Trek’s New Supercaliber Sets Benchmark for XC Performance
The Takeaway: The new Trek Supercaliber is an unapologetic and uncompromising cross country racing machine. The second-generation platform adds travel with a new RockShox-made IsoStrut while maintaining its climbing prowess. All models feature a dropper seatposts.
When launched in 2019, the first version of the Trek Supercaliber was mountain bike racing’s worst-kept secret. It was rumoured, spy-shot, and raced throughout the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season by Trek’s high-profile pro riders Jolanda Neff and Evie Richards. The brand went so far as to make a custom sleeve to hide the IsoStrut rear suspension from the world. The second-gen Supercaliber looks so much like the first that I would be shocked if many even noticed it being raced before its release.
Like the original, the new Supercaliber is an unapologetic and uncompromising cross country racing machine. The structurally integrated IsoStrut system still pivots at the bottom bracket, but the strut itself is now made by RockShox (instead of Fox). The new shock provides 80mm of dampened rear wheel travel, an increase of 25mm from the original. Trek notes the new Supercaliber yields an additional 3 to 5mm of flex-stay travel, depending on rider weight (but it’s not included in the 80mm figure).
The original Supercaliber bridged the gap between fast-pedalling hardtails and more capable full suspension race rigs. With the addition of more travel, the new bike sheds the notion of being a soft tail and plants its flag firmly in the realm of full suspension.
Supercaliber’s evolution tracks with the changes made to World Cup cross country courses over the past few seasons. With bigger and steeper obstacles added to races, the Supercaliber needed updates to keep up with other hyper-focused, lightweight, and efficient XC race bikes.
Trek updated the Supercaliber’s geometry in the most predictable way. Yup, say it with me: The new Supercaliber is longer and slacker.
Trek was careful not to go overboard with the changes, citing that the Supercaliber is still a purpose-built cross country bike. It feels wild to think of a 67.5-degree head tube angle as somewhat conservative. But considering the recently released Specialized Epic World Cup is a full-degree slacker, it almost feels like Trek is playing it safe.
Models and Pricing
Trek offers the Supercaliber in seven builds. Pricing starts at R85 000 for the base Supercaliber SL 9.6 and peaks at R220 000 for the range-topping Supercaliber SLR 9.9 XX AXS model.
New for the second-generation Supercaliber is two frame levels. The two lowest-priced models use an SL-level frame. The five pricier models feature an SLR-level frame with a lighter carbon layup and without internal cable guides to save weight.
Supercaliber SLR9 XX AXS – R220 000.00 – Project One
Supercaliber SLR9 9.9 X0 AXS – R210 000.00 – Project One
Supercaliber SLR 9.9 XTR – R200 000.00 – Project One
Supercaliber SLR 9.8 GX AXS – R145 000.00 – Arrival Early September
Supercaliber SL 9.7 AXS – R100 000.00 – Arrival Early September 2023
Supercaliber SL 9.6 – R85 000.00 – Arrival Early October 2023
First, a bike like the Supercaliber needs some context. This is a cross country race bike. When I say that the new Supercaliber is a capable descender, the caveat is that the bike is capable for an XC bike. This is not a bike you should take to a shuttle day with your enduro-loving friends.
The Supercaliber’s capability on technical terrain is very rider-dependent, much more so than a bike with more travel. The less suspension travel, the more rider skill comes into play.
When you charge into a technical section with precise line selection and full commitment, the Supercaliber rewards you by carrying momentum. But if you hesitate or waver, the bike gets bogged down just as easily. The bike can be unforgiving when you get it wrong but incredibly fast when you get it right.
The bike is absolutely world-class when it comes to going uphill. The Supercaliber is so efficient that the remote lockout almost felt redundant. The updated RockShox Twistlock lockout is a much-needed improvement over the previous version. It does a much better job of staying in the selected position. But I found myself locking out the Supercaliber only on paved or gravel roads. Even on slightly chunky fire road climbs, the bike rode better with the suspension open, simply for the added rear wheel traction.
If you seek a plush trail bike that floats over the trail, absorbing rocks and roots, I recommend looking at a different bike. The Supercaliber is the right bike for two types of riders: those committed to racing XC and riders who love the feel of a lightweight mountain bike above all else.