2003 Manitou preview - Bike Magic

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Forks (Suspension)

2003 Manitou preview

2003 Sherman Breakout

There was a time, not so long ago, when manufacturers were touting the virtues of three different headset diameters, leaving punters stranded at a consumer crossroads, not knowing which one(s) were the cul-de-sac. In the end, it was a victory for the MOR (middle-of-the-road) design, as Tioga’s 1 1/8” headset crushed the flabby Fisher Evolution and the scrawny, road-derived one-inch, and the industry breathed a collective sigh of relief.

But, the thorny issue of headset sizes has arisen from the dead for 2003, as a cartel of manufacturers has come up with the onepointfive interface standard. Spearheaded by fork manufacturer Manitou, but assisted by Chris King, Race Face, Cane Creek and Rocky Mountain, the new dimension uses a 1.5” diameter steerer tube in place of the usual 1.125”, assisted by an oversize stem, headset and headtube.

As freeriding continues to grow out of the current crop of single-crown forks, an emerging group of riders are seeking the extra travel of a triple-clamp without the steering restrictions, hence the reason why Manitou have returned to the drawing board. Their 2003 Sherman range takes the humble single-crown into virgin territory with its six-inches of travel, a breakthrough that, according to onepointfive, wouldn’t be possible without a rethink of the current headset standard.

The extra girth employed by the onepointfive substantially improves stiffness – by 134% – and strength- by 44% – according to their numbers. But they don’t stop there; 32mm stanchions (the same size as Fox) further boost the rigidity, and the larger headset size protects the head tube from the kind of ovalization damage caused by heavy impact loads.

The onepointfive standard touts advantages that are applicable to forks of all categories, although they are of particular benefit to long travel single-crown forks. For the foreseeable future, this is where Manitou are focussing their efforts, offering two six-inch travel single-crowns for 2003, but there is no reason why the standard might not be taken up for a downhill fork before too long. Cross-country riders need not head to the classifieds, frame in hand, because, 1 1/8″ wil be around for a while yet.

2003 Sherman Flick

Top of the tree is the Sherman Breakout. It’s coil-sprung, with 152mm of travel adjustable down to 132 with the new Rapid Travel II system (see below) and TPC+ damping. Next down is the Firefly using TPC+ damping, Rapid Travel II and a titanium coil spring. Finally there’s the Flick, featuring a steel steerer, TPC damping and Rapid Travel II. The Flick is not available with onepointfive.

The final Sherman model is the triple-clamp Slider. Set to compete against the new BoXXer, it’s the only other fork without a onepointfive steerer option, and travel is the full 152mm.

2003 Sherman Slider

Reverse Arch Technology, familiar to Pace fans and owners of this year’s Manitou Black, features across the Sherman range, as do coil springs and disc-only brake mounts.

Rather than compromise the lower leg siffness with a quick-release 20mm dropout design, Manitou have taken the Hex-Lock system from their World Cup Dorado fork. With six sides interlocking with the lower legs, there is little possibility of torsional weakness or disc brake wind. For the shorter travel forks with standard dropouts, Manitou have inclined the dropouts 45° to guard against the rotational forces generated by large rotors and tyres.

Last year’s Rapid Travel adjust gets repositioned at the top of the fork to permit on-the-fly adjustment. By turning the dial, the travel is limited by ¾ of an inch.

So what else is new? Well, Manitou are extremely excited by their new Evil Genius seals. For ’03 they have switched suppliers to the company that makes seals for motocross fork giants, Showa and Kyobi. The new seals feature across the Sherman range, and do away with the need for boots. A semi open-bath system channels oil from the base of the fork to a foam ring within the seal to keep stiction to a minimum.

Finally, the top three Shermans get TPC+ compression damping. By using a new floating piston, TPC+ ramps up the compression damping toward the end of the stroke to resist bottoming.

Prices on the Shermans are, £695 for the Breakout and the Slider, £550 for the Firefly with standard dropouts (£590 with 20mm axle), and £435 for the Flick (£475 with 20mm axle).

Riding the new Sherman
I have to admit I was initially sceptical about the need to introduce a six-inch travel single-crown fork, reasoning that anyone wanting that much travel would put up with the steering restrictions of a triple-clamp. But I recently got the chance to spend a day riding a onepointfive Sherman Breakout bolted to a Cannondale Gemini on the Super Morzine downhill course, and came away rethinking my stance on the new standard.

The Sherman remained completely composed throughout the jumps and braking bumps of the French course. Running it at the full six-inches setting, the new fork exhibited torsional stiffness that wasn’t far off some of the current triple-clamps. Some front-to-back flutter could be felt braking into heavily rutted corners, but overall, the Sherman lived up to its oversize hype.

As for the suspension action, I found the spring rate a little harsh, but with four springs available there should be a match for my weight and riding style. It even got me thinking about onepointfive compatible frames for next year. For those of you already planning a onepointfive machine, you might be interested to hear that Orange have a couple of prototype Patriots built with the new standard, and are looking to introduce a seven-inch onepointfive bike later in the year. Cannondale already have their new Gemini 900 ready to hit the shops.

Look out for a review of the triple-clamp Sherman Slider soon, and check back next week for a look at the rest of the Manitou range.


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