Tested: Trek Stache 7

The Trek Stache, with its big, balloon-like wheels.
The Trek Stache, with its big, balloon-like wheels.

What the hell is 29+?

When Trek decided to create a bike in the ‘plus hardtail’ category, they developed the Stache from the ground up using 29″ diameter wheels, instead of jumping on the existing 27.5+ wheel (27.5″ diameter with 2.8-3″ tyres) size bandwagon.

Not sure what we are talking about? Here, have a read of this if you’d like to know what a plus-size bike is all about.

Essentially, Trek developed the Stache around 29+ wheels due to the increased contact patch of the tyre when compared to 27.5+, but it wasn’t going to be so simple. 29+ wheels are huge, too big to fit into a normal shaped frame, hence the wildly asymmetrical rear end of the bike and its elevated chainstay arrangement. There have only ever been one other 29+ bike make its way to the masses, we reviewed the Surly Krampus a few years ago, while we loved its endless traction it was hard work to manoeuvre through any form of a tight corner and was a boat to try and rip through singletrack.

With the elevated chain stay design and a boost spacing hub, Trek can tuck the chainstays to a length adjustable between 405-420mm (the bike ships with the length at 420mm) in the world of 29ers that is incredibly short!


Why?

An increased contact patch is beneficial in two main ways. Firstly, with a bigger contact patch you’ve got more grip on the ground in virtually any condition than a goanna scaling a tree. The second advantage of 29+ tyres is the small bump sensitivity that can be achieved by running the voluminous tyres at lower pressures. While the Stache is never going to feel like a dual suspension bike in choppy terrain, setting up the monstrous Chupacabra tyres tubeless and with the pressures low the bike has excellent small bump compliance.

The Chupacabra tyres are critical to the performance of the Stache.
More grip than a jealous ex.

We were lucky to chat with Trek’s Travis Brown where we discussed the Stache, and he summed up the decision to go with 29+ wheels by saying ‘if you’re the type of rider willing to take a small weight penalty for a lot of extra control and traction, and the ability to run low pressures, we came out with the 29+ to be superior.’


29+ wheels with 3” tyres must be heavy right?

At first glance, you would presume that the Bontrager Chupacabra tyres would weigh significantly more than regular tyres, however, one of the key aims of the Stache project (which was entitled ‘project weird’) was to create a lightweight 29×3.00 tyre.

The result of the project was the Bontrager Chupacabra, a 3” tyre that weighs just 860 grams! Despite the light weight, the Chupacabra is tubeless ready, and the sidewall protection was high. We know this because with a 3” tyre you’ll be scraping the sidewalls of the tyre against lots of stuff on the trail, but despite this, the Chupacabra remained intact throughout the review.

Check out the scraping above the Bontrager logo- that's some sturdy sidewall protection!
Check out the scraping above the Bontrager logo- that’s some sturdy sidewall protection!

The tread pattern of the Chupacabra sits somewhere between a Bontrager XR2 and XR3 which we found struck an excellent balance between rolling efficiency, sidewall stability and traction.

We appreciate the development that went into the Chupacabra, it's an excellent tyre.
We appreciate the development that went into the Chupacabra; it’s an excellent tyre.

The only negatives we have with Chupacabra tyre is that once you really get to know how the Stache handles, a beefier front tyre to allow the rear to break traction into a slide or drift before the front tyre does might let us ride more aggressively, as we found that when the bike is tipped over and losing traction (far later than any other bike we’ve ever ridden), both the tyres slid together, a sensation that unnerved us somewhat.

Another point to mention is that there is no alternative to the Chupacabra than from Bontrager, and a replacement is going to set you back a mega $169 each!


You can run 27.5+ or 29” wheels instead of the 29+ due to the Stranglehold dropouts, should you be considering changing wheels?

No! At least not to begin with. Throughout testing, what we continually discussed was just how well the 29+ wheels worked with the short rear end, as well as the bike’s stubby cockpit. Being able to throw the bike around easily in combination with the insane traction and rollover of the 29+ wheels was a great match.

