Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite Review

Superb performance, decent value and build kit, and impressive speed, the entry-level Trek Superfly 100 packs a punch. It’s fast everywhere, the lively suspension tames rough trails and the handling is precise and predictable.

Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite. Changes made by the reviewer: DSP dropper seatpost, short stem and wider bars to help open up the Superfly to deliver its full potential.
Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite. Changes made by the reviewer: DSP dropper seatpost, short stem and wider bars to help open up the Superfly to deliver its full potential. The standard component package is solid for the money though.

The ride

The Superfly 100 has a balanced and composed ride with extremely good handling that is easy to live with. The suspension provides speed, comfort and efficiency on the trails, with a playfulness that many cross-country bikes (and, dare I say it, some 29ers) fall short on. Not so with the Superfly 100 though.

The geometry has been honed over many years, Fisher have been doing big wheels a very long time, and the G2 geometry produces handling that is well-mannered and lacking the ‘wagon wheel’ complaints often levelled at 29ers. It’s also a playful bike, for one that is aimed clearly at cross-country, it’s easy to loft the front wheel and launch it into the air, place the tyres precisely where you want them, and makes light work of the most technical trails.

Stout head tube and a small nod to Gary Fisher on the top tube.
Stout head tube and a small nod to Gary Fisher on the top tube.

It’s clearly a cross-country bike and covers terrain with a ferocious appetite. Just point it where you want to go, stamp on the pedals and it launches forward. It climbs, descends and traverses rocks, roots and dirt with startling ability. The plush suspension copes with any situation you can put it in. It’s very active and copes with everything from small ripples to large drops.

The Superfly 100 gives you the confidence to rip up any trail at warp speed. It’s stable at high speeds and in the air, it’s precise and nimble at slower speeds through fiddly techy trails. The big wheels eat up the miles and give buckets of traction, and the 28lb weight, which some may see as a tad porky, wasn’t noticeable during riding.

The altered cockpit (by the reviewer) transformed the ride from narrow and stretched to wide and short.
The altered cockpit (by the reviewer) transformed the ride from narrow and stretched to wide and short.

You really can leap on the Superfly 100 and forget you’re on a 29er. So you can concentrate on enjoying the ride. The Superfly 100 rides extremely well. Can you tell I like it?

Frame

The Alpha Platinum Aluminium tubeset is manipulated into a smart looking frame with oversized profiles where it needs beefing up. The curved chunky downtube forms the basis for the frame, with a straight top tube under which the suspension linkage and Fox shock are mounted. There’s plenty of standover clearance on this 19in size.

The ABP rear pivot arrangement isolates the suspension from braking forces.
The ABP rear pivot arrangement isolates the suspension from braking forces.

So much centres on chainstay length with 29ers and the Superfly’s 452mm chainstays are a little on the stretched side, but certainly not by very much. The Specialized Camber I recently tested has only slightly shorter 447mm chainstays, but the Superfly boasts a shorter wheelbase, 1139mm compared to 1147mm.

The only hallmark of the Gary Fisher heritage in the Superfly, aside from the small signature on the top tube, is the G2 geometry. Fisher was an early advocate of larger wheels, and his approach to the geometry was a fork with an offset crown. This gives the fork a steeper angle without upsetting the head angle or wheelbase of the bike, and the head angle is 71.0°. It works too, producing precise handling with none of the vagueness and ‘slowness’ of some 29ers.

Tapered head tube, no hiding where the frame is made.
Tapered head tube, no hiding where the frame is made.

There’s loads of clearance around the rear triangle for mud to fall through, and it happily takes 2.3in tyres with space to spare. Trek employs the excellent ABP (Active Braking Point), which provides very active suspension even under braking.

Up front there’s a tapered head tube to stiffen the front end, and there’s a press fit bottom bracket, allowing the downtube to be very wide for a large weld junction, all ensuring the frame offers a decent level of stiffness. It isn’t the stiffest frame though, and compared to the Santa Cruz Tallboy it doesn’t feel as tight when the going gets fast and erratic. It’s not enough to deter from the ride performance though.

