Flow’s First Bite: Trek Powerfly LT 9 Plus

Trek’s new 2019 Powerfly gives no mixed messages about its intentions. It is chunky, long, robust and built like a tank. With 160/150mm of travel, 40mm wide rims with 2.8″ tyres, e-bike specific FOX 36 the spec is undoubtedly up for a thrashing, and the chassis also. The newly integrated battery does wonders in making a long-travel e-bike look quite sleek, a contender for the best-looking e-bike of the year in a category of some very clunky looking opposition.

We attended the official launch of the 2019 Powerfly LT in Mammoth Mountain, California earlier this year to get the full story from the horse’s mouth, and now it’s time to sink our teeth into the bike on our home trails. We’ll be comparing the Powerfly LT to the latest crop of popular bikes available in Australia to get a better understanding of its strengths. We’ve had a lot of e-bikes come across our desks lately, the new Specialized Levo is with us, as is the super-light Focus Jam2 and long-travel Sam2. The Merida e-One Sixty is also a close bike to draw comparisons too.



What we are looking for in this review.

The Powerfly LT is a big bike, there’s no hiding the fact it’s a lot longer than the competition, we might sound like a broken record when we quote the length of the Powerfly LT’s chainstays – 474mm – but it’s a what sets it apart from the rest. With more bike behind you, it’ll claw up the steepest climbs darn well, with the front end losing control and wandering about. Hop up out of the saddle, and the traction is still there, it feels like the rear wheel could only break traction on only the slipperiest and steepest climbs.

But too how much is the length of the bike to its detriment? What type of rider will appreciate it, and what trails is it best suited to?

The new Powerfly LT is a contender for the most ‘regular looking’ e-bike on the market. It is super sleek.

After a couple of rides, what do we think so far?

We know our local trails like the back of our hands, and the Powerfly LT tackled them with guts and confidence. The generous suspension and robust chassis felt like we could push it harder, and when it came to a particular climb that we base many of our test bike’s climbing prowess on, it cleaned it like it was nothing. This thing climbs steep singletrack a lot easier than the Levo or Jam2, no doubt about it.

The Powerfly LT is dressed for severe riding; we expect it’ll be one bike that we explore its limits on the climbs as well as the descents.

No Powerfly LT review would be complete without quoting the chainstay length.

Testing continues.

We’re going to spend a few more weeks on the Powerfly LT to see where it fits in, catch you on the other side!

 

Is Gravel the new Road? Updates and Upgrades to our Trek Checkpoint

Trek’s first real dedicated gravel bike, the Checkpoint is a pretty cool beast, with loads of unique frame designs to give it a very distinct feel to its road bike brethren, cyclocross cousins or anything else in the catalogue.

But, after a few rides on the type of terrain that it is built for, we saw room for improvement:

  • Lower gear range for steep climbs.
  • Quieter drivetrain.
  • Lighter wheels, of course.
  • Tubeless tyres for confidence in the rough.
  • Increased braking power on long descents.

We’ve put our names down for an upcoming gravel event, the Gravel Grit Laguna, a 76km ride through the Onley State Forest, near Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. In preparation we’re lining up a few test gravel bikes, a Canyon Grail is confirmed to join us, as well as this beauty.

Many adventures planned with this one, now with a renewed amount of pizazz.
Long days out on dirt roads and loving it!

So, we set out to give the Checkpoint a makeover, ok, maybe we went a little overboard, but you get the drift of what we were hoping to achieve.

Lower range please, dirt roads can get steep!

Look, we’re no Contador, Pantani or Valverde, the climbs are hard on our average ability, so we need the gears to be able to sit down and spin while we talk to our adventurous gravel comrades about anything but bikes. The gearing that came on this bike was a little tall, in our opinion and thus conversation would go quite, replaced with groans and awkward silence as we pushed hard at a very low cadence.

Hooray for compact gearing! To our rescue, Shimano’s Ultegra R800 11-speed cranks with 46-36 teeth chainrings give a lower overall range than the 50-34.

We’ll see how we go with this setup; perhaps a wider range cassette would still be needed, especially if we’re carrying a lot of gear on long rides.

Lower range for the win, phew! 46-36 vs 50-34 it replaced.

Shhhhh, it’s peaceful out here.

Shimano gave us hints of what is potentially in the pipeline for the booming gravel segment with the new Ultegra RX rear derailleur. It’s like an XT and Ultegra combined, the slim Shadow shape with a clutch to stabilise the chain. We saw this derailleur appear on many pro road bikes at this year’s Paris Roubaix, combatting dropped chains and boosting confidence to maintain strong power on the pedals when the bike is kicking around like mad over the rough cobbled surfaces.

Shimano’s new Ultegra RX rear derailleur with chain stabilisation we see on mountain bike derailleurs.
Switch on for rough roads.

The RX derailleur just like the mountain bike derailleurs can be switched on and off, for gentle rides, it can remain off for a lighter shift action but is best engaged when the surfaces are unpredictable.

So far the drivetrain feels markedly more composed, the outgoing 105 mech felt far cheaper and less precise.

All upgrades start at the wheels, right?

Nothing beats dropping some grams out of the wheels to make improvements to a bike, with the Shimano RS770 dropping serious weight from the bike while adding more precision and direction to the ride quality.

The Shimano R770 wheelset is their answer for the gravel and cyclocross segment.
Carbon bonded to aluminium, like most carbon wheels from Shimano.

The R770 are a 1639g set of carbon laminate wheels, disc brake specific with 17mm internal width rims. Shimano’s recommendation is a tyre width range between 25-38mm, we’ll definitely be at the upper end of the spectrum when we select tyres for an upcoming gravel event this summer.

These wheels are also tubeless ready and sealed up with the Schwalbe tyres in the blink of an eye. We failed to convert the Bontrager wheels to tubeless, despite many attempts, the tubes went back in. But no with a successful tubeless installation, these wheels give us a lot more confidence to relax when rocks inevitably hit the rims.

Brake power can never be in short supply.

We found ourselves in a few situations when the Shimano brakes on the Checkpoint were not ideal. Namely during long descents when you are riding the brakes to keep your speed under control, and then you need to bunker down and brake harder to change a line or make a corner. The heat building up in the brakes would become too much, and the power would fade away, not a great scenario.

Shimano is well-known for impressive heat management systems in their mountain bike brakes, the XTR Trail Brakes we have on another long-term test bike manage brake fade a whole lot better than the comparable SRAM Guide brakes that share a lot of bike spec. So, what if we tried Ice-Tech rotors on this bike?

Ice-Tech FREEZA rotors to manage heat buildup on long descents.

With a set of last seasons 11-speed Dura Ace brakes, shift levers and Ice-Tech FREEZA rotors this bike has been transformed. We appreciate that this type of upgrade is a significant cost, but us mountain bikers put a lot of value on good brakes.

Clean cockpit.
Bontrager Kovee saddle with a firmer shape than the original one.
XTR pedals, no other option for us.
Taking the sting out the road, the Checkpoint’s Iso-Speed frame decoupler system.
Bulk protection under the frame, come at us, rocks!

What’s next?

Rubber! Bigger, chunkier rubber.

See you out there!

Trek Checkpoint – Ditching Road for Gravel, Test Update

We’ve grown quite fond of this thing, and the result is the traditional road bike in the garage has been gathering dust. We ride mountain bikes for the fun of it and to get outdoors, we ride road bikes to go long distances and hopefully get ‘fitter’. Combining the two is made simple with a gravel bike, the Checkpoint is a comfortable and versatile rig that we are really enjoying riding.


For a more detailed look at the Checkpoint, check out our first impressions article here. Trek Checkpoint SL 5.


Watch the video for an update on the review.


We’ve received the new Shimano Ultegra RX rear derailleur for review, which is essentially a combination of a road and mountain bike derailleur, using the clutch mechanism to stabilise the chain over the bumps for a quieter ride and less risk of a dropped chain. A handy addition as the 105 derailleur currently fitted is low on the tension required to keep the chain from slapping about on rough gravel roads.

That’s what we’re talking about, back country roads for days!

The ISO Speed decoupler at the seat tube is designed to add compliance to the ride.

The brakes are going to score an update too, with the Shimano Dura Ace units adding power and hopefully resisting fade on the longer descents, as some of the fast roads over the mountain ranges we’ve been riding have us feeling a little nervous when we’re used to the power of mountain bike brakes!

We’ll be back, so stay tuned for an update soon, there are backcountry roads to explore.

New 2019 Trek Powerfly – First Impressions.

The bike industry is in full e-swing, with new e-bikes releasing faster than iPhones or GoPros. While Trek might have been a little late to the party – with their first pedal assist mountain bike released just in 2016 – their new 2019 models, however, send a strong message. A lot of resources have been thrown behind their electric bike program, and it certainly will pay off, the new Powerfly is a very well considered package.


Hear our first impressions in the video below.


The long travel Powerfly LT is built for going everywhere, fast.

What’s new?

  • Three models available with the addition of a new LT (long travel dual suspension model) with 160mm travel forks, 150mm travel in the rear.
  • A new OCLV carbon frame version of the Powerfly LT (ooooh yeah!).
  • All three models; hardtail, FS, LT use a new fully integrated Bosch battery inside the downtube.
  • New Bosch e-MTB mode equipped.
  • E-bike specific forks, more robust and tuned specifically.
  • Four-piston brakes on all LT models, and sintered brake pads across the range.
  • SRAM Eagle on higher models with the new steel Eagle NX cassette.
  • 2.8″ Bontrager XR4 tyres with reinforced sidewalls.
  • The integrated battery allows for water bottle and tool storage mounts.
  • New and improved Bontrager Line dropper post.
  • Same frame geometry as 2018 FS and hardtail models.

Long travel Powerfly, where have you been all this time?

Previously only available from select overseas markets, the LT is finally coming Down Under. The Powerfly we reviewed last year was the FS model, with 130mm travel front and back. Certainly a great bike, but it didn’t take much for it to feel a little under-gunned when we took it to more technical trails or descents.

Adding travel to e-bikes doesn’t seem to have the drawbacks that regular bikes do, more is good!

It’s as if the venerable Trek Slash got struck by lightning, or fell into the cauldron of magic potion, this is a long travel bike with superpowers! The suspension felt like what we’d expect from Trek; balanced, consistent and well suited to the cause.

We spent a big day riding big mountains on the Powerfly LT 7 Plus – a non-Australian spec model – we will see two models of the LT, the LT 9 and carbon LT 9.7 pictured below.

It’s as if the venerable Trek Slash got struck by lightning, or fell into the cauldron of magic potion, this is a long travel bike with superpowers!

Ooooh, an OCLV Powerfly. Carbon tech meets e-bikes, a great combination. This is the Powerfly LT Plus 9.7, coming to Australia for a reasonable $8499.

A long travel model, however, is just the ticket to unlocking the Powefly’s true potential. We often don’t see the point in an e-MTB with less than 150mm of travel, with so much power at your disposal, lugging a larger bike around is no big deal. When you need a little more cushion for the push’n, a 160mm travel fork is just what you need to let the brakes off and push it.

Bosch’s new e-MTB mode.

While it’s simply just a mode setting, it makes the world of difference to how the bike rides. Selecting e-MTB mode on the display unit is like putting your camera into auto-mode, no, much better than that.

e-MTB mode, a very intuitive power delivery setting for a more natural ride.

