At the first races of the season, Manitou sponsored downhillers were sporting a new carbon fork from Manitou.
At first glance, the most noticeable difference from earlier efforts is the upside down design. We got a little time on the fork on various occasions during the early season, but it was limited because there aren?t many of these forks lying around the Manitou team truck. To be specific, there are 45 in existence and 35 are in the hands of sponsored pros while the remaining ten are R&D forks used by Manitou crew members like semi-pro downhiller Joel Smith and legendary pro Tom Rogers.
If you aren?t elite-level, don?t expect to get a Dorado 180 soon. Manitou hasn?t slated any release date yet, only saying that the fork will be a ?team only? product for a while. There may be production of a variance of this fork in 2002 at the earliest.
Manitou’s main reason for going with an upside down design was stiffness inspired. To achieve that, Manitou designed new carbon upper tubes and a stronger lower crown to go with the MRD custom upper crown and the carbon upper tubes. Aluminum sleeves protect the carbon from any damage that could be incurred from the new three pinch bolt, oversized lower clamp. The stanchions are 30mm aluminum.
A new hexagonal axle (which Manitou is the first to do) keeps the fork from twisting at the bottom and increases rigidity considerably. This also keeps the alignment straight and true, resulting in butter smooth action with no binding.
Big news is the claimed 6.5-pound weight for the 7-inch travel fork. That is a bit less than other top forks in the same travel range.
Inside the fork is Manitou’s TPC Plus damper but it’s upside down. This puts the rebound adjuster on top and the compression adjuster on the bottom. There is also a Schrader air valve near the drop-out. This is needed to pressurize the piston to hold the oil in place (because the damper is upside down). Air pressure is about 14-pounds.
Spring medium is full coil springs with an integrated splash back with oil for constant lubrication.
At a downhill race, Manitou’s head R&D guy Tom Rogers loaned us his bike for a few runs. Here is what we found out.
The Dorado 180DH feels very speed sensitive. It feels like it has no compression damping on flat ground at slow speeds but when it’s time to wick things up, the fork doesn?t bottom out. It comes as no surprise that the fork is perfectly tuned since it is in reality a ?works? race fork built for a select few riders. We can say this fork shows a lot of promise for privateers if and when it hits the market.
A feature we grew to love was the ease in which you can loft the front wheel over obstacles and off drops because of the lightweight. That is an advantage the other makers can?t match.
Upside: Manitou joined a big list of downhill fork makers who now make an upside down downhill fork. Manitou’s offering is by far the toughest looking of the bunch.
Three: A new, stronger three bolt lower clamp is used on the Dorado. Aluminum sleeves protect the tapered carbon stanchions.
Hex: Manitou is the first company to use a hex axle. The air valve pressurizes the oil chamber in the upside down TPC damper.
Team edition: Schwinn-Toyota factory downhillers are among the select few to have Manitou Dorado DH 180 forks. The Schwinn team uses motocross-esque guards to protect the lowers.