The DVO Saga

This isn’t a review. It is a good example of just one battle with a bike company this year and the struggles of trying to test products independently. This saga lost hundreds of euros, wasted a lot of time that could have been used to create actual review content and left what would have been a perfectly good bike for testing and riding hanging on the wall for months. Correct quality control may have avoided the entire saga.

I’m sure DVO products can be great performers when assembled and tuned properly. This article is not written to trash DVO in any way. Heck, I’ve even had dinner sat next to Bryson Martin – the CEO of DVO – in Taiwan when I worked at Pinkbike (you can make of that what you will, working at PB I had many dinners and nights out with all the major brands, I don’t recall paying often on those nights out). There’s already been a few internet battles about this fork with green-anodise fans, but here I’m simply relaying my real-world customer experience:

I ordered a DVO Onyx E1 and Jade X for the G16 (which you can win on my site now with brand new EXT ERA/Storia fitted) via the Unicorn Factory (UF) – the total cost was €1197.64 with a Sprindex spring, VAT, and shipping. I wanted it to go via UF to be pre-checked as I do not recommend buying any suspension off-the-shelf in case something like this story happens. The Italian distributor, 4Guimp, sent it directly to me – miscommunication somewhere along the line. I wasn’t happy about this, but thought we might as well fit them and get an idea of their stock performance, and we had a riding trip booked. Let’s go!


The products arrived and we fitted them in the usual way, including cutting the steerer to length. We followed DVO’s well-put-together setup guide which does have a lot of useful information in there, although judging by one of their distributors, it’s rubbish. See the image above. We pushed down on the fork and it felt terrible. We double-checked everything, recounting all clicks, fully deflating, compressing, and then re-inflating to the recommended pressures. It still barely moved. We gave it the benefit of the doubt and went to Finale for three days with camping and shuttles booked, plus the associated costs of going MTB riding: fuel, tolls, food and possibly a post-ride beer or two.

We hit the road hoping the fork would bed in and start working. This was our only option due to time limitations, lack of previous DVO knowledge and DVO-recommended oils/greases in stock for a quick strip and rebuild. Mat the Mechanic was riding the G16 as it was the bike we were building up for him using spares, the suspension was a key component we had to buy new. The Onyx fork was terrible to start with and after less than 4minutes of riding the brake hose guide fell off and disappeared, despite being torqued to the correct NM spec, luckily the hose didn’t catch in the wheel and cause an accident or damage the brake hose. Walking back up the hill to meet him pushing down the trail, searching in the undergrowth, faffing for a solution, we secured the hose with a zip tie we stole from another one of our bikes – 30 minutes later we were back on track.

After 1500m of descent the fork would still barely move – managing to squeeze just over 100mm out of the 160mm travel on some of Finale’s roughest trails. That evening I contacted three shops in Finale that I know well, none of them could offer any advice, or the time to take a look as it was Saturday night and they were super busy with the usual weekend influx of riders.

The next day we dropped the air pressures way below recommended for a 75kg rider and it would move somewhat, but was still brutally rough to ride over another 1500m of descent. I watched Mat ride along a few spots on the trail and it was clear to see the fork was not working, plus he could not keep up at all with me on the bike when he is usually close behind, in fact, he could barely get down some of the trails and he’s an expert level rider. On this second day, we tried opening and closing all the adjusters to see if anything would help it to actually move up and down as a suspension fork should do, but nothing helped.

Posting the sticky fork video above on a 10second Instagram story returned over 20x messages from other customers saying they have had similar problems from new, even a suspension centre replied saying they are the worst built products out there (my local tuner Rulezman refuses to work on any DVO product, along with NSRacing who I use frequently). The list of possible problems included the air spring being packed full of grease, too much or too little oil in the lowers, underfilled/under pressured dampers and badly sized/installed bushings. By now, it didn’t sound promising that this fork would work well without a lot of work to get it running, followed by further tuning to make it perform at its best.

At this point, I’m not really happy. It seems like everything I’ve bought new with my own money in the last 18 months has a problem with it. The other new single crown forks in the last year include a Fox 36 incorrectly assembled with too much grease in the air spring meaning the positive/negative pressures not balancing properly. A brand-new Ohlins 38, that was pre-checked by J-Tech including bushing sizing, worked nicely for a grand total of two whole days. After this, the bushings swelled leaving an extremely sticky fork, eventually fixed under warranty, with the explanation it was a “small batch problem with bushings” – it’s funny how small batch problems seem so common. All these products cost over £1000 at RRP and are touted by the brands as their flagship high-end products.