The whole idea of the e-MTB mode is to naturalise the feeling of power delivery, so the response feels much more like a normal mountain bike under pedalling forces – it delivers a less aggressive power output if you’re pedalling slowly and gently, ramping up the juice when you’re hammering at the pedals.

The whole idea of e-MTB mode is to naturalise the feeling of power delivery, so the response feels much more like a normal mountain bike under pedalling forces

Read more about Bosch’s e-MTB mode and how it works here: Bosch e-MTB mode explained.

We tried riding in the three other modes – Eco, Tour, Turbo – and kept returning to e-MTB, it’s ideal.

Same geometry as 2018 models.

While it wasn’t music to our ears, news that the Powerfly’s frame geometry remained the same as last year, we do agree that Trek has made their decision after much consideration.

Unstoppable climbing ability, this is a go-anywhere machine.

When reviewing the Powerfly FS 7 last year, we had criticisms of the long chainstays making it harder to muscle what are already heavy bikes around on the trails. At 475mm it’s one of the longest out there, what does that mean?

See our review of the 2018 model Powerfly FS here.

Well, with so much bike behind you, lifting the front end up by the bars requires a whole lot of effort, and on the trails that translates to a bike that you become a bit of a passenger on, steering it through the trails rather than hopping or manualling around. We’ve ridden plenty of e-bikes with shorter stays and despite the inherent weight of a motorised bike, you can still ride them like a regular bike.

Bombs away!

On the flipside, a longer rear centre makes the Powerfly the best climbing e-bike we’ve ridden, hands down. Even with a tall 160mm fork, we took it up the nastiest inclines on the slipperiest surface with very little effort, the front end never lifted or wandered side to side. Their climbing manners are first rate.

Their climbing manners are first rate.

Climbs vs descents, stability vs agility, Toyota Landcruiser Troopy vs Suzuki Vitari? Everybody is different, we understand that. Though a middle-ground to build a more agile bike even at the sacrifice of climbing ability would be our preference.

E-Bike spec in the bag.

With the component manufactures sorting out their end of the deal and producing more parts that meet the demands of e-bikes, Trek has more to choose from. The 2019 range will have more four-piston brakes specced, tougher tyres, steel Eagle NX 12-speed cassettes and more robust forks that are tuned specifically for the heavier bikes.

Final thoughts.

While our opinions on the frame geometry remain, we appreciate that we might approach e-bikes different to others. The new bikes are very dialled, the new integrated battery will fool anyone from afar thinking it’s a regular bike, it is so aesthetically clean. And the addition of Bosch’s e-MTB mode is really clever, the bike rides very naturally.

We’re hoping to score a ride on the Powerfly 9.7 LT, to see how the OCLV carbon frame changes things, so keep your eyes out for more.

For more on the Australian range of Powerfly models head to Trek’s site here. Yiew, Powerfly!

Trek Full Stache 8 Tested – 29er Plus Bike Madness!

What crazy contraption is this?

Trek has taken their 29″+ bike – The Stache – and adapted it to a full suspension trail eating monster. We had a jolly good time riding the Kermit green Stache hardtail last year, its 3″ tyres and agile handling promoted very unorthodox riding, it’s a blast. Check that out here – Trek Stache hardtail review.

What would 29×3″ wheels do for you?
Fun times exploring the boundaries of traction.

It won’t take a rocket scientist to assume that 3″ tyres provide gobs of traction, however, with the addition of 130mm of rear suspension could this bike be an un-crashable, go-anywhere bike that you’re after to make light work of challenging terrain?

Plus bikes, are they back, or did they never go anywhere?

We’ve seen plus bikes come on strong and somewhat fade away, the high volume 3″ tyred traction hounds barged their way onto the mountain bike scene a couple of years ago to a very mixed response. We ranked some of them well, while others were a little too loafy and slow, we found they suited some trails well but lacked overall performance. We settled on the very general statement that plus bikes are great on sub-2K hardtails for entry-level riders on technical terrain, or on short-travel duallies for riders that require bulk traction for their conditions.

Since then, the rise of 2.6″ tyres have nearly made the classic 3″ tyred plus bike somewhat redundant, take the Canyon SpectralPivot Mach 5.5 or Merida One-Forty for example. The 2.6″ tyres on 30-35mm rims had many traction benefits of plus tyres, but still retained the predictability and support of a 2.4-2.5″ tyre.

Bontrager has stepped up and produced a proper tyre for hard riding, too. The 3″ Chupacabra on the earlier model Stache hardtail was quite vague with its very rounded profile. The Full Stache, however, comes with a 3″ version of their immensely popular XR4 tyre which we’ve had great experiences with on their Trek Remedy and Fuel EX. They have proper bite, not just a large contact patch.

Grip that.
The Full Stache combines momentum of a 29er with the traction of plus bike into a lively package.

Who’s keen enough to make a 29″ plus bike?

Trek isn’t afraid to give things a go, take a look at their entire range and compare them to other brands with such a representation in the market. In comparison to the other big guns; Giant, Scott and Specialized they produce come pretty quirky bikes for niche areas of cycling. We can imagine the engineering department dreaming up ways to make 29×3″ wheels work in conjunction with dual suspension.

Quite a wild looking frame you have there!

To fit everything in, Trek has had to get very creative with the frame design. While the Full-Stache is based on the Fuel EX platform, it looks so different.

The chainstay measurement is 427mm, quite considerably shorter than the Norco Sight 29er, Trek Fuel EX and Santa Cruz High Tower.

A stumpy little headtube helps the bars stay low despite the tall wheels.
The suspension pivot has been shifted forwards to make space for the wheel and short 427mm stays.
All the regular frame features found on Trek’s suspension bikes are here; the Active Braking Pivot, impact protection and the Knock Block and geometry adjustment via the Mino Link.
Check out how close the tyre is to the chainring, the ultra-short 427mm stays mean the main suspension pivot needed relocation in front of the BB.

The head tube is tiny, reaching a comfortable height for the handlebars was easy despite the tall wheels. It will no doubt receive a few odd looks but consider what they’ve achieved; we forgive it for appearing a little unconventional.

Let’s ride!

Punching down rocks, and back up the other side.

The Full Stache looks big, but spinning around the block we were surprised to find the steering quite light and the wheels didn’t feel too far away from the centre of the bike like we feared. The frame’s geometry puts you nice and low in the bike and standover height is very generous; it’s odd seeing the tyres so close to you! Give the bike a bounce and with 18 psi in the big balloons it feels like you have swapped out running shoes for enormous basketball shoes. Charging at the gutters the bike doesn’t flinch, wind it up to speed and grab a handful of brake and the tyres let out a roar, sounding like someone is attempting to ice skate down their driveway in summer.

Our first trip to the trails was a fun one, we were pretty open-minded about it, and because of that we weren’t too critical of its appearance, we just wanted to see what it was capable of. The Full Stache is easy to ride, it seems undeterred by loose surfaces and remains quite relaxed down narrow or rocky steep chutes.

Climbing anything in our path.

Coming to a dead stop at the bottom of a steep singletrack climb we kicked over the pedals and up it went, the rear wheel clawing away at the loose surface but never losing traction. Climbing steep gradients, the low front end resisted lifting, and the low 30T chainring and huge 12-speed spread of gears ensured you wouldn’t run out of puff. It does climb some pretty crazy stuff! It’s fun to tackle lines we typically avoided.

At higher speeds, the big wheels wind up and pull you along for the ride, high-speed corners are a blast with the XR4 tyres biting in the dirt and the low pressures conforming to the ground. The rear end does, however, exhibit a certain vagueness when you hit turns hard and fast; the tall wheel, big air volume and unconventional rear stays contribute to a rear end that is not as laterally stiff as a regular 29er. Though as one of our testers put it; it’s not a race bike.

Back-to-back with a regular 29er.

For a clear comparison test, we took the Full Stache out riding alongside the Norco Sight 29er. We know the Norco well, like the back of our gloves, so we swapped back and forth over a day to ascertain what bike did what, and what type of trail conditions suited either bike best.

Toe-to-toe with a regular 29er, the Norco Sight.

The Sight does have slightly more travel front and back and it is lighter than the Full Stache, with its carbon wheels, frame and high-end spec, but we paid particular attention to the tyres and how the bike handles as a result. No clocks were used in this experiment, that’d be silly.

It was no surprise that the Sight’s smaller tyres and lower weight felt more lively on the trail. In comparison, the Full Stache felt like it had twice the momentum behind it and we mowed over stuff with brute force rather than picking lines or making quick decisions. The 2.35″ Schwalbe Nobby Nic’s at around 22-25 psi would slip on the loosest climbs that the Full Stache could manage, requiring more effort to get to the top.

The Sight would make direction changes easier and faster while the Full Stache seemed less picky. The Full Stache could tackle things the Sight couldn’t and felt a lot more comfortable, requiring less energy to cruise through singletrack with a relaxed grip on the bars.

Who’d go Full Stache?

While the Fuel EX would suit 90% of trail riders, there are 10% of riders that might want to get a little crazy on the trails. Perhaps you struggle to remain upright and rubber side down, or battle with tricky surfaces? If so you might relish in the Full Stache’s sure-footedness and confidence inspiring unlimited traction.

It’s probably overkill for the most part, but what it is capable of doing and not it’s all-rounder abilities are its strength. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s called a Full Stache, remember.

Trek Checkpoint SL 5 – First Impressions

Grab your flannel shirt, lace-up shoes and enamel camping mug, Trek has a new bike that might just be what you’ve been looking for. The all-new Checkpoint 5 SL might confuse you as to what it is exactly, but in fact, Trek has let you decide yourself what to do with it, so far what we can tell is they’re calling it a; ‘gravel bike for epic all-road adventures’.

We know what we’ll do with it – adventures! – but before we give it a run to the hills let’s take a look at this unique animal in closer detail.

So many things to look at.

It might look like a road bike from afar but take a couple steps closer and you’ll notice frame features you’d never see on a classic road bike. We’re talking about; rack/utility mounts, multiple water bottle cage mounts, loads of tyre clearance, 12mm thru-axles, impact protection under the downtube, and an adjustable wheelbase.

Thick bar tape and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.
Robust frame shapes, loads of mounts for carrying stuff and protection from debris.
Flat mount disc brakes on both ends. Braking performance is paramount.

IsoSpeed decoupler, the fancy little bump-diffuser.

As seen on the Trek Procaliber is Trek’s unique vibration dampening system; IsoSpeed. Seen on Trek’s cross-country hardtail; the Procaliber, the Boone cyclocross bike and their endurance road bike, Domane.

The seat tube is a separate piece from the top and down tubes, for less feedback when seated.

It’s like the tiniest bit of suspension to take the sting out of the road.

It essentially uses a bushing and axle arrangement at the junction of the seat tube and top tube to allow the seat post to bend backwards independently from the top tube, adding comfort when seated. The top tube and seat tube tube are completely separate parts, joined by the decoupler unit.

It’s like the tiniest bit of suspension to take the sting out of the road.

See the IsoSpeed used for the purpose of mountain biking here: Trek Procaliber review.

Flow ‘GravelCross’ Bike, sorry, what?

We are aware that our name Flow Mountain Bike is completely void of words like ‘cyclocross’ or ‘gravel’, nor do we profess to be experts in the field of gravel but we’ve ridden quite a few nowadays, and our road bikes are gathering dust because of it. What’s going on?

C’mon, we know mountain bikers are hard on road bikes. There are even gravel events popping up like this one!

Isn’t it just a cyclocross bike?

