DVO’s range of products has grown a lot since it first introduced the Diamond. There is now an array of forks to suit most folks, from trail riders through to Redbull Rampage huckers, there’s even a budget conscious Beryl available too.
For riders who don’t necessarily need 160mm+ of travel nor massive stanchions, DVO has the Sapphire. The Sapphire has smaller 32mm stanchions, up to 140mm of travel and chassis options to suit 27.5in wheels and 29in wheels. Into the plus thing? The 29er version will accommodate 27.5+ tyres up to 3.0in wide.
DVO offers the Sapphire in its signature green colour, but there’s also a less lairy black and a brown option for riders wanting to be more subtle on the trail.
Currently the 29er version uses a 51mm offset, while the 27.5in fork gets a 44mm offset. DVO has informed us that it intends to release more offset options this year for use on current generation bikes from Whyte, Transition and others.
For our test, we went with the bright green 29er model to slot into the front of my Production Privée Shan GT. This was also a good comparison test for the Sapphire against a close competitor; the RockShox Pike.
Although I left the fork at the full 140mm of travel for the duration of the test, DVO ships the fork with 2 x 10mm plastic spacers that can reduce the travel down to 130mm or 120mm. DVO states that the Sapphire can be reduced to 100mm of travel, but you’ll need to get hold of an additional set of spacers. Having undertaken a travel adjust procedure on a DVO Diamond fork recently, I can confirm that it’s a very straightforward procedure, which any capable home mechanic should be able to complete without the need for special tools.
The bright green chassis has a 15mm thru-axle up front with a quick release lever for fast wheel changes. The axle is tapered to save weight, and a nut in the left-hand leg lets you fine-tune the bite point of the cam to ensure your wheel doesn’t come loose. It’s a clean solution, and it gets a tough green anodised finish.
While the DVO Diamond is available in both Boost and Non-boost options, the Sapphire only has a Boost 110mm axle option.
Matching the green lowers is a green crown that a tapered alloy steerer is pressed and bonded to. As alloy steerers go, this one is pretty impressive and for ease of cutting has guides printed on to its surface at 10mm increments making the initial installation of the forks that much easier. DVO could have easily shipped the fork without these marks, but the fact they went that extra mile is appreciated.
Another neat detail is the integrated mudguard mounts found at the rear of the arch that allows you to fit the included guard. I’ve used these in the past in dusty conditions but for the UK’s mud and slop, a full-size guard is still a better option.
Compared to the Pike that was originally on our test bike, the 32mm tapered alloy stanchions of the Sapphire sound a little skinny and I was eager to learn if I would feel any noticeable difference between them and the 35mm stanchions of the Rockshox.
Compared to the Pike RCT3 that came off the bike, the Sapphire has significantly more adjustments to play around with. DVO uses air for the spring medium in the Sapphire, but does have a coil spring in the bottom of the left leg that can be externally adjusted by a feature DVO calls OTT, of ‘Off The Top’. More on that later.
Other adjustments that can be played with are the air pressure in the top of the left leg, low-speed and high-speed compression on the right leg, and rebound damping at the axle end of the right leg.
For anyone moving from a fork with fewer adjustments, all the knobs and levers found on the Sapphire might seem a little complicated, but DVO has put together a great set-up page on its website with easy to follow videos and instructions to get you up and running. Even if you feel confident with suspension set-up, I would recommend taking a look these pages as they have a couple of handy hints and tips to get you dialled in.
Once plugged into the front of my test bike I headed over to the DVO website to brush up on the settings for the Sapphire. You’ll see that there isn’t a dedicated Sapphire setup page, but as the features are the same as those found on the Diamond I just went ahead and followed those.
The first job is to set up sag. DVO recommends running between 15-20% of sag but I ended up at 25% on my hardtail, which is 35mm of sag at the full 140mm. The Sapphire has a green rubber ring to help you set up the sag easily.
Once you’re happy with sag it’s then time to adjust the OTT. OTT allows you to adjust the fork’s off-the-top sensitivity for the early part of its travel.
There are 14 full rotations of OTT available with each rotation made up of 6 clicks. I went with 6 full rotations of OTT – right in the base settings range that DVO suggests. Remember that when adjusting OTT you should first ensure the 5mm hex bolt is in its wide-open position by turning it all the way anti-clockwise. You then add full turns on clockwise until you’re happy and can fine-tune the feel with individual clicks.
Next up is rebound. DVO suggests setting the fork in its slowest rebound setting (turning it all the way clockwise) then increasing the return speed from there. In total there are 20 clicks of rebound range to get the fork fine-tuned. I settled on 9 clicks of rebound.
The last two settings are at the top of the right fork leg. Low-speed compression is handled by the green lever while high-speed compression is controlled by the black knob beneath it. When fine tuning the high-speed compression it can be quite difficult to grip the black dial, so DVO recommends using the green lever above for extra leverage.
Out of the range of 29 clicks, I opted for 4 clicks of high-speed compression and then left the low-speed in position 2, but I occasionally switched it to 6 for uphill out of the saddle sprints.
On the trail, the DVO Sapphire is frictionless and supple right out of the box. We’re talking buttery smooth performance from day one and that’s continued to be the case throughout our time with the fork.
I needn’t have worried about the 32mm stanchions, as I fell no discernible difference between the green DVO chassis and the slightly larger 35mm legs of the Pike it has replaced. Given the difference in size, that’s impressive.
As for suspension performance, well the Sapphire is just on another level. Not only are they smoother out of the box, but the range of adjustment means that you can dial the Sapphire in to feel exactly how you want them to feel.
I would say that the main defining feature of the Sapphire though is the OTT adjustment. This simple external adjustment allows you to fine tune the feel of your fork without worrying about air pressures. Just set your air pressure to give you the correct amount of sag and use OTT to dial in small bump compliance.
As there aren’t any internal volume spacers to play with you’ll have to fiddle with the compression damping to get the feel that you like. But with such a huge range on offer, you should be able to dial the fork in so that it remains plush without bottoming out all the time.
The DVO Sapphire is a flashy, feature-packed, high-tech fork. It might not be as chunky as some other options on the market, and if that does worry you there’s always the large Diamond to choose. But in my time with the fork, I have never once wished for anything stiffer.
OTT is the killer feature here that really lets you dial things into how you want them without sacrificing big hit or small bump compliance. I’d say that the only negative about the fork is that they do require you to set them up properly and it’s well worth going through the official DVO material online. It’s a lot more involved than simply plonking in a volume spacer, but spend the time to get it right, and you’ll get a high quality of suspension in the end.
|Tested:||by Andi for 3 months|