Can a fork be too good?
Not if the X-Fusion Vengeance is matched up and tuned with the X-Fusion Vector HLR coil. Few other shocks if any would qualify to match up with the low friction and quality damping of this X-Fusion fork and shock.
Link to my review of the X-Fusion Vector HLR coil shock:
X-Fusion Vector HLR coil - Can a shock be too good?
Punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong.
This fork is the complete opposite of it's name, really it protects the rider from injury and is very forgiving of wrongs.
It's true that "the best you know is the best you've ridden." Maybe there are better than this X-Fusion fork for AM/Trail, but I haven't ridden better, including owning a Manitou Nixon 160 RWDT coil, demoing the Fox 36 Vanilla RC and the Talas 36 (all Talas forks have terrible seal friction IMO), also I've long owned a Rockshocks Lyrik u-turn coil fork since '09 (trail-side travel adjustment is essential for uncompromised AM uses, IMO).
The only technical downside for my AM trail interests is the Vengeance coil fork has no trail-side travel adjustment…. more on fixing that below.
Damping was very easy to set up with the head start recommendations for both the Vengeance fork and Vector shock from X-Fusion's marketing manager and pro-downhill racer, John Hauer: "I would start rebound where ever it naturally feels best. Then on the trail you may quickly find you need to bump a click or 2 in either direction. That might get you to the best rebound speed for the conditions a bit quicker. With compression you have about 16 clicks for both low and high (HSC) speed compression. I would start a bit into the range with about 4 clicks from open on Low Speed (LSC) and 6 clicks from open on high speed (HSC)."
Having more than 10 years riding coil suspension on my trail bikes, I was able to quickly adjust a very good balance from the baseline recommended.
John's LSC and HSC recommendations needed no changes for a variety of rough, eroded, rocky, and rooty tight singletrack mixed with sections of smooth hardpack and faster rocky fireroad DH. Where there is less variety of conditions than my local rides, I will be adjusting damping firmer for mainly smooth hard pack rides, or slightly softer for near total jagged rocky conditions.
I started with a mid range adjustment of the Rebound knob, with the recommended LSC and HSC settings. But the fork felt too firm for local rocky sections, but pretty good for the faster smooth hard pack sections. 2 or 3 clicks faster Rebound from middle of the range brought the fork alive, like liquid, well matching the X-Fusion Vector HLR coil, over the sharp rock base sections of trail, while still stable and able to lean on cornering in smoother sections.
Brake dive is not a problem under my 200+ ride weight using a soft rated coil, the sealed high volume stanchions make a nice progressive rising rate to undetectable bottom travel, as marked by the o-ring I put on one stanchion. I'm seeing full travel sometimes landing small jumps and drops to flat but have felt no bottom. LSC can be adjusted firmer without harshness or sacrificing buttery smoothness. And changing the LSC adjustment has no affect on big or sharper hits. LSC is very isolated, while HSC adjustment does noticeably affect LSC in proportion.
The damper cartridge is very large, a twin tube design having high flow speed sensitive shim stack for HSC and HSR damping, giving the ability to fine tune firmness without the trade-off of harshness. And there is very noticeable compression and rebound speed sensitivity, compared to my very familiar Lyrik u-turn coil with Mission Control damper.
Compliance, with stability, is much better than my Lyrik coil. I've been riding an X-Fusion Vector HLR coil shock for a couple months, which I had pretty well balanced handling with my Lyrik's limits of compliance with stability. Now with the more active and stable Vengeance damping, I was able to free up the Vector shock's finely adjustable damping a click or two in LSC and HSC.
At 2494 grams, 5.5 lbs, the Vengeance coil is no heavier, even though much stiffer than the Lyrik coil.
The Vengeance is a big step less in flex than the Lyrik. The Lyrik u-turn coil only comes with a 1 1/8 inch steer tube. There are many factors that make a Vengeance stiffer, 36mm vs. 35mm stanchions, bigger lowers, a bigger crown, and a tapered steer tube.
