Ohlins isn’t exactly new to the mountain bike scene and it certainly isn’t new to putting squishy parts on two-wheeled fun machines. The famous gold color has been adorning high-end S-Works Specialized bikes for a number of years now as an OEM option, but only recently have they been making some serious inroads into the rest of the market. They now offer up a variety of rear shocks, forks, and fork modifications for the regular weekend warrior to attach to their non-Specialized brand bikes, and that is an excellent thing.
The Swedish suspension manufacturer has long been regarded as a top tier suspension company, and for good reason. Ohlins started racking up championship titles in the moto world within five years of being founded in the late 1970s. In the mountain bike world, they have only just recently started to add to what is sure to be a large trophy case by winning not one, but two, elite World Champs races in 2017. Loic Bruni and Miranda Miller of Specialized took home gold medals from Cairns, Australia, after pedaling their legs into oblivion on the half-technical/half-almost-cross-country DH course. This feat is especially impressive when you consider that 2017 is essentially the first year that Ohlins has been on the world stage. Given more time, I would hardly be surprised to see numerous other trophies, medals, and other random bits of hardware make it onto the Swedish manufacturer’s resume.
Though they may not have a huge array of initial offerings for mountain bike hardware, what Ohlins has designed stands toe-to-toe with the best from Fox and Rockshox. Easily one of the most recognizable shocks on the market, the TTX 22 M is a coil-sprung damper featuring the twin tube design that made Ohlins famous in the first place. It comes in seven different length and stroke combinations, enough to suit most bikes on the market today. The smallest sized shock weighs just over 420 grams (without the spring), which doesn’t make it the lightest weight coil sprung shock on the market, but it’s no pig either. As far as adjustments go, the tinkerers among us will be disappointed. Far from the number of adjustments of shocks like the Fox DHX2 and the Cane Creek DB series, the TTX 22 M falls more in line with the Rockshox Vivid. The yellow shock offers 3 high speed compression settings, 16 clicks of low speed compression, and a rather scant 7 clicks of rebound damping.
The twin tube design of the Ohlins TTX 22 M is rather complicated, but understanding it helps explain why the shock works as well as it does. All shocks depend on oil flow to create a damping effect on piston movement. A traditional piggyback shock will have oil that flows from the main chamber of the shock through compression valves and shim stacks, either ending up in the reservoir (the piggyback) or behind the piston. One of the issues with this system is that when the shock is compressed and the piston is pushed into the shock body, it creates low pressure behind the piston and the oil has to scramble to find its way there to alleviate some of the negative pressure. Usually this results in high oil pressure during compression because the oil only has so many places to go and can only do it so quickly. Ohlins uses a second tube (really more like an outer sleeve) to allow oil to flow more easily to the backside of the piston. Not only does this create an easier path for oil to fill in behind the piston, but it also relieves some of the high pressure in front of the piston. The result is smoother and more controlled compression damping.
The first thing I always adjust when I get on a new shock is the rebound damping. I drop my butt on the saddle, and then either add or reduce damping so that I’m neither getting bounced off nor getting stuck down in the travel. It’s a quick and easy way to start off at a baseline that I can easily change with minimal fussing on the trail. The Ohlins TTX 22 M only provides seven clicks to play with, but they are an appreciable seven clicks. Ohlins wanted the tuning to stay simple and have each click feel different from the next to avoid having to turn a knob several times before any difference could be noticed. The Swedes really hit the nail on the head with this one because most riders will probably find themselves turning the gold anodized rebound dial once to get exactly where they want to be. To help quell any fears that come from lacking a vast range of adjustments, the rebound damping on the TTX 22 M is, quite frankly, stellar straight from the factory. It really is very simple to find a rebound setting that just works for the trail ahead. One click this way or that way and you have a bike ready to go for gnarly rock gardens all the way through to someone’s homemade jump line.
For the riders who are firmly planted in the “set it and forget it” camp, take a moment to rejoice because this shock has so few adjustments that you almost cannot “set it” in the first place. The three high speed compression settings are meant to be the typical open, middle, and closed settings. However, a quick flip of the black lever really doesn’t accomplish much. The difference between fully open and closed is almost negligible on the trail, no matter if you’re going up or going down. Placing it in its firmest setting during the climbs did help it feel like I was riding a little higher in the travel, but other than that there was no significant improvement to the climbing efficiency. Thankfully, we’re at the point in mountain biking history where the vast majority of new bikes are so efficient that climbing aids on the shock aren’t really a necessity anymore. As far as the descents go, the difference between open and closed was…well, I’m not entirely sure. Truthfully, if I were to accidentally leave the shock in the closed position, I probably wouldn’t notice until halfway down. Unlike the rebound knob that makes a large difference from one click to the next, the high speed compression knob may as well not exist. Open, middle, and firm practically all feel the same.
This is no reason to worry, however, as the TTX 22 is excellently damped straight out of the box. You know the kind of shock that everyone dreams about, right? Smooth and supple, able to absorb the hits without a fuss, yet still providing a firm pedaling platform and something to push on for jumping and popping off features? I don’t want to say that Ohlins has accomplished just that, but they’ve gotten really close with this one. It has excellent mid-stroke support for the smoother flow trails, which is ideal for pumping the bike to your heart’s desire. The small bump compliance is excellent and it doesn’t come from just being extra squishy like an under-sprung shock might feel. Instead, it’s smooth and controlled. Ohlin’s tuning somehow makes the TTX 22 M feel like you have a longer stroke shock on there than you actually do. Perhaps its one downfall is its linear nature, however. Coil shocks are inherently linear, so the TTX 22 M is suited better for progressive bikes that ramp up firmly at the end. I tested this shock on a Yeti 5.5, which is a fairly linear bike. For day to day trail riding, the lack of ramp up is actually a good thing as it makes the bike feel plush through all of its travel. Once you start with the really big hits and large drops though, you’re going to bottom out and you’re definitely going to feel it. This is where the lackluster high speed compression knob is a bit disappointing. Even on the firmest setting, large drops are going to translate into your legs pretty harshly. If your bike falls on the linear side of the spectrum or your riding style might be described as less than graceful (otherwise known to some as “aggressive”), then you might want to consider going up one spring rate to prevent harsh bottoming.
Excellent build quality, amazing tuning straight from the factory, well thought out rebound damping, compression dials that fail to do much at all, and pretty colors is what you can expect when you order the Ohlins TTX 22 M. How do you know if this shock is for you? Ask yourself these questions: 1) Is my bike linear or progressive? 2) Do I fiddle with my settings much or do I mostly leave them alone? and 3) Am I awesome enough as a rider to actually deserve this shock? If you answered progressive, leave them alone, and absolutely, then the TTX 22 M should be at the top of your mountain bike grocery shopping list. Even if you didn’t answer the questions that way (c’mon, we all know you’re an awesome rider), there’s no doubt in my mind that the Ohlins shock would impress you.