Imagine the love child of a muscle-bound, terrain-conquering Hummer and a nimble carbon fiber Formula One racer. Now make it balance on two wheels, subtract a few zeros from the price tag and give it unlimited mpg.
The resulting contraption would be Gary Fisher’s new Superfly: a carbon-slathered, 29-inch-wheel sporting, super high-end hardtail mountain bike.
Mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels are nothing new — they’ve steadily been sneaking showroom floor space from their more common 26-inch brethren over the last few years. Proponents claim the bigger wheels — slighter angle of attack, higher volume of air and greater inertia — make for a ride that rolls more easily over technical terrain. Opponents declare humungous wheels make a bike handle like an intoxicated three-legged cow.
But the Superfly is no bovine. The heavenly trifecta of carbon fiber, tubeless tires and bigger hoops simply smoothed out rough terrain; and through sinewy single track, the bike clung doggedly to the trail. Even razor-sharp switchback turns, the kind that should have dislodged the Superfly’s oversized wheels from the road, were negotiated with grace and ease.
How does the Superfly deliver such precise handling? The key breakthrough comes from its unique Genesis geometry that places the rider farther back on the bike (primarily to increase confidence while descending) to better complement bigger wheels.
Of course, as good as this bike rides, it still won’t match a fully suspended rig for comfort and raw trail-ironing ability. Complaints can be limited to a front end that tends to rise off the ground while climbing. The handlebar is a little too wide and swept back for any extended climb. Oh, and if you’re a shorty, the Superfly might not be that super; 29-inch wheels generally make a tough balancing act for folks 5-foot, 6-inch and under.
But it’s hard to argue with the Superfly’s stable nature, especially when you look at the list of top-shelf components the bike is outfitted with. Most of the parts (like the cockpit, wheelset and gorgeous carbon crankset) are borrowed from Bontrager, Fisher’s in-house racing line. Drivetrain duties are handled by SRAM’s superb X.0 shifters and derailleurs, which perform with a grace and effortlessness that rivals Shimano’s vaunted XTR gruppo.
The Superfly is one of the smoothest cross-country hardtails on the market. On the flipside, concessions to the traditional hardtail strengths of climbing ability and power transfer are very slight. For serious breakneck off-roading, there aren’t too many bikes better than a Superfly. And it’s sure more attractive than a Hummer.