One of the main things I wanted to see at the Sea Otter Classic this year was DVO Suspension’s new Emerald Inverted downhill fork. I’ve been seeing photos of it on Facebook for a while but Sea Otter was my first chance to see it in person. I can now report that the DVO Emerald is just as sexy in the flesh (so to speak) as it is on Facebook. It definitely looks like a polished, finished product and I dig the green anno finish on the uppers – a color DVO chose because it stands out so well from other mountain bike suspension products.
If you haven’t heard of DVO yet or you don’t know where they come from, they’re a new suspension company started by the former management and key ex-employees from Marzocchi USA. The Emerald is their first project, although they’re also working on a rear shock called the Jade.
The DVO Emerald Inverted fork has an open-bath air spring design with 36mm stanchions and 42mm tapered upper tubes (these would be the “lowers” in a non-inverted fork). It uses “off-the-top” negative air spring preload to fine-tune the initial part of the stroke for improved traction. The right fork leg has an adjuster for high and low speed compression on the bottom, and a rebound adjustment dial on the top. There’s an air cap on the top of the left fork leg, where the air spring is located. The Emerald has forged crowns and the lower crown is hollow to save weight. The wheel is mounted to forged magnesium dropouts with a 20mm axle. DVO also made the fork easy to service with an easy access cartridge that can be removed without messing with the fork oil. They weren’t specific about the weight of the Emerald, but they said it weighs “about” 3100 grams. That’s a bit more than claimed weights for the top-of-the line RockShox, Fox, Marzocchi and Manitou DH forks. But if the Emerald works better, maybe the weight doesn’t matter so much.
Why an inverted fork? The whole point of suspension is to isolate mass from trail inputs, smoothing the ride and providing better traction and control. The more mass you can suspend, the better the ride will be. Turning the fork upside down suspends more weight, giving you even better control – in theory, anyway. The tradeoff is – or at least is supposed to be – less stiffness. However, Bryson Martin, the man in charge at DVO, told me he thinks a bit of fork flex can be a good thing. Since high-end carbon fiber rims and frames are so much stiffer now, he believes a little more flex in the fork is a benefit. There is precedent for that idea, too. Back in the early nineties, motorcycle roadracing technology improved very quickly resulting in super sticky tires and stiff chassis. That combination produced horrific highside crashes when the tires broke traction. The solution was to re-introduce some flex into the motorcycle chassis to give the tires a bit of breathing room. Similarly, Bryson says the flex in the Emerald adds a little give that makes it a more compliant over big, square-edged hits and that should mean a smoother, more controlled ride.
One interesting innovation DVO has made with the Emerald is a combination stanchion protector / arch that adds torsional stiffness to keep the fork from twisting. They call it the Carbon Torsion Arch (CTA) and it feels very light and stiff in the hand. How much it improves the ride is impossible for me to say since I didn’t actually get to try the fork. It is a one-of-a kind feature though and could give the Emerald a real edge over the Manitou Dorado, the one other upside down fork currently on the market.
I’m not sure when we’ll get a chance to try out the Emerald, although I am planning a trip to Southern California where DVO is located. So maybe I’ll get to check it out soon. I don’t think very many people besides DVO insiders have ridden it yet. Cedric Gracia is on the DVO team and picked up his fork at Sea Otter. He rode his 29er trail bike in the Sea Otter DH so he didn’t race the Emerald fork but he did go out for some photos and video with it. You can see that DVO-produced promo video below.
The DVO Emerald Inverted fork is scheduled to be available late this summer. DVO hasn’t set a price yet but they say it will be in line with the Fox 40 and other high-end downhill forks. For more information on the Emerald Inverted and other DVO Suspension products, please visit their Web site: