31 May 2013

The not-so-minor details


Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29


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Trek Bikes Australia



Size tested:




It was only a couple of weeks ago that Trek announced the release of the new Fuel EX 29 series – a 29″-wheeled version of their immensely popular 26″ trail bike. The global press launch of this bike is going on right now over in the USA, but we’ve been lucky enough to score a full-blown test right here, on Australian soil. Here are our first impressions after ride number one.

The dull light at Stromlo this afternoon doesn’t do this bike’s finish any justice – it almost looks like polished dark mahogany in the light!

We’ve just come back in from a couple of hours on the trails around Stromlo Forest Park, getting ourselves acquainted with the Fuel EX 9.8 29, the second from top in the new EX 29er range. Tomorrow we’ll be taking the EX to some rougher, super technical Canberra trails before bringing it back to Flow’s own neighbourhood for some longer term testing.

Trek’s James Collins preps our test bike, prior to its maiden voyage.

This is the bike that people have been crying out for from Trek – a lightweight 29er trail bike, taking advantage of all their technologies that they’ve spent the last half dozen years refining. Until now, other 29er offerings from Trek haven’t utilised the same Full-Floater/ABP suspension system that has won Trek accolades world wide. The new 29er Fuel takes these suspension technologies and couples them with the excellent G2 geometry concept that found on the other ‘Gary Fisher Collection’ 29ers in Trek’s range (the Superfly and Rumblefish).

The Fuel EX 29er is the first 29er from Trek to make full use of the brand’s awesome Full Floater/ABP suspension platform. The one-piece EVO Link ties to all together stiffly, allowing the DRCV shock to do get to work without having to contend with any flex.

From our first ride we can tell you this bike is a winner. It retains the same taut, responsive and efficient feel of the 26″ Fuel EX but is just plain faster, especially on the climbs. Lumpy, ugly slow speed climbs are a delight on this bike; it’s pretty inspiring really!

A full XT drivetrain and brakes means worry-free performance. We appreciate the choice of a twin-ring crankset, rather than a triple.

The overall bike dimensions have grown when compared to the 26er, but the Fuel still feels playful. A super low stand-over height and low head tube height gives it a compact feel, encouraging you to chuck it about. The exceptional frame stiffness hasn’t been diluted at all with the longer stays either, and the Bontrager Rhythm wheels exhibit no flex.

We’d have to say the build kit is close to perfect as well. Amazing braking and shifting, and the Rockshox Reverb Stealth is the icing on the cake. We wouldn’t change a thing.

Arguably the best dropper post on the market is part of the deal.

This particular model, equipped with a Rockshox Reverb Stealth post, full XT drivetrain and constructed from Trek’s OCLV Mountain Carbon throughout, retails for $5500 and weighs in a bit over 12kg. But there are some very sweet price point bikes, including the EX9 which has largely the same build kit (with an alloy bar and a couple of other tiny changes) but runs an alloy frame – it retails at $3999, making it a really hot ticket item. You can also pick up the EX 9.7 for the same price. It runs a carbon mainframe and a slightly lower specced component package, making it a prime bike to buy now and upgrade along the way.

For the 26″ fans, don’t stress! 26″ Fuel EX bikes will still be available…for now.

We’ll have a full review up soon, as well as featuring the bike in issue #4 of Flow mag too (on sale 3 July). You can view our full video review of the 2013 26″ Fuel EX 9.8 here to whet your appetite.