Manitou Mattoc Expert fork review£500.00

Adjustable and smooth suspension, but potentially a few issues with reliability

BikeRadar score3/5

Manitou’s Mattoc Expert is potentially smooth and adjustable at a good price, but issues with our current test forks show the Mattoc family is still struggling with reliability and the chassis options need updating.

Manitou isn’t the only brand to run its brace behind the fork legs (Pace used to do it and DT Swiss still do) rather than in front, but it’s definitely its distinctive signature look.

Whether or not it improves stiffness is a moot point, but the 34mm stanchions and narrow sloped crown stance of the Mattoc are noticeably flexible under larger cornering and braking loads compared to the latest forks of a similar weight.

The high- and low-speed compression damping is tangible and consistent and it handles big hits without spiking

Unsurprisingly that’s most noticeable at its 160mm full stretch, but even at 140mm it’s more comparable to 32mm stanchion forks from other brands.

There’s a 26in wheeled version, but no 110mm wide Boost axle, Plus or 29in wheel options either. While it improves tyre clearance, the rearward brace means it’s not compatible with most aftermarket fenders.

They’re have been some updates to the Mattoc for 2017 though, of which the switch to a simpler Hexlock bolt in axle (previously an aftermarket extra) is the most welcome as it makes wheel removal/refitting much easier than the old bayonet cam axle.

The 2017 fork also gets last year's aftermarket ‘IVA’ volume spacer stack upgrade as a standard feature to make adding progression to the spring rate easy.

While it’s dated structurally, the Mattoc is still impressively on point in suspension terms. Even this cheaper expert model (the Pro is £620 and uses a lighter cartridge based TPC+ damper) gets three different compression adjustments.

The red outer lever controls are effectively a lockout/platform adjust for climbing
The red outer lever controls are effectively a lockout/platform adjust for climbing

The clearly detented red outer lever controls a four-position MC2 low-speed threshold circuit (effectively a lockout/platform adjust for climbing). The middle dial (not as well detented) is a four-position high-speed compression damper that sounds like a fairly crude gradation, but the circuit it’s controlling is impressively speed sensitive so the actual working range is good.

There’s a third high-speed hydraulic bottom out circuit that works together with a rubber bottom out bumper to help control deep stroke progression. That’s as well as the IVA volume spacers and it makes it a widely adjustable, fettler friendly fork for the money.

The basic air spring stroke is impressively supple off the top too, and set up right there’s plenty of hard cornering ride height control and balanced rebound without blowing through its travel.

The high- and low-speed compression damping is tangible and consistent and it handles big hits without spiking, even if you’re braking or turning. All external adjusters are crisply machined, laser etched metal for a quality feel.

Unfortunately, Mattoc reliability has always been poor with different problems surfacing every year we’ve had them on test. In this case our latest sample fork started each ride OK but started showing increasing damper randomness after only five minutes on the trail and then stayed that way for the rest of each ride.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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