The Manitou Dorado is a legendary downhill fork and has now been revamped to bring it firmly into the 21st Century.
Pete sat down for a chat with Phil Ott, Manitou’s Product Manager to see how they go about updating a legend.
What was the impetus for updating the Dorado?
The current Dorado chassis was released in 2010, at the time it was revolutionary product and was able to stay competitive for a long time with the updates that we implemented throughout its 11 years of service. As bikes improved, riders got faster, and tracks advanced we recognized it was time to improve the Dorado platform and restore its rightful place back at the top of DH suspension offerings.
Once you’d made that decision, what happens next?
Research and asking questions. Recognising what needs to be improved, what have we learned from other projects and gathering as much data as possible.
How many people are involved and what do they do?
Not sure we have enough space to run through everyone who worked on this project so I will touch on a few highlights. First is our design engineer who worked on the original Dorado project, he has the most experience with the Dorado, has seen the fork underneath countless riders, and had some great ideas on what could be improved.
Our product team pulls together feedback and knowledge from multiple parts of our organization and the cycling industry as a whole. Product and engineering work together to find the limits of what is possible, when we set our direction we work with test riders from around the world to refine the tuning and deliver the perfect fork come launch day.
What did you want to achieve with the new fork?
I would say the goal was to blow the entire cycling industry away with a fork that works so well you forget about what it’s doing. You focus on riding to your limit, push past it, and can’t believe you have a fork that does everything you want it do, and nothing you don’t.
Have you ever considered running an upright Dorado?
Yes and no. Yes, but if we did make an upright dual crown it wouldn’t be called a Dorado.
No, we feel the inverted fork is the best chassis for DH riding. Its smooth suspension action, ability to track through impossible lines, and reduction of fatigue on your hands and arms is unmatched.
How many prototypes did you go through before getting to the finished product?
This is another tough number to pin down. We started test riding Dampers and Air springs in 2018 and moved through the entire fork before every component was optimised. Before the forks ever hit the dirt, we did enough engineering design, dyno, and lab testing to make your head spin. Once the lab work is completed, we send the fork to our Hayes Test Pilots (HTP) to ride the forks and confirm our findings in the lab. After the big changes were completed, we fine-tuned the fork by making one small change at a time until we landed on our current tunes and chassis.
How important are athletes in developing new bikes?
Having a wide range of ability levels who can articulate exactly what the fork is doing, what they like, and what they would like to change is very important. Using this feedback from riders around the world who ride in very diverse areas is crucial. We know that no two riders are the same, so the ability to tune the fork to work with different riders, bikes and trails is something we work very hard at.
How did you know when you’d got it right?
When what we set out to do was achieved, a fork that feels like such an extension of your body that you forget about what it’s doing and focus on your lines with confidence. It does everything you want it, and nothing you don’t. Feedback from our test riders included statements like; “wow, I have never felt a fork like this”, “the new chassis is so much more confident”, “ I am not giving this fork back”. Those were all good indicators our work was almost done.
There were a lot of favourite moments from everyone on the team. I know everyone was super excited the first time they rode the new chassis, the feeling of the fork in that first turn and rock garden was a totally new experience and instantly everyone felt the potential of it. One of my favourite moments was riding the production level Pro at Angel Fire for the first time. I dropped into World Cup, which is a track I have ridden for over 15 years. I was riding sections more confidently than I ever had, laughing at how well the fork was working. I had a similar experience in 2010, when I first rode the last new Dorado, it was totally eye opening. After a few runs all I could think about is how far DH bikes have come, and how much better this new fork was.
Any disasters? (Other than COVID)
We didn’t have any disasters, however one of our test riders took a nasty spill at Windrock that resulted in a big bruise on his hip. But that would be classified under user error, speed may have been a factor.
Where next for Manitou?
We are a very technically minded company, we iterate, test and ride until the product is perfect. We are always working on new product and applying what we learn in our latest project to our next. Keep an eye on our website and social media for hints of what is next.
You can check out the new Manitou Dorado on their website here.