Trek Superfly FS 9.8 SL review
Gary Fisher was one of the original mountain bike racers down Mt Tamalpais in 1970s California and he’s been pushing the limits of off-road bike speed ever since he started fitting touring bike gears and motorbike brake levers to his beach cruiser.
When Trek bought his brand and recruited him as an ambassador his thirst for racing carried on in the development of the original Olympic-winning Goldenfly for Paolo Pezzo. The long-running Superfly hardtail and full suspension range (now under the Trek brand banner) shows just how much racing and evolutionary experience the design has benefited from.
Highs: A super-light frame with outstanding level of detail, sorted suspension and top value ready to race kit.
Lows: The flexible frame might not suit powerhouse or precision loving riders.
Buy If: You want a blisteringly fast, fun and user friendly race or ride all day bike.
Frame and equipment: OCLV OCD
Trek has been building bikes completely from composites for longer than almost anyone else. Its trademark OCLV (Optimum Compaction Low Void) carbon has evolved over 20 years to include specific purpose related compositions and lay-up strategies such as the increased impact protection woven into Superfly’s OCLV Mountain material. Fisher/Trek was also the first large brand to use 29er wheels and tubeless-ready rubber over a decade ago. It’s no surprise then that the Superfly frame is one of the lightest full suspension chassis available at just over 4lb, or that it rolls on 29in wheels with tubeless valves included ready for conversion.
29er wheels and low tread team issue tyres underline the superfly’s easy speed with even more rolling efficiency and momentum sustain: Russell Burton
29er wheels and low tread Team Issue tyres underline the Superfly’s easy speed with even more rolling efficiency and momentum sustain
Actually ‘rolls’ is the wrong word – it positively flies. With minimal drag from the chequerboard tread Team spec tyres and race weight spec throughout, the Superfly whips itself up to speed LOL fast. There’s definitely some flex through the back end (you can actually see the wheel twist if you’re following it up a rocky climb) as the power goes down, but not enough to lose track of what the tyre are doing or to feel like you’re wasting your effort.
While tracking is soft, traction levels are better than you’d expect from the tyres. The custom offset G2 fork boosts the lively and agile feel without undermining the inherent stability of the bigger wheels. It’s long enough in reach to thrive on singletrack with a shorter stem/wider bar cockpit too, so criticising a pure cross-country race bike for having a pure cross-country cockpit isn’t fair.
Ride and handling: easy as 123
Having recently ridden less flexible bikes with far less overall control the importance of sorted and predictable suspension is obvious on the Superfly. The Fox fork and shock aren’t amazing in any way but together with the pedal and brake neutral ABP pivot they keep the bike smoothly floated over most trail chatter so you can keep cranking the speed out.
A neat three position remote lever lets you instantly toggle shock and fork between fully open Descend, tighter Trail and locked out Climb modes too, but it’s balanced enough not to depend on your input. There’s just enough capacity to stop reckless moments ruining your ride and it’s not shy about forcing through an aggressive overtaking/descending line choice either.
The superfly floats smoothly over the trail: Russell Burton
The Superfly floats smoothly over the trail
In short it does everything you’d hope race suspension would, when it should making it well worth the weight penalty over a hardtail on technical trails in terms of sheer speed and properly playful charisma. It’s impressively affordable for its thoroughbred single ring carbon component loaded performance. There’s also a full range of both carbon and alloy bikes as well as Trek’s Project One custom program options if this particular bike is under/over your budget.