Initial Impressions: Tomac Supermatic 120 1 mountain bike

Faulty.  Mention of this ride- 2+ hours of increasingly technical climbing from 7,000 to 9,500 feet, followed by 75 minutes descending the same- is enough to scare off most Albuquerque area riders.  Personally, it’s a ride that I won’t attempt unless I’m feeling at least 7 out of 10 on my personal feeling good scale- but it’s also one of my favorites.  What better place, then, to break the ice with Tomac’s “trail bike with XC sensibilities and downhill capabilities-” the carbon fiber Supermatic 120.

With 120mm front and rear travel (and a very appealing 5lb frame/shock weight), the Supermatic would seem like the perfect bike for Faulty.  Though a good chunk of the ride is spent climbing, culminating in a mile of technical boot-polished granite, the ride is just as much about the fast sweepers and loose scree coming down.  Might as well jump in with both feet.  Hit the jump to find out how Tomac’s flagship XC/trail bike fared…

2011 Tomac Supermatic 120mm travel all mountain bikeKitted out in the “Supermatic 1″ build kit, which features an XT/XTR drivetrain, Crank Brothers Cobalt wheels, Avid XO discs, and a QR15 Fox Float Fit RL 120 suspension fork, our test bike was sporting a non-standard Answer carbon bar, RockShox Reverb dropper post, and a tubeless Schwalbe Racing Ralph/Nobby Nic tire combination borrowed from our Project 24 bike.  With pedals, the whole Large bike came in at 26lb.  As spec’d (but without pedals) the Supermatic 120 1 should come in at 24.5lb.

In nothing but black and white, the Tomac is a classy looking bike.  It doesn’t scream for attention, but sure is handsome.  The shock and rocker mounts, in particular, are extremely good looking.  The tapered head tube is nice to see on a frame in this weight category and nothing looks particularly whispy.  The frame wears a rock guard along the down tube and K-Edge’s very nice looking anti-chainsuck device to protect especially vulnerable areas.  Unlike other plastic bikes, the Supermatic 120 doesn’t feel the need to flaunt its weave or resort to extraneous curves- and is all the more attractive for it.

Set up with about 90% of my loaded weight in the rear shock and the Fox fork at its usual 50-ish psi (I weigh 140lb), the Supermatic was ready to go.  Though I wouldn’t say that the bike bobbed excessively with the rear shock’s ProPedal damping switched off, it certainly is an active bike.  5psi in either direction made a big difference to the bike’s character.  Really, a lot of the bike’s movement on fire roads came from the front end, which had me using both the fork lockout and shock’s ProPedal on fire road climbs.  On the trail, the bike’s activity was much less offensive and both came- and stayed- off.  Despite a claimed 69 degree head tube, the Supermatic felt awfully quick in the steering department and took a bit of attention to keep on task while climbing.  A bit of forward weight shift did help and I found myself cleaning stretches of steep, loose trail that I tend to have a 30% record of success on.  I have to think that the unusually wide, low bar and zero-rise stem may have been contributors and were easily adapted to.  Though it didn’t dig in like some high single pivot designs can, the Tomac also didn’t squat under power like some virtual pivot bikes- which made for predictable technical climbing once the wandering front end was adjusted for.

In fact, the Supermatic proved to be a very capable, no nonsense climber.  As long as I had the legs and the rear tire had traction, it would climb all sorts of loose and technical terrain without complaint.  It isn’t a bike that seems eager to climb- it just plain gets on with things without fuss.  2011 Tomac Supermatic 120mm travel all mountain bikeBy the end of 2 hours’ climbing (and after raising the bars a bit), I had adjusted and the Tomac seemed less prone to wander.  The average height (13.1in claimed) bottom bracket felt low and I suffered from a fair few pedal strikes until sag was reduced. It’s hardly the worst I’ve felt, but anyone who likes to set their bikes up plush might have trouble cleanly pedaling through rocky stretches.