As we’ve discussed, the contact patch and subsequent traction afforded by the 29+ tyres is crazy. What we found with the bike’s tight geometry was that despite the massive wheels, if you tip the Stache over enough it’ll negotiate pretty much any corner- as long as the pilot holds their nerve!

Lay it in!
Lay it in!

Is it easy to jump the big hoops?

It’s different. Getting the Stache off the ground to manoeuvre between lines isn’t really the Stache’s forte, it prefers to barge through trails rather than creep delicately. Whilst subtle line changes of the aerial variety are off the menu, when you need to get airborne, other than having to work the bike initially to get in the air, once it’s up there the short rear end is easy to work into a landing, and the big rubber feels very cushy if you go further than intended.

The Stache loves getting up to mischief!
The Stache loves getting up to mischief!

Many of the trails near Flow HQ feature jumps and drops that often result in the bike landing pretty much pancake flat, and the with low tyre pressures (we settled on as low as 13psi in the front and 15psi in the rear for a 78kg rider), the Stache doesn’t feel like a conventional hardtail when it’s time to come down.


When do you get reminded that you’re still riding a hardtail?

While the Stache happily ploughs through most terrain, when the going gets really rough, or you’re coming into a square edge hit, the ability to plough through or jump the obstacle as you might on a dual suspension bike is not really an option. We found ourselves coming into sections like these too fast at times considering the low pressures you run on the Stache, which make a square edge or very rocky terrain the perfect place for a puncture – and a potential $169 visit to the bike shop!


What’s the spec like?

Despite having truly enjoyed riding the Stache, the spec is somewhat underwhelming considering the $3299 price tag.

Firstly, it’s understandable in a way that this bike is dearer than it should be because this is a one of a kind bike and the frame is quite involved. If you read our interview with Travis Brown, you’ll see the time and resources not only Trek and Bontrager, but companies such as SUN Ringle and Manitou invested to make this bike a possibility.

Trek worked with Manitou to develop the Magnum 29+ fork.
Trek worked with Manitou to develop the Magnum 29+ fork.

That being said, the battleground of mountain bike sales is a vicious one, and there are many bikes around the $3000 price point with very nice specs indeed; dropper posts, quality suspension front and rear and high-end drivetrains.

For $3299 with the Stache, you get a Sram GX groupset (with X1 cranks), Sram’s Level Trail brakes and relatively unheard of SUNringle Duroc rims, which create an excellent profile for the Chupacabra, but are on the soft side for a bike with hard-riding intentions like the Stache.

None of these products are bad- in fact, it’s unbelievable how good 11-speed drivetrains of all levels are these days – our SRAM GX/X1 bundle was flawless, and the Level brakes were excellent for general trail riding, although they were untested this time around on particularly long descents.

Bontrager products have always been a favourite at Flow for their efficiency, robustness and understated graphics, and the Bontrager products on the Stache such as the stem, handlebar and saddle were no different.

Two parts we weren’t fussed on however were the push-on grips, which we would change to a set of lock-ons immediately, and the non-dropper seatpost.

No dropper and not much room to drop the seat due to the curved seat tube makes you appreciate what we've become so used to!
No dropper and not much room to drop the seat due to the curved seat tube make you appreciate what we’ve become so used to!

The Stache is pleading like a child at a candy store for a dropper. If there were ever a bike that would truly benefit from a dropper, it would be the Stache. Further to this, the rigid seatpost doesn’t actually move that far within the frame, as the seat tube is flattened and curved to accommodate the 29+ wheels, so dropping the seat at the top of a descent still doesn’t get the seat as low as you would with a dropper.


Okay, so what about the model above, or below in the range?

We believe this is a situation where the model below, or above are worthy of consideration for potential buyers.

The Stache 5 retails for $2399, and features the same frame, wheels and tyres as the 7. Regarding the drivetrain, it’s a 1×10 system, however, the 11-36 spread isn’t too bad regarding range. The another significant downgrade is going from the Manitou Magnum with 34mm stanchions to the Manitou Machete with thinner 32mm stanchions.

The Stache 5 comes with the Magnum's younger brother, the Machete. Both are violent.
The Stache 5 comes with the Magnum’s younger brother, the Machete. Both are violent.

