There are many brands that have walked the wilderness. Few though have seen such a rapid fall from grace as Manitou.
It (arguably) invented the first long-travel single crown fork, and developed twin-piston shock designs and platform valving that led the way for most modern shocks. Yet a run of unreliable and poorly made units almost wiped Manitou off the map.
The Mattoc could well be the brand’s saviour. Despite the relatively low cost, it’s got features that many more expensive units lack, with both high and low speed compression damping as well as independently adjustable hydraulic bottom out control, all wrapped up with a clever air spring derived from Manitou’s well-regarded downhill forks and a distinctive back-to-front bracing arch on their lowers.
Out on the trail, it’s damn impressive too. The 34mm-legged, reverse arch chassis is slightly heavy and its narrow stance means it’s adequately rather than dramatically stiff, but it’s not so noodly that it’s hard to hold a line in fast turns or chundery rock sections.
The unique 15mm quick-release thru-axle is fast and easy to use, though it takes a bit of getting used to initially and some testers have had issues with the durability of the locating pin.
This fork is great at gobbling up bumps and leaving you wondering just how they made gnarly rock sections disappear, but its weak point is when more sensitive feedback is needed. In those circumstances, the super plush first half of the stroke makes it hard to judge just how much traction is on offer, especially in the wet.
In conjunction with limited adjustment range of the low speed compression damping, it’s hard to balance feel with comfort. The Manitou Racing Department does offer a number of special bits such as the ‘Infinite Rate Tune’ kit that allows you to tweak the mid-stroke support independently from the bottom out characteristic, which we imagine would help here. That is an extra expense on top, but we feel that it’d be worth it.
Overall this is really a very good fork, but it lacks feel and all-out control.