Trek’s New RE:aktiv Thru Shaft Shock

Trek has unveiled RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft, an all-new suspension design that improves response time and efficiency. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is the latest development from the brand’s partnership with Penske Racing Shocks, the global leader in custom motorsport suspension design, which began in 2014 to push bicycle suspension capabilities. The first collaboration resulted in RE:aktiv—a mountain bike suspension technology that responded to changes in terrain faster than any other shock on the market.

For RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft, Trek’s R & D team bucked the suspension status quo and developed a superior new design from the ground up. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft eliminates the internal floating piston (IFP) that compensates for oil displacement in traditional dampers and the associated lag along with it.

As the IFP moves in a traditional damper, its seal causes a stick/slip effect that reduces responsiveness. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft uses a damper rod that runs the entire length of the shock, eliminating oil displacement and the associated stick/slip effect caused by the seal necessary in a traditional damper.

The bottom line: the new design eliminates the need for an internal floating piston, the primary cause of lag. It provides unprecedented responsiveness—even when inputs occur in quick succession, as often happens while charging through short sections of trail littered with rocks and roots.

With extra-firm low-speed compression damping; supple and controlled high-speed compression damping; and a seamless transition between the two, RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft improves the all-terrain responsiveness that is RE:aktiv’s calling card. It responds to every input on the trail, delivering a seamless trail experience even as riders push their limits on technical terrain.

RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is available on select Trek trail bikes, including Slash 9.8, Slash 9.7, Remedy 9.8, Remedy 9.8 Women’s, Fuel EX 9.9, and their respective carbon frameset options. These models can be viewed at trekbikes.com

Tested: Trek Fuel EX 9.8

Trek’s Fuel EX series went under a serious refresh for the 2017 season, growing in every aspect. Longer travel, longer reach, slacker geometry, more everything. It’s about as modern as they come, and a step in the right direction to keep up with the progression of mountain biking.

My tubes are bigger than yours.

Who’s it for?

The Fuel EX is aimed squarely at the all-round trail rider, one step up from the cross country Top Fuel, and one step down the spectrum from the Remedy. There’s 130mm of travel, 29” wheels a dropper post, wide rims, and space for a full-sized water bottle.

The classic trail bike, not too big, not too small, just right.

We weighed our 19.5” size Fuel EX at 12.74kg with no pedals and set up tubeless. That’s very competitive considering its chunky appearance!


Trek’s unique features.

Trek are known for breaking the mould and doing things their way, hence their own suspension technology inside the rear shock, custom fork offset G2 geometry and a special headset that prevents the bars and fork crowns from spinning all the way around and damaging the frame.

Instead of trying to keep the frame away from the rotating fork and handlebar, the headset stops it spinning too far instead. Additional hard rubber protection under the front end prevents the fork crowns impacting the frame.

If you’re curious to experiment, you can flip a little chip in the linkage to tweak the frame geometry slightly, we had our set in the ‘slack and low’ setting but would certainly consider trying the other setting if planning a longer ride with loads of climbing, or entering a multi-day race.

Flip the little chip to tweak the bike’s geometry, nice and simple.

Got any blacker?

2017 is the year of the black bike, and this one is about as black as it comes. If it weren’t for the blue lockout lever on the fork and the red sticker on the shock, there would be no colour at all! The matte/gloss finish is elegant, super high quality, and flawless up close. Though during some wet rides our baggy shorts left super-fine scratching on the glossy section of the top tube, maybe not the best part of the frame to be glossy?


How did it ride?

For a just 130mm travel 29er, it feels pretty burly, it packs a punch but hides it really well. The frame is long, bars are wide, and the chunky frame tubes add to the whole feeling that it wants to be ridden hard. Cruising through the singletrack it steers really well through the turns, never requiring you to persuade it into any situations with a heavy hand. It’s one of the lightest handling 29ers we’ve ridden too, the geometry feels spot on, not nervous or sluggish at all.

Get it up to speed and the Fuel’s long front end and relaxed angles had us feeling very confident to let the brakes off and ride it hard. Pushing it into the rough descents, there were plenty of moments where the Fuel surprised us of its straight-line ploughing abilities!

The double chainring took the shine off our confidence to crank hard on the pedals through rough trails, there’s always the thought that the chain may not be 100% engaged, but we’ll come back to the double debate later.