While these are downgrades, in the fork department plus bikes tend to mask inefficiencies in dampening, as the small bump sensitivity from the tyres allows the rider to run more pressure if the fork is very linear. This was the case with the Manitou Magnum. Despite feeling linear in comparison to a comparable Fox or RockShox product, the Magnum performed well on the Stache, as we ran it slightly firmer and faster than we would on a regular bike, allowing the tyres to give small bump sensitivity, and saving the travel for bigger hits.

For the $900 saving the Stache 5 offers, and the fact that the $2399 price point is somewhere where the Stache competes with entry level dual suspension bikes that perhaps come with entry-level suspension components, the 3” tyres would potentially work more efficiently at dampening the terrain, as well as giving the rider more traction and control.

Another option we would consider is spending $1200 more and purchasing the Stache 9.6. The Stache 9.6 comes with all the upgrades we wanted! A dropper post for starters, as well as a RockShox Yari fork, and a gorgeous carbon frame. We featured the Stache 9.6 in our Trek World wrap up from earlier this year, so go and have a look!

We like the Stache 9.6. Alot.
The Stache 9.6 is an extra $1200, but it’s pretty dialled.

Is the Stache an alternative to a $3000 duallie?

The concept around this bike and the way it behaves on the trail is remarkable. Consider this: you’re coming hot into a corner, tagging the inside a bit more than you should be. Where you would normally be about to lose the rear (and possibly the front too) and you get pretty ragged, with the Stache you keep those feet up, pull as tight as you want, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to stay glued to the ground.

Keep those feet up!
Keep those feet up!

Here’s another one: it’s been a long day out on the bike, and you’re coming up the final loose, rock-strewn climb. You want to get out of the saddle and power those last few pedal strokes, but you’re losing traction. You end up admitting defeat, hopping off and walking the rest of the hill. Aboard the Stache, unless you’re putting out the horsepower of Nino Schurter, those tyres are staying right where you want them, in or out of the saddle.

Forget spinning circles and mash those pedals all you like aboard the Stache.
Forget spinning circles and mash those pedals all you like aboard the Stache.

So is this bike better than a $3000 duallie? It’s hard to say because it’s just so god damn different!


Alright, let’s cut to the chase, who is this bike for?

The Stache is for a rider who appreciates traction, braking control and simplicity. You’re unlikely to get record times on your local XC loop, but the Stache can tackle much, much more than the humble hardtail of yesteryear, and you’ll amaze your mates with the new line options it opens up.

The Stache reminded us that sometimes riding isn’t about who has the most dialled, out and out speed machine, that sometimes popping a manual or a wheelie, or taking a silly line through a corner is what brings the biggest grins.

Don't you want to have as much fun as this?
Don’t you want to have as much fun as this?

As Travis Brown told us when we were asking him how the bike rode, until you ride a Stache, you just simply won’t understand what these quirky little things are all about!

Flow’s First Bite: Trek Stache 7

As we’ve learned over the past few weeks, however, first impressions aren’t everything, but we certainly have done a lot of laughing whilst riding this thing, it’s a whole lot of fun!

Ahead of our review, here is a little preview of this very unique bike.

Oh, and does anyone know what a Chupacabra actually is?

Say hello to this funky little beast from Trek.
Say hello to this funky little beast from Trek.

What is 29+?

The Trek Stache is a quirky beast, an aluminium hardtail from Trek that rolls on with ginormous 29+ wheels, that’s a 29″ wheel with 3″ tyres. Mounted to 40mm wide rims the wheels look huge and could probably float if we dropped it into the lake while taking pretty photos, we didn’t though, promise.

If you want to know more about why Trek decided on 29+ wheels, rather than the more common ‘plus size’ industry standard of 27.5+, check out our interview with Trek’s Travis Brown about the development process for the Stache.

Despite the enormous wheels, the Stache's creative rear end allows for 420mm chainstays. Note the elevated chainstay allowed by the 1x specific design.
Despite the enormous wheels, the Stache’s creative rear end allows for 420mm chain stays. Note the elevated chainstay made possible by the 1x specific design, and the curved seat tube for tyre clearance.

What on earth for? 

