Judging by the amount of readers views and comments on our Interbike coverage on the new Dorado it is safe to say that you guys want to see more of it. Reading those comments made it abundantly clear that there are a lot of opinions about the new DH fork from Manitou, ranging from the good, to the bad, to the just plain mistaken. Everyone seems to be able to tell how it's going to perform just by looking at some pictures! Don't get me wrong, I'm guilty as well. The new Dorado looks every bit the part of a super fork, and it is easy to believe once you've simply held it, let alone actually ridden it in anger. Soon enough we'll know more about how the Dorado performs under duress, but for now we are going to tease you with even more pictures and some initial impressions. This is not a test, just a preview.
First, let's get an important fact straight. The new Dorado is an entirely new fork, loosely based on the original TPC+ Dorado, but a completely and wholly new beast altogether. Think of it as a distant cousin of the earlier model, albeit a somewhat hot cousin that you are attracted to. It is an inverted design, which is clear to see, and putting the front wheel between your legs and twisting is not in any way a measure of how torsionally stiff it will be on the trail, so let's just forget that thought altogether. Moving on....
2009 Manitou Dorado installed on our Rocky Mountain Flatline Pro test bike
What's on the outside?
Out of the box and into my hands my first thought was not how light it is (although it is relatively light), or even how quickly I could manage to get it on my current test bike, but instead how nicely it was finished. The made in the U.S.A. fork is just beautiful. As you would expect, the carbon legs are stunning with the cosmetic weave easy to see. My heart always beats a few beats faster when I am holding anything made of the black wonder material. Carbon has its detractors, but it is hard to argue that it doesn't look stunning. The upper tubes bulge slightly at the lower crown and continue down at the same diameter. The upper and lower crowns each clamp onto anodized gold aluminum sleeves that have been bonded to the carbon tubes, increasing clamp diameter and protecting the carbon at the same time.
Aluminum sleeves give the crowns a strong place to clamp while protecting the carbon
Upper and lower fork crown detail
The crowns look up the task, the lower crown itself is massive. Tolerances seem to be just right, as in you don't need a hammer to get your top crown on and in position. The top crown fits an integrated stem and uses the same standard that you will find on Boxxers or Fox 40s. All crown pinch bolts are drilled A270 rust resistant bolts, details. There is a smart hose guide on the lower crown which uses a single 2.5 mm allen bolt, nice to see they didn't decided to use anything smaller like some other rather cheesy hose guides. The aluminum steerer tube is butted as well.
36 mm stanchion tubes
The decals themselves are a step above what we usually see in the bicycle industry. The thick vinyl graphics don't look like they will be separating themselves from the legs anytime soon, which is nice because I think they look pretty damn sharp. It is great to see the MRD (Manitou Racing Development) logo make a return to the range, signifying that this fork sits at the top of the fork hierarchy.
Manitou Racing Development
The stanchions are 36 mm across and are protected via sturdy plastic guards. The original Dorado leg guards were quite brittle, having a tendency to crack before bending. These are thick and flexible so they should last much longer. They also have aluminum sleeves in each bolt hole to prevent cracking due to over tightening or an accident. Three 2.5 mm bolts hold each guard in its place and the left has a built in hose guide.
The HexLock axle
HexLock axle and steel pinch bolt inserts
The Dorado accepts standard 20 mm x 110 mm thru-axle hubs and uses Manitou's 6 sided HexLock axle system. Two pinch bolts per side hold the axle in place, and they thread into replaceable steel inserts that prevent any permanent damage from over tightening. The fork uses a modular brake adapter and comes with both 8" post mount and I.S. mount.
Modular brake mount
8" post mount adapter and 8" I.S. adapter
Made in the USA, possibly by the same group of people who made the Mars Rover? Nah, but it may as well have been!
Frame bumper, clean and simple hose guide
What's on the inside?
Ha! I've only had it for a single day, what makes you think I took it apart already? I wanted to, but I didn't. The Dorado is an open-bath cartridge-style fork, as opposed to a sealed cartridge system. This means that the damping oil is shared between the cartridge that sits inside the right leg and the space above the cartridge. Damping oil lubricates the bushings and fills the large-volume hydraulic bottom-out ciucuit at the top of the cartridge. There’s no bleeding necessary prior to installing the cartridge, which keeps things simple for oil changes.