In comparison to Trek’s cyclocross bike – The Boone – the Checkpoint’s frame geometry is lower in the bottom bracket, taller up the front and has considerably more tyre clearance. The adjustable wheelbase will provide the rider with the ability to select a fast and agile feel, or long and stable.

A wide range of gears for going everywhere.

Other gravel bikes we’ve recently tried out.

Norco’s Search XR shares a lot of features with the Checkpoint, check out the chainstays, multiple mounts, tyre clearance etc. Have a look here.

Cannondale Super X SE is an adaption from a cyclocross race bike for the gravel, a fast bike indeed! Check it out here.

Checkpoint options?

Trek provides the Checkpoint in three models, the SL 6 for $4699 is the top-end carbon frame version with the fancy Shimano Ultegra, the SL 5 we have sells for $3699 with Shimano 105. The ALR 5 uses a is aluminium frame option for $2699.

What now?

We are excited about this bike for a few reasons; like we said our road bikes are gathering dust, so we’ll punch out some ‘training’ km on this for a while. But more exciting is we are planning an adventure where a road bike would not survive (it’d most certainly explode) and a mountain bike would be overkill, plus we’ll be carrying a lot of gear. Presto, we have the right tool for the job! How convenient, Trek…

Trek Powerfly 7 FS E-Bike – Ridden and Rated

Who does the Trek Powerfly 7 FS suit?

The Trek Powerfly 7 FS isn’t one of those e-bikes designed to replace a shuttle van or chairlift. With 130mm travel at both ends, this bike is built as more of an all-rounder, rather than a pedal-assisted downhill weapon. Its forte is long cross-country rides, letting the generous range supplied by the Bosch motor system take you to places you’d normally avoid or put in the too-hard-too-far basket.

Trek powerfly
The Bosch Performance CX motor has plenty of grunt.

We knocked out rides well over 50km long and always finished with plenty of power left in the battery. Of the four modes you can run the bike in, we spent most of our time in the Tour mode, which gave plenty of assistance for a lightweight rider, though heavier riders will probably use the Sport mode more. The Turbo mode is off-the-charts powerful, and for us was more of a novelty than anything else.

Unlike the Trek Fuel, which rolls on 29er wheels, the Powerfly uses the 27.5+ format, with 2.8″ Schwalbe Nobby Nics on 40mm-wide rims. With great power comes great traction responsibility.

Trek powerfly
23.3kg of go-anywhere machine.
Trek powerfly
We set the Schwalbe tyres up tubeless and they were great.

Here I am!

Hard to miss it, hey? Subtly is not this bike’s caper – it’s got all the impact of a fire engine, in its bold red livery and with that massive down tube. The size of the tube isn’t just a product of fitting in the battery, it also provides a tremendously stiff core to the frame as well, a hallmark of the recent generation of Trek dual suspension bikes.

Trek powerfly
Look at that girth.

Look more closely and there’s a lot of finer detail to appreciate too. The smooth integration of the motor, battery and cabling is superb, and the build quality is typical Trek – top shelf.  A small amount of geometry adjustment is available via the Mino Link (we ran it in the slack setting).

Trek powerfly
The Mino Link offers a small amount of BB and head angle adjustment.
Trek powerfly
Attention to detail – 10/10.

About that fork…

Our bone of contention with the Powerfly is the fork this bike comes with, a basic RockShox Recon Silver. It’s just not up to scratch. We get it; building an e-bike is expensive, pricepoints need to be hit. But compromising in an area like the fork doesn’t make sense to us, particularly when you’ve got the weight and momentum of an e-bike to grapple with. We ultimately fitted one of the new FOX e-bike optimised 34 forks, which let us ride the bike to its full capacity.

We swapped out the RockShox Recon for a FOX 34 in order to get the most out of the bike.
We’d have liked a more bitey set of brakes, but at least the lever feel is light and consistent.

Buttery supportiveness

Trek always deliver in the rear suspension department, and the Powerfly nails it once again. We’ve ridden many an e-bike where the rear end seems to struggle a little (the extra weight of the bike, coupled with the mass of the heavy wheels perhaps), but the Powerfly is on top of the game. The rear end has a brilliant progressiveness to it, staying up in its travel nicely, saving the last 20% for the truly nasty hits.

Trek powerfly
The rear suspension performance is a real highlight.

Let’s torque about it

Bosch provide the grunty motor. There’s a tonne of low-down power here, and when you combine it with the climbing gears offered by the 46-tooth Shimano cassette, even the heaviest riders on the steepest climbs aren’t going to be left wanting for more power or gear range. Our only criticism of the Bosch system is the bulky display unit. It doesn’t need to be so big, surely, and it looks ripe for destruction sitting up there!

Trek powerfly
Note both the down tube and motor protection.
Go fast buttons.
We rode for 3hrs plus and still had plenty of juice left in the tank.

Longer than a wet weekend

When it comes to the handling of the Powerfly, the bike’s long chain stay play a big role. At 474mm, the Powerfly’s rear-centre measurement is one of the longest on the market, and this has both positive and negatives implications in our mind.

E-bikes all have pretty lengthy rear ends – you’ve got to fit the motor in somehow – but the Trek is at the longer end of the spectrum.

Climbs like Bitcoin

The biggest upside of the Powerfly’s long chain stay is the way it climbs, particularly when it’s steep and loose. Keep your butt in the saddle and the traction is exceptional, you’ll climb things that you’d never have dreamed of.

But not a playful ride

If you’re looking for an e-bike that handles just like a regular mountain bike, then this isn’t it. Getting the front wheel into the air takes plenty of body language, it prefers to stay on the ground. And when descending steep, technical terrain the long stays push your centre of gravity forward when compared to a bike with a shorter rear end.

Trek powerfly
The ABP suspension system is Trek’s answer to reducing the impact of braking forces on the suspension.

All up then?

There’s a lot to like about this bike, so it’s a downer that the fork is below par. Finger crossed Trek take this feedback on board for future versions of this bike. While the Powerfly didn’t blow us away on tricky, technical descents, that’s not really what this bike is aimed at. It excels at exploration, long cross country rides, or hooning flat-out up and down fireroads and smooth singletrack, so if that sounds like your bag, give it a look.

 

 

 

Video: Best of Trek C3 Project Summer Video Series

At its core, freestyle mountain biking is an expression of creativity. The same lines can be ridden by hundreds of riders, but only those with the mark of greatness can bring a distinct style to the biggest terrain. Relive all your favourite C3 freestyle moments from 2017 here.

Watch Brandon Semenuk’s full video here.

Trek Powerfly 7 FS: First Impressions

Hooley dooley, it looks like a fire truck. What’s the Trek Powerfly 7 FS about?

The Trek Powerfly FS is the e-bike e-quivalent of the Trek Fuel, in terms of suspension travel and intended usage. It runs 130mm travel at both ends, but rather than the 29″ wheels found on the Fuel, the Powerfly rolls on 27.5″ wheels with 2.8″ Schwalbe rubber. Plus sized rubber is pretty common in the e-bike world, giving you the grip to make the most of the power on tap.

Check out the bumpers on the down tube to protect the frame from the fork crowns. The tradeoff for the huge down tube is massive stiffness.

While we’re starting to see more and more long-travel e-bikes, this one is intended as an all-round trail bike. Trek do have a more aggro version of the Powerfly too, the LT, but it’s not available in Australia yet. Insert face-palm and crying face emojis here.

The Schwalbe 2.8″ Nobby Nics are setup tubeless and feel pretty tough in the sidewalls actually.

What’s under the hood?

Bosch have been given the job of making you feel invincible on the climbs. The Performance CX Line 250W motor is a mountain bike specific unit with gobs of power and a 500 amH battery, which is nestled nicely in the down tube.

The Bosch system has an e-MTB specific drive mode too, which automatically alters the power output to suit your pedalling forces, rather than forcing you to toggle between power modes. We actually tested this mode out a few months ago on a Bosch e-bike demo day, read about it here.

We swapped the fork out. Sorry Trek.

The Powerfly 7FS comes with a basic RockShox Recon fork. Ermahgawd… We understand that a motor ain’t cheap, but this is still a $6500 bike, it should not come with a fork that is commonly found on a $1200 hardtail.

We have fitted a FOX 34 e-bike optimised fork.

We didn’t even leave the workshop till we’d swapped the Recon out for something more appropriate, taking this opportunity to try out one of FOX’s new e-bike optimised numbers. These get a stiffer chassis than a conventional FOX 34 and a damper tune that was originally intended for the bigger hits of Enduro racing, which is what you really want with the extra weight and speed of an e-bike.

The Trek Fuel series is a long-standing favourite of ours, so we’re looking forward to seeing how it goes with a little bit of battery behind it! Stay tuned.

Tested: Bontrager Line Pro 30 Wheels

Saying the two words ‘carbon’ and ‘wheel’ would send your credit card running to hide under the couch, with brands like Reynolds, ENVE doing wheels around and above the $3K mark, yikes! Sure, there is carbon, and there is ‘carbon’, and there is also a myriad of lesser-known or even imitation brands selling wheels for under $1500.

The Line 30 are a $1698 pair of wheels for the trail/all-mountain/enduro segment, available in 27.5″ and 29″ in Boost hub spacing only.

The Bontrager Line 30s are understated in appearance, with the graphics sealed under a clear coat, so no peeling stickers!

Bontrager’s name is a very reputable one; they only do quality stuff, found primarily on Trek bikes. Though over the last few years we’ve seen products like their tyres, saddles, shoes, helmets and wheels become some of the best, and worthy to fit on any brand of bike. We doubt we’d have the same confidence with many other bike brand’s in-house componentry lines.


Cool, so they aren’t over the top expensive, and we dig Bontrager’s stuff. How did the wheels ride?

Stiff, very stiff. We fitted the Line 30s to our Norco Sight after an excellent term riding the Wheelworks Flite Wide Alloy wheels; a 35mm wide aluminium wheelset handbuilt in Wellington, NZ. The Wheelworks wheels felt great, they had a huge air volume and we relished in running lower tyre pressures for traction and feel. Swapping to the narrower profile Bontrager wheels which measure 29mm internally, the bike instantly felt less supple, but definitely more direct and laterally stiff.

Upgrading to carbon wheels added rigidity and speed to our Norco.

The freehub in the rear wheel feels nice and solid with great engagement and a sophisticated sound of quality. We only serviced it once, and give the sealing and ease of serviceability two thumbs up. And after five months of hammering, they are straight and true, never requiring any attention with a spoke key to tension or straighten.


Stiff is good, right?

Well, yes, and no, the best wheels achieve a balance. We’ve ridden wheels that are too stiff that lack feel and compliance, and on the other hand, we’ve found plenty of wheels with underwhelming performance due to their lateral rigidity.

We’d say they the Bontragers are on the stiffer end of stiff-o-meter providing a very direct feeling when you move the bike around and jump hard on the cranks. Holding a straight line through a rock-strewn trail or sliding the wheels sideways with the rear brake on displayed a wheel with good feel and a nice balance of stiffness and compliance.

Rolling along the 1700g set of wheels feels light and fast, a worthy upgrade to add some speed to your steed, for sure.


Arrgh, the terror of the tubeless rim strips!

In our first impressions piece on the wheels, we praised the hard plastic tubeless rim strips. We expected them to be robust, removable without the need for sticking tape, and to provide a firm connection between the bead of the tyre for a strong bond between tyre and rim. But my-oh-my was that last part true. The tyre and rim strip practically glued together after three months of use, the Schwalbe Performance Nobby Nic and Magic Mary with a standard dose of Orange Seal tubeless sealant were stuck on the wheels, no matter how hard we tried.

