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Dampers are key to how your fork feels. They're responsible for how the fork responds to terrain and rider input, adding control and predictability to your ride. After launching our premium-level Charger 3 RC2 damper, the development team wanted to apply their learnings to a brand new damper. Enter Isolator. 

The goal with Isolator was to develop a performance-oriented, three-position damper that is sensitive off the top while maintaining a consistent feel throughout travel, all packaged together in forks with an approachable price tag for mountain bikes and E-MTBs alike. Challenge accepted… and then knocked it way outta the park.

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Looking to all the discoveries made during Charger 3 development, the Isolator team started by implementing an Internal Floating Piston (IFP) design that keeps air and oil from mixing. The IFP coil spring allows for unparalleled responsiveness on impact and enhanced consistency through travel. With the IFP, they paired a dual-flow Rebound Piston to step up the rebound adjustment range. Then, they packaged it all together using a closed-system approach, utilizing the fork's upper tube to house the damper.

Compression 

So, how does this damper work? As the fork compresses, the Rebound Piston moves up through the damper and pushes displaced oil (from the shaft’s volume entering the scene) up through the head valve, which then pushes up against the spring-backed IFP. This is where the Open/Pedal/Firm adjustments come in—if the adjuster is Open, there are cutouts in the check plate on the head valve that are situated to maximize oil flow, and that oil compresses the IFP spring. 

The Open position offers the plushest and most responsive ride. With the adjuster set to Pedal, the check plate rotates to a smaller cutout to reduce oil flow through the head valve, causing more pressure to build in the damper. This leads to more damping for an efficient ride that still offers some squish when needed. Once the adjuster is set to Firm, the check plate rotates to block the oil flow into the head valve, restricting the oil flow path and forcing it through the high-speed shim stack, providing the most damping force for the maximum efficiency.

Dual-Flow Rebound

Isolator stands out among its peers because the Rebound Piston has a dual-flow rebound path. What does dual-flow mean? Oil flows through the piston in both directions: during the compression stroke, oil flows down through the ports in the piston, and on the rebound stroke, it flows up. This allowed the development team to control the rebound curve shape to feel exactly how they wanted it to feel. Depending on where the Rebound Adjuster is set during the rebound stroke, the oil will flow through either an easy or a hard flow path. When Rebound is opened, a red metering rod shaped like a golf tee rotates up to allow more oil to flow through the easy path. And vice versa, when the Rebound Adjuster is closed, the “golf tee” will rotate down to close off the oil flow and send the oil through the hard path, pushing past a shim stack to build more pressure on the rebound stroke. Pretty cool, eh?

So, How Does It Ride?

The coil spring above the IFP provides instantaneous back pressure on the oil pushing its way up, and forces the oil back down through the damper, giving the Isolator damper a highly responsive ride feel throughout travel. Isolator's dual-flow Rebound Piston provides an exact click-by-click adjustment range that mimics our premium Charger 3 damper so you can find the perfect rebound speed for you. Rest assured that your front wheel can track through any feature the trail may throw at it while providing support to keep you higher in your travel and predictability throughout the ride to reduce harshness. Oh, did we mention this damper is nearly silent?

Listen to your tires on the singletrack, or your buddy’s breathing as they chase you down… just not your damper.  

The Isolator damper can be found in the new Psylo Gold RC and Domain Gold RC forks. For questions about fitment and upgrades, check out the FAQ.  

Rider on a mountain bike riding down a rock face

Animations by Ray Bach. Photos by Brooks Curran and Nik Emerick. Words by Sarah Walter.