Manitou Mastodon Review

By April 1, 2018Adventures

Manitou? That was something that you heard about back in MTB Action magazine days! Well low and behold I have one of these fitted to my Canyon Dude and it's been one of the best upgrades ever in the history of upgrade purchasing...

Alright so the upgrade journey of the Canyon dude continues. Ever since getting it I lamented the rigid fork, now in hindsight purchasing it with rigid fork was the best idea ever. Why? I got my hands on a Manitou Mastodon from the good people at Shockcraft and why’s that a good thing? Because this fork kicks ass!

In the history of upgrade purchasing (which has been long and involved) there tends to be 3 camps:

  1. Hmm, didn’t really go as expected – tell yourself it’s awesome, but instead there’s that instant post purchase regret.
  2. Did well, nice little upgrade – middle of the road, justify the money…
  3. That’s b—-y amazing ! take my money !

This fork fits fair and square in Category #3.

Why the Mastodon?

Venturing into Fatbike Fork territory is somewhat uncharted waters, the mainstay and what was specced with the Dude is a RockShox Bluto. I’m going to have to say I’m stoked I did my homework. When I read that it has similar internals to my Reba on my runabout Hardtail I was less than impressed… The Reba on the hardtail feels like something out of the ’00s, not a modern marvel. So that was fairly and squarely struck off the list.

Next up a whole bunch of random stuff like the Wren and Lauf, nope and nope. I want good solid name brand support. Then I stumbled across the Mastodon, and in particular a YouTube clip from this dude Pat Smage. After getting over how good the guy is (and feeling very inadequate about my skills) and diving down a bunch of internet rabbit holes I came to the following conclusion :

  • Yes – it will fit a Canyon Dude without interfering on the frame. At full compression the crown clears the downtube which is a consideration for some other frames.
  • Yes – the 120mm Pro Std could be changed slightly with spacers to fit 4.8″ Jumbo Jim tyres whilst still retaining 120mm travel.
  • No – the fork won’t drastically change the Axle to Crown distance (maybe about 20-30mm static)
  • Hmm – Canyon warranty’s is probably out the door, at least that’s what I read somewhere – Thinking about it logically the stresses that a Rigid fork place on the frame, vs the energy being taken up in the Mastodon fork, I can’t imagine why the Mastodon would place more stress than a rigid. The rigid fork would sure make some interesting sounds in the frame which I haven’t heard since on the Mastodon.
  • Local support – A biggie that it was sold and supported by the crew at ShockCraft in Otago, in fact the Chief Engineer Dude was very active on a MTBR thread that helped convince me it was the way to go.

So after a little bit (well, lets be honest, lot) of pondering, I placed the order.

Fast forward a few weeks

A couple of weeks later the fork turned up, with Shockcraft having set the spacers up inside to match what wanted. I was nervous – it was going to push the bike weight up quite a bit and if you believe the internets, weight is everything. It would go from my current 12.7kg with dropper to (measured with pedals) 14.1 kg. Would it still be the climbing machine? How much does weight *really* have an impact on overall performance?

Lets get back to the fork first. Overall build quality was impressive. Especially the hex lock axle was one of those little works of art. Thankfully some spare grey stickers were included which were immediately retrofitted as the stock red stickers were quite jarring. ShockCraft of course took off the red rubber ring and replaced with their trademark green item. And then there’s the size of the thing – I took it to the LBS to get it fitted and it took all of 10 seconds before everyone was trying to stick it over their heads – with varied amounts of success.

Now if you were like me and completely oblivious, to fit the fork on a Canyon Dude you’ll need:

  • A steerer nut insert (not included)
  • Cut down the fork per usual
  • No adapters were required for the Guide brakes (stock 180mm rotors)
  • To enable swapping over forks at will I purchased an extra Cane Creek 52/40 crown race to put on the Mastodon.

The guys were quite quick at installing it (funny how the fun stuff gets done really quick!) – when I went to pick it up, all the guys at the bike store gushing over it – I took it for the obligatory ride out the garage across the park – immediately apparent was the silky smooth on the front end; only had a little bit of playing with pressures to get where I thought it was dialled. Then the wait began before I could get out to the bike park.

So what’s it like?

The easiest explanation is I’m basically faster round most parts of my local bike park compared to my Enduro rig (13.5kg Giant Reign equipped with Enves). What the heck !

  • Stitch Up – Big grade 4 climb, 8:02 [Dude] vs 9:21
  • One Night Stand – Grade 3 flow trail has some pedalling transitions to fast dh:  3:33 [Dude] vs 3:42
  • Fault Line – Grade 4 techy off camber rooty downhill 2:29[Dude] vs 2:36
  • Off the Grid – Fast Grade 4 downhill, lots of drops/big braking bumps, rough. 2:14 vs 2:31[Dude]

So a full 160mm plush monster enduro rig being outridden on a front suspension only fat bike. How does that work? Well I’m able to get the power down more in sections that are flatter; and then a bit more stability & confidence in the techy bits- only really does the Enduro pull away at speed and hitting jumps/drops.

Compared to the stock rigid fork? Night and day. The rigid fork is good upto a point; you hit a hollow/root/drop and you feel it through the bars big time – and sometimes the frame makes interesting noises. For the ultimate climbing power then yeah, rigid is good – but for anything intermediate/grade 3 and up it starts get tiring.

Compared to other forks? As mentioned previoulsy I’ve got a Reba on one bike, and a modded Pike on my Reign. Out of the gate the High Speed & Low Speed compression adjustment is amazing – and is now a must have on any shock/fork going forward. You can close the LSC to firm up pedalling, while still leaving HSC open – it will take the edge off roots will allowing the bike to stay up while standing up on the pedals. Mind blown. Nooooowww I get why the top of the line shocks have these settings. The Reba feels archaic next to this.

How has it affected climbing? On a dead smooth fire road climb you’d probably want the weight reduction of the stock Rude fork (Canyon’s branding for the Rigid fork). But that’s where it starts and ends. The additional 1.4kg hasn’t presented any problems climbing, and in fact the hits on roots activate the HSC circuit and stop the bike stalling a little if you get lazy not popping the front wheel over roots.

My riding is all sandy/rooty/techy trails – this combo has sent me chasing all the grade 4s in the bike park for fun. When someone asked me today what I thought of it I said “if everyone had a ride of one of these round Woodhill, I bet you would see a lot more fatbikes” I then gave him the keys so to speak, he took it for a quick circle and was really surprised… I bet he went home and started reading up reviews!

In Summary

“The Manitou Mastodon is awesome, and compliments the Canyon Dude quite nicely. For my local bike park it's a killer combo - enough traction and power transfer on the way up, with tonnes of fat tired fun on the way down.”

3 Comments

  • Ben Tovey says:

    Great review I’m looking to purchase both the dude and the mastodon. You just convinced me that it’s the right way to go

  • Ben says:

    Hi from France ! great review and very instructive. I also have a canyon dude, older than yours with a rigid fork.
    I was about to buy the mastodon, wasn’t sure about the 100 or 120 mm version. great help reading you.
    Thanks. Best regards.

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