The Rumblefish and I go way back. This is in fact the second Rumblefish I’ve owned since its release. Our love affair started with its release in 2011 and over the last two years of riding it I’ve become very familiar with its many strengths and its handfull of shortcomings.
The Rumblefish is a bit of a sleeping giant. It initially feels slightly sluggish and lackluster at normal speeds, however, once you open it up (especially on the downhills) this bike comes alive! I was amazed at the transformation in handling once the bike was brought up to speed. The harder you push this bike the the more it begs to be pushed. This can be very addicting (and dangerous!).
The bike is one of the first models released to feature Trek’s proprietary DRCV (dual rate control valve) front suspension. I’m not exactly convinced it’s a whole lot better than your standard fork, but it does give the rider the ability to set the fork up very plush. The one downside to this is that it also gives the rider the ability to bottom the fork out slightly easier than normal. If you are not familiar with DRVC it ‘s essentially a dual chambered suspension design in which a second chamber opens toward the end of the shock or fork’s travel and alleviates the increase in pressure that normally occurs torward the end of travel in an air chamber suspension design. The result of this linear pressure curve is that it becomes rather easy to bottom out the fork under normal riding circumstances. Once I finally found the happy medium between increasing the fork pressure and using the appropriate amount travel the fork did feel very nice, it just took a little more playing around with than I was used to.
The rear shock on the other hand is improved significantly by DRCV technology. The Fox Float RP23 featured on the Rumblefish Pro now has 120mm of travel for 2012 and newer (as apposed to 110 in the 2011 models) and the DRCV gives it a never ending travel feel that lets you push the bike much harder than you ever thought you could. Having owned both 2011 and 2012 models I believe the switch to 120mm of rear travel is in response to the ease with which you could bottom out the 110mm rear shocks on the first Rumblefish model. The problem was taken care of for 2012 and I really think Trek (yes Gary Fisher, we know this is your brain child) nailed it on the suspension set up on this bike.
Geometry on this bike was slightly off for me at first. I am 6’1″ and had to make a few minor tweaks to feel comfortable on the bike. I initially felt very cramped on my 19″, and I seemed to be putting too much weight forward over the bars. Once I installed a slightly longer stem and an offset post I really felt good about the fit and was able to push the bike harder, and feel even more stable. These are just minor tweaks, however I’ve heard from multiple Rumblefish owners that they’ve had to make similar changes. It would be nice if Trek could address this so that a bike at this price point wouldn’t need any post purchase modifications.
I haven’t a single complaint about the general component spec of this bike. The mix of Shimano XT and XTR works flawlessly for me, and the dual thru axles front (100×15) and rear (142×12) give the bike a very put together feel that let it dig into corners with far more precision that you’d ever expect from a longer traver 29er. The Bontrager wheelset (Rhythm Pro in this case) have proven to be near indestructible over the last two years that I’ve owned them. I have put them in a truing stand multiple times, only to shrug and put them back on the bike. Another spec that I was particularly impressed with were the tires on the bike. Bontrager’s 29-4 (29×2.35) are a little beefy and slow rolling, but if you want something that dominates the terrain and digs into corners like Mike Tyson digs into Holyfied’s ear, this is your tire!
The fit and finish get points in my book as well, The matte brown and green paint job looks amazing in person; it hides dirt very well, and cleans up very easy. The bike seems to be well constructed overall and I’ve yet to find any major design quirks.
Now for the Rumblefish’s biggest shortfall, in my opinion, its weight. I mentioned at the beginning of this review that the bike feels sluggish at the start, I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that even the Pro model is hovering arounda 29lbs with stock components. The bike handles amazingly well at speed, I would really love to see a Rumblefish that is slightly easier to get up to those corner carving speeds. With that being said, I did at one point put my Rumblefish on a diet of carbon seatpost, bar, Stan’s Crest wheels, and some slightly lighter tires and I got it down to 27lbs with pedals. While this version felt MUCH livelier than the stock set up, I didn’t have the same downihill crushing confidence that you get with the stock Rythm wheelset and tires. While this is certailnly a minor setback in my book, I had to find something to gripe about, and if this issue stops you from considering this bike you just need a lesson on how to HTFU . Rumor has it that Trek will be releasing a carbon version sometime in the near future, this has been rumored for around a year and a half now, so I’m not holding my breath.
The bottom line is that this bike is a blast to ride. I would absolutely recommend it to any friend looking for one great all around trail bike. The Rumblefish will always stand out because of how well it can decend while still feeling very nimble through tight corners and on technical climbs. This bike puts a smile on my face every time, and that goes a long way in my book!
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