Point it where you want to go, the Fuel’s steering precision and light handling is a real standout.

We hate seeing bikes still coming specced with narrow rims, another reason to appreciate the Fuel, the Bontrager Line Comp 30 wheels with wide rims give the Bontrager XR3 tyres a whole lot of volume and in turn, the bike feels very sure-footed and composed.


The suspension.

We found the rear suspension outshone the fork in a way, the FOX 34 with the Grip Damper felt smooth and supple across clattery surfaces, especially while seated in the saddle pedaling along. But when you’re out of the saddle and leaning on the front end it required a few extra clicks of the big blue dial which would detract from the forks sensitivity.

FOX Grip Damper forks, smooth and easy to adjust, but not as supportive as the FIT 4 Damper forks found on higher price point bikes.
An aluminium chain stay doubles at the lower mount for the shock.
The rear suspension absorbs heavy impacts so well.

Standout parts.

Trek’s own component line Bontrager handles the majority of the parts, and very well too. The tyres are great, fast and tacky, with the wide rims we ran quite low pressures and found loads of grip and cushion as a result. We always like the Evoke saddle, and the carbon bar is a nice touch.

Shimano XT brakes are phenomenal as always, certainly big fans here at Flow. The Bontrager Line Dropper post works well but lacks the sophisticated feel at the lever, and in our experience requires regular maintenance during the wet season.


Double chainring, yay, or nay?

A double chainring is not for us, we can appreciate why a trail bike comes with 22 gears, but once you go single ring, it’s too hard to go back. It’s a lot noisier, adds clutter and weight for only a small increase in gear range. Shimano does have some work to do to match the fantastic SRAM Eagle drivetrain which offers a huge range with only one chainring, and even the Shimano 11-46 cassette would be a preferable option for us in this instance.

Double chainring, not for us, thanks.

Thankfully the upcoming 2018 models of the Fuel looks to have specced more single ring drivetrains.


Final thoughts.

A trail bike from Trek was always going to be a sure bet, they’ve been refining the Fuel range over many years now, and were one of the first brands to make bikes ride well with the larger 29″ wheels. The latest Fuel is a competent bike in the rough and still nice and efficient to pedal all day.

Ditch the double-ring in favour of the Shimano XT 11-46 cassette if you’re like us and appreciate a quieter and smoother drivetrain, but other than that, this thing is good to go.

For more information head to Trek’s website by clicking here.

Quick Ride Review: 2017 Trek Remedy 9.8

Ryan Walsch from Trek gives the stiffer and longer Remedy a good old shove trough a bermed turn.
Ryan Walsch from Trek gives the stiffer and longer Remedy 9.8 a good old shove trough a bermed turn.
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One our favourite bikes that we took all over the country this year is all-new again, the 2017 model is bigger and burlier.

The frame

For 2017 suspension bumps up to 150mm of travel and slackens off the head angle, 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.

With more travel and such aggressive geometry, the Remedy can be ridden harder, so Trek needed to make the bike stiffer. The Remedy and the Fuel us the new Straight Shot down tube, the massive, boxy down tube shaves a few grams and gives the front serious stiffness. But with the wide fork crowns of boost spacing forks they ran into clearance issues so to stop the crowns impacting the frame when the wheel turns right around, they came up with a headset that stops the rotation, ‘Knock Block’. In addition to the headset there are bumpers underneath the head tube area to further protect the frame.

The Knock Block headset prevents frame damage in a crash from bars and forks spinning around.
The Knock Block headset prevents frame damage in a crash from bars and forks spinning around.
Stiff front end for maximum rowdiness.
Stiff front end for maximum rowdiness.
Great tyres, suspension and a sturdy frame gives loads of confidence in the rough.
Great tyres, suspension and a sturdy frame gives loads of confidence in the rough.
Mino Link geometry adjustability.
Mino Link geometry adjustability.

The parts

The wide Bontrager Line rims, grippy XR4 tyres and big 35mm stem clamp give the Remedy a far tougher appearance than the 2016 model, these were the areas we upgraded our long term test bike last year, Trek are onto it!

A complete Shimano XT groupset is always a good sight, the 9.8 is covered in the stuff. The brakes are especially nice and Trek are using the I-Spec single handlebar clamp for the brake and shifter to keep the cockpit as neat as it can be.

