Manitou’s showstopper for ’03 is undoubtedly the Sherman, but their range features another 14 forks spread among five platforms. This year’s forward-thinking, backward-bracing freeride offering, the Black, may now be eclipsed by the Sherman, but it will continue on into ’03. At the top of the cross-country tree comes the Skareb range (to replace the Mars), followed by the all-new Axel and revised Six.
With the arrival of the Sherman, the Black now becomes more of an enduro fork than a freeride model. The Reverse Arch casting remains, but the internals get improved protection from the new Evil Genius seals, and lubed up by the Semibath system. Oil is now used to lubricate the bushings and seals, but unlike an open bath, the damping is completely separate.
There are four models in the line-up: (in ascending order) the Sport, Comp, Elite and Super. All except the Super use coil springs and all come in 80/100mm and 100/120mm travel versions. Travel adjust on the Elite moves from top to bottom, but you’ll still need gorilla arms to reach the switch on the Super and Comp. Externally adjustable TPC compression and rebound damping is standard on the Super and Elite.
Finally, this year’s decals LACK-ed staying power, but for ’03 there shouldn’t be any embarrassing Fawlty Towers-style moments with the new gothic graphics. Prices are £235 on the Sport, £285 on the Comp, £395 on the Elite and £475 on the Super.
Reverse Arch lowers now make it over to Manitou’s new 80mm travel XC racing platform, the Skareb. In fact, the same lower leg casting is shared among the Skareb, the Axel and the Six, and all three forks use 28.6mm stanchions. The Super tops the three-fork range. It uses the hybrid air/coil spring out of the MARS, externally adjustable TPC damping with compression lockout, Semibath lubrication and Evil Genius seals.The Elite is essentially the Super, minus the lockout, and the Comp is a coil-sprung, solid-crowned, budget racer’s fork. Prices are £265 for the Comp, £350 for the Elite and £425 for the Super.
The Axel is Manitou’s all-new mid-range, coil-sprung cross-country fork. Again, the Reverse Arch magnesium lower casting can be found across the platform, with a no-boss option for disc brake users. Travel adjustment between 80 and 100mm can be found on all three Axel forks, although accomplishing the feat does require disassembly. The fork loses out on the new Evil Genius seals, instead making do with rubber mini-boots, but the Microlube grease port can be found on all Axels. The only aftermarked Axel available will be the Super, at £210.
At the entry-level end of the market is the Six. Revised for 2003, the biggest news in the two-fork family is the introduction of Reverse Arch lowers. Like the Axel, internal adjustments give you the option of running 80 or 100mm of travel. Full boots protect the seals and there are Microlube ports to keep it running smooth. All Six models are available only as OEM equipment.
Manitou’s moto-inspired upside down family consists of the DC (double crown) and the SC (single crown). Both forks feature super-pimp styling thanks to bold graphics and moto-style leg guards. The DC gets 180mm of travel while the SC gets 130mm. New for ’03 are the upgraded Evil Genius seals. The DC will set you back £1300 and the SC £1100.