Thursday, August 07, 2014

News Season: Trek World

Superfly SS (Image courtesy of Trek's Twitter feed)
Trek World:

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

I remember almost ten years ago when going to Trek World was a really big deal. Fisher, the brand Trek killed off several years ago, was the banner bearer of the 29"er bicycle and seeing the new goods was a huge deal. Every bike was something new, pushing the boundaries. New tires from Bontrager, the promised TLR tubeless system, and "real suspension" forks. Ahh........those were some times, weren't they? 

But now Fisher is a hollow June Bug shell and everybody has 29"ers, (or used to), so a new swash of colors and a couple of spec changes are all that you see anymore for the most part. This is why there were really only three bikes worth talking about from Trek's latest "Trek World", a world where you have to be a "preferred dealer" to attend, or as a "lower tiered Trek dealer", pay Trek $500.00 for the privilege to just walk into the door to look at their bikes. Weird that, but that is another story altogether now.

Anywho....remember the Rig? That long standing single speed 29"er model. Gone. Well......think name change. Now it's the Superfly SS. Not the carbon one of old- this is aluminum. Nice looking "rig". (<====HA!) Oh, and is that a 51mm offset carbon fiber rigid fork I see there? A timely addition to the line, says 2008. (sarcasm)

The Trek 920 (Image courtesy of Trek's Twitter feed)
Then there is this, the Trek 920. I saw this and my first gut reaction? Fargo circa 2008. Except that it is aluminum, (bad), and it has reportedly less tire clearance than that bike has, (also bad).

The next thing I noted was that it comes with a bent top tube. Again- bad. That will make hanging a top tube bag or frame bag you may have now a frustrating proposition. Obviously, you can get any number of custom made bags, but c'mon Trek! This just shows Trek's seeming arrogance and refusal to take notice of bikepacking needs. How hard would it have been to make this with a straight top tube? Oh.....never mind! It's a bagger bike. That's forward thinking for a bike to tour off road with.

It also is not suspension corrected. I like non-sus corrected looks, but trust me, when the going gets rough, (and where this bike is designed to go, it will be that), you are gonna beg for a squishy fork. It's as if Trek noticed that Salsa made a 2008 Fargo, copied it in the wrong material, and took a giant step backward.

I saw somewhere that it was suggested that this is a great choice for a gravel bike.  It's an "okay" choice, but Trek is sitting on the best gravel bike design anybody could come up with and not putting it out there. (Domane Disc) With a bit more tire clearance and a slightly slacker head angle...BAM! Too bad they won't do that. Oh wait.......maybe there is a six year development cycle for great ideas. That would explain the current 920 and the carbon 51mm offset fork. Bet that's it.......

Remedy Carbon (Image courtesy of Trek's Twitter feed)
Then there was the eventual evolution of the Remedy to a carbon framed bike. This isn't really news, because it has been known for well over a month that this was on the way.

So........that's it. Not that I would expect anything really earth shattering, because 27.5" stuff has really pulled R&D dollars out of 29"er development as a whole across all brands for the last several years. Now that this is mostly behind many brands, we may see the return of some innovation on the 29"er side, and certainly on the B+ and 29+ stuff, which to my mind will eventually be the thing that overshadows both 29"er development and fat bike development in the near future.

As for this Trek World, it was the biggest dud from the standpoint of 29"ers since the early 2000's, and that's saying a lot, since as I said, anything Fisher did back then was a really big deal. So, are 29"ers done? It's a funny thing, but from the standpoint of pushing any boundaries in any real, palatable way, yes. 29"ers are a done deal. Could Trek, (or any other brand, for that matter), do something really cool with 29"er wheels yet? Totally. Yes, they could, but they won't.

All I know is that the notable bikes this year, for the most part, are visitations from the Spirit of '08, and that in itself seems rather strange and shocking, really, for a company like Trek to be doing.

NOTE: Trek info and images used here were scraped from various Internet places where I could scare up the info. While I work at a Trek dealer, I guess this is how it goes these days. Half a G to get in the door just didn't trip my trigger. My bad.


Charlie Best said...

