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.
What the heck is an Albert Select
Air spring cartridge and negative spring
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
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 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
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?
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
: 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!