Cross-Counrty Race Performance Described with a German Accent
Reviewed by Steve Mabry
Magura’s Durin Race is billed a true cross-country race fork and when Alban Lakata took the 2010 World Marathon Championships aboard one of these German made forks he gave them a damn good endorsement. With that in mind, and that the Topeak/Ergon race team has racked up a truckload of successes on Magura Durin forks in 2010, it’s easy to say this is a serious race-conditions fork that has stood up to the test. But how does the fork fair under non mechanic-supervised conditions, i.e. in my possession?
Magura has been producing forks since 2008 but they are still better known for their brakes. Their initial fork introduction proved they had great ideas but high maintenance and leaky oil seals shadowed their introductory success.
Producing great mountain bike forks is not easy and the big brands—Fox and Rock Shox—have a huge jump on the game, making them tough to beat. But that’s not too say they can’t be.
The best thing Magura has going for them is their very German-like dedication to engineering perfection. They took feedback after their first generation of forks, and worked tirelessly to perfect the fork and fix the leaky seals—attempting to reach a happy balance between low friction and a good seal on the fork leg. With their 2011 forks, they appear to have solved that problem. I have been ridding this fork for 4 months now and so far have not had any problems with leaking seals.
|Magura's first generations of forks were great but had problems with leaking old seals. They appear to have solved the problem for 2011. These forks have four months on them and nice clean stansions.|
One of Magura’s initial design theories was to offer more linear travel in their forks compared to the competition. Linear travel means you get that nice smooth buttery, plush feel throughout the fork travel, giving you great small bump and big hit compliance. This is great on a long travel bike—Magura’s Thor fork is one of the best longer travel forks I’ve ridden—but feedback from racers made them rethink that a little for 2011 on their cross-country race forks.
A slightly more Progressive (compression damping increases as the fork travels further into the stroke) spring rate is desirable on a race fork to keep the fork from diving too much into the corners (making those aggressive race bikes with steep headtube angles unstable). So for 2011 Magura gave the Durin Race, SL, and Marathon models a more progressive spring rate.
Making a great cross-country race fork poses significant engineering challenges: I think it’s much more difficult than making a great trail or freeride fork. The demands of racing require a fork to perform well—remaining stable and not bobbing—during aggressive surges up climbs and still do it’s job on the ensuing steep, rooty, rocky descent. Physics dictates that you can’t have your cake and eat it too (or is that Murphy’s law?) so the best way to achieve this is using some sort of lockout or stable platform option. Magura’s engineers achieved good climbing performance with their Dynamic Lockout system (DLO).
DLO is a well executed lockout option because, while still being controlled by the rider, it acts similar to a stable platform valve as it will break free and allow full travel if a rider takes a big hit while it’s locked out (how many times have you either forgotten—or not had time—to unlock your fork after a long climb during the delirium of a race?). This ensures fast, efficient climbing and reliable control on the descents. All the Durin fork models come with a remote lockout control option, which is nice during a race as taking you’re hands off the bars isn’t recommended. It’s functional but the design could use a little work: it’s a cable operated control that feels a bit sticky and is far behind the hydraulically controlled option now offered by Rock Shox.
|Magura's Dynamic Lockout system is a well executed lockout, that allows for efficient climbing. If you fail to unlock it for a descent, it will break free and allow full travle.||The air valve is easily accessible for quick spring adjustments.|
When fully unlocked on the descent, the Durin Race has a great solid feel; they’ve done an awesome job of perfecting the spring rate for good compliance and reliable handling on a race bike. A rebound adjustment helps dial in the fork to the rider’s preferences and varying trail conditions.
Another challenge when designing a cross-country race fork is meeting the continuously plummeting weight expectations of racers while retaining the forks integrity on the stiffness scale. The Magura Race 100 weighs only 3.15 lbs. (if you demand even less, you can get the Durin SL, which sacrifices the lockout for a factory set platform to get the fork under 3 lbs) but the engineers at Magura made sure the fork remained surprisingly stiff.
The Race 100 is built with 32mm upper legs, a cold forged aluminum 6082 T6 fork crown and a unique double arch fork brace design. I attended the Magura media camp in Sedona Ariz. this spring and watched their lead engineer demonstrate why the double arch works so much better than a single arch.
Struggling a bit to describe it in English with a thick German accent, he held up the center tube of a paper towel roll and tried to twist it torsionally. It held its shape fairly well without twisting. Then he cut the roll in half lengthwise and easily twisted it torsionally with two fingers. The double arch on all of Magura’s forks has the same effect; the double brace circles the fork legs, completing the structure.
All the Durin forks are offered with 1-1/8 inch or 1-1/2 to 1-1/8 inch tapered steerer tubes, giving the option of addition stiffness. The only surprisingly omitted option is a 15mm quick-release skewer. Hopefully we’ll see this standard in the future.
|The durin race, like all Magura forks, has fantastic torsional stiffness due to a unique dual arch fork brace design. They are offered with 1-1/8 or 1-1/2 to 1-1/8 inch tapered steerer tubes. The only ommitted option is a 15mm quick release skewer.|
The recommended maximum brake rotor size on the Durin Race is 210mm (many cross-counrtry race forks limit the rotor size to 180mm), which could come in handy for taller/larger racers but mostly demonstrates the added strength and torsional stiffness of the fork legs.
I set the Durin race up on my singlespeed in early June 2010 and have since logged a ton of rides on it, including a few races. It obviously performs with racing in mind but that makes it a great cross-country ride fork as well. The fork has held up extremely well on the epic trails around Crested Butte, Colo.—with no major maintenance required during a full season of riding—and was easy to adjust to my liking. The torsional rigidity is immediately noticeable on the trail; it tracks through corners with predictable accuracy and, especially on my singlespeed, the Dynamic Lockout control is nice to have on the climbs. Performance on the descents is well balanced: it performs best on tight, fast, twisting singletrack with moderate rocks and roots. It can take the bigger hits but predictably the more progressive compression makes those hits a bit harsh.
Magura offers the Durin forks in 80 or 100mm travel (who rides and 80mm fork anymore?) in the versatile Race and minimalist SL models, and the 100-120mm (fixed or travel adjustable) Marathon version, which would be a better choice than the Race or SL if you expect to be hitting long rough descents more often.
What makes Magura’s forks stand out is precise engineering, well executed functional features, and an ability to build very light forks without sacrificing strength or stiffness. The mechanical reliability has vastly improved since their first generation of forks—making them competitive with Fox in that realm—and the specific race-tuned ride qualities of the Durin line make them a fantastic fork choice for weight and performance conscious cross country racers or riders.—S. Mabry
More info at Magura Direct