Day 2 and we’re back to the Adams Gulch area, which is convenient for multiple bike testing because you can crank out a loop with a good variety of terrain in under an hour. First up for me today is Trek’s Top Fuel 69er. That’s rightâ€”in addition to the Travis Brown inspired 69er singlespeed, Trek now offers both a Top Fuel 69er and a 3×9 69er hardtail (a 69er is a bike with a 29″ front wheel and 26″ rear.)
it’s fair to say that the 69er is Travis Brown’s pet project, and he described the virtues of the 29″ front wheel as follows. Better cornering traction due to bigger contact patch on the front tire. Better angle of attack helps the front wheel roll over obstacles. Stability of the front wheel due to gyroscopic effect, produces less fatigue due to a “steering damping” effect. Travis likes the 26 rear wheel for several reasons. Boostability = easier to get the front wheel over obstacles. Weight, stiffness, power transfer, and acceleration are better with the 26″ wheel, compared to the 29″ wheel.
My first ride today is atop the Trek Top Fuel 69er, which sports a 7000 series aluminum alloy frame, Fox F100 RL 29er fork, 90mm rear travel via a Fox Pro Pedal shock and a R1 Tuned rear suspension with optimized single pivot, and tubeless ready Bontrager wheels. Note that both Travis Brown and Chris Eatough have been racing this bike as part of its development process. The bike’s handling feels very much like the Fuel EX 26″ rig that I rode yesterday. In fact the wheelbase on the two bikes is the same, which probably accounts for much of the similarity in handling feel. The R1 rear suspension climbs well and soaks up the hits when called upon, but it does not have the same bottomless cooshy feeling of the Full Floater suspension on the Fuel EX 9.5 that I rode yesterday. I try to pay attention to the effects of the big front wheel, but it is hard to quantify the “roll over obstacles easier” advantage on the these mostly buff, but occasionally technical trails. There are a few technical spots on the trail where I might be able to convince myself that the 29er wheel rolls better, but more testing would be required to make any definitive statements. All in all, the Top Fuel 69er carved the swoopy track like a champ, and gobbled up the occasional root and rock without complaint. Here’s a photo:
My other rides today are spent atop a couple of 26″ Gary Fisher HiFi rigsâ€”the Carbon Pro and the regular old Pro (aluminum alloy version). See my Day 1 Report for an explanation of the G2 geometry that is the backstory behind the HiFi’s angles. One of the design goals for the HiFi platform was to produce the lightest 5″ travel trail bike bike on the market, and with the Carbon Pro weighing in at 23.3 lbs (medium frame), I’m certainly impressed. The Carbon Pro sports a Fox 120 RLC (with custom offset), a custom Fox RP23 rear shock and a sweet mix of SRAM X.0 and Shimano XTR drivetrain components. There are plenty of Bontrager carbon bits and a Race X Lite Tubeless Disc wheelset. Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes stop the show.
While riding the HiFi Carbon Pro “light, fast and responsive” are words that pop to mind. The feathery nimbleness belies the fact that this is a 5-inch travel bike. The beauty of the Pro Pedal setting on the rear shock is that it very effectively combats pedal induced suspension bobbing, and the bike climbs very efficientlyâ€”and when you encounter a bump the suspension is fully active. No question that this is a bike I could ride all day, or even choose for an endurance race, and not feel held back in any way by the machinery. Have a look:
The aluminum HiFi Pro performs pretty much like the carbon version. It sports the same front and rear shock, and a bit more budget minded parts mix. The aluminum version feels more solid, stiffer and rides a bit harsher than the carbon version which has a more supple ride, and perhaps has a bit more flex (or maybe the smoother feeling just makes it feel that way?). In any event, it’s hard to quantify the different “feel” of the carbon versus aluminum frame based one day of riding, but it’s obvious that they each have a unique feel. And I don’t think one “feel” is better than the other, it’s more a matter of personal preference. So the advice I have is that you should look for an opportunity to test ride both, and decide which is more to your liking. 2008 HiFi’s are scheduled to start showing up at Gary Fisher dealers in July. Here’s a look at the aluminum HiFi Pro, and me posing with the bike, just to show off the beautiful scenery in the Adams Gulch area: