Field Test: 2020 Trek Supercaliber – Short On Travel, Not on Traction

by | July 28, 2020

PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

Trek Supercaliber 9.9 XX1


Words by Sarah Moore, photography by Margus Riga
When the Trek Supercaliber launched right after the World Championships in September of 2019, it was hardly a surprise as Trek Factory Racing’s high-profile athletes had spent the entire season on the bike, riding with the top tube covered so photographers wouldn’t get shots of the frame-integrated shock.

Once unveiled, we found a pure cross-country race bike designed with the Olympics in mind, featuring 60mm of rear travel, 100mm of front travel, and 29-inch wheels. This is the bike that Jolanda Neff rode to victory at the Tokyo test event last year.

The Supercaliber 9.9 XX1 we tested is available in five sizes, from 15.5″ through to 21.5″, although there is also a 23” version available in some models.

Trek Supercaliber 9.9 XX1 Details

• Travel: 60mm rear / 100mm fork
• Carbon frame
• Wheel size: 29″
• Head Angle: 69°
• Seat Tube Angle: 74° (effective)
• Reach: 440mm (size ML/18.5)
• Chainstay length: 430mm
• Sizes: S, M, ML (tested), L, XL
• Weight: 21.5 lb / 9.75 kg
• Price: $9,499 USD
www.trekbikes.com

Key geometry numbers include a 69-degree head angle, a 74-degree effective seat tube angle, a 440mm reach for a size 18.5 (medium-large), and 430mm chainstays.

For those who are familiar with Trek’s line-up from years’ past, the Supercaliber replaces the Top Fuel as Trek’s flagship cross-country bike, while the Top Fuel that we rode at the last Field Test in Pemberton has been repositioned as a down-country bike with a bit more squish.

Climbing

It feels like you’re sitting right above the pedals in a super-efficient position on the Trek Supercaliber, and it’s easy to get your weight over the front-end for technical climbs. The compact position and steeper 69-degree headtube angle make it easy to maneuver the bike when you’re looking to take sneaky inside lines or stand quickly to add a bit more power. The slow speed handling was especially good on the Trek, making it incredibly easy to weave through tight sections and up tricky climbs.

Despite the short 60mm of travel, there is still a ton of traction when you’re trying to get up tricky sections, and it’s a rare occasion when you have to put a foot down on a technical climb. The Supercaliber’s 60mm of suspension keeps calm in challenging situations and doesn’t bounce you off-line when climbs get rough. In a mass start race scenario when you’re looking for every opportunity to pass your opponents on the climb before the course heads downhill, you’d do well to have the Supercaliber on your side.

Descending

The descending position is a bit forward biased with that 69-degree head tube angle, which makes things a little spicier when you take it into steeper sections of trail. As a result, I found myself coming into those sections a little more cautiously. While the steep headtube angle makes techy slow speed handling on climbs a breeze, the tradeoff is that it is more nervous on the steeps and you have to be vigilant descending.

That being said, traversing, and on descents that aren’t steep, the Trek feels fast and lively and is actually really fun to pump along the trail. Compared to a hardtail, it cuts down on vibrations and impacts being transmitted to the rider much more and is definitely a smoother and faster descender.

As compared to a 100mm bike? While it’s really neat what Trek has been able to do with 60mm and they’ve done a good job of balancing out small bump compliance and bottom-out resistance, it does make you appreciate the extra 40mm of travel that other cross-country bikes have. And especially so if you’re looking for a more forgiving ride. The short travel makes it harder to recover on rough descents and you’ll definitely be working harder to stay on-line and upright when the trail is challenging, relatively speaking.

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