Kowa Suspension: First Look

Feb 20, 2008
by   
Initial review of Kowa Suspension 160s single crown fork.

As a new feature here at BROOKLYN, we're devoting a few Fridays every month for in depth, long term reviews of the products that get sent our way.
First up is the Kowa Suspension 160s Air single crown fork (not to be confused with Showa).

We've always been impressed with the manufacturing capabilities of the Japanese, and first impressions of the Kowa didn't dissapoint.

[PI=1779347 size=m align=c]
The beefy box section crown is hollow to save weight, and holds in 35mm "sima" hard ano coated sanchions....[/PI]


...that enter the lowers at a bulged section, providing space for the substantial seals, and probably (we're guessing) some huge bushing of some sort.


In conjunction with a standard bolt on 20mm thru-axle, these features certainly contribute to the incredible torsional stiffness of the fork which , to our surprise, was close to par with that of a 888 triple crown even at it's highest travel setting (more on this later).
Compared to the Fox TALAS 36 we've been riding all season, external adjustments on the Kowa seem sparse, and are limited to 2 stroke adjustments and 1 travel adjustment:


Positive progressive Air via a shrader valve at the bottom of the left leg.


External rebound via an aluminum knob on the bottom of the right leg.

On the top of the left leg is an aluminum knob for travel adjustment, which functions a lot like the older Manitou IT travel adjustment. Turn the knob 180 degrees to the open position, and the travel can be adjusted from Fully Extended:


To Fully Compressed:

...and anywhere between 20 and 160mm of travel. Then you just turn the knob to the closed position and ride.

Some minor complaints are the Boxxer disc mount, which is less of an industry standard in North America and had to be purchased separately. Lack of external compression damping of any kind is a little worrisome, but the lack of bells and whistles doesn't detract from everything else the Kowa has going for it so far, and should appeal to those riders with a K.I.S.S. mentality.
Another gripe is the user manual which is probably well written in the native Japanese, but if you speak English something was lost in translation.

According to the site, the fork is designed for "Downhill, Freeride, Urban, Park", which we'll take to mean that we have liberty to wail on them all season and report back with updates, including a obligatory tear-down and rebuild of all it's juicy innards.

For pricing and availability, contact Kowa's US distributor Covic Racing.

http://www.kowa-ss.co.jp/


78 Comments

  • + 11
 I've ridden one of these on my friends Trek Session 7, not only are they burly but buttery smooth. In my opinion these are the best feeling single crown forks out there.
  • + 7
 I had a pair of Kowa DH forks a few years back, (They were branded as X-Lite) and they were far and away the best forks I've ever experienced. I've been racing DH for 13years and have a lot of experience with all of the more established brands and none of them perform as well as those Kowas. I love my Fox 40's but I'd swap them in an instant for Kowas. I'd love a new pair, I really hope they get a new UK importer some day soon, because I'll be first in the que.
  • + 7
 It always amazes me how a group of people who have never ridden something could have such negative comments about it. Cuz after all, just because it doesnt "look" as good as other forks on the market it must mean its crap...give me a break people.
  • - 12
flag dg85 (Feb 20, 2008 at 9:15) (Below Threshold)
 fair dues but i dont want to drive around in a ferrari with dents in it just because it performs well.
  • + 7
 Yeah but at least you are still rolling in a ferrari...
  • + 10
 hell, beats my crappy honda with dents in it
  • + 4
 there are so many idiots on pinkbike. im betting almost no one has ever ridden this fork and everyone says its shit. it doesnt look as good as some forks, but it could out perform them. some times smaller companys make the best products.
  • + 5
 well kowa forks kick ass i have been riding them for 5 years. they blow away the crap big companies fork the fail or break that i fix all the time in our shop .if you had or rode one you would understand
  • + 3
 hmm i really like them i dont understand why you guys are all hating on them they dont look bad at all .. as a matter a fact i want a pair .. but the site isn't fonctional yet is there anyways i can order those ?? and what is retail on these baby's i did the conversion on the web and 94500 yen is 884 cad is that going to be the price for them ?? hope not ... i really can't wait for the full review
  • + 4
 ^^ thats what I thought too, I wonder how much these things will go for in north America, on the companies site its like 94,500 yen (886.46 CAD), the ability to crank your travel way down is also kinda cool...
  • + 3
 notice everywhere on this site and on the internet that everyone who has acutally USED them gives them good reviews, but those fucking 12 year olds who get everything they want for free always want the FOX and Marzocchi shit. if brooklyn machine works goes with kowa, there's a huge chance that they're good...
  • + 3
 wow an amazin for the head looks very well built and to go from 160mm to practically nuthin nice and a 20mm axle is always nice nice big seals all around id love to give this fork a good whip around Do they make triples lol? i agree cant wait for the full review
  • + 2
 Seems there's a new version of these forks coming out soon which is meant to have some problems sorted out:

