The Suspension Product of the Year award for 2020 was a broad category, one that spanned everything from weight conscious items for cross country racing, through the plethora of trail and enduro offerings and topped out by DH race proven units. Last year we couldn't find a clear winner despite having some brilliant products up for nomination.
But development rarely stands still, and for 2020 there were many new products that caught our eye along with updated products that also shone through. We also have a winner for 2020 that takes the award amongst the vast array of suspension products we saw this year.
This year's nominees
included the EXT Era fork, Fox's 38 fork, RockShox's Zeb fork, Cane Creek's Helm MkII fork, and Öhlins' DH38 m.1 fork.
SUSPENSION PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Öhlins DH38 m.1
Suspension that vanishes underneath you and left us a little bit speechless.
For me, an outstanding product is one that effortlessly and quietly goes about doing its job underneath you, leaving you to simply ride your bike without any thought of it. When we ride, we have enough to focus on as it is before we get to weird quirks and traits that need to be in your brain while you try and push your limits. I read a lot about motorbikes and racing where they talk about getting the information at the ground to the rider's brain as fast and as undiluted as possible. That way the rider can just react to these crystal clear inputs almost devoid of deep cognitive thought.
The DH38 m.1 has provided this since the day I bolted in on the front of my downhill bike. No matter the riding speed, terrain or commitment levels, I just forgot about the fork, only to arrive at the bottom of a run to look at it and realise what it had just done. Yes, some might bounce on it in the car park and say that it's too stiff and overdamped. But I'd like to remind you that we do our riding up in the hills on trails, and up there the DH38 simply shines above everything else I've ridden this year, which includes the latest versions of the Fox 40 and RockShox Boxxer.
Traction is plentiful combined with a small bump sensitivity that gives you all the information you need about what's going on at the contact patch. As the hits get bigger and more intense the support and composure builds accordingly leaving you with no traits to ride around or mentally prepare for before you drop in for a run. It's soft when you need it to be and hard when you need that. All the while maintaining a ride height that leaves you closer to a natural riding position and not needing to consciously move your body to get to that good position.
Adjustability is simple and palpable, with each adjustment, be it for spring or damper, being usable and allowing you to effortlessly tailor the fork's feel to the days riding knowing exactly what each adjustment will change with no need for second guessing. The air spring ramp tuning is another highlight for its almost infinite adjustment possibilities and no need to go dismantling the fork. Plus there are four different offset crowns and availability to run 29" and 27.5" wheels. If this fork can win World Cup DH races under Loïc Bruni one weekend and then send some of the biggest jumps known to man under Nico Vink the next then it shows the adaptability of the fork. And if each athlete is finding their happy spot and reporting the same creamy feeling then it's not just me who likes this fork.
Öhlins took the original DH38 Race fork and tweaked it here and there, each one no more than a marginal gain and often scoffed at for not being enough of a change to warrant the new product status. But it's in the culmination of all those marginal gains where the new m.1 fork shows its advancements and has had my back in every situation and eventuality that I've thrown its way.
There have been a lot of really good suspension products released this year, but the Öhlins DH38 m.1 is more than that, it's special. And for that it is the recipient of the 2020 Pinkbike Suspension Product of the Year award.