At Magura’s recent press outing in Sedona, AZ, we rode their new forks around the desert trails – trails with plenty of rocks, drops, climbs and slickrock. Some were fast and flowy, and some tight and technical on both the climbs and descents. All in all, it was a good terrain to test suspension thanks to the combination of rapid fire hits, small and medium drops and rough climbs.
We covered most of the technical aspects of Magura’s 2013 range of forks here and at Sea Otter, so this is mostly a ride review plus a detailed look at the fork’s internals, which are a bit different than most other brands…
At first, I was a bit concerned about the lack of external compression adjustments available on Magura’s forks. On the new 29er forks, you have an on/off (open/locked) knob on the R version and just a preset open SL version with no knob. Both have a range of rebound settings with a knob on the bottom. I rode the TS8 R 120mm mounted to a Specialized Stumpjumper 29er with their carbon Roval wheels and Specialized tires.
Magura’s “Stiff, Light, Easy” mantra explains the lack of bells and whistles. Aimed at making the forks easy to use for novices, it turns out to be just fine for experienced riders, too. Here’s my impressions of each:
STIFF: Sedona has no shortage of rocks, like in the section shown above, sometimes arranged in close quarters for stretches of trail that force you to pick a line that has plenty of opportunity to pin ball you around. Basically, if you’re strong enough to control your bike through such situations, the Magura will keep you rolling where you point it. I never felt it flex or twist under hard cornering or when the tire tried to ricochet off an obstacle. A 15mm front thru-axle is the only option, which likely helps, although mine did work loose a couple times on the second day of riding. To be fair, I may not have tightened it enough after the first occurrence, and I didn’t hear anyone else mention it. I suspect their dual arch design also plays a role in the impressive stiffness.
LIGHT: This fork, with an uncut steerer and thru-axle, weighed in at 1757g (3.87lbs). It’s not the lightest, but at under four pounds, it’s respectable. For comparison, Marzocchi’s 2012 Corsa SL Superleggara carbon crowned 29er fork, which can also go up to 120mm in travel, has a weight of 1690g (3.72lbs). The 2012 Rockshox SID 29er with alloy crown that we’ve reviewed comes in at 1700g (3.74lbs) with the Xloc remote and Maxle Lite.
EASY: The forks use a closed cell elastomer negative spring. Compression adjustments are largely limited to open or locked out. A cable actuated remote lever can be added to the existing “R” compression knob, so you can add or remove it quickly anytime you want. The thru-axle tightens with a Torx 25 wrench, which is built into the axle. The compression and rebound circuits are separate and easily replaced. Basically, there’s not much to tinker with, which means not much to go wrong.
I like being able to fine tune high and low speed compression damping. At least I think I do. Presented with the option to twist a bunch of dials, I’ll gladly do so and I suspect most of you would, too. There is something to be said for tweaking your fork just so for a particular trail, or having a bit of range to maximize performance on climbing and XC stuff versus all-mountain, aggressive descending. Particularly for the vast majority of us that want one bike to do it all.
But then, there’s also something to be said for a fork that just works regardless of the type of trail you’re on. To say that the Magura is “good enough” at everything is a bit of an understatement. It didn’t bottom even when I tried to jump off drops and land hard. It didn’t bounce me off my line when I intentionally nailed square edged bumps on a slow, technical climb. Basically, it tracked the ground really, really well, kept me rolling in the desired direction and provided no surprises or drama. I found that being able to tweak the rebound setting kept the fork behaving well and didn’t really miss additional compression adjustment.
Magura revamped their internals for the 2012 model year to address concerns about the forks blowing through their travel. They reduced the size of the air spring chamber to make it a bit more progressive and they tweaked the compression damping. They also redesigned the seals and switched from oil to grease for primary lubrication. Talking to a few of the other editors in Sedona, feelings were pretty good about the fork and more or less mirrored my sentiments.
Stefan Pahl, Magura’s product manager, admits it’s a struggle not having OEM placements for their forks, but says that’s likely to change soon, particularly in Germany and other bits of Europe. They have good (and growing) spec with their brakes, so the doors open. In the meantime, if you’re looking to upgrade your fork, I’d give Magura a good hard look. We’ll be getting a fork or two in for longer term testing on our own bikes soon, too.
MAGURA SUSPENSION FORK INTERNALS
The fork lowers are removed by loosening two allen bolts on the bottom of the fork. Like most (all, really) air forks, the air chamber is on the braking side so that any heat from the brakes isn’t transferred to the damping oil. The damping system is on the drive side. To remove the pistons/cartridges, you simply undo the C-clips visible here.
The air chamber is essentially just the top of the inside stanchion tube. The white plunger with the O-ring (above) seals the air chamber. The large yellow thing is the negative elastomer spring. No, it’s not like the porous old elastomers from the days of Rockshox Indy’s. Magura’s US tech manager Jude Monica says this will outlast the fork with zero degradation. Because it’s closed cell, it doesn’t soak up any oil or grease. The black section immediately above the negative is an adjustable platform that changes travel. Push two roll pins out, move it to another notch (covered by the negative spring) and insert the pins and you just changed the travel. The negative spring doubles as the bottom out bumper, and the smaller elastomer on the bottom of the shaft is the top out bumper.
While it’s not recommended or endorsed, you could change the air volume to tweak the fork’s progression by adding a bit of oil (or possibly just a small piece of elastomer) to the air chamber.
Unbolt the cover from the compression knob, pull it off, then use a large socket to unthread the compression damping circuit (above, right).
The bottom of the compression damping rod has the circuit. Underneath the silver plate with the kidney bean shaped holes are the shim stacks. Turn the compression knob to locked and these holes are closed, preventing oil flow and locking the fork. The small hole that Jude’s pointing to lets a tiny amount of oil flow through when locked to help the fork settle into it’s sagged position. This is a fairly unique feature of Magura’s forks in that it keeps your position optimal on the bike even with locked out. There’s not a specific blow-off mechanism, but it will compress (a bit loudly) if you really smack it hard when locked out.
The damping oil inside the right side leg. Those that want to fine tune the compression can play with the oil weight that’s used.
The inside of the stanchions are tapered. As the compression circuit is lowered in from the top, it snuggles firmly into the top of the rebound damping circuit (red), creating what we came to call an “open cartridge” design. In other words, it’s a “closed” system when it’s all installed in the fork, but not a fully removable closed cartridge like Fox’s FIT dampers. The benefit is that you can replace either the compression or rebound circuit separately should one of them go wrong, making repairs cheaper. The simple design also means shops can order the parts and to the repairs in house rather than ship it off, which helps them improve service revenue.
Magura has a history of working in hydraulic systems, which, at least for our test rides around Sedona, seems to play in their favor with smooth, stiff forks that smoothed over the terrain and kept the rider in control. We’re looking forward to doing more long term testing.