Manitou has developed a much-needed update to its SPV platform valving for 2006. James Huang went for a bounce around on a pre-production Snap Valve-equipped R-Seven Platinum 100mm fork.
Manitou revolutionized the suspension fork world with the introduction of its Stable Platform Valving back in 2003. SPV promised to virtually eliminate bobbing during sprinting or climbing and also reduce brake dive, all while allegedly retaining fully active suspension movement when needed. In reality, the system was never quite able to perfectly balance on that fine line; a reasonably stable pedaling platform often came at the expense of small bump compliance. A modified version, dubbed SPV Evolve, was introduced a couple of years later but it still left a little to be desired.
Manitou went back to the drawing board with the development of its Snap Valve technology which we covered in detail just a few months ago. At first glance, the Snap Valve looks similar to SPV but it actually incorporates a "dual ratio" compression damper valve that requires significantly more force to open it than to close it. This yields a higher breakaway threshold for better resistance to low-frequency stuff than SPV Evolve provided, but also improved small-bump compliance and a more active feel overall since the valve would be less likely to shut too quickly.
Snap Valve technology came stock on our pre-production 2006 R-Seven Platinum 100mm test fork. The new R-Seven platform is the replacement for the aging Skareb and incorporates larger 30mm stanchions in conjunction with a beefier crown and lower leg assembly. At 3.36 lb (1.53 kg) with an 8.5in (210mm) long aluminium steerer tube, our pre-production disc-specific fork is barely heavier than its predecessor. Production versions are said to be up to 100g lighter as ours did not incorporate all of the planned weight-reducing production goodies.
Out of the basement and into the woods
From a structural standpoint, the old Skareb was never widely considered to be a noodly platform by the cross-country crowd, but the new R-Seven platform is substantially more rigid. Steering precision is markedly improved as is fore-aft flex when hitting square-edged bumps. Although our test unit was a disc-only model, the visible reduction in lateral movement at the front wheel during compression also suggests that the new platform will produce less brake rub for those using rim brakes.
As with SPV and SPV Evolve, tuning is critical. Snap Valve isn't quite as sensitive to damper pressure settings as its forebears, but small changes still had noticeable effects on the ride characteristics. The new damper technology seemed to work as advertised when properly set up and definitely yielded much improved small-bump absorption and an even more positive pedaling platform than before. In many ways, Snap Valve feels similar to a competitor's terrain-sensing auto-lockout system but without the initial notchiness, plus Manitou's setup still incorporates a very useful amount of sag. Overall fork stroke felt buttery smooth with just the right amount of spring rate progression, and the external rebound adjustment actually seemed to do something.
We'll reserve final judgment for when our full-production version shows up, but the folks at Manitou look to have a hit on their hands.
Weight: 3.36 lb (1.53 kg)