Trek Rumblefish Bike Review

It's time for the Trek Rumblefish review.

Overview

A few months ago I purchased a Trek Rumblefish I on clearance from Mad Dog Cycles in Provo Utah. I had put hundreds of miles on my old hardtail over the previous few years and it had been beat to death (broken handlebars, seat, chain, cassette, cracked frame, etc.) I wanted the next bike to be a step up and as ideal as possible because I plan to log hundreds of miles on it too. I spent months researching, test riding other bikes and watching prices of used and new bikes. I was most concerned about the following purchasing considerations in order of priority:

  1. Budget: $1500-2000
  2. Fit and Size: I'm 6'4, 220 lbs
  3. Durability
  4. Ride and Comfort
  5. Dealer and Manufacturer Support
  6. Components
  7. Low Maintenance
  8. Style

I tend to prefer tested and proven technologies so I was reluctant to consider 29ers, single-fork (Lefty) or anything too extreme. I researched current Cannondale, Specialized, Trek and other models and kind of set my sights on the Trek Fuel series. I went to a Las Vegas dealership to check out the size and fit. I was very disappointed to find I was too big for the bike. It felt like a kids bike after my large-frame hard tail. 

I was determined to see if it would work because nearly everything else seemed in order. I went to a Trek rental shop and asked the manager for the largest Fuel frame he had and he scowled at me. He said, "look, your body frame and that bike frame don't match. You need try a 29er and you'll never go back. Here, try out the Trek Rumblefish and I promise you won't want to give it back when you're done." He informed me that I could ride any bike in the shop once I had paid the rental. I rode 5 of them. Fortuately he put me on the Rumblefish first and he was right - I didn't want to give it back. I was hooked! I rode the others just to justify my opinion including the Fuel which was obviously too small.

Buying the Bike

The Rumblefish was the bike I wanted but it was way out of my budget. I researched for months. I'd check daily on craigslist, ebay, and dealer sites for clearance deals. I could find used bikes but they would sell quickly if priced right. Finally, at the end of the year I found a brand new bike on clearance - it was a Trek Rumblefish I from 2011. I acted and bought it. From my experience, the end of the year or just before the beginning of the new riding season is the best time to snag deals on bikes. Dealers and riders want to sell old bikes and prep for the new season. The key is to be patient until the right bike comes at the right price then act decisively so the deal doesn't slip away.

29ers

If you haven't ridden a 29er, you gotta try one - especially if you're a bigger body. In my test ride I was very used to the 26er experience. I knew when to slow down, when to hop, etc. Well, I took the same approach with the 29er but felt like I was working too hard. Then it happened! I was paying attention to my camelbak and brought my focus back to the trail too late and hit a pile of rocks. I should have crashed! I didn't! The bike just rolled over them. The challenge was on. I wanted to find the limits of the bike and started running over everything at nearly any speed. I was hiting stuff so fast on the downhills that I was petrified of what would happen when I found the bike's limits. That day I never did. The bike is like a high-speed tank.

From the reviews I've read, they say the change in tire size (and weight) changes the angle of attack on the obstacle so the obstacle hits the tire at a lower relative point making it easier for the bike to just roll over it. It takes just a bit more to get the bike's momentum going, but once you're started it doesn't want to stop. You find a line and attack...and it chews everything up in it's path.

Since The Bike Purchase

My Rumblefish as been put to the test. I've ridden singletrack, dual track, dirt and paved roads, mud, snow, gravel, rock, dry and wet stream bed, slickrock, sand, etc. It has passed every test I've thrown at it. While I still have not wrecked, I think I've finally found it's limits and everything below that is a complete joy in mountain bike riding.

I will note this: I have never craved downhill like I do now. While I still choose my lines carefully, I don't worry about mistakes nearly as much. The bike chews up everything and I smile (or inadvertently laugh) as I descend.

