Review: 2014 Trek Superfly FS 9

Thanks to the friendly folk at Cycle Factory, the opportunity to ride Trek's 2014 Superfly FS 9 came my way. I only had the bike for a week so what follows is a quick ride review.
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Frame


The Superfly is by no means short on technology. It features Trek’s Active Braking Pivot (ABP), G2 Geometry, tapered head tube, carbon swing link, internal routing for a dropper post and derailleurs, rear post-mount for disc brakes, and a quality paint job to match. While most of these features have become expected in this price range, the internal dropper post routing on an 100mm XC bike was exciting. For 2014 Trek has made the head angle a degree slacker to 70 degrees. The chainstay protector is designed for the bike including a small rubber tab on the bottom to further minimize chain slap noise


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The area in front of the rear wheel where the front derailleur is mounted looks prone to collecting mud and may lead to shifting problems. I didn't have the opportunity to test this during my time with the bike, but I've ridden similar setups that all suffered when things got muddy.


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Fork


I was glad to see Trek choose a 51mm off set fork as standard. Going into off set is a lengthy discussion on it’s own. For now I would suggest you read more about it here. The main benefit of a 51mm off set fork on a 29er is that it goes a long way to counter the sluggish cornering experienced with earlier 29ers. It certainly helps considering the Superfly's longish wheelbase.

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As expected from RockShox, the fork was easy to set up and tune to my liking. The sag indicator on the stanchions is something all suspension manufacturers should copy.

Out on the trails, I found the fork to be stiff with enough progression through the travel to counter diving under heavy braking and sufficient give on the rough stuff. It’s 15mm Maxle makes removing the wheel an easy task and adds stiffness to the lowers with a minimal weight penalty.

I do feel, however, that Trek, and many other manufacturers with models at this price point, should spec a Reba and pass the money saved onto the consumer. The SID is a brilliant fork, but offers little in terms of pure upgrade over a Reba.

Shock


If I was happy to see a SID on the bike, I was overjoyed to see the bike come standard with a Monarch. Not only does it compliment the fork in terms of feel, it also adds a lot of control and a much wider tuning range than what I’ve experienced on several bikes recently equipped with a Fox CTD. Adding or removing air only alters the characteristic and not the overall feel of the shock and with it the bike. Running 30% sag (too much for a 100mm bike) gives the rear a plush, compliant feel without blowing through travel at the first sign of a bump. Running at 25% sag does not sacrifice on the small bump sensitivity and still offers lots of traction.


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The rear suspension design plays a big part in that equation, but a short ride on a Fox equipped Superfly proved just how much the Monarch suits it.

Wheels


The internet does not offer much information on the wheels which leads me to believe they are OE only. I know from past experience that the “1800” in the model name refers to weight, but this is often off by a fair margin.

Tires


The Bontrager XR1 Team Issue provide the best grip when the dirt is tacky to dry. They spin up to speed fast with little rolling resistance. Break away is predictable and controllable. In loose over hard pack and wet conditions they suffer, but that is expected of a tire designed to be as fast as possible. For winter races and longer rides, I would change to a grippier front tire. For all-out winter trail riding it might be best to change front and rear.

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For the photo shoot, I loaded the bike on the bakkie and headed into the hills. In the rush to get out in time to still have descent light, I neglected to check tire pressures. Pedalling around the top, I realized they were under pressure by quite a bit and had to take it easy. What I did, however, notice was the tires rolled a lot less on the sidewalls than expected. Certainly less than compared to similar Schwalbes and Specialized tires.

I would definitely recommend more riders give them a try on their race bikes when it's dry out. On a side note, it was great to see Trek shipping the Superfly with tubeless ready tires.

Drivetrain


Shifting is smooth and precise, although it does suffer a bit under load compared to SRAM X0 / X9. I found that the 11-36 cassette with 38/26 chainrings gives a wide enough spread for most terrain. The Shadow Plus is another nice touch by Trek, as it keeps the chain in check and makes for a nice and quiet ride. Shimano triggers are still my triggers of choice, but that’s purely down to personal preference.

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Saddle


Joining the list of equipment from Trek’s Bontrager stable, is an Evoke3 saddle. It is firm yet comfortable enough for longer trail rides. Rounded corners made it easy to slide off the back yet provides good support for an “in saddle” feel. A slightly wider nose provides comfort when moving forward on longer climbs and provides extra comfort in technical terrain. White would not have been my first choice for a mountain bike though.

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Handlebar


Nothing flashy or groundbreaking to report here. Sweep and rise is good for a 29er and the feeling comfortable. At 690mm the handlebar is on the narrow side, I would have preferred at least another 20mm to 30mm added to it.

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The Ride


The Trek Superfly loves fast and flowy trails with wide open, high speed sections. A long wheelbase and low bottom bracket gives the bike a planted and stable feel through fast, sweeping corners. The rear suspension maintains a lively feel throughout it's travel and soaks up smaller trail chatter without the need to run more sag than normal. The Superfly isn't afraid of climbing, either. There is little to no bob to speak of even without switching the shock (or fork) into the locked mode. The Active Braking Pivot proved it's worth out on the trail, keeping the suspension active when braking through rough stuff. Overall feel of the suspension is well-balanced with the fork and shock sharing similar characteristics.

