Fuji Transonic 1.3 - Review

Brand: Fuji

Model: Transonic 1.3

Groupset: Dura Ace 9000

Wheelset: Oval 950F

MSRP: $4699

The Transonic was introduced last summer as Fuji’s latest entry into the fast growing aero road category. Fuji claims that their new design reduces drag by 24 watts when compared to their SST, and 21 watts to the Altamira. As with almost all aero claims, we will (mostly) have to take their word for it. However, it takes much more than aero to make a great bike (check out our thoughts on the “aero road” category here). How does the Transonic measure up? Click the jump for the full review.  

Our test bike was the Transonic 1.3. Following Fuji’s numbering system, first number denotes the frame construction and the second the build spec. For example, the Transonic 1.x (like our test bike) bikes all use what Fuji calls C10 ultra high modulus carbon, while the 2.x bikes use C5 high modulus. We don't really know what the C10 and C5 numbers represent, but the 2.x series carbon is of lower strength, which means they need to use more of it, resulting in slightly higher weights. Our 1 series is a claimed 980g for the frame, and 370 for the fork. Not exactly a lightweight by today’s standards, but pretty respectable for an aero bike.

The frame extends out to further shield the brake from the wind.

The frame extends out to further shield the brake from the wind.

Glancing over the frame specifications, one can quickly see that it is a thoroughly modern bike. The design features many small additions that often get overlooked by other companies. Fuji put a lot of thought and consideration into this design and it shows. The brakes are an excellent example. Like many aero bikes, the Transonic uses the direct mount standard, but places the rear brake in the “proper” position on the seat stays. To anyone that works on bikes, this is a godsend. Some bikes with the under BB brake placement require the removal of the crank in order to adjust the brake!  While hidden integrated brakes make for cleans lines and look good, we would much prefer great braking and easy maintenance. Shimano’s direct mount rear brakes are designed to be out of sight and they look the part. In order to keep the design looking sharp, Fuji uses a modified front brake on the rear and the result is a perfectly integrated, clean look.

The Transonic features an integrated chain catcher (something that is slowly becoming more common). The front shifting on modern drivetrain systems is getting so good that we rarely drop a chain, the added security is a nice touch. Rounding out the Transonic’s notable frame features is room for 28c tires, a textured section on the seatpost for more secured clamping, and a BB shield.

The Dura Ace drivetrain, to no one’s surprise, is as good as ever, and the direct mount brakes somehow improved on the regular calipers both in power and feel. The idea is that the multiple mounting bolts spread out the braking forces over more material, for more direct engagement. It seems to have worked, at least in this case. The lightweight build Transonic SL has a SRAM Red drivetrain. SRAM does not (yet?) have direct mount brakes, so they have TRP calipers instead. These are nowhere near the Dura Ace ones, and significantly reduce the braking ability, and, therefore, overall handling of the bike.

The Transonic uses a Praxis BB to convert the PF30 shell to Shimano’s 24mm spindle. This is the number one upgrade we would do to any PF30 or BB30 frame running Shimano cranks, so to have it come from the factory is a fantastic value.

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Wheels are from Fuji’s sister brand Oval. The Oval 950F wheels dimensions follow the latest trends in wheels design with a wider rim, modeling themselves very close to that of the HED Jet+ series. They have a 25mm external and a 19mm internal width aluminum rim with a bonded carbon fairing. The spokes (18F/24R) are attached to the rim, so the fairing is not load bearing, making the ride similar to ‘regular’ aluminum clinchers. The result is a proven construction, reliable aluminum braking surface, and a whole bunch of weight. The 950F wheels are listed at 1900g for the pair. While they look the part, these are not really race wheels, and the extra heft can be felt during accelerations. However, we do appreciate the modern dimensions, which would make it very easy to swap between these and a ‘race’ wheelset with very little brake adjustment.

The geometry of the Transonic is the standard low and aggressive fit found on modern racing bikes. As it should be. There isn’t much point in riding an aero bike if your riding position is up in the clouds. My M/L tester has a 155mm headtube with a 560mm toptube. The seat and head angles follow the classic 73/73 pattern for predictable handling.

The familiar dimensions of the Transonic made for a confidence inspiring ride. Within the first few turns I felt comfortable pushing the bike harder, riding as aggressively as my own bike. The frame felt very solid both at the headtube and the BB, with only a bit of delay in getting the wheels to spin up (not surprisingly). The real treat while riding this bike came when braking. As mentioned above, the direct mount brakes deliver increased power and control over the (gold?) standard DA calipers. The frame handled the forces well and the bike always felt composed, accurately communicating where the limit is.

As for aerodynamics? We can't personally comment too much on that. It felt fairly fast. Luckily our heroes at Tour International have recently tested the Transonic in comparison to other aero road bikes. While they did not test the 1.3, we can extrapolate a few things about the transonic in general. The overall fastest bike of their test was the new Cervelo S5. However, once a common set of wheels was tested (Zipp 404) the Transonic SL only gave up 13 seconds to the S5 over the 100km simulated test course, and besting the S-Works Venge and Propel Advanced SL. So the Transonic definitely has some aero chops.

Rating

3 - comfort – by no means harsh, has a good balance of dampening and feel, but we have ridden smoother bikes. Probably helped out by the wider rims.

3.4 handling – out of this world braking, inspiring handling wanting you to push it harder.

3.2 acceleration – heavy wheels hurt a stiff frame.

16.7/20

Bonus

+0.5 value Full Dura Ace build at $4600

+0.5 design/mechanics – well designed and thought out machine. It is pretty aero too.

8.7/10 One of the best performance to price ratios out there. ASI does it again with a really good bike at a great price, only this time it is aero.