If there's one thing Manitou can do right, it's a dirt jumper fork. DJ forks aren't the hardest things to produce, you're really just looking for something stiff that has some ok damping for those moments that you realize the landing was 10' shorter than you thought. Our customer Devon Johnson shares his thoughts on the Manitou Circus Expert fork.
That said, the Manitou Circus Expert fork does exceed expectations. I am used to 35mm and 36mm stanchions, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit concerned when I slapped this thing on my hardtail. But it has proven itself to be a stiff and reliable fork. From the pump track, Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park, and the local dirt jumps the Circus Expert has held up and proven that it actually has some good damping to go along with it. The compression knob on the top is very effective, which I really like for jumping between the pump track (where I want it nice and firm) to unknown jumps (where I like to have my suspension a little softer for forgiveness for not landing in quite the right spot). On a few occasions I have hucked to flat with this fork, and while my legs didn't like it - the fork did absorb quite a bit and didn't make any harsh sounds, or start leaking fluid.
Both the rebound and compression knobs are easy to turn and make big differences so regardless of your riding style this fork can be dialed in to fit you. It is an air fork, so the ability to make this fork super firm for those who like DJ forks to be just for emergencies can get it that way. For a DJ, I wanted a 20mm axle and this fork delivers that as well as the bolt on style vs a quick release. While taking the front wheel on and off is annoying, there is some piece of mind in knowing how well the axle is bolted into place. That said, it has flanges on both sides so that the wheel could be lined up rather than floating when you need to insert the axle would be nice. Lining up the hex shapes of the axle can also be painful at times, take your time and look at what you're doing and you'll get it just fine. The big thing is this axle is stout and it isn't going anywhere.
I've now been running this fork just shy of a year, and the durability is great. No leaks, the rebound knob still has a good effect on the fork, and the compression knob as well. This fork has suffered on the back of cars/trucks a few times traveling through Midwest winters (i.e. salt season) to get to Rays and other places that could be ridden while our local area remained under snow. Through that and minimal to no cleaning, the fork seals are still intact, and its never leaked any oil. I love that I can beat up this fork, treat it like garbage, and know the next time I jump on it it's still going to do its job just as well as the last time. There are no weird noises coming from the fork, and it still feels buttery like the first day. Don't get me wrong - this ain't no 180mm Fox 36 Factory - but when it comes to dirt jumpers, this is a hard fork to beat. Toss in the great price, and there's no way I'd go any other direction.
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