Suspension

The Float Evolution CTD rear shock provides 110mm of travel and has a very active feel. The shock provides a wide range of damping options at the flick of a lever, from nearly locked out to fully open. For general riding the trail mode offered the best balance for 90% of situations, saving the descend mode for the longer descents. The suspension feels very active with a slight linear characteristic. Support in the mid-stroke is good, preventing wallow when loading up through bermed corners.

CTD: Best kept in Trail mode in Dave Arthur's opinion.
CTD: Best kept in Trail mode in Dave Arthur’s opinion.

Setting the suspension is also straightforward with the clip-on sag clip, but Specialized’s Autosag is hard to beat for sheer simplicity.

The Fox 32 Float Evolution fork has 100mm of travel and shares the new CTD low-speed compression dial, I found the trail setting offered the best damping compromise for most riding. In descend mode it would blow through the travel too easily on rougher faster descents. The 15mm bolt-thru axle combines with the Convert quick-release rear axle, which can be switched to a 142x12mm setup.

A short rocker activates the Fox shock, producing very supple and active suspension.
A short rocker activates the Fox shock, producing very supple and active suspension.

The suspension really impressed. It’s controlled with good damping, the rear never kicks back under high loads, and it’s very efficient. There is stacks of grip on offer, particularly at the rear wheel, which makes even the loosest rockiest steep climbs scale-able. The fork was controlled and provided good support and paired well with the rear suspension.

Build kit

At around £2,000 the AL Elite represents the entry point into the Superfly 100 range and is built up with hard-working kit that has sailed through the test period. Shimano SLX shifters, XT Shadow rear mech and a M552 triple chainset all worked brilliantly with no attention required. With the 11-36 cassette out back the triple provides a huge raft of ratios, but a 2×10 setup would suit this bike better. Shimano don’t do an affordable 2×10 chainset yet, but the next model up in the Superfly 100 range makes the switch. Triple chainsets just feel a bit dated in this day and age.

Rear mech cable is routed through the chainstay.
Rear mech cable is routed through the chainstay.

Shimano’s SLX brakes are excellent stoppers, really some of the best on the market for this bracket of bike right now in my opinion. The brake levers are a bit on the stubby side but there’s enough power for easy one-finger braking. The knurled dial makes easy lever reach adjustment on the fly. The brakes bedded in quickly and the pads are still showing good life in them yet, and never made a noise.

Bontrager’s Mustang 32-hole wheels are good rollers but I had to switch the Bontrager 29-1 Expert 2.2in tyres after the first ride. I replaced them with a pair of Continental Mountain King 2.2in tyres to provide the sort of traction that the stock tyres just can’t offer on anything but bone-dry trails, and those are rare in this country.

The wheels have held up okay, and the recent dry trails have been useful for testing the very fast tyres.
The wheels have held up ok, and the recent dry trails have been useful for testing the very fast tyres.

The fact this is a bike aimed at cross country shows in the speccing of a 105mm stem and 690mm bars. I switched them both out for a 60mm stem and 740mm bars, as much for personal preference as anything, but the shorter/wider cockpit really opened up the Superfly 100 on the more exciting trails, and livened up the handling as well.

Verdict

Super quick and adept at tackling trails at blistering speed, the Superfly 100 lives up to the bill of being a rapid cross country bike. It belies its 28lb weight with decent speed on the climbs and the excellent suspension helps to cover ground fast. Gary Fisher has been designing 29ers longer than most and that shows in the Superfly 100, it’s a very accomplished bike. But it is its playfulness and handling that makes it a very adept and entertaining trail bike for those who just like to enjoy a weekend blast and want to have fun. It’s very similar in nature to the Specialized Camber, but the Superfly 100 just edges ahead.

Price: £2,200
More information: Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite

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