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New Magnesium Suspension Forks, Damping Tech and a Rigid Carbon Fork from DT Swiss

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SEA OTTER CLASSIC 2010 – DT Swiss showed off its finally-in-production new XMM  and EXM series forks with magnesium lowers, and an all-new full carbon rigid fork called the XR Rigid.

While modern 29er versions of their suspension forks are being prototyped (more on that further down), DT Swiss has jumped right into with both 26″ and 29er versions of the rigid carbon fork.  Retail on both sizes is $440, and weights are 375g (26″) and 570g (29er).  It’s shipping to distributors as we type this, so it’s basically available as soon as your shop can pick up the phone to order.  No rider weight limits were mentioned, but there’s a max rotor size of 180mm.

For the bouncy parts, the EXM and XMM forks were shown at Interbike, but the news on these is two fold:  First, they’re actually in production and shipping as of two weeks ago, so you can finally get them.  Second, they’ve completely redesigned the Launch Control and rebound damping knob, adding detents and making serious cosmetic and functional improvements.

For those not familiar with DT’s forks, 2010 is the first model year for the magnesium lowers.  Prior to that, all of their forks had carbon lowers, and that’s still an option, with the differences designated by the last letter of their model names…”C” for carbon, “M” for mag.  The real selling points for the mag models are lower price and increased stiffness versus the competition.  How?  Read on…


First, a few glamour shots of the XR Rigid carbon fork, just to get it out of our system.  Grabbing the lowers and twisting, this thing felt pretty stiff…and very light!


Phew!  That feels better.  Now, on to suspension:


The secret sauce of DT’s mag lowers is their Torsion Box panel, which is the shiny bit above.  They had lowers from a competitor’s fork on hand to bend, along with their own unassembled version.  With both, I felt like I almost broke them when I grabbed them by the bottom of the legs and twisted…very, very flexible, even the competitor’s version that typically gets rave reviews for stiffness.  Then I grabbed the DT lowers with the Torsion Box installed and twisted.  Or tried to.  The difference is simply stunning. There was virtually no flex, giving me the impression that these things probably track pretty darn true to where you’re point the handlebar, and that stiffness would equate to smoother action on the stanchions, too.  We’re working on getting one in to review.


This is what it looks like on the complete fork.


For controls, the EXM and EXC, which are DT Swiss’ Enduro Cross (EX, get it?) forks, both get a revised rebound damping/Launch Control knob that’s better looking and now has detents and clearly marked numbers so you can tell where in the settings you’re at.  New version is on left in pic above, old version on right.


The original version wasn’t detented and left riders wondering where they were as well as being easy to knock out of position.  The Launch Control is basically a three-setting compression/position control system.  Turning it off means the fork is wide open to perform based on the compression settings you set with the knob on the bottom of the fork (pictured below).  Fully on, and the fork is locked out.  In between, there is a small range of adjustment that lets the fork sink and stay about 30% into it’s travel and firms up the suspension a bit, bringing the front end down for extended climbing.


The Launch Control also features automatic deactivation.  Hit something hard enough and it’ll unlock and release the fork back into full travel mode.


The XMM and XMC forks are the more XC-oriented forks, falling just below the XC and XRC race-level forks.  The XM series gets DT’s new TwinShot damping system, which uses less oil volume (lighter weight, as you can see above…that’s for a 150mm travel fork.  3lb12oz = 3.75lbs) and helps cool the oil better by cycling it through the top of the internals, where it flows back to the bottom again.  It’s an open bath system, and it gives the fork a unique two-position lockout:


Essentially, what this means is you can lock the rebound out so that as it compresses, it doesn’t rebound up and remains compressed (good for lowering the front end as you climb) or you can lock out both compression and rebound (which is the same a full lockout) to keep the fork rigid.  It something only racers will probably appreciate and use, which is why it’s on the XM series and not the EX forks.


All of that is combined into a convenient top-knob on the driveside leg.  Blue is compression, red is rebound and silver is the multi-stage lockout.


Both the XM and EX series forks are available with standard 9mm QR or 15mm thru axle lowers, both for the mag and carbon versions.

XMM forks are available in 130mm and 150mm versions, prices range from $900 to $1,000 depending on skewer configurations and travel.  XMC ranges from $1,000 to $1,200).  A remote lockout is available in non-U.S. markets, but might be coming to our shores in the future. Enterprising folk can probably find it online if they’re willing to pay the shipping and conversion rates.

EXM forks come in 100, 120 and 140mm travel options, prices start at $800.

Looking for a 29er version or tapered steerer tube?  DT’s U.S. team told us those are in development, and the new 29er fork will use the new damping tech and be available in both carbon and magnesium versions.  They actually do have a 29er XMC 100 that launched a couple years ago, but you won’t find it on their website because it was for the U.S. market only, and there are only about 40 of them left in inventory. (DT Swiss’ U.S. office phone is 970-242-9232 if you’re interested).

Oh, and rumor is there’s also an adjustable travel prototype running around the trails out there somewhere…

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