Ohlins TTX Flow Shock and RXF 48 Fork
One set of motorcycle suspension stands out more than any other set on the market, the gold forks and shocks from Öhlins. In Moto GP and multiple forms of motorsport around the world, Öhlins is considered the standard that all others are judged by. However, in motocross it holds a bit more unique place, being compared to other kit-level suspension. With Öhlins releasing their latest moto product, the Flow TTX shock, we snagged a set of their RXF 48 forks and this new shock to put them to the long-term test.
Öhlins TTX Flow Shock and RXF-48 Fork Features:
- Both the forks and shock feature TTX (Twin-Tube technology).
- Fork lower stanchion tube size is 48mm, plus it features springs and damping in both sides.
- Forks and shock both fit intended models without modification or extra parts.
- Available for all current KTM, Husqvarna, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Beta, and Sherco motocross and off-road models.
- TTX Flow shock: $1,248.00, springs: $98.00.
- RXF-48 forks: $3,504.00 (springs included).
- RXF fork cartridge kit (to be used in stock forks, instead of complete RXF fork): $1,383.00, springs: $155.00.
Even when just unboxing, the Öhlins Flow shock and RXF fork are very eye catching. From the gold upper tubes and DLC lower legs, to the billet lugs and even the titanium bolts provided, you just get excited to bolt them up. Installation is extremely straight forward, using the same steps you would normally use when bolting up your stock suspension. Only the forks take a little extra thought, as some models feature forks that are 5mm longer than stock. None of Öhlins late model forks require aftermarket triple clamps, as the upper tubes are all designed and built around the stock units.
Once you get past the trick outer appearance, it's easy to notice the relatively simple adjustments on both ends. Up front, the forks have compression adjustment up top, surrounded by an air bleed (to drain excess air when the fork temperature rises), and a nitrogen fill that's only used in rebuilds. In the rear, with their all new TTX Flow shock, the same simple adjustments exist. Up top you'll find a simplified compression adjustment, eliminating high and low-speed compression (and even low-speed rebound in the latest KYB shock) for one compression adjuster to affect the whole range. It's simple to adjust, as the dial can be adjusted by hand. Down at the bottom of the shock shaft we find the typical home for the rebound, which can also be adjusted by hand.
On the Track
Biggest question is of course, how does all this really work once you hit the track? Due to Öhlins success and popularity in Europe, naturally most riders in the US assume that their settings are going to be softer due to the types of tracks found abroad. My initial impressions definitely point towards a GP derived feeling, as the suspension has quite a bit of movement initially, while also having a very active rebound. Due to this, small chop on hard packed sections are fairly easy to navigate as the forks easily soaked up the braking chop, while tracking into the corner quite well. With the freer feeling compression and rebound, it soaks up each little hit while also recovering quick enough to allow the tire to set back into the ground before the next hit and find traction. At the same time, it doesn't feel too quick or springy on the rebound action.
In the rear, the same results can be found. Once tracking out of the corner, the rear squats quite freely and plants down. Then every time the rear tire skims across a braking bump, it soaks up the hit and then settles back down quite nicely to take the next hit. At the same time, it finds a nice place in the stroke to do this and stays within that range. By staying in this comfortable range it doesn't feel like the rear is moving too much up and down, keeping the bike balance from bouncing around constantly.
While the suspension handles low-speed and small chop well, how about the other end of the spectrum? High-speed and large hits had me honestly the most concerned, as some of the damping components found in both the forks and shock are a bit smaller when compared to the competition. But, Öhlins uses unique technology with their TTX systems, which is a twin-tube design both front and rear. This allows the oil to pass from the damping system, through the second tube to replenish the damping system and create more speed-sensitivity (For a better explanation of the TTX technology and Flow shock, check out the video in the feature section). This was quite noticeable when I first took the KX450F out to our local "jumpy" track, Pala Raceway. With some of the largest and fastest hits, I pushed the forks and shock into large, abrupt jump faces at speed, and braked deep into some fast sections. While the bike definitely moved freely initially, it ramped up at an impressive rate to give it enough resistance to handle what I could throw at it. Including casing a booter 80 foot table my first lap to the knuckle of the landing. While I definitely bottomed the forks in this situation, the bottoming control was beyond what I expected. Taking the last bit of energy from the hit and dispersing it well at the end of the stroke. While I could feel the forks as they stopped, the energy was well taken and didn't create a reaction I couldn't easily handle. They make suspension with over 12 inches of travel for a reason, to use every bit of it in the worst occasions.