RockShox Pike with 150mm of travel.
RockShox Pike with 150mm of travel.
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One our most favourite tyres just got a whole lot better, the new XR4.

The 9.8 does have a double chainring, which isn’t our cup of tea but sure can come in handy on the longer climbs out there.


Riding

We spent a whole year aboard the hot green/yellow 2016 model 9.8 and after just a quick ride on this one we’re very impressed. It feels a whole lot more robust and the rear suspension feels more planted, and with the wide rims and insanely good XR4 tyres it feels great at speed.

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The 150mm Remedy is a fun bike to ride, the 27.5″ wheels are happily thrown about and tipped into a corner.

With 29ers on either side of the Remedy in the Trek range with the 130mm Fuel and 160mm Slash, the 150mm travel Remedy is a bike that will enjoy a jump, drop, drift and a tight line on the trail.

Stay tuned for more as we get our hands on a Trek Remedy for a proper review.

Trek’s All-New Remedy and Fuel EX

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!

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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!

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Fuel EX Series

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Key points:

  • 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.

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The Fuel EX 9.9 – a full tilt trail blitzer. 130mm travel, 29″ wheels, and far more aggressive than its predecessor.

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.

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The frame shapes are quite different to the older versions of the Fuel, including the sculpted head tube.

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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.

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The DT skewer found on the EX9.9 is much cleaner than Trek’s original ABP axle. Note the size of the Eagle cassette – bigger than a 180mm rotor!

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.

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Mino link adjustment lets you choose either a 67.7 or 67-degree head angle.

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.

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The Straight Shot down tube. Much stiff.

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.

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The new Fuel is crazy stiff. Don’t take out word for it? Then how about a bar graph?
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Here you can see both the new Control Freak cable system and the down tube bumper that serves as back up protection against the fork crown striking the frame.

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.

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The alloy-framed EX8 will retail for $4299 in Australia.

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.

WSD versions of the Fuel EX will be available in alloy (the EX8 pictured here, $4299) and the carbon EX9.8 ($6299)
WSD versions of the Fuel EX will be available in alloy (the EX8 pictured here, $4299) and the carbon EX9.8 ($6299)

Remedy Series

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Shred Monster. The new Remedy is a stellar all-mountain machine.

Key points:

  • 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.

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Longer, slacker, stiffer, and more travel to play with too.
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For the first time, RockShox scores the RE:aktiv damper that was previously only found in FOX shocks.

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.

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Burly 35mm forks up front across the Remedy range, with the Yari, Pike and Lyrik.

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!

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Trek have introduced the Control Freak cable system across the range. It’s much nicer than their previous approach oh semi-internal routing.

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

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We like the simplicity and ease of service of the Drop Line post.

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.

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Trek offer the Drop Line post with a great under-bar lever, or a shifter compatible lever too.

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.

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Placing the cable with the head at the post end, makes setting up and installing/removing the post much, much easier than models with clamp the cable at the post.
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The Bontranger 35mm cockpit – there are carbon or alloy bar options.
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Note the keyed stem, to integrate with the Knock Block system.

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.

Apparently the 35mm bar/stem is no stiffer than the 31.8mm version, but it is lighter and stronger.
Apparently the 35mm bar/stem is no stiffer than the 31.8mm version, but it is lighter and stronger.
We cannot get over how good the Bontrager rubber is now!
We cannot get over how good the Bontrager rubber is now!

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!

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Long-Term Test Update: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5

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Simple setup: As we recently remarked in our review of the new Fuel EX 29er (check out the full write up on the Fuel EX 8 29 here), the Full Floater suspension system found on the Fuel series is easier to setup than a Tinder date. After only two rides we settled on a suspension setting that worked for us, and it’s testimony to this bike’s abilities in a huge variety of situations that we haven’t found need to make so much as a single adjustment since, nor have we felt the need to do any suspension maintenance.

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A clean bike is a happy bike. We really admire the Fuel’s buttery suspension – it’s exceptional.
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Last light at Eagle Mountain Bike Park, Adelaide.

We tend to spend the bulk of our riding time in the Trail setting of the FOX DPS CTD shock. The RE:Aktiv damper technology which Trek introduced in late 2014 does a good job of moving smoothly into the travel, as well as giving you quite a firm pedalling platform. Putting the shock lever into the firmest Climb setting is rarely needed.

