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Manitou Black Comp - After Six Months
by Lester Lin

Feb. 2002: I now have had the Black for 6 months. This fork has been moved from my FSR Comp to a Giant XcX that has a little more rear suspension travel, and a slacker head tube angle. When mounted on the FSR, you could say that at 100mm, the suspension front and rear was perfectly balanced. You could sit on the saddle, bounce up and down, and the front and rear would respond equally in travel and rebound feel. Going over bumps would produce equal feedback from the front and rear. On the XcX, your weight is distributed more heavily on your rear, and thus seems to do more bump absorbing work than the front. Smaller bumps that register on the front fork are hardly felt when the rear rolls over. For me, as much as I loved the balanced feel of the FSR, I'd choose the XcX for the majority of the terrain here in Taiwan. When the going gets tough, I am always glad to be on the XcX, especially due to the huge amount of height adjustment available for the seat. You just can't believe the difference that getting the seat down way low makes on the really steep stuff. Anyway, back to forks........

Either I have gotten used to the Rapid Travel Adjustment, or it has gotten easier to adjust. It has worked dependably and flawlessly. As I became more confident in the reliability of the height adjustment, I started using it more. When you lock the fork down to 80mm, amazingly, it gives you a very nice firm ride, yet smooths out the rougher bumps. On difficult technical climbs, or those long "grind your guts out" hills, the lowered front end really helps to keep your front end on the ground, keep a better balance, and give you a more efficient climbing position. Compared to a 2002 Psylo U Turn adjusted down to 80mm, the Black spring rate seems much more appropriate for this setting. The Psylo, with stock springs bottoms out very easily compared to the Black with stock springs at 80mm. One time, I forgot to raise the fork back to 100mm after a climb, and went through the roughest toughest section of a ride in the "short" position. I was wondering why I was hitting my pedals on obstacles more than usual, and why I caught my Chain ring slightly on a root. Only after getting to the road did I realize that my fork was still down at 80mm! In after thought the fork felt pleasantly firm and stiff in this position,

The rebound dampening has also maintained good performance. You can still tell the difference between the full rebound dampening position compared to the lesser positions. A fellow rider did buy a new Black Comp about a month ago identical to mine. When we were comparing forks, his had no noticeable rebound dampening at all, so buyer beware.

I am not an expert rider, but I think that I ride rougher terrain on a regular basis than at least 75 to 90% of the Mt. Bikers out there. The pounding that this fork has taken over the last 6 months should be more than the majority of Mt. Bikers will dish out. Be it understood that I don't have a kangaroo complex. I don't constantly do 4ft.+ drops. Maybe 8 or so in the last 6 months, so I am not qualified to comment on the durability for that kind of use. I have noticed that on mtbreview.com, many have complained about the stock spring being too soft. I am an average 77 kgs. (170 lbs.), and the springs suit me just fine with no pre-load whatsoever. I enjoy the plush ride on the rough terrain. Heck, I didn't get a 100mm fork for it to feel as stiff as a 80mm travel fork! I also appreciate locking down to 80mm, and having the nice firm feel. (like getting out of an SUV, and slinking into a BMW) Yeah, if you are Capt. Kangaroo and aren't happy unless you are jumping, or are SUMO sized get a heavier spring. Just realize that you are going to have a tougher time wrestling the Travel Adjustment down when you want it.

I have also noted that in the past, I used to have nasty falls all the time. My shins were constantly battered and cut as my nice collection of scars can verify, and I seemed to be constantly nursing a bruise somewhere on my body. However, recently, I have noticed that these nasty falls and bruises have started to become an exception, rather than the rule. I have no doubt that the Black has played a part in this evolution.

SCORECARD:

STIFFNESS: All that I could ask for this side of a triple crown fork. Exceptional at 80mm.
TRAVEL: BUTTERY SMOOTH AND LINEAR at 100mm. Appropriately firmer at 80mm.
REBOUND ADJUST: More than adequate. I need to run it just at about 90% strength for my liking.
RAPID TRAVEL ADJUST: July 2001: MINUS 10. It's worse to have it there just tantalizing you , but with not enough design functionally to encourage it's usage. In essence I give it a BIG Thumbs down. (This is subject to change as I ride the fork more) Feb 2002: 4 flaming chilis. I have come to see the beauty that was under the skin through frequent usage. I only wish the adjustment was at the top instead of at the bottom. (What a change in opinion eh?)

The Answer/Rock Shox rivalry really leaves a buyer with a headache when it comes to making a decision on what you want. Before trying the Black, I was sure that I would rather have a Psylo. Especially after the U turn came out. However, the bottom of the line Black has performed flawlessly. Can't say the same for some Psylo's that I have seen, nor for the other Black that I tried. Well, after owning the Black for 6 months, I may just have to leave that decision up to the flip of a coin.