Manitou Minute Expert 29″ Fork
Travel: 130 mm
Axle to Crown – 530 mm
Blister’s Measured Weight- 4.0 lbs / 1816 g
Offset – 48 mm
Street Price – $560.00
Reviewer: 5’8”, 160 lbs
Test Location: Park City, Utah
Test Duration: 12 rides
There once was a time when I longed for a Manitou fork. Manitou’s “Black” series was new and different, and riders raved about their performance. (Downhillers rocked their Dorado forks and loved them.) But Manitou then kind of fell off the map. They’ve had some sort of continued presence, but it’s been a fairly quiet one.
Our “Vs.” review series of 29er forks provided a great opportunity for me to get back on a Manitou fork for the first time in a long while, and I was curious to see (1) how the Manitou Minute Expert stacked up to other similar forks on the market, and (2) whether the Minute Exoert could be seen as something of a comeback by Manitou.
The Minute comes in several configurations. You have your choice of:
• 120, 130, or 140 mm travel
• either 1-⅛” steel or aluminum steerer tubes, or tapered 1.5” steerer tubes
• 9 mm, 15 mm, or 20 mm axles
Manitou’s proprietary QR15 axle system makes wheel removal and installation incredibly quick. To remove the axle: (1) open the QR lever, (2) rotate it a ¼ turn counterclockwise, (3) pull the axle out. Reverse the steps to install. Manitou is nice enough to write these directions right on the axle, should you happen to forget.
The reverse arch design that Manitou has been using for nearly forever may or may not increase stiffness, but it definitely does provide awesome tire clearance. The biggest tire I ran with it was a 2.4” WTB Trail Boss, and it wasn’t close to taking up all the available space.
The arch isn’t without its downsides, though. Brake routing is a bit tricky to figure out. If you run it along the arch, it ends up coming up by your knee. But if you run it inside the arch, it seems like it could get pinched on the crown. If you route it up the front of the fork, there isn’t a good anchor point. So I ended up spiraling the hose around my headtube once. It worked reasonably well, but did require a bit of extra hose length.
The Minute isn’t as stiff as the MRP Loop Tr, despite coming in at almost the same weight. That said, it was certainly adequately stiff. Only when pinballing through rock gardens did I find myself wishing I had a stiffer fork chassis that could provide more steering precision.
One other note: while the fork is fine when loaded up in corners, when I’d hit the brakes suddenly or grab the lowers and yank on them, I noticed more-than-average play in the bushings. It wasn’t a big problem, but I do worry that the bushings will wear faster than on other forks because of the play.
The Manitou Minute fork has a 48 mm offset. It is a bit more responsive than a 46 mm offset, but definitely feels more like a small offset fork than a 51 mm offset fork would. It is noticeably less responsive to handlebar inputs. I like a bike with quick handling, and longer offsets generally facilitate quick, reactive bike movements and make turn initiation a bit easier.
The air spring was funny. I set it up at the recommended air pressure for my weight, hopped on the bike, bounced on it once, and (to my surprise) crushed through most of the fork’s travel.
I double checked the pressure, assuming I’d misread my pump and failed to put enough air in the fork. Nope. So I tried a different pump in case the first was wrong. Nope. So I just kept adding more and more pressure in the fork until the sag and bottom-out resistance were adequate. According to Manitou’s recommendations, I ended up running enough pressure for someone weighing 220 lbs. That didn’t bother me much, but had I been much heavier than 160 lbs, I might have run out of range.
One possible solution for the Minute would be to add a volume-decreasing bottom out bumper, but Manitou doesn’t offer one. Adding one would have allowed me to run a lower, more reasonable air pressure for my weight, and would have made the fork more progressive. That would have bumped up the suppleness, decreased dive, and prevented bottom out.
As it is, with the air pressure set well above what’s recommended for my weight, the Minute Expert feels just a little like a 160 mm 27.5″ Pike with no bottomless tokens.
The Minute Expert features Manitou’s Absolute+ damper with TPC technology. That’s a bit confusing. Manitou’s TPC damper is a totally different and more complex beast than their Absolute+ damper, which is actually just an open bath damper. And unfortunately, the Absolute+ damper on the Minute Pro tops out. All the time.
I’ve had minor top-out problems with a Rockshox Lyrik and Fox 32 before. Both times, the fork just needed a little love or a bit more oil to solve the problem. The Manitou Minute Expert was brand new, so I assumed that it didn’t need any love or attention to replace broken parts, and I tried adjusting oil levels. It didn’t make any difference. Throughout the entire time I had the fork, it topped out consistently. While it wasn’t often that I could pinpoint an instance where it detrimentally affected my riding, it sure as hell bothered me the whole time.
Additionally, the rebound adjustment is very coarse – a single click creates a substantial change. One faster was too fast. One slower was too slow. And not by a little. I couldn’t comfortably ride either one click up or down from my selected setting.
The sensitivity of the Manitou Minute Expert was decent. I’d give it a 3 out of 5. The progression was acceptable, probably a 3 out of 5 again. But that was only with an absurdly high amount of air in the fork (for my weight); otherwise, it dove a lot.
The mid-stroke performance was a bit better. It was able to handle repetitive and square-edged hits without any noticeable spiking. I’d give it a 4 out of 5.
The damping on the Manitou Minute Expert actually reminded me a whole lot of my old Manitou Black fork. Back then, the Black’s performance really stood out. But the Minute expert doesn’t stack up as well against the current competition.
Vs. MRP Loop Tr
The MRP Loop Tr is a much stiffer fork with a more progressive spring rate, and I found it to be a better fork for charging. If I had to give the edge to the Manitou on anything, I would say that it is a bit more supple.
Vs. Marzocchi 320
The Manitou Minute Expert has a stiffer chassis, and its action is smoother. But the Marzocchi 320 is more judicious in how it uses its travel—the Manitou dives quite a bit more.
Vs. DT Swiss OPM
The DT Swiss OPM is a comparably stiff fork. Like the MRP and the Marzocchi, it is also a bit more supportive in its mid stroke than the Minute Expert. It is, however, a more expensive fork.
Manitou’s forks were popular in the early 2000’s because they were ahead of their time. Unfortunately, I don’t think the same can be said of the Minute Expert. Its top-out was frustrating, and the fork’s damping performance was only fair. And if you are a heavier rider, you might not be able to get enough air into the fork to support your weight. So I can only recommend this fork if you find it on an exceptional deal and don’t weigh more than 180 lbs or so.