Your snarky little article would carry more weight if you didn't spend so much time grandstanding your own ignorance. The Superfly SS is not a Rig, which was a fun bike built around a cheap, slightly heavy frame. The 920 frame is quite probably suspension corrected because having seen it in the metal, I'm pretty sure it's using the same frame as the Dual Sport series, and did you just choose to not mention RE:Activ shock technology, or Boost 148, which may represent one of the most significant improvements in 29er design to date? Perhaps you working at a TREK dealer is dragging the place down, hence no preferred status?

Guitar Ted said...

Hey @Charlie Best: Glad to see your passion for the Trek World releases.

Like I stated at the top, it is only my opinion, but since you seem to be calling me out on that....

Trek, as you are probably well aware, has been in the process of homogenizing the 29"er line in to simpler terms, spreading model names across "families" with different spec levels using the same frames. The Rig did not fit into that scheme, so it disappeared. Historically, that model was probably one of the most important 29"ers Trek ever produced. Too bad it isn't relevant anymore.

Which brings me to the Superfly SS, which is just a name splashed onto what the Rig was- an aluminum single speed bike. Yes- they finally updated the rear axle and made a few other tweaks, including the fork, which as I said, was really a throwback to 2008, when it would have made a difference to dealers. Now? Not so much. My criticism stands based upon that.

Your "pretty sure" the 920 is suspension corrected, eh. Get back to me on that.....

I did choose not to mention the suspension technology in the Remedy Carbon. Why? It has been covered to death already, which is exactly what I stated in the piece I wrote for today. I did mention it though, because it is pretty outstanding, and very expensive, but the point wasn't any of that. The point was that "Trek World" is preempting their own show to dealers. That's the point.

And as for your final statement, it is clearly a personal attack, so it really doesn't add to the discussion here. That said....

In reference to the $500.00 attendance fee, the point is that Trek is charging its customers, (dealers), to see bikes it wants to sell to them. I find that extremely distasteful and bizarre. I figured that part was rather glaringly clear, I guess not.......

Steve Fuller said...

In the photos that i've seen, I don't get the feeling that the location of the drops puts you in a Fargo equivalent" drop bar mountain bike position.

I'm betting that at it's heart, it's more of a "520 that fits larger tires" than anything. More of an answer to Specialized's AWOL than a Fargo competitor. Hopefully the local Trek dealer will get one or two in so I can stop and take a peek at it in person.

Charlie Best said...

Hey Ted, sorry if you thought I was attacking you personally, I had deduced from the tone of the post that you're not TREK's biggest fan, which might hinder your efforts to effectively sell them, no?

You're right that TREK are trying to simplify their range, but this has benefits for the cycling public too, notably the universal G2 geometry on their 29er bikes from entry level, gone are the looky-likey pseudo MTBs of the 3xxx and 4xxx series. I'll continue to disagree with you on the Rig/SSS connection, alloy Superflys have a considerably better frame than the X-Caliber range of "sport" MTBs which the Rig was once part of. Frame material aside, the new SSS has more in common with its carbon ancestors of which I've owned 2, including the 2008 show-special.

"Pretty sure" not good enough for you, well I don't like to make statements I can't back up with hard numbers, so pretty sure is what I am, we have a 2015 Dual Sport on the floor at the store I work at, and it shares the kinked TT and Duotrap S port with the 920, based on DS sales against "touring" bike sales I'd bet they didn't start a new frame production line for that model, do you know how much it costs to prototype a new frame design? I actually do, 'cause I took the factory tour.

Speaking of the tour, it's included in the $500 entry fee, along with access to 3 days of valuable seminars, all you can eat buffets three times a day and constant snacks and beverages, all transport between locations, free b-cycle usage around Madison, a chance to demo the new bikes on TREK's private trails, including some of the very few Di2 XTR equipped bikes in North America. A pretty good value, enough for the store that I work at to send 3 staff members with only one covered by our dealer status. I personally took the opportunity to have a brief but one-on-one conversation with Mr.Burke, and snap a hilarious (my opinion only) selfie with Mr.Cancellara.

Of course TREK wants to sell more bikes, that's what they do, but the best way to do that aside from producing great product (opinion) is to get dealers excited and equipped to sell those bikes to end-users, and I would guess they feel the TREK World model works, or they wouldn't keep doing it.

I do have passion for the brand, and have for a long time, amongst several of their bikes I own is a regularly ridden 1995 Singletrack 950, US made steel. But I also have a Cannondale SuperX and DMR Trailstar in the quiver. What I love about TREK is the low BS, high fun, and awesome ride qualities of their bicycles, sure they lack boutique cachet, or trend setting innovation, but bang for buck they have in spades.

