Manitou have been on the back foot recently but things look set to change in a big way for 2007. For a start they've been bought by brake magnates Hayes, which means serious investment as well as a massive injection of bike industry and manufacturing experience. UK super distributors Ultimate Pursuits have picked up representation in this country too, so you're likely to see Manitou in lots more shops and on more complete bikes.
We've just had our first drop of 2007 Manitou forks: R7, All-Mountain Minute and Relic, plus this Travis freeride fork.
The first thing you need to remember is that Manitou were the originators of the monster OnePointFive (1.5in) head tube concept, which finally seems to be gaining headway with freeride frame builders. Manitou were also the first to push single-crown fork travel beyond 6in, though, again, others have now followed. This means that we're dealing with a proven structure here at least, and while the 34mm legs and crown aren't quite as stiff as new benchmarks like the 40mm legged RockShox Totem, the fork steers and brakes tight enough to hit the turns and skinnies with confidence. At just shy of 3kg (2,944g to be exact) and with a long back catalogue of extreme rider use, we're not worried about its slam-down strength either.
The ride is super supple and linear from the box too, with even relatively light and polite riders shoving it through most of its travel on a regular basis. Spare ride kits are available from X-Soft to XFirm for dialling your ride.
Winding the compression on cuts obvious braking dive but doesn't seem to make a massive difference elsewhere. While loss of small bump traction and no spiking at higher shaft speeds is a good thing, we'd definitely like some sort of end stroke control for the bigger stuff. Rebound adjustment is subtle too, so be prepared to wind and wind before you find your sweet spot.
The Evil Genius seals are holding up, with no leaking or unpleasantness so far, though as we say, these are early days and we haven't gone full mental jacket on the fork yet.
If you're after more stroke, then the 203mm (8in) travel version is the same price, while the 150mm (6in) conventional 1 1/8in steerer tube version is only £450. The Triple Intrinsic twin-crown will set you back £750 if you're prepared to swap less steering freedom for increased stiffness.