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By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews Technical Editor
While most of us are busy trying to catch-up with what’s going on with2004 suspension, most manufacturers have long been working on their 2005product lines. Fact is, says Manitou’s Joel Smith, that company is “pushinghard to put the finishing touches on 2005 and move ahead with our 2006product line.” How’s that for looking ahead?
Manitou invited VeloNews to Phoenix, Arizona, last month to spenda weekend riding its new 2005 fork line. While the California-based suspensionmanufacturer will unveil new improvements throughout the full range ofits 2005 line (later this summer) Smith figured it wouldn’t hurt to showcaseits flagship technology already in February.
“Showing off our latest technology this early in the year helps reinforceto our customers that Manitou is hard at work on pushing suspension technologyas far as we can take it,” he said.
The fork line I had a chance to ride is a natural progression of Manitou’s freeride technology. What struck mewas Smith’s explanation that he felt this latest platform, “takes forksuspension technology in a direction that most bicycle manufacturers haveyet to venture into.”
In short, Smith feels that there,” really aren’t any bikes [availablein 2004] that would compliment the travel, weight and intended use of thisfork line.” Which brings up an interesting question: Who drives suspensiontechnology, the fork/shock manufacturers or the bicycle producers?
Riding this latest technology, it’s becoming clear to me that it hasto be the suspension guys.
In fact, just two weeks before the press was invited to Arizona, Manitouinvited most of North America’s bicycle manufactures to ride the same technologywith the goal of 2005 OEM sales (Original Equipment Manufacturer). Smithexplained that most of the manufacturers were impressed at the forks, butwould need to scramble to develop frames that could take advantage of thisfork’s characteristics.
Tanned, rested and ready
Dubbed “Nixon,” this fork line is designed for long-travel enduro riding.No, not cross-country racing or epic trail riding or even aggressive stuntriding, Manitou defines this emerging category as the aggressive trailrider who’s looking for climbing efficiency without sacrificing descendingcapability.
The Nixon line is further defined by these three principles:Lower weightPedaling efficiencySuspension capabilityWith the goals of:Achieving maximum stiffness and lightest weightPedaling efficiency with improved bump efficiencyWhile offering unlimited tunabilityHere are the rough specs:Should cost around $800 (standard axle, $50 for hex axle)Uses new 32mm stanchionsOffers Manitou’s new IT (Infinite Travel) travel adjust systemEvolved SPV damping system145mm of travel (with 1 1/8 inch steerer)
Here are a few of my mental notes from two days of A+ technical desert riding out in Phoenix, Arizona’s South Mountain park:My Elan Able One single-pivot full-suspension bike was equipped with the high-end Nixon Platinum hex-axle equipped fork and 2005 Swinger Air 4-Way rear shock. This particular fork boasts all the bells and whistles,including SPV Evolve damping and the IT travel adjust system (there willmost likely be three or four other—more-affordable— forks in the Nixonline which we find more about soon).
Take a look at thisvideo clip (1+ Meg.) to check out the way this thing handles a bigdrop – and no, that’s not me, it’s Manitou’s Marketing Manager Bill Christensen.
The new SPV Evolve damping system offers a noticeable improvement overlast year’s SPV system. The original SPV damping worked nicely to quellthe motion of pedal-induced bobbing, but sacrificed small bump sensitivityas a result. That resulted in significant vibration transfer to the rider’shands and arms. This improved SPV system has been redesigned to offer bettersmall bump sensitivity through a lower initial bump threshold (breakaway).After a long day on the trail you can certainly feel the improvement. No,the fork doesn’t initially feel quite as smooth as other “non-stable platform”forks on the market that offer lower initial breakaway, but when you considerthat this fork is designed to be ridden aggressively over nasty terrain,it makes sense.
The 145mm of travel is spot-on for aggressive riding and medium sizedrops (anything up to about six vertical feet depending on your skill level).What impressed me most was how easy it was to activate the lock-down usingthe handlebar mounted IT switch. While riding, just compress the fork tothe desired extension and activate the switch-the fork remains active evenits locked-down state. That is very handy for prolonged steep climbs.
The stiffness provided by the 32mm stanchions and hollow forged crownis noticeable-and critical for a six-inch travel, single crown fork. Theoptional Hex axle (about $50 additional bucks) is worth the upgrade forthe noticeable improvement of front-end tracking.
Yes, the fork I rode was a hand-made, early pre-production sample thatwas tuned to perfection. It may or may not emulate the performanceof a true production fork, but if production forks see anywhere near thesame performance, aggressive trail riders will flock to Nixon for its long-travelperformance, light weight and instant travel adjustability.