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With a chainstay length of 452mm it's not the easiest bike to manual or wheelie and handling feels cumbersome in the tight stuff. It's worth remembering though that this is not a trail bike. It was designed to cover lots of miles in the fastest way possible and it does that with ease. I would've enjoyed experimenting with a shorter stem and wider bars to see how much of that can be countered by set up, but unfortunately there wasn't enough time during this test.

In the end


The Superfly FS 9 is a capable and well-specced XC / Marathon bike that can double for some light trail duty with grippier tires. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the specification and design of the frame. As Trek's top of the line aluminium model, the FS 9 does have some stiff competition when it comes to pricing from bikes like the Giant Anthem and the Momsen Vipa AC.

Highs


Active Braking Pivot
Cable Routing
Dropper post ready
Good, solid spec with lots of attention to detail
51mm Off set fork
Very little that would need upgrading

Lows


Could do with a wider handlebar (710 or 720 vs 690)
Long wheelbase and chainstays
Grips can do with more meat
Not a bike problem, but I would go with a Large and run a shorter stem
Similarly spec'ed bikes come in cheaper. I suspect this will be the bike's biggest hurdle.

At the time of the test, this the Trek Superfly FS 9 was listed to retail for R38,950.

Specifications


[spec_list]
[spec_list_row=Frame]Alpha Platinum Aluminium, ABP Convert, E2 tapered head tube, internal derailleur & dropper post routing, press fit BB, Flow Mold carbon swing link, post mount brake, G2 Geometry, 100mm travel[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Fork]RockShox SID RL w/Solo Air spring, rebound, PushLoc remote lockout, E2 tapered steerer, 15mm Maxle Lite, custom G2 Geometry w/51mm offset, 100mm travel[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Shock]RockShox Monarch RL w/rebound, lockout, 6.5x1.5[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Sizes]15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5, 21.5, 23" (17.5” tested)[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Wheels]DT Swiss X1800, 15mm front hub; 142x12 rear w/tubeless rims, strips, and valves[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Tyres]Bontrager XR1 Team Issue Tubeless Ready, aramid bead, 29x2.2"[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Shifters]Shimano Deore XT, 10 speed[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row="Front derailleur"]Shimano Deore XT, low direct mount[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row="Rear derailleur"]Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Crank]Shimano Deore XT, 38/26[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Cassette]Shimano SLX 11-36, 10 speed[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Saddle]Bontrager Evoke 3, titanium rails[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Seatpost]Bontrager Race X Lite, 31.6mm, 5mm offset[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Handlebar]Bontrager Race Lite low-riser, 31.8mm, 5mm rise, 690mm[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Stem]Bontrager Race X Lite, 31.8mm, 7 degree[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Headset]FSA IS-2, E2, sealed cartridge bearing[/spec_list_row][spec_list_row=Brakeset]Shimano Deore XT hydraulic disc[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Accessories]Bontrager Sideswipe RL Bottle Cage[/spec_list_row]
[spec_list_row=Grips]Bontrager Race Lite, lock-on[/spec_list_row]
[/spec_list]






8 Comments

lesego.2, Nov 11 2014 04:09

Cool bike.

Claudio, Nov 11 2014 10:20

Nice one. Reads really well :) Would've loved to see how it faired against the Anthem 1 27.5

Iwan Kemp, Nov 11 2014 02:16

Thanks! Would have been interesting to ride them back to back to get a proper feel for 27.5 "vs" 29 on bikes with the same travel, but different suspension designs. 

 

For pure XC and Marathon racing I have no doubt the 29er (be that Trek, Giant or Momsen) will be the faster option. For trail riding, especially what we have down in Cape Town it may a different story and some spec changes will most likely have to be made to optimize the bike for the terrain.

 

In terms of real life suspension feel the Trek and Giant are not that far apart. Having said that I'm sure in a longer travel format each design will show it's prowess.

Johny Bravo, Nov 12 2014 07:25

I enjoy your reviews, always a good read. Would love for a review on the spez enduro, the new one. 

 

Dont really see many Trek mountain bikes these days, I think their pricing is a bit off compared to the giants and Spez and momsens etc etc.

Iwan Kemp, Nov 12 2014 08:26

I enjoy your reviews, always a good read. Would love for a review on the spez enduro, the new one. 

 

Dont really see many Trek mountain bikes these days, I think their pricing is a bit off compared to the giants and Spez and momsens etc etc.

 

Thanks, always nice (and good) to hear. We are trying our best to get our grubby little paws on a Spez and an Enduro would be top of my list too. 

 

Let's see what we can do...

Iwan Kemp, Nov 12 2014 08:30

PS. Credit has to be given to official hub staffer Nick Webb, and before him Claudio, who ensures it reads good and proper.

 

Lone_Ranger, Nov 12 2014 01:51

Regarding the wheels, I have a 26" set of these and they're evidently OEM wheels found on Giant (and now Trek) bikes. They're not the lightest, but they're bulletproof. A step up from most entry level wheels, so a good mid-level wheelset.

Iwan Kemp, Nov 19 2014 01:47

Regarding the wheels, I have a 26" set of these and they're evidently OEM wheels found on Giant (and now Trek) bikes. They're not the lightest, but they're bulletproof. A step up from most entry level wheels, so a good mid-level wheelset.

 

Thanks for the info.