Dirt Rag Magazine

First Impressions: Fuji SLM 29 1.1

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Let’s get this out of the way first: SLM stands for Super Light Mountain. They ain’t lyin’. The $5,799 SLM 1.1 is the flagship of the Fuji SLM fleet and its frame is made from C15, Fuji’s highest grade of carbon fiber. The end result is a 29er frame weighing less than 1,000 grams (nearly 300 grams lighter than the 2013 version). The size medium bike tipped Dirt Rag’s scale at 22.2 pounds (without pedals).

A feathery frame is only part of the story. Fuji also focused on handling and efficiency when designing this “race grade” hardtail. Actually, make that “re-designing.” Fuji updated the geometry for 2014, giving the bike a shorter head tube (4.3 inches), shorter chainstay length (16.9 inches), shorter overall wheelbase (43.8 inches), and lower stand-over (32.1 inches).

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With its 24.5-inch effective top tube and 100mm stock stem, the medium SLM 1.1 stretched me out into a racy position, which was Fuji’s intent (and which makes perfect sense on a race-oriented bike). Since I plan on logging the majority of my miles trail riding, and not racing, I flipped the stem. This raised the bars and put me in a slightly more upright position. The old switcheroo gave my not-so-flexible back needed relief, without significantly changing the character of the bike.

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Thanks to the short rear end, the handling felt nimble. The SLM 1.1 changed directions effortlessly, especially for a 29er. The long front center increased the overall wheelbase, which kept the ride stable at speed, and when descending. My initial impressions on the handling are positive.

Several features of the SLM 1.1 contribute to the “efficiency” of the total package. Most visually striking is the oversized, ovalized downtube, which is designed to increase torsional stiffness and power transfer. The drive side chainstay is oversized and shaped for maximum power transfer from crankset to rear cassette. Fuji’s house brand Oval Concepts M600 crankset (with its oversized 35mm spindle) is mated to a Praxis Works M35 bottom bracket. The crank/BB combination—as well as the frame’s press-fit 30 shell—decreases weight and adds stiffness, for improved efficiency. There’s a 142x12mm thru-axle in the rear (and a SL15mm up front) to snugly tie things together, and an oversized head tube, natch.

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I’m here to tell you that the SLM 1.1 is one stiff-feeling bike. There’s very little forgiveness in the frame. This bike will not pamper your posterior. The payoff is the acceleration you feel as the 1.1 rockets forward when you push on the pedals. Climbing long fire roads on this machine is almost like cheating, especially with the fork locked out. So far, I’ve not detected any lateral flex in the frame either.

The flagship 1.1 is festooned with top-notch components: Shimano XTR drivetrain/brakes, Sun Ringle Black Flag Pro wheelset, Oval Concepts carbon cockpit, and Fox Racing Shox 32 Float Factory fork (FIT, Kashima coating, CTD remote, 15mm thru axle, tapered alloy steerer). The parts have been treating me well, except for the hatchet-esque Oval M800 saddle. Narrow, hard, race-inspired saddles are not my cup of tea. Fortunately, that’s an easy switch.

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I’m digging the overall look of this bike— basic black, with just enough red/white logos and highlights to make things exciting. With two cables routed internally via the top tube, and the other cable tucked under the downtube, the sleek and clean SLM 1.1 looks fast sitting still.

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I look forward to logging more miles, and sharing a detailed ride report in my upcoming print review. Be sure to subscribe or renew now, so you don’t miss out.

 

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