It's Pronounced Voo-Taan! - Magura Wotan Fork Review

May 23, 2008
by Mike Levy  
The mid-travel suspension market is starting to get a bit crowded with contenders these days. And for good reason, whether we like it or not most of us are better off on something with a bit less length than our current forks. It's too easy to automatically think of one of the "big three's" suspension products when looking for a new fork, but there are other options available for those willing to change it up.

Better known for their stoppers, Magura has been quietly making headway with its 160 mm travel Wotan fork. With some unique features and stunning looks it begs a closer look.

Read on.....Chassis

Whether you are a fan or not, you have to admit that the Wotan is visually stunning. From the top down to the bottom it has a burly appearance that sets it far apart from the crowd. I'm sure the first thing you noticed was the unique design of the lowers. There are not one but two arches, and neither of them are there just for looks. DAD (Dual Arch Design) creates a 'closed tube' that is claimed to keep things stiffer than a more typical single arch 'open tube' fork. Here is a home experiment for you to do: Take your average cardboard tube (dual arch) from a roll of t.p. and give it a twist. Now cut the tube open lengthwise (single arch) and perform the same test. For those too lazy to give it a go, the tube is far stiffer before it's cut open. That is the basic principle behind DAD. The question is if it will transfer over to the real world.


The Wotan is built around big 36 mm stanctions that are held together by the swoopy black crown that has built in cable stop for the bar mounted Flight Control travel adjust. Magura wisely chose to employ a Maxle (first generation, not a 360) at the bottom end, sorry no QR options on the Wotan. Brake caliper mounting is done via posts and will only accept 203 mm or bigger rotors. If you choose to use it there is a hose guide on the back of the left leg also. I felt very factory being able to write in my own air pressure settings in on the chart on the back of the fork! All external knobs and dials are aluminum and the rebound knob is a removable 3 mm allen key job. Along with the shock pump being included, it also came with a "holy shit I must have bottomed" O-ring around one of the stanction tubes. It's all in the details! The ever important axle-to-crown number is 540 millimeters.




Spring and Damping

The Wotan is air sprung and pressurized from the top of the left leg. There is a coil hidden deep in there that acts as the fork's negative spring to help it into its travel and keep the action supple. The right leg houses the Albert Select damping system. The Wotan's damping is a closed system, meaning the damping oil is sealed in the left stanction separate from any lubrication oil. Rebound is tuned at the bottom via a needle and orifice, while Albert Select sits atop the leg.

Air spring cartridge and negative spring

Air spring cartridge and negative spring


What the heck is an Albert Select?
It is an easy two part adjuster that lets you dial the forks compression platform to the terrain, whether it is a certain trail that you are riding or just one section where you would benefit from a different setting. The gold inner dial (Albert) lets you dial in the amount of platform or compression damping that will be activated when you turn the blue (Select) dial to the On position. When the Select dial is open the fork is fully active and ready for action, a 1/4 turn to the right activates your chosen albert setting, whether that is a touch stiffer or fully locked out. In simple terms you are blocking the flow of the damping oil. Less oil flow equals more compression damping.

Compression (Albert Select) assembly on the left, rebound on the right

Compression (Albert Select) assembly on the left, rebound on the right




Set Up and Riding

First step is to dial in your air pressure. At 170 lbs, Magura recommends that I run just over 60 psi to attain the proper spring rate. You'll need to adjust your rebound setting to the air pressure you've pumped in next. You cover the entire range with only 1.5 turns of the adjuster so pay attention to how far you've turned it! I prefer a slower (read: more controlled!) return stroke than most and settled on having the rebound a half turn from fully closed. If you have more air you may need more rebound damping as your 'spring' is stiffer and therefore pushes back harder.

Albert Select is dead easy to adjust. Use the gold dial to pick the amount of compression and the blue knob to turn it on. The majority of my riding with the Woton consisted of a long climbs on fire roads or smooth double track followed by a long downhill. For this reason I usually rode with the Albert (gold) dial fully closed and used the Select (blue) dial as my lockout switch on the climbs.

The Albert Select system consists of only a few parts

The Albert Select system consists of only a few parts


The large air chamber of the Wotan gives the fork quite a linear stroke and I quickly discovered that 60 psi was not going to cut it. It only took a few sections of trail to come to the conclusion that while I was sagging the correct amount while stationary, I going far too deep into the travel under heavy braking or on burlier terrain. What I did discover was how soft the bottom actually is on the big Magura. Often overlooked or just plain left out by other manufacturers, the Wotan has a goodly sized bottom out bumper to ease those speed miscalculations. After some experimentation I found that running 75 psi was closer to what I should be using if I was riding at my personal limit.

