Editor’s Note: We have a report from our European corrrespondant, “c_g” today, which is his final review on the QR version of the Manitou Minute 120mm fork. You can find his earlier post on this fork here.

MANITOU Minute 29er – Final Verdict report: by “c_g”

1_MANITOU Minute 29er

OK, this is my final verdict on the MANITOU Minute 29er suspension fork in a 120 mm travel, QR version. It has been tested alongside the Italian made GAS29 STAMBEK Classic farme. The bike has seen considerable mileage and a good variety of riding conditions and almost daily use so that I feel confident to give my verdict on the fork.

Here are the links for all who missed the first part, where the basic info and technicalities have been covered.
Additionally you can turn to Grannygear´s video of SEA Otter Classic´10 on what Manitou has to say about their lineup (here) or look up GT´s impressions on his MANITOU MINUTE suspension fork (here).

So how does this 120 mm fork a perform? … and on a hardtail?

Before letting you in on the riding characteristics I want to point out once more: This fork (just like any other 120 mm fork ) is looong. At 530 mm from axle to crown it requires a frame that can handle such leverage – both in handling and in strength. I do emphasize this especially since I had been riding the fork o the STAMBEK which was specifically designed for forks that long.

The SET UP: Once the MINUTE is set up correctly (which, by the way is super easy through one air valve that handles both positive and negative air chamber) it uses its travel very efficiently. The suggested air pressures from the manual are pretty accurate and give a good initial set up. With very little tinkering I found my preferred pressure about 5 psi higher – and have left it there for the period of the test. Rebound damping (the large blue knob at the lower right leg) was set about ½ to 1/3 turn from open. Over the test period I did try various settings but every time found this setting to be my favorite at any terrain and so it was left untouched for the most part of the test.

The ABSOLUTE PLUS damping dial on the top right leg was used more often. You might remember from my initial post that I immediately developed a habit of using only 3 damping positions out of the 7 indexed options. Over the course of the test I found myself more and more running the fork either fully active (80 % of the time) or locked out, discriminating the intermediate positions altogether. After discussing this with the folks of HAYES, Europe they suggested I´d try their remote lock out called MILO (“Manitou Integrated Lock Out) – their own cable actuated lockout.
They performed the installation but judging by the time it took the mechanic to do and the description it is no rocket science to do. This change left me with the desired two options of fully OPEN or completely LOCKED OUT – all at the flick of my thumb. The lock out is accomplished by pushing a lever down until it is locked down; release is done by pushing a small grey knob. Super simple and hassle free. While maybe not the most ergonomic of solutions (it requires to be pushed down to lock out, which I found awkward and the lever is a bit too large for my taste), it definitely wins the prize for the most low profile mounting hardware on the planet. The lever takes up only 5 mm width on your handle bar and is located with no risk of interfering with your other controls (it interfered a bit with my old school thumb shifters though).

So far I can only say that MILO performed perfectly for me and did what I desired – a digital ON or OFF (by readjusting the throw of the cable – either at the fork or through the threaded barrel nut it is even possible to select a midway position should you prefer a partial lockout instead of fully locked).

Details and remarks: It was easy to tell that the redesign of the fork from the ´09 model had been executed well – no uncontrolled brake dive, no strange noises, or other annoying traits you often hear of with the older model.

One thing I want to comment on is the tire clearance of the MINUTE when compared to other forks (REBA pictured for reference with the exact same tire – a 56 mm wide SCHWALBE Rocket Ron) – in terms of possible tire height (or freedom for mud passing through) you get considerably more with the MINUTE, while in terms of maximum tire width the difference is only about 2 mm on each side.

3_MANITOU Minute 29er

4_Manitou_Minute 29er On the short list of negatives I can only state that the QR version of the fork portrayed a minimal amount of flex. It was in no way concerning or annoying but noticeable when compared to its 20 mm through axle version of the MINUTE – which Guitar Ted is currently reviewing. To give you a small comparison – my rigid NINER fork and the PACE 29 I am currently riding have similar or more flex than the MINUTE. While coasting on the brakes on road I was able to induce a bit of fore-aft vibrations of the fork I but have never experienced this while riding off road. Don´t know why and it didn’t bother me much.

