Fusion Trace 29er fork with 34mm stanchions

The new Trace 29er fork gets 34mm stanchions.

The larger stanchions let you throw the bike harder into rough sections and sharp corners. Hauer says this translates to more confidence and control on the bike, which benefits both advanced riders and newbies. The larger stanchions only add about 80-100g over the 32 lineup, which keeps it competitive in the trail suspension category.

Perhaps the most innovative new features is the Uni-Crown, a forged single-piece aluminum crown and steerer tube assembly. It’s forged first, then machined and stamped before the stanchions are pressed into it. X-Fusion says it improves rigidity there by 40% over a standard two-piece crown/steerer tube and saves in the neighborhood of 80 grams.

In fact, Hauer says it was originally so much stiffer than the original design that they could take more material out, saving weight, and still have a better product. It’s tested by putting the forks in a machine that tries to move the steerer in one direction and the lowers in another. At present, it’s the only fork we’ve seen with this. It’ll only come in anodized black, and only on the Trace 29er forks for 2013.

Not new, but something most of us probably didn’t know (I didn’t) is that their suspension is built with the “All Metal, All the Time” motto. Internals are CNC’d alloy parts with no plastic to wear out. Another interesting feature about their forks is that all air forks that aren’t DLA (Down Low Adjust – ie., external travel adjust) have their ITA (Internal Travel Adjust, shown above) air sleeve inside that allows very quick, easy travel changes by any rider that’s comfortable pulling the lowers off their forks…and has a punch tool. Other than the Vengeance and, travel changes are in 20mm increments, and spacers allow for 10mm fine tuning (or less if you feel like cutting them). It’s a very cool feature, and they have a simple shop tool available that makes it easy to change travel using a common vise.

The DLA is essentially a longer travel fork that’s designed to drop down for climbing, but Hauer says there’s very little change in suspension feel because it’s a hydraulic adjustment with minimal effect on air volume. So, you could run it as a shorter fork that goes long for big descents, but that’s not it’s original intent. It’s a 30mm travel change on any fork with it.

One more change across the line is that the Syntace X-Series tool-less axle system is now lighter. They saved about 5g by shortening the width and taking a bit of material out of the lever. Besides a couple grams, it offers more clearance because it’s slimmer overall.

2013 X-FUSION FORKS

2013 X-Fusion Velvet suspension fork

VELVET - Their oldest fork model, it gets a new compression tune to be more supple off the top and through the mid-stroke. It’s a 26″ fork, but is convertible to 650B by popping a 10mm travel limiting spacer on the inside. We’ll be testing one of these soon.

2013 X-Fusion Trace and Slide 29er suspension forks

SLIDE - Introduced as a 2012 model, it’s essentially hitting the market as a 2013 model soon and is their first 29er fork. It has ITA travel adjust in 80, 100 and 120 lengths and remote lockout options. It’s offered with their X-Series thru axle system or standard 9mm QR. Claimed weight is 4lbs (1814g) standard and 4.2lbs (1905g) with remote lockout.

TRACE - A completely new 29er fork, it’s the only model that gets the Uni-Crown for 2013. It’s a 34mm 29er fork that’s only offered with a 15mm thru-axle. Travel is 80, 100, 120 or 140mm with the base RL2, which comes . There’s a DLA model that’s externally adjustable from 110-140mm travel. Claimed weights range from 4.0lbs (1814g) for the RL2 to 4.38lbs (1990g) for the RL2 DLA. They’ll be offered with standard 1-1/8″ straight, tapered or the Uni-Crown steerers.

SLANT - New 34mm fork that’s good for both 26″ and, like the Velvet, works with 650B by inserting a 10mm travel limiter. It’ll come in travel options from 80mm to 160mm with two different sets of stanchions depending on stock length. Longer travel forks will get longer stanchions and can run the full range of travel options. The shorter (slightly lighter) forks run from 80mm to 120mm. Shorter stanchions on the shorter travel forks save about 0.2lbs (65g). Claimed weights are as low as 4.0lbs (1814g) maxing out around 4.4lbs (1995g) with the DLA model (160mm to 130mm).

2013 X-Fusion Vengeance long travel single crown suspension fork

VENGEANCE - Introduced in 2008 as a 160mm fork, it’s been their long-travel big fork since. Comes with high- and low-speed compression external adjustments and DLA options. For 2013, they’ve adjusted the compression tuning with different low- and mid-speed valving to improve small bump compliance and make them a little more plush during normal riding. Stanchions are 36mm and weights range from 5.3lbs (2404g) to 5.5lbs (2494g), the latter being a coil fork rather than air.

2013 X-FUSION SHOCKS

2013 X-Fusion Microlite ultra lightweight rear shock

MICROLITE - A new super lightweight shock built to offer “high performance for the lightweight cross country market.” It has the Gold Slick Ano with their RL damping adjustment and comes in at a claimed 165g (165×38 size, their test sample came in at 170g on our scale which is actually printed in their catalog). While they’re claiming it’s built just for XC, Hauer said they’ve tested it on 10-20 minute rocky descents and it handled the heat just fine. Two sizes will be offered at launch: 165×38 and 190×51 sizes offered (length x stroke).

