While carbon might be seen as the ultimate aspirational frame material, bikes like Trek’s Superfly show just how advanced the latest alloy frames have come in terms of performance. The complete bike is also a great example of how spending the money in the right places can get you a fantastically rapid yet fiscally astute ride.
Frame and equipment: booming for your buck
At this price point a screw-thru axle fork is still a relatively rare accuracy-boosting bonus on a race hardtail. The short, tapered E2 head tube keeps a firm grip on the custom G2 geometry Reba fork at the top end too.
A broad but shallow down tube and top tube with buttress shaping to reinforce the super thin walls lock down stiffness at the front end. The result is a very quick steering feel for a 29er but underlined with an inherent stability as speed rises or traction runs out.
Trek has dropped its old super swept cruiser bars for a more conventional aggressive shape that syncs much better with the eager race rapidity of the super light Superfly. Down on the ground, meanwhile, the small volume (for the claimed 2.2in width), low tread Bontragers spin up to speed very fast for a 29er.
A quick glance of the tiny seat tube piercing the broad top tube shelf that splays out into flat, S-bent seatstays suggests the tail is far from hard.
The Superfly's flexy tail makes it a pleasure to take on long rides
Ride and handling: feel the flex and float
Even with the skinny tyres, that built in flex is obvious as soon as you ride it. It sucks the sting out of sharp edges and floats across rough sections without rattling your teeth out or disrupting pedal rhythm. The result is a surprisingly forgiving, traction boosting long ride friendly character without the extra weight or faff of suspension.
While big cowled dropouts and a 142x12mm screw-thru axle increase stiffness at the rear end there is definitely a fair amount of cornering twist and sideways twang on off camber sections. Stomping on the pedals can get the bottom bracket swaying sideways too. That doesn’t stop it being seriously quick though, and all our testers commented that the 22-tooth inner ring of the FSA chainset was too small for such a talented climber.
Fatter rubber would also complement the shock-absorbing ride of the rear and add predictable traction to underline the keen handling front end. Neither change is expensive on a bike that’s already better than many of its more wallet-damaging peers.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.