Trek Superfly Eight
Superfly is the name given to all of Trek’s cross-country 29ers. The name has been running for a while and has a proud history. Trek bought Gary Fisher bicycles back in the day, and Gary’s passion and drive to get 29ers into the mainstream would not have had the effect it did without Trek working in the background. Trek phased out the Fisher name, as the bikes are now simply branded Trek with a reference to the ‘Gary Fisher Collection’, but Gary’s legacy lives on in every Superfly.
All Superfly models use Gary’s Genesis 2 geometry. The original Genesis concept paired a short (for its time) stem with a frame that had a long top tube. The reach to the bars was the same, but the handling was more confident than a short frame with a long stem. We see the short stem/long frame concept everywhere these days. Genesis Geometry was way ahead of its time.
The current Genesis 2 system is a little different; it’s all about optimising the front wheel trail. Trail is the distance between two points; the first is found by drawing an imaginary line through the head tube down to the point where it hits the ground; the other point is on the ground directly below the front axle (it’s the centre of the contact patch of your tyre). Bikes with lots of trail feel like the front wheel wants to flop over when it’s turned, which is the last thing a 29er needs. Trek specifies forks with a more pronounced 51mm offset which puts the front wheel further in front of the rider. By increasing the fork offset, the trail measurement is reduced. This helps to create a nimble steering response at the bars. Trek also shortens the top tube to reel in the extra wheelbase length that’s created by increased fork offset.
This push towards larger fork offsets was another change instigated by Gary Fisher and now most 29er forks have settled in the 46-51mm offset range (back when 29ers were a novelty, fork offsets hovered around 38-41mm mark).
The G2 concept leads to a wheelbase that’s slightly longer than bikes with a similar top tube length and less fork offset, so they’re relatively stable, but the reduced trail keeps the steering feeling light and responsive. Can you have your cake and eat it too? Based on our experience here with the Superfly, I’d say that you can; all the little interrelated tweaks really seem to come together on this little red hardtail.
A while back we tested a Superfly dually with Genesis 2 geometry, and the handling of this Superfly hardtail took me right back to riding that bike. It’s a confidently chilled out personality; whatever the situation the Superfly never seems flustered. As a big fan of the movie Pulp Fiction, I’d equate the Superfly to Harvey Keitel’s character The Wolf. “Be cool, I’m sending The Wolf”, goes the script. The Wolf is cooler under pressure than the South Pole during a winter snowstorm.
Although this is still called a Superfly, Trek completely revised their Superfly frames for the 2014 season. The hardtails are particularly tasty, featuring updated geometry and fabrication. Trek has reigned in the chainstay lengths, which makes the bikes more agile than before. To create space for the tyre, the seat and chainstays are now bridgeless and the seat tube is curved. There’s plenty of room for the stock 2.2-inch wide Bontrager tyres and you could even go bigger too.
The rear wheel has been upgraded to a 142x12mm axle, which ties the back end together tightly. The drop-outs are convertible between the 142x12mm and standard 135x5mm quick release via removable inserts, so your old set of race or training wheels will still fit. That said, when set up for 135x5mm, the dropouts remain ‘closed’ so you need to completely remove the skewer before the wheel will come out—it’s a little inconvenient and no longer a ‘quick’ release.
The front triangle is beautifully made and the welds around the head tube and top tube/seat tube junctions have all been smoothed out to produce a tidy finish. It’s a shame that the welds around the bottom bracket and rear dropouts haven’t received the same treatment.
The glossy red paint and fine detailed graphics are pure class. We particularly liked the profile of the top tube; it’s broad and flat incorporating a nice formed brace that adds support to the extended seat tube. Both derailleur cables run internally to keep the aesthetics clean and tidy. The rear brake hose runs underneath the down tube, so there’s no need to remove hoses and re-bleed when fitting or swapping brakes.
Trek has resisted using a direct mount front derailleur. This may have been to simplify manufacturing but it’s also better for single chainring conversions, as you won’t be left with an unsightly derailleur mount hanging in the breeze. They haven’t shied away from other integrations though, and the headset bearings sit directly in the head tube. This saves weight by eliminating the headset cups but also means the frame tolerances need to be spot on. The bottom bracket uses pressed-in cups, providing an extra wide bottom bracket shell. Trek takes full advantage of this width by mounting the chainstays out at the extremities to gain tyre clearance.
To cap it all off, our 19.5 inch frame weighed 1,640g, and it doesn’t need an additional 50g worth of headset cups either. That makes it very close to the lightest alloy 29er frame that we’ve come across. It’s barely heavier than some carbon offerings, and 100-400g lighter than most alloy frames. It’s worth noting that you’ll get exactly the same frame on the other alloy Superfly models; right down to the $1,799 Superfly 6—we think that’s pretty impressive.
