All Mountain and Then Some!
A Thrilling Reality
We’ll come right out with it – we like Fuji Bicycles. And with good reason too… while the industry is overloaded with promises, hype and hoopla, Fuji’s earned a reputation for quietly releasing solid performing bikes that stand on their own merit year after year. Speaking of years, it was almost a year ago to the day that the crew from MBT put the first rides of the season in on Fuji’s impeccable Reveal 2.0. With a winter of loafing around under our belts between then and now, we’ve decided to take a look into the beefier Thrill LT 2.0.
Before we even begin, it should be noted that Fuji did a little bit of label swapping since our last visit. Last season the Reveal line was filed under the Enduro classification while the Thrill series earned the All-Mountain moniker. This year (and definitely more accurately), the labels are reversed. The five-inch travel Reveals (1.0 & 2.0) represent the All-Mountain space on Fuji’s mountain bike lineup and the Thrill LT (1.0 & 2.0) are filed under the Enduro Lite space.
With six inches of travel, beefier components, and a bit heftier overall weight, the Thrill LTs are Fuji’s burliest mountain bike offerings. Just like with the rest of their models, the 2.0 designation means a slightly more affordable spec’ed version of the same frame. In our case the 2009 Thrill LT 2.0 came setup as follows:
Squish in the form of SR Suntour’s Duro FR20 fork in the front and Epicon LOD shock in the rear, Tektro Auriga Comp hydraulic disc brakes (front & rear). TruVativ Blaze cranks, SRAM X.7 shifters and front derailleur mated to an X.9 rear. Alex SX-44 Double Wall Rims came wrapped in Continental Mountain King rubber. WTB provided the Pure V race Comp Saddle while the odds and ends (bar, stem, and seatpost) were all Fuji-branded bits.
All told our large sized Thrill came in at a weight of 35 pounds.
The Walk Around
The Thrill’s profile is eerily reminiscent to that of the Reveal, what with its nicely sloped down tube and extra-clean cable routing. However, the similarities really end there as the Thrill takes quite a different approach to conquering what the mountain has to offer.
Beginning with the choice of frame material itself, everything about the Thrill is beefed up, burly, and solid. Several test riders noted that their four-inch travel all-mountain bikes looked like wispy playthings when parked next to the Thrill. That impression is maintained when you happen to throw a leg over the top tube as well. The reach to the bar is fairly short and results in quite an upright riding position.
The biggest surprise to the apparent bulk of the Thrill is how light it actually is. 35 pounds may be well outside the “weight weenie” zone, but when combined with a bike this stable and relaxed, it managed to take riders of all disciplines by surprise.
This having been our first experience with several of the components on the Thrill (the Suntour suspension and Tektro Auriga brakes most notably), we were more than curious to take the Thrill on the yet frozen trails of Western NY for a few weeks of all-terrain shake-down. Here’s what we discovered…
The first impression of every single one of our testers was a smile of disbelief at how well the Thrill launches from a standstill. This bike doesn’t pedal well for a 35-pounder; it simply pedals well, period. Fuji licenses Specialized’s proven FSR four-bar linkage and throws its own hallow forged rocker arms into the equation (no flexy plastic bits here) to add to the overall rigidity. The result is more than effective as the Thrill spurts forward with aplomb in accordance to each rotation of the cranks. The chassis itself features that classic Fuji balance that is unmistakable to the rider but impossible to place a finger on. With a neutral (slightly upright-biased riding position), a long stem and low-rise handlebar, the tires stay firmly planted to the terra firma and seem to claw for traction even when the terrain looks devoid of any.
The view from the cockpit is high and commanding but never does this play out as instability. In fact we came away with a new found respect for this well-rounded bike’s ability to fly a straight course through even the roughest terrain. In effort to test its limitations we secured a steep downhill chute lined with slippery natural stone-steps. The Thrill 2.0 swallowed up the continuous square-edge chop with authority. Try as we may, we found it nearly impossible to sway the bike from its line through deflection or misbalance.
This brings us to our next area of incredulity. The Thrill’s big-hit looks are backed up by its eerily quiet performance. This is a bike that descends like a full-blown downhill rig with no chatter, clanking, or clatter (even from the chain and no, we didn’t run a chainstay guard). Aside from the fairly wide (2.4”) tire’s contact patch with the earth, the Thrill decimates the descents with silent stability that very few bikes we’ve encountered could match.
With a head tube angle of 69 degrees (seat tube of 72), the Thrill doesn’t lose any of its confidence once gravity starts working against you either. Shifting from the mixed SRAM group was always spot-on (if a bit delayed and mechanical in that typical SRAM fashion). For as much as the Thrill loves to let loose on the descents, we found flats and even extended climbs to be no more torturous than those on our sub 30-pound bikes. Chalk it up to a smart suspension design and a long, stretched out chassis that distributes its weight evenly, we found slipping the Thrill into an easier gear then spinning the cranks with cadence allowed us to carve singletrack with the best of them.
While suspension wallow was simply a non-entity in our time with the bike, the Suntour Epicon LOD shock comes equipped with lockout for those truly looking for hardtail efficiency out of the long-travel configuration.
Odds and Ends
Like we stated above, this was our first time sampling several of the components spec’ed on the Fuji. As such, it took us a bit longer to dial in many of the individual pieces and bits that we commonly take for granted from one bike test to the next. The Suntour suspension performed far above our expectations throughout the duration of our review but did require our having to download their setup instructions to fine-tune its potential. The coil sprung Duro fork (with Through Axle) really shined once we found the proper compression and rebound setting (we set the air pressure between 91 and 104 PSI, the recommended range for riders weighing between 140 and 160 lbs).
The Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes also performed better than we had anticipated. However, burn-in time was a bit longer than we’re used to and we did experience some front brake drag throughout the burn-in process. Once up to snuff, however, the twin-piston actuation and modulation was very reminiscent of some of Hayes’ popular hydraulic offerings (particularly the HFX-9). The 7-inch rotors were more than adequate in keeping the speeds in check on even the steepest descents.
Finally, like all Fujis, the Thrill tends to run on the large side of the sizing spectrum. Be sure to take their sizing chart seriously or size the bike your considering up at the dealer as riders used to a large will most likely find the medium-sized frame sufficient and so on.
We make no attempt to conceal our adoration for bikes that can function effectively in multiple environments. After all, mountain bikes aren’t cheap investments. While the industry wouldn’t mind if each of us could purchase half a dozen bikes, one for every type of trail situation a rider could encounter, the reality is that one bike has to serve as a do-it-all for many of us. To that end, we came away from another Fuji bicycle review with a feeling that here’s a company who understands this fact of life.
If you find yourself railing the trails with your buddies during the week but tackling the bike parks on the weekends the Thrill LT has your name written all over it. It pedals extremely well, climbs better than it has any right to, descends like a downhiller, and retails for a mere $1800. We slapped on some platforms and spent entire days goofing around on stunts and ten foot drops only to grab the clipless-set and put in a twenty mile epic the following day. If that doesn’t define versatility, we don’t know what does.
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