The RockShox Reverb post provided my first real dropper experience- and that was pretty eye-opening.  The ability to drop the saddle a couple of inches when things got hairy allowed me to ride technical descents with more confidence than a 5lb/120mm frame should be able to impart.  It also allowed me to really throw the Supermatic around on faster, kicker-filled sections of trail.  It seemed like an odd choice at first for a bike like the Supermatic- but it worked.  I could see myself getting used to one of those…

Coming back down, the Supermatic’s rear suspension was very capable and easy to trust.  Though it never really felt like a 5in bike (closer to a Pivot Mach 5 than, say, a Maverick Durance or Giant Trance X), the Supermatic was really only let down by the Fox fork.  There seems to be a fair amount of variability between Fox forks of any given model- and this wasn’t one of ‘the good ones.’  Though it bobbed a fair amount and remained active while climbing, the fork would routinely feel overwhelmed and overdamped in rough, high-speed sections.  Maybe it’s a sign of how good the Supermatic’s rear suspension is, but the Float bled off some of the trust that the rear suspension warranted.

The 180mm front rotor for the Avid XO disc brakes was a nice touch and comes at very little cost in grams.  A bad bleed probably led to the spongy rear brake,though, but that should be easily remedied by the selling dealer.  The 3×10 drivetrain was much better than the 2×10 on my Project 24 bike at providing the right gear ratios and minimizing the need for front shifting- though I would love to see the XT shifters swapped for XTR (and the XTR rear derailleur swapped for XT).  XTR shifters have a very nice extra click on cable release, whereas rear derailleurs are all but disposable in many areas.  The shifting didn’t seem negatively impacted by the full-length rear shift housing and was somewhere between Shimano Light Action and SRAM.  The housing is zip-tied in place, however, and the lower tie quickly became the easy target of a flying rock.  Best carry a spare zip tie or two.  Early freehub issues aside, Crank Brothers’ Cobalt wheels have been surprisingly durable and have a just right sound and volume while looking pretty darn slick.

A second day’s riding in a rougher, looser area had me very impressed with the Supermatic 120′s poise.  Though arguably out of it’s element, the Tomac was more than willing to put up with a bit of unpleasantness.  The Reverb post no doubt deserves some credit here, but the bike was very predictable and could be comfortably drifted until the tires found purchase.  Though I had expected the Supermatic to do well in what seemed like it’s natural habitat, it was its behavior when confronted with loose dirt and fields of baby heads that ultimately won me over.

Impressively stiff and capable for it’s weight, the Supermatic seems ideally suited to racing in rougher areas, ex-racers looking for a bit more travel, and marathon/enduro riders.  These riders won’t have to give up anything in exchange for an inch or so more travel over full-on race bikes.  If talked into the Breck Epic or BC Bike Race, the Supermatic would be at the top of my list.  For anyone looking for something more on the ‘trail’ end of the spectrum might be better served by other options, however (Tomac’s Snyper 140, for a start).  Though it’s an odd thing to say about a $6,400 wunderbike, the Supermatic draws almost no attention to itself and did for me exactly what I asked, with no fuss or drama.  The understated aesthetics are carried through to the bike’s character- neither overtly playful or aggressive, the black Tomac is almost a humble bike- confident enough it its abilities that it doesn’t feel the need to call attention to itself. More riding might expose some niggles, but the Supermatic 120 (and considerably less expensive/slightly heavier aluminum Automatic 120) is a bike that I personally wouldn’t mind spending more time with.

Special thanks to the guys at Bikeworks Albuquerque for letting us borrow the one bike they’re most excited about for a couple of days and to Joel from Tomac for lending it to them in the first place!

marc

www.tomac.com

Comments

Tom - 04/05/11 - 7:23am

Nice bike, but what’s with the angle of the saddle?

