Switzerland is known the world over for two things in particular – chocolate and Swiss clocks. The latter are renowned for their fantastic design and legendary quality, something that manufacturer DT Swiss has in spades. The former tastes mouth wateringly good, of course.
The fork division of DT Swiss has its roots in the UK, through Pace cycles whose RC series was one of the earliest suspension forks and was notable on the bike of former world champion Christoph Sauser among others. Known for their fantastic performance but less than fantastic quality control, DT Swiss stepped in and solved the problem immediately. Slowly but surely the company redesigned the line, using the Scott Swiss Power team and also the Merida squad as a test bench and winning quite a lot along the way.
The XMM range stands for Cross Mountain Magnesium and the fork featured here is the new XMM 100 29er. Developed in conjunction with 2011 world champion José Antonio Hermida Ramos and Florian Vogel the pedigree is evident with top notch design and features.
First up, as is standard now across most manufacturers, the fork comes in a variety of options – carbon or aluminum steerer, tapered and standard steerer tube and 9mm or 15mm thru axles. I tested the aluminum tapered 15mm thru axle version. Lines are smooth and ooze quality with nice little features such as the reverse brake arch.
However this is not just a visual feature. DT Swiss developed a honeycomb type interior to the arch and added a clever cap that adds yet more stiffness called the ‘torsion box’. It certainly seems to work, the fork is super stiff, both under side loading in corners and sprints. The tapered head tube and 15mm thru axle undoubtedly helped, but it is stiffer than most forks we have tested. The axle works on a ratchet system rather than the traditional quick release. It is not quite as quick to remove as, say, a Rockshox or in particular a Fox 15mm QR but it is secure and easy to get to the correct tension. In fact DT Swiss doesn’t refer to it as a quick release, rather as a thru axle, yet it is still relatively easy to remove.
DT Swiss utilise their ABS (Auto Balancing Spring) system for air damping. Two air chambers are self-regulating: you inflate the positive air chamber and it self-balances with the negative chamber. The suspension seemed a little harsh at the recommended pressures but under-inflating it slightly really helped. Overall I would say the suspension is more cross country orientated than the ‘cross mountain’ label, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Compression and rebound adjusters are located on the top of the right leg and are easy and quick to use, even when wearing gloves. Having both in the same place and within reach makes them easy to tune on the fly, making you more likely to set them up properly, something I definitely appreciated when playing around with the settings.
There are two damping options available called Single shot or Twin shot. Single shot is simple, locked out or fully on but the one to get is the Twin shot. This adds a climbing mode in the middle where the forks compress to about 80mm, dropping the front end and almost locking out the fork (there is still a little bit of movement). This is fantastic on the hills getting you down over the front wheel and giving you the perfect climbing position. You get the benefits of 80mm geometry but with 100 mm travel at the flick of the remote.
Speaking of which, the lever is a work of art too. The on/off and middle climbing settings were easy to adjust and a positive click in the middle means the climbing mode is easy to find. I would have preferred the climbing mode to be the final click but this is a small thing. Minimalist is the name of the game for the remote and it fits really well between shifter and brake to keep an ergonomic and clean cockpit. While it is the neatest system I have used (with the possible exception of the Fox remote) unfortunately the cable is pretty exposed to the elements at either end. On the flip side it is easily and quickly replaced. In dry conditions this would not be an issue at all, possibly a consequence of testing it in the middle of winter.
Weight wise it is pretty good by lightweight 29er fork standards. The 9mm, twin shot, tapered fork weighs 1538 grams, the 15mm one (same spec) is 1748 grams. By comparison, Rockshox’s top end SID XX 29er fork comes in at 1700 grams and a Fox F-29 Terralogic is about 1860 grams.
Overall this is a classy fork. Smooth suspension, great design and the Twin shot damping cartridge combine to make a great package. The climbing mode really is of benefit and differentiates this fork from the competition. It is easy to see why Scott bikes are specing it on it top level Scott Scale 29er. Best for the cross country racer this one!
Ben combines work as a qualified mountain bike guide with reviewing and rating products for Singletrack.com as well as Outsider magazine and Spoke.ie and is also working on a PhD in tourism and entrepreneurship. With 20 years of mountain biking behind him, Ben remembers the Girven Flexstem, U-brakes and the first time he saw a suspension fork with a 1-inch piece of elastomer in it. He has ridden bikes on four continents and has covered events as diverse as the 2007 mountain bike world championships, the Giro D’Italia and the Single Speed World Champs and lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is happiest riding technical singletrack and was an early adopter of the 29er… for a European. Find him on Twitter: #spoketweets. Check out all of Ben’s stories.