The hard plastic tubeless rim strips are a great concept but drove us up the wall.
We traded the supplied strips for standard tubeless rim tape.

We did find the thick plastic strips to make tyre installation a little tight, but it was the removal that had us swearing and bringing out unconventional techniques in an attempt to release the tyre’s bead from the inside of the rim strip. It broke us. We eventually (many failed attempts) broke the tyre away using a thin tyre lever, and have since removed the supplied strips and installed plain old tubeless rim tape, and we’ve not encountered any issue since. No rolling tyres off at low pressures, leaking air or anything. Maybe it was an unfortunate combination of Orange Seal sealant and Schwalbe tyres? We don’t know, but that’s just what happened.


Yay, or nay?

Our great experience with the Bontrager Line 30 wheels on the trail was a little marred by the tubeless strip saga; we can’t say the same for everybody experiencing what we did.

We like their understated appearance, stiff and precise feeling on the trail, the easy to service and well-sealed freehub and of course the impressive pricing, under $1700.


Want more specs, pricing and compatibility options?

Wander over to Bontrager’s wheel lineup page on their site for more: https://www.trekbikes.com/au/en_AU/equipment/cycling-components/bike-wheels/mountain-bike-wheels-wheelsets/c/E418/

Tested: Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5

It’s all about the new RE:aktiv Thru-Shaft…

Found on the Remedy, Fuel EX and Slash is a new shock design; RE:aktiv Thru-Shaft. Long story short, by replacing the classic internal floating piston design with a thru-shaft design, there are claims of reduced friction in the whole system.

The 2018 Remedy scores a new shock with some interesting tech.

RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is the latest development from the brand’s partnership with Penske Racing Shocks with ties to Formula One Racing, while not unseen in the suspension world before it’s new to mountain bikes. The Thru Shaft tech is available on higher end Trek trail bikes, including Slash 9.8, Slash 9.7, Remedy 9.8, Remedy 9.8 Women’s, Fuel EX 9.9.

The shock has a unique shape, with a mini piggyback reservoir on top.
A closer look at the shock’s architecture, removed from the bike.
The shock uncompressed.
And compressed with the internal shaft breaking out into the light of day.

Want to know more, perhaps a moving image will help explain all the mumbu-jumbo? For the full story, video and technical details on the new shock, dive in deeper right here – All the details.


How does the Thru-Shaft change things on the trail?

We’ve always found the Trek suspension bikes – Fuel EX, Slash, Remedy etc – to be supple and very active in the rear suspension department, but add in the new shock design and that buttery smooth suspension takes one more slide across the dancefloor in your socks, like leaving the honey jar in the sun and now everything is a little bit smoother.

It’s most noticeable when you switch the shock into open mode and push down on the saddle with short and fast frequency, the shock compresses and rebounds with a delightfully light action. Even after a few solid rides, the shock felt smoother to push on than a blown coil shock in a 2003 Orange 222.

How many times can we say the word ‘smooth’ in this review?

On the trail, we forgot all about the shock tech and it all just blended in to make the Remedy feel very planted and grippy, with the supple suspension and generous traction the whole bike confidently glues to the ground where many others would skip about and feel nervous.

With the shock being so supple it pays to make the most of the three-stage compression adjustments on the shock or the bike feels a little slow to jump forward when you crank on the pedals. But in comparison to our Norco Sight long-term test bike (admittedly it’s only 130mm of travel) which uses a regular RockShox Deluxe shock, the middle mode feels far less sensitive than this one. We also found the shock to be still quite responsive when set in the middle mode, we could push off the rear suspension more with less wallow, but it would still react to small bumps, it made for a great setting for technical climbs with so much traction.


Trail time thoughts.

The Remedy doesn’t muck around when the trails turn nasty, with a huge amount of grip from the excellent tyres and supple suspension it is a total blast to throw into the corners and rip around them; our favourite thing to do on the Remedy was to cut inside on flat turns and drift out to the other side. We gained a lot of confidence in the way the Remedy would rip corners hard, and keep the rubber side down.

Good times exploring blind trails on the Remedy, not afraid of much.

Trek has the bigger Slash for the serious enduro race crowd, so the Remedy can afford to forgo that mini-downhill bike character of many modern bikes and retain ample agility.


Why roll on 27.5″ wheel when Fuel EX and Slash are 29″?

Do you sense a wheel size debate coming on, too? Don’t run off, just yet.

We’ve spent plenty of time on Treks on either side of the Remedy that use 29″ wheels; the 130mm travel Trek Fuel EX, and the monster-truckin 160mm travel Trek Slash. So we had to ask ourselves why did Trek decide to stick with the smaller wheel for the Remedy?

Well, while bike brands are becoming increasingly better at making the most out of 29″ wheels with fewer drawbacks, you simply can’t look past a 27.5″ wheel when it comes to throwing it around for the fun of it, and that’s precisely what the Remedy is great at. Whenever we jumped on board this thing, our attitude lightened, we darted around the place like a hyperactive kid on a double espresso Gu Gel. It reminded us of the time we reviewed the Whyte T-130, which we thought would have been a style of the bike better suited to a 29er, but damn did we enjoy the smaller wheels!


The weight, price, parts and what we’d change.

13.1kg is fair for this spec level, the bike’s not built for cross country racing, so this figure means that the frame and parts are pretty reasonable on the scales. Some weight could be saved with a lower tread rear tyre if your trails don’t require such chunky treads, other than that any weight savings would be big ticket items like the cranks, cassette, rims etc.

We think Trek is traditionally pretty fair with their pricing of their mid-high range carbon suspension bikes, and this Remedy is a good representation of that. Thanks to the trickle-down of great technology like the SRAM Eagle drivetrain to this price point gives the spec massive appeal; it works so damn well.

The 150mm travel RockShox Lyrik leads the way with absolute confidence.

All the Bontrager parts are so dialled, each year they prove to be a legitimate component brand holding their own amongst the best boutique options out there. The wheels, dropper post, tyres, cockpit etc. are great and give the Remedy an aesthetically stylish appearance with everything matching so well.

Even in its highest setting, the MRP guide still rubbed on the chain when pedalling the low range gears.

The little MRP guide is a nice addition, but in the lower range gears the chain rubs on the underside of the guide, we’d seek out a different size guide or just ditch it.

The bike doesn’t come specced with tubeless valves or sealant, so don’t leave the shop without adding them.


So many bikes, who is the Remedy for, and does the shock live up to the hype?

The Remedy has massive appeal for a rider that pushes hard and has the skills to turn the trails into a playground. Or if you’re after a fast and confident bike to make light work out of loose, steep, choppy and tight terrain.

And the shock? Well, like we said earlier, the Remedy has always felt really smooth and supple so unless you had a direct comparison to a regular shock, the Thru Shaft shock won’t blow you away with a huge difference in feeling. But we can feel it, and it just contributes to an already great feeling bike.

To see more of the Remedy range, head over to the Trek site here: Trek Remedy, please!

Flow’s First Bite: 2018 Trek Remedy 9.8 with new RE:aktiv Thru Shaft damper

When we first saw news from Trek around this new Thru Shaft we had next to no idea what they were banging on about, what is a Thru Shaft and what does it do? We had to see a moving image of the shock for us to grasp the concept,

For the full story, video and technical details on the new shock, dive in deeper right here – All the details.

The new shock doesn’t look very different, but when compressed you’ll see the shaft exiting the lower end of the shock, and back in again as it rebounds.

Long story short, by replacing the classic internal floating piston design with a thru-shaft design, there is claims of reduced friction in the whole system. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is the latest development from the brand’s partnership with Penske Racing Shocks, while not unseen in the suspension world before it’s new to mountain bikes.

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.


Enough about the shock, what else is new for 2018?

Plenty to get excited about with the new Remedy 9.8, especially as we had the 2016 model on long term test, and got to know it intimately. The 2018 model is even burlier with its spec and uses more SRAM across the board. The new model has also dropped in price, down $300 to $6499, that’s a bonus for sure.

Read more about the frame’s features like their massive down tube, Knock Block headset and more in our 2017 Remedy review here.

While the frame remains the same, spec highlights for us, include the shift from a Shimano XT drivetrain with a double chainring to a SRAM Eagle GX 12-speed single-ring drivetrain, though we’d traditionally prefer Shimano XT brakes over the Guide RS. The fork jumps from a RockShox Pike up to the Lyrik which uses a more robust chassis and feels more like a single crown downhill fork than a trail bike fork, a super impressive fork indeed.

SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, our first proper ride on the budget 12-speed kit.
RockShox Lyrik, move over, we’re coming through!
SRAM cranks with a little MRP chain guide, interesting!

Other highlights include seriously meaty tyres from Bontrager on their new Line wheels, and the 35mm clamp bar and stem for even more of an aggressive appearance up the front.

Full review to follow shortly, it’s time to shred this thing!

Flow’s First Bite: 2018 Trek Remedy 9.8

When we first saw news from Trek around this new Thru Shaft we had next to no idea what they were banging on about, what is a Thru Shaft and what does it do? We had to see a moving image of the shock for us to grasp the concept,

For the full story, video and technical details on the new shock, dive in deeper right here – All the details.

The new shock doesn’t look very different, but when compressed you’ll see the shaft exiting the lower end of the shock, and back in again as it rebounds.

Long story short, by replacing the classic internal floating piston design with a thru-shaft design, there is claims of reduced friction in the whole system. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is the latest development from the brand’s partnership with Penske Racing Shocks, while not unseen in the suspension world before it’s new to mountain bikes.

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.


Enough about the shock, what else is new for 2018?

Plenty to get excited about with the new Remedy 9.8, especially as we had the 2016 model on long term test, and got to know it intimately. The 2018 model is even burlier with its spec and uses more SRAM across the board. The new model has also dropped in price, down $300 to $6499, that’s a bonus for sure.

Read more about the frame’s features like their massive down tube, Knock Block headset and more in our 2017 Remedy review here.

While the frame remains the same, spec highlights for us, include the shift from a Shimano XT drivetrain with a double chainring to a SRAM Eagle GX 12-speed single-ring drivetrain, though we’d traditionally prefer Shimano XT brakes over the Guide RS. The fork jumps from a RockShox Pike up to the Lyrik which uses a more robust chassis and feels more like a single crown downhill fork than a trail bike fork, a super impressive fork indeed.

SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, our first proper ride on the budget 12-speed kit.
RockShox Lyrik, move over, we’re coming through!
SRAM cranks with a little MRP chain guide, interesting!

Other highlights include seriously meaty tyres from Bontrager on their new Line wheels, and the 35mm clamp bar and stem for even more of an aggressive appearance up the front.

Full review to follow shortly, it’s time to shred this thing!

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: Bontrager Drop Line Dropper Seatpost

Subtle black in colour and an easy to adjust seat clamp too.

Suddenly it seems like just about every company has brought out a dropper post, either as an aftermarket alternative to the established players, or to spec dropper posts on lower priced bikes by manufacturing their own model (Giant, Specialized, Merida and Trek/Bontrager all have their own posts now).

The Bontrager Drop Line Dropper Seatpost falls into both of those categories – OEM and aftermarket – killing two birds with one stone by allowing Trek to spec dropper posts on more bikes, and providing an aftermarket upgrade for consumers.


