By Eric McKeegan
The Tower Pro was formerly known as the Minute, but Manitou is bringing all their 29er trail forks under the Tower name, including the fork formerly known as Drake. Let’s start with the internals. The spring system is a hybrid air/coil spring called MARS (Manitou Air Response System). The coil spring handles initial travel for a supple feel, then the air spring kicks in to provide some progression from mid to full travel. For best performance, the coil spring should be swapped, depending on rider weight. At 150lbs., I was fine with the stock medium spring.
Damping is provided by the Absolute+ system, which is externally controlled via the knobs on the top and bottom of the left leg. The rebound clicker is on the bottom, controlling low speed rebound with a 180° twist. No detents, but it was easy to dial in the setting I wanted (20° or so from full fast). The red knob on top controls low speed compression from wide open to locked-out, with seven settings in between.
The 20mm axle has the signature Manitou hex interface to prevent the fork legs from twisting around the axle, with the intention to increase stiffness. I didn’t have any complaints about stiffness; it was on par with every other 120mm 29er fork I’ve ridden, at least ones without a tapered steerer, an option Manitou will be offering in 2011. I wasn’t so stoked on loosening five bolts in two different sizes to get the axle out, but again, there will be a hex version of the QR15 system in 2011.
On the trail, I found the fork to be quite linear, but still able to handle big hits without bottoming harshly. I did most of my riding with the fork one click in from full open, but on smoother rides where I was dialing in more platform on my rear shock, I was easily able to match those settings on the fly with a few more clicks of damping. Wide open, the fork would dive a bit under braking, but a click of the damper reined this in. Stutter bumps, big hits and small stuff were all handily dispatched, no packing down, no compression spikes, well-matched with the plush rear suspension I paired it with.
Once the QR15 and tapered steerer options are in place, this fork will be a contender with anything else on the market, not that it can’t compete now on the strength of its suspension performance alone. By the second ride I was very happy with this fork, and really came to appreciate the compression dial to fine-tune the ride. All in all, a very tunable fork, that won’t overwhelm less tech-savvy riders.
Just the facts
- Weight: 4.17lbs.
- MSRP: $500 (9mm QR), $550 (20mm thru-axle)
- Travel: 120mm
- Stanchion Diameter: 32mm
- Steerer: Aluminum 1.125”
- Spring: Air and Coil in series
- External Adjustment: Air Pressure, Rebound, Compression
- Disc Mount: 74mm Post Mount
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Online: www.manitoumtb.com