Buy It If: You're looking for a lightweight long-travel fork.
While last year's lightweight MARS line of air forks proved to be mediocre at best, Manitou's 2001 air technology sees great improvement. The long-travel 2001 Manitou X-Vert Air uses this improved technology inside what Manitou calls, "the most technologically advanced fork we've ever produced."
The X-Vert Air's TPC + damping system offers externally adjustable compression and rebound damping with the addition of a position-sensitive compression valve. This "floating" valve provides a more-progressive compression stroke which allows the fork to ride extremely active in its initial 2 inches of travel, while providing more-acute damping toward the last 3 inches. Translation: riders can run a softer-than-usual air fork without fear of harsh bottoming. Positive spring duties are handled initially through the newly added coil spring (with light, medium and stiff options available) then, deeper into its travel, through the Schrader valve-adjustable air spring. Manitou's Bob-Not compression lockout knob is available for an additional $50, but installing it means you will have to give up the fork's position sensitive damping ability.
Plenty of technology is packed into this fork. Cast magnesium lowers, an aluminum steerer, and MRD (Manitou Racing Development) hollow crown help keep the weight down a respectable 3.4 pounds. Protective boots come stock.
On the trail, the X-Vert shows its true colors. Running air pressures up to 140 psi, compression turned four turns out (from max) and rebound set at three turns out, I found the X-Vert Air to produce outstanding big-hit performance. Gone is the troublesome "two-stage" feel of the older MCU/coil spring system, instead replaced by an imperceptibly smooth transition from coil to air. With the compression set correctly, and seals broken-in properly, the X-Vert Air remains extremely active over small to medium-sized impacts, while ramping up predictably once into the massive impact range. This fork offers the very best of both worlds: coil-spring sensitivity with the stout backbone of air progression. In addition to its tuneability and performance, the X-Vert also feels outstanding in the torsional stiffness department.
Granted, tuning the X-Vert can be somewhat overwhelming, but for the experienced rider who understands their needs, the $560 Manitou X-Vert Air is an outstanding choice for long-travel high-performance riding.
Weight: 3.7 lbs.