Bar mounted Flight Control unit

Bar mounted Flight Control unit


With the spring rate sorted out I was free to concentrate on the function of the fork. Rigid, precise, and unyielding are some of the words I would use to describe the Wotan. In all honesty none of todays long travel single crown forks are noodles, but the Wotan's precision was impressive to say the least. I'm weighing in at 170 lbs these days so you bigger riders need to take it this a grain of salt: I would say the Wotan was every bit as stiff as the double crown fork bolted to the front of my DH bike. That's a big claim but I'm pretty confident in saying it. With 75 psi the fork was very competent at speed and able to keep up with the terrain no matter how fast or hard it was coming. It does not have the initial suppleness that other forks posses but it made no difference on the trail.

As happy as I was with the Wotan in stock form, I couldn't quite quell my urge to tinker. Besides, I needed to get pictures of the internals for you guys anyways! The stock oil is 5 wt. and I was hoping that a switch to 10 wt. would allow me to run less air pressure but still keep the fork riding high in its travel. Rebuilding the Wotan is uber-simple. You'll need a 5 mm allen key, rubber mallet, some small snap-ring pliers, and a shock pump at hand when you perform the job. While I was at it I also added a few cc's of 3 wt. oil to the top of the air piston with the intention of creating a more progressive stroke.


The unauthorized changes that I made transformed the fork from very competitive to amazing. The swap to heavier oil helped to keep the fork higher in it's stroke when braking which gave me more usable travel. Because the fork's low-speed compression damping was increased the bike was far more stable in every situation which in turn made me more confident. The oil that I added above the air piston was also a help when nearing the end of the fork's travel. I dropped 5 psi right away and 5 more shortly after. With 65 psi the Woton is more forgiving on the smaller features, but thanks to the small amount of oil above the air piston the stroke ramped up near the end.

Want your Wotan to match your bike?

Want your Wotan to match your bike?


Other Details

Tire clearance was excellent. Magura says a 2.8" will clear and I don't doubt it as my 2.5" tires had a load of room.

In case you were wondering, there is no air or spring backed compensator in the damping leg of the fork. It didn't seem to matter as I never felt any fade or cavitation.

There was some initial seal weeping as with any new fork, it disappeared after the 3rd ride and there hasn't been a hint of oil on the stanctions since.

I'm not sold on the 8" post mounts. Sure a lot of riders with this fork will be running big 203 mm rotors anyway, but I would have liked the option of using a 7" disc regardless.

The Wotan comes with a nifty remote Flight Control system that enables the rider to go from 160 mm of travel down to a more climb-friendly 120 mm. It's a slick system with an instant release button and it takes up very little room on the bars. I tend to shy away from travel adjusts in general, never have been a fan and I doubt I ever will be. None of our climbs are technical enough to take advantage of a shorter length fork, but it's a known fact that it doesn't hurt on those tight switch back grunts.

I did make use of the Albert Select dial quite a bit on those same climbs though. With the maximum amount of compression chosen all one has to do is turn the easy to reach blue knob in order to lockout the Wotan for the big climbs.


Canadian Retail Pricing: $1049
Weight: 5.6 LBS



Although Magura bills the Wotan as a enduro or all-mountain fork it is far more capable than that. In it's stock form it can fulfill the majority of riders needs and then some. All it takes is a few tweaks to open up the possibilities of the Wotan. It is exceedingly stiff while still remaining relatively light which is an excellent combo. Magura's Albert Select feature has some definite advantages on a fork of this stature and were quite user friendly on the trail. If you are continually progressing in your riding and are looking for a fork that can work on any sort of terrain, as well as something that stands out from the crowd, than the Wotan could be the fork for you.

Check out the Magura site for more details!


