DT Swiss EXC 150 Review

by Brian Mullin on August 6, 2009


I have been using the DT Swiss EXC 150 fork for 6 months now, and the fork has stayed on my bike longer than any other test fork, which really says a lot. It is not only gorgeous looking, it’s an incredible all around, and enjoyable fork that just does most everything right.


DT Swiss History
DT Swiss AG was formed in 1994 by Marco Zingg, Maurizio d’Alberto and Frank Böckmann, and they are headquartered in the outskirts of Biel Switzerland. They manufactured spokes, which is still their bread and butter business, and is their main claim to fame. They have added hubs, rims, wheels, and shocks to their product line in the years since then, and they really got the suspension business rolling when they acquired Pace Cycles Ltd in 2006. They continue to make incredibly great products that meet that typical Swiss build quality, and they have evolved into being one of the premier carbon suspension and rim builders in the world. Mini quiz: what is the country code for Switzerland?

The ISO country code for Switzerland is CH, which comes from the Latin Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation). The word Helvetica refers to the Helvetians, one of the Celtic tribes that lived in what is now Switzerland around the 1st Century BC.

DT Swiss EXC 150
The DT Swiss EXC 150 (i.e. 150mm of travel), is DT Swiss’s premier long travel All Mountain fork. The EXC 150 has some interesting features such as hollow carbon fiber reverse arch, carbon fiber legs, a proprietary 15mm thru axle, and an intriguing locked lowering system. EXC stands for Enduro X-Cross Carbon. The forks actual full name is the EXC 150 Air RTLC 15 (Rebound Threshold Launch Control)!

It is available with either a standard axle or their 15mm thru axle, which is what I tested. It has 32mm aluminum stanchions, an aluminum crown, 1 1/8″ aluminum steerer tube, post mount brake tabs, and is tuned using rebound, air, compression and platform adjustments.

The only change from previous year’s model is that the thru axle is now their proprietary 15mm axle instead of a 20mm pinch clamp axle. They have jumped full force into the 15mm axle bandwagon, and you can get many of their wheels and hubs with that axle variant.

Features

Launch Control
The Launch Control functions as a fixed lowering utility, meaning it lowers the height of fork to a set position, and places it into a locked platform mode. To engage it, you just press down on the small red wishbone lever on top of the right fork leg, and give a good push down on the fork, and it becomes a 110-120mm locked fork.


To disengage the lockout, either pull up on the lever or push down hard on the fork, and it will return to its normal full travel. It has a threshold adjustment, which senses the amount of force required for the Launch Controls disengagement, and it works either when you are manually causing the disengagement or when you hit a large bump while it is locked. There is a small black wheel underneath the red wishbone lever that you use to adjust the threshold. I used it on several smoother trails, and it works like a charm. In fact, I had to change my body English slightly, as I was putting too much weight on the front end of the bike, which is usually needed to keep the front end down on steep climbs. I can see this being a very useful function on long steep climbs.

Rebound
The rebound is on the same lever as the Launch Control. It is extremely easy to set, you just swing the un-notched red wishbone through around 90 degrees of adjustment. It can also can get accidentally adjusted since the lever just sits up on top of the fork, and bushes or yourself can hit the wishbone, and move it out of place. Not the most carefully thought out system, but fortunately it only gets out of whack by a small amount. Perhaps if the lever was notched it might prevent this?


Reverse Arch
The DT Swiss uses a carbon hollowed out reverse arch, which is stiff, light and very pretty. Much like Manitou forks, the reverse arch provides the greatest torsional stiffness possible for a given weight, and allows for an arch that is shorter and stiffer than traditional designs.


15mm Thru Axle
The thru axle is based on the DT Swiss proprietary RWS (Ratchet Wheel-mounting System). The RWS thru axle is comprised of an axle with threads at one end, and a ratcheting handle on the other, which can be engaged or disengaged with a button to rotate freely on the axle. I really like the RWS as the thru axle on this fork, it is the simplest, quickest and the fullest proof system I have ever used. Simply insert the RWS and it slides easily through the hub, then twirl the ratcheting handle clockwise to engage its threads until it’s finger tight. Reverse it to take it off. With most thru axle systems, getting the axle engaged is a task, you need to align the axle, fork and hub just right for it to all mesh together. The DT Swiss RWS thru axle is smooth as silk to engage. If the ratcheting handle gets in the way of the fork, or it isn’t in the proper orientation you want, just push the button on the levers’ end, and the ratcheting handle pulls out slightly and is free to move anywhere by holding it out. To re-engage just let it pop back in.


Carbon Fiber
The carbon fiber legs along with the carbon hollow arch is a sight to behold, and certainly make them one of the most bling forks on the market. The carbon fiber gives the fork impressive stiffness, svelte legs and delicate lightness. Since my main test steed (Ibis Mojo) is all carbon, the fork really blends well with the bike.


Low Speed Compression
The adjuster for the low speed compression is located at the bottom end of the
right fork leg. By adjusting the low speed compression the deflection speed changes.
Low speed compression damping regulates low damper shaft speeds.

Measured Specifications
Uncut steerer: 1808 grams with RWS or 1740.1 grams without
Thru bolt (15mm RWS): 67.9 grams
Cut steerer: 1768.9 grams with RWS or 1701 grams without
Crown to Axle: 525 mm

The Test Bike
Frame: Ibis Mojo
Rear Shocks: Fox RPL (main), DT Swiss XR carbon
Wheelset: American Classic All Mountain
Tires: Conti Rubber Queens 2.4, Schwalbe Fat Alberts 2.4
Brakes: Magura Marta SL, Hayes Stroker Gram

Ride Impressions
The main competition during my long term test with the EXC 150, was the Manitou Elite and the Magura Thor (both 140mm), so I had some nice ways to evaluate how the fork functions and compares as I swapped back and forth between each of them.