How does the Drop Line work? 

The Bontrager Drop Line is an internally routed, cable actuated dropper post, operated by a lever that sits on the underside of the left-hand side of the handlebar. The cable stop simply ‘plugs’ into the base of the post, which operates the internals that offers infinite height adjustment. 

The under-bar lever is easily reached with the left thumb. An over-bar lever is available if you are using a left-hand shifter too.

What lengths available?

The Drop Line comes in 100, 125 and 150mm variants. Obviously, the more travel you go for, the more the post weighs, but we’re very pleased to see Bontrager offer different height options, as the needs of a shorter cross-country racer are very different to that of a lanky enduro rider.

A 150mm Drop Line weighs in at 624 grams, which is similar in weight to more established dropper posts such as the KS Lev Integra and the RockShox Reverb.


Is it easy to install?

Too easy. With the cable installing with the head at the post end – not at the lever – and fixing with a grub screw at the thumb lever, the install is quick. If you’re fussy about cable neatness like we are, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to cut down the cable in increments until you have the perfect length.

The head of the cable fixes at the post, making for quick installation and trimming of the cable length.

Is it reliable? 

We’ve ridden the Line post on dry trails and it feels super-slick, smooth and consistent. It’s only when the rides are wet and long that the post falters, the sealing suffers when there is mud flicking up from the rear tyre onto the shaft, so keep that in mind. Our suggestion would be to make sure there is no buildup around the seal area and learn the quick job of lifting up the seal (two allen keys and some thick oil/grease and you’ll be right) to clean and re-lube the sliding parts of the post.

The 125mm drop post on our Trek Slash test bike was a great performer.

While we are used to not servicing some of the more expensive posts like the FOX Transfer, we can accept paying less for a post that requires a little more love and care from the user.

Unlike many of the cheaper posts, the Bontrager didn’t develop an unacceptable amount of rattling or play – nobody likes a rattling post that you can feel when you ride, it’s super distracting. So, top points on this one, Bonty.


Is the post easy to actuate? 

The Drop-Line’s lever is fine. It’s somewhat similar in appearance to KS’s Southpaw remote, the lever isn’t a thin and wide paddle-like the KS, instead, it’s narrower and chunkier. Even with a slick and new cable, the actuation is slightly vague, though we’ll get used to it.


How much does it cost? 

Here’s where Bontrager gets a big thumbs up over other alternatives! The Drop Line retails for $359 in every size, which is great value compared to other offerings on the market, and of course, the Drop Line is backed by Bontrager’s excellent 30-day unconditional guarantee as well as a three-year warranty, so there are no worries there.

Fair value at $359.

Would we buy one? 

For $359, with a three-year warranty, we could definitely get used to the lever and frequent service intervals during the muddier rides. The Bontrager Drop Line is a great option to consider if you’re thinking about getting a dropper post or perhaps increasing your dropper post travel without breaking the bank.

For more – click through the Trek page here: Bontrager Line Post.

Shootout: Trek Slash 9.8 v Norco Range C 9.2

No, this isn’t silly, it’s amazing! And especially available from the big manufacturers, it simply says that riders are pushing the boundaries of mountain biking and the technologies involved have made them a reality.


Watch the video here.



Prepare yourself to be going absolutely bonkers on the trail on one of these bikes

Take 160mm of travel and jam in a bike with 29″ wheels, and you’ll end up with a monster of a bike that will allow you to cut sick on the descents, but on the other hand, it poses serious challenges to the manufacturer to pull off. There is a lot of stuff and moving parts to fit into a space that can be still pedalled, let alone lightweight or even to fit a water bottle in the frame; it’s not as simple as it may seem from the shop floor.

Two big rigs, head to head.

We chose two bikes that in our mind epitomise this booming segment, the Norco Range C 9.2 and Trek Slash 9.8 to review head to head, back to back, fork to fork, in a review where we took them both out on the trails. With identical setup, we aimed to determine where they would shine, how different they would be, but most importantly which one we would choose if we were to keep it.


Why put the Slash and Range head to head?

Aside from looking quite similar from a distance, both black paint jobs, SRAM builds kits, RockShox suspension all round, same travel amounts and only $300 apart, we chose these two because we both know their suspension platforms well. The Norco Range is the bigger brother of the Sight that we reviewed recently, and the Slash is the big brother of the Remedy which we have ridden countless times over the last five or so years.

The Trek is the second-tier option available in Australia with the flashy red Slash 9.9 model above in a higher spec, but in the Australia Norco catalogue, this is the top spec Range.


Who are they for?

These bikes are mighty serious, not for the faint hearted and not for a comfortable ride. Aggressive riders only need apply, or if enduro racing on the most ragged and wild tracks is your thing too, they might be your bag. But we’d strongly recommend looking at the Norco Sight or Trek Remedy if the majority of riding might not warrant such a huge bike.

We can’t go past the Trek for its looks and aesthetics, such a smart machine.

How do they differ on paper?

The Trek is nearly 1kg lighter, has a lot going on in the frame with the Knock Block system, geometry adjustment, and a full carbon construction. It’s a whopper of a bike, with a down tube that gives the bike a real ‘get outta my way’ attitude, and it’s murdered out black paint job is even more menacing.

The Norco is a heavier bike and appears much more swoopier in the tubing, especially up the front to allow clearance of the fork crowns to rotate fully under the down tube. The four-bar linkage drives a trunnion mount shock, and there’s just enough space for a water bottle. Interestingly (also took us a few days to notice) that the graphics are green on one side, and black on the other, tricky!


Frame geometry differences.

Comparing the two bikes in terms of geometry is a little tricky, as the Trek is available in four sizes from 15.5″ to 21.5″ while the Norco sticks to the more common school of thought with one of the three M, L, XL options, the Range is also available in 27.5″ wheels in a wider range of sizes too. We reviewed the 19.5″ Trek and M Norco.

Taking a look at the geometry charts the bikes are very close, though the Trek does have the MinoLink adjustment to allow 0.5-degree adjustability in the head angle which also alters the bottom bracket height by 10mm.


Norco vs Trek regarding spec.

Yes, we can hear the keyboards furiously smashing away, criticising us for comparing two bikes with $300 difference between them, but in our opinion, that is about as close as it gets.

For an extra $300 you get a lot for the cash with the Norco, the SRAM Eagle drivetrain is superb, the gear range is huge and had us cleaning the steep climbs easier with a few gears up our sleeve, and the shifting and operation is so crisp, quiet and smooth. The SRAM Guide RS brakes (S stands for Swing Link) have a much snappier lever feel, and the power delivery is excellent.

Rim widths are similar between the two, but the tyres feel vastly different when you hit the dirt – the Bontragers almost feel a little under-gunned in comparison to the meaty Maxxis Minions on the Norco. We’d love to try the Bontrager G5 tyres on the Slash to let it rumble.


How different were they on the trail?

By choosing two bikes that on paper were so close, you’d think that would reflect on the trail, right? Well, yes, they were very similar when it came to turning the pedals.

In summary, we found the Trek a more efficient bike to ride, with its low weight, fast rolling tyres, and Dual Position fork for the climbs it was an easier bike to get along with after a few hours on singletrack.

But whenever we got back onto the Norco our attitude changed, the skies darkened and we released our inner maniac. We rode more aggressively into the corners, braked later, jumped further and let it hang out more.


The tough task of picking one.

It was tough, they both are amazing bikes, nothing went wrong with either of them, and there was never a moment that a frame design, spec choice or compatibility let us down. If you were to lean towards longer rides on lesser aggressive trails the Slash would be ideal, and even on the race tracks we have here in Australia it might be a more logical choice due to its great efficiency and speed.

Pick one? This one.

Though we couldn’t go past the fact that if you’re in the market for a bike this size with this much suspension travel you’re going to want it to descend hard and fast, and that’s what the Norco does very well. You could easily find some faster rolling tyres to bring it closer to the Trek Slash, and vice versa with the Bontragers on the Slash, but we could go on forever about spec modifications, as it stands we’d pick the Norco.

Trek’s All-New Session, Including a 29er Frame & Fork Package

The new Trek Session.
Trek Session 29.

The world’s fastest downhill race bike gets even faster.

For more speed, we’re offering all the benefits of new Session on a 29er chassis. Offered in limited quantity as a frame & fork package, Session 29 brings faster-rolling big wheels to the downhill scene. 

More Aggressive Geometry

Updated race-focused geometry is the least visible change to Session 9.9, but it’s the one that riders will feel immediately. This is where the Athertons and World Cup racing had the most influence. The reach grew by about 20mm on each size, putting the rider in a more aggressive position on the bike. The chainstays stay on the longer side to match the increased front-center length and keep the bike stable at speed, and also allowing it to plow through the rough stuff without getting the rear end hung up.

Another way we’ve increased the bike’s stability and cornering prowess is by giving it a slacker head angle and a lower bottom bracket. Session 9.9 is now 10mm lower and sports a 63 degree head angle out of the box.

Tunable Geometry

Mino Link geometry adjustment.

Hoping for a slightly different head angle? Session features an easily adjustable head tube angle, but it’s not the creak-prone adjustable type. The bike ships with zero-offset cups installed, but it also includes a set of 1-degree-offset cups that can be installed with a forward or backward angle for an additional 1 degree of head angle adjustment in either direction. Like all of our other full-suspension bikes, Session also gets further adjustability with Mino Link, which offers another half degree of head angle adjustment, as well as about 8mm of BB height adjustment. Between the Mino Link and the adjustable angle headset, riders can dial in their head tube angle to anywhere from 62 degrees to 64.5 degrees depending on the course or their own personal preference.

Though new Session sets its sights squarely on the finish line, it still works great for crushing laps on the bike park jump lines. Session is primarily sized by reach, which means that park riders can size down to get all of these suspension and stiffness improvements but with a more playful fit.

Livelier Ride

One of the most visible changes to Session 9.9 is the new Fox Float X2 air shock. What’s not so visible is the Float X2’s redesigned internals, which were developed on the same timeline as the Session. Trek’s Suspension R&D team worked closely with Fox Racing Shox to optimise the new bike and shock together in a high-performance package with more flexible tuning options than ever before. Updates to the new DH-focused Float X2 include progressive instead of digressive valves and enhanced spring characteristics, which complement new Session’s lower leverage ratio and longer shock stroke. These changes to the frame accelerate the shock’s compression speed and introduce higher spring and damping forces for a given amount of wheel travel.

All of that translates to the rider as a livelier ride with more control and more support, especially in the midstroke, where the suspension works the hardest. With the damper doing more of the work and dissipating more energy through the midstroke, the shock gets much more predictable bottom-out resistance for better control on even the biggest hits. The suspension is also more responsive at the beginning of the stroke, allowing the bike to respond to smaller bumps, so it tracks the ground better and improves grip. Achieving all of these suspension performance improvements at the same time without compromise might seem impossible, but we’ve managed to do just that with the new Session and new Float X2 working together.

More responsive, stiffer frame

Another visible change to new Session is the absence of Full Floater. We previously used Full Floater as another means of tuning suspension characteristics. With the massive improvements in air shocks, including more tuning features like air pressure, spring rate, and spring volume, we can now trade that Full Floater tunability to gain more strength and stiffness in the frame while saving weight and maintaining plushness. So Session is still one of the lightest DH frames available, but now it’s even stiffer, so it’s more responsive in and out of corners, and it holds a precise line through even the roughest, gnarliest terrain.

