TPC Damper

In my previous post, I described the Absolute damper and recommended it for explosive, aggressive riders willing to trade some plushness for pedaling efficiency. Today, I’ll talk about the TPC damper, which I recommend for people looking for ultimate suppleness and flow. Forks with the TPC damper have a silver-blue dial at the top of the right leg.

Unlike Absolute, TPC is always active. If you hit a bump, a fork with TPC damping will soak it up. The benefit of TPC is that it allows you to control the rate at which the fork moves through its travel. As a result, you can tweak your fork’s settings to make the fullest use of your travel while minimizing bottom-outs. Here’s how you do it.

First, set up your spring preload to give you the right amount of sag. Once you’ve got it, leave your spring alone. Next, ride your fork with the damper in the middle of its range of adjustment. While you’re riding, if you find that you’re bottoming out frequently, turn the dial clockwise to increase the damping force. If you’re not getting full travel, turn the dial counterclockwise to reduce the damping force. (You may need to use a zip tie on one of your fork’s legs to confirm that you’re getting maximum travel.) Continue to make adjustments until you’ve found a balance that works for you. This may vary from trail to trail, so keep experimenting.

The beauty of the TPC damper is that it allows you to make the best use of your fork’s full travel. If you’re riding slow, technical singletrack with lots of roots and baby-head rocks, back off the damping so that you get maximum suppleness. If you’re riding a faster trail, dial in a little more damping so that you’re less likely to bottom out on a big hit.


Absolute Damper

The new Manitou website should be up very soon. There have been some hurdles along the way, so I appreciate everyone’s patience.

In the meantime, I thought I’d use this here blog to get a discussion going about our spring and damping technologies. Manitou has four fork damping technologies – FFD, TPC, Absolute, and TPC+. I’ll describe Absolute in this post.

In 2009, the Absolute damper will be available on the Drake, Minute, and the R7. In all our forks, the damper is located in the right leg as you look down from the rider’s perspective. Forks with Absolute dampers have a red dial at the top of the leg.

Absolute is a platform-style damper. This means that the fork can be set to remain rigid until a certain impact threshold is exceeded. The benefit is pedaling efficiency. As proponents of fully-rigid mountain bikes will attest, suspension has the potential to rob some of your pedaling energy – putting it into compressing a spring rather than propelling the bike forward. By introducing a bit of damping platform, you can get the benefit of suspension without the penalty of wasted energy. A little bit of platform will keep the fork rigid when you stand up and pedal on smooth terrain, yet still allow it to move through its travel over most bumps. A little more platform will keep the fork rigid during most out-of-the-saddle sprints or climbs, at the expense of a little harshness over stuff like washboard. A lot of platform will lock out the suspension for everything but a major, abrupt impact, like suddenly running into a rock or log.

In the case of the Absolute damper, there are six levels between completely open (no platform) to completely closed. You can adjust the damper all the way from one extreme to the other in about 1/3 of a turn. Since it’s adjustable on the fly, you can have the best of both worlds – suppleness when you’re going through the rough stuff and efficiency when you’re sprinting or climbing.

Setup on an Absolute-equipped fork is pretty easy. First, adjust the spring preload to achieve the desired amount of sag. Then ride! As you’re riding, play around with the damper adjustment knob to get a feel for the effects of the platform settings. Some people like to “set it and forget it”, while others like to make in-flight adjustments.

I typically recommend the Absolute damper to people who value speed over plushness. That’s not to say a fork with Absolute can’t be plush – only that you get the most from Absolute when you’re willing to trade a bit of plushness for an efficient conversion of pedaling effort into forward motion. It’s also good for explosive riders who like to climb out of the saddle and sprint out of corners. Riders who demand ultimate plushness and prefer to flow would do better with our TPC damper. More on that in another post.