The Trek Stache 7 is designed to be an alternative to a dual suspension trail bike in the 110-130mm travel range. Whilst the Stache is a hardtail, its unique 29+ tyres with massive volume are paired with slacker geometry angles than you would regularly see on a hardtail, such as a 68.4-degree head angle, as well as crazy short 420mm chain stays (which are adjustable depending on wheel size and rider preference).

The Stache also runs a 120mm Manitou Magnum fork with beefy 34mm stanchions, further signaling the disorderly intentions of this bike.

Trek's Travis Brown on the Stache under sunny Stromlo skies.
Trek’s Travis Brown on the Stache under sunny Stromlo skies.
The chunky 120mm Manitou Magnum up front tells you this bike isn't for the racetrack.
The chunky 120mm Manitou Magnum fork isn’t for the racetrack.

Can 29+ wheels give this bike a degree of suspension?

This is a question we’ll answer more in-depth in the review, however, what we’ve learned in our time on the Stache so far is that asking if the bike replicates the abilities of a dual suspension trail bike is not the right question to be asking.

The Stache’s strengths include insane levels of traction and a geometry aimed at being able to throw those big hoops around at will. These attributes mean that the riding style required to get the most out of the Stache is different to how you would ride a standard dual-suspension trail bike.

Is this even possible? Could Trek be onto something here? Stay tuned for the review where we’ll discuss this further.

The Bontrager Chupacabra tyres are named after a legendary Latin American goat-slayer, and hold the key to unlocking the Stache's potential.
The Bontrager Chupacabra tyres are named after the legendary Latin American goat-slayer, and hold the key to slaying trails aboard the Stache.

Is there an option to swap wheel sizes if I don’t like the 29+ wheels?

Yes! The Stache’s ‘Stranglehold’ dropouts allow for the bike to be configured in 29+, 27.5+, regular 29”, and even as a singlespeed!

Despite the Stache being more open to change that Donald Trump’s policies, we would definitely recommend giving the Stache a good crack in its original 29+ guise, as the benefits of the 29+ tyres are really what make this bike shine.

The Stache is a highly adaptable bike. Tensioners for singlespeed setup as well as chainstay length adjustment allows for multiple wheel sizes and gearing options.
The Stache is a highly adaptable bike. Tensioners for singlespeed setup as well as chainstay length adjustment allows for multiple wheel sizes and gearing options.
The Stranglehold dropout's elevated chainstay features a protective layer to protect the chainstay from the chain slap.
The Stranglehold Dropout’s elevated chainstay features a protective layer to protect the chainstay from the chain slap.

What advantages do the 29+ wheels provide?

The huge contact patch of the tyres, which can be run at very low pressures when setup tubeless (the Stache ships with rim tape installed as well as tubeless valves) gives insane cornering grip as well as small bump sensitivity to compensate somewhat for the rigid rear end.

Tyre pressure setup on the Stache is more critical than for most other bikes, so we’ve been experimenting with different setups to get the best combination of traction, tyre stability and rolling efficiency.

29+ wheels means the 3" tyres are meatier than the barbeque on Australia Day.
29+ wheels means the 3″ tyres are meatier than the barbeque on Australia Day.

What about the spec?

The aluminium Stache 7 retails for $3299, and includes a Manitou Magnum fork with 34mm stanchions and 120mm of travel, a Sram groupset consisting of 1×11 GX gearing and Level Trail brakes and most of the finishing kit is handled by Bontrager.

The Bontrager Chupacabra tyres have a tread pattern that sits somewhere between a Bontrager XR2 and XR3, and are a good fit out of the box for the Stache. Trek have specced the Stache with SUNringle DUROC rims- we’re interested to see how they perform throughout the review.

Sram's Level Trail brakes have excellent ergonomics, and are a good fit for the Stache.
Sram’s Level Trail brakes have excellent ergonomics and are a good fit for the Stache.
It's odd to see a Trek bike specced without Bontrager rims, so we're interested to see how the SUNringle rims perform.
It’s odd to see a Trek bike specced without Bontrager rims, so we’re interested to see how the SUNringle rims perform.

Any complaints?

