Magura believes that there is a place for electronically controlled suspension, and while the thought of a computerized brain telling your bike's fork or shock what to do might be a bit unnerving at first, this is a long ways from HAL 9000 levels of control. In fact, all of what you'll find within the 100mm travel TS8 eLECT fork is very proven technology that has been around for a long time, with Magura utilizing a 3D accelerometer and small piezoelectric motor to control the fork's lockout function. The fork's rebound damping is completely conventional, as is its air spring, and the 3.7lb TS8 eLECT fork will simply revert to a standard fork if its battery dies while you're out on the trail, although that shouldn't happen too often (or not at all so long as you charge it every now and then) given its claimed 40 hours of life.
TS8 eLECT Details
• Intended use: cross-country
• Wheel size: 26'', 650B, 29'' (tested)
• Travel: 100mm
• Axle: 15mm thru-axle
• Spring: air
• Adjustments: rebound, eLECT, air pressure
• eLECT electronic lockout control
• Brake: 7'' post mount
• Weight: 3.7lb
• MSRP: $1,400 USD
Magura's Dual Arch Design is claimed to increase torsional rigidity, but it also gives the TS8 eLECT quite a unique appearance.
While there is a lot of electronic trickery that we cover further down in the review, the most obvious talking point with the TS8 fork has to be its Dual Arch Design (DAD
) that sees Magura employ arches at both the front and rear of the fork. The idea is to increase torsional rigidity by tying the two legs together in a closed tube of sorts. That description might not make a whole lot of sense at first, but it becomes clearer when you picture yourself looking down at it from straight above, a view that shows how both the left and right fork leg are connected at the front and back compared to a standard fork that is only joined at its front. Why would this increase rigidity? Magura suggests this experiment to make it more understandable: take a cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper or paper towel, hold it upright and gently twist the bottom while holding the top in place. Now cut the same cardboard tube open lengthwise and perform the test again - the un-cut tube represents Magura's DAD design, and the cut tube represents a standard fork. See the difference? Yes, it is a very simple demonstration, but it gives you an idea of why Magura went to the trouble of adding an extra arch at the back of the fork. And, as our previous time on their designs have shown, it does make for a very rigid chassis.
Magura as eschewed a thru-axle quick release in favour of a 15mm axle that requires a T25 torx tool to remove. Before you say “who the hell has a T25 on them all the time?”, Magura's has actually stowed a T25 tool within the non-drive side of the axle itself. The tool can be pulled out (it's held in place by way of a tight fitting O-ring) when required to remove the axle, and also be used to adjust all of their brake hardware or any other component that fastens with a T25 screw.
The TS8's axle requires a T25 torx tool to remove it, and Magura has one hidden within the axle that can be pulled out easily.
The axle threads into a self-locking insert that Magura says renders pinch bolts redundant, along with a steel cap for the torx wrench to fit into that should make rounding out the interface next to impossible. A floating cone is captured under the steel cap, with a thin washer between the two that allows the axle to rotate independently of the cone as it’s threaded into place. This lets the cone nestle freely into its concave home within the lowers without it binding as it’s tightened.
The eLECT brains are hidden underneath the right-side fork cap.
Magura's battery powered compression damper, the eLECT, uses a 3D accelerometer and tiny piezoelectric motor to alter the amount of low-speed compression damping that is applied, letting it switch between full open and locked out without the rider needing to push any buttons or levers. If that sounds like science fiction, keep in mind that the 3D accelerometer found within the damper is very similar to what an iPhone uses to "right" the display regardless of which orientation the phone is used in, and that its piezoelectric motor is far from being new technology - it's just that Magura has adapted it to control their eLECT damper. How does it work? The 3D accelerometer senses the angle of the bike and tells the pint sized motor to either open the compression damping ports if the bike is angled down or level, or close them to lock out the fork if it’s angled up during a climb. The motor rotates a disc with three kidney shaped openings that correspond to openings on the compression piston, either aligning the openings to allow the oil to flow and the fork to go through its travel, or rotating it roughly an eighth of a turn to close off the oil passages and firm the fork up.
The fork's eLECT compression damper doesn't look all the different at first glance, but a 3D accelerometer and tiny piezoelectric motor are hidden inside of it.
Magura have also incorporated a blow-off, although the fork won't sag into its travel when locked out like with their DLO system, a useful feature for preserving handling on climbs, and they also say that it can sense when you are in the air and will open before you land. The system's operating window can be tweaked manually by "zeroing" the damper on either a slight incline or decline by holding down the reset button for a few seconds, effectively tricking it into thinking the terrain is either more level or more sloped than it actually is, and therefore changing when it firms up.
The motor rotates a disc with three kidney shaped openings that correspond to openings on the compression piston, either aligning the openings to allow the oil to flow and the fork to go through its travel, or rotating it roughly an eighth of a turn to close off the oil passages and firm the fork up.
