Manitou’s heavy duty single crown six-incher, is weighty, softly sprung and slightly dated, but it’s potentially super smooth for the money.
Travis have been around for a while now, and you’re looking at a well proven lower end with impressively slick ‘Evil Genius’ seals sweeping 34mm legs. Not super thick compared to the latest big hit forks, but stout enough not to twang noticeably. The lower legs extend well past the axle for plenty of stanchion overlap, which helps stiffen them up too. The solid crown and thick wall 11/8 steerer shouldn’t bend any time soon either.
All this metal makes this a hefty fork though – exactly 3kg with an uncut steerer. That’s nigh on 800g heavier than the 160mm Fox 36 we took off, and on a par with the much burlier 180mm travel Totem. The four 4mm clamp bolts securing the Hexlock through-axle are a welcome sight after the trouble we’ve had with Manitou QR axles before. They thread into a replaceable barrel so stripping that won’t write off the fork.
They are slow to undo though and the lack of a shoulder inside the dropouts makes insertion a fight. Manitou’s twin piston, totally separated compression and rebound TPC+ damping system has been around for years. There’s a massive range of adjustment from almost solid to totally free flowing externally, and you can alter the point at which the secondary high speed compression damping kicks in internally too.
It’s a really fine line adjusting it to cope with the very soft coil spring though. It’s beautifully supple over small bumps and traction is superb in flat, chattery corners.
Even 11stone riders could bounce it right through its travel in the car park so some compression damping was crucial to stop it crushing under braking. A couple clicks too many though and it really spikes off drops or successive big hits. There’s a definite change in rebound speed between deep in the stroke and nearer the top too.
This is especially noticeable for the first few cycles off the start line when it can leap around and top out with a clunk. There is a really supple sweet spot in there, but you’ll need to be patient for the first few rides until you get it totally dialled in. The fact that there are easily counted clicks on the compression, but just a slightly spongey ‘unclicked’ adjustment on rebound is irritating in terms of tracking tuning changes too and the adjuster knob was wobbly and loose on our sample.
The pricing is extremely good compared to other premium forks, so if you fit the right spring weight and tune the damping correctly, you’re getting a seriously smooth bargain to go big with.