At A Glance
X Fusion has quietly been producing suspension goods over the past decade. Hidden within their range have been some absolute gems and they continue to surprise with some impressive products. Their dropper post for one is an example of a great piece of kit.Buy Forks on
What's been missing for a while has been a long travel 29er fork and the Trace 36 is a welcome addition to the family. With 36mm stanchions (obviously, given the name) the Trace 36 HLR offers up to 170mm of travel in a burly enduro package.
The Trace 36 HLR features their well-regarded Roughcut damper and has adjustable high and low-speed compression damping alongside low-speed rebound damping. The lower spec RC features the same chassis but with the 'RC' damper allowing only low-speed compression and rebound damping. The Roughcut damper uses a bladder-type system and allows for fully independent control of high and low-speed compression, the dials sitting proudly atop the fork crown.
The Trace has a self-adjusting negative spring, and tokens can be added easily to the air spring by undoing top of the leg with a cassette tool. Nvolve wiper seals keep the friction low and the forks are internally adjustable down to 140mm. The Trace 36 have a 51mm offset and weigh in at 2000g for a price of $899.00 USD or £800.00 GBP.
On The Trail
Set up should be straight forward on a modern air fork especially when the pressure table is printed on the fork lower. The issue for the Trace 36 is that the numbers on it are wildly out. It suggests 90psi for a rider of my weight, but after struggling to get anywhere near full travel I had to drop to closer to 65-70psi to get the correct sag. (A timely reminder to read the instructions, but also to test the forks and settings yourself to tailor them to your preference and weight).
Once set up things were obviously much more compliant and the Trace 36 offers a stiff and unwavering front end attachment for your enduro bike. At 170mm it's a big fork and matched up well to my long termer Alpine Trail from Marin and paired with a Marzocchi coil shock. Ploughing into rock gardens and any other trail features that may have the nerve to be in my way caused little to upset forward motion. The Trace gives an extremely confident front end and there is nothing to suggest the chassis isn't capable of taking on the hardest of terrain.
Composure for these big hits and compressions is excellent and the 170mm just gives simply more margin for error than a shorter fork. Where things were lacking was in the smaller bump sensitivity where I felt it missed the lightness of touch required to smooth out trail noise or really work hard for traction in loose corners. There is no doubting the strength of the forks, but the subtleties in the initial stroke are just a little lacking.
Adjustments are obviously plentiful with a fork like this, and the issues with sensitivity meant there was room to play with the compression adjustments. Once some experimenting had been done I settled on some pretty light compression damping which allowed the fork to be as free as possible, but it wouldn't fully open up the sensitivity I would have loved.
Now, I'm asking a lot for a fork to be everything I could possibly want, but the market is tough in this sector with RockShox Lyrics and Fox 36’s stamping their authority on the big fork market. However, at £800 GBP, the Trace 36 takes a chunk out of their retail prices and the compromises are pretty small.
Firmly at home with the other big hitters in the suspension market the Trace 36 HLR offers a solid and dependable fork for the wildest of tracks and hardest of hits.Buy Forks on
This review was in Issue 59 of IMB.For more information visit X-Fusion
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.