I rode one of these (pictured at top of post) on a Tomac Diplomat 29er on some of Santa Cruz’s area trails. It’s a 120mm travel bike that had a pre-production Trace fork on the front and it did pretty well over the roots and bumps. There were some gnarly descents and it never felt overwhelmed. Compression adjustment is open or locked, and there’s a blowoff when locked out with a bit of movement. On a climb it worked pretty well to keep the rear end of the bike firm but not bouncy. Rebound adjustment is pretty broad, letting you go from really slow to really fast…a broader range than I’ve seen on competing brands’ shocks.

2013 X-Fusion Vector Air rear shock

VECTOR AIR - Their top of the line shock, it has a bored out canister to hold more air volume and increased oil reservoir size. It’s aimed at the Vivid Air (Rockshox) and Double Barrel Air (Cane Creek) market. The increased size and volume means better heat management. For 2013, it gets the Gold Slick Ano and new compression and rebound circuits. The low speed circuits were opened up across the line for better small bump compliance.

CUSTOM TUNING – New for this year is the option to select one of six “custom” tunes. Usually, if you’re ordering aftermarket, often you’re picking off the shelf tunes rather than the custom tunes that come on most bikes now. Where most manufacturers offer an expensive custom tuning process to match it up to your particular frame, X-Fusion will do it for $50 if ordered when you purchase the shock (it costs more if you send it in for custom tuning after purchase). Stock, you’ll get about a 2.5:1 leverage ratio tune that’s right in the middle of the range of custom tunes. For the $50 upcharge, you get one of six “custom” tunes offered, including one slope style tune, and X-Fusion will recommend a tune based on the bike it’s going on and rider experience and style. Further tuning can be made by ordering one of their AV (Air Volume) canisters that adds a bit more air volume for longer travel bikes. Joel Smith, X-Fusion’s general manager, says the instances where a rider would really need the AV can is rare, that their range of custom tunes has something to fit most everyone. They’ll have full info with the shock rates and other tech specs in a couple weeks on their website.

Just to recap:

2013 X-FUSION HILO SL ADJUSTABLE HEIGHT SEATPOST

2013 X-Fusion Hilo adjustable height dropper seatpost

HILO SL - New model that gets the Gold Slick Ano coating. It uses a new two-bolt design that’s lighter, but it comes at the expense of having a post-mounted activation lever. This means it uses a remote lever only, but their joystick remote can be mounted on either side of the bar on top or bottom. It’s designed by Paul Turner (of Rockshox fame, and this isn’t the only project he’s working on for them. Been working with X-Fusion for about a year now and he’s already working on new piston designs for the rear shocks and other suspension projects.) It has 125mm travel and will come in 30.9 and 31.6 diameters.

It weighs in at a claimed 450g for the 30.9 without the remote and cable. The one above is the 31.6 with the required cable and remote and came in at 533g. Their original Hilo dropper post also has a 27.2 diameter option and will still be offered. Hauer says it’s easily shop serviceable.

COMPANY NEWS & PHOTOS

Reviewing these new products, there’s a lot of innovation and features that look top shelf. This makes X-Fusion’s current position all the more interesting in that their OEM placements on Specialized (they also made Specialized’s BRAIN suspension products), KHS, Jamis and many others (including some major Euro brands like Ghost) is mostly the middle market. From a business standpoint, it makes sense in that that’s where the volume is. But it’s clear from the product tech and weights they’re aiming much higher than that for the aftermarket.

Their California facility does initial product concepting, then it’s sent to their eight engineers in Taiwan for development. Final spec and refinements are finished back in their Santa Cruz office, then it’s sent into production. Shown here is their workshop…I’m thinking they cleaned up quite a bit before inviting the press in for show-and-tell, but Joel says they keep it pretty tidy, that most of the dirty work is done overseas. Suckaz.

Joel says their pricing makes them an attractive proposition when riders are looking to upgrade. Should X-Fusion products make it on your shortlist? We’ll see… Look for some product tests soon. Today’s test rides were my first bits of time on any of their products and it was good. The Trace fork needs some time spent getting the right air pressure dialed, I played with a few different pressures but wasn’t finding my sweet spot yet. The 34 stanchions were stiff and the fork tracked well even without being one of the new UniCrown models. The Microlite definitely has promise, but until I can ride it on my own bike for a direct comparison to, oh, say a Fox RP23, I can’t make definitive conclusions.

All of these new products will be available aftermarket at the end of summer. Pricing should be set in a couple months once final specifications are set and mass production begins.

Comments

Pen1s Hurts - 04/17/12 - 8:47pm

Why is the Quick Release Lever on the same side as the brake rotor? It’s a no-brainer to put it on the non-brake rotor side where there is more room for knuckles, and less chance of getting oily hand prints on the rotor (pads).

greg - 04/17/12 - 11:07pm

microlite looks like a Specialized Epic Brain rear shock, without the brain. not a bad thing.

