Keeping secrets is hard. But for the past four weeks we’ve had to remain schtum about two great new bikes from Trek, which we had the pleasure of riding on the life-changing trails of Squamish, Canada. The experience of riding bikes like these, on trails like those, is something you want to broadcast from the rooftops, so bottling it up has been excruciating!
Firstly, it’s our commandment that you go ride Squamish. Sell a kidney, leave your family, seek asylum – do whatever you need to do to get there. This little logging town might be somewhat overshadowed by the glitz of Whistler, but the trails are amongst the absolute finest we’ve ever ridden. It’s trail bike heaven – consistent climbs and mind-altering descents which seem to last forever – which made it the ideal terrain for us to slip the chain on Trek’s latest creations.
Speaking of which… allow us to walk you through the significantly altered Fuel EX and Remedy line-ups!
Fuel EX Series
- No more Fuel 27.5 (except for small and x-small sizes in women’s models)
- Longer travel front and back
- Significantly more aggressive geometry
- Frame now stiffer than a frozen penguin
The Fuel EX has been the mainstay of Trek’s mountain bike line for yonks, and we’ve long been besotted with its smooth character and eagerness to bite off more than the average trail bike. However, in the last couple of years, Trek must have received some feedback that offering the Fuel in both 27.5 and 29er versions was getting a little confusing in the marketplace. As such, they made the call to go with the wheel size which they feel best suited the bike’s character: 29er.
We think it’s a good call. We’ve ridden both 27.5 and 29er versions of the Fuel extensively, and the sure-footedness and speed of the 29er is very appealing. Recent frame developments, like Boost hub spacing, have allowed Trek to make the Fuel 29er’s geometry a lot more playful too, so that aspect which we enjoyed about the 27.5″ Fuel now largely carries across to the 29er platform too. The only exception to this rule is to be found in the WSD (Women’s Specific Design) models of the Fuel, which have a 27.5-specific frameset in 14″ and 15.5″ frame sizes.
While it won’t be making its way to Australia, Trek will also be offering the Fuel in 27.5+ format. (Apparently 29er Fuel sales are leagues ahead in Oz, we really like the big wheelers.) The 27.5+ uses the exact same frame as the 29er, just with a slightly longer-travel fork to correct the geometry. Trek see the Plus format as being more appropriate for intermediate level riders, and as such, they don’t offer a high-end version of the Fuel Plus.
Travel across the Fuel range has been given a boost, up to 130mm at both ends (previously 120mm). While a 10mm increase doesn’t sound a lot, it is definitely noticeable on the trail. Also adding to the Fuel’s more up-and-at-em character is the use of 34mm forks across the line-up, whereas some models previously ran a slimmer 32mm noodle.
The new Fuel has more swagger and confidence than Jay-Z
But more so than the increase in travel, it’s the revised geometry of the Fuel that now lends it a more aggressive air. The head angle has been given a Xanax and it now settles in at a very relaxed 67-degrees. The Mino-Link geometry adjustment allows you to steepen things if you wish, up to 67.7 degrees. On the previous Fuel EX 29er, the head angle was 68.6 degrees, so the geometry is quite markedly different. In fact, the new Fuel’s geometry is very similar to that found on the current 2o16 Remedy.
In addition to the slacker head angle, the frame reach has been increased too, by an average of 5mm longer, and the chain stays have lost 3mm, to 433mm. That’s a lot of numbers; for the less numerically inclined, what it all means is that the new Fuel has more swagger and confidence than Jay-Z at the club.
You can bet your first born that the Fuel will be getting pushed into some truly savage terrain, and so it’s lucky that frame stiffness has been jacked up to handle the demands. According to Trek, the next-gen Fuel is stiffer than the 2016 Slash. The key is the Straight Shot down tube (also found on the 2017 Remedy). Ask any engineer the lightest, strongest way to span two points and they’ll tell you to use a straight line, so that’s what Trek did. The massive, boxy down tube found on the Fuel shaves a few grams and gives the front end all the inflexibility of a climate change denier. Twisting is something you do on the dance floor, not on the trail.
In improving the frame stiffness, Trek did open up another issue however. With the extra width of the Boost fork crowns, and the extra girth of the downtube, clearance between the fork and frame became a problem. So Trek engineered a clever solution: the new Knock Block Frame Defense headset and stem. Again, the Knock Block is found on the Remedy too.