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Dropping in on Black Dragon in Blue Derby.

Teflon ain’t this smooth: It’s not until we hop on another 120mm-travel bike that we appreciate how superb the Fuel’s suspension performance really is. We can’t think of another 120mm-travel bike that we’ve ridden which matches this bike’s abilities to suck up the ugliest landings or feel so calm floating over big, chunky rocks. The fork and shock are really nice balanced too, with similarly progressive spring curves and a rebound range that’s precise enough to get them working nicely together.

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The Fuel’s soundtrack on the trail is little more than the buzz of the freehub and the runch of tyres on the dirt

Silent Assassin: Part and parcel of the Fuel’s buttery suspension performance is that it’s nice and quiet. In a single-ring configuration, without the rattle of a front derailleur, the Fuel’s soundtrack on the trail is little more than the buzz of the freehub and the runch of tyres on the dirt.

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Judging by the expression on Chris’s face, this is not a comfortable position for the Fuel, but it didn’t seem to mind.

Giving the Fuel more teeth: We couldn’t help but feel that the stock bar and stem put a bit of a leash on the Fuel. If you’re keen, it will happily push very hard! To help put us in a stronger position on the bike, we swapped the 80mm stem for a very chunky 70mm Pro Tharsis item and went wider on the bar, installing a Bontrager Rhythm Pro bar at about 765mm wide. The changed cockpit mightn’t be too dramatically different on paper, but the increased confidence was like down a couple of wines before hitting a wedding dance floor. One option worth considering, if you’re a more aggressive kind of rider, is going up a frame size then running a shorter stem. This is something we’d definitely think about if we were starting again with this bike.

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A 70mm stem and wider bar has made the Fuel even more playful.
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Time out on Dambusters, Blue Derby.

Bontrager rubber is a treat: We’ve commented on it often, but the performance of Bontrager tyres is really pretty exceptional. We did admittedly cut the sidewall on the rear tyre on one of our first rides, but we’ll cop that one on the chin as we clearly weren’t running enough pressure and it was a particularly cal-handed piece of riding to. We’ve had no issues since, and we reckon the grip and rolling-speed balance of the XR3 as an all-rounder tyre is very hard to look past.

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The XT drivetrain has been flawless, despite dragging the rear derailleur across the odd rock.
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Getting the Fuel’s feet wet on Stonefly, Mt Buller.

Shimano XT back on top: Shimano’s XT groupset is really helping the big S build a strong position in their battle with SRAM, who undoubtedly won a lot of market share in this sector with their X1 1×11 groupset. We decided to run a single chain ring instead of the stock double ring, and we haven’t regretted it. We’ve had one (maybe two?) instances of dropping the chain, but this is a minor consideration when you look at the performance of this drivetrain overall. We’ve just recently installed an oval-shaped chain ring from Absolute Black too, which should be an interesting experiment. Ovalised rings are becoming very popular overseas, so we’re really intrigued to see if the claimed benefits ring true to us on on the trails.

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We’ve just fitted an Absolute Black oval ring. Is it better than a round ring? Too early to say, but we’ll be doing some in-depth testing.

The XT brakes are likewise perfect, and are real contenders for the finest stoppers available right now.

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Hooking into the lower stretches of the Australian Alpine Epic.

We’ve got a lot more riding planned for this bike in the next few months, and a suite of new product to fit to it for testing, including some new wheels from Zelvy, which we’re excited about. You’ll be seeing lots more of this baby blue beast on Flow, and if you look closely I’m sure you’ll see a big grin on the face of the rider too.

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See? See how stoked this guy is?!

Flow’s First Bite – Trek Fuel EX 8 29

Trek’s incredibly popular Fuel EX range comes in both 29″ and 27.5″ flavours, and for 2016 the 29er goes under the knife to receive a very trendy facelift, scoring the updates we hoped and wished for. Tighter, zipper and adjustable whilst retaining that super-supple suspension we have grown to expect, the new Fuel EX 29 looks dialled.

Seven versions of the Fuel EX are on offer from Trek Australia, the large range priced between $3099 and $5999. A real testament to how well this type of bike caters to just about any type of mountain biker, the amount of travel, relaxed character and reliable components make it a real winner.

