There are plenty of mountain bike suspension brands on the market, but few, if any, are able to consistently challenge the established favorites: Fox and RockShox. But in recent years, Öhlins has been gaining serious ground.
This year, our Head of Purchasing, Travis Erwin, helped bring Öhlins on board at TPC and he has been so impressed with its products, that he’s swapped out all of the suspension on his own mountain bikes for forks and shocks from the Swedish brand. We take a closer look at a few of Öhlins’ top products to understand why:
What is Öhlins Suspension?
While Öhlins may be new to the world of mountain bike suspension, it has been building high-end suspension components for automotive and motorcycle applications for the last 50 years. Most impressively, Öhlins has had major racing success in top-tier racing series like F1 and MotoGP.
5-time DH world champion, Loic Bruni, has been winning on Öhlins for years. Photo: Graeme Murray / Red Bull Content Pool
Over the last several years, Öhlins has brought its knowledge and experience to the world of downhill and enduro mountain biking. The primary pro team it currently sponsors is the Specialized Gravity downhill team, which features three of the world’s best downhill racers: 5x downhill world champion Loic Bruni, as well as former Junior world champions and World Cup race winners, Finn Iles and Jordan Williams.
Öhlins has been a critical factor in the success of the Specialized Gravity team. Loic Bruni in particular is one of the sport's most dominant racers, and his bike is often pointed to as having one of the most dialed and controlled suspension setups in the men’s elite field.
Öhlins currently only offers premium MTB suspension products, so you won’t find any entry-level options like Fox Performance or RockShox Select in its line-up. Every fork and shock it offers is the same as what is provided to elite-level racers. Of course, premium products come at a premium price, but if you want forks and shocks that are proven winners at the highest level and that will stand out from the crowd, then Öhlins is our top pick.
Why Travis Switched to Öhlins Forks
Travis outfitted his Orbea Rise with Öhlins.
Travis has used Fox suspension on his mountain bikes for the last few years, but when it came time to refresh his fleet this year, he decided to change things up and switched to Öhlins. He runs the Öhlins RFX36 fork on his trail bike, the RFX38 on his E-bike, and the DH38 on his downhill bike. His E-bike and DH bike are both running the TTX22M Coil shock.
The switch has worked out well for him because Travis has been on serious a tear recently, winning several races in his age group in the Downhill Rockies series. He's also dropping me during our weekend trail rides, which is clearly because of the suspension and not anything else... like skill.
The big thing Travis likes about Öhlins is the easy adjustability of the dampers. High-end Fox and RockShox dampers provide a similar amount of adjustability, but it sometimes requires multiple clicks to feel any difference in the rebound or compression damping. On his Öhlins dampers though, a single click will actually provide a noticeable change. This allowed him to easily dial in his suspension and feel super confident that he has the ideal setup.
The other feature he’s really enjoyed is the 3-Chamber Air Spring Technology used in the Öhlins forks. This air spring allows users to tune the fork’s ramp-up and bottom-out resistance by pressurizing a third chamber in the air spring. There’s no need for volume spacers, and riders can make changes on the fly with a shock pump to suit their terrain or needs.