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Öhlins Prototype Electronic XC Suspension Raced on the MTB World Cup: Uncovered!

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, wrapped up
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Last year we saw Öhlins debut all-new XC suspension at the races, and this year they are back with new electronically-controlled prototypes. The basis appears to be the same carbon-crown RXC34 fork and TXC2 Air shock, but now mechanical lockouts are replaced with electronic controls. In the pits, Titouan Carod’s BMC mechanics mostly kept everything neatly wrapped up. But out on the track we got a closer look at what looks like the smart controller added onto the rear shock…

Öhlins prototype electronic XC MTB suspension

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, Titouan Carod warming up on BMC Fourstroke
(All photos/Cory Benson)

Spotting Carod warming up for the Nové Město na Moravě short track over the weekend, we noticed and extra box sticking out of the front of his Öhlins TXC Air rear shock, tucked in between the front shock mount on his BMC Fourstroke XC race bike. It turns out that what we spotted seems to be a prototype electronically-controlled cross-country air shock and fork from the Swedish suspension specialists.

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, racing uncovered

It’s not quite the first time we’ve seen prototype electronic suspension from Öhlins. We’ve seen a few variants of Loic Bruni racing electronic Öhlins DH prototypes, both on a reconfigured Specialized Demo and an all-new prototype bike that’s still in development.

But while all that prototype DH tech was well-covered under big cowls, this BMC is fitted with much smaller tech that more easily tucked into the otherwise stock frame.

Plus, it’s being left uncovered, at least for racing…

Prototype electronic TXC Air shock wrapped up tight in the pits, mostly

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, all wrapped up TXC2Air shock

For the most part, the Team BMC Racing mechanics tried to keep the new Öhlins electronic prototypes on Carod’s bike wrapped up inside a velcro-on neoprene sleeve. At least when they weren’t working on the bike.

But the weekend’s cross-country racing started off quite wet & muddy, so there were plenty of times when they pulled back the covers to service the bike.

So, why might they keep the prototypes uncovered out on the track and for racing, yet wrap it up in the pits?

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, uncovered in the pits

My guesses would be 1 or 3 possibilities. Either the electronics need airflow to get the best function, or the cover might simply impede some movement? The rider or mechanics may need easy access on the track to make adjustments, otherwise inaccessible under the neoprene cover? Or perhaps, they just need to see how it stands up to the elements in a real-world racing scenario.

In any case, the result is that we got a pretty good sneak peek by keeping our eyes open.

Electronic prototype Öhlins RXC34 Carbon Air fork

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, a RXC34 mk.1 fork with custom internals

OK, so we know there’s some electronic control. But what suspension are we working with?

It appears that only Titouan Carod is racing on the prototype electronic suspension. The rest of the BMC team gets mechanical remotes. And it looks like he’s working with the Öhlins RXC34 fork that we detailed last summer, based on these lowers. Of course, we probably wouldn’t call it an m.1 fork anymore, as clearly he’s got some custom next-gen tech inside. And his name on the fork legs.

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, everything hidden inside the RXC34 fork

What electronic controls that exist are entirely in the left leg. That’s where the 3-position (Open, Pedal, Lock) OTX14 compression damper cartridge is on the standard Öhlins RXC34 fork. (The volume-adjustable air spring is in the right leg.)

We don’t see an obvious external adjustment here. But that small gold screw is the same as found on the front of the shock control/battery box. So it might offer some adjustability more than just holding the cap on.

A single wire (& inline connector) exits, and heads into the frame next to the mechanical dropper remote cable. Presumably, the fork then connects with the system brain, at the rear shock.

Tidy Electronic Remote Control

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, tiny twist switch remote control

For rider mode control of the prototype electronic suspension, Öhlins gives Carod a tidy little thumb-actuated twist shifter/switch. Wired into the system through the Fourstroke’s internal frame routing, the controller doesn’t take up much space in between the brake lever and grip. (Its wire enters the opposite of the headtube together with the rear brake.)

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, Is that a Zirbel controller?

That mode shifter looks a lot like a Zirbel Ring Switch with their WE03 Ring for the thumb button. I’m not really sure, since Zirbel’s standard Ring Switch typically has 2 wires coming out of it. But perhaps Öhlins just worked together with Zirbel to create the remote they needed for their prototype suspension controls.

Uncovered and Up Close!

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, unwrapped

Now for the proper spy shots!

Team BMC mechanics were as careful as they could be to keep their Öhlins prototype electronic XC suspension out of direct sight in the pits.

But once racing was underway, the mechanics unwrapped the shock.

Yet, what they kept covered doesn’t really reveal too much after all.

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, uncovered in the pits, and up close

All we can really see is a narrow box extending forward from the damping controls of the TXC Air shock. In fact, a closer look at the photo we snuck from the workstand (above) suggests the shock itself is wholly unchanged. There’s just a small electronic actuator bolted on top, instead of the mechanical remote actuator, which of course makes sense for simplicity’s sake.

Öhlins prototype electronic XC mountain bike suspension raced at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup, unwrapped and up close

Then what you get is that this box is just the battery and brain of the system. We see the two wires coming in from the fork & remote switch to connect to the box just in front of the upper shock eyelet. And the wire for the rear shock power & control exits out of the middle of the box on the left/non-driveside.

OK, so now we wait.

Neither Öhlins nor BMC have officially commented on what we see here. And it’s only being race-tested on one rider’s bike. So don’t expect it too soon. With that said though, it was less than half a year between when we first saw Öhlins XC suspension prototypes until the time you could actually buy them. So maybe we won’t have so long to wait!

Ohlins.com/MountainBike

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2 Comments
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David
David
14 days ago

I’m not interested in having to change or charge a battery other than lights to ride my bike, sorry.

David
David
13 days ago
Reply to  David

Then why did you read and/or comment on the article?

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