Founded in 1976, Öhlins Racing have been an integral part of the competitive motorsport scene ever since. They also know a thing or two about mountain bikes, but can their Öhlins RXF 36 M2 take pole position against serious competition?

Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air | 2.14 kg | € 1,189 | Manufacturer’s website

Öhlins are proud of their highly decorated racing pedigree. Their iconic black and gold shocks have adorned class-leading race cars and motorbikes from MotoGP to WRC rally for decades. They also know a thing or two about mountain bike suspension and the new 2.14 kg Ohlins RXF 36 M2 fork is a testament to that fact. The Öhlins RXF 36 M2 is Öhlins’ response to the FOX 36 and RockShox Lyrik, boasting a stiff, 36 mm stanchioned chassis and redesigned crown assembly that no longer features the polarising built-in crow race. The RXF 36 M2 is available in 120, 130, 140, 150, 160 and 165 mm travel in the coil version and 150, 160, 170 and 180 mm in the air forks, with 38 mm and 46 mm, or 44 mm and 51 mm offsets, in 27.5” and 29” sizes respectively. The fork legs feature distinctive blue SKF wiper seals. Like the Kabolt in the FOX 38, Öhlins uses a floating pinch-bolt axle, allowing the fork to accommodate different tolerances in hub width. The air spring uses three chambers – a conventional positive and negative chamber connected by a transfer port to keep the pressures equalised, while a third ramp-up chamber can be pressurised to control the progression of the fork. In contrast to the Manitou Mezzer’s IRT, the ramp-up chamber sits below the main chamber and is run at a higher pressure than the positive spring. Under compression, as the pressure in the positive chamber increases, it starts to push down on the ramp chamber piston, the difference in pressure between the two volumes affect the fork’s mid as well as end stroke. More pressure in the ramp chamber results in more progression and a firmer ramp. Unlike adding tokens, that adjustment is more dynamic and allows infinite adjustment. On the damper side, Öhlins uses their Twin Tube TTX 18 damper with external 16-click low and 4-position high-speed compression adjustment and 18-click rebound control. High-speed compression is controlled with a shim stack, allowing tunes to be changed at a service centre if required. Build quality is top-notch, everything feels super solid and well made and all the adjusters work crisply and are protected with internal rubber gaskets.

The air spring features three chambers. A self-equalising positive and negative and a third ramp-up chamber that impacts the progressiveness of the fork.
The Twin Tube damper allows oil to move between two tubes, reducing the risk of cavitation.
The build quality of the Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air is top-tier. Everything feels solid and well made, and the murdered-out look is very classy.

Setup of the Öhlins RXF 36 M2

Just like the other three-chamber forks in this test, you have to adhere to the order in which you pressurise the fork’s three chambers. Because the ramp up chamber’s pressure is influenced by the main air spring it should be set up first to allow consistent readings of what it is set to. Öhlins print recommended pressures on their fork legs and also have a detailed setup guide online. The pressures in the main chamber and ramp up chamber are high, around 100 and 200 psi respectively, for an 80 kg rider, which means that small 1–2 psi changes in pressure are less significant than forks like the Manitou Mezzer. That’s handy if you are not the most accurate with a shock pump. The compression and rebound adjusters have very clear and defined clicks, making setup easier. We followed Ohlins recommendations and it gave a great setup for natural trails, balancing support and grip very well.

The Öhlins RXF 36 M2 on the trail

On the trails, this fork is impressive indeed but it has a very unique ride feel that is hard to define. While forks like the FOX 36 feel like you are suspended by the spring, the Öhlins feels like you are riding on a cushion of oil damped air, staying high but smooth off the top. It is very smooth and damped over mid-sized hits, dissipating the energy of impacts effortlessly. On small chatter, it lacks the feedback-rich sensitivity of the RockShox Lyrik or FOX 36 but is impressively smooth in the mid-stroke. The fork is heavily damped and we found we were working very close to the fully open end of the compression adjustment on natural trails. In turn, it is a fork that will perform best in the hands of experienced riders going full-gas. Experimenting with the ramp-up chamber pressures revealed that the fork can be tuned to have very different personalities, from smooth and linear to still-smooth but with a really firm ramp for hard-chargers. While we didn’t change it frequently, we approved of the ability to tailor the fork quickly to what we needed with just a shock pump, dialling in the mid and end stroke performance required for the location.

The fork is heavily damped and we found we were working very close to the fully open end of the compression adjustment on natural trails. In turn, it is a fork that will perform best in the hands of experienced riders going full-gas.

The Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air fork features high-quality SKF wiper seals and proved robust and smooth between services.
While the Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air fork is quite complex, it proved easy to set up as long as you follow the guide.

How does the Öhlins RXF 36 M2 compare to the competition?

The € 1,189 Öhlins is a superb fork. The damping is quite heavy so riders looking for a super plush setup for gentle speeds may find it less sensitive than the FOX 36 or DVO Onyx. It really is a fork that feels better the faster you go. On big-hit natural trails and bike parks (with the ramp-up chamber at a higher pressure) the Öhlins provides exceptional support and grips just as well as the Lyrik and Mezzer, chomping through the roughest trails with ease. It’s a little too expensive to unsettle the RockShox Lyrik from it’s winning position but it would be our recommendation over a FOX 36 as a race fork, boasting similar mid and end stroke performance but with a far more tunable spring rate.


Although having additional air chambers to optimise may sound complicated, in practice the Öhlins is very easy to set up and performs well. Stiffer and higher-performing than the original RXF, the Öhlins RXF 36 M2 is a viable alternative to the big-hitters from Fox and RockShox. With a heavily damped tune, it’s a little less sensitive than the best and a fork that comes to life under heavy or more aggressive riders, getting better the faster you go.


  • very tunable with the ramp-up chamber
  • excellent support and performance


  • heavy damping may not suit lighter riders
  • less sensitive over small bumps

For more information, check out the Manufacturer’s website. If you want to learn more about mountain bike forks and see how the Öhlins RXF 36 M2 Air stacks up against the competition, check out our 2021 suspension fork group test!

All forks on test: DVO Onyx SC D1 | FOX 36 2021 Grip2 Factory | FOX 38 2021 Grip2 Factory | Manitou Mezzer PRO | Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil | MRP Ribbon Coil | Öhlins RXF36 M2 Air | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021 | RockShox ZEB Ultimate

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Words: Photos: Finlay Anderson