After contacting Unicorn Factory we received the usual response “just send it back and we will have a look at it.” I can’t blame UF for this, as without having the product in hand they can’t sort it. But, this is the point that I can no longer accept this answer as I hear it all the time: it’s the standard get-out-of-jail-free response that all bike brands use along with “it was a pre-production sample” every time a paid-for media review cracks a frame or has a problem.

My response was that this is not good enough. One weekend already wasted and a lot of time and money to try and get Mat some nice riding time on his new bike. We also had a two-week racing trip planned to Slovenia which then needed to be cancelled and wasted more £££. Sending it back (especially with terrible Italian couriers) would mean another week or two of waiting, and it might not be great when it came back.

I asked for some suggestions of things to check ourselves – maybe there was an easy fix? UF had no ideas as they don’t yet have experience with this product, but they did ask DVO and 4Guimp for suggestions. I also asked for a refund, after all, if I bought a new iPhone (a product of a similar value) surely it would be fixed or replaced instantly, no questions asked?

DVO themselves responded saying it was not their problem, it was a distributor issue. This seemed strange as DVO is the company that manufactures the products in their own, or a third-party factory – SR Suntour’s factory I’m led to believe. I assumed wrongly that they might be interested in getting their customers on working products.

4Guimp asked me to send a detailed email of the problems I had and why I wanted a refund.

A few weeks later there had been no response from 4Guimp. Despite hassling The Unicorn Factory (I don’t blame the Unicorn Factory as they never saw or touched the product) who were then hassling 4Guimp,  I was told I would be contacted to discuss the problem. More hassle and I was told Enrico Guala (4Guimp CEO and EWS organiser) would contact me and never did. He’s a really busy man so I don’t blame him. Enrico has been a great friend for years since I started racing his SuperEnduro and EWS races in 2012, hopefully, we still will be after this.

One big frustration for me since starting these independent tests and simply wanting to relay the truth is I have friends and acquaintances in most bike brands somewhere. It’s not fun to have to be negative because of badly made products. Hopefully, I’m not burning too many bridges and damaging the relationships I’ve built up over 20 years in the industry.

So, I put the products back in the box with a letter asking for a refund and posted them back at my own expense.

Parcel tracking showed the product was received and signed for after a few days. Weeks and weeks later I still had nothing. I pressured Unicorn Factory again, and eventually, they got a credit note… 

…minus a €138 + 22% VAT re-stocking fee. The Unicorn Factory is a new company and another friend, who didn’t really have the cash to send me back as all he had was a credit note. It sounds like after this experience he will be another tuner unlikely to bother with DVO again, I’m sure this also cost him a few quid in time and money, plus the stress of having to deal with a moaning bastard like me. Weeks and weeks of more pressure and I got the actual money refunded, still minus the fee.

Then I called Enrico personally to ask about the fee, as I mentioned earlier, we are friends so I have his personal number. To keep an already long story short, the answer was that 4Guimp claimed there was nothing wrong with the product and now it is used, so I had to pay the re-stocking fee.

In my mind, there are only a few ways that there could be “nothing wrong with the product.”

1 – I have no idea how mountain bike suspension should work

2 – Someone at 4Guimp doesn’t know how suspension works (e.g. it should move up and down)

3 – It fixed itself by magic in the post

4 – The DVO setup guide is way out

5 – It did function correctly. In this case, it is one of the worst MTB suspension products ever made



So there we have it, about 4 months wasted in total, loss of money for UF, 4Guimp and me, plus there’s no interesting review content for my great loyal followers, and about €4000 of bike hanging on the wall not being ridden or making money for me to invest in more products to test.

If anybody bothered to read my waffle until this point, they might suggest some of the following:

“Paul Aston should have tested the product further and found out the problem and fixed it,”

Now call me crazy, but I believe these products should arrive in working order. The brands that manufacture these products are responsible for this. After all, their marketing blurb makes many performance claims and DVO stands for “DeVelOped Suspension. Go and check out the Norco Shore Saga on my youtube channel – I already did plenty of prototyping work for them to make a mountain bike function to ride up and down mountains. Eventually, after I was initially told most problems were my fault, Norco admitted responsibility, they changed and upgraded their bikes including sending new parts to existing customers thanks to all my work. I just lost a LOT of time and money in the end.