We snagged a Fuel EX 29 8 for a full review, until then here are our first impressions of this entry-level aluminium dually from the big T.

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[divider]The Frame[/divider]

Dual suspension 29ers have come a long way, and are now better than ever across the board. We’re even at the point where we’re seeing die hard ‘small wheel’ riders finally appreciate the benefits of the larger wheels but without moaning that that can’t ride the bike exactly how they would like to.

29″ wheels are always going to be better at handling certain elements of off road riding than smaller 26″ and 27.5″ wheels, the rule that bigger is better just can’t be argued with in terms of rolling momentum or stability. Though there is a reason the Fuel EX is also available in 27.5″ wheels, it comes down to how you want to ride, where you ride and your personal preferences.

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We’ve currently got two 27.5″ Treks on long term test – the Fuel EX 9.8 275 and the Remedy 9.8 27.5. Click the links to read our thoughts on those two sweet rides.

In the case of this bike the design team at Trek have been able to take advantage of the new Boost hub width standards to free up space and in return bring the rear end closer to the bikes centre, shortening the chainstays from 452mm to a snappy 437mm. We’ll get into more on how and why Boost is a good thing in our review. Yes it’s another standard that was pioneered by Trek, but there’s more to it than just more standards.

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With 120mm of travel front and back, the Fuel EX is a semi-short travel dually that sits in between the bigger Remedy 29 and the amazing new cross country weapon, the Top Fuel. See more of the Top Fuel here.

When we reviewed the 2014 and 2015 Trek Fuel EX 29 the main gripe for us was the length, it got in the way of being the ideal go-anywhere bike, holding us back when corners got tight. We often wished for different geometry when we wanted to throw it around and play. So naturally we’re pumped to see that on paper it looks like that’s sorted for 2016, we can’t wait to see how it goes on the trails. To read our earlier reviews of the Fuel, read here: 2014 Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29 and 2015 Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29.

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Boost 148 – a new hub and drivetrain standard that allows frame designs greater freedom to achieve better everything.
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That bolt on the EVO Link and chain stay junction is the Mino Link. Swap the chips around for geometry adjustment.

[divider]The Parts[/divider]

With a good dose of Bontrager, FOX and Shimano the Fuel is well dressed for the dollars. In our experience the parts fitted to this bike will be up to the task, but we’ll deliver our verdict in the review.

Trek are all about a good range of gears, most of their Shimano drivetrain bikes are specced with a double chainring. With a 2×10 drivetrain, the low range is especially very useable and you won’t be running out of gears at either end.

Trek Fuel EX 8 9

FOX take care of the suspension with a Float 32 fork up front using the new FIT 4 damper that has brought FOX back into the game in a big way. Plus the addition of the EVOL large air volume air can this is surely going to be most excellent! The Fuel range was already a supple and smooth ride, with the new FOX parts it’s going to be off the charts! 

The rear shock uses Trek’s proprietary suspension damping system called the Re:aktiv damper designed in conjunction with FOX. It’s all about delivering better pedalling/climbing efficiency with a more seamless transition to bump absorption than other systems have been able to achieve. Read more about that here: RE:aktiv Shock Technology.

A RE:aktiv rear shock.
A RE:aktiv rear shock.

Bontrager handle the rest of the parts, which is good news to us. While the wheels may be a little weighty, we already love the tyres, saddle and cockpit.

The Fuel EX 8 29 looks pretty good to us! With a tubeless conversion it’d be perfect on our rocky trails, so we’ll be taping up the rims and sourcing some tubeless valves to make that happen, then we’ll be good to go. Let the testing begin, stay tuned for the full review soon.

Fresh Product: Trek, The World’s Biggest Bike Brand Unveil 2015 Range

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.

[divider]Fuel EX series [/divider]

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.

Fuel_27.5-6

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.

Fuel_27.5-14

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.

Fuel_29-3

[divider]Slash 9.8 [/divider]

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.

Slash-27

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.

Slash-34

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.

[divider]Remedy series [/divider]

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).

Remedy_29-1

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!

Remedy_29-22

[divider]Superfly series[/divider]

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.

SuperFly-1

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.

SuperFly-13

 

[divider]Trek Session[/divider]

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!