Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Manitou Magnum fork


Manitou Magnum 191-1Plus-sized tires might be the next big thing in the mountain bike world, but for its latest product Mantiou reached back to its roots and revived a classic nameplate.

While the original Magnum of 20 years ago used elastomers, the new model uses a version of the Dorado air spring in the left leg with self-balancing positive and negative chambers. Air is added at the bottom beneath a threaded cap to protect the valve, and volume adjustment spacers can be accessed by opening the top of the left leg. What’s nice is that you don’t have to worry about losing the spacers if you’re not using them—the seal is simply repositioned with the spacers in one of five positions.

Manitou has a handy tuning guide on its website that helps users understand how the air pressure and volume work together for the desired performance. The right leg houses the compression and rebound dampers and bottom out adjustment. At the top of the leg is a three-part control that lets you dictate high- and low-speed compression as well as Manitou’s hydraulic bottom out. The bottom out adjustment has four positions and only affects the final third of the fork’s travel. Rebound damping is controlled at the bottom of the right leg.

According to Manitou, the high-speed compression control works as an incremental platform adjustment. It allows riders to fine-tune not just how much platform they want with the low-speed compression dial, but how firm that platform is by adjusting the high-speed multi-control dial. To simplify it, you can leave the high-speed multi-control adjustment at max, then use the low-speed compression dial to select which platform setting that you need, from climb to descend, via the five position dial.

Manitou Magnum 191-3

On the outside the Magnum has a strong family resemblance with a hollow, sculpted crown and a reverse arch design holding 34 mm stanchions. Tying the two legs together is Manitou’s own QR15 axle design, which has hexagonal ends to prevent twisting and a small barb that locks it into place with a 90 degree twist of the QR lever. It takes a bit of practice to get the motion just right, but once you do it goes in quickly and can be removed with just a twist and pull.

The amount of tuning possibilities can be a bit daunting at first, but even at the extremes of their range none of the controls result in a disastrous ride. I appreciated the firm low-speed compression platform and experienced no unwanted brake dive or wallowing around in the mid-stroke, even with the low-speed compression dialed back. With the hydraulic bottom out tuned all the way back the spring rate seems fairly progressive, and I’d recommend running the volume adjustment at full volume unless you’re really hitting things hard.

Manitou Magnum 191-2

The motion is extremely fluid with no appreciable stiction and it’s buttery smooth off the top. I was also extremely impressed with the finish quality and solid feel to all the controls. This isn’t just a mediocre fork that was adapted to fit the bigger tires. The Magnum Pro is as nice as any trail fork I’ve ridden lately and even has a leg up on the big brands in the 27plus category. Throw in the fact that it is one of the few 29plus options out there and I predict fans of big tires will have big smiles with one of these installed.

Manitou Magnum Details

  • Price: $899
  • Wheel Sizes: 27.5 x 3.4” (tested) or 29 x 3.4”
  • Travel: 27plus: 80/100 mm or 120/140 mm (tested); 29plus: 80/100/120 mm
  • Hub spacing: 110 mm Spring: air with self-balancing negative spring
  • Damping Adjustment: high- and low-speed compression, lowspeed rebound, hydraulic bottom out control
  • Axle: 15 mm quick-release
  • Offset: 48 mm (27plus), 51 mm (29plus)
  • Weight: 2,081 grams

 

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Review: Lauf Carbonara fat/plus fork


Lauf-CarbonaraLauf hails from Iceland, where I’m led to believe it gets somewhat chilly. Naturally, fat bikes have erupted all over the volcanic island, and the company has adopted its leaf-spring design from its mountain bike fork into a fat bike version. It’s not just wider; it’s completely redesigned with no shared components.

The carbon fiber structure has a massive crown and massive tire clearance—plenty of room for the biggest meat on the market. The manufacturing process is similar to any other carbon fiber component, Lauf says, with the exception of the springs themselves. A dozen S2 fiberglass springs create the flex needed for the suspension to activate. These aren’t fiberglass like your fishing boat, they are a specialized material that is much, much stronger and more flexible. The springs are mounted into slots within the carbon chassis and then bonded into place, a technique Lauf says required substantial R&D work.

The springs flex through 60 mm of suspension travel, and their action is progressive, meaning they get stiffer as they flex. Thanks to the trailing link design there is no brake dive and it doesn’t bob excessively during standing climbing. There are bump stops molded into the fork should you bottom it out, but I either never have or didn’t notice. The fork is available with either regular or light tune, depending on the weight of the rider and the desired compression effect. Lauf recommends a maximum rider weight of 265 pounds.

With previous experience riding the Lauf Trail Racer 29er fork, I had some familiarity with the product, but so far the Carbonara has less of an impact on the riding experience. I mean that in a good way, as it complements the natural feel of the large fat bike tires, and doesn’t introduce any new dynamics. The stiff springs on the Carbonara seem to lessen the boing-factor and it doesn’t have the pogo stick feeling that I expected.