Marc - 04/05/11 - 8:07am

Tom, I was messing around with the angle of the Fi’zi:k Tundra quite a bit early on, trying to find a comfortable position (the wide nose seemed to make my legs splay out and my hips ache). I was hoping that you wouldn’t notice, but the photos (which make it look steeper than it was) were taken between adjustments and I ultimately leveled it out a bit. I settled on a forward position with the nose down about 1 degree from level (according to my phone’s “bubble level”).

marc

Avi - 04/05/11 - 11:10am

Riding up Sandia Peak?

Greg C - 04/05/11 - 12:03pm

It doesn’t make much sense that the head angle feels steep/twitchy and wanders uphill? Slacker HA’s tend to wander, but not be twitchy. Steeper HAs, the opposite. Seems like you were getting to the mark when trying to figure out some of the stack/fit issues.
thanks for the review. I’ve been wondering when this bike was going to get some rides on it for reviews!

Carlito - 04/05/11 - 2:21pm

Is the rock guard on the down tube integral to the frame or just a sticker? What was you judgment on it’s effectiveness?

Chunky - 04/05/11 - 2:37pm

I really like Tomac, awesome guy obviously. But I hope they are past the issues of other Tomac bikes. I know times have moved on but you don’t see many Tomac bikes for a reason – most of them broke.
Really hope these work.

redstone - 04/05/11 - 3:06pm

Chunky, I’ve been selling Tomacs for a few years now. Keep in mind that all of the older Tomacs you’ve seen that broke like the Eli, Revolver, Buckshot, etc were a completely different company. That was American Bicycle Group, that owned Litespeed, Merlin, and Quintana Roo. They never did put the R&D into anything mountainbike related. Joel Smith, the new owner of Tomac is a bike rider, a mountain biker, and a guy that knows about customer service. *New* Tomac is completely different in pretty much all areas except for the name. New designs that actually work, stout frames and great customer service. I spent all of last year on a Snyper and found it to be a completely amazing bike.

erik - 04/05/11 - 5:24pm

marc, how tall are you on that large frame? at 5-9ish with longer legs, shorter torso, I am thinking a medium is for me; wondering how much seatpost would be out, though

marc b - 04/05/11 - 8:09pm

@avi – You bet! Faulty/Oso is clear up to just below the bottom of Tree Spring. Tree Spring had some big drifts that were rideable (barely) when it was still cold last Friday morning. They were pretty slushy by midday on Sunday…

@Carlito – I don’t know- sorry, I didn’t pick at it. I’m sure that it’s more effective than many of the tapes out there. We’ll have to let the guys from Tomac answer your questions.

@Chunky – I had friends with several of the first-owner Tomacs (one paid for, several warranty replacements). ABG had some issues with the brand and decided to get out of the brand rather than try to rehab it. I haven’t seen many, but the new (Joel Smith) Tomacs seem to be worlds better…

marc b - 04/05/11 - 8:17pm

@Greg – You’re right- it didn’t make sense to me either. It felt steeper than a 69 to me (my main bike has a 68-69 degree head angle). I think that the wandering was a mainly a low-ish front end and some really wide bars (I’m thinking that they were 720s). I did adjust, though (it didn’t take long).

marc b - 04/05/11 - 9:20pm

@Erik – I come in right at 6′ tall. Especially as you have a short torso, I’d look at the medium. Never worry about too much seatpost- only too much top tube. That’s a whole lot harder to accommodate….

ji n sw - 04/11/11 - 7:55am

I have a 2010 120 that has a bent(nearly broke) seat stay brace.Warrany new one on the the way.I hope to get more that 344 miles out of this one.My 98 brke and Joel was GREAT at setting me up with the 120.My hope is that it was redesigned in 2011.Kokopelli’s are the best (my lbs) at takin care of their customers.

ji n sw - 04/15/11 - 10:47pm

I just got a new ( and redsigned) rear triangle for my automatic.My point is Tomac not only replaced it,but redesigned it so it will lat.Doesn’t get any better than that.Thanks Kokopelli bike and Joel @ tomac bike.You guys are the BEST.

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