The Rest

While improved suspension performance, increased frame stiffness, and racy-yet-adjustable geometry are the most notable changes, Session still features the classic Trek tech technologies that make all of our bikes shine. Trek’s patented Active Braking Pivot keeps the suspension working freely under braking loads that can cause other designs to stiffen up and stop working. Its OCLV Mountain Carbon frame is light and strong thanks to a precise carbon layup that minimises weight, enhances ride feel, and maximises durability. Carbon Armor adds an extra layer of protection to impact-prone areas like the downtube, chainstays, and seatstays. Fork bumpers are built into the Control Freak cable routing guides, which allows for versatile and easy-to-use internal control routing for added protection and slick aesthetics.

It all adds up to a downhill bike that performs better in every way. It’s stiffer, more aggressive, more adjustable, and just plain faster with suspension that’s more plush and grippy off the top, more supportive and controlled in the middle, and better able to absorb big, bottom-out hits without losing its cool.


FAQ

Is Session still compatible with coil shocks?

Yes. Updated metric shock sizing allows riders to run most aftermarket coil shocks.

Is this a new headset standard?

No. It uses the common 56mm/49mm cup size, so you can still run your favourite headset if you’re happy with the stock head angle.

Can the new X2 be tuned with volume spacers?

Yes. Float X2 offers additional air spring tuning by adding or removing volume bands. Visit www.foxracingshox.com for more information.

What is the rear hub spacing?

157×12

What about alloy Session?

While new Session’s changes focus squarely on racing speed, Session 8 returns as a carry forward model that retains the same frame as years’ past. This frame features a more all-around geometry that works well for racing, but also feels equally at home playing around the bike park.

Who’s the right rider for Session 27.5 and 29? The Session 27.5 will be the overwhelming right choice for most riders. It’s fast and nimble. The Session 29 is for the accomplished rider looking for every bit of speed possible.

What are the differences between the Session 29 and 27.5? Aside from wheel size and ride, the Session 27.5 and 29 feature the same frame features. The Session 29 geometry differs in that it has a slightly longer wheelbase due to the bigger wheels and the BB drop is greater giving it more stability.

What’s included with the framesets? The Session 9.9 27.5” frameset includes the FOX X2 air shock and fixed angle headset cups. The Session 9.9 29 will include the FOX X2 air shock, fixed angle headset cups, and the FOX 49 fork. We include the fork on the Session 29 since it’s such a unique, relatively scarce fork.

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.

Graeme Mudd Signs With Trek Factory Racing

Aussie rider Graeme Mudd bids farewell to life as a privateer and will base himself at Atherton HQ in North Wales for the 2017 season.

Graeme Mudd poses for a portrait with hiis Trek racing kit and bike. 15/1/17

I know that with some more resources behind me I can be sitting at the pointy end of the results lists a lot more often.

Gee Atherton said “ We’re always alert to emerging potential and there were some flashes of brilliance in Muddy’s 2016 season, it was obvious that he is our kind of hard-wired racer. At Hardline we got chance to spend some time with him and the whole team became huge fans. We’re really looking forward to seeing how the increased support impacts on his 2017 results.”

Muddy said  “2016 felt like a real turning point for me and I gained a lot of valuable experience but I know that with some more resources behind me I can be sitting at the pointy end of the results lists a lot more often. I am totally stoked to be riding with Trek Factory Racing DH, I’m beyond excited to join a team whose passion and desire for success is everything I’ve dreamed of. I’m about as good as a guy who has just landed his first gig in the World Cup team could be!”


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.

Innovation, Women and Happiness. In Conversation With Gary Fisher

Sitting in the canteen at the Trek global headquarters in Wisconsin, I’d been given the heads up that an interview with Gary Fisher isn’t like an interview with anyone else. To expect tangents, to see where it goes. Consider this more of a conversation: about growing the sport, about mountain biking’s most underrated innovation, and about his vision for the future.milner_trek_garyfisher_portrait021

It’s been about 40 years now since you started turning road bikes into mountain bikes.

It’s been a long, long time. I really enjoyed when I was 63 because I could say I’m 21 three times over. [He stops and laughs a huge laugh. He turns 66 this year. Sitting there in his riding kit, still wearing the bandana he uses underneath his helmet, and exposing molars full of gold fillings, he looks like a pirate.]

I’ll tell ya, I’ve had an unfair amount of fun. [He laughs some more. I get the sense laughter is never too far away when you hang out with Gary.]

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But you seem to enjoy it.

Oh yeah, I mean, come on. I’m a lucky man you know. I get to come to…I mean, I tell my wife, I’m going out to Madison. What are you going to do out there? I’m going to be out there with 50 women. She goes, ‘Ah, that’s typical.’

What gives you the biggest buzz nowadays?

Changing things. You know? That’s the biggest buzz. My excitement at this moment is [he gets serious all of a sudden] we are going to get in every single high school in the United States and I’m convinced that we can do it.

There are 179,000 high schools in the United States. Imagine if we got 10-20 riders in each one of those schools? This would be a bigger influx of bike riders than ever in the history of the United States. Now THAT is an exciting project.

Is that with NICA [the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, a group doing incredible things in schools in the USA]?

Yeah, that’s with those guys. They’re good people and everything, but we have something to bring to the party; we have an awful lot of business experience and experience with politicians and all that minutia to make this happen.

I am fully confident that we’re going to pull it off [he says convincingly]. It might take 10 years, but we’re going to pull it off.

Did you ever think you’d see something like this Trek Women’s Advocate program happen?

The women’s thing? It’s really funny because last night at [Trek President] John Burke’s house it was a completely different dynamic from the normal get together there. Normally there’ll be guys there, and they don’t talk to each other so much. They give each other a lot of space. That whole thing [the contrast] was not lost on John Burke.

‘THEY’RE JUST COMMUNICATING!’ THE FUTURE OF CYCLING AND HOW WOMEN ARE KEY.jeff-kennel-gary-fisher-interview-2

He said exactly the same thing.

He really recognised that these personalities are different. And now I’m talking to people around here and saying, ‘Well, look!’ You see how the dynamic totally changes when the men are totally outnumbered by the women.

Imagine, the women have always been outnumbered by the men in all these meetings we have within this building [the Trek Bikes Global HQ]. Could we have more meetings where the women decidedly outnumber the men?

Just to see what happens?

Well, I KNOW what’s going to happen. Things will be worked out better in that whole category. We, as a business, have really failed to engage even a good majority of women. I mean a real minority is what we’ve got.

Not many women like going into the man cave. It’s building this whole other environment that a woman feels comfortable going into and working with it.

Why do you think it’s changing now?

Because we’re looking at the obvious. You look at all the stats, like, how many of your subscribers are men versus women? With bikes, with races, with all this, it’s been hovering around 10 per cent. 10-15 percent. Maybe 20 in some good situations. But that is completely unrepresentative of the amount of women that want to ride and enjoy riding.

Sometimes I think women, in general, hold themselves back in growing the sport.

Yeah. We all find that. We are our own worst enemy. In the bike industry, we’ve got real problems. We’re not a force that we deserve to be. You look at Madison Avenue [in New York City, not the band]. All the advertising agencies, they use the bike as an icon of the good life. And it’s one of the top five icons of a good life.

When you’ve made it, you’re going to go out and ride your bike and have a great time. This is real freedom and everything. While that’s great, and we get, in a way, this free advertising, we as an industry have never controlled it, that message.kath-bicknell-gary-fisher-interview-3

We are always doing this whole guerrilla advertising sort of thing, and we’re not a big force. Especially in the United States. Only 40 per cent of people in the United States even owns a bicycle. So there’s a 60 per cent majority that has no idea how much fun we’re having! And that’s really the crazy part.

People look at us riding up a hill and go, ‘That guy’s gotta be miserable.’ And nothing could be further from the truth.

So how do we share the fun?

We start with the kids. [That massive laugh returns again as he switches to his pantomime voice.] Now you see my wicked plan!

[More wild pirate laughter. His expression says this is so obvious and excellent, that we switch instead to a different topic.]

I have another question, one that my brother was wondering when I told him about this trip. When I asked him about innovation in cycling, he commented that bike has basically looked the same for about 100 years.

Given your history in reshaping what a bike can do, what do you think are the most underrated innovations in bike design?

Hmmm. That’s a really good question… The most underrated innovations in bike design…. [he says, thinking…] because they’ve all be rated pretty high…

kath-bicknell-gary-fisher-interview-5I know what it is! For mountain biking, it’s the trail. A good trail makes you look like a genius! [That infectious laughter again.]

I had this experience two years ago – we went to the 25th anniversary of the European World Championships. They were in France and they were held in a ski resort. It was on hiking trails, basically. We were given the opportunity to ride the original course. It hadn’t been ridden in years. And here I am riding this course and we’re walking all this stuff. It was just unrideable. It was ridiculous.

Because it hadn’t been maintained? Or because it wasn’t ridable in the first place?

It wasn’t built for mountain bikers to start with and it wasn’t…it was a really crummy trail. And quite honestly, in the beginning days of NORBA and all that we held all these races, especially up in ski resorts, because they were willing to pay for us to come up. [NORBA was the National Off-Road Bicycle Association and ran from 1983-2004, a bit like Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA), but more NORBA-y]

They loved us. They had a famous event and they didn’t have many spectators. It would fill all their condominiums for a week and they wouldn’t have to deal with the public.

I used to be on the NORBA Board of Trustees. And I used to be complaining all the time saying, ‘Can’t we make a course that’s actually faster with the bike than without the bike?’

Such a crazy idea!

Yeah! And I rode this course. And I’m going, this is a miserable piece of crap. It’s a miracle that anybody got beyond riding stuff like that to actually enjoy the sport.

What do you think are the big limitations that we have to overcome now?

In the States, acceptance from the other 60 per cent. And those are mostly guys like me. Old white guys. And they’ve got the money and the power and everything. And they’re the ones that are saying ‘no, never, you’re going to have to pry my cold, dead fingers off my steering wheel. The car is the answer and it’s the only way.’ And they’re entirely wrong.

[The conversation detours as we take a tour around the world, the history of transport, health, the medical system and lots and lots of un-fact-checkable-but-very-motivating stats.]

What advice would you give to people who are already part of the riding community now?

To go out and teach somebody how to ride right. And tell them what it’s all about. And talk about all the…all the medical papers, peer reviewed, that say what we’ve been saying all along: I’m very happy when I ride a bike. I’m healthier. I’m more intelligent.kath-bicknell-gary-fisher-interview-2

There’s also this thing where you’re doing this thing. Skaters do it, surfboarders do it, skiers do it. And you’re doing this motion. And this motion has been proven to create happiness in your brain.

Flow.

Yeah! It’s why we dance! It’s why we do all this stuff you know! It creates happiness.

And after all, at the end of the day, what are you really after?

What are people really after?

Well, OK. The top five death bed regrets, right?

Which are?

Which are…

I should work more!

No, it’s never that!

No, it’s…people don’t lie [at that point]. They look back on life and they say, I wish I’d taken better care of myself, my health. I wish that I kept my friends. I wish that I told everybody around me how I really felt. And I wish I had tried to do what I really wanted to do.

[As we wrap up our interview, I can’t help but think that Gary is a man who has certainly done just that. And in the processes, he’s swept along a whole wave of people who can now call themselves mountain bikers with him.]

Thank you.

 

‘They’re Just Communicating!’ The Future of Cycling and How Women are Key.