Out of the box, the only issues we’ve identified are the befuddling Manitou fork axle, which takes the humble thru-axle to a perplexing level of complexity, and the non-lock-on Bontrager Race grips, which feel very squirmy underhand.

This bike begs for a dropper post! For a bike with such reckless and fun riding capabilities like the Stache, a dropper post is a no-brainer in our eyes.

You shouldn't have to complete a degree in engineering to tighten your fork axle.

You shouldn’t have to complete a degree in engineering to secure your fork axle.

We would love for this lonely dropper post port to be filled out of the box.
We would love for this lonely dropper post port to be filled out of the box.

Where are we going to ride it?

Everywhere! We’ll be riding this bike on all the trails we would normally ride with test bikes, to see if it’s a realistic alternative to a dual-suspension trail bike, so watch out for a full review soon.

Travis Knows What’s Up – Talking Bikes and Stuff with Travis Brown

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.55.12 AM
Throwing back to the late nineties and the VW/Trek Racing Team. 26″ wheels, V-brakes and short socks.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.55.01 AM MBA 4_01_347-2 847S4874-2

Travis was Trek’s first professional mountain bike athlete, signing on the Trek VW Racing Team way back in 1993. In 2005 he may have retired from full time racing, but his responsibilities shifted into turning his incredibly valuable experience into a way of helping develop product.

So, Travis, what’s keeping you busy at Trek these days?

I’m managing the field testing for all mountain bikes, from cross country hardtails to downhill bikes, I have a network of riders that test prototype bikes and products, and deliver me their feedback. They are riders that are just the most ingrained users and can put the miles and time in on those products and bikes.

Who are these lucky people that get to ride secret prototypes?

Everything from trail riders that don’t race, to inspiring neo-pros that are trying to make a career out of racing. I also tap into the pro teams for a resource too, the ones that are interested and willing to take the time to be a developing resource.

What makes a good field tester?

It’s a skill set and a personality with the sensitivity to understand differences between one bike and the next bike, and the ability to communicate that to myself or other product managers and engineers.

Testing the Trek Farley on snow, fat bike territory.
Testing the Trek Farley on snow, fat bike territory.

By the time the product makes it to these field testers, what’s still yet to do?

For the most part a lot of the development has been done by the time I get stuff to my Colorado test group, we’re hopeful that it’s at the level that a consumer would be happy with. But the reason that they have it so far ahead is to find any issues a consumer or retailer may experience, from the tiny fit or compatibility issues, to even how bikes are packaged to a dealer.

_LOW7383
Big momentum and tight handling on the Stache 29+ bike.

In between managing the field testing, I’m also spending time on my own trying to come up with the next innovation along with the other product engineers and core team.

What other racing have you done since?

To understand all the genres of mountain biking since the early days, just take a look at how many categories of trail bikes there are now. While I was still racing I was doing plenty of racing outside the realm of traditional XC, like Super D racing, Enduro. I’ve done some bike packing missions, to understand the evolving segment too.

I was always racing cyclocross as a winter supplement, I find that because of the short duration and style of the course it’s such a dynamic and close racing, loads of passing and for spectators they can see the whole race develop which is a hard thing in bike racing. And in the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of fat bike racing, especially now that we’ve been doing a lot more with fat bikes, with frames and tyre projects in the pipeline.

Bike packing field testing.
Bike packing field testing.

What is a fat bike race?

All on snowpack, they’re traditional cross country lengths for the most part, it’s fun because the conditions of the snow can be so broad. The optimal tyre pressure for one race might be nine pounds of pressure and another race with the same tyre might be three pounds of pressure. Riding the wrong pressures in the wrong conditions you just can’t compete.

Where’s heart of the fat bike racing scene?

Midwest, US. There’s races that have 1000 people at the start, there is a series in Colorado that I do a lot of races, there’s a Great Lakes series, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and obviously Alaska where the whole genre was born.

And this all gave Trek the Farley?

Yep, we’re up to our fourth year with the Farley, just last year the innovations of that bike saw us move from 26” to 27.5” tyres and we found that in the softest conditions we might be running 2 to 5 psi the overarching thing is tyre volume and being efficient over that terrain. So we increase the volume by going wider and bigger diameter.

