I am not a bike reviewer or even very technical regarding parts/geometry. Don't knock it.
My History - I have been riding for 8 years. I had a 16.5" 2005 Giant Trance 4 (26in) the whole time. I upgraded some parts on it to have new tires, Shimano Deore XT front derailleur, and Hayes Avid HFX Nine brakes. The thing was a beast - 35 lbs upgraded as riden. I used it for tight trails, some technical (NH) and XC racing a few years back. It was good to start with, but I realized last year I needed a bike more suitable for my age (38) and skill level. FYI, I'm 5'7" 150lbs. I'm a solid intermediate rider. No drops for me. Tiny jumps only.
The buy - I bought the 17.5" SF100ESL when I realized I could save a bunch of weight, and that could help me get back into racing. (I didn't realize it was 9lbs savings until this weekend). I did quickly ride the SF100 AL on pavement, and I noticed it was light compared to my old bike. I then got to demo the SF100ESL in a park and immediately fell in love (thank god since I already put down a deposit).
I upgraded the dreadful front tire with a Mountain King 2 2.2 protection tire on the front. Thats it so far. It has made a huge difference in grip for me.
I've had the SF100 for 2 weeks now.
Initial impressions - At first, the SF100 was too light for me. I was all over the place with it, falling and washing out. It was seriously a dangerous situation it was so much lighter than my old bike - which took a platoon to get off the ground. I was suddenly scared about my new ride.
I had started using Strava this season, with my old bike. I also loaded up some old GPX files I had from years previous. First ride on the SF100 I set a personal best on the first trail, a climb, I hit. It was clear I was going to be able to really improve times at this point. The falls and wash outs happened for the next few days. I got the new front tire (MK2 2.2) to prevent disaster at a race that day, and haven't looked back since.
Singletrack - The bike (for me) is slower in tight trails. This is part of the 29er experience I hear. I am not sure I'll be able to recover what I felt was my better speed in the tight trails. But it could be my imagination. I really didn't race much on tight trails, but there are some tight segments on some of the races I've done. I feel like I'm going idiotically slow now through them.
Climbing - yes, this beast can climb. I am doing climbs at paces that astonish me. I am not dead at the top - for almost ANY climb I've ever done. The front was lifting for me on the original front tire. Now thats a bit about positioning, but it was a new problem for me. The rear stays down reasonably well, but I am still determining my best position to climb with. If I need to knock out spacers or what.
Suspension - Seems quite plush from where I came. I've now set them to Climb (F) and Middle (R), but if you leave them open (soft), you will feel like you are on a bouncy castle. I did try to ride that way for a bit, but realized I had to be sapping speed. At races I might lock both out.
Geometry - Overall seems fine. Again, nothing technical from me. I feel good in berms, and getting off the ground. Its just in the tight turns that I feel like I am on a highwire (relatively).
Weight - Like a feather. I can now get off the ground at will, and without effort. It has freed me to ride better and faster. I have started to clear all obstacles via bunny hop, including climbing. Its so easy, and useful. My knees no longer feel strained trying to climb.
Gearing - 2x10 is different, but I haven't had a single complaint about it. Getting used to no guage is interesting. I have already had some gear slip/crunch occur a few times. I'm gonna keep an eye on it in case its already damaged.
Problems - Ego. You will feel so absurdly in control you won't realize you still aren't. I endo'd on my first big log I came to. I ate dirt, the bike was fine. I think the bike is so light it stopped immediately and I was flung at speed into the dirt for a faceplant. I wasn't hurt except where my shin met the handlebar. This was likely another 29er "problem" I wasn't really aware of. The plush suspension and wheel height left me not pulling up enough to clear the log. I was trying to clear on my 26er still. Wow, important lesson learned. "Luke, Pull Up!" Since then I over-accomodate. Better to fly then die. I did notice that my arms became sore after this adjustment. It is not how I had to ride my previous bike. It does require some strength to lift and clear well.
Wins - Confidence. I feel like this bike has exposed my potential, that I could not achieve with a heavy bike. I kick myself for having not done demo days before this year. I really should have bought a bike like this 2 years ago.
Recommedations - DEMO DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DEMO DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Try every possible bike on trails. Don't waste your time reading silly reviews online! Hey, I could be paid by Trek you know. Don't listen to folks saying that 29ers are cheating for races. That is 100% BS. Ride what works for you. If you are smaller/weaker, then something like this bike could change your game. I'm not a big or strong guy at all and never will be. I'm weak due to a poor childhood diet. My weight hasn't changed by 15 lbs in 20 years. This bike is "giving me" abilities I thought only strength would.
Alternatives - The AL version may still be a good option to save a boatload. Or go with the Fuel EX 29 if you are concerned more about DH riding. I would consider the Fuel if looking today.
TL;DR - Its Superfly and I love it! But be careful and get a ride that works for you.
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