2015 Fuji Transonic 2.1
Tested April 8, 2015
The “aero road” bike category has been exciting to watch as technological advancements have been helping riders go faster with less effort. When Fuji announced their latest offering in the aero category I looked forward to learning more. With their history of providing great riding bikes at a great value, I was really anxious to review the new Transonic 2.1.
For the most part, the bike delivered; it was noticeably fast while sprinting and descending, had wonderful ride quality and an excellent component group at a great price. The one significant detractor was the climbing ability.
Bottom line, it’s great value for group riders who enjoy sprinting for points or KOMs, but probably not for climbers.
I’ve been a fan of both Fuji bicycles and “aero-road” bikes for quite some time. I’ve owned and enjoyed the ’99 Fuji Team and the Fuji D-6 triathlon bike. I also rode the Yahoo! Cycling team Fuji SL-1 and the 2012 Fuji Altimira. With all of these bikes, I was always impressed by value-oriented parts kit and ride quality.
On the aero-front, as a triathlete and roadie, I have been a fan of aero bikes for quite some time. I own and enjoy a second generation 2011 Cervelo S-3 which, by many accounts, was the benchmark for the first mainstream generation of aero road bikes.
Needless to say, I was excited to test the Transonic which combined the benefits of aerodynamics with the legacy of value and ride quality from the Fuji brand.
So how did it ride?
I was immediately impressed with the ride quality of the Transonic. Though over 17 pounds, the bike felt even lighter. The steering response is excellent – light and immediate. This was also the first time I’d ridden on Di2 and I have to say the shifting is a game-changer. Shifts were instantaneous and without drama. In fact, I found myself shifting more frequently; in the past I’d push a bigger cog longer than necessary because I was too lazy to downshift. With Di2, it’s so easy and quick, it encourages gearing optimization. This said, the up/down shifting of the Shimano levers is the opposite from the front to the rear so there was some learning curve. I also appreciated the “semi-compact” gearing; 52/36 front and 11-28 cogset which allowed a tremendous range in gearing options. Braking was very good with the new direct mount brakes that feature two mounting bolts instead of one, which adds structural rigidity. On smooth roads, the silent hubs and drivetrain make for a remarkably quiet and serene ride. The Transonic is a bike that you look forward to riding under most conditions.
So is it really faster?
Fuji reduced aero drag by integrating the shape of the fork and head tube with the recessed direct mount brakes, front and rear. The seat tube also wraps around the rear wheel deflecting wind away from the turbulent spokes while the aero seat post allows wind to pass through with minimal disturbance and the massive down tube is also shaped to minimize air resistance. And what about cables? Internal cable routing further reduces drag. Results? Fuji claims the Transonic is 55 seconds faster over 40km than their own Altimira road bike.
But isn’t aero a difficult to work on?
From a servicing standpoint, they didn’t make having all of these aero benefits hard to live with. As an example, the rear brake isn’t positioned down on the chain stays and the front brakes aren’t shrouded or fully integrated in to the fork; maintenance and adjustment for that kind of integration is time consuming and frustrating. Instead, Fuji mounted the brakes in their traditional positions but cleverly integrated them into the frame to reduce drag. For the electronic shifting, Fuji mounts the battery in the seat post yet it is easy to charge via the port that is available under the stem. From a maintenance standpoint, there really isn't a sacrifice for speed.
Initially, the Transonic was pure bliss. It truly seemed faster at speed than a traditional “round tube” road bike. Sprinting was exhilarating; the bike seemed to accelerate very quickly and hold that speed. Descending was excellent; the very stiff front end lent a degree of stability that I haven’t previously felt. I’m a notoriously poor descender but I found myself looking for downhills and grinning on every one.
I don’t know how to compare directly but on a 60 mile ride out to Santa Cruz I did log nineteen Strava PRs over the first half of the ride which included a lot of flat sections and some steep short descents. This was amazing because I was riding solo and not really focused on setting PRs and I had a long day ahead.
What goes down must also go up.
While the flats and downhills were a blast, unfortunately, climbing was a bit of a disapointment. It seems that Fuji has dialed in degrees of comfort at the seat tube to offer a more compliant and comfortable ride. And sure enough, the bike rides very smoothly and doesn’t beat you up. But on slower and longer climbs, the bike performed best via higher cadence and a smooth pedal stroke. Trying to push a bigger gear on my Santa Cruz ride up long Highway 9, seemed, in fact, to slow the bike down. As a follow up, I rode the fabled Old La Honda climb and it was frustrating; trying to push a bigger gear, the bike didn’t really respond. So I came forward on the saddle and tried to spin up at a much higher-than-normal cadence. Result? Climb time of 21:42; I was expecting about 20 flat and it was way off a PR of 18:36.
This isn’t an issue if you train/race on predominantly flat surfaces but if you love to climb, this bike may not be for you. For contrast, I spent some time riding in Florida, which is pancake flat; the only hills are freeway overpasses. This bike would be totally in it’s element there, breaking away on group rides channeling your inner Jens Voigt.
The climbing ability was the only really significant drawback. There were some other minor issues. At speed over rougher roads, there was an annoying rattle that seemed to come from the bar & stem area. It was likely the internally routed cables banging around and it was a bit irritating. The seat post was also a bit difficult to adjust though once dialed you don’t really need to mess with it again. This said, on balance, the bike was very enoyable for the most part.
Transonic in it's element
Responds at speed
Battery hidden in seat post
Nicely shaped QR skewer feels good and closes securely
Changing gears with the Ultegra Di-2 levers requires a light touch. Comfy brake hoods.
Seat tube shields wheel from wind
Large bottom downtube and bottom bracket lend stiffness
Nicely integrated chain catcher
Tightly packaged electronic front derailleur
Surprisingly comfortable OEM seat
Integrated direct-mount brakes shielded from wind and out of the way
Cockpit shows Di-2 components and wiring
Not much wind resistance coming head on