The EXC 150 reminds me a lot of the Magura Thor, it has great mid range feel, and really firms up towards the end of the travel. The major differences are the EXC 150 is a bit plusher, and has better small bump compliance, but it can’t compete with the rigidity of the Thor’s double brace. The EXC 150 is plush, but cannot stand a candle to the Manitou Elite, which is the plush Meister. The additional 10mm of travel is really nice to have, and it only takes a minimal adjustment period to get used to the extra height of the fork. I always seem to forget to measure the average maximum travel that I get on each of my rides, but it seems to revolve around 125-135mm. On some rare occasions (especially when I was running lower pressure) I did get the full 150mm of travel.


I took the fork up onto my favorite terrain, the Burn Zone in Monument Colorado. It has a very long section that has rock gardens, sharp turns, small drops offs, gravel, loose rocks, and some interspersed smooth sections. The fork climbs incredibly well up the rocky sections, and the rock gardens did not faze it at all. The fork just stuck like glue throughout the rough stuff. The plushness and the sweet mid travel of the fork were pretty impressive. Small side glances and trail changes did not affect the stability of the fork, it seemed to float along the trail. This is a very good climbing fork. When going downhill through the rock gardens the fork just squished along, fast or slow it seemed to be very comfortable and content. On an occasion, drop offs or hard sudden tweaks, the fork flexed just a bit, but it was usually very stout and stiff. On some drop offs and spots where the wheel got choked between rocks, the fork had a tendency to have some fork dive, adding more air to alleviate this issue caused the fork to lose too much of its characteristics (it got way to firm).

When I did get the fork dialed in, I was pleasantly surprised on how well the fork rode. The fork just seemed to float along the terrain, and I almost forgot I was using a long travel fork until I hit some big obstacles. I can’t recall a fork that just made the easier terrain sort of disappear beneath me. The fork gelled over small undulations, with incredible small to medium bump compliance. On larger bumps, it firmed up comparatively, and there was a tad of fork dive, that tuning did not totally solve. The additional travel, the nice linear travel (small to medium bumps), and the sweet plushness of the fork were very nice.

Here is a split video of a helmet and frame mount, using the EXC 150 fork:

The Burn Zone, Mt Herman, Monument, CO from Brian Mullin on Vimeo.

Tuning
I weigh 155 lbs., and tend to ride a lot of rocky terrain that can really slam suspension pretty hard, and 70-80 psi seemed to work at the best for me. If you use lower pressure, you get more plushness, but the fork dive increases greatly. Increasing the pressure, the fork gets stiffer, with fewer fork dives, but it loses too much of its characteristics. Sag was usually around 25%. I used the rebound and low speed compression slightly positive from the middle setting.

Bottom Line
The DT Swiss EXC150 is a great fork that has exceptional mid travel, firm deep travel, nice plushness, decent small bump compliance, and a lockout feature for steep climbing. It’s an excellent climber and a great downhiller, although it had a tad of fork dive on occasion, and it showed a hint of flex when pushed to its extreme limits on some terrain. This fork does like to fly down terrain, and the extra 10mm travel over its competition really adds a nice touch. I do wish it had an adjustable platform, even though the launch control is a nice feature, I just never really used it very much. The RWS thru axle is a very ingenious system, and is one the best that I have ever used.

Did I forget to say this fork is damn beautiful?

Strengths:
-Stiff
-Lightweight
-Drop dead gorgeous
-Plush
-RWS thru axle

Weaknesses:
-Pricey
-Occasional fork dive

DT Swiss Fodder
Travel: 150mm
Weight: 1750 grams
Steerer tube: 1 1/8″ anodized aluminum
Crown: aluminum forged, CNC machined, painted
Stanchion tube: 32 mm aluminum, black anodized
Outerleg unit: Hollow carbon arch. Carbon tubes, Dropouts aluminum forged
Spring: Linear air spring with negative spring
Damping system: Open bath with Launch Control
Adjustments: Air-Pressure, Compression, Rebound, Threshold, Launch Control System
Disc brakes: Post Mount 6 inch, max. 210 mm
Color: red, anthrazit, gloss carbon
Axle to crown length: 530mm
Fork offset: 40mm
Dropouts: 15mm
Maximum tyre width: 26″ x 2.55″
MSRP $1563

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jesus October 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Hi, i read the review few moths ago, when i found an offer in internet, this fork with 15mm axe cost 400 euros….

Watching photos and video, i copy the idea of how put the brake cable (cord)…. But i notice, this is a bad idea… When the fork is comprissed, it can break the cable, like a guillotine… If it happens to me, i think will happen to you….. In new fork (2010 or 2011), the manual tells you how put tha brake cord (cable)….

At the momnet, i have just the way the brake is in me bike, to solve this little problem….

P.D: Excuse my bad english, Hi from spain!

Reply

Eduardo October 28, 2011 at 12:51 am

Hi Brian,

I found your review very interesting. Actually, I just got an EXM 130 after reading it. This is the first time that I use a fork with compression adjustment. I would like to ask you how do you find the right setup for this particular fork?

Reply

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