The eLECT system doesn't alter the low-speed compression instantly, with a slight delay that is similar to how long it takes your phone's display to change, about a second or so, which means that the design might not be best suited to an aggressive trail rider who is looking for wide open performance. And while Magura readily admits that fact, they do also say that the eLECT damper offers some serious advantages when talking about efficiency for the sporty trail rider or cross-country racer. The damper's built-in battery can be charged via a micro-USB cord (similar to what many phones and cameras use), and Magura says that it lasts 40 hours when set to automatic to allow the 3D accelerometer and micro-sized piezoelectric motor to work full-time. Want more control over the lockout? A handlebar mounted remote is an optional accessory that lets the rider operate the damper manually, with a 60 hour battery life if they choose to do so, and the system simply reverts to being full-open if the battery dies on the trail. Interestingly, the eLECT damper can be retrofitted to Magura's TS8 R, TS6 forks, as well as all of their suspension forks from 2010 on, although we suspect that it makes the most sense on their forks that feature 120mm of travel or less. Performance
We spent the majority of our time aboard the TS8 eLECT fork with its electronic compression damper in automatic mode in order to asses Magura's battery powered approach to lockout control, but also rode the fork extensively in its manual setting on the same trails. The result of this back-to-back testing revealed that the TS8 eLECT really has two distinct personalities, one of which is certainly geared more towards less demanding terrain and hard efforts, and the other that feels more at home on rough ground. First up, does a 3D accelerometer and tiny piezoelectric motor make for a better cross-country fork?
The answer to that questions totally depends on the trails you ride, which is why potential eLECT fork owners will need to consider their trails and riding style more so than if they were going to run a traditional fork like a FOX 32 or RockShox SID. The reason for this is that the eLECT system, when used in automatic mode, can feel harsh when you get on rough climbs or high-speed stretches of trail that pitch up for any length of time. Now, it is obviously going to feel as unforgiving as any other locked out fork when its tiny motor shuts off the fork's compression circuit - that is the exact idea, and it does make for a very efficient ride - but I'm talking about that fractional moment when you're coming into a rise with some speed and the fork has to make the decision as to if it is going to stay open or not. It's here that it almost feels like we could do with it not locking out as quickly as it does, with a slightly longer delay in the process that might equal a more forgiving ride. A perfect example of this when a rider might charge into a rough climb in order to carry some momentum, only to find that his fork is locked out and the ride a little choppy. Being able to have the automatic lockout function hesitate slightly longer would allow for the rider's speed to bleed off before the fork firms up. While you can't actually slow this operation down, being able to tell the fork how steep of a grade to lockout on during the setup process does help, and, not surprisingly, we found ourselves preferring to run a configuration that kept it open unless we were pointing up some serious grades that called for out-of-the-saddle efforts. All of the above shouldn't be taken as a complaint, though, because it functions exactly how Magura intends it to - the 100mm travel TS8 eLECT is not meant to be anything but a cross-country race fork. However, we believe that the system could see broader use if it was able to be tuned slightly differently.
The TS8 eLECT saw months of use mounted to the front of our Rocky Mountain Element rolling test platform. Don't let the relatively short travel bike fool you - the TS8 eLECT saw plenty of challenging terrain.
It was quite the opposite at the other end of the spectrum, and the eLECT internals allowed for a seamless transition from locked out to fully open cross-country fork when the grade leveled off or turned downwards. That exact scenario does tend to happen at a slower pace, however, and the fork really did feel like it reverted to being fully open more than fast enough. To be honest, we had actually expected the opposite to be the case, with suspicions that the electronic TS8 might not be able to respond quick enough when we needed the suspension the most - on rough downhills. As it turned out, the fork was open and ready for action whenever we began descending. And how does it compare on the downhills relative to the competition? We'd say that it feels pretty much on par with what you get from a 32 or SID, and it is actually a touch more sensitive at the top of the stroke than what we've come to expect from either of those two offerings. This is a nice attribute for anyone who tends to lean more towards higher air pressures/stiffer spring rates (I'm looking at all the downhillers turned cross-country racers out there
) as you don't sacrifice that small bump compliance as much just because you're forced to set up the fork for your more aggressive riding style. And riders who do exactly that will appreciate its ultra-rigid chassis that feels like it can be thrown around at will with nary a hint of unwanted flex - the TS8 is quite a bit more torsionally rigid than its competitors.
The fork's wireless lockout control might look a bit odd, but it is very ergonomic and easy to push.
This is the part of the review where we expected to be complaining about battery life and possibly system failure due to water getting into places that it shouldn't be, but we have no gripes with any of those points - the fork's battery lasted around the claimed 40 hour mark in automatic mode, give or take one or two hours, and no amount of rain and jet washing seemed to upset its circuitry. When it comes down to it, our only real complaint, other than it locking out too quickly, boils down to an axle-to-crown length that is about 5 - 10mm longer than a 32 or SID. That might not sound like much, but it was enough for us to notice a slight change in the bike's handling, as well as to require moving a headset spacer from under the stem to on top of it. Pinkbike's Take:
|Are we ready to let the robots decide, or does the human brain and our left thumb know better? Well, after months and months of use, we still prefer to make the call on our own as to when to the fork locks out or not, with the manual function simply making more sense for how and where we ride. So, our TS8 eLECT fork ended up being a torsionally rigid cross-country fork with a wireless manual lockout that made for an extremely clean appearance, but that isn't to say that its automatic function won't work well for many other riders and racers. And it is true cross-country racers who will clearly benefit from the fork. Why is that? Anyone who has crested the top of a climb at their redline, breathing through their eyeballs with spittle hanging off of their chin, only to go into the upcoming downhill section with their fork still locked out will know exactly what I'm talking about. The TS8 eLECT does the thinking for you when you're too blown to do anything but try and keep pedalling, and if that sounds like a fun Sunday morning to you, then check out Magura's battery-assisted fork . However, more casual riders, even those who ride short travel cross-country bikes, might be better off on something else.- Mike Levy|