X Fusion is a somewhat new brand to the suspension game. Most riders know of their rear shocks that appear as OE spec from a variety of established brands which has help to put the small Central California brand on the map. Over recent years, X Fusion has consistently put out solid performing products at reasonable prices, transforming them from a small unknown to a true player in the fork and shock biz. With an expanded product range and an expanding list of pro riders, they're on many riders' lists of upgrades. We took an extensive look at the the Trace RL2 29" fork, and we liked what we saw (rode).
While the Trace isn't necessarily a new fork, it is one that may be new to XC and endurance riders who typically look to a lighter, more flimsy fork. Courses are getting more demanding on body and bike, and a more capable fork is becoming the norm. Our Trace RL2 fork checks the boxes that a modern day fork should: air spring, tapered steer tube, and 15mm thru axle. What's different in terms of an XC set up is the 34mm stanchion, which provides a solid front end to our test bikes (which were Santa Cruz Tallboys, by the way). While a thicker fork does increase the weight just a bit, the stiffness is a welcomed addition and we believe that it's a small price to pay for added stability.
Set-up of the Trace is incredibly easy. Gone are the knobs and dials that require a user manual to operate. We simply adjust the air pressure to get proper sag (we like about 20% of the stroke), and adjust the rebound to match that of the rear shock so that the bike feels balanced. That's it. The beauty of the X Fusion system is their simplicity. Set it, and forget it. For those long out-of-the-saddle climbs, there is a lock out lever on the top. The Trace RL2R model offers a bar mounted remote lever, too.
Here's where the Trace stands out. Most XC forks will have a progressive range of travel, meaning that the fork will "get firmer" as the it moves through it's travel. While this can be good for flatter, less technical courses and for riders that hammer out of the saddle, it can make the fork feel like it has less travel that it actually does. While there is nothing wrong with a progressive travel feel, it's different from the Trace which has a consistent linear travel that does not ramp up, so the rider feels smooth, consistent travel and makes the most out of the full range that the fork is set to.
Another benefit to the X Fusion system is their internal adjustability. During our test rides, we had X Fusion convert our forks from 100mm to 120mm (120mm is the maximum length that the Tallboy is designed around). This can be done in anyone's garage as it is easily done by removing the lowers. This change slackened up the front end and and made for a more comfortable ride on longer, more technical trails.
Overall, we're very impressed with this fork and its ease of use and consistent feel. Races can be stressful enough without adding in suspension issues. During our time on the Trace, we experience no problems what so ever. Just solid performance. At approximately 4.2 lbs, the fork may look heavy on paper, but the feel is quite active, plush, and responsive – especially at 120mm of travel which we will continue to run the Trace at on our race bikes.
X Fusion Trace RL2
- Travel : 140mm, 120mm, 100mm, 80mm
- WT. LBS: (APR)4.2(15mm axle, 1 1/8 Steerer)
- WT. Grams: 1905 (15mm axle, 1 1/8 Steerer)
- Spring: Air
- Steerer: Tapered, Uni-Crown
- Adjustments: Lockout, Rebound, Air
- Stanchion: 34mm, Gold Hard Ano, Aluminum
- Casting: Magnesium
- Axle: LockX 15mm
- Wheel: 29”
- Axle to Crown: 546mm @ 140mm
- Max Rotor Size: 203mm