Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nixon Super

Why? Whilst investigating my 5Spot purchase, I wanted the bike to be as flexible as possible with a particular emphasis on nailing down the front on steep climbs. Many fork manufacturers offer climbing aids to lower the front a little but many of the early incarnations also caused the spring rate to ramp up, making the fork stiffer. Marzocchi were an obvious starting point with either ETA system but the axle to crown heights were too long for the frame (a-c lengths are lower for '06 and now inline with other manufacturer's). They were also a little heavy at close to 5lbs. Partly to keep the weight down, I wanted to try and air fork as the seals were now more durable and the bouncer would be more tune-able as a result. As I really liked the feel of my Manitou Black, I thought that their Nixon Super might be suitable as it uses the same buttery smooth TPC damping system. It also employs a new snazzy bar mounted, infinte travel (IT) adjust system which is theory meant I could run it shorter on climbs, near the 5Spot recommended 130mm on the level and open it right up on the descents. I opted to stay away from the toublesome Platinum model as the SPV and IT systems seemed to be causing many recall issues. An order was duly placed with Chad at RedBarnBicycles, who'd also been impressed with the same fork as fitted to his El'Salty. Chad also suggested that I opt for the lighter quick release version rather than using a bolt through front hub as he thought the 32mm diameter stanchions were plenty strong enough.

Adjustments. The compression, rebound and travel are all externally adjustable and make a marked difference to the ride, although some indents would be handy. All the adjusters are metal and hopefully more durable than the naff plastic items found elsewhere.

The IT system is so quick and easy to use with the fingertip adjuster next to the shifter on the handlebar. Depress the "spoon" and it'll gradually sinks through it's travel. Releasing, holds it at the selected length. This is handy on the steeper climbs and really helps to nail the front end down and virtually elimates the front wheel lifting and wandering. Lowering the travel does mean that you're more likely to whack a pedal on rocks, etc though, so I'd suggest using it sparingly. To extend the fork you depress the bar mounted "spoon" again and pop a little wheelie. It takes some practice to extend the fork on the move but it's easily achieved whilst you're stopped, gasping for air, at the top of the climb! The beauty of this travel adjust system is that the spring rate doesn't increase as you lower the fork, which means it's still supple / fluid over bumps and feels consistent.

Issues. When I initially bolted the fork onto the frame I noticed that I was only getting 1/3rd of the travel. Chad hadn't experienced this but contact the manufacturer on my behalf. Whilst I was waiting, the techy guy was out of the office at a show, I contacted the Raw (UK importer) who suggested that I send it directly to them for a fettle. They reviewed the problem and found the rebound assembly was busted and it also had misaligned lower legs. These were promptly replaced under warrantly and returned for just the cost of postage, a result. Back on the 5Spot it felt sweet and even while the fork bedding in I was impressed by how supple it felt over the smaller bumps and ripples. Over the next few months it got a pounding around Afan and Cannock without any further problems. In the autumn I wondered if I was inadvertantly catching the "spoon" with my thicker gloves on as I thought the fork was lower than I'd set during a couple of rides. So I moved the "spoon" inboard and continued on my ride. After hammering down a section of trail and at the bottom of the descent I lofted the front end over the log and found the front of the bike disappear over the other side, duly dumping me over the bars. Dozer found this particuarly funny as I'd only just commented on the "easy log hop"! I found the fork had mysteriously reduced to it's minimum travel (40mm) which was some 100mm/4"s shorter than expected... during the rest of the ride, the fork repeatedly sank through it's travel, unassisted. Another email to Raw suggested that I again return the fork as the travel adjust assembly had recently been modified and that they'd install a new unit. Whilst in for repair they also noticed some stanchion scoring (within the lowers) due to a tolerance issue - which necessitated a new set of uppers including the crown and steerer. Therefore, during both visits to Raw, my Nixon had not only been rebuilt twice but almost all the parts had now been replaced. It's subsequently back on my bike and we haven't had any problems so lets hope that all the niggles have now been resolved. We've not yet clocked up the longest runtime before the earlier problems occured, but we are getting closer...

Alongside the Nixon, I've periodically fitted the shorter Pace RC41 to my 5Spot which noticeably quickened the steering. However, I always find that I enjoy the slightly more laid back angles the Nixon gives.

Conclusion. Externally, the fork is well made, of a sturdy construction and not excessively heavy (4.1lbs) for the travel it offers (145mm). Internally, we've had a few negative experiences which I hope are now behind us with the modified components. In function, the positive air spring, compression and rebound adjusters alter the ride much as you'd expect. The TPC damping is as good as ever and really shines over the Marzocchi or Fox forks that I've tried. It also gives the Pace a run for it's money. The IT system is a handy feature to have, even though I've found that the 5Spot climbs well even with the fork extended.

Apart from Rockshox, I find the latest retail price of forks to be excessive and the price of the Nixon is no exception. However, if you can find any discounted I'd say that it'll be worth giving them a try.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Raw, who have been very helpful, professional and quick to turn around any faults.

For 2006, I notice that Manitou have revised their Nixon range and the Super is no longer available - boo. I suspect that this is due to their new "instrinsic" damping and compression cartridge (SPV evolve plus!) which may mean they've now optomised their Stable Platform Valve to also be supple over the small bumps. If they have then this could be a killer fork. I also hope that by simplifying the range, they'll reduce the number of recalls...

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