The Vengeance comes standard with a "Medium" coil weight, and can be ordered with firmer or softer coil options. The Vengeance "Medium" coil was nearly the same compliance as the "Soft" rated Lyrik coil. The X-Fusion top quality damping favors a softer rated spring, air or coil.
The 20mm axle is a simple lightweight screw in, with a handle that can be repositioned as preferred. The metal knobs are all very easy to turn with gloves on, and the LS and HS Compression knobs at the bottom of the damper leg have a spin-on metal cover for protection from hard rock hits.
For DH and 650b riders, the Vengeance easily clears 2.7 x 26 inch DH tires, also the same diameter 2.3 x 650b Pacenti Neo-moto, with 6 or 7mm fork arch clearance, and there's more gap to the crown at bottom travel.
Compared to the 160mm travel forks from Fox and Rockshox, the Vengeance lowered from 170 to 160mm travel, has an axle-to-crown (a2c) height 10mm higher. I compensated this difference by lowing my handlebars 10mm by swapping stem spacers. After adjusting my position for the same fit over the cranks I preferred, the steering and handling difference is negligible, since the taller a2c only slacks the frame geometry less than 1/2 degree. The superb damping and improved precise handling from the fork's stiffness is what is very noticeable.
As mentioned above, there is one major limitation, although most coil fork have the same. My only major issue of the Vengeance coil performance as delivered is that it is fixed travel, at either 170mm or 160mm travel, which can be changed by moving a travel height spacer 10mm internally in about 30 minutes after some practice. I had used the Lyrik's u-turn travel adjustment a lot, on-the-fly or trail side, to tune handling, weight balance, and cornering traction feel. On my local rides with much climbing and tight turns, I usually set the u-turn Lyrik at about 140mm travel, raising travel to 150mm or 160mm for slower handling and reduced dive for longer steeper and faster downhills.
I took a potentially expensive risk, I bought the Vengeance with the hope I could modify it to adapt the u-turn coil assembly from my Lyrik with bolt-on changes. I reasoned that if I failed, I could return it to original and sell it for a near-new used fork price, but that would be a few hundred less than the $780 new retail price.
The alternative to a modified u-turn Vengeance to more closely match the high quality of my X-Fusion Vector coil shock, was to keep the Lyrik u-turn fork and buy a near $500 high quality damper cartridge replacement from Avalanche. The Avalanche cartridge would have been the easier option, having the Lyrik cost already paid. But I wanted to try converting the Vengeance with my requirement of a u-turn for the increased stiffness, and to experience the X-Fusion designed fork and shock balance.
It took some trial and error to accomplish. I had to drill a hole in the thick aluminum Vengeance coil side top cap to accept the u-turn knob. I used off the shelf washers for spacers, drilled out plumbing rubber seals made for faucets, and used a metric threaded stud that fit the u-turn's lower rod (an exhaust stud left over from my days of car racing). Almost by magic, the Lyrik's preload spring and rod guide from the lower end of the stanchion fit perfectly where the Vengeance compression rod's guide had been. Finally I was successfully sealing the top and bottom for designed rising rate compressed air volume spring assist. And eliminated a compressing coil knock with some 1" diameter electrical shrink-wrap plastic tubing (that barely fit without shrinking).
The u-turn conversion and steel hardware may have added up to about 25 grams, I'll be looking for aluminum alternatives to reduce the weight gain, possibly commissioning a short run of machined top cap and a lower conversion pieces, for plug-and play conversion.
Hopefully X-Fusion will design an easy external travel adjustment option for the Vengeance coil, or simply license the u-turn from Sram/Rockshox. The u-turn makes this fork much more versatile, from tight XC trail quick handling and climbing to DH park.
For air fork riders the Vengeance HLR at 2254grms or 5lbs, saving 1/2 lb below the coil weight, has options for fixed travel or externally adjustable travel, 170/140mm.
The conversion of the Vengeance to u-turn coil made this an ideal fork for my interests; quickly travel adjustable from 125 to 170mm travel, very stiff, and having the highest quality damping.
More to come, as I gain more time on the X-Fusion suspension.
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