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Bike Test: The Trek Rumblefish II

August 22, 2011
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It’s A New Beginning
In case you haven’t been keeping up with current events, there are no more Gary Fisher brand bicycles. The Fisher brand, for years owned by Trek Bicycles, has been completely absorbed by Trek. The only Fisher graphic remnant found on the Trek Rumblefish II is a small rectangle on the downtube that reads “Gary Fisher Collection.” Call it what you want, but we say the Fisher influence is still in the house.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Think of the Fisher?oops, we mean the Trek Rumblefish II?as the second runner in a relay race. When the first runner, the amazing Trek carbon fiber Superfly 100 cross-country race bike, hits the rocky, slippery, slimy trail section, it hands off to the Rumblefish. If your riding style and terrain are too advanced for a cross-country bike, the Rumblefish takes over.


Name game: It has a new name and it plays a new game. The combination of Fisher creativity
and Trek ingenuity results in a great bike that is free of the teething problems of old.


WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Rumblefish frame and stays are all made from aluminum. Trek brings the Active Braking Pivot (ABP) to the party. ABP puts the rear suspension pivot concentric to the rear wheel axle. The E2 head tube is tapered from 1-1/8 inch to 1-1/2 inches at the bottom. This allows more creativity in shaping the bike’s downtube, because there is more surface area between the downtube and the head tube.


WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Shimano 30-speed XT Dyna-Sys drivetrain is cool, but it doesn’t stand out. It is the Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) shock that hooks the gawkers. The Fox-made DRCV shock is easily identified by the secondary air chamber above the primary air chamber. Why not make a fatter air canister? Air shocks with large-volume canisters reduce the runaway ramp-up when bottoming, but you get a hammock effect (a distinct flat pocket during the shock’s mid-stroke) that is difficult to work around with any rear suspension design.

The DRCV gets around this with a second air chamber connected to the primary air chamber that is only opened after the shock is past the mid-stroke “hammock” area. This is accomplished mechanically when the shock shaft touches the DRCV plunger. The DRCV worked so well for Fisher bikes that it is now found on Trek bikes, too. Wait, this is a Trek bike. Oh well, you get the point.


Fishing trek: The E2 tapered head tube.


HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The Rumblefish cockpit positions its rider slightly rearward, and with the flat Lowrider bar, the rider’s hands end up pretty much where they would be on a 26-inch-wheeled bike. Suspension linkages, stays and cables all tuck in tightly so there is no unwanted rubbing, and the Bontrager saddle is comfortable enough for epic-length rides.

Moving out: The Rumblefish is not going to win any drag races (the Superfly 100 will do that), and it takes working the 30-speed drivetrain to get you up to speed. It doesn’t feel sluggish or heavy or slow, but it’s not inspiring, either. You just move out and work up to cruising speed.

Cornering: You look down at the large 29-inch front wheel and can’t believe it is turning with the responsiveness of a 26er. The Rumblefish has an incredibly light feel that makes you forget you are on a 29er. That is, until you rail a loose corner faster than you ever have before or stick an off-camber switchback.

Hammering: The Rumblefish rolls along like a freight train once up to speed and doesn’t notice trail chatter or sand that would throw a 26er for a loop. The bike benefits from the shock’s ProPedal lever in these situations.

Climbing: While we are sold on 2×10 drivetrains for 26ers, we were grateful to have a 3×10 drivetrain to play with on the 29er; we were especially thankful for the 36- tooth big-un on the cassette. This bike will respond to any climbing style you prefer. Spin a little gear in the saddle or muscle a big one out of the saddle. The tires hook up in either case.

Braking: Trek gives you a larger rotor in the front, and this balances things out perfectly. The ABP keeps the rear wheel tracking the trail surface under braking, making it far easier to modulate braking power (without skidding). Even though Trek gives you great braking performance, try not to use the brakes too often. The Rumblefish sticks.


Surprise feeling: Those fat tires and large hoops smooth the trail, and geometry tweaks keep
the bike feeling lively and responsive. It is a neat trick that more 29er bikes need to learn.


Descending: Many 29er riders say a 4-inch-travel 29er is like descending on a 5-inch-travel 26er. Not true. There is a distinct difference. The Rumblefish never felt like it had more than 4 inches of travel, yet we descended our favorite downhills faster than on a 4-inch-travel 26er. The large wheels and tires offer better trail contact, and troublesome ruts, braking bumps, water bars and medium-sized obstacles make less of an impact on the rider. If this were still a Fisher, it would be the most-competent-descending Fisher we have ever ridden.

In the rough: Can you feel the DRCV shock in action when you plow into the nasty stuff? Yes and no. The rider will not feel the instant when the plunger opens the second air chamber. It is a totally seamless, smooth transition. What you do feel is a shock that performs like a large-volume air shock only when you need it to (closer to bottoming out than topping out). It is a great trick that you don’t have to think about. The shock does all the work for you.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The annoying clicking and play issues we experienced with last year’s Bontrager hubs are gone. Trek is trying to put Lizard Skins out of business with a standard-equipment chainstay guard that makes the Rumblefish a chatter-free ride while bouncing along.


Speaking of standard equipment, Trek gives you a suspension pump and sag-o-meter tools with the bike. Buy an extra set of sag-o-meters, though, because we guarantee that you will forget to remove them and they will pop off during your ride when you bottom the suspension.

The Bontrager tires are beefy, so when they wear, consider replacing them with a slightly narrower tire.

BUYING ADVICE
It is sad that the Fisher brand is gone, because the 2011 Rumblefish represents a fulfilled promise from Gary and the gang. There have always been “buts” in every Fisher trailbike test: but the hub clicked, but the rear end flexed, but the wheels were heavy. There are no “buts” for this bike. It is an ultra-competent trailbike at a very attractive price?and this is the expensive version! This is the best all-round Fisher trailbike that Fisher Bicycles didn’t make. Luckily, Trek has brought more to the table, and the proof is in the ride.

Reprinted from the January 2011 issue of Mountain Bike Action Magazine

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