Steve McQueen was the epitome of cool. A skilled motorcyclist and passionate race car enthusiast, he became one the highest paid film stars of the time, renowned for performing many of his own stunts. X-Fusion's all-new trail fork shares the "Bullitt" star's name, has plenty of cool features of its own, and has more value per millimeter of travel than the "The pride of Beech Grove, Indiana" has car chases per moment of film.
For a relatively sleepy town of about 60,000 stand-up paddleboarders, Santa Cruz, California, is home to over a half-dozen major players in the mountain bike game. The X-Fusion headquarters sit closer to the town’s iconic trail network than any other mountain bike brand, allowing them to hone R&D on world-class backyard turf, so I had high expectations for the brand’s new McQueen trail fork.
X-Fusion McQueen Details
The Boost-spaced McQueens are specifically built for 27.5+ wheels and tires; however, with a 46mm offset they're also intended to play nice with 29er wheels. X-Fusion says their new fork will accommodate up to a 3.25-inch tire on a 27.5-inch wheel, or a 2.6-inch tire on a 29er rim. I mounted the RC HLR version on a 29er. As the acronym suggests, this $750 version of the McQueen features externally adjustable high- and low-speed compression, and rebound.
You'll find air springs and 34-millimeter stanchions across all McQueen models, plus full-metal internal bits and aluminum external adjusters for long-term durability. I ran the McQueen at 140 millimeters of travel, but it can be adjusted down internally to either 120 or 100 millimeters. Interestingly, the claimed weight for the RC HLR version is 2100 grams, but my test sample with an uncut steerer tube registered 135 grams lower at 1965 grams, or 4.3 pounds.
X-Fusion's new Roughcut HLR damper is at the heart of the McQueen. Like Fox’s FIT4 and RockShox’s Charger damper, it utilizes a bladder system which separates the oil in the damper from air outside the cartridge for fade-free performance.
One of the bikes I lean on to shakedown new products is a 135-mm-travel 29er, on which I've run both 140 and 150-millimeter-travel forks. After installing the McQueen, the first thing I noticed was how the fork's ride height didn't feel much lower that the 150-mil fork I'd swapped out. According to X-Fusion, the McQueen's higher ride height often works to a rider's advantage by preserving a bike's true head angle when sagged in. My measurement from the top of the dust seal to the bottom of the crown was 145 millimeters, which is part of why the ride height felt similar.
On The Trail
The McQueen tracks well on sharp and chattery terrain and maintained a firm and consistent feel in the mid stroke through speedy corners and g-outs. I'm a big fan of the high-speed compression adjustment–a feature you don’t often see on forks with sub-36-millimeter stanchions. Utilizing the gold-colored HSC adjustment might not not reveal obvious changes when pushing on the handlebar in the driveway, but when on the throttle down a rowdy trail the HSC is there to help you maintain control during impacts which cause higher shaft speeds.
Adding clicks on the blue low-speed compression adjustment helps filter unwanted wallowing during low shaft speed moments, such as climbing, or hitting the face of a jump or smooth berm at speed. Once proper spring rate and sag are set, you can tinker with the compression settings to fine tune the fork to your riding style and terrain. There are 16 clicks on both the high- and low-speed compression knobs. My preferred setting has settled at four clicks of low-speed and 8-10 clicks of high-speed.
My McQueen-equipped bike made easy work of steep, root-and-rock-filled chutes and flowy jump trails. I was able to hold my intended line and focus on the terrain ahead on rowdy trails I knew well. Initially, I felt the McQueen lacked some supple, small-bump plushness in the initial inch of the travel, but after a half-dozen rides the fork broke in and became more plush and seamless through the entire stroke.
Comparison to Fox 34 and RockShox Pike
I've put a lot of time on Fox's 34-mil stanchion forks, and in many ways the McQueen's break-in period reminded me of what I've experienced with those models. In fact, the McQueen feels very comparable to the 34 in terms of suppleness, while the Pike requires the least breakaway force of all three. The McQueen has both beat in terms of bottom-out control, with its external high-speed compression adjust giving users a convenient, effective tuning range.
X-Fusion may not be the first name that comes to mind for suspension brands, which is ironic given that it produces a lot of the goods for some of the more high-profile suspension sellers in the sport.
How does X-Fusion deliver excellent suspension components at hundreds of dollars less than the competition? Is it because they don't fund dozens World Cup teams to by passing an elevated retail price on to you? Perhaps. Regardless, after a couple months aboard X-Fusion’s McQueen fork, it's proven to be a very versatile, tunable, reliable and relatively affordable trail fork with comparable performance to the offerings of the brands you think of first.