It's hard to believe that we are heading into 2024, and the Trek Supercaliber was released in 2019. Launched as a pure cross-country race bike, the Gen 2 version builds on that and adds 20mm more of rear travel. The new Supercaliber now offers 80mm of rear travel, but beyond that, Trek has designed the geometry around a 110mm travel fork.
Cross-country race courses at the highest levels are getting more and more demanding, and while Trek will tell us about all the pro athletes that wanted and even needed more travel, in reality, the real winners are the consumers.
Trek Supercaliber Gen 2 Details
• Wheel size: 29"
• Carbon frame
• 80mm rear travel, 100-120mm fork
• 67.5° head angle
• 435mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M, ML, L, XL
• Frame + shock weight: 4.3 lb (1950 grams)
• Actual weight: 21.06 lb / 9.5 kg
• MSRP: $4,200 - $11,700 USD
It's no surprise that Trek is designing bikes for the top level of racing, but the consumers are the ones purchasing these bikes. Without sales, World Cup racing itself is not enough to validate a new bike, and it sounds like customers were also asking for a bit more from the Supercaliber too. Trek's response, in my opinion, is a truly solid response, but is it enough to compete with their largest competition in this segment?
Trek is hitting the market with a total of seven Supercaliber Gen 2 complete models. Five modes will feature the SLR OCLV carbon frame, with prices ranging from $7,000 to $11,700. Two models will utilize the slightly heavier SL OCLV carbon main frame but have the same rear end as the SLR for $4,200 and $5,700. Frame Details
The Trek Supercaliber has always had a very clean aesthetic. The new RockShox SIDLuxe IsoStrut rear shock that is essentially built into the top tube opens up a significant amount of room in the main frame triangle since it really only uses a single pivot near the bottom bracket. One of the benefits of this top-tube shock layout is that it provides plenty of room for carrying two water bottles. In the real world, during a regular XC ride, having two water bottles is essential if you don't want to wear a hydration pack. For pro athletes that have a crew and support, it's not a huge issue, so many bikes in this category overlook it, but for the general consumer, that's a huge bonus. Plus, marathon cross-country races have always been a popular segment for this style of bike, and two water bottles are key in those events.
One of the most impactful frame designs is the flexing seat stays. Flex in the design is not a new concept by any means, but focusing that resistance in the seat stay rather than a chainstay delivers more lateral stiffness as well as controlled isolation. The seat stays extend from the rear axle all the way up until they become the shock body. These seat stays act as a progressive flex point to support the shock's travel. Essentially, between the progressive nature of the low-volume shock and the flexing frame, there's a good deal of end-stroke ramp up, and full travel is hard to achieve when sag is set correctly.
There are two versions of the frame - the SLR and SL. Both use the same swingarm, but the SLR forgoes internal guide tubes and receives a different carbon layup in order to save 250 grams compared to the weight of the SL model, which does have internal guide tubes for easier cable routing. Complete SLR builds have wireless shifting, although that doesn't mean they're cable-free - our top-tier Supercaliber SLR 9.9 XX AXS still has three cables that control the shock and fork lockout remotely and a cable-actuated dropper post. That's still a lot of cables.
The Supercaliber Gen 2 frame uses 148mm hub spacing and has a UDH (Universal Derailleur Hanger.) The UDH can be removed for a hangerless T-Type SRAM Transmission compatibility. The frame has a proprietary floating direct post-mount brake caliper adapter that is only compatible with a 160mm rotor. This isolates the caliper from the rear end's flex and offers consistent brake performance.
Unsurprisingly, the frame is designed specifically for a 29" wheel, but there is also room for a 2.4" tire. That's a lot of rubber for a short-travel XC bike. Geometry
The Trek Supercaliber Gen 2 geometry has been updated with a slightly longer reach and slacker headtube angle. The Gen 1 had a 69-degree headtube with a 100mm travel fork. All of the stock Gen 2 bikes will deliver with a 110mm fork and a 67.5-degree headtube angle. Even if you swap the 110mm fork for a 100mm version, you still get a 1-degree slacker frame at 68 degrees. If you opt for a 120mm fork, you bump half a degree from stock to a 67-degree headtube angle.
