I’ve been finding it difficult to ride any other bike recently, in fact since I received the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL some months ago.
After spending eight days in the company of the bike during the South Africa Cape Epic stage race in March, I’ve come accustomed to the sheer and unadulterated speed that is capable across all terrain. It’s such an inspiring ride, and so rewarding in so many situations, that it’s quickly become my regular companion for most of my rides and races.
Oddly, I found myself actually enjoying climbing when on this bike, and that’s not something that I find myself easily typing. In fact, I now seek out climb after climb only because the bike makes them such an enjoyable experience, something I really noticed in South Africa on the long and rough climbs that frequented each stage.
And with SRAM’s super quick shifting XX, the gears just keep on coming. Without even realising it, you can easily find yourself going exceedingly quickly, only to be reminded of the fact you’re on a super sharp short-travel race bike when you plough into a root garden and exceed the limits of the forks. But even in such situations it only gets reasonably hairy, the stiff carbon frame keeps everything in check, keeps the bike pointing in the right direction. A high level of finesse is required in such demanding situations, a fact highlight when I broke several spokes in the rear wheel during Cape Epic.
It’s agile enough to be easily flicked around the trail, dancing from line to line, and can easily be popped over obstacles at a moments notice. It’s an involving ride that is well suited to those that like to feel the trail beneath them, the harder you push it the more it gives back. There’s a pressure to riding this bike though, it begs to be ridden fast, which is fine if you’ve got the legs, but damn tiring if you haven’t.
When this bike first arrived I thought it might need loads of maintenance, but I’ve been super impressed with how reliable it’s been. Despite barely any attention and being worked hard in some arduous events, the SRAM XX is still going strong – and even coping with being jet washed after each stage in Cape Epic.
I think it may be time for a change of gear cables to return the shifting to its showroom performance though, but even now it’s still shifting impressively well. The brakes required a bleed recently, for which Fisher Outdoor sent me the proper £40 Avid bleed kit, along with new brake pads (which finally retired in the recent Gorrick 100), and this got the brakes back into tip top working order.
There is some alarming wearing on the XX cranks where my shoes have evidently been rubbing every pedal stroke, a bit worrying that a £339.99 set of cranks looks so secondhand so quickly.
The rear hub has seemingly taken the brunt of the miles I’ve done on the bike, with an alarming degree of slack now showing in the bearings – it needs a full strip down and rebuild but for now I’ve popped a pair of XTR wheels in their place. The forks are still working as well as they day they arrived, better if anything, and the rear shock has coped admirably with the abuse it’s taken.
So far, so very impressive.