Manitou has been rocking the reverse arch fork for years now. It's had its ups and downs and bumps in the road and the team at Manitou/Hayes won't deny that. Now, with a completely revamped design program, their new Mezzer fork and Mara shock are looking to change things for the better.
With new leadership, headed by industry veteran Jon Swanson, the entire development program at Manitou has been scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. The hopes are that by focusing on two categories each year instead of an incohesive program that didn't really have a ton of direction, Manitou will be able to develop better and more competitive products in what is a very competitive marketplace.
This year, the two categories are the J-Unit products
and, as we have here, enduro suspension.Mezzer Fork
There are two key pieces to the enduro platform, the Mezzer and Mara. Engineers for the enduro product were tasked with developing the fork to be 25% stiffer than the 36 and it has to weigh in at 2 kg. After some problem solving and engineering, Manitou came out with a fork that's right at 2 kg and is, according to Manitou, 30% stiffer than their 36mm competitor.
The 37mm stanchion fork is available in both 29" and 27.5" versions and is adjustable from 140-180mm, internally, via three spacer clips. There are 37, 44 and 51mm crown offset options and it is boost only.
The damper side of the fork has similar internals to the Mattock Pro with an external high and low-speed compression adjustment and a bladder cartridge damper to prevent air and oil from mixing as it can in a semi-bath in some conditions. The hydraulic bottom out from the Mattoc Pro also carries over but on this fork, it is fixed, and not adjustable as Manitou say that riders weren't using it on the Mattock Pro.
On the air side, the Mezzer uses a Dorado air system. When you screw the air pump on, it fills both the negative and positive at the same time. Chamber number three, at the top, is Manitou's IRT (Infinite Rate Tune) chamber. You fill the IRT first, and then the main. This sets the piston down at its lowest point. You can run a low positive air pressure in the main chamber to allow for good small bump sensitivity. Then as you ramp up pressure in the main through travel, the third chamber matches and opens up and gives more support. Manitou says this gives great small bump sensitivity and support through the stroke.
The cable routing on the fork is an upgrade from Manitou's previous offerings as you can run cables on the front or back. On the old forks you were relegated to a slew of zip ties or routing it on the back of the arch. The Mezzer will sell for $999.99 USD.Mara Shock
One of the big pushes with product development was to make the front and rear suspension together, for the same end user and with the same focus. The Mara has externally adjustable HS and LS Compression, as well as rebound. The pedaling platform consists of "work" and "party" mode.
The key feature of the Mara is how easy it is to service by the user. Anyone with basic tools and a basic suspension knowledge should be able to tune shim stacks in this shock in their garage, according to Manitou, you only need a pin tool. The IFP pressure is only 150psi and although nitrogen is preferred, air works too. The Mara will sell for $579.99 USD.
How simple is it to disassemble? See the video below:Photos courtesy of Hayes
There's a new IFP piston that Manitou developed in conjunction with SKF. Most IFP's are rigid but this one is flexible. The center of the IFP flexes some before moving to help with small bump sensitivity, this will eventually carry over into Manitou's other shocks.
There are three reservoir lengths and three different air can volumes available, depending on the application. The whole idea is that it is all easy to tune and maintain, without a lot of fuss. I was able to get hands on the shock and it is indeed incredibly easy to take apart. Unfortunately, the weather didn't allow for me to get out and ride either product. We'll have ride impressions soon as we're able to throw the new suspension on a bike.