The longer reach is only about 1cm, but the overall wheelbase has been extended between all of the geometry tweaks. As an easy comparison, the Gen 2 size large with a stock 110mm fork has a 117.2cm wheelbase, the same as the Gen 1 XL. I point this out because the length makes a difference on technical and tight singletrack.
The bottom bracket drop has also been raised just a bit to help offset the sag and longer travel. This has also affected the stack, with Gen 2 having a slightly lower stack. This is even with sizes L and XL getting longer headtubes.
Overall, the geometry has been tweaked to add stability along with more travel. While most of us aren't racing the demanding World Cup courses, it expands the bike's versatility with little compromise to pure race performance.Build Kits
I was surprised to see that none of the complete builds come with powermeters, even the top tier 9.9 AXS model. Maybe it is just the XC races I frequent, but they are incredibly competitive at all levels, and almost everyone is training with power. Don't get me wrong, an XC bike doesn't need
a power meter, but the top few builds should definitely be delivered with, at the very least, a single-sided power meter. Both competitors, Scott and Specialized, have it on the spec sheet of their pinnacle builds. That said, the SRAM XX SL cranks on the top model are designed to easily accept the SRAM / Quarq power meter.
Enough bagging on Trek for skipping on power meters. Honestly, looking at the builds, Trek has hit most of the other marks. There are SRAM and Shimano builds at multiple levels, allowing riders to pick their preferred drivetain. To cut weight, the Fox Transfer SL with internal routing is on a few versions. I am a fan of the fast action and lightweight, but the two positions, up or all the way down, are not ideal on an XC race bike, in my opinion.
Without getting into the details of each build, all the bikes have a remote lockout that simultaneously controls the front and rear. You are either all open or all closed. The new RockShox SIDLuxe IsoStrut is on all models and unlike the Fox version that was on Gen 1, the Gen 2 version doesn't need any specific tools for service.
All of the SLR builds get carbon Bontrager Kovee wheels. On our test bike we have the RSL version. I like the 29mm internal width, but I was surprised to see a small hooked bead. All of the builds will be shipped with the Bontrager Sainte-Anne RSL XR, Tubeless Ready 29x2.40" tires except the one I got. Because the top tier model has the RockShox SID SL Ultimate fork, the 29x2.20" version comes stock.
Also on all of the SLR builds is the one-piece cockpit—the Bontrager RSL Integrated handlebar/stem. Ride Impressions
The Supercalibler is very light on the scale, but overall, the tweaks made from the Gen 1 are much more impactful than just scale weight. Climbing on the Supercaliber is crazy efficient. The new RockShox SIDLuxe IsoStrut rear shock combined with the rear swingarm flex offers a progressive stroke allowing me to leave the system unlocked almost all the time. It is small bump compliant but doesn't take away from your pedaling.
The slacker geometry doesn't seem to hinder it when climbing technical trails or maneuvering obstacles at slower speeds. In reality, I'd say locking the suspension hindered most of my climbing more than the new geometry. That's because, unlike many lockouts, this one actually feels locked. I mean, like old-school close the valve and burst-a-seal locked. For those that are considering a hardtail, this might be the best of both worlds.
For me, the real downside was that I rarely want to lock both front and rear, and when I do it is just the road sections that connect trails or maybe a paved climb that creates a loop, not really mountain biking. Sure, those heading to Leadville this weekend would love it for some of the long connector roads, but I'd prefer separate controls when on the trail. If there is one small detail to this system that I do like, it is the fact that its default setting is open, meaning if a cable breaks or the is an issue, you get the benefit of an open system. Maybe I'll just disconnect one of the cables.
The new geo and additional travel truly shine when you point the Supercaliber Gen 2 downhill. One of my favorite XC loops is always buzzing with full-face helmets and 140-160mm trail bikes, but after riding it for nearly 20 years, these modern XC bikes are a dream and the best balance for the punchy climbs and fast technical sections. I can't say that the Trek Supercaliber Gen 2 was perfect, but the 80mm of travel in the rear was more than enough. I did a few extra laps with 35% sag rather than the 25% I had set it up with originally, and ven with the softer setting I had a hard time getting a full stroke out of the shock.
No matter if you choose the SL or SLR, the Trek Supercaliber Gen 2 has made significant changes that benefit pro riders and deliver a more versatile bike for consumers. Trek listened to pro riders, consumers, and mechanics while designing the Gen 2, and that is something that I think more brands should be doing in this segment.