Hey weight weenies, I got another one for you! Actually, this is for everyone who’s into lightweight XC gear: The Manitou R7 Elite 100mm (MSRP $450) is the perfect choice for those who are looking for an affordable, lightweight, XC performance suspension fork. The R7 Elite comes in both 100mm and 80mm travel configurations and has great features everyone will appreciate while ditching the unnecessary features that inflate weight and cost.
For starters, this fork is very light – just a touch over 3 lbs. The R7 Elite includes post mounts for disc brakes (no V-brake mounts) and the post bosses where you mount your brake are already machined flat with no paint (very important for installing brakes properly). The controls are simple and well thought out and can be manipulated without removing a glove. The R7 also gives you independent compression and rebound controls.
Installation is fairly straightforward and you can use the fork installation guide that I posted previously for details. Otherwise, here’s the short version: First, remove the old components as an assembly. Record the steering tube length of the old fork and then mark the new fork with the same measurement with a fine felt-tip marker. After confirming the measurements a few times, cut the steering tube to the correct length using a very sharp pipe cutter. Once the steering tube is cut, remove the burrs and don’t forget to install a fresh star nut (use a nut setter such as the TNS-1 from Park tools).
Once the wheels, brakes, and stem bolts are all torqued in place, the next step is to air up the fork and set the sag. Manitou asks that you use about 50% to 60% of your body weight, in my case 110lbs as a starting point of pressure for the fork’s air spring pressure. Then measure the distance from the front axle centerline to the bottom of the crown when no one is sitting on the bike and write down this measurement. Next, sit on the bike and measure the same distance as before (it’s important to be in the normal riding position, weight centered, with your feet on the pedals). Subtract the second measurement from the first and the result is the sag. Seeing that this is a 100mm fork and I wanted a 15% sag, I chose a measurement of 85mm. After all, this is an XC fork designed for racing meaning I’ll want as little bob as possible, yet as much tracking as I can get. Following the recommended procedure for setting sag will make a huge difference in performance.
This fork comes with independent compression and rebound adjustments. The method I always follow for adjusting fork settings starts with a quick ride around, bouncing the fork here and there to get the fork’s internals well lubricated. Once that is complete I hit the trail to see how the fork is reacts to the terrain. Specifically I’m looking for excessive dive when braking or bigger hits (remember this is an XC fork so a big hit here is about a foot). Based on my observations I dial in compression to the point where I get minimal dive when hitting the brakes but not enough that I feel the impacts are jarring my wrists. Once I’m comfortable with the compression setting I concentrate on rebound.
The procedure for finding the right rebound settings is very much like the procedure for compression – it’s all about adjusting to your feel. Here I take the bike over a bump and feel for the speed at which the fork returns back. I adjust the fork so that it returns in a controlled manner and not too quickly (which often feels like a stinging sensation on your wrists). With a slow rebound setting the fork “packs down” (does not return fast enough before the next bump on the trail) and limits travel.
XC trail riding
Once the fork is set and after a few hours of breaking in the seals I hit my favorite XC trails at the DVP and Albion Hills where they host some of the 24 Hour events here in Ontario. Both Albion and the DVP offer a variety of trail conditions including heavily rooted and washboard sections – a good challenge for any fork!
My first impressions with the R7 were pretty much what I anticipated: fast, responsive, and stiff. On the trails with the R7 I felt everything and knew exactly where the fork was going; the R7 is basically a point and shoot affair. The fork tracks without flexing even when riding off-camber sections or in any other situation for that matter. When hitting roots and ruts on the trails the R7 soaked up the hits well and did a great job at keeping the tire in contact with the ground at all times, even over washboard sections.
This fork is not equipped with a lock out (yet) so to use the R7 effectively you should remain seated while climbing and stay slightly forward on the bike during steep climbs. When holding that riding position, the fork works great at preventing unwanted bobbing. Riding one to two foot drop offs I found the fork absorbed the hits well and returned to ride height under full control.
Rating the R7 Elite
|Tracking and steering||8|
|Construction and quality||8|
|Trail worthy 1 For light XC, 10 For extreme FR/DH||4|
|Overall performance quality out of 10||8|
Thanks to the folks at Manitou for the chance to review the R7 Elite. For further information on Manitou’s products check out the website which is now updated with all the new forks as well as a wealth of information for all their gear.
R7 Elite Specifications