EB13: First Look! Manitou Mattoc – Long Travel Enduro Suspension Fork Finally Hammered Out
It’s been a long time since Manitou’s had anything truly groundbreaking. They’ve done a few good things, like a 650B Dorado and such, but they’ve been noticeably absent from the mid/long travel trail segment.
They made a good correlation to their history. They’ll be the first to admit that when Hayes bought the brad in 2005, it was in pretty bad shape. It suffered from poor quality and other troubles. But they asked how many of us had been injured mountain biking? Then asked if that made us want to quit riding? The short answer is “hell no” and so they’ve been working steadily to get to this point. From 2005 to 2007 they basically had to stop the bleeding. From 2007 to 2010, they had to get their innovation systems in place. From then until now, they’ve been testing and refining so they could kick off an all new innovation cycle.
Introducing the Mattoc…
It’s a 140/150/160mm travel all-mountain fork for both 26″ and 27.5″, plus a 170mm option for the 26″ models. Stanchions are 34mm, and it uses their existing hollow crown and reverse arch.
Suspension engineer Nick Pye says they really wanted to bring the performance of their Dorado into an All Mountain fork. To do that, they borrowed and modified the tech there and developed a new compression damping system.
Two models will be available, a Pro and Expert, with the top level Pro using a lighter cartridge based rebound damper. That change saves roughly 113g without noticeably changing performance.
Claimed weights are 1877g (Pro) and
1990g (Expert). That for both wheel sizes since they both use the same chassis and stanchions. The crowns simply get a different offset. Height differences are handled internally. Because of this, you’ll get more tire clearance on the 26″, up to a 2.5. The 650B can take a 2.4.
It gets an all-new MC2 damper (Multi Compression Control) puts both high and low speed compression knobs on the crown. The low speed lever (red, bottom) adjusts how the fork feels during things like hard berm turns, G-outs and standing pedaling. It’s also going to make it feel sort of like a platform if you close it down.
The high speed dial gives you control over the first bit of travel to keep it floating over the chatter. The high speed adjustment is the middle (black) knob. When you dial it down, it loads more pressure on the shim stack, which makes the oil work a bit harder to push through. Dial both high and low speed all the way back and you get a very firm fork. It’s not a lockout, but it’s headed in that direction, Pye says they didn’t want to put a true lockout on a fork intended for this kind of abuse.
While some brands are moving to a closed bladder oil reservoir, Manitou wanted to make it more user (shop) serviceable. The benefit of a bladder is that it keeps a little pressure on the system, helping oil flow back through the ports during rebound. Their solution was to use a closed cell foam cylinder around the compression piston. As oil is pushed through the shim stack and out into the semi-open bath, it compresses the foam. The foam naturally wants to expand, so it pushes back against the oil (just a bit) to help it back into the compression circuit.
On the Pro level (middle and top), that entire assembly gets smaller with less oil volume. I asked if that caused potential heat build up issues because there’s less oil and Pye responded “no, because unlike a bladder system, their oil is constantly cycled past the outside chassis, which dissipates heat rapidly.”
The small hole shows through to the low speed compression needle. That hole is directly above (to the left in the pic) the high speed shim stack.
Hydraulic Bottom Out comes from the Dorado and allows them to change the spring rate throughout the travel. It maintains a very linear rate until the last 32mm of travel, then it gets more progressive to avoid harsh bottom out. There’s also a rubber bottom out bumper to prevent total smack down. The benefit to this system is that you can adjust your compression damping however you like without affecting the last bit of travel, which can be adjusted through the little silver dial on the very top of the knob stack.
In the pic above, the bottom piece ends up sliding over the top piece. As the for compresses, the gray part slides over the top of the other one at the end of the stroke. At that point, oil must initially flow through the three ports to slow things down. When that starts to run its course, there’s a spring loaded ball that covers a port inside the chamber. Eventually, it’ll blow through, letting the last bit of oil through, and the resistance on that ball is what the silver knob adjusts.
Dual Chamber Dorado Air handles the actual suspension. It’s their way of saying there’s a poppet valve between the positive and negative air chambers to equalize them instantly when you’re setting it up. How? Threading the shock pump on opens the poppet, and then it closes when the pump is removed, keeping your settings equal.
It’s all finished off with their class leading QR15 thru axle. Brake mounts are designed for a minimum 180 rotor.
They’re in the final stages of testing and development with several riders around the world on different terrain. Full production should start in December for delivery early 2014.
Pricing target is $850 for the Pro, and Expert should should be equally competitive while providing the performance expected of a modern “enduro” style fork. It’s actually worth noting that Manitou didn’t use the word “enduro” a single time during the entire presentation.
Why not a 29er? Timing and resources were a limiting factor, but we’re pretty sure it’ll come.