HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The setup: Trek understands that the best suspension design is worthless if not set up properly. The Elite SL comes
with sag-measuring tools that snap on the shock and fork, taking the guesswork out of setting sag.
Trek also delivers the bike with a suspension pump. Trek’s recommended sag settings are ideal.
On the trail: The Elite SL’s riding position feels like slipping on an
old baseball glove. It fits like it was
formed just for you. With the rider seated in a slightly aggressive yet
comfortable position, with his weight
slightly biased to the rear, the internal cables and well-designed frame and
stays will never contact the rider. The saddle is on the firm side, while the bar
width and bend feel custom.
Acceleration: The Shimano XT drivetrain gives
the rider plenty of options for flatland or uphill starts, while
the bike’s light weight and Bontrager 29-1 Team tires make
the Elite scream from the moment you drop the hammer. You
have to remind yourself you are on a 29er. It just feels too
quick. On our dry trails, we had our best results leaving the
shock in Trail mode and staying in the saddle to keep weight
on the rear wheel.
Cornering: This G2 geometry stuff is not a gimmick. The
Elite hides its large hoops when negotiating tight corners and
switchbacks while still giving you tons of traction. It is the
best of both worlds. In Trail mode, the rear suspension is free
of braking influence, thanks to the ABP, so you can brake
later into corners without losing control or traction. You can
feel the rear tire starting to come close to the edge of traction
and react by lightening up on the brakes before you start to
skid. Pay attention and you will be a better rider.
Descending: Flip the shock and fork to Descend mode and the G2 geometry and big wheels deliver as promised. We
already mentioned how light-steering the bike is, but that
doesn’t come with a trade-off in downhill stability. The Elite
SL is comfortable and predictable to ride at speed down pretty
nasty stuff. Again, the rear end stays active under braking,
adding to the bike’s downhill chops.
Climbing: This is a 29er that you want to stay seated on
while climbing. Out-of-the-saddle antics are not rewarded,
because the rear wheel can lose traction. It’s best to stay in
the saddle and push a gear slightly larger than you think you
should. Crazy? Try it and then tell us we’re crazy. The difference between the shock’s Climb and Trail modes is significant. We used Climb for smooth ascents and had better luck
in Trail mode on rougher climbs, though we did have to time
our pedaling to clear trail obstacles.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Fox tucks the CTD lever so tight against the shock body,
allowing the shock to fit the largest number of frames, that
the air valve hinders access to the lever. That’s a bummer,
because the less time your hand is off the handlebars, the
better. Also, during racing conditions when you are suffering in an anaerobic state, removing your hand from the
handlebar and flipping the levers is close to out of the question. Learn to race in the Trail or Climb mode.
The Bontrager rear hub emitted an occasional click
when we applied pressure to the crank after coasting. It
happened often enough to be annoying, but the sound
went away after about 10 hours of riding.
Remember when we used to recommend ditching the
Bontrager tires once they were worn? Not anymore. Run
these tubeless, and when they wear down, replace them
with the same tire. They are very, very good.
While we see plenty of Superfly 100s on our local trails,
Trek makes it clear this is a cross-country race bike, and
they steer trail riders toward their Fuel EX. By doing this,
Trek has been able to optimize the Elite SL for the cross-country racer. The Superfly 100 Elite SL gets that single
job done well with speed and grace. It is the type of bike
that will make you the best rider you can be.
Riders always ask, “What do you do with the test bikes
when you are done with them?” Well, we send them back.
In the case of the Superfly 100 Elite SL, however, that is
going to be one very sad day.
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