Hope this clarifies my earlier comment.

Guitar Ted said...

@Charlie Best: No apology necessary.

I don't sell Treks- I work on them. We have sales people that do the selling where I work. And even if I didn't like Treks and had to sell them for my job- I could, because I am a damn good sales person. But that's neither here nor there....

You didn't understand my comments on the Rig at all, so I'll dismiss your rebuttal. You're talking about a completely different thing than I am.

Trek 920- You still haven't actually said anything that leads me to believe the fork is suspension corrected.

Finally- Trek did all the things you said- free food, seminars, etc- FOR FREE before they arbitrarily started to charge some dealers and not others for attending Trek World. Now they want to charge for those perks? Fine. let me come see the bikes and I won't eat your food, drink your beer, or go to your seminars, (which I would think they would want to encourage you to attend, since they are asking for the dealers money when the want to sell you a bicycle, etc), and I wouldn't expect them to charge me anything. Do they offer that? I don't think so, do they?

So- point stands- Trek is milking dealers for money to convince them to buy more bikes. If you cannot see the backwards economics of that, then we have no further discussion here. They should be giving dealers perks to come, not charging them an entry fee. That's just jacked up. It's distasteful, and it is bizarre in a world where sales of bikes are so hotly contested.

JoeOxfordCT said...

Hi Ted...(and Charlie?),
what I would really like to know is if Trek plans to make the rigid carbon fork available as an aftermarket item? Looking at purchasing a 2015 Superfly HT (7,8,9.6)and maybe converting to rigid down the road but I have yet to find any other aftermarket forks with the GF 51mm offset... :(
Wolcott, CT.

Guitar Ted said...

@ JoeOxfordCT: Haven't heard whether that may happen. I'll have to check into that.

Ryan Krumpeck said...

HI GT- Any comments on the 142mm rear hub and sliding drop out on the Superfly SS ? Better than the Rig set up ?

carolus_m said...

Hi Ted,

I want to comment on your opinion about the outdated 920 and the state of the art Fargo. I noticed the 920 only after I saw the KSA 18 kickstand mount. This is for me an USP. At least here in Germany we like kickstands a lot on all but pure design, racing or sportive oriented bikes. Shopping at my beloved organic store? Trailer with Weber hitch and kickstand at KSA 18 is a very neat, lightweight and easy to attach solution. Forget Fargo :-). Let´s talk about rear rack friendly bikes. Seeing the weight, material, load limit and price of the Alternator Racks leaves a lot to wish. Light, sturdy and nearly cheap at the same time? Tubus racks are Industrie standard at least in Europe for some reasons. Forget Fargo and Marrakesh. Putting on an decent headlight is very easy if a fork crown sports the right hole at the right place. Over to dynamohub and The Plug III: The fork shaft has to be open for the cable. As far as I have seen, the Firestarter carbon fork has neither of these complicated features and there is no frameset with steel fork available. Forget Fargo, really? Bikepackers don´t use fenders, that´s ok. The last 30 years I commute, shop, visit, travel, detour, wander by drop bar bikes, day or nigh, shine or rain. I don´t like mud, dog poo and horse or cow shit splattered all over me. Try to fit a real fender at the fork crown of the oh-so-nice suspension corrected Firestarter fork and you will find artistic solutions with longish self made stripes of inox sheet. My rear fender needs at least 5 attachment points, otherwise it breaks. One at the chainstays and seatstays, min. two at the rear rack and the dropouts. There are expensive alternator dropouts with mounting points for fender struts available. At least at they are not standard on the framesets. So far I go without Fargo. I want wider tires, I need no suspension fork. I want to love the Fargo and especially the Marrakesh. Because they could be all round bikes designed for drop bars.

Andreas from Aachen

Guitar Ted said...

@Andreas from Aachen- While I am not going to try to convince you that most of your concrns about a Fargo are unwarranted, (Steel Firestarter forks would solve many of your issues, for instance), I find you criticisms of the Marrakesh to be odd, especially since they haven't even become available yet.