102 Comments

  • + 41
 Wow, I have to admit...i think those dual archs look SICK
  • - 62
flag hucker03 (May 23, 2008 at 6:55) (Below Threshold)
 haha the rebound system is made of plastic or teflon or whatever...I hope it's not like rock shox that looses rebound because of a shitty plastic that cracks
  • + 8
 It better not be for the super high price they charge for their forks!
  • + 5
 did anyone notice that the 'Albert Select' system is very similar to the 'Floodgate/Lockout' feature on the RockShox Pike??
  • + 1
 I didnt expect dual arches to look good! kinda like a transformer lol must be so stiff!
  • + 31
 "it also came with a "holy shit I must have bottomed" O-ring around one of the stanction tubes"
This made my day Smile
  • + 3
 was thinking the same, good review, very helpful! thx alot!
  • + 4
 A friend of mine has one of these in his Specialized Big Hit FSR. It´s awesome. Flight control is very nice on tough uphills and it works flawlessly. Way better than the System of the Rockshox Totem, for example...
And it does indeed look good.
  • + 7
 I run one in my Specialized Pitch. This fork is mint! Light, stiff, smooth and easy to service.
  • + 3
 I tried out a pair last year and I wasn't quite as impressed with the fork as I thought I would have been. Going from a Rock Shox Lyrik I found the Wotan to be not as lively in technical singletrack and a little sluggish.

Bombing downhill through rock gardens and roots was pretty awesome because of its stiffness and plush travel but once the trail started leveling out a bit it lost a bit of it's magic. You can play around with it's platform to give it a better ride but the compression damping isn't quite as sophisticated as the high and low speed adjustments on the Lyrik.

Also, I guess it's because the overall length of the Wotan is longer compared to the Lyrik I found it to be a little slower in the corners. It wasn't as easy to snap the bike around.

The Wotan has potential but I don't think it's there yet to compete head-to-head with Rock Shox (or Fox).

I suppose you could tear the Wotan apart when you get it and do the mods like is mentioned in the above review but to me it seems a little silly to have to do that to your brand new fork to make it perform the way you want it to when the other brands are pretty mint out of the box.

I read a Wotan review on Dropmachine last year and it seems like they had some of the same issues.
www.dropmachine.com/Reviews/magura-wotan-a398.html
  • + 2
 The review at dropmachine is about the last year wotan. They changed a couple of things for 2008.
  • + 2
 What I rode was last years Wotan as well. From what I have seen '07 and '08 are essentially the same. I haven't actually tried the '08 model but I hope that they have made some improvements. Reading PB's review of the fork it doesn't really seem like they have improved too much on the actual compression damping on the fork, considering it is written that you have to do some modifications like putting in a heavier weight oil. I think that rather rely on just a pedalling platform that is either on or off there should be a separate compression adjustment that you can set for your overall ride and then if you want to stiffen up the fork for climbing you can turn on the platform. That seems to be the way Rock Shox is doing it and it seems to work.
  • + 2
 I am always looking for longer and slacker mid-travel bikes so I personally look at the Woton's length as a benefit. But it is something to keep in mind if you are coming off of something a bit shorter. If opened up a Fox fork cartridge then you can clearly see that the Wotan is not as complicated BUT it does use a proven shim design which is the base of all good suspension. There is no getting around the fact that it is not quite as supple on top as others. That is the first comment from a lot of people that give it the push test. I'm convinced that initial suppleness has little effect on performance though and would rather have a fork that has a load of low speed damping and stays high in it's travel then something super supple but too active. I could never get my head around the damping on older 888's for example. As for the mod's that I did, they really transformed the fork. I think the majority of riders would be very happy with the Wotan in stock trim, I'm just a bit of tinkerer. And really, a lot of riders here end up changing out to different weights oil shortly after getting a new fork anyways so the oil swap is no biggie and easy to do. I pretty pumped on having another option in the suspension market here in north america though!
  • + 0
 I agree that have another option in the fork market is a good thing, for both the consumer and industry.

Riding a lot of tight, technical singletrack I noticed that the slightly longer fork was a bit of hinderance. The Lyrik has a much tighter turning radius compared to the Wotan. With the Wotan I would notice that sometimes I would have to pull up and almost swing the front wheel around in the apex of the turn, as opposed to carving the corner.

As far as the initial suppleness what didn't attract me to the forks performance was when I would be coming into a rocky section and I would want to pull up and skim over the top the Wotan would, first of all, take a little more effort (because it would dive a fair bit) and second, the first rock that you would hit would be soaked up by the fork and would cause the front end to dive. Some people may not see that as a bad thing but it makes you lose your rhythm where in preparation for the next pump through the rocks your front end has sunk down more than expected and you either have to use a lot more effort to pull up again or you just start plowing through everything and lose your momentum.
Again, riding a fork that has some compression damping keeps the fork higher up in its travel, slightly stiffer and allows you to use more body-english in riding (rather than allowing the fork to do all the work).
I didn't find that turning on the Albert helped much in this and, like you said, adding more air doesn't really stiffen up the initial travel (which is a good think to maintain small bump activness).

