Here is some extreme eye candy for mountain bikers who look at canyons and think ‘meh, I can gap that!” The fabled Dorado Pro from Manitou has been totally re-engineered by some of the top folks in suspension development. After ordering my Dorado Pro ($1,750 MSRP, gulp) I was sleepless for nights until it arrived. The best mountain bike technology doesn’t usually come cheap and these hand assembled beauties are no exemption.
The Dorado Pro is handcrafted at Manitou’s HQ in Wisconsin by Chris Volbrecht, a dedicated and degreed engineer (not some assembly line worker who just follows an instruction sheet). Chris rides, commutes, and races his mountain bike as much as anyone at Hayes Bicycle Group. “He’s an asset and part of our test group as well so he’s contributing all over the place here,” said Richard Travis.
It’s guys like Chris at Manitou who ensure consistency in performance from fork to fork (much like at Ferrari). Think about it, you get a top level engineer who really knows his stuff assembling forks by hand one at a time and not in Taiwan or China for that matter. When my fork arrived I felt like I had my own personal race engineer working for me. To top it off the fork arrived in a reusable case that looks like a padded rifle case (I had fun explaining that one to the customs officer). When you purchase the Dorado you also get one year of free service so you can use the plastic case to send the fork back and forth. Just tie wrap the locking points closed, contact Manitou, and send it off.
The Dorado Pro along with the Answer DH direct mount stem and Answer ProTAPER 780 DH bars.
A bit on the technical side
Unlike the top shelf carbon fiber Dorado MRD, the Dorado Pro is made of 7050 aluminum. Other than that, internally both forks are the same. The inverted configuration on this year’s Dorado is totally different from the previous Dorado forks and the chart below quantifies some of the other changes the fork has seen over time (thanks to the folks at Manitou for providing this).
The key improvement for 2010 is the sealing of the new Dorado which is especially important since the fork is essentially flipped upside down. The damping technology, Manitou’s TPC+ (Twin Piston Chamber), uses dedicated pistons for compression and rebound. A third trick piston adjusts the damping curve even further depending on travel.
The Dorado features Manitou’s proven 20mm hex through axle bolt to ensure that down at the axle everything stays stiff and pointing straight ahead. The axle is held in place with four M5 bolts which secure the aluminum axle after you install the wheel. Although it may seem like overkill, side wheel impacts (think boulders in a rock garden) can create momentary forces as high as 55,000 psi (yes I did the math) on a single M5 bolt. While most hardware can handle those forces, Manitou designed the Dorado for maximum redundancy and reliability on the World Cup circuit. To make sure the lowers are further protected, the M5 bolts are threaded into a proprietary steel clamp nut rather than an aluminum clamp.
The Dorado Pro feels bottomless thanks to the hydraulic bottom-out circuit that basically covers your butt whether you come up short, miss a landing, or overshoot. This is a something you won’t see in other forks and the great thing is you don’t have to think about it when you’re jumping.
Up top you have your choice of either a flat or dropped clamp stem using the Dorado’s upper triple clamp. Based on my riding style I decided to go with the direct bolt-on DH stem from Answer. The DH stem allows you to choose from three offset positions which are indexed at 45, 50, and 55mm. The great thing about the Answer DH stem (other than the super clean machining) is the 61mm wide face plate that really holds the bar in place. If you’re going triple clamp, spend a few extra bucks to get a direct bolt-on stem. With a direct bolt-on stem, the steering input forces are directly transmitted to the fork rather than via the steering tube to the fork. Plus getting the bars aligned with the fork will be one less thing to worry about.
NOTE: Unless you have all the correct tools and completely understand the installation instructions, do not attempt to do this job yourself.
Given the amount of money this fork costs, I don’t recommend attempting to install this yourself unless you know what you’re doing. Otherwise it’s a very expensive experiment. For the experienced bike mechanic, installing the Dorado is about as easy as any other fork on the market. My trick for installing a triple clamp fork is to have both the upper and lower clamps as close to the bearing cups as I can get them to keep everything as stiff and compact as possible. My OPUS Nelson frame is designed around a onepointfive head tube while the Dorado’s steering tube, like most others on the market, is a 1 1/8″ steerer. To make everything fit together I used the Cane Creek XXc adapter headset.
