The Trek Superfly SS is quite the rig. Yes, that was a pun, and yes, it was intended. You see, this bike has a legacy stretching back a decade to the introduction to the introduction of the Gary Fisher Rig for the 2005 model year.
A lot has changed since then – the Fisher brand was assimilated into Trek, 29er geometry finally got sorted out, and 26in vs 29in disputes have been replaced by 27.5in vs 29in arguments. What hasn’t changed is the fact that big wheels and singlespeed drivetrains go together like peanut butter and jelly (with apologies to UK readers). The purple accents on the matte-black frame may hearken back to the original Rig, but the Superfly SS is thoroughly modern machine.
- Highs: Clean lines; good geometry; clever sliding thru-axle design
- Lows: Abysmally narrow handlebar
- Buy if: You’re looking to simplify your life and strengthen your quads
Frame and equipment: simple and straightforward
Starting at the front, the Superfly SS sports Bontrager’s new Bowie carbon fork. The stock fork has an alloy steerer to keep the price in check, though the US$450 aftermarket Bowie Pro version sports a tapered carbon steerer. Much like carbon forks offered by Niner and Enve, the Bowie features a 15mm thru axle. It also has integrated guides for the front brake and enough clearance for 29+ rubber, should you feel the need to beef up the volume to take the edge off the Superfly’s rigid ride.
The Superfly SS frame is essentially the same alloy chassis as Trek’s geared Superfly hardtails, minus the cable stops and ports for internal routing. The tubing is heavily shaped, particularly around the press-fit BB95 bottom bracket.
Unlike the other members of the Superfly line, the Superfly SS sports a clever sliding 142x12mm axle system. At first glance, the rear brake mount appears to be attached to the chainstay. Closer inspection reveals that it’s actually part of the sliding assembly, so there’s never a need to realign the caliper after removing the wheel or tensioning the chain.
The Race Face narrow/wide chainring might be overkill for singlespeeding, but it sure is pretty
A singlespeed with a properly tensioned chain doesn’t have a need for the stock, 32t Race Face narrow/wide chainring, although the color-matched ring is a nice touch that’s sure to win the hearts and minds of matchy-matchy types. Race Face also supplies the crankset, which is appropriately stiff for single-minded mashing.
While superfluous for singelspeed drivetrains, this narrow/wide chainring might come in handy if you decide to run the Superfly SS with a 1x drivetrain. Trek offers a geared, drive-side slider for the Superfly SS, although the absence of cable guides would require resorting to zip-ties to route full-length shift housing along the frame.
The Shimano Deore disc brakes are outstanding for the price — they truly buck the law of diminishing returns with exceptional modulation that would give top-end brakes from a few short years ago a run for their money.
Shimano’s Deore brakes back plenty of power in a budget-minded package
The stock stamped 18t steel cog is a bit of a throwaway item, but that’s fine, considering the fact that cogs wear out and many riders will swap it for a different tooth count to suit their local trails. The Bontrager Mustang rim and fast-rolling XR2 Expert are both tubeless compatible, so you can shave a bit more weight off this 20.4lb/9.3kg bike, if you’re so inclined.
The parts kit is quite reasonable for the money. The only item we took issue with was the aluminum Bontrager RL handlebar, which measures in at a scanty 690mm. While this handlebar would have been considered wide once upon a time, it’s much too narrow for modern taste; fitting a wider one, which you can always cut down would have made more sense.
The ride: fast, nimble and quiet
On the trail the Superfly SS is a nimble beast. The Bowie fork is as forgiving as one would expect two sticks of carbon to be, which is to say: if you wanted a forgiving ride, you’d be riding a suspension fork.
Rigid singlespeeding does have its merits. The Superfly SS tracks with precision and there’s no bobbing from the front end when it comes time to stand and mash up the climbs.
Trek’s 142x12mm sliding thru-axle system is slip-free and silent
Singlespeeds need leverage, though, and the narrow bar left us lacking it when grunting up those steep climbs. Nor did it inspire much confidence when attempting to keep the front end tracking true through rock gardens. This tester would have preferred something in range of 750mm.
The sliders are the stand-out feature of the Superfly SS frame – and one you’ll appreciate in use. Unlike many eccentric bottom brackets, which are prone to creaking and groaning under torque, Trek’s cleverly designed sliders proved quiet and easy enough to adjust.
Verdict: less is more – provided your body can take it
Despite misgivings about the stock handlebar, the Superfly SS is a good choice for riders looking to simplify their stable. And if you feel the SS will write checks that your quads just can’t cash, you may want to consider the Superfly 5. It retails for the same price and comes with a suspension fork and 2×10 drivetrain.
The Superfly SS is not currently available in the UK. As and when this changes we’ll be sure to let you know