Fuji’s Tread 1.3- Checkpoint: Moving on to the next phase of the testing on Fuji’s Tread 1.3, I decided to make a couple of modifications to make the Fuji more suitable for a longer gravel road ride. Take a look at my “Getting Rolling” article for my initial impressions on this bike. In this post, I’m going to focus on how this bike actually fares on gravel roads. Now for the mods…..
Tires, Bars, Pedals: The Tread line up is geared for urban riding out of the box and the stock tires are excellent for such riding. The stock tires have a nice, thick casing and siped tread with no tread blocks for a faster roll on pavement and for puncture protection. That doesn’t translate well on gravel since on gravel a supple casing and some amount of tread is welcome for comfort and control. For this reason, I felt that the stock tires would be a negative for gravel travel, and I switched them out for some Bruce Gordon Rock & Road tires. Those were mounted on the stock wheels with tubes.
The handle bars for the Tread 1.3 are not bad, but they are traditionally shaped road bars, which I have grown to dislike very much. That’s my personal preference and in no way is a reflection on the Oval branded bar here. (Note- above the image shows the bike with the stock bar.) I switched it out to a Soma Junebug Bar, which I will be doing a review on shortly.
The pedals are the iSSi Triple models which I also am reviewing. Keep in mind that the Tread came with platform pedals, and while they are excellent, I usually do my grinding clipped in, so these iSSi pedals fit the bill here. Finally, I added two water bottle cages and a Medium sized Tangle Bag from Revelate Designs. With these additions to the Tread 1.3 I felt I had a reasonable set up for any gravel adventure.
One more point of business that I need to cover before I get into the ride- Fuji did provide rack mounts on the Tread frame, but you’ll have to be observant to find the lower mounting bosses as they are at the ends of the “hooded” portion of the rear drop out on the ends of the seat stays. So, you probably could do a rack and small panniers here with the Fuji’s generous 450mm chain stay length.
The Ride: I’ve had several hours aboard the Tread 1.3 now in gravel riding conditions varying from wet, softer gravel, hard packed gravel, to looser, deeper, fresh gravel in dry conditions. The Tread continued to further my initial ride impressions, displaying a muted, smoother ride experience. It is more comfortable and stable than you would imagine it to be coming from an aluminum frame and fork. The head tube and stem combination on the Tread is low, so weight is biased more to the front wheel, and positioning is perhaps lower than many would put up with. I don’t particularly mind a lower front handle bar position, but keep in mind that unweighting the front end more may color the ride impressions I have found. That said, this bike is stable and displayed a tendency to keep a line without much effort even in deep, loose gravel. The front end doesn’t shake like a paint shaker either, so hands and arms stay fresher longer than they would on some other stiffer front ends.
So, is the ride smooth, like say in a steel bike sort of way? I tried a couple steel bikes I have back to back against the Fuji Tread 1.3 to find out. While the big, puffy tires make a difference, my other bikes also have big, puffy tires, so the verdict was that no- the Fuji Tread isn’t “steel-like” in its ride quality, but it comes closer to that than the aluminum frame suggests it should. Let’s say it is its own beast, and that is a good thing. It was plenty comfortable, but it doesn’t “round off” the impacts quite like steel does most of the time. I feel Fuji has done an excellent job matching a fork to this frame, and in my opinion, that is where a lot of ‘ride quality” comes from. The rest is tires, mostly, and then your contact points. The foundation is the frame and fork though, and Fuji gets high marks from me on this Tread model. Handling was also a high mark. This bike stays stable and you can trust it to hold a line in the loose stuff at speed. Those long chain stays and a front end that doesn’t get crazy with vibrations in the rough stuff really come through here.
So Far…..The rides have been on commutes and several longer gravel road routes. This frame shines better than I expected despite all the dire aluminum ride quality stories you may have heard. The Tread 1.3 looks sharp, with a very understated look, and the spec is solid if unspectacular. It just works and it rides with a nice feel. The stability in rough, loose gravel, is very good, and the Tread 1.3 can take on big tires which helps with this. A versatile bike which can do commuting and, with a couple of mods, gravel roads with aplomb.
I’ll be back with my “At The Finish” post to give my final verdict on this bike in a couple of weeks.
Note: Fuji Bikes sent over the Tread 1.3 bicycle at no charge for test/review. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we strive to give you our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
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