Then we come back to changing the oil to increase the performance of the fork. You are right, changing the oil weight isn't that big of a chore but as someone who was borrowing the fork it is not something that I could have done.

If changing the oil weight will make that big enough improvement on the performance of the Wotan hopefully Magura will change their stock setup so that way customers won't have to.
  • + 4
 well its only that expensive because the dollar is not worth that much compared to the euro. And its also designed and built in Germany. Quality has its price.
  • + 5
 im liking the colors they do !!! and indeed the two archers look very nice !
  • + 6
 Congratulations about double arch!
  • + 2
 well, I think we are going to see companys coming out with diffent looks and unique models. Such as this fork, But I think we just have to deal with what ever looks the companys come out with...
  • + 1
 nice design,IMHO the German:A flap design is almost the same thing,less complicated, www.german-a.de/en/xcite.html
and visually stunning,yes...well i can't say is beautiful,would be nice two arches something like sexy bos deville at this price.
  • + 4
 looks like an amazing fork, i dont know how i feel about dual arch.
  • + 3
 magura are great. well under rated.
  • + 1
 Hi
Great info on these forks.
I do have a set in need of a service, do you have a step by step method you could post or send me?
Thanks
Steve
  • + 4
 kool
  • + 4
 "Sick" in a good way
  • + 4
 Looks unbreakable
  • + 2
 nice, to bad they cost like ten trillion dollars though.
  • + 4
 I think you're confusing it with the wars my country is involved in... I'd take this fork over any conflict, and the cost? Something I could support whole heartedly.
  • + 2
 that fork looks pretty dope
  • + 2
 that must be very strong!!!
  • + 0
 Hrmm, Dual arch? can you say MUD TRAP seems like those things would catch ALOT of mud in there...
  • + 2
 The amount of clearance is really impressive actually. Like I said, it fits 2.8 tires and most riders will be using 2.5" or something smaller so you have a load of open space.
  • + 1
 LOL MAN ! This is my next fork for SURE !
  • + 1
 the dual arch makes it feel so stiff. Dont hate until youve ridden one.
  • + 1
 wotan the best magura tu papa
  • + 0
 my friend has these on his bottle rocket,, they are a awsome fork,, very smooth and stiff,
  • + 1
 i i think the double bridge is kind of an over kill.
  • + 1
 pretty cool cos its different
  • + 2
 true that true that
  • + 1
 10wt sucks in cold temps.
  • + 1
 looks like a 36 on steroids
  • + 2
 Beutiful
  • + 1
 they should make a 180mm version!
  • + 2
 :X:X nice:X
  • + 1
 sickest looking fork!
  • + 0
 i would rather some bomers
  • + 0
 whooops i mean would't it be heavier with the dual arch?
  • - 4
flag konad (May 23, 2008 at 7:02) (Below Threshold)
 indeed its half a pound haveier then a pike and almost a pound heaver then a fox 36!
  • + 0
 so so interesant i was thinking abuot desing something like that
  • - 1
 i think it is a g8 fork ]:-> fat stachions,160mm of plush travel.. Razz
i want have one of them ;P
  • + 0
 Looks awesome! Don't know if I would pay that though.
  • + 0
 what does flight control do ?
  • + 0
 wow i like the disign
  • + 0
 im buying a pair!
  • + 0
 i cal the pink one!
  • - 1
 rock shox are the best i do like those too though.nice red hub
  • + 0
 I WANT THIS FORK!
  • - 3
 nice fork
  • - 2
 $1000 FOR A FORK!!
  • - 3
 does anyone know how much it is for one of these bad boys?
  • + 2
 Read the article.
  • - 1
 that's so sick...
  • - 3
 honestly, do you really need duel arch for freeride all mountain? I'm just asking
  • + 2
 i've seen an arch get shattered...
  • - 2
 wouldn't it be heavier with the dual arch make it heavier ?
  • - 1
 hurtin
  • - 1
 sooo sick fork (;
  • - 1
 looks sweet
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