I think the Carbonara suits the nature of the fat experience better than it does a traditional bike. It takes the edge off trail irregularities, but doesn’t track the ground. Instead, it takes the forgiving and supple feel of a soft fat bike front tire and emphases it even more so. In a strictly fat bike application I think like the RockShox Bluto. I might even contend that it’s closer to the former than the latter.

Since it’s difficult to find a demo to try, Lauf offers a four-week tryout period, during which you can return it for a full refund if you’re not satisfied. The price is about a third more than a Bluto, and compared to a rigid carbon fork it’s about twice the price and twice the weight. There’s no denying it’s expensive, but it does come with a five-year warranty and a discounted crash-replacement policy.

Lauf Carbonara Details

  • Price: $990
  • Wheel size: 26×5 or 29×3
  • Travel: 60 mm
  • Hub spacing: 150 mm
  • Spring: fiberglass leaf springs
  • Damping adjustment: none
  • Axle: 15 mm, bolt-on
  • Offset: 51 mm
  • Weight: 1,134 grams

 

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Review: FOX 32 Step-Cast fork


FOX32-Stepcast1As forks get longer in travel, and trail and all-mountain become our favorite buzzwords, it’s refreshing to see a brand like Fox make a dedicated effort to address the cross-country segment—to the tune of shaving half a pound off its current 32 platform. You read that right: The new Fox 32 SC (Step-Cast) weighs right at 3 pounds with an uncut steerer and 15 mm Kabolt bolt-on axle according to our very accurate Feedback Sports scale. This makes it the lightest fork Fox has ever made.

Though select test samples are out and factory race teams such as BMC, Luna Pro, Focus, Trek and 3 Rox Racing have their marque riders on the fork, it’s officially dubbed a 2017 product. At heart of this new fork is an all-new chassis design. Fox engineers went into the project looking for any way possible to shave weight so they shrunk and narrowed the crown and arch so the upper tubes have a 120 mm spacing compared to 130 mm on non-SC forks, then they shortened the upper tubes.

To match, the sliders have a built-in step casting that goes from normal wide around the tubes to narrower at the dropouts. Without this “step” there would not be room for the hub flanges, spokes and rotor. The lower section at the dropouts doesn’t sacrifice any rigidity or steering precision though, especially with a 110 Boost front hub. Of course, with this dedicated shaping there’s no room for travel adjust—the 32 SC is cross-country specific at 100 mm.

Internally, not much has changed from current model 32 forks. You’ll find the successful Fit4 damper with three damping positions: open, medium and firm, along with external low-speed compression damping adjust in the open setting.

Aside from small tweaks such as an alloy piston and some mix and match voodoo parts to further decrease weight, it’s the same internals including the removable volume spacers to further refine mid stroke and bottom out tuning. However, the Fit4 damper does have an upgraded tune specific to its intended cross-country usage.

Using current Fox forks in 100 to 120 mm travel, I’ve kept air volume spacer settings stock while running lower than recommended psi, and that again is the ticket with this fork. At 65 psi the 32 SC was plush off the top, keeping the front wheel on the ground without bouncing or skipping, while getting full travel and not diving in turns. I didn’t have any bottom out issues unless I really plunged into a g-out.

Flex is a non-issue; the SC lives up to Fox standards and the addition of Boost spacing only furthers that, giving this lightweight fork the stiffness it needs, thanks also in part to the front hub (in this case Stan’s NoTubes’ excellent new Neo).

I mostly kept the fork in open mode, rather than the middle setting, because compared to pre-2016 offerings, that setting now performs very well. Only when the trail smoothed out for longer stretches did I go to medium. And of course firm was great for pavement and gravel riding to the trailhead.

In spite of the svelte looks of the narrow crown, turning and slicing feels quick, tight and precise—attributes I love for cross-country riding when you’re sacrificing suspension travel and brute force for finesse and agility to go fast.

FOX32-Stepcast2

The 32 SC will be available as original equipment and in the aftermarket for riders looking to upgrade their current fork (with two offsets in 29er wheel size at the OE level) and three colors: gloss orange, gloss white and matte black.

Ultimately, Fox has finally come through with a near perfect cross-country race fork and cross-country-style trail riding choice. It’s certainly targeted to a specific market and type of rider that some may feel isn’t a huge segment anymore but that’s not a bad thing. It’s dedicated to the cause if you are.

FOX 32 Step-Cast Details

  • Price: $889 (tested), $969 w/ cable remote adjust, $1,596 w/ iRD remote adjust
  • Wheel size: 27.5, 29 (tested)
  • Travel: 100 mm
  • Hub spacing: 100 mm, 110 Boost (tested)
  • Spring: self-equalizing positive/negative air spring
  • Damping adjustments: three position compression: open, medium firm, low-speed compression in open mode; rebound
  • Axle: 15 mm bolt-on Offset: 44 mm (27.5); 44 mm (tested) or 51 mm (29)
  • Weight: 1,360 grams

 

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