Manitou Dorado TPC+ damping cartridge
Besides a forgettable foray into some platform based designs, Manitou has long used their TPC+ shim based damping system. There have been, and still are, some funny designs out there, but one thing is proven: steel shims have always been used on the highest performing suspension out there. From Bubba's Supercross bike, to Rossi's MotoGP rocket ship, the answer has always been shims and oil. TPC+ is an acronym for Twin Piston Chamber, and is exactly that. The 'Chamber' refers to the damper body itself, while 'Twin Piston' is in reference to both the compression and rebound pistons. The '+' at the end denotes a third floating piston that creates a position sensitive damping system. All that is held within the cartridge or 'chamber'.
From left to right: Rebound piston, floating compression piston, fixed compression piston
This TPC+ assembly is out of a Manitou Travis, but it gives you an idea as to what is going on. The new Dorado uses a similar system, but not an exact copy
As the fork cycles through the first of its travel or on more low speed hits the third piston is free to float up or down. On harder/faster impacts or deeper into the travel the piston will rise up, closing an oil path and forcing the oil through more shims thus creating more damping force. What all that jumble means for the rider is a fork that is both sensitive to smaller bumps but still manages to keep from bottoming its travel needlessly hard. Hidden deep inside is also a hydraulic bottom and top out circuits that smooth out the transitions at both ends of travel. For now you'll have to use your imagination, but we'll have pictures of the internals come the full review!
How many knobs are there to turn and what do they do?
There are four main adjustments you can make on the Dorado to adapt the fork's performance to your needs. The Dorado is an air sprung fork, so the first order of duty would be to find the correct spring rate for your weight and riding style. Fatties and hacks need more air, obviously, but less than you may think. The massive size of the air chamber means that the pressure range should be somewhere between 50 psi and 90 psi, with a max of 110 psi. The negative air chamber is self adjusting and sits at the bottom of the fork, always pump at the top and bleed air off at the bottom when adjusting the pressure.
Under this aluminum cap sits the air filler valve
Air is put in at the top of the fork, and removed at the bottom. The directions are pretty clear!
Both air caps thread in and have sealing o-rings
Rebound (LSR) is dialed in via the anodized blue aluminum knob atop the right leg. There is only 2 1/4 (19 clicks) turns to make but it affects a wide range of damping. Each click at the dial is very well defined and loud, no making mistakes here. It is also clearly marked as to which direction does what.
Aluminum rebound knob
Both low speed compression (LSC) and high speed compression (HSC) adjustments are made at the bottom of the right leg by the way of concentric dials, both aluminum. The outer anodized black dial is your HSC adjuster. It has 2.5 (21 clicks) turns of adjustment and again, each click is very well defined. The inner red dial is your LSC adjuster and has 2.5 turns (21 clicks) or adjustment.
LSC and HSC are located at the bottom of the right leg, they are clearly marked
The black aluminum outer dial is your HSC, the inner red aluminum dial is your LSC
Watch the HD video and listen to Denny Yunk in 'Vegas explaining the new Manitou Dorado
Manitou Dorado Key Features
-Dual layer carbon outer legs -36mm hard anodized stanchions -Internally adjustable travel between 180mm and 203mm -Self regulating positive and negative air springs -Advanced TPC+ damping -Hydraulic Bottom out and top out -20mm HexLock Thru-axle -International Standard integrated stem mounting -6.4 lbs (2902g) claimed - 6.7 lbs w/ uncut steerer on my scale
-Self regulating positive and negative air spring -Rebound adj. (blue knob, top left) -Low-speed damping (red knob, bottom left) -High-speed damping (black dial, bottom left)
So there it is, a preview of the '09 Manitou Dorado. Overall I am impressed with what I have seen. The finish is amazing, the damping has been proven in past forks and I have high expectations for it in the new Dorado, and the weight is competitive with the competition. Throw in a low axle to crown height and adjustable travel (internally) and things are looking promising. Two questions remain: performance and reliability. The two are intertwined and only time will tell us what the outcome will be. Lucky for me I hope to be putting loads of time in on the new Dorado.
All findings will be reported back so stay tuned!
Head on over HERE to see the entire Manitou Dorado photo album!