Once the headset cups were in place I installed the lower crown race to the fork. I measured the stack height and decided to go with the flat upper crown since it falls between the recommended cup-to-cup measurement. Once the clamps were in place (torque them to 95-110 in-lb) I measured the steering tube extensions and cut enough off to leave room for two 5mm spacers and the top cap. People make a critical error here and cut the tube to the height of the top of the upper clamp and that is a BIG mistake. Don’t forget to leave additional steering tube length for that top cap.
Once that’s all set, the stem and the rest of the installation is easy. Use a torque wrench for all remaining bolts and note that disc size is limited to 8″ (even for a guy my weight this works fine). Your only real choice here is the adapter that you use (international standard or post mount).
Configuring the Dorado Pro
Configuring the Dorado suspension settings takes both time and patience, sorta like an F1 car. You’ll need to adjust the main air spring pressure, low speed compression, high speed compression and rebound; knowing the sequence is half the battle here. Go for a few good rides first, bouncing the suspension to get everything well lubed before changing any settings. Now you’re ready to set the air spring pressure.
To set the fork’s air pressure, remove the black cover on the left side of the fork and set the sag to 30% of the full extension length (about 35 – 45mm). After following Manitou’s extensive setup guide and inflating the shock I was able to get the proper sag in no time.
Next up is the high speed compression setting (black bezel ring) on the lower right of the fork. Test this on a familiar section of trail that you know well, preferably one with lots of jumps and square edged rocks. I like to set up my fork so it doesn’t blow through the travel too quickly while taking the “sting” out of my wrists when landing. In a nut shell, look for a smooth, controlled event.
After the high speed circuit is set you can adjust the TPC + circuit (low speed). This comes into play when you’re riding berms, rolling hills, or off the saddle pedaling. Just remember to hold the high speed adjust before setting the TPC+. Look for a fork that doesn’t feel too rigid over the berms or chatter over small bumps (too much compression). Also make sure the fork isn’t so soft that it feels slow to respond or wallowy.
Rebound (the knob on the right) is the last setting and this one controls how quickly the fork returns from compression. Having too much rebound tends to keep the fork compressed longer and packs down over multiple hits (losing travel in the process). With too little rebound you get a fork that pushes you up off the bike and the front tire doesn’t follow the terrain well. That in turn may cause you lose your line, grip, and time.
The good thing about the controls is they’re all easy to adjust without removing your gloves. That’s a big plus since you may find yourself tweaking things many times down a single run. And the detentes have the most positive feel to date.
Riding the Dorado
Hitting the slopes on a Dorado is like nothing else. Have you ever had one of those moments on the trail where what you see and what you feel isn’t in sync? Riding a Dorado is a lot like that. During testing I watched as my bike flew over boulders and nasty terrain but that wasn’t what I felt. Instead I got a nice controlled ride while the suspension worked like mad beneath the bars. Even after big drops I got super controlled cycles.
One of my most memorable rides with the Dorado was on a freshly redone O-Cup course at Kelso with two large jumps. There’s a rock garden followed by some high frequency ripples and a G-out before the first jump followed by another G-out up to the second large jump with a smooth transition to a 4-foot step down. What an awesome rush! You would expect to be all over the place with that one yet the bike literally follows exactly where you point it. A testament for sure to the performance of the Dorado and the Opus that it attaches too.
If I could collect frequent flyer points with this fork I would be rich. The Dorado loves the rough stuff and will certainly put a smile on your face. Even daunting rock gardens that would blow through the travel on most forks is a cake walk for the Dorado Pro.
Here is my performance chart for the Manitou Dorado Pro:
As you can see from the chart, this fork is about as perfect as you can get. Manitou really did their homework and the result is an awesome fork that works oh so well on the slopes.
Details from Manitou:
|Adjustments:||Air, HS Compression, LS Compression, TPC+ Timing, Rebound|
|Spring:||Large-volume, low pressure air spring|
|Steerer:||Aluminum 1 1/8″|
|Crown:||Alloy (hollow lower)|
|Wheel Size:||26 & 29″|
|Usage:||Freeride, Big Mountain, Park, & DH Race|
|Travel||Color||Axle||Brake Mounts||Weight (g)||Weight (lbs)||Ride Height|
|203mm (internally convertible to 180mm)||Black ANO||Hex-Lock 20mm||Post and IS-mount brackets included. 8″ only.||2974||6.55||565 / 588|
I would like to thanks the Folks at Manitou for setting me up with the Dorado for review as well as the good folks at OPUS for a perfect platform to mate the Dorado with.