The core focus for you has been the Farley and Stache?

Yes a lot of Farley and Stache, because those products require unique geometries they require tyres, rims, forks. It’s like building an entire bike from scratch. Finding the best head angle and offset that suits a bike with 27.5 x  4.5” tyres resets everything.

The Stache, it’s  29” plus bike, not something we see a lot of at all, with plus bikes typically using 27.5” wheels? Why 29?

We went with 29 Plus as the dedicated platform for the Stache because the rationale is that if you’re the type of rider willing to take a small weight penalty for a lot of extra control and traction, and the ability to run a low pressure and you’re the same person comparing 27.5 and 29, we went 29”. We prototyped both wheel sizes, 27.5 and 29 as soon as we built a tyre, and for the application of a hardtail we came out with the 29 to be the superior option.

Trek Stache 9.6
Trek Stache 9.6
Stache 7.
Stache 7.

We came up with some pretty creative frame shaping strategies to make the chain stay as short as anyone could possibly want it, with the elevated chain stay design the shortest stay position on the Stache is 405mm and up to 420mm which is short for any type of bike.

A cobbled together 'test mule', the result of this project is the Trek Stache.
A cobbled together ‘test mule’, the result of this project is the Trek Stache.

We tested out a lot of bikes, cobbled together aluminium mules with all sorts of designs, but when we rode the elevated chain stay bike it made the monster truck wheels ride like something it doesn’t look like at all.

What’s the Stache?

Ride one, it’s hard to communicate the capability of a hardtail with 29×3” tyres amongst the realm of trail bikes and long travel dual suspension bikes. Until you ride it words just fall a bit short.

Roo spotting Down Under.
Roo spotting Down Under.

Where should it be ridden?

Anything where traction is a challenge, it is directly related to the tyre pressure you can run in the tyre. Whether you’re running a regular 29” bike and you might get down to 23 psi and the risk of pinch and rolling the tyre, on the Stache you’ll easily run 15-16psi and then there’s so much more rubber on the ground. Cornering, braking and climbing confidence is awesome. You’ll take lines you wouldn’t even dream of.

The key to the Stache's short rear end is in the elevated stays.
The key to the Stache’s short rear end is in the elevated stays.

_LOW7380

To get the same capability on a dual suspension bike the cost goes up, you have the most capability for the dollar on that bike.

Travis Knows What's Up – Talking Bikes and Stuff with Travis Brown

Inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2006, The Durango born and bred legend Travis Brown has helped Trek maintain its place as one of the best mountain bikes you can own. We recently had a great opportunity shoot the wind, ride sweet trails and spot kangaroos with one of the sport’s historic icons.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.55.12 AM
Throwing back to the late nineties and the VW/Trek Racing Team. 26″ wheels, V-brakes and short socks.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.55.01 AM MBA 4_01_347-2 847S4874-2

Travis was Trek’s first professional mountain bike athlete, signing on the Trek VW Racing Team way back in 1993. In 2005 he may have retired from full time racing, but his responsibilities shifted into turning his incredibly valuable experience into a way of helping develop product.

So, Travis, what’s keeping you busy at Trek these days?

I’m managing the field testing for all mountain bikes, from cross country hardtails to downhill bikes, I have a network of riders that test prototype bikes and products, and deliver me their feedback. They are riders that are just the most ingrained users and can put the miles and time in on those products and bikes.

Who are these lucky people that get to ride secret prototypes?

Everything from trail riders that don’t race, to inspiring neo-pros that are trying to make a career out of racing. I also tap into the pro teams for a resource too, the ones that are interested and willing to take the time to be a developing resource.

What makes a good field tester?

It’s a skill set and a personality with the sensitivity to understand differences between one bike and the next bike, and the ability to communicate that to myself or other product managers and engineers.

Testing the Trek Farley on snow, fat bike territory.
Testing the Trek Farley on snow, fat bike territory.

By the time the product makes it to these field testers, what’s still yet to do?

For the most part a lot of the development has been done by the time I get stuff to my Colorado test group, we’re hopeful that it’s at the level that a consumer would be happy with. But the reason that they have it so far ahead is to find any issues a consumer or retailer may experience, from the tiny fit or compatibility issues, to even how bikes are packaged to a dealer.