The Superfly’s clothes are the equivalent of a comfy pair of jeans. Drivetrain and braking is a full Shimano SLX affair with the addition of an XT rear derailleur. Up front you’ll find a Fox Evolution CTD 15QR fork. Understated, but brilliant performance from top to bottom. Combine these parts with the lightweight frame and you get a very respectable total of 11.3kg (excluding pedals).
Trek has gone with a dual chaining crank rather than a triple. To me, the choice of a double always seems odd on a more entry level bike; why give a non-elite rider a limited choice of gears? The jump from the 24 tooth little ring to the 38 tooth big ring is quite pronounced, and the general assumption is that the 38 tooth ring will be the main drive gear and do 90% of the work—this in turn means the rider needs the legs to turn that gear most of the time. If there is an alloy hardtail that could justify the ‘racy’ dual ring setup, this is probably one. The SLX crank still uses a common 104BCD spider; it’s a double specific version (so it won’t convert to a triple) but there are plenty of aftermarket narrow-wide single rings to choose from if you prefer a 1X setup.
The balance of parts is 100% Bontrager—Trek’s in house brand. The contact points are well considered; the 700mm handlebar is respectably wide and wrapped with narrow, tacky lock-on grips. The saddle is reasonably padded and quite rectangular in shape. The Superfly runs a thin 27.2mm seatpost; this allows for some well-placed flex and helps to smooth out the ride when seated. It’s a zero-setback post, which is almost essential as the effective top tube length on our 19.5 inch frame measured 639mm—that’s very long for a bike of this size. Thankfully the standover is excellent, which also helps expose plenty of that skinny seatpost.
So this bike is long in the top tube, really long, and the head angle on the slack side (just below 70 degrees). These numbers suggest that it should be pretty good (for a hardtail) on steeper descents or at sketchy speeds, and it is. Rolling onto rock stairs and ledges, you can poke the front of the Superfly off the edge, put your butt over the rear tyre and hang on. Unlike many hardtails, the Superfly rarely feels like it’s about to pole-vault you over the bars.
While the 700mm bars and 90mm stem are totally in line with current thinking for XC applications, the rangy top tube means there’s scope to fit a wider bar and a shorter stem—this further enhance the point and shoot character if technical trail riding is more your thing. In this regard, the major limiting factor is the stock tyres and wheels. The wheels are a touch springy (which is also a benefit on longer rides) and the Bontrager XR1 tyres are more of the XC race variety—they roll very well and have a nice rounded profile, but as soon as things get a bit loose and rough, they are more of a rim protector than directional tool. In reality the XR1 tyres are an appropriate choice for this bike and they are great for blasting fire roads and buff singletrack in marathon events. We only mention it as the Superfly can do a lot more—it’s a very versatile machine.
XC or Xtra Capable
The wheelbase and top tube may be long but the bike manages to feel small on tighter trails—it can handle squiggly singletrack with the best of them. Turning the bars to thread along the trail always feels easy and natural, regardless of the speed or gradient. Riders who really like to work the bike hard may find the Superfly a little too docile but this doesn’t mean that it’s actually slow. There’s certainly no problem in keeping up with faster feeling bikes; it just doesn’t have a frenetic feel about it.
In many ways this bike appears to me as a fence sitter—it’s reluctant to be slotted into any particular niche. Sure, it’s an alloy hardtail with a 100mm travel fork and fast rolling XC race tyres. It also has a class-leading lightweight frame that’s really well made. You don’t need to be a genius to join those dots. All the signs point to lycra and number plates, but out on the trail the Superfly can do so much more.
The cockpit puts the rider in a relaxed position that’s at home cruising the trails with baggies on or out on an all-day epic, chocked to the gills with food and spares. Add some big volume aggressive tyres and the Superfly will happily mix it up with the shorter travel dually that your mate is riding. This bike is about options; do what you want with it—do all kinds of things. The Superfly’s price point is dabbling into entry level carbon territory, but the smart money is on this open minded, flow enhancing alloy beauty.
Sensible and functional components
Pricy for an alloy hardtail
Internal cable routing not the easiest to use
Frame: Hydroformed Alpha Platinum Alloy
Fork: Fox 32 Evo CTD 100mm Travel
Headset: FSA IS2 Tapered
Handlebars: Bontrager Race Lite alloy 700mm
Stem: Bontrager X Lite alloy
Shifters: Shimano SLX
Front Derailleur: Shimano SLX
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT
Cassette: Shimano HG 62, 11/36 10-speed
Chain: Shimano SLX
Cranks: Shimano SLX 24/38
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Press-Fit
Brakes: Shimano SLX
Wheels: Bontrager Mustang tubeless ready
Tyres: Bontrager XR1 2.2
Saddle: Bontrager Evolk 2
Seatpost: Bontrager Race Lite 27.3
Weight: 11.3kg without pedals (19-inch frame 1,640g)
Available Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 19.5 (tested), 21.5 and 23-inch
Distributor: Trek Bicycles Australia www.trekbikes.com