Pros: Light, Stiff, Air Sprung
Cons: Carbon's Expensive
For some reason the Dual Slalom / Freeride scene hasn't taken a hold of me. Probably because I'm in South Florida right now. But that's not enough reason for some gear heads. So when I was shopping for a new fork, I immediately discounted the latest offerings of big dual crown springers. Riding in the South East is really mostly cross country riding. Granted there's some nasty stuff in further North, but you have to pedal that big fork to the top first.
I picked up a new fork, because I was so fed up with my Judy XC. It was a primo fork when I bought it, but they made too many mistakes with their compression dampening cartridges. I blew out three, which led me to replace the whole thing with some Judds (Coil Springs). Well without compression dampening, you tend to overcompensate with preload, and this led to a pretty harsh ride. I eventually played all of the slider bearings out and ended up with a fork that rode with a similar action to the old Girvins. This killed my technical riding and jumping. I couldn't work a lip, because the fork flexed back behind me, throwing my weight forward, then unspringing like a cricket to one side or the other.
Englund Air Cartridges helped, but I knew I needed a new fork. I compared the Mars C with other offerings, but the shop worked me a super close-out deal on a 2000 model. So I had them cut the steerer, and I slapped the new boinger in.
Wow! This is what a suspension fork should feel like. I had all but forgotten. You get a chance to ride other forks, but not often under serious trail riding. This fork was a dream.
The Mars C, has a Carbon brace. This lightens and stiffens up the Mars a bit, but it's really not worth the money. I just got a deal. It's an Air / MCU Sprung cross country fork with 80mm of travel. This is perhaps a little too much for me, but I was also seriously considering a rigid fork after my old Judy.
The fork is incredibly tuneable. You fill the Air Spring on the top left tube. There's a shraeder valve. My Fox shock pump worked perfectly. The Air spring is only on the left side, but the fork is so stiff you don't experience any stiction. Think Lefty.
The bottom of the left tube has the rebound dampening. And then on the top of the right tube there's the compression dampening. You can tune until you're heart's content. I ride pretty high pressure, so I really don't notice the compression dampening. But I've got the rebound dampening dialed in.
I ride mostly cross country, so I need something that isn't going to suck energy from me. This fork is quite light, so I really didn't feel like I was pushing a rock up the hills. It's also got great dampening, so you really doesn't bob much when hammering out of the saddle.
And the fork is plenty beefy. I've hit some nice kickers and landed well below on the flat. Even if the fork bottomed out, I couldn't tell. But often if you ride a stiffy, you'll pay with the handling. This fork did get a little skittish on the loose stuff, but a little forceful pressure on the bars stuck the front wheel right into it's track. And most thankfully, the rebound dampening is active enough to push you're front wheel solidly from any whole you stick it in. I've gotten my front wheel lodged into crevices one too many times on technical downhills. This fork is unstoppable.
This fork is a dream come true for the serious cross country rider. My old springs would make me so mad, I'd just ride and not get squirrely. The Mars takes care of me no matter how stupid I get.