Next to purchasing an entirely new bike, bolting on some new suspension has got to be the biggest change you can make to your regular routine. And when you think about it there actually is not that many choices when deciding on a new long travel super fork. Unless you get off the beaten path, you really only have four or five names to choose from. Each of these forks brings something a little different to the table. The key is to do your homework before buying. When I was trying to pick a new fork for my own bike I had a hard time finding any sort of info on [L=http://www.answerproducts.com]Manitou’s Travis[/L]. Since I like a bit of mystery I thought I’d give one a go and let everyone know how it performs. -KaKah!
While the Travis Ti may not have the fashionable air spring that a World Cup Boxxer runs (or the new air 888 for ’07), it does have a super sexy and less finicky titanium spring stuffed down into that left leg. For sure there are some pluses to an air sprung fork, like weight and the ability to fine tune your spring rate, but for me the jury is still out on air in long travel forks. The Ti spring in the Travis manages to drop a considerable amount of heft over its steel brothers and is a proven and reliable way to hold the bike up.
At 7.2 lbs it isn’t the lightest fork around but there are certainly heavier.
I was impressed with Manitou’s attention to detail. Props to them for sporting all 5mm clamp hardware on both crowns and the sweet intergrated stem. The fork on my bike does not run the newer No Tool Hex Axle. Instead it uses a more traditional pinch bolt system, but Manitou is looking after all the ham fisted wrench spinners out there by threading the two 4mm pinch bolts on each side into replaceable steel inserts. The IS2- intergrated stem is a nice piece of work also. It uses a similar system to that of the older Dorado stem but with tighter tolerances to eliminate the twisting that the original had when you went down hard. It is height adjustable via spacers underneath and you can run either a 25.4 or an oversize 31.8 bar. Another nice touch is how the 25.4 bar shim is actually concentric so you can get super precise if you are picky about such things. You can also choose a 45mm or 65mm reach. Black 34mm butted stanctions look badass on my ’06 model although I’ve heard they may be returning to a more traditional color for 2007. You have your choice of white or black lowers. You also need to know that the lowers are 8” disc post mount only.
The very adjustable intergrated stem
But its what’s on the inside that counts right? I had my choice of TPC+ internals or Manitou’s new Intrinsic damping system with either 7” of stroke or the the big boy 8” travel setup. I chose the TPC+ guts to go inside the 7” fork because I’m just a little boy and it means a touch lower bar height. TPC+ has been used inside Manitou’s high end forks for years now and I was stoked to compare it to the latest and greatest from other players. TPC is short for Twin Piston Chamber and the “+” means that there is a third and floating piston that creates a position sensitive fork. As the fork cycles through the first of its travel or on more low speed hits the third piston is free to float up or down. On harder/faster impacts or deeper into the travel the piston will rise up, closing an oil path and forcing the oil through more shims thus creating more damping force. What all that jumble means for the rider is a fork that is both sensitive to smaller bumps but still manages to keep from bottoming its travel needlessly hard.
Rebound and TPC+ assembly
Once bolted on the bike I was stoked to find that the bar height was very reasonable, lower than a lot of other forks I could be using. The bar height was no doubt helped by my choice of the 7” version. I know that the new trend is for 8” front ends but it seems like a little much. 1” can transform a bike from nimble but able to handle what comes its way, to a rig that feels like a monster truck. I installed my 25.4 Pro Taper bars in the 45mm reach position as most riders on this fork will.
Out of the box my Travis was a touch stickier then most new forks. She just didn’t feel smooth and there was a lot of initial friction, much more then other out of the box forks. There is a sticker on my lowers clearly stating that it will need a break-in period before it will feel smooth. This proved to be the case as there was a dramatic improvement in sensitivity after only a few rides. Within a few weeks (20ish runs) the Travis was butter smooth. Not as active as some of its competition but very smooth none the less. I know there a lot of riders out there that swear by their 888’s and how sensitive they are but that feeling has never been something that I’ve been able to get used to, it all feels a little wishy washy to me. The Travis might not feel as effortless to move in the parking lot but unlike a lot riders, I don’t care how they feel in the car park. Once up to speed the big black Manitou fork felt very “planted” and predictable. I would say that the Travis uses its travel much more efficiently then other forks. Even though it is not as active as other forks it didn’t transmit any more nastiness then a more supple fork would have. It reacts to the ground and absorbs what it needs to but you will not find yourself blowing through your travel just because you grabbed a handful of front brake. There is more low speed damping compared to other big forks, this keeps the fork higher up in its stroke so that when you do need all that travel it is still there. It also keeps the bike level when coming hard into corners, a level and predictable bike is a fast bike. Despite the TPC+ system the travel felt very linear to me on the trail, with not alot progressivness to it. I did manage to bottom hard a few times, which is fine. If you never bottom then your fork is too stiff. With the stock Ti spring and changing the high speed compression to 2 turns from full in the hard bottoming was kept to a minimum, and while I still bottomed on the hardest hits of the ride it was more of soft bottom then anything. I did play a lot with the rebound but as usual I reverted back to my “way slower then anyone else” setting. With the stock 2.5wt oil I only had the anodized blue rebound knob 1 turn from full in. I won’t lie to you, with a setup that rebounds this slow it does take a little more effort to clear certain jumps and you won’t exactly be getting the pop of lips of a faster setting but it turns your bike into a ground sticking speed machine that will not surprise you. These extreme settings only added to the planted and confidence inspiring ride that the Travis can give with a more traditional setup.