Essentially, the Knock Block system uses a small metal ‘stop chip’ bolted to the top tube that slots into a custom headset bearing cover and which prevents the headset from rotating past a certain point. In addition, the stem (and associated head set spacers) all have a ‘keyed’ arrangement that locks them together into the headset bearing cover too. The upshot is that your fork and shifters/levers are prevented from spinning round and smashing your frame in the event of a crash. Simple! In the extreme case you somehow snap the ‘stop chip’ off, the downtube also has a bumper to prevent damage. Phew. Should you wish to run a non-Bontrager stem, a specific headset spacer/adaptor is available to let you do so.
Australia will see the vast majority of the new Fuel EX Series headed to our shores, with prices starting at $2999 for the alloy-frame EX5, right up to $9999 for the truly special EX9.9 we had the pleasure of riding in Squamish.
- All 27.5 – the Remedy 29 is gone
- 150mm travel front and back
- RE:Aktiv RockShox rear shocks
- Slacker angles and longer reach
- Same frame stiffness boosting measures as found on the Fuel
Just as Trek decided to simplify the Fuel lineup, they took a good look at the Remedy lineup and decided, “Dang, why don’t we just gosh darn get rid of the Remedy 29er?” And so, that’s what they did. From 2017, the Remedy will be available in 27.5 only. Given the success this bike enjoyed on the EWS circuit under Tracey Moseley and Justin ‘The Rake’ Leov, it’s a bit of a surprise to see the 29er go.
The Remedy gets a jump in travel too, back up to 150mm front and rear. We say ‘back up’ because if you cast your mind back to the days of 26″ wheels you’ll recall the Remedy had 150mm travel then too. On the topic of suspension, the new Remedy also sees a new partner in Trek’s RE:aktiv shock technology, with RockShox now employing the regressive damping too – the Remedy 9.9 we tested was running a Monarch shock with RE:aktiv and we can report that it was fantastic. This is an interesting development, because Trek has a long history of developing custom shock technology with FOX, but not with RockShox.
The fact the new Remedy is longer and slacker than its predecessor almost goes without saying – it’s head angle is now adjustable between 66.5 and 66-degrees. Reach has been pushed out quite a lot as well, by 11mm on a size 19″ (large) frame, and short 50mm stems are employed across the range. Braaaap, brrrraaap!
As with the Fuel, the Remedy’s frame stiffness figures are higher than Charlie Sheen. With the employment of the new Straight Shot down tube and a Boost rear end, it now rivals the Session downhill bike for lateral stiffness. Pick a line, any line, and hold on.
Expanded Bontrager Components Line Up
With the introduction of the new Drop Line dropper post, Trek’s in-house Bontrager components brand now has just about every item you could ever want to spec your bike with, and it’s all very good stuff.
The Drop Line post was on all the bikes we rode, and we think it’s a very solid contender in this crowded market. The post is air sprung, with a hydraulic cartridge, and is cable actuated. Adjustment is infinite, and it comes in the lengths with 100, 125 and 150mm of drop.
For us, the highlights include the very solid under-bar lever (an above bar lever is available for those running a left-hand shifter), the ease of servicing, and the fact that the cable is clamped at the lever end, not at the post (which makes life MUCH easier when install the post or changing the cable). In the muddy conditions we rode, we opted to pull down our post to give it a clean out at the end of the first day’s riding – an 8mm and 2mm Allen key were all the tools we needed, and the whole job took less than five minutes.
35mm-diameter bars and stems are quickly becoming the norm, and Bonty are on board. Their new Line and Line Pro (carbon) bars and matching stems are lighter than the previous 31.8mm predecessors. The stems are, of course, compatible with Knock Block headset system too.
Bonty’s tyre range has surged ahead since Frank Stacy came on board, and we rate the XR3 and XR4 as amongst our top all-time tyres. The improvements have continued, and we could not fault the new XR4 or SE4 Team Issue rubber found on the Fuel and Remedy either. We’re looking forward to getting these tyres onto our home trails!
If there’s one thing we learnt on this media launch, it’s that Trek prefer riding to talking. Marketing chit-chat was kept to a bare minimum, letting everyone make the most of the stupendously good trails. Now you’ve heard all about Trek’s newest offerings, jump on over and read our first impressions about how the Fuel and Remedy perform on the trails!