Let's start this review off right. I am a recovering weight weenie and XC racer so when I was first introduced to the idea of testing the SLM platform, I fell off the wagon pretty quickly.
With literally years of my cycling life dedicated to finding the newest, lightest, most efficient parts and bikes on the planet for me and for my clients, it took a little luck and a bit of "old bones" to convince me to ride the fun bikes vs. the fast bikes. However, I am still an XC guy at heart and these old bones are going to hold on for one more ride.
Once the delivery day came my heart rate hit zone 2 just putting it together. The first thing I noticed after un-boxing was the massive head tube! I mean this thing is big, which should translate into some very responsive steering. Continuing with the build, I felt that Fuji could have put a little more into the cockpit to spruce it up a bit beyond the Oval M600 series parts. With a price that reaches over $3500, I did expect to see a bit more in this area, but I will wait to judge this until the bike is trail tested. Outside of my small reservations on the cockpit, I had to take a minute to stand back to just enjoy the lines.
This is one beautiful bike. At this point I have no idea how it rides but it sure looks fast.
Fuji shipped us the 1.3 model with a full Shimano XT 2x10 setup and Fox 32 Float 29 fork. We all know Shimano and Fox make some great stuff so we'll focus on the bike as a whole and leave these great parts until another day.
Not Just A Pretty Face
The day has come to finally take this bad boy out and put it to the test, and I can tell you that my heart is still racing. Of course, that could be because these old bones are scared of what my mind thinks I can still do. Only time will tell... The first thing I noticed is that this is a comfortable bike; it's not just fast -- it really feels good too.
The SLM climbs, descends, and traverses the trail from side to side far better than I could have imagined. With the shorter chain stays in the rear, acceleration was immediate. Head tube angle and size equated to uber-responsive steering and I'm not sure what's going on but there is some magic happening in the rear end somewhere. Don't get me wrong -- this is a hard tail for sure, but there seems to be an enormous amount of forgiveness in the rear end that I'm just not used to.
As for my hesitation on the Oval Concepts cockpit, I'll keep my rant short and just say that the grips and saddle will be replaced with my ODI Rogues and WTB Rocket V SLT. I know, I know, grips and saddles are really more of an intimate decision and should not be chosen lightly, so no cool points will be deducted.
In my next review, look for more details on the specs and geometry of this thoroughbred as I dig deeper into why it responds the way it does, including a conversation with Fuji's MTB product manager John Brown.
Again this was the first ride on the SLM and frankly, if it lives up to the expectations I'm trying hard to keep hidden inside, this is one hell of a bike.
Only time will tell.