Pros

  • Uphill - I thought the extra weight of the rear suspension and larger tires would make my climbs more difficult (compared to the hard tail). Not so. I can stay in the saddle for nearly any climb and assuming I don't do something stupid, I never spin out or stop. Now, I just cruise up climbs I spun out on in the past when riding with the hardtail. I just shake my head in disbelief. 
  • Downhill - Without question the coolest riding experience ever. I am giddy after some rides. Can't imagine a more fun riding experience. I just open it up and fly through.
  • Frame - The geometry of the Rumblefish is a big key. Whether climbing or descending I feel like I'm in the right position all the time. When I tested bikes before buying the Rumblefish I noticed how well its geometry worked for me compared to other bikes. I don't know if it's the body size to frame size ratio or what but it just feels right.
  • Components - While they are middle of the road in some cases, the specs are reasonable and reliable. I have had some issues with chain movement but the dealer has been very responsive in tuning and repairing as the cables stretch. 
  • Suspension - Be sure to tune both sets of suspension for your weight. Once I got mine dialed in I barely notice when I hit obstacles, etc. I reserve my energy for longer more intense rides instead of protecting against bounces and jarring obstacles.
  • Brakes - Great stopping power.
  • Tires - I've seen a ton of reviews where this is listed as a con. However, while they're not the best, I've found them very sufficient. I think what happens is the dealer has his choice of rubber to apply. I've seen the same bike with crappy stock tires at different dealers. When buying, I'd stick it to the dealer to swap the tires out if they look weak.

Cons

  • Design - Very small issue: I can live with the white and black but not the best design. Could even become a pro because it is less of a theft issue. :)
  • Super Technical Riding - The larger tires require a little more work in very technical riding. I don't notice any issues in most scenarios but if there are a number of abrupt turns or manuveurs in a very short distance, I have to decrease speed more than I would on a 26er and it requires a bit more effort to build momentum after each. The bike is funnest when you can maintain the momentum.
  • Maintenance - As a preface, my hard tail was a tank and in 10+ years did very little maintenance. In 4 months I've had this bike into the shop twice to tune up the derailuers. Supposedly the cables have stretched causing the chain to make noise and skip. They also changed the small cassette ring because I use it a lot when descending. I hope ongoing maintenance isn't a long term issue.

Ideal Rider

In my opinion, the Rumblefish frame and bike is perfect for a little bigger rider. The wheels/tires are noticeably larger but when the rider's body mass compensates the larger wheel base is very welcome. I'd say that for someone between 6'0 and 6'6 the frame sizes 21 and 23 work perfect. I'm on the 21 and it is just right. The effective frame and bike size of the 23 is less than an inch for the top tube. I don't seem to miss the fraction of an inch at my height.

The bike also works well for moderate downhillers or riders who don't want to feel the pain of the trail. For the price, you'll want to be a pretty avid rider to get the use out of it.

Dealer Review

Mad Dog Cycles has been great to work with. They were responsive to fielding questions about the bike. They weren't pushy - which is HUGE to me. I've had questions since and they have been very willing to keep me happy on the bike. They have tuned the bike up a couple of times as I broke in the cables, etc. I'd definitely recommend them. 

Pricing

The current Rumblefish line requires a decent investment. Trek's site lists them at $2,570, $3,200, and $4,620. The middle model seems to be the best value to me. It's a big jump up from the base model but the cost of the component differences don't seem necessary when considering the pricey model. I found my Rumblefish I (the middle-model-equivalent) on clearance for roughly $2,000 before tax and purchases of other accessories. It was the prior-year model but I wasn't picky since the bike hadn't been ridden and there were no significant changes from 2011 to 2012.

Bottom line on value. I feel that the jump in performance from my hard tail to the middle model Rumblefish for the price I paid was very justifiable. I've had no buyer's remorse and feel like the bike is holding up its end of the deal.

Bottom Line

For the avid rider who craves downhill yet wants efficiency in climbing the Rumblefish gets it done and is a blast to ride. Its value/price can be justified, especially when buying a previous year's model or used after the depreciation event of driving it off the lot. I strongly recommend the bike.




Comments

Great Review

Zachariah - Nov 03, 2015 09:38 AM EDT

Shame Trek discontinued this bike. I liked it so much - converted my Superfly 100 Pro into a Rumblefish, with 120mm G2 fork, Easton carbon wheels and dropper post....a 24-pound "Rumblefish" is now like a tank that can float uphill and still descend like a champ.

 

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