Trek claim to be the biggest bike brand in the world. Together with their accessories subsidiary Bontrager, Trek reportedly spend the most money within the industry in the pivotal area of research and development.
Looking at these claims, it would be an easy conclusion to make that Trek’s products should be well ahead of the game. Recently, Flow attended Trek’s interplanetary 2015 launch – Trek World – to find out just what this extensive funding and research has led to for their 2015 line-up.
Trek World may be the official launch of Trek’s 2015 range, however new products have been trickling into Trek dealerships for months now. One of these early releases for the year was the Fuel 27.5. The Fuel used to be an outstanding 26 inch trail bike before it was given the bigger wheel treatment only two years ago, and Trek’s return to giving consumers a smaller wheel option came about after an outcry of public support for a 650b option.
The Fuel EX 27.5 rides a lot like the older Flow favourite, 26″ Fuel EX. Flickable, fun and generally looking to play more with the trail than its 29er brother. If you’re looking for a trail bike that’s fun to ride, can be thrown around a bit more than the mile-munching 29er and you’re not worried about lap times at the local XC course, the Fuel EX 27.5 is worth a look.
The Fuel EX range is in serious contention of being one the best trail bike range out there. Seriously, these bikes are amazing! Flow rode the 9.8 $5899 pictured here in volt green colour (available in both wheel sizes), a Shimano equipped Fuel EX and it’s managed to be even more impressive than Trek’s 2014 offering.
The major difference for this year’s model is the all new RE:aktiv rear shock, designed in conjunction with Penske Racing Shocks, the suspension gurus involved in Formula 1, NASCAR, and Indy racing. Put simply, this new suspension design incorporates ‘regressive damping’- where there is no compromise between low speed compression damping and high speed compression damping. The aim is to allow the shock to react to quick imposts, whilst retaining a firm pedalling platform to resist unwanted suspension bob. Leaving what would be a complicated description aside, the shock rides really, really well. On the first ride, the shock gave us so much confidence, especially coming into sections of the trail at high speeds and knowing your suspension is capable of handling the rough stuff, and climbing through chattery trails where the suspension performed exactly right, allowing the focus to be on the trail, not the bike.
The Fuel EX is available in both 27.5″ and 29″ wheels starting at $2799. The Fuel EX 9.9 29er below, is a real stunner for $9499.
Another key announcement at Trek World was the introduction of a carbon Slash 9.8. Trek have totally re-vamped the Slash range, aiming to increase their share of the booming all mountain/enduro market. The Slash features new beefy Bontrager Maverick wheels, which follow the new pattern of ultra-wide rim profiles, a Sram XO1 groupset, Bontrager 750mm wide carbon bars, Stealth Reverb dropper post and Shimano XT brakes. Adding to this excellent spec, Trek have decided to use the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock (with piggyback reservoir), and… the RockShox Pike up front! This bike is seriously well-specced, and comes in at just under $6K, completely busting apart the myth Trek can’t produce well specced bikes at low prices. We’ll expect to see this lightweight shredder by the end of October.
So how did it ride? The bike felt light whilst climbing and through singletrack, with 160mm of travel being provided at just 12.6kg. Whilst this was the case, even with the fork dropped down into the travel with the Two-Stage adjuster the bike still felt a little reluctant climbing at anything more than a steady, social pace. As climbing like a cross country racer is not key focus for this bike it’s definitely to be expected to a degree, but it’s surprising that with the fork dropped to 130mm, consequently steepening the head angle, the bike still felt a little uncomfortable smashing through Stromlo switchback after Stromlo switchback with its slack and relaxed angles.
Descending, and negotiating tricky trails. That is what this bike is all about. When you point this bike downhill, it goes where you want it to. Through rock gardens, no problems, the RockShox suspension and Maverick wheels will handle that. Steep sections, no worries, the geometry is great for hanging right off the back and nailing the vertical stuff. This is such a capable bike that it was underdoing it riding on the generally buff and smooth Stromlo trails. It was begging for a trail made of sterner terrain. The downhill tracks were an adequate match for this bike, and it soaked up the high speeds, rough stuff and frequent flyer miles with aplomb. The only criticism that we had in our time on the bike when analysing its descending capabilities is that it takes a bit more prompting when popping off trail features, or jumping over a section of the trail. Don’t worry, it’s just a simple trade-off, the bike gobbled up hard landing and felt stable in the air landing where you expected it to.
For the Remedy 29 in 2015 we see wider hub spacing for bigger tyres and increased chainring clearance, as well as an all new carbon frame – used for the top end 9.8 and 9.9 models. Trek have labelled the wider hub spacing only on true 29er ‘Boost148’, and claim that this move leads to a stiffer wheel as well as more tire and chainring clearance. Both the Remedy 29 and 27.5 switch to Sram 1x drivetrains for the higher end models in the series (9 and above).
Continuing with the dominance of Sram as a theme of this year’s models, Trek have decided to move away from Bontrager wheels with the higher end models and use the highly praised SRAM Roam wheels. The top carbon model, the 9.9, reportedly weighs in at 11.9kg at $9499. That is seriously impressive weight for a big travel 29er!
The Australian World Cup racing duo of Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson’s bike of choice – the Trek Superfly hardtail, are a mainstay of the Trek line-up. With the help of Gary Fisher, Trek have dialled in the geometry of these bikes to create quick handling and lively XC weapons. One change for the 2015 frame was to shorten the chain stays to further quicken the handling of the bike in the turns. In making this adjustment, the bottom bracket was lowered slightly, making the bike more stable at higher speeds. Other than these slight tweaks the frame hasn’t changed, but the spec of some models has been increased at no suffering to the retail pricing.
For example the Superfly 9.6, the cheapest carbon Superfly, still comes in at under $3000 but is now equipped with Bontrager’s tubeless ready Mustang wheels! Loving it! Again, as seen across all the mountain bike range, Trek have chosen to use Sram 1x drivetrains on the higher end models. Pictured here is the Superfly 9.8, $5399, due August with the SL frame (super light carbon layup and slightly different shapes).
Another point worth mentioning is the ‘Smarter Wheelsize’ approach to frame size versus wheelsize that Trek are taking for some of the lower end hardtails. The smaller frame sizes will use 27.5″ wheels, whilst 17.5″ frame sizes and above will come equipped with 29″ wheels.
In 2015 Trek have gone the 27.5″ route with their downhill weapon. The bike sports 210mm travel and longer chainstays for better high speed control. Another upgrade from the 2014 model is the full carbon EVO link that drives the rear shock. The carbon used in the Session is not a weight saving measure primarily, but a way in which to add strength to the frame. Judging by Brook MacDonald’s resurgence as a world cup force and Neko Mullaly emerging as a rider to watch in the future, this bike is obviously very capable, and very fast.
So there you have it. Trek truly have delivered some epic bikes for 2015, with great new technologies like the RE:activ rear shock, the carbon Slash and the introduction of 1x drivetrains across a number of models. After trying the new models for ourselves, we here at Flow think we’ll be seeing a few of these highly colourful bikes out on the trail!