Furthermore, your list of "needs" is best suited not by anything Trek has, but by smaller companies, like Velo Orange, (yes- maybe not available in Germany, but I am sure you could ferret out such a brand there, since Germany has several bike brands). The Velo Orange Piolet is exactly what you have described and has the wide tire capabilities. Trek 920? Aluminum for heavy off-road touring? Bad idea.

Also, the 920 is not suspension fork compatible, and there are places I would go where being limited to a rigid fork would be a great liability. In fact, that has occurred and right here in the Mid-West USA, not to mention anywhere there might be rocks, mountains, and whatnot. The Fargo, of course, can accommodate this.

Again- I will not try to convince you of the superior versatility of the Fargo, but the Trek 920 is nothing in comparison, and as I say, there are companies doing exactly as you have required in steel frames, which in my opinion, would be a better choice by far.

carolus_m said...

Hi Ted,

as far as I know the Fargo frameset comes with carbon Firestarter, no choice. Steel Firestarter forks would solve some of my issues (headlight and Plug III) for a lot of money, selling carbon buying steel. But I would appreciate to use the carbon fork.

Marrakesh specs show the use of Alternators, so no compatibility with Tubus racks up to now. At least there is a kickstand plate but no KSA 18. In my eyes this is not an odd criticism on an otherwise very thought out and versatile frameset. Tire clearance would be fine for my needs. OK, I said wider tires, coming from 28mmm, sorry. Tom Ritchey creates bikes that are aesthetically pleasing imho, so VO Piolet isn´t it. But I get the idea.

And yes, The Great Fargo could have superior versatility for me with some minor modifications: Carbon fork with open shaft and central bore, KSA 18, available compatible Tubus rear rack and perhaps a little bit less slope of the top tube.

Steel? I have broken 1 custom made steel frame at the right rear drop out (cavity in the lug) and 1 fork at the shaft (Hercules 3-speed, fatigue break) and 1 fork cantilever socket (custom made Bob Jackson MTB build 1989, bad soldering) with light use, me and my luggage are not heavy. I´m not overly convinced by steel frames but I love their slim and often elegant appearance.

I am not aware of an European bike brand that sells a drop bar geo frame like the Marrakesh. There are many Trekking bikes with drop bars out there.


Guitar Ted said...

@Andreas: The KSA 18 is merely a direct mount kickstand. No reason that I see that you couldn't mod a kickstand plate to accept it. But, yes- not stock. In my touring experiences, I wouldn't choose that anyway. A dual legged SKS kickstand is far more than sufficient and fits standard kickstand plates with zero modification. But to each their own.

While you have had bad experiences with steel frames, many of your descriptions of failures could have been field repaired by local craftsmen. Try that with a Trek 920.

The point is, the Fargo, or Marrakesh would be a superior bicycle to the 920 in almost any touring scenario I can think of.

carolus_m said...

@ Ted

sorry for being penetrant. If you want to convince someone that kickstands are evil, try dual legged SKS/Esge/Pletscher folding kickstands. I used 2 of them about 25 years ago for some years. They corrode easily with salt, clog up with mud and snow and are noisy even on good roads. If not greased on a regular base, they don´t fold or kick well. The bike tends to run around the very twisty kickstand, the frontend of the bike needs a limiter to not turn to wide, ripping off cables, brakes, headlights or tipping over the whole bike. Often, the mounting plate will also rip of, my steel bike used to be welded at this location, many others I have seen. Please Salsa, give me KSA 18 and Alternator rear racks with Tubus quality, open fork shaft for Plug III, central bore in fork crown for headlight. That´s all I wish for my all round bikes. And please give me the chance to chose frame and fork separately.

Steel is field repairable, as long as you find someone experienced with wall thicknesses below 1mm. Often these craftsmen are frame builder already.

And to end this all: The Trek 920 is ugly as hell imho. It has KSA 18 as an USP, seems to be designed in Europe.


Guitar Ted said...

@Andreas- I've seen 100's of SKS kickstands on bikes here in the US with none of the issues, (besides mud/snow build up and associated issues, which any kickstand will cause), and they are quite reliable, if you are into kickstands. In my touring experiences, I never used a kickstand at all, which solves all the issues you seem to be having, but that isn't for everyone, I understand. I would never consider putting a kickstand on any bike I owned.

Oh.....and there are frame/fork only choices for all of Salsa's bikes in the US. It may be that your distributor in the EU doesn't bring that choice in.