Last week, Wisconsin was the destination for around 60 bike-mad ladies, including seven working in media. We were there for the first ever Trek Women’s Summit at the company’s sprawling global headquarters. Based in a small town called Waterloo, and with a series of rooms for every part of the bike design and manufacturing process, the impact of the company has extended far beyond the walls of the shed.

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Jim Colegrove who’s the man behind Trek’s OCLV carbon fibre process.

I’ve long respected Trek’s approach to women in cycling. They’ve invested in the women’s market since the mid-90s. They offer scholarships for women to skill up in the workshop. And the riders headlining their Factory Racing teams are women. Not just racing, headlining: Emily Batty in cross-country, Rachel Atherton in downhill, Tracey Mosely (now retired) and Casey Brown in enduro and Katie Compton in cyclocross.

‘It’s a woman’s bike if a woman is riding it,’ Trek said last week, one of the most sensible things that’s been said about bikes for women in years.

While Trek lay claim to developing the first ‘women’s specific’ bike, today, with better research into what works and doesn’t for riders of all types, data from bike fits is also supporting person specific contact points rather than a unique frame. This is something that stands out in the 2017 product line and the bikes ridden by their factory riders.jeff-kennel-trek-summit-12

‘It’s a woman’s bike if a woman is riding it,’ Trek said last week, one of the most sensible things that’s been said about bikes for women in years.

I arrived at the summit curious to learn more about the company, their ethos and how they see this sport developing in the future. I was also curious to meet their new advocates, and learn about how the cycling scene in the USA overlaps and contrasts with our own.

Trek’s Women’s Advocate program

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In recent years, women’s advocates and ambassadors have become a central part of successful marketing strategies from several companies in the bike industry.

The aim of the summit was to celebrate and educate the company’s newly announced women’s advocates. In whittling applications down to just over 50, Trek selected ladies from all over the USA and Canada, including a couple from Brazil and Mexico. Most are already working in the cycling industry, with the majority working in shops, or teaching clinics. They’re supported with some product, but the real value for these women is in networking, resources and being skilled up and empowered in how to do what they do even better.

Ambassadors can build participation in their local communities through regular rides, skills clinics, social media, and being a point of contact for riders new to the sport.
Ambassadors can build participation in their local communities through regular rides, skills clinics, social media, and being a point of contact for riders new to the sport.

I could happily write you a feel good piece about how wonderful these advocates are, but I’m not going to. Like ambassadors for other brands in Australian cycling communities, the fact that these ladies are pretty special is as obvious as saying bikes have wheels. With so many extraordinary people gathered in one place, I found myself asking three questions about the bigger picture:

What’s one thing you would like to see change in cycling over the next 5-10 years?

What do you think it would take to make that happen?

How do you think these women are part of that change?

The answers people gave revealed as much about what makes them great in their own roles within the sport as it does about the role of women in taking this sport to the next level.

John Burke, Trek President

John’s response was that he wants to see an increase in safer places to ride. ‘If you do that, you’ll get a lot more people to ride,’ he said.

‘I think we’re at a very interesting place where we’ve got huge environmental issues that nobody even knows how big the environmental issues are. And that will continue to rear its ugly head, and that will spur people to action.

‘You’ve got congestion issues in the cities which aren’t going away. And then you’ve got health issues because people are getting unhealthier. Cycling is the only thing I know that addresses all three.’ A powerful pitch for the future of cycling indeed.
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John’s response was that he wants to see an increase in safer places to ride. ‘If you do that, you’ll get a lot more people to ride,’ he said.

So how are these women part of that change? This, from John, was the most telling response of all. He started off referring to the welcome drinks held at his home, which the summiteers had shared the night before.

‘So I’ve had a lot of events at that house and a lot of them are 80 per cent guys. It was fascinating just doing the people watching thing last night,’ he said.

‘One of the things I found to be very interesting is that when you have all these guys come to the house, they don’t know anybody so they just sit there and they’ll find one person and talk to them in the corner. And that’s their night.

‘When you take a look at women, they didn’t know anybody either and it was just…’ he makes a sound kind of like a fizzing rocket taking off and heading into outer space. ‘And you’ve got groups of six and eight and 10 and they’re just communicating!’ Talking with John, you could see the cogs ticking as he recognised the value of this to the sport as a whole.

‘You’ve got all this stuff going on and when men get involved in cycling, they do it for themselves. When women get involved in cycling, they do it for the group. So, the more women you can get involved in cycling, they can spread the message more. I also think, the more women who press the issue of safe places to ride can have a huge influence.’

Gary Fisher, the man with the moustache.

Gary Fisher is one of the people who invented mountain biking in the 70s. He’s seen a lot and done a lot. He, too, suddenly became aware of the possibilities that come from switching the balance of women to men. His vision for the future of cycling? ‘To be more available.’

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What do we need to do that? ‘More safe places to ride and more education,’ he said.jeff-kennel-trek-summit-17

And how are these women key? ‘These women? Come on!’ he said with a thick accent I’d oddly never imagined when pouring over historical images from the sport.

‘Women talk. Women have intellect. Like crazy. And women actually control much more than men will give -’ he stops mid-sentence…

‘We try to be complete here,’ he said next, talking about Trek more broadly. ‘We’ve focussed on guys for so long. It’s been our bread and butter. Old white guys, in the last 10 years have been the industry’s bread and butter.’

In a separate interview we’ll publish later, Gary spoke about his curiosity to see what happens when switching the balance of women to men in company meetings to see what insights arise and decisions are made.

Candace Shadley. One of those women who create a massive wave, and is simply excited to see more people jump on (a) board and surf it.

Based in Whistler, Canada, Candace runs the Trek Dirt Series mountain bike camps. She’s seen as a pioneer in this area, coaching over 1000 riders a year. This is an impressive amount when you consider the number of months when the country is covered in snow, and the gnar factor of iconic Whistler trails.

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Candace would like to see ‘more women integrated in to the sport and respected for what they do.’ She’d also like to see more people crossing disciplines. More cross-country riders hitting up the bike park for instance. The bonus is she can already see all these things happening. The sport is exploding and riding one discipline only is becoming a thing of the past.

‘There are so many people that are drivers and doers and shakers and motivated,’ she said. ‘And bike technology always gets better so you can take the same bike in various areas and that helps. We’re going in such a good direction. We just need to keep going there,’ she said.

So what happens next? ‘We’re sitting in a room of 50-something super motivated women,’ Candace said. ‘At a company that’s made a massive commitment to that.

‘I think that having the people here shows that they can go further because there are more people, more empowered, with more resources and more support to keep doing what they’re doing and do it even better.’

Kate Nolan, one of the Trek Women’s Advocates based in Indiana, but helping people to fall in love with the outdoors everywhere.

Kate Nolan co-owns an adventure company with her wife, called DNK Presents. Given her new advocate role and the context of the summit as a whole, she said she really just wants to see more women on bikes.

She sees education and awareness as key to creating this change, but phrased it in terms of making ladies feel more comfortable. ‘Women apologise more than men,’ Kate said. ‘You always hear women like, ‘Oh I’m sorry, my backpack’s not right,’ or, ‘Oh I’m sorry I’m going too slow.’ Giving them a safe place just to get out and have a good time and be surrounded by other women.’

While we need industry driven change at a higher level, it’s people on the ground, like Kate, who know how to cater to the riders who don’t already feel comfortable on bikes. This is central in shifting the gender balance too.

For Kate, as well as a lot of the other skills coaches I spoke to, they were quick to speak about what cycling gave people in their lives away from the bike too. Better health, a stronger sense of self, more assertiveness, able to tackle bigger life problems and challenges in the workplace. It was these bigger benefits of participation that appeared to be what motivated these ladies the most.

On diversity, confidence and change

So where does that leave me? What were my thoughts?

I often find myself straddling a fine line working in cycling media. On one hand, being female means I’m often asked to write stories and reviews catering to a much broader range of women than the industry often acknowledges.

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We’re getting better at acknowledging the diversity of women in the sport. We’re seeing women and girls as people, as leaders, as articulate, as wanting to do different, compelling and passion-driven things.

In trying to grow the women’s side of the sport it’s important to balance a narrative that’s welcome and inclusive to people who’ve only recently discovered the bikes, but also speak to riders who have been in the sport for a much longer time; riders who don’t always identify with this nurturing, developmental narrative, or bikes developed as part of this stance. Many of these women, by contrast, want to ride things that are steep, challenging and technical. And ride it fast.

This is not to say that Trek, or other brands, haven’t been advancing the women’s side of the sport. Swap ‘women’ for ‘wheel size’ and you’ll see that there’s no right answer or single way to move these debates forward. But, as Gary Fisher later said, ‘Change happens very slowly and then it happens rapidly. And then it happens slowly again. And we’re going into a rapid change period.’

I left the summit feeling lifted. I feel like the industry has finally started to talk about women in cycling the way women do. As multiple, diverse, as having different aims and opinions, as sometimes being more comfortable on a nimble-handling or high-performance bike with modified contact points, as sometimes being better suited to a unique frame. As wanting to shred, as wanting to travel, as chatty, as ambitious, as articulate, as influential. As part of a much bigger picture. As confident. As valuable. I can’t wait to see where this takes the sport next.

 

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

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Throwing back to the late nineties and the VW/Trek Racing Team. 26″ wheels, V-brakes and short socks.

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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.

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.

Trek 2017: Range Highlights

With a visit to Trek World we were greeted with hordes of amazing new bikes, it’s a big year for Trek with the new Fuel EX, Remedy and Slash. We appreciate where Trek are headed for 2017, simplifying the wheel sizes down to one per model. Check out what caught our fancy from the new range.

All the 2017 bikes are now up on Trek’s site here: www.trekbikes.com


Trek Fuel EX

The Fuel EX is a real winner for Trek, nailing that middle category of ‘trail rider’ and the 2017 model scores a massive overhaul with a whole host of new frame designs. The new Fuel is 29er only, gone is the 27.5″ option, 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.

The Fuel range is massive, starting at an impressive $2999 there are eight models available in carbon and aluminium, including two women’s versions. Topping out at the Fuel EX 9.9 29 with SRAM Eagle and a full carbon frame for $9999 it’s clear that the Fuel is a solid model for Trek Australia.

Trek's James Collins is frothing for his new 29er Fuel EX, his height and strong style suits the stiffer frame with 29" wheels.
Trek’s James Collins is frothing for his new 29er Fuel EX, the stiffer frame and grippy 29″ wheels are a match made in heaven.

For 2017 the Fuel goes up to 130mm travel front and back, frame geometry is more aggressive and the frame is a whole lot stiffer.

We were fortunate to attend the official launch of the 2017 Fuel EX, Remedy and Slash in Canada, for the story on the new bikes in greater detail head to our launch feature here: TREK’S ALL-NEW REMEDY AND FUEL EX.

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2017 Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29 – $6299.
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Adjustable geometry via the Mino Link reversible chip insert, nifty.
The chart topping Fuel EX 9.9, $9999. Lots of nines.
Fuel EX 9, killer value in our opinion.
Fuel EX 9, decent value in our opinion for $5199.

Project One Now

To make the new Fuel even more appealing, The Fuel EX 9.8 is a part of the Project One Now, for an extra $750 you have an extra three colour options to choose from. It’s essentially a trimmed down version of the highly customisable Project One scheme Trek offer for key models – with Project One Now it’s just the colour you can select, not spec changes. It’s usually around $1500 for a colour option in Project One, so Project One Now is a more affordable way for a little bit of unique individuality in a sweet bike.

