I take no joy in doing this… well, except for the riding part…

Fuji SLM 1.1 Carbon Review

The 2014 Fuji SLM 1.1 Carbon 29er is the top of the line hardtail race bike from the Fuji lineup. It comes fully specced in some of the best components you can find for a bike, but there are some problems with that are going to keep it from really excelling on my list. Read on for more details.

Spec’s From Fuji’s Website

FrameC15 super-light high-modulus carbon w/ internal shift cable routing, shaped oversized ride-tuned down tube, PF30 bottom bracket, tapered 1 1/8" - 1.5" head tube, C15 super-light high-modulus carbon seatstays w/ shaped ride-tuned chainstay, carbon 142x12mm dropout and replaceable hanger
ForkFox 32 FLOAT 29 Factory Fit w/ Kashima coating, remote lock out, 15mm thru axle, tapered alloy steerer, 100mm travel
ShiftersShimano XTR, M980 Rapid Fire, 20/30-speed w/ Inspec
Front DerailleurShimano XTR, M986D, direct-mount
Rear DerailleurShimano XTR, M986 SGS Shadow top normal, 10-speed
BrakesShimano XTR M985, hydraulic disc, 180/160mm rotor
Brake LeversShimano XTR M988 hydraulic disc w/ Inspec
CassetteShimano XTR M970, 11-36T, 10-speed
ChainKMC X10, 10-speed
Crankset Oval Concepts M600, hollow forged w/ M35 integrated spindle, 38/26T
Bottom BracketPraxis M35
WheelsSun Black Flag Pro SL15mm thru-axle front / 142x12mm rear, 24H 6-bolt hubs
TiresSchwable Racing Ralph, tubeless ready, 29" x 2.1" folding, 67 tpi

The bike I rode at Interbike was the exact same as the specs on their base model except for the tires. The tires on the bike I rode were Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, but I highly doubt that the tire difference made much difference in my overall ride and thoughts.

How It Rides

The Fuji SLM 1.1 Carbon 29er comes fully specced to the gills in full XTR race components. It is also what I would guess is the lightest frame I rode. The bike itself felt equally as light as the Marin and Giant XTC 27.5 hardtails but in a 29er package. That I thought was pretty impressive.

However, the bike doesn’t ride like a race machine. In fact, I didn’t feel like it rode very well at all.

The geometry on the bike for whatever reason felt very… off. I felt like the cockpit kept me sitting too much “on top of the bike” rather than “in the bike”, this makes for some sketchy feeling corners and a distrust for the bikes handling. I adjusted the cockpit while riding, I double checked everything, but never got it to feel any more natural.

There was also the typical hardtail feeling, where it feels almost loose and sketchy on the dusty corners and you can feel the rear tire skid across the top of the dirt. This I don’t mind as it is part of what makes a hardtail a hardtail. But, the Fuji had what I would describe as a hiccup and squeal from the bottom bracket when going through those skidding sections. Basically, when I would start to skip I could feel a hiccup, sort of a small bump, in the bottom bracket and then moments later a small squeal from it as well. This happened on multiple sections and throughout the entire course.

Fuji reps told me beforehand that their bottom bracket had been completely redesigned coming into 2014. Unfortunately from my perspective it needs a little more time being worked through because it didn’t feel like they had it right just yet.

There was also a similar thunking coming from the headtube. particularly when the bike started pointing downhill or going through a dip, you could feel a jolt in the handlebars and hear a clunk from the tube. It reminded me of riding with my headset on incorrectly on my bike, but on a bike put together for this demo I would be shocked if that were the case.

Overall Thoughts

I’ve ridden a Fuji for nearly 10 years, my road bike is a Fuji Newest 1.0 a basic entry level road bike, but it has lasted and performed well for me for a good long time. I like the brand, they put together good budget friendly bikes but unfortunately this was the worst bike I rode my entire trip to the Dirt Demo.

I’m not saying its a terrible bike, because all of the bikes I rode were still very good bikes. But when you are looking at buying a $5,000+ bike, this is not an option I would suggest. I would highly recommend looking at the Marin Team CXR Pro instead since it is at roughly the same price point.

Now, my biggest hope is that my ride was an anomoly, that the bike had something wrong with it and it didn’t reflect the overall line of Fuji SLM 1.1 Carbons. Because that is the case, I definitely recommend you get to a local dealer or a Fuji demo in your area to test ride one for yourself because your ride may be massively different from mine. In fact… I really, really hope it is.