http://www.chinamtb.com/2008/03/06/kowa-160ss-first-impressions/
  • + 4
 it seems they've put a lot of attension into the seals, so the thing must run like SOME sort of butter
  • + 1
 Believe me, it does.
  • + 1
 I don't remember writing this... I guess it was a year ago... and only being 8 days after my birthday, I was probably still sobering up
  • + 1
 I have both the triples and singles. The triples are a touch harder to set up, but offer a lightweight coil spring to assist with bottom out and to support them through the mid stroke(where most air forks plunge through to easily), the 160ss are as good as anything, and stiffer than a kid at peep show.
  • + 4
 id definately rather performance over looks anyday, as long as it works good i wouldnt care, looks is just a bonus
  • + 4
 iv neva rode a kowa.. but i kinda like how they look....especially that guard around the blue knob...good thinkinSmile
  • + 4
 i lol'd at some of those pictures. haha good work. cant wait for a full review
  • + 0
 This fork is built in spain for "msc bikes," is the same but with a different name," MSC Bikes STAR FR AIR 0-160mm " see in this web:


www.mscbikes.com/components.php?idioma=CONS_CAS&grup=0032&marca=01&vincde=g
  • + 0
 it`s not built in spain by msc, but it`s sold in spain by msc! it`s quite different. probably threy´re made at the same factory than many other brands in taiwan...
and it looks crappy
  • + 4
 Actually, all Kowa stuff is designed and built in Japan. MSC buys and re-brands these forks as their own.
  • - 3
 its gonna be shit then
  • + 4
 how can you say japanese-made goods are "shit?" that doesn't make sense. they make the most reliable cars (and have since they began doing it), they make almost everything more precisely than any other country (that includes lab equipment, guns, etc.).
  • + 1
 These forks rock.
  • + 0
 it's only one fork. noob
  • + 1
 No, its the steerer/stanchions and the lowers.
  • + 0
 so the fork you eat with is really four forks?
  • + 0
 mnsport is right. in spain they are sold by MSC bikes under their own name. I read a review a few months back in a spanish magazine. They were not too enthused about it's performance..... http://www.mscbikes.com/components.php?idioma=CONS_ANG&grup=0032&marca=01&vincde=g
  • + 2
 Keeps on getting better and better Big Grin , nice to se some new manufacters of forks, who will do alot in MTB I think.Cheers
  • + 1
 It's always good to have new competition to keep all the companies inventing and evolving the technology and products. In the end the end user/rider benefits the most.
  • + 4
 i want 1
  • + 2
 me too
  • - 6
flag kyle-white (Feb 20, 2008 at 15:21) (Below Threshold)
 not me! Im sorry but it just doesnt look like a fork that can compete with the other forks in its class like the rock shox single crows, marzocchi 66 and 55 line and manitou's. Single crown forks are just to good these days for a new brand to come out and blow the others away! sorry
  • + 1
 This fork feels way smoother than a 36.
  • + 0
 don't lie to yourself michael.
  • + 2
 I have first hand experience.
  • - 1
 you have first hand being-a-total-geek
  • + 2
 Brool story co.
  • - 2
 just what I expected. no real response
  • + 2
 It feels like butter.
  • - 1
 noob
  • + 3
 Its kowa, not kona
  • + 0
 Looks a lot like the fork T.H.E had out many years back the Marzocchi stole many of their ideas from. Like the black supper slick stantions, and valving.
  • + 0
 only thing i like about them are the guards for the air valve(which looks old school to me) and the rebound. but if they ride good and hold up well they will sell.
  • + 2
 i 2nd that^^ looks like some smart design features.
  • + 0
 maybe its just me but the way its shaped and painted makes it look really shitty,looks like something them would come on a walmart special
  • + 5
 if you only knew
  • + 2
 i like how the blur rebound knob is gaurded from rocks
  • + 1
 I want to see a full review
  • + 1
 i wont a pare of theos forcks there soooo dope
  • + 1
 sorry for grave digging this post but any news for new kowa forks?
  • + 2
 those are beautiful
  • + 1
 Based on looks, it's an ugly beast. But it might perform well.
  • + 1
 "and anywhere between 20 and 160mm of travel"

is it ment to say 120?
  • + 1
 no
  • + 2
 No, 20mm is correct.
  • + 1
 no news about this company?
  • + 0
 ops...masks fallind down.
  • + 0
 ahaha, wtf, is the same fork.
  • + 0
 what the miserable booster, but i like that fork
  • + 0
 do they like have a european distributor or something?
  • - 1
 Looks like a shitty SR Suntour version of the TALAS.
  • - 1
 dont look great to me. do look like some suntour or old rst forks.
  • - 3
 wow, when I first saw the title, I swore I saw Kona. got me excited there!
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