No_20mm - 04/18/12 - 12:11am

Ya know, I got “somewhat” excited when I saw the 29′er fork w/34mm stantions… then all of the excitement was LOST when the article said it only comes w/a 15mm axle. My current 29′er fork is a 20mm axle so I guess that that means no X-Fusion fork for me… too bad… you NEED a 20mm thru axle on that big 29′er front wheel… X-Fusion are you listening ???

Mark W. - 04/18/12 - 1:32am

No_
i would venture a guess that there is a reason that they, engineers, picked a fifteen mm thru axle over a twenty mm thru axle. It is very possible these guys know a thing or two about bikes. Also you clearly missed that fact that those forks that you speak of come with forged crowns that are likely extremely stiff.
Did it ever cross your mind that the forged crown might make the whole fork stiffer?
While I’m at it, Fox makes their thirty-four mm station 29er forks with a fifteen mm thru axle, are they doing it wrong too?
I dont think they are, they are a bigger company than X-fusion and they are doing it too. I think X-fusion and Fox probably put R&D into what thru axle to use. You ‘No_’ have not put R&D into fork design.

will - 04/18/12 - 1:39am

@pns hrts

because that’s how its done.

mateo - 04/18/12 - 8:57am

@No – 29ers NEED a 20mm axle? Funny. Amazing that all the guys running old fashioned QRs haven’t all died off.

@Mark – I’d guess 15mm over 20mm is much more about market acceptance than engineering merits. The market is going 15mm for XC and trail.

satisFACTORYrider - 04/18/12 - 10:55am

Dear X-Fusion

Please make an aftermarket rear shock option for current Enduros. I beg you. Been bashing my Vengeance HLR for almost 2 seasons now and it hasn’t complained once. So, it needs a vector air to play with. since you guys OE on spesh bikes can’t it happen?

härbert - 04/18/12 - 2:03pm

15 against 20mm axles:
I´m pretty shure that the way of clamping these axles and the the force transmitting areas between narrow and fork have much bigger influence to the overall stiffness… and of course much more other tweaks

“Not the biggest c*** is automatically the ehm… stiffest…”

And at least in production numbers X-Fusion is bigger Company compared to the bike suspension division of FOX or RS… while many of theyre products havent a x-fus. batch on it…

sAngrEal - 04/18/12 - 6:23pm

http://1.1.1.3/bmi/ap1.pinkbike.org/p4pb5665657/p4pb5665657.jpg

Just because you have not seen it yet, doesnt mean it do not exist.

Warp - 04/19/12 - 7:10am

If the unicrown is so stiff? Why it doesn’t come on the longest travel and heaviest duty fork (the Vengeance)?

That said, I don’t need one, but the Slant touches all my buttons.
My Vector Air HLR is a really nice piece of kit. Truly good.

rasmus - 04/23/12 - 3:58am

Gold slick, really? Loving the Superbad reference here, intentional or not.

When that is said, X-Fusion’s lineup looks increasingly impressive, the Trace in particular could very well get big. I look forward to reading a test.

Josh - 04/24/12 - 4:57am

I guess I’m the only one that thinks fork offset matters. Couldn’t find any info on their website, so I’m doing looking at this product. If such info becomes readily available, I’ll happily consider X-fusion again for 650b projects.

Haran - 05/04/12 - 9:21am

Microlite is only a few grams heavier than the claimed weights for DT Swiss’ XR Carbon shock and about 100g lighter than Rockshox’s new carbon Monarch XX.
Whern you use this “basic” XC shocks, the remote is *certainly* needed. Otherwise, you will always have a hand under the seat (open, close, open, close… no platform).
I hope aluminium made Microlite is better than XR carbon, so tricky and delicate. I bought an XM180 (with remote) because XR carbon is too tricky.
Monarch XX is really good in my mind, but it’s too heavy for XC competition use. Hydraulic remote is a good idea, but the remote lever is bulky! I have the fork hydraulic remote on the left, the reverb seatpost hydraulic remote on the left… there is no more handlebar for another hydraulic remote!
So, if microlite has total lockout and a tiny remote control, it will be a success for XC users.

Haran - 05/04/12 - 9:23am

Ooops… the reverb seatpost hydraulic remote on the right.

Petey - 10/21/12 - 8:35pm

I’m with @No_20mm. Get ahead of Fox on this and make the 29er 140 x 34mm fork available with 20mm Maxle already. It would be the ultimate AM 29er fork, best of both worlds, stiff both rotationally and fore-aft. Done and done.

cowbell - 10/29/12 - 11:36pm

What’s the hold up on these??? 2013 models won’t be available until January??? If there’s an issue with production, then find a new producer! X-fusions has to get it together if they’re going to be a serious competitor to Fox and Rockshox. Also, why not make the 26″/650b forks with the unicrown too?

Dan - 01/06/13 - 7:18am

Not available until late Feb/March in the UK, hardly the end of summer 2012, 6 month delay from original release date almost makes it a 2014 fork. I’m waiting to purchase a slant, but the longer i wait the closer i come to pulling the trigger on a fox 34, hurry up x fusion!

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