The not-so-minor details
What we'd change
Lose the 3x10 drivetrain and run 2x10 or even 1x10.
An amazingly capable trail bike - there aren't many situations the EX can't handle. Gorgeous construction. Reliable spec and we love the Reverb Stealth seat post! Pretty good value too.
Rear shock tune feels a little too firm when 'Trail' mode is engaged. Fork is noisy. Would be better without a triple ring crankset.
While most of the mountain bike industry is busy burying the 26″ wheel with barrow loads of big wheels, Trek are one of the few companies who have actually invested in the 26″ trail bike market for 2013. The revamped Fuel EX line up is more capable than ever. It really is the Swiss Army knife of bikes. Flow was more than a little excited to grab a few week’s of test ride time on the new Fuel EX9.8
Hello Charlie! The business end of the 9.8. No two ways about it, this is a bloody good looking bike.
The EVO Link is key to the high lateral stiffness of the Trek’s rear end. It’s one of the few parts of metal in the frame. Crafted from magnesium, the finish is so smooth we thought it was carbon at first! Note the torque setting etched into the pivot hardware – neat attention to detail.
Shimano Shadow Plus rear derailleurs have been specced extensively across the Trek 2013 range and the EX9.8 scores an XT-level mech. This derailleur, coupled with the smooth-riding frame and quality chain stay protector, means the EX9.8 is super quiet.
The Rockshox Reverb Stealth adjustable post is a real highlight. The hydraulic hose that actuates the post runs internally, through the frame. This makes it a far cleaner system than most adjustable posts, there’s no big loop of hose flopping about when the seat is dropped like you’ll encounter with most adjustable posts.
The DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) shock is key to the Fuel’s efficient, yet super plush, suspension performance. The shock features Fox’s new CTD (Climb – Trail – Descend) damper. We left the shock in the Descend setting most of the time as we found it a little too firm for all but the smoothest singletrack in the Trail mode. We only really engaged Climb on the road or very smooth, long fireroads.
The Fox Float fork is unique to Trek. Like the rear shock, it also uses a DRCV twin-chamber air spring and a CTD damper. We left the fork in Descend mode most of the time. Surprisingly, the fork was quite noisy in operation; we assume the noise is related to the opening/closing of the DRCV.
The EX9.8 is equipped with a full Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes. Even without the fancy Ice Tech finned pads, these brakes have simply monstrous amounts of power.