“All suspension should be stripped and checked first, then tuned to get the best out of it,”

I agree that all suspension can be tuned for better performance and made to suit the rider. I would have been happy to try and tune it further if it at least worked in the first place. Stripping and checking it first? I’ve never in my life seen a suggestion printed ANYWHERE on any bike brands’ literature or setup guides to do this. If I opened a box to read a big warning sign saying “Please take this suspension to a (insert brand here) service centre or strip and check for correct assembly before use” then this is a fair point. 


“It’s unfair to compare an out-of-the-box product against the custom-tuned stuff you have like the NSR Boxxer or Dorado RRT”

Some comments suggested that I was comparing this product unfairly to the other incredible products that I am very lucky to own via some of the world’s best tuners. It is true that this would be an unfair comparison. But the fork literally didn’t work so I never even got to the point of comparing it against anything else.


My conclusion and the reason why I went through all this rather than “just send it back,” is to imagine the following:

You’re brand new to mountain biking. You got hooked on bikes watching people send jumps and shred the gnar on youtube. You discover your new favourite pro riders. You follow them, you see nice reels of their suspension effortlessly moving up and down. You read reviews that say these products are great. You work hard, you save up thousands of £€$.

BOOM! It’s go time. Pull the trigger, order the parts, and receive them. They look amazing and are green anodized to the hilt. Enthusiastically build up the bike and follow the setup guide. Book your weekend away, pack up and head to the hills. You start riding, it’s difficult, your hands start to hurt, and it doesn’t look like much is happening in the travel department. You don’t question it as you have no idea how these things should work or feel on the trail. You assume it’s normal, after all, all those posts you read, the brand’s website claims and the thousands you spent can’t be wrong, can they?

A year later. Someone more experienced at the cafe tries your bike. They tell you your suspension sucks and isn’t working properly. You investigate. Turns out it was never assembled correctly and you feel like your first year of riding was a waste of time and money. On the upside, you survived a year of riding without an injury caused by a faulty product.


If I had just sent it back to be checked, or fixed it myself, and didn’t force myself to write another boring, negative and condemning article (I take no pleasure in any of this saga, I just want to buy nice stuff, test it, tell you its great, and then sell it in a competition to make a little salary), then there would be no pressure on the companies to improve their products and processes. They would continue selling stuff and making money and there may be lots of people like in the story above.

If these companies cannot deliver the products working correctly, then all of the development time, marketing, sponsoring pro-riders and everything else that is involved in getting the product to the consumer is a waste of time. Hopefully, with me complaining and bringing these issues to light, we will all get better bikes
and have more fun on them. Get your shit sorted out and let’s #buildbikebetter together!

End Notes:

I sent this article to a number of industry friends who work in MTB media or companies for feedback. They all agreed it was a fair story.

I sent it to The Unicorn Factory who was happy for me to publish it.

I sent it to Enrico Guala via whatsapp for feedback, he responded quickly saying he will check it and get back to me. Since then I received no response.

I didn’t send it to 4Guimp directly as they never responded to me previously.

I didn’t send it to DVO directly as they already denied responsibility.

I previously communicated with DVO New Zealand via Instagram who had debated me online about this situation. They had offered to fix and tune my products out of goodwill, or that I could borrow some prepared lowers from a local pro/supported rider, but I declined as that is not standard customer service from the original seller in the EU. They seem like nice helpful guys who have real faith in their DVO products that they build from scratch and tune to suit the rider before shipping out. I asked them to quote me (on the 15th June) for a prepared DH-spec fork and shock so that I could test their DVO products back-to-back over the summer against my Rulezman and NSR products  – I never received a quote.

The Honesty Challenge:
If DVO are unhappy about this article, then here is my suggestion: DVO can send me two pairs of suspension free of charge. Two DH forks for 29″ wheels and two 250x75mm shocks, with the correct spring rates (300/325/350lb) and hardware (25×8 and 40×8) – email me for the shipping address.

I will buy a third matching set with my own money from a random online shop. Before riding anything, I will take everything to an independent suspension expert. They will dyno test all the units to compare friction, springs, and dampers for consistency. They will strip and inspect all units and rebuild them to the manufacturer’s spec.

If they are consistent, then I will test them. If they are amazing on the trail and outperform my other existing products, I will continue to use them (one set supplied by DVO, and one set I purchased) on two of my bikes over the next few months or years, until something better comes along.

After testing, I will give the (brand new) second set supplied by DVO away in a competition to try and make back the money lost on this saga and to pay the independent suspension centre for their time.

I don’t think I can be any fairer than that?


You can now win this bike featured here on my competition page. Freshly built with EXT suspension and set up for the winner with a full warranty from GeoMetron Bikes, UK.