Emily Batty of Trek Factory Racing is invigorated for the start of the 2014 UCI World Cup season.
Hear some of her insights following the opening two rounds in Pietermaritzburg, RSA and Cairns, AUS.
Pedalling in the groove she netted a ninth and then followed up with a silver medal ride. With five more World Cup rounds remaining, the Canadian champion from Ontario looks to stay atop the World Cup XC scene.
On a long ride or during the wee small hours out on track at a 24hr race, it’s not unusual to get a song stuck in your head. Traditionally it’s something dire, like Peter Allen’s ‘Rio’. But on board this bike, the groove is strong; feel the soul, channel the year 1972. It’s Superfly.
We took possession of this sleek number back in late January as a long-term test bike and as platform to carry out a review on SRAM’s XX1 groupset. Almost seven months in, we’d like to think we’ve given our Superfly the kind of life that Trek intended.
There’s a reason we’ve shot our Superfly like this, all caked in mud, with a water bottle, race plate and spare tube/C02 strapped under the saddle. This is how she’s done a fair bit of riding – the Superfly is at home on the racetrack.
In the last few months she’s raced the Capital Punishment marathon, the Willo Enduro, the Mont 24hr, the SRAM Singletrack Mind Taree 7hr and the JetBlack Sydney 12hr. She’s also accompanied us on our travels to Alice Springs and Tathra, plus ridden hundreds of kilometres on our local trails in between. No one can say this bike has hung about!
Out of the box – what’s it all about?
The Superfly 100 is built from Trek’s OCLV Mountain carbon, with alloy chain stays. The frame weight (including hanger and seat post collar) is claimed at 2.1kg for a medium frame, making it one of the lightest dual suspension platforms out there. The geometry figures are cross country through and through: a relatively steep 70 degree head angle, 100mm of travel at both ends, and top tube length built around running a 90mm stem for a medium-sized frame.
The attention to detail and build quality is pretty special – the smoky carbon finish is hot and the graphics matched our fluoro Flow stickers perfectly. Cable routing is fully internal, and large ports make threading the brake and gear lines a simple affair. There’s some neat armour for the down tube to guard against wombat strikes, and the chain slap protection is muchos comprehensive. As an experiment, we didn’t so much as tighten or check the tension of a single suspension pivot bolt during our build, just to see if any dramas would emerge down the line.
Building the beast:
Aside from the frame itself, the suspension, the headset and (seriously good) saddle, there’s barely an original part on our Superfly 100. This isn’t a criticism of the original build kit, not by any means, just a reflection of what items we were testing and our personal preferences. (See at the very bottom for our tweaks and why we made them.)
Stock as rock, the Superfly weighs in at under 11kg, decked out in full Shimano XT, with Bontrager RL wheels and Bontrager components. That’s a mighty fine effort – you could take it out the door and race it the next day very happily.
We, being spoilt and pedantic, made a load of changes. First, off went the Shimano and on went an XX1 groupset. The brakes were swapped out too, for a set of Avid X0 Trail brakes with 160mm rotors. Yes, these are kind of overkill for a cross country bike, but they weigh the same as the Shimano XTs and mesh nicely with the SRAM shifter.
To fit the XX1 monster cassette we needed a rear hub that was compatible, so we replaced the wheels with a set of Bontrager RXLs, which use DT rear hub internals and can accept an X-Drive freehub body. The scary skinny XR-0 tyres went under the bed never to see the light of day, and in their place we fitted up some grippy Bontrager XR-2 rubber in a far more sensible 2.2″ width, running them tubeless with Bontrager’s own sealant. The stem was flipped (as the head tube is actually rather tall), the steerer tube chopped, and badda-bing badda-boom we were ready to roll! With a set of Shimano XT pedals, the complete bike tipped the scales at 10.5 kg.
This is a fast, fast bike. Everywhere – not just in a straight line. We never wanted or expected the Superfly to be a particularly plush or forgiving ride – we wanted it be fast off the mark, responsive to every stab at the pedals. It didn’t disappoint; with the suspension set to around 25% sag out back and with the FOX CTD shock left in the Trail mode, the Superfly takes off like an scared rabbit. It’s no ground hugger, and we enjoyed the way the suspension always seemed to have enough support to really push against when you wanted to pop the bike into the air or dig the side knobs into the dirt round a corner.
