Manitou Rethought, Re-engineered, Re-energized!

From singletracks.com, updated daily.

As a mountain biker for many years, I’ve seen dozens of riders and companies come and go. One company I have always admired is Manitou but lately (the past few years) I feel like they haven’t been seen around much. Besides sightings of the Dorado (more on that later), the R7 on some winning XC bikes, and mentions of the Minute forks, the company seems to have been keeping a low profile. Well, I had the great opportunity to speak with one of the many people who are pushing Manitou back into the spotlight with an all new, shiny line up. Richard, or Rich for those who know him, has a passion for anything with two wheels and a frame. Before his present position at Manitou he was the product manager during the development of the Stroker line of brakes at Hayes.

Richard has moved on to the Manitou division and is presently building momentum with Manitou’s strengths while finding weaknesses and either discarding them or finding out what the issues are and fixing them. Having the right people is all part and parcel of his vision: “It’s great having the right people working with you.”

I spoke with Richard on the phone and he had this to say:

We’ve spent the last 2 years sorting through Manitou technologies, creating a new, more reliable brand of suspension. While understanding the history surrounding Manitou suspension we’ve aligned ourselves with our past but lean forward with a new level of suspension expertise.

That past for Manitou includes a very interesting history and Richard was able to fill me in on some of the highlights. Manitou’s history includes several important dates in the development of suspension technology that we all enjoy today so here’s a brief summary of Manitou’s contribution to suspension design.

History

Manitou started in 1985 with Doug Bradbury and Answer Products where many industry firsts occurred and standards were set. For example, the 1.5 steerer, post mount, TPC (Twin Piston Chamber), and even the edgy/bold graphics that paralleled Johnny T and Palmer’s style all had beginnings at Manitou.

Since the purchase in 2007, HBG (Hayes Brake Group) has invested heavily into Manitou owning and operating our very own suspension factory and we’ve hired the best suspension experts on island. We’ve also hired specialists from outside the industry (Showa and Honda) and adapted a new global quality system to track our products from factory to field. This suspension team has only been together for 2 years fixing all the inherited problems, throwing out the bad technology and improving upon the good. They also came out with ABS+, MILO, Dorado Pro and host of new forks for MY (model year) 11. I’m really proud to be part of this suspension group.

I was personally really glad to hear this from Richard. There’s always something positive that comes from taking inventory of what you have and what you need while being honest about what is not working. It takes a lot for a company to say, “OK this is not working, Lets get it right.”

While at Interbike, trek7k and I did get to see a few new Manitou products for MY10 and have heard some rumors of what to expect for MY11. Next year Manitou is preparing to come out with a bucket full of new items which really sound interesting. For one thing, Manitou will be releasing a female specific platform which, as far as I know, is a first! Think about it, specific dampening for women with their specific needs in mind. There will be two new forks in the line up as well: the Marvel 32mm fork for the XC rider and the Circus, a DJ fork that has been sorely needed for some time now.

New for 2010 & 2011

New products and suspension platforms launching soon and for the MY11:

  • Absolute Plus, replacing the older Absolute damper.
  • MILO, Manitou integrated lock out, developed for the ABS+
  • QR15 Hex-lock
  • Marvel MRD & PRO 32mm XC race forks
  • Circus Dirt Jump and Slopestyle fork
  • Tower, 29er specific platforms
  • Female-specific platforms
  • Dorado MRD & Pro

One hallmark of a successful brand is consistency across product line designations (ex: pro, expert, etc.). Parent company HBG intends to incorporate their tiering system over the entire line up, ultimately making it easier for us to find the level of performance and price we’re looking for with a particular product.

  • MRD
  • PRO
  • Expert
  • Comp
  • Sport

These designators are common threads among mountain bikers and industry professionals. Our intent is to use this system to further delineate our price points and performance options. It’s a road map for HBG product groups.

Speaking of technology, the following is summary of what to expect from Manitou for the next little while. Going forward there will be three platforms for their front shocks and 4 types (two coil, two air) for the rear shocks.

Damper Technology

TPC: Twin Piston Chamber: this is the umbrella technology Manitou has utilized since 1998. We think the TPC rivals any thing out there (based on) weight, cost, function.

Absolute +: race-proven damper with needle orifice LS and shim based HS, technology common among all motor sports racing applications. ABS+ comes on all forks offering our best damper technology on our most cost conscious forks.

TPC+: race-proven damper with big hit and gravity based technology, relies on energy dependent floating TPC+ pistons activated on big drops and hits. The TPC+ piston is a floating piston that is preloaded by a spring. In essence the system is dually Displacement and Speed Sensitive which makes it an “Energy dependent circuit” aka TPC+.

There’s a quiz later this week to see if the kids were paying attention. :)

Springs

MARS, TS, and ACT Air systems have been proven on the trail with reliability, tuning and specific applications. Our spring technologies have been refined, tuned, and proven more durable with a wider range of rider usage.

Rear Shocks

Four basic models have been established utilizing the new naming/designations to make rear shock easier to understand. All of the previous models and eye-to-eyes have been preserved and applications have not changed.

  • Coil (Metal Comp and Revox Expert & Pro)
  • Air (Radium Comp Expert & Pro and Swinger Expert & Pro)

So a couple of final questions

What is to be expected with the new aluminum version of the Dorado?

Same great internals, less cost, taste great..! But seriously it’s the same fork as the MRD Carbon just with aluminum legs, it tracks a little better than the carbon and has proven bombproof in our lab and field testing. Although a race fork like the MRD, this fork should be considered for all freeride applications.

What’s next after the Dorado?

Maybe a single crown Dorado in 160 – 170mm , I didn’t just say that, did I…?

After revamping the R7, Minute, Drake, ABS+, what can we expect with the newer forks?

They get lighter. Minutes improves on damper and spring technologies and Drake is replace by a Minute Expert.

TPC+ or Absolute+ (which is better for you) and why is Manitou going with these?

TPC+ is for bigger, longer travel forks and ABS+ can and will be tuned from 80mm XC to 160mm All Mountain forks.

So what is new from Manitou for the 2010 year that folks can buy right now

For Calendar year 2010 you can buy: Dorado Pro 26 / 29′, 3 newCircus dirt jump and slopestyle forks, ABS+ upgrade kits, MILO lockouts, Marvel high end 32mm stanchion XC fork

Well folks, stay tuned for more from the folks at Manitou and the Hayes Group. There are some really great products that can be purchased now and in the very near future. Check out the blog for previous articles and keep looking for more info on the up-and-coming products from Manitou. We’ll keep you posted.

Cheers!

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