|Ah, nothing like a crushed damper rod to ruin a ride, eh? I would know, as the exact same thing happen to my own Dorado back in the early 2000s, and it looks like your older Dorado has suffered the same fate. The root of the problem boils down to volume displacement, or rather, the lack of it. Dorados from 2002 and earlier depended on a closed-cell foam compensator that compressed down as the damper rod was pushed into the cartridge (the sealed stanchion tube), and the foam element allowed Manitou to completely fill the cartridge with oil rather than having to leave an air gap. It also provided back-pressure to minimize cavitation when pushed hard. It was a very simple and lightweight setup that worked well but proved to not be up to snuff in the long run, with the foam tending to break down over time. It didn't take long for Manitou to come up with a better alternative in the shape of a spring-loaded IFP for 2003 that, while weighing more than the foam and introducing some friction into the system, showed to be much more reliable.|
So, what happened to your fork? My guess is that you were still running the foam compensator inside your fork, and that it began to come apart recently. The crushed rebound rod came about as a result of the foam element eventually becoming small enough that it could no longer compensate for the displacement of the damper rod compressing into the fork as it went through its travel, and the forces were so high that they simply crushed the thin-walled rod. Your fork being stuck down into its travel was caused by the rod no longer being round and not able to pass through the seal head. In other words, you've done some major damage to your fork, and you might have troubles sourcing the parts you need to get it back up and running simply due to its age. If you want to get your fork running again, your best bet is to look on the classifieds for a used Manitou Stance Kingpin with 170mm of travel - its rebound damper rod features the same dimensions and can be sub'd into your Dorado. You could also require a new rebound seal head if yours was damaged, which you'll need to score out of an old Sherman - the Kingpin's seal head sports a finer thread pitch and won't work on the Dorado's stanchion, but the Sherman's matches and it mates perfectly with OD of the Kingpin's rebound rod. Don't forget that your issue began with that broken down foam compensator, so you'll need to do something about that as well. Start by heading down to your local moto shop, or you can look for a 2003 Manitou Dorado spring-backed IFP assembly. That's a ton of sourcing and work, isn't it? Alternately, you could just pick up a used fork off of the buy and sell... - Mike Levy
|I am normally of the mind that the fork length is best left alone, but I recently tested the Niner WFO, which has suspension travel and geometry similar to the Enduro 29. The Niner had the Pike Dual Position fork and I ended up using it quite often to sharpen up the bike's steering and climbing feel when I was climbing or riding narrow trails. Some say that the addition of the Dual-Position function reduces the smoothness of the Pike's compression damping, but our test riders did not find this to be true. There are also claims from experienced riders who maintain that shortening the fork stroke actually causes the bike to be less efficient for climbing. While there are probably select bikes or certain combinations of steering geometry that might cause this, my experience with longer travel trailbikes like the Enduro and WFO, has been that a slight travel reduction and the resulting lower stack, and slightly steeper seat and head angles enhance climbing ergonomics. - RC|
Niner's 150-millimeter-travel WFO has a slack head angle and a long, 160-millimeter RockShox Pike RCT3 Dual-Position fork. The fork's 30-millimeter travel reduction option sharpened up the slack-ish all-mountain 29er's steering and pedaling feel while climbing.
|You're right, wheel size can be a touchy subject for some people, but it's a valid question, especially for a relative newcomer to the sport. It's certainly a confusing time to be a beginner shopping for a bike, with enough wheel sizes and styles of riding to make your head spin. If I was in the market for a new hardtail (which I'm assuming is what you're looking at given the $600 budget), I'd go with a 29er, especially considering the type of trails you're planning on riding. The bigger wheels will help take the edge off those mid-trail obstacles, and they'll also make it easier to roll through more technical sections, since they can span the gaps between rocks and roots that can cause smaller wheels to get hung up. 29" wheels can also be more forgiving of handling errors, which will be helpful as you continue to progress, and I think you'll appreciate the stability they provide as your riding skills develop. Keep in mind that a 29er will likely be a touch heavier than comparable 26" bikes in that price range due to the larger wheels and tires, but I'd say the performance advantages still make it worth it. - Mike Kazimer|
This Kona Lava Dome is an example of what you can expect to find in the $600 - $700 price range. An aluminum frame, disc brakes and a basic suspension fork should provide a good starting point for the beginning mountain biker.
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