Ridden and Reviewed: Fuji SL 2.1 Road Bike

fuji_sl_2.1_01

The new Fuji SL road bike platform is the latest in a long line of stellar road-going machines from Fuji, packing 100+ years of cycling innovation into a deceptively simple-looking package. We’ve been test-riding the Fuji SL 2.1 Road Bike for the past few months, and we can certainly say that we’re impressed.

The Bike

The Fuji SL 2.1 Road Bike is built using their High Compaction Molding System carbon frame and fork design – during layup, the carbon sheets are free of wrinkles, and the resin is evenly applied, in order to make the bike stiffer and lighter, with less variation in the carbon. Stout chainstays, a PF30 bottom bracket and a tapered headtube mean that all of your power is transferred to the bike, while a 27.2 seatpost and pencil-thin seatstays add compliance to the ride. The SL 2.1 frame is built from C10 high modulous carbon carbon mixture, formerly Fuji’s top-end carbon, which is just a bit heavier than the C15 construction featured on the crazy-light SL 1.1 Road Bike (built up with super high-end components to weigh a little over 10 pounds complete, with a sub-700 gram frame). For reference, our test SL 2.1 bike weighed 16lbs 10oz, with pedals and cages, in a size 58.

In terms of components, the Fuji SL 2.1 Road Bike features Shimano’s flawless 11-speed Ultegra 6870 Di2 groupset, including matching 52-36 cranks, brakes, and 11-28 cassette. There’s not much that we can add about this impeccable drivetrain except to say that it works like it should, every time, under load, and without any fuss. If you try Shimano’s Di2 electronic drivetrain, you’ll have a hard time going back to mechanical! The rest of the components are ably supplied by Oval, including an alloy bar and stem, carbon wrapped alloy seatpost, and an R500 saddle (which we swapped out for our trusty Selle Italia Flite saddle that you see in the photos, just because we’re used to it). Oval Concepts 733 aero alloy clincher wheels round out the package – they are wide, deceivingly lightweight, and tubeless ready. These aren’t just “trainer wheels” that Fuji tossed on the frame – these are truly high performance wheels that you’ll be happy to ride every day.

Of particular note on the frame are the small details that show how well thought-out this bike is. We love the classic lines of the frame, the understated graphics, and details like cable port covers with rotating ends to keep things nice and clean. Fuji even installed a custom chain catcher behind the chainrings, and a metal plate to protect against chainsuck on the chainstay near the chainrings.

The Ride

If you’ll only give us one word to describe the ride of the Fuji SL 2.1 Road Bike, we’d definitely say “lively”. Those high-tech frame features, including the ‘Reinforced I-Beam’ design in the fork, result in a stiffer bike than Fuji’s previous top road machine, the Altamira (a bike that this reviewer owns, rides, and enjoys). But this improved stiffness does not come at the cost of an overly harsh ride, thanks to those compliant seatstays and 27.2 seatpost. Put the power down and the Fuji SL responds with a snappy acceleration, and lets you carve a corner without hesitation. Yet it’s still a comfortable bike for all day riding – made even more so with the ability to clear 28mm wide tires, for extra compliance or rough roads. Also, we’re big fans of the paint scheme on the Fuji SL 2.1 – we’re suckers for bass-boat red (although the other SL road bikes look sharp as well – the Fuji graphics team is knocking it out of the park with their latest designs).

The Other Fuji SL Road Bikes

Of course there’s more than one bike in the Fuji SL road bike lineup, with options for the 1-series frames (which is slightly lighter than the 2-series) topped by the 10+ pound SL 1.1 Road Bike. But the heart of the SL road bike lineup lies with the 2-series frames – including 2 of our favorites. The Fuji SL 2.5 Road Bike looks like a bike that costs a whole lot more, and the Shimano 105 componentry definitely won’t let you down:

fuji_sl_2.5_1

The Fuji SL 2.4 LE Road Bike is a Performance Exclusive model, and comes with mechanical Shimano Ultegra shifters and derailleurs, and a rather fetching grey and orange paint design – you really can’t go wrong with either of these selections.

fuji_sl_2.4

Final Thoughts

The Fuji SL 2.1 Road Bike is a well thought-out and fun-to-ride road machine – other than our personal preference of saddle, there wasn’t anything that we needed to change in our many miles on the bike. Last year we were lucky enough to test ride the Fuji Transonic 1.3 Road Bike, and while we loved that aero road rocket, the SL 2.1 is more this reviewer’s style. There’s something about a bike with classic lines like this, which has modern performance features to back up those looks. And by swapping out some of the alloy components for lighter carbon ones, we know that we could shave a fair bit of weight to make this SL truly super-light.

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