_LOW7383
Big momentum and tight handling on the Stache 29+ bike.

In between managing the field testing, I’m also spending time on my own trying to come up with the next innovation along with the other product engineers and core team.

What other racing have you done since?

To understand all the genres of mountain biking since the early days, just take a look at how many categories of trail bikes there are now. While I was still racing I was doing plenty of racing outside the realm of traditional XC, like Super D racing, Enduro. I’ve done some bike packing missions, to understand the evolving segment too.

I was always racing cyclocross as a winter supplement, I find that because of the short duration and style of the course it’s such a dynamic and close racing, loads of passing and for spectators they can see the whole race develop which is a hard thing in bike racing. And in the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of fat bike racing, especially now that we’ve been doing a lot more with fat bikes, with frames and tyre projects in the pipeline.

Bike packing field testing.
Bike packing field testing.

What is a fat bike race?

All on snowpack, they’re traditional cross country lengths for the most part, it’s fun because the conditions of the snow can be so broad. The optimal tyre pressure for one race might be nine pounds of pressure and another race with the same tyre might be three pounds of pressure. Riding the wrong pressures in the wrong conditions you just can’t compete.

Where’s heart of the fat bike racing scene?

Midwest, US. There’s races that have 1000 people at the start, there is a series in Colorado that I do a lot of races, there’s a Great Lakes series, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and obviously Alaska where the whole genre was born.

And this all gave Trek the Farley?

Yep, we’re up to our fourth year with the Farley, just last year the innovations of that bike saw us move from 26” to 27.5” tyres and we found that in the softest conditions we might be running 2 to 5 psi the overarching thing is tyre volume and being efficient over that terrain. So we increase the volume by going wider and bigger diameter.

The core focus for you has been the Farley and Stache?

Yes a lot of Farley and Stache, because those products require unique geometries they require tyres, rims, forks. It’s like building an entire bike from scratch. Finding the best head angle and offset that suits a bike with 27.5 x  4.5” tyres resets everything.

The Stache, it’s  29” plus bike, not something we see a lot of at all, with plus bikes typically using 27.5” wheels? Why 29?

We went with 29 Plus as the dedicated platform for the Stache because the rationale is that if you’re the type of rider willing to take a small weight penalty for a lot of extra control and traction, and the ability to run a low pressure and you’re the same person comparing 27.5 and 29, we went 29”. We prototyped both wheel sizes, 27.5 and 29 as soon as we built a tyre, and for the application of a hardtail we came out with the 29 to be the superior option.

Trek Stache 9.6
Trek Stache 9.6
Stache 7.
Stache 7.

We came up with some pretty creative frame shaping strategies to make the chain stay as short as anyone could possibly want it, with the elevated chain stay design the shortest stay position on the Stache is 405mm and up to 420mm which is short for any type of bike.

A cobbled together 'test mule', the result of this project is the Trek Stache.
A cobbled together ‘test mule’, the result of this project is the Trek Stache.

We tested out a lot of bikes, cobbled together aluminium mules with all sorts of designs, but when we rode the elevated chain stay bike it made the monster truck wheels ride like something it doesn’t look like at all.

What’s the Stache?

Ride one, it’s hard to communicate the capability of a hardtail with 29×3” tyres amongst the realm of trail bikes and long travel dual suspension bikes. Until you ride it words just fall a bit short.

Roo spotting Down Under.
Roo spotting Down Under.

Where should it be ridden?

Anything where traction is a challenge, it is directly related to the tyre pressure you can run in the tyre. Whether you’re running a regular 29” bike and you might get down to 23 psi and the risk of pinch and rolling the tyre, on the Stache you’ll easily run 15-16psi and then there’s so much more rubber on the ground. Cornering, braking and climbing confidence is awesome. You’ll take lines you wouldn’t even dream of.

The key to the Stache's short rear end is in the elevated stays.
The key to the Stache’s short rear end is in the elevated stays.

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To get the same capability on a dual suspension bike the cost goes up, you have the most capability for the dollar on that bike.