One potential problems might arise with the blue rebound knob that extends quite a bit from the forks lower casting which in my mind is too exposed for safe transporting. Whenever putting the bike down without a wheel it will directly hit the ground there first. This is purely hypothetical because so far the knob only suffered cosmetically but not functionally – despite many trips in the car or on the rack.

The RIDE: Let me start out by saying that I have ridden a multitude of suspension forks both 26 and 29er but I always seem to be drawn back to rigid front ends and so reviewing a suspension component is always particular to me. I can say that I was both positively curious and skeptical at how I would like this long travel fork. I always felt that they do help in many situations but more often than not do mean sacrificing the finesse of riding I love this sport for. Anyone know what I mean?

I will explain this statement later in my review of the STAMBEK but let me simply state here that the STAMBEK Classic is what I call a “HERO bike” – whatever technical challenge I throw at it – it walks away smiling and asks for more. … and the MANITOU Minute has a major share in this perception. Like I had noted in my intro of the fork it was a very good match for the frame and a good choice by GAS29 to spec the STAMBEK Classic with – should you opt to buy a full build.

Despite my expectations of a break in period, the fork felt buttery smooth (can you say that?) from the start. In the 120 mm version the Minute definitely ranks among the plusher forks out there. If you are looking for XC style riding, look elsewhere or turn to the shorter travel versions. While using up the fully usable 120 mm of travel the ABSOLUTE PLUS damping kept the fork under control and from bottoming out on me throughout the test period. Where I regularly ride and test I have a great variety of riding conditions (anything apart from rocky terrain but the Alps are not far from me J) and so it has seen everything from ripples to 5 foot drops. On any downhill the fork gave me such a plush yet controlled feel that I often went faster than usual without even noticing. Only my riding buddies would sarcastically comment on when I had turned a “freeride junkie”. In one word the mid to high speed performance of the fork was flawless.

One other thing the MINUTE does very well is keep me informed what is going on underneath me while remaining positively plush at the same time. To me actively sensing a bikes limits and riding along them is key to my biking enjoyment. If I had to choose between comfort and control I´d always opt for control (this might be the reason I usually ride rigid forks much more than suspension forks 😉 in most any terrain) – but the MINUTE never demanded this choice from me, it offered the best of both worlds – plush suspension action yet very reliable in transmitting control issues.

… but where the MINUTE absolutely won my heart was its ability to be ridden through technical sections at low speed. This type of riding usually is the one, where I feel like most forks simply start bobbing or dive uncontrollably under abrupt braking … they simply would not allow me to finesse my way through the section. Most times when I had slow technical downhills coming up I would turn on the preload as high as it would go (back in the times of coil springs) or would add some serious psi to the air spring to avoid these effects. I am sure many of you know what I mean. I have experienced this with many forks and I think this is why I usually turn back to rigid forks. Not so with the Minute; it does all these things mentioned earlier: it dives under braking, it compresses when weighed hard … but it does this in a manner that makes me feel I am fully in control. This feature is hard to describe as it also is rather a sensation or experience, but it was this one trait that eventually convinced me of the Minute´s ability (for me that is).

5_MANITOU Minute 29er

VERDICT: After doing this review I have absolutely no reservations calling the MINUTE 29er a really good suspension fork – for sure for technical/trail riding and All-Mountain maybe even as an ALL ROUND fork. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone (given they have the correct frame for it).

It can be tuned very easily, and for me had been fine in this setup for 95 % of my rides. While other forks do tempt me to play with settings and fine tune for every ride or variation of terrain the MINUTE has been the kind I set once and then didn’t spent another thought on – but go riding instead.

Has the MINUTE turned me (a confessing rigid fork lover) into a permanently suspended rider? Maybe not all the way (after all it adds more than 2 ½ pounds on the scale over my Carbon forks) but the MANITOU Minute has challenged my attitude towards suspension forks big time. Yes I am greatly tempting to forsake simplicity for the extra comfort (and control under speed) at least for part of my rides … and that alone is a very good job for this fork, wouldn’t you say?