The new kids on the block are off to a running start, DVO have successfully done the un-thinkable – taken on RockShox and FOX and delivered products that do a whole lot more that just hold their own in the most hotly contested realm of mountain bike parts, suspension.
DVO are a new Californian suspension company with seriously experienced and credentialed staff, their fresh approach to mountain bike suspension is really turning heads. After what seemed like an age of prototyping, their first product was released, the wildly desirable inverted downhill fork – the Emerald. DVO began with the downhill fork, sending a message to the MTB world that they are cutting their teeth in the Formula One of mountain bike racing; downhill racing. Their Jade coil-sprung rear shock and Diamond (someone there must love geology) single crown fork would then follow, released to eager hoards of suspension-savvy folks.
Brisbane-based suspension sales and servicing and custom tuning experts NSDynamics have picked up Australian distribution for DVO, a fitting relationship no doubt.
On test we have the Diamond, the single crown enduro fork, travel is internally adjustable between 140-160mm, has 35mm diameter legs and a 15mm QR axle. The air sprung fork can be externally tuned easily in five ways, testament to the dedicated focus from DVO to offer professional level tuning at consumer level.
We chose the 150mm version for 27.5″ wheels, fitted it to our super-sweet Trek Remedy 27.5 9.8 and gave ’em hell.
– 27.5″ and 29″ wheel options.
– Black or green colour option (phew!).
– 15mm QR axle.
– Custom mudguard fender included.
– Air spring.
– Closed cartridge bladder system.
– On the fly low speed compression adjustment.
– High speed compression adjustment.
– OTT ‘off the top’ negative spring adjustment.
Setting up the fork was super easy, and for the purpose of this review we followed each step of the online setup guides from the DVO website. With the recommended air pressure, rebound and compression settings done by the book we were very happy with the outcome. The base settings were ideal and made for a perfect starting point for fine tuning either side to our liking.
Each little adjustment you make is clearly noticeable, this is one fork that rewards the keen tuner. With a bit of trial and error it’s easy to find what works best, and if you have a good grasp of suspension fundamentals you can both benefit from and enjoy the process the excellent adjustments offer.
Once you have a good idea of how the fork feels out on the trail, you could take the setup even further and more technical with extra customising of the fork’s internals with assistance online. The DVO website is stacked with videos, step-by-step tutorials and it’s provided in a way that is all very clear to get your head around.
O.T.T. It’s this O.T.T. ‘off the top’ adjustment that sets the DVO Diamond apart from the overwhelming duopoly of RockShox and FOX. Especially handy for heavier riders, the O.T.T. is the allen key dial under the left side of the leg that will allow you to tune the ride height and sag via the negative air spring. Dialling it in will increase the softness and suppleness of the initial portion of the travel.
Typically with forks we use most the negative air spring would be factory set, and not adjustable like this. But be sure to have an understanding of what is going on with the O.T.T. adjustment, too much or too little will mess with the fork’s height.
We’ve become very familiar with the ‘token’ system used in the RockShox Pike and Fox 34 and 36 forks we’ve been using. The simple process of adding and removing plastic spacers from inside the fork to tune the progressiveness of the air spring has been widely accepted and understood, in the case of the DVO Diamond you can still do this, but it’s back to the old school way of adding a certain volume of oil to the air chamber.
That said, we were happy enough with how the air spring rate felt to not want to tweak air spring volumes. It’s aimed at the enduro crowd and is meant to be ridden hard and DVO seem to have nailed the right curves with this one.
Let’s cut to the chase, these forks are bloody great.
We all know what a really nice fork feels like to push on and the Diamond’s are next level, their supremely supple action will provoke and endless quantity of ooohs and aaahs from anyone who asks to cop a feel. Straight out of the box, our experiences were always very positive, right until the day we reluctantly sent them back.
In a perfect world a good suspension fork should reduce fatigue (especially in the hands), maintain front wheel traction, break down harsh hits, resist wallowing or diving under brakes, ride high in its travel and recover from big impacts without rebounding uncontrollably.
Well, the Diamond gets top marks in all grades.
We were most impressed by the way the Diamond does such a magnificent job of being ultra-supple and sensitive, whilst remaining perfectly supportive. For instance you could be riding hard out of the saddle, really leaning over the bars with the forks compressed deep into its travel through a corner and it will still react rapidly to extra impacts. The damping feels incredibly effective.
Or you could be charging up a trail toward a set of rock ledges and the moment the front wheel makes contact it’s like the forks are ready for it, immediately absorbing the impact without a moment of stiction, binding or hesitation. When a fork can do this so well, less shock is transferred to your hands and your momentum is less interrupted by the terrain on the trail, keeping you up to speed without having to work hard for it.
With this fork on our bike we were riding our regular trails faster than before.
With a quick flick of the slow speed compression dial the fork will ride higher and resists any slow speed actions that you would deliver, like pedalling or lunging around over the bars during a climb. It took us a while to get right though, as it turns in the opposite direction to all forks we’ve had time on.
On the harder descents the Diamond really comes into its own. The chassis stiffness is ideal, not too stiff but never feeling flexy. With the fork feeling so sensitive we found ourselves cornering harder with increased confidence, it works so hard at keeping the front wheel in contact with the ground that the traction on hand is amazing.
Holding your line on off-camber and rocky surfaces was a snack with so much traction and control.
During our testing we learnt not to set up the Diamond like we would with a RockShox or FOX fork, it just didn’t work that way as they are really quite different. Our DVO fork – once setup how we liked – felt quite a lot softer than the others, but on the trail the damping would prevent it from bottoming out like we may have expected.
Same goes with the slow speed compression, a little bit goes a long way in reducing unwanted bobbing or diving.
The Diamond certainly does live up to the hype. It’s a really impressive product that will reward a keen rider’s attention to tuning.
The way it reacts to impacts so effortlessly and rapidly will surely make you ride very fast with maintained momentum, and you’ll most certainly be able to hold your line on rough terrain very well.
So, is the Diamond better than a RockShox or a Fox fork? Tough question, during our test we did have an issue with the damper (a knocking feedback, rectified by a just a dab of grease, and the O.T.T. dial went a bit stiff on us) that was swiftly rectified by the guys at NSDynamics, and we had it back in a couple days. But otherwise our experiences were overwhelmingly positive.
They are really quite good value, albeit a little heavy.
We’d say that the Diamond we tested felt better than any stock fork we’ve ever ridden, but when compared to a perfectly maintained and meticulously adjusted fork from either RockShox or FOX it’s splitting hairs to differentiate.
Investing in a DVO Diamond for your bike is a seriously good idea, we’d buy one.