Trek’s Superfly series has been one of the most successful racing bloodlines in mountain bike history. Does this entry-level model do the family name full justice?
FRAME AND FORKS
The 5 is the cheapest Superfly but gets the same lightweight hydraulically formed alloy frameset as Trek’s £1,600 8, £1,400 7 and £1,200 6 models. The tapered E2 head tube assures steering stiffness and the flex of the extended seat post and skinny, wide splayed seat stays should increase rough terrain comfort.
There’s masses of tyre room and the smallest of six sizes comes with 27.5-inch rather than 29-inch wheels for better handling balance. The highest price on test gets you a good looking spec including Race Face cranks and a Rock Shox Recon fork with remote lockout. However, closer inspection reveals that while the head tube is tapered, the fork uses a skinny and more flexible straight gauge steerer tube that undermines it’s stouter leg, and provides a smarter damping advantage over the other bikes on test.
The XT rear mech doesn’t have a clutch to stop chain clatter either. The Bontrager bars take some twisting to find a comfortable angle and they’re too narrow to force the bike against the grain of the trail. The unlocked grips start to slip and spin in the wet too and the tyres are real ride killers.
While the Bontrager XR1 tyres are labelled as 2.2-inch wide they’re actually only 1.9-inch across and significantly lower in
height. This dramatically decreases their ability to absorb trail chatter and soften bigger blows before they get to the rest of the bike. This creates a jarring, jolting character particularly at the back end of the bike.
Things improved noticeably when we switched to the genuine 2.2-inch tyred wheels of the other bikes to try and identify the issue but even then the frame is surprisingly blunt for such a svelte looking structure.
Despite being the lightest bike on test by a long way, the Superfly feels disappointingly inert and unwilling when you press the pedals, with enough flex in the wheels to make the front brake rotor rub when you’re charging hard. While they roll well on the road or hard packed bike paths, the tyres lack of bump absorption means the Trek struggles to hold both speed and accurate lines in the rough. Minimal tread means the tyres are generally already well on their way into a sideways slide before you even start to try and lean them over, so cornering is cautious.
The degree to which the wheel and tyre combination undermines the ride is a real shame and means we have to mark the bike down as a complete package. The handling is basically sorted though and the lightweight frame is well worth upgrading over time, especially if you can negotiate bigger tyres at the time of purchase.
Verdict: Trek’s introduction to the Superfly range looks the part and the superlight frame certainly has race potential. Details like the untapered fork, rattling rear mech and ride killing tyres are disappointing on the most expensive bike here.