S&W Sports held a Trek Demo at Bear Brook State Park yesterday, so I thought I’d stop in and try something a little different. I’ve been on a hardtail for the last four years, most of those years singlespeed, so I was eager to get on a few bikes with more than one gear and rediscover the appeal.
I warmed up on my bike for a half hour, and then stopped into the tent for a Superfly 100. Full carbon, full suspension 29er. Tires were not particularly gnarly looking, but they’d do the job. 2×10 drivetrain. The guys take care to air up the suspension according to my weight (interesting idea), and I’m off. Right out of the gate, I can’t get the bike into the smaller of the two chainrings, but I get over it pretty quickly.
This bike is fast as hell. I’m absolutely flying down the trail. Flying. Like, things are blurry flying. I quickly realize what I am missing: SPEED. Not only speed, but the slight measure of compliance I feel under my ass as the rear suspension yields to my weight. This is gonna be alright.
I take a hard left onto Little Bear, and we climb for a half mile. My first impression is annoyance as I feel the rear shock consuming a portion of my energy. It’s this very feeling that prompted me to abandon full suspension years ago. I wouldn’t learn about the CTD switch (Climb, Trail, Descend) until later; that would have made a huge difference here. But I knew whatever misgivings I had with the shock were correctable and were a result of my own ignorance. Moving on to the descent.
I absolutely eviscerated the 0.8mi Big Bear descent. PR. By 48 seconds. The bike is just so unbelievably fast. Just the fact that it accelerates so well. I was probably on a bike one size too small and the suspension was just a little firm for my taste. Dialed in, I would be obnoxious on this bike. That would be what $5,500(!) buys you.
Next I took the hardtail equivalent of this bike, the $5,000 Superfly Elite SL. I’m researching these prices as I write this – holy shit these bikes are not cheap. This bike just did nothing for me. I thought about the Superfly 100 the entire time I rode it. This didn’t feel nearly as fast. It was stiff, unforgiving, and I really didn’t have a lot of fun with it. I PR’d the Little Bear climb with it, which was interesting considering I wasn’t even trying. Clearly it goes up well. But there’s something about this bike; it just doesn’t feel substantial. It is absolutely a race machine. Not my thing.
On the descent, it definitely had a level of precision that the Superfly 100 did not. Still wasn’t as fast.
You want to talk about substantial? So then I grabbed the $4,300 Rumblefish Pro. This thing is a LOT of bike. I don’t know what it weighs; according to the internet, two sizes under this 21″, it goes for 29 pounds. I remarked at the 3×10 drivetrain. In the era of 2×10, that must be on there for a reason. To haul this monster up the grade.
This thing fit like a glove. It was a lot more mass than I’m used to driving around, but I loved it. You think 29ers eat everything in front of them? Try one like this. It’s a thing of beauty. Take the idea that you want the lightest possible mountain bike and throw it out the window. If you’re hung up on that idea, you’re missing out on a shitload of fun.
By now, I had figured out how to run the CTD on both the front and rear suspension, and life was pretty enjoyable. I could sense the extra weight of this bike on the climb, but I didn’t care. I could feel the suspension working underneath, doing things. Things I liked. I still had that loss of efficiency on the climb, but it was better tolerated in Climb mode.
The descent was a rip, just like the Superfly 100. Head-to-head, these two bikes can cut the same lines. The differentiator is the Superfly’s throttle. The Rumblefish just doesn’t have it. But you could easily be on this thing all day. Go anywhere, do anything, and love nearly every minute of it. It would be hard to pick one or the other.
I then headed out to tack on a little more climbing with my bike, heading backwards up Bear Brook Trail and hooking onto a stiff fire road for about a mile. Nothing that bothered me all that much having just been up Wash the week before. Chain was sounding a little “pingy” but nothing too concerning. But still on my radar.
I finish the worst of the climb and my chain derails? That NEVER happens. Really weird.
I work it back on, get a few pedal strokes in, and BOOM. The chain is toast. And I have no chain tool on me. I was lucky to have only been a mile and half away from the car. There was still a lot of walking. And scootering.