Feature: Clive Forth
Since acquiring the Manitou brand back in 2005, Hayes Bicycle Group have been hard at work turning things around; they will be the first to admit that the reputation of Manitou at the time was less than desirable.
The team got down to business and in the first few years worked on improving the design and performance of the existing range as well as improving the customer service response times.
By 2010 they had made huge progress, reducing warranty claims implementing a 24-48 hour turnaround for any warranty issues, they soon became a market leader in quality and customer care, consumer confidence had grown and we started to see more downhill bikes equipped with the Dorado fork.
With the brand back on track taking on the big guns Fox and RockShox on the World Cup DH circuit it was inevitable that they would make a b-line for the rapidly growing all mountain/enduro market, with tough competition from the aforementioned alongside BOS, Marzocchi and X-Fusion this was going to be no walk in the park.
R&D began almost three years ago, and in the time since they have been confronted with the wheel size conundrum. Fortunately, as they continued to refine the product the wheel size debate conveniently settled down giving them a clear picture of exactly what the customer was demanding in the AM scene.
The options in the final product have been tailored to the two smaller wheel sizes with no word of a 29er version in the pipeline just yet. Testing still continues but they estimate the new Mattoc fork will be on the water and heading to a dealer near you by early next year.
Let’s take a closer look at the latest contender in the AM fork market:
Born form the Dorado, the Mattoc is an air fork offering adjustable (by way of changing internal spacers) 140/150/160 mm travel fork available in both 26" and 27.5" variations. If you’re still running 26" wheels come the new year then a longer 170 mm option is also available.
There are two models in the range: a basic Expert version comes in at 1990 grams; and the lighter Pro model weighs in at just 1877 grams. This weight saving on the Pro is thanks to a nifty internal cartridge for the rebound element, here they can save 113 grams from the oil making the Pro model a first choice for the weight weenies, the materials are also very different from the cheaper Expert model and look far more robust.
The fork features a 15 mm axle with Manitou’s Hex Lock bolt through/QR system, a sturdy 1 1/8 - 1 1/12 tapered steerer tube sits up top and below a rather funky shaped crown holds the oversized 34mm stanchions in place. Mounted on the top of the stanchions the clever engineers have given you control to low speed Compression, their aim was to achieve the same soft plush feeling from the Dorado while descending then give you a fork that climbed equally as well.
Bottom out adjustment and low speed compression are also to hand, the anodized dials are neatly machined and sit proud enough so you can twiddle away while riding. The side mounted lever/dial controls the low speed compression, enabling you to quickly tune the fork in to suit the terrain, plus this is also remote compatible giving you further control via a bar-mounted lever if you so wish.
The internals have been copied from the established Dorado fork and scaled down to fit the smaller diameter legs, a hydraulic bottom out cartridge takes care of the large hits and hucks, giving the fork an ‘endless’ stroke feel, this nifty set-up means the rider can tune the fork to work on small bumps without compromising the big drop/hit capability. Rebound adjustment is located on the underside of the fork leg and here you will also find the valve for the dual (positive & negative) air chamber.
Manitou have retained their trademark rear-facing brace on the lowers, which gives the fork a unique look and the package is finished off with stylish white decals on the bright red paintwork. Colour options at present are limited to Red, White and Black. They are also working on a cheaper Comp model but have no details on release dates or price at time of press.
At a first look the fork looks like it could be a contender, however I’m not personally a fan of the QR system, it looks like it would be easy to scrape on rocks and the valve being located on the underside could easily be compromised by boulders, for the majority these things would not be an issue but the technical tight rock sections I frequent may expose these weak points.
The Pro model is expected to retail around the £550 - £600 depending on what the dollar is doing at the time hitting the shores in the New Year.