While both ends moved throughout the stroke a bit more than most production sets, they did move in conjunction. This meant that the bike stayed well balanced even under high-speed situations and deep braking. This gave me quite a bit of confidence to attack deep into corners, without fear of the bike unloading, then placing too much weight onto the front-end. In the rear, I had a similar feeling for the bottoming resistance. I could bottom it, but the control was excellent and controllable. And during these deep, big hits, the rear end didn't rebound too aggressively and would stay fairly planted as I charged out of the hit. Overall, the new Flow shock was actually more impressive than the forks, as the traction and rear-end control I experienced was fantastic under the power the KX450F put out. This was very important as the KX450F is still a bit of a rear steering bike, so shock support and control is vital to the cornering abilities of this model. The free movement, while also feeling controlled and not too active is a hard balance to come by, and the TTX Flow really nails this balance.
As mentioned above, this suspension was made with simplifying adjustment in mind. Outside of using easier to understand adjusters, these adjustments are also quite affective. Each click feels more around the range of change you'd feel from two-to-three clicks in the production suspension. From the base setting I moved around a bit with every clicker until I found some improvements I wanted for all situations. Then from there, I found it quite easy to just move one click here and there, depending upon what track and conditions I was riding in each day.
Overall, I found the suspension to be more than capable on each end. I honestly think that the simplified adjustments are a better direction for the general public and really takes some of the mystery out of setting up your own suspension. The major suspension nerds out there may miss some of the extra adjustments, or large amount of clicks with a fine adjuster, but it really does make life at the track a bit less stressful for the general rider.
After placing about 15 hours on this set, it was fairly noticeable how well the action was holding up front and rear. Due to their smaller damping components, TTX, and floating piston shock, Öhlins claims a longer service interval for their suspension. Along with modular design of the shock allowing for easier replacement of wear parts after some serious usage. To see more about the component group and their dissasembly, check out the video in the features section.
The Last Word
For under $5000, the latest batch of Öhlins suspension sounds fairly pricey but can be cheaper than modifying your stock sets in the end, especially if you have some extensive upgrades planned. In the case of air forks, re-valves and spring conversion kits totaling somewhere between $1300-$1800 total, this already puts you a decent ways into the cost of the Öhlins kit. While the initial investment is higher, it can come out to a lower cost in the end once sold separate from the bike (or moved to your next one). Along with the fact that you now have an extra set of suspension, in case you want to use that for a different form of racing. All-in-all, I was very impressed by Öhlins customer settings and their usable range, as later into my testing period I had a few friends jump onto the bike (all heavier than me and different speeds) and each one had quite a few compliments for the setup. Overall, I'd confidently recommend the Öhlins kit for someone looking to remove the air forks from their current bike or just wants a high-end set of suspension. Which if moved from bike-to-bike over a couple years can easily pay for itself, instead of a few re-valves, which their cost isn't easily to recoup with the sale of your motorcycle.
Beyond that, this suspension offers and easier level of tuning than some of the current production sets of the market, by simplifying the adjustments to just compression and rebound, front-and-rear. This in my opinion is where the TTX Flow shock has its biggest advantage. While the suspension is high in price, I believe the customer even looking this direction will find the cost well worth it.
Vital MX Rating: 4.5 Stars - Outstanding
About the Test Rider
Michael Lindsay - is a born-and-raised moto freak and gearhead from the heart of motocross in Southern California. First swinging a leg over a bike at the age of five, he immediately caught the racing bug, spending nearly every weekend behind a gate…and a lot of time on the couch while injured. While swinging back and forth between moto and the off-road scene, giving him a wide range of experience on the bike. Of course, all of this led to one thing: Lindsay loves working on his bikes almost as much as he loves talking about them. When he’s not in the Vital MX forum or writing his latest product review, you can find him out at the track taking dirt naps, snapping some pictures, or drooling over the latest parts for his bike. With an outspoken personality, gearhead background, and as Vital MX’s guru for product, Michael is here to share his unbiased opinion.
Review by Michael Lindsay // Photos by Michael Lindsay and Preston Jordan