When 4,000 mountain bikers gather in one place, as they did at Michigan’s Iceman Cometh Challenge back in November, it’s easy for all the assembled rigs to begin blending into so many circles and triangles.
But one thing became obvious among the Iceman masses: Bigger circles — as in 29-inch wheels — have taken hold in the Midwest. 29ers are well suited to the alternately flat and rolling terrain. And the mostly hardtailed 29er offerings on the market are more than able when it comes to handling Midwestern trails.
Checking out the Iceman’s Northern Michigan course profile prior to the race, it became clear a call was in order to one of the event’s sponsors — Fisher Bicycles. The mission: Race the Iceman on a Fisher Superfly 100.
Fisher’s Travis Ott and Ken Derrico set me up on the carbon, full-suspension thoroughbred 29er. It wasn’t long before I, or rather the bike, began to attract stares as I rolled around the Iceman pre-race expo and up to the start on the pristine rig.
Keeping it Short
While I’m not studly enough to fight for the hole shot, with nearly 130 riders in my start wave it was nonetheless important to work my way up to where the herd thinned out a bit. With the Fox 100mm RLC 29 fork locked out and the Fox RP23 pro-pedal on, acceleration on the pavement and first sections of dirt road was immediate and telling — the big hoss wanted to race.
And therein lies the beauty of the Superfly 100: Even though it’s a “big” 29er, it sure as hell doesn’t feel — or ride — that way.
Between weaving through early race traffic, quick bursts for passing or railing twisty tree-lined singletrack, the Superfly 100 never had me longing for the nimbleness of a 26er. In other words, even with the ducking and bobbing the Superfly 100 has quick feet.
That’s in large part due to the “G2″ geometry the Fisher crew worked out for the bike; the main goal being to shorten the wheelbase. At the bottom that means shortened chainstays and a bottom bracket (seat tube) that’s been scooted forward. On the front, the fork offset allows for lively-yet-predictable steering in low-speed situations. The bottom line is 26-inch-like handling and fit with the advantages of the big hoops.
Keeping it Stiff
On a course rife with rollers like Iceman, those big wheels were an advantage. During one section of the race I was with three riders on 26ers. We hit a short downhill and then another rise. Looking around to position myself for the next turn, I noticed that I was alone. My new-found gap was achieved with minimal effort.
Even when a hard effort is required, the Superfly 100 responds forthwith. That’s in large part due to the bike’s surprising stiffness — so surprising, in fact, that I pretty much forgot I was rolling full suspension. That’s an impressive feat for a 26-inch XC dually let alone a 29er soft tail.
That’s where the end product of the Trek (carbon know-how) and Fisher (29er know-how) mind meld shines. The Net-Molded E2 tapered headtube, fat downtube and beefy BB95 Net-Molded bottom bracket render the Superfly 100 way stiff.
Thus another counter-intuitive thought pops in to one’s head: With all the girth, how does it stay light?
At 2,100-grams, a medium Superfly 100 (frame, shock and hardware) is Fisher’s lightest full-suspension bike — ever. Unlike the hardtail Superfly, which is manufactured in Asia, the Superfly 100 is laid up at the Trek mothership in Waterloo, Wisconsin of 100 percent OCLV carbon.
And when they say full-on carbon, well, that’s what you get. Other than a bit of metal in the direct-mount front derailleur threads, no alloys are molded into the frame. Fisher’s Travis Ott puts it this way: There’s a good chance you could walk the Superfly 100 frame through an airport checkpoint and not set off the metal detector.
Rounding out the frame is a one-piece seatstay that helps alleviate wheel flex, a carbon swing link and active breaking pivot dropouts that keep your suspension working when on the brakes. Those features work together to offer 110mm of rear travel.
At Iceman, I was outfitted with the stock build of Bontrager Race X Lite wheels; Bontrager XR1 2.0 tires; Shimano XT direct-mount front derailleur; SRAM X.O Redwin rear derailleur; SRAM X.O Redwin shifters; Truvativ Noir Redwin carbon cranks, Avid Elixir CR disc brakes, Race Lite Big Sweep handlebar, Race XXX Lite carbon seatpost and Race X Lite stem.
That put my Superfly 100 in the 24lb range. For the weight watchers out there, an even more discerning build can make the Superfly 100 even more svelte. Weight savings will likely come by adding a 2×9 drivetrain and wheel and tire choices, but those can leave you vulnerable to flats and dinged-up rims depending on the terrain you’re tackling.
This was my second go-around on the Superfly 100, as I spent a bit of time on one at Interbike 2009. After riding the bike in race conditions, I’d say the Superfly 100 is all it’s cracked up to be: A pro-worthy XC racer chock full of killer technology. Would I go out and spend $5,600 on one? Hell yeah, if I was a dedicated racer flush with cash or credit.
The reality is that most of my riding is on trails where I’d be in the $5,500 bike risk-averse mode. And the only time I’m flush with anything is, well, after I’m done ogling magazine dream bikes in the bathroom.
Let’s hope trickle-down technology — and economics — apply to full-suspenson, carbon bikes like Fisher’s Superfly 100 sooner than later.