After spending a fair bit of time with the stock 2.5wt oil and both adj. knobs nearly bottomed, I decided to rebuild the system with a heavier 5wt. oil. As predicted, I was able to back out my rebound and compression knobs but the overall feel of the fork became less active then I liked so I reverted back to the original oil soon after. Just like the famed Dorado, the Travis uses a cartridge damping system. This makes for very easy cleaning as you are able to drop the lowers without having to rebuild the entire damping assembly. I have been on my fork for over 6 months and have only replaced the lubrication oil once (during the damper rebuild) and even then it was not necessary. After the break in period it has remained nearly frictionless for the entire time I have had it. The smooth action is no doubt aided by how stiff the fork is. I am only 170lbs so I’m not the greatest at picking out the noodles but I’m confident in how precise it is.
One point that did concern me before I even rode the fork in anger was that even though it has a cartridge damping, Manitou did not feel the need to use some sort of compensator (IFP, puck ect.) to keep the oil from foaming. An IFP (internal floating piston) separates the damping oil from the air in the system, as the damping rod is pushed into the cartridge body the IFP compresses the air or spring on the opposite side. This does two things, first it helps the fork ramp up as it compresses and second, since the oil is under pressure from the IFP and there is no air on the oil side of the system there can be nearly zero foaming. All this means no loss in damping during rough or long sections of trail. This is used by nearly every rear shock sold today.
Travis loves to fly
So after all my fretting and managing to convince myself as to how it couldn’t work that great without a compensator of some sort, I admitted to myself that I was wrong. My local hill is relatively groomed but I did manage to sneak in about 10 full Whistler days this summer on the Travis, most of those being top to bottom Garbonzo runs down rooty and natural trails. If it is going to fade or foam it was going to do it here. And it didn’t, nothing but predictable. I think this is due to the small volume in the cartridge and in turn, the small amount of air in it. There simply isn’t enough room for things to get all shook up. Despite the fork working great without it, an IFP is being added to the design mid ’07 and it will be retrofitable to ’06 Travis forks also. This should add more progressivity to the stroke which will be another plus.
After 6 months on my Travis I am still very happy with it. If you happen to give one the ‘ol squish test in a shop don’t be put off by it not being the smoothest fork on the floor, once it breaks in it becomes very smooth but with zero bushing play. I also like the fact that it is probably the least common forks of all the big names available, even though it has some advantages over other forks and is hundreds of dollars cheaper. Add to that how easy it is to service and the proven TPC+ damping and you have a winner.
Tyler: "I wish I had a Travis"
Check out www.answerproducts.com
or your local shop for more info!-KaKah!
Manitou 8” Travis TPCTime of use:
Summer and Fall 2006
250+ Bike Park runs
4-7 rides a weekRider Info:
Mounted on a Trek Session 10. Settings:
Flat upper crown with integrated stem. Set at 22.75” axle to crown.
Firm spring. Rebound: all the way out – HS Compression: 1/3 in.
2.5wt oil in TPC damper. Maintenance:
Replaced leg oil (not damper oil) halfway through the summer. Kept seal area as clean as possible. Stored bike upside down to allow the bushings to be constantly lubricated.Ride impressions:
Smooth, smooth, smooth. Very supple initial stroke. Makes good use of its travel: the fork stays high. No diving. This characteristic allows the bike to stay level in rough terrain. Keeps the rider’s weight centered and not “pulled” towards the front of the bike. Most of the other forks I’ve used have required a stiffer set-up to create this same effect. The Travis can be set-up slightly softer and still have the capacity to not dive through its travel. Because the Travis sits higher in its travel, bar height can be lowered to gain control and precision, without feeling “pitched forward” over multiple hits.
With a minimum ride height of 22.25”, the Travis is the lowest (axle to crown) 8” fork on the market.
Stiffness has never been an issue. Very good tire clearance. Crowns use 5 mm hardware. Top crown bolts face the front of the bike and allow for better knee clearance. Integrated stem is clean: easy to use, comes with different spacers to adjust bar height, and two sets of shims to allow the use of standard or oversized bars.
Although the TPC cartridge has clearly a progressive feel to it, the single cartridge nature of the Travis does not allow it to have the bottom out resistance of a dual cartridge, open bath fork. Under full compression the Travis does not clank loudly or feel harsh, but there is a noticeable “thud” and the rider can tell that every 203mm of the fork’s travel has been utilized. For 07, Manitou uses an air-backed IFP on the Travis (internal floating piston) that will allow the fork to have a much better end-stroke ramp up. Much like a shim stack rear shock (Manitou Swinger X series, Revox ISX, Marzocchi Rocco), the 07 Travis will have an air valve that allows one to adjust the air gap at the top of the fork or in other words, its progression rate.
All service, tuning and warranties are handled by OGC
, right here in Vancouver. Impossible to quantify how valuable it is to have prompt, professional service and parts availability within driving distance.
At just under 7.5lbs, if the new air-backed IFP works as promised, the 07 Travis will, in my opinion, have no shortcomings.
For further information on the Travis, other Manitou products or a list of dealers please contact OGC (604) 324-6900-Arthur Gaillot