The singletrack performance is bloody excellent. Typically we’re adamant about the need to keep the rear end of a bike short, and the Trek is actually on the long side, with stays of 450mm. But somehow it just works. It could be a product of the G2 geometry (Trek’s custom fork offset) or perhaps just a result of the low weight of the whole package, but Superfly flicks from corner to corner like a young Schumacher. It never failed to leave us with a grin, even 22 hours into the Mont 24hr race.
When you’ve only got 100mm of suspension it’s good to know you’re using it as intended. As such, we did a fair bit of experimenting with the fork and shock settings and pressures. Dropping the rear pressure and speeding up the rebound gave the bike a slacker head angle and more supple performance, but the pedalling efficiency wasn’t so good. Plus it just didn’t feel right – this bike needs to feel taught, lively. We played with the fork pressures a lot too. In end the the setup we liked was to run the fork on the firm side. Following the FOX recommended setup (using their own IRD App) yielded a bike that felt too soft in the front end for our liking – we wanted it a bit firmer, especially as the head angle is already quite steep.
The penalty for the frame’s low weight is a little bit of flex through the rear end. Compared to a lot of cross country dual suspension bikes we’ve ridden, it’s barely an issue, but when riding the Trek back to back with other stiffer bikes, it did become apparent. Would it turn us off the bike? No sir.
Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous how little maintenance we’ve needed to give our Superfly. If it were a child, DOCS would be knocking on the door, such is the neglect. Aside from washing it and throwing a bit of chain lube at it in between race laps or rides, we’ve literally done nothing to it since the very first ride.
If we go searching for issues, then the rear shock bolt became loose on the maiden voyage, but we applied a dab of thread lock and it hasn’t budged since. And the o-rings holding the down tube protector in place broke the first time we looked at them, so we replaced them with bits of inner tube. There’s also a little bit of creaking beginning to emerge, but it’s nothing a two-minute clean and lube wouldn’t fix. If you’re looking for a reliable machine, this is it – when it comes to effort to reward ratio, it’s the equivalent of winning $100,000 from a scratchie.
We did drop the bike onto a particularly nasty piece of Alice Springs granite of the supremely pointy variety. It gouged the carbon of the seat stay, but we’ve been watching closely to see if it would cause a problem and to date everything is hunky dory. We’ve got no doubt the impact would’ve caused inoperable damage to many other frames, so bravo to Trek’s Mountain Carbon.
It’s a fairly glowing review we’ve given the young Superfly, but don’t for a second think it’s unjustified. There are better all-rounders (try the Fuel EX 29er on for size) but we wanted something more single-minded, and the Superfly is just that. After seven months of riding, we’re just as thrilled with the Superfly as the day we pulled its glossy, shiny shape out of the big cardboard box.
Other changes we’ve made over the test period, and why we made them:
Enve stem, 90mm – Just because…
Enve post – Just because…. wouldn’t you too?
Pro Tharsis bar – We wanted something a little wider than the stock 690mm Bontrager bar, and the Pro Tharsis at 710mm is an old favourite. It gave the bike a more roomy, comfy feel on the descents.
Roval Control Carbon Trail wheels – These have been a test item that we’ve continued to run, mainly because of their wide 21mm internal width (compared to 19mm with the RXLs), which gives more support to larger volume tyres. We really like the RXL wheels, but we’re suckers for a wider rim!
Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25″ Snake Skin tyres – These are actually an older set of tyres we installed after slicing our Bontrager XR-2 rubber during a race. The Bonty rubber is lighter and just as grippy, but we appreciate how tough these Snake Skin versions of the Racing Ralph are.. There’s nothing worse than a sliced tyre in a race!
Frame Wrap – With the XX1 drivetrain, chain slap is barely an issue, so we removed the original chain slap protection and installed some lightweight Frame Wrap instead.