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Our favourite, neon pink and yellow on a matte black base, seriously bold and hot!

For more on the Project One custom, click here.


Trek Remedy

A long time favourite at Flow the Remedy scores a big facelift too, stepping up in travel, stiffness and receiving an updated frame geometry for a more gravity/enduro spirit.

The four-strong lineup of Remedy models available in Australia begins at $3699 for the aluminium version and tops out at the Remedy 9.8 for $6799.

New for 2017 the Remedy is 27.5″ only, no more 29″ model. Travel bumps up to 150mm of travel and they all use RockShox rear shocks, and like the Fuel EX the frame is stiffer and geometry more aggressive.

For the full rundown on the changes to the 2017 Remedy, click through to our in-depth launch piece here: 2017 Trek Remedy.

Trek Remedy 9.8,
Trek Remedy 9.8, $6799.
New for 2017, RockShox rear shock wit Trek's Re:Aktiv damper inside.
New for 2017, RockShox Deluxe rear shock with Trek’s Re:Aktiv damper inside.
Tipping the playful Remedy into a turn.
Tipping the playful Remedy with meaty 27.5″ Bontrager tyres into a turn.

We took the 9.8 for a quick lap of Stromlo, hear are our thoughts after the ride: Quick Ride Review – Remedy 9.8

The Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited in glossy red (below) looks like a real winner. An aluminium frame keeps the price down, but the spec is excellent, RockShock Lyrik, SRAM X1 drivetrain and Bontrager 30mm wide rims. One to keep an eye out for sure.

Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited, $5399.
Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited, $5399.

Trek Slash 29

Bikes don’t get any more badass than this. The new 2017 Slash 29 is a monster of a bike, with 29″ wheels wrapped in chunky rubber and Bontrager’s new 35mm clamp bar and stem.

Slash your type of bike? Don’t miss all the details in our 2017 Slash launch post here: 2017 Slash 29.

In contrast to the trend towards 27.5″ wheels in the Enduro category, Trek have opted to go for big hoops on this monster. Why? Well the Slash is designed as an Enduro race bike, and Trek feel that for the job of winning races, a 29er is the best format. They didn’t go into this decision blindly, we might add. Over the past few years Trek have had two of the most successful Enduro racers on the planet on their EWS team (Leov and Moseley) both of whom opted for the Remedy 29er, not the 27.5 Slash or Remedy 27.5.

There are two models of the Slash 29 coming to our shores, the 9.9 in glossy red with SRAM Eagle and burly FOX X2 rear shock and 36 fork, $8999. And the 9.8 below is quite reasonable for $6999 with RockShox bits and SRAM X1 drivetrain.

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The killer value Slash 29 9.8 for $6999, black as.
RockShox Deluxe trunnion mount rear shock.
RockShox Deluxe trunnion mount rear shock.

Stache

Now this thing is a bit of an oddity, but makes so much sense – Plus size bike built around 29″ wheels with 3″ wide tyres. We’ve had loads of experience with 27.5+ bikes from all sorts of brands, hardtails and dual suspension, but we’ve only ever ridden one 29+ bike, a Surly Krampus. While it was a cool concept that offered huge stability, it was just too big and long to consider for the type of mountain biking we enjoy.

We chatted with Travis Brown about the concept behind the Stache, why it’s a 29er and how they arrived at a final product with such a short rear end. Have a look at our chat with a legend here: Chatting with the legend – Travis Brown.

Trek have gone with 29″ over 27.5″ in a plus size as they believe if you’re going to want benefits of the big tyres, why not go all out and have the benefits of bigger diameter wheels too? But with 29″ wheels you run into a lot of issues with frame geometry, trying to fit it all in with a bike that doesn’t blow out to having a massive wheelbase was a challenge that Trek managed to overcome. The elevated chainstays allow the rear wheel to be brought closer to the bike’s centre, take a look at the overlap between the rear tyre and the chainring, like nothing we’ve seen before.

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Travis Brown on the Stache, he’s mad for it.

The adjustable stays also meant this bike can be converted to a single speed and can accomodate a wide variety of wheel sizes too, it’s a freaky wonder of a bike and we like it.

The Stache will come to Australia in three variants, starting at $2399 for the rigid version, $3299 for the green one below and $4499 for the slick carbon number.

We took the mid range Stache 7 for a quick blast around Stromlo with US mountain bike legend and hall of fame guru Travis Brown and we relished the huge traction but could not believe how short the bike felt. It’ll take some getting used to that’s for sure, a bike with 29″ wheels and 3″ tyres should simply not feel that agile so when we get one on review we’ll have to re-program our minds somehow. Pop a wheelie and you’ll know what we mean, 420mm chain stays is short for any bike, and you can adjust that down to a remarkable 405mm, crazy stuff.

Trek Stache 9.6
Trek Stache 9.6 with a carbon frame.
Big rubber, 3" tyres on 46mm wide rims. Go anywhere machine.
Big rubber, 3″ tyres on 46mm wide rims. Go anywhere machine.
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No way 29er with 3″ tyres could be short enough without elevated chain stays.
The rear centre can be adjusted between 405 and 420mm. That is seriously short!
The rear centre can be adjusted between 405 and 420mm. That is seriously short!
Stache 7, $3299.
Stache 7, $3299.

Top Fuel

While it does carry over to 2017 unchanged from the current model, we couldn’t keep our eyes off the top level Top Fuel 9.9 RSL. It’s a whopping $11499, and one of picks for the ultimate XC race bike. We took the Top Fuel 9.8 SL for a lap of Stromlo and obviously enjoyed the climb, but also had a blast on the way back down (we’d not hesitate fitting a dropper post to one though, we’re tragics).

There’s nothing quite like hooking through fast singletrack on such a fast handling bike, it’s not for the faint hearted though, unless you’re dead keen on racing we’d suggest the Fuel EX for a more trail friendly bike.

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The Top Fuel 9.9 RSL, a seriously delicious race bike.
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The compact carbon linkage and rear end feels ridiculously light.
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Trek were proud to display five National Champs bikes, that’s so impressive! From XCO, Marathon, Road, Enduro and Ironman.

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.

Tested: Trek Procaliber 9.8 SL

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Stealth black, the understated look is quite menacing, it means business on the race track!

What is it?

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The Gary Fisher Procaliber was one of the hot race bikes of yesteryear, the name returns with a fresh face.

The Procaliber 9.8 SL comes from a three-tiered lineup of carbon hardtails, Trek’s premium cross country race bike. Used by the Trek Factory team including Aussie champs Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell this frame has been widely accepted in the racing community.

The Procaliber uses Trek’s Smart Wheel Size arrangement, meaning the small 15.5″ frames use 27.5″ wheels and 17.5″ and upwards use 29″ wheels.  It’s a Boost compatible bike with front and rear hubs using the new standard width, and keeping in theme with Trek 29ers this one also uses the custom fork offset and tweaked geometry they call G2. So there’s a fair bit of new technology going on here.

At the heart of the Procaliber frame is the IsoSpeed decoupler first championed in Trek’s road bike range, a system to give the bike a more compliant ride. When seated the Procaliber is said to be up to 70% more compliant than the Trek Superfly SL (regular carbon hardtail).


The IsoSpeed decoupler

IsoSpeed was initially introduced in the Domane road bike followed by their Boone cyclocross bike, and is already onto its second configuration in the latest Domane. It essentially uses a bushing and axle arrangement at the junction of the seat tube and top tube to allow the seat post to bend backwards independently from the top tube, adding comfort when seated. The top tube and down tube are completely seperate parts, joined by the decoupler unit.

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Quite a simple system, you’re clearly able to see what moves and what doesn’t.
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The seat tube rocks back and forward to numb some of the forces initiated at the rear wheel by the trail surface.

Slim seat stays and beefy chain stays keeping in trend with the popular cross country hardtails out there.

The Procaliber SL frame weighs 1012g around 100g heavier than the outgoing Superfly SL. While that figure makes it notably heavier than some of the competition, especially since Scott recently blew up the segment with their crazy light new Scale RC SL hardtail frame.

The Procaliber also scores the new internal cable housing system dubbed ‘Control Freak’. It’s Di2 compatible if you’ve got the good stuff, and a large port under the down tube means you’ll able to access and tie the internal cables together inside the frame to reduce unwanted rattling.

Supplied with the Procailber is an assortment of cable port plug shapes to swap out depending on the arrangement you’re using, whether it be double ring, dropper post, Shimano Di2 or any other combination it will support the configuration neatly.


The parts

Aside from being impressively colour matched, the parts on the 9.8 SL model are well suited to the task of smashing lap times at the race track or munching miles on marathon epic rides.

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RockShox SID RL with remote lockout, a solid performer and looks quite large with wide crowns thanks to the Boost spacing.
A remote lockout for the RockShox SID fork, some love them, we're not that fussed with them.
The remote lockout for the RockShox SID fork, some love them, we’re not that fussed with them.

Suspension: Up front the Boost spacing gives the RockShox SID an even wider set crown, pushing the legs further apart. Taking little time to get used to the wide fork, we relished the added security it gives, with only 100mm of travel the front end still feels very secure. It uses a 51mm crown offset too (readily available), a critical part of Trek’s G2 geometry concept for great handling 29ers. So take that into consideration if a fork upgrade is on the horizon.

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Minimal and effective. The single-ring 11-speed drivetrain has a huge range of smooth and quiet gears.

Drivetrain: The 9.8 SL uses a full SRAM drivetrain with Shimano brakes, mixing brands this way is common sight in many of the big bike companies motivated by dealers and consumers to find the most reliable and best performance regardless of brand. The SRAM 11-speed drivetrain was flawless as usual during our testing, and also gives the Procaliber a very clean and un-cluttered appearance with no front derailleur. The 32 tooth chainring strikes a good balance between high and low range gears, we found it to be just the right size.

While performance is excellent there is weight to be saved in future upgrades with the pinned X1 cassette and aluminium cranks, keep that in mind come Christmas or birthday shopping times, there’s always something you can buy, right?

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SRAM X01 rear derailleur, these things last for yonks and provide crisp and consistent gear changes provided the cable is running clean and slick.
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One clamp on the left, three on the right.

Braking: The Shimano XT brakes are undisputed favourites at Flow, the power and control under one finger is outstanding and the light wheels take little effort to pull up from speed. The mis-matched shifters and brake levers do give up the advantage of combining them with one handlebar clamp though, and add the remote fork lockout lever in the mix and there is a bit going on up a the bars.

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So much carbon, so little room for upgrading! The 9.8 is specced very well, this Bontrager XXX post is a real piece of art.

Carbon cockpit: Our test bike came with a very nice carbon bar and seatpost from Bontrager, different to the spec listed on the Trek website, we were told things like that happen through the year. The carbon components from Bontrager are always nice, leaving less room for tempting upgrades down the track.

You don't get much more XC than lightweight silicone grips, and these are our favourites, ESI.
You don’t get much more XC than lightweight silicone grips, and these are our favourites, ESI.

Tyres: Bontrager tyres are now some of the highest regarded treads around, we’re massive fans of their trail and enduro tyres. Their considered tread patterns, tacky compounds and tubeless compatibility makes them a sure bet. The XR1 Team Issue tyres are as good as it gets if racing is your thing, on dry and fast trails they provide great friction to the surfaces and the low profile block-shaped tread with a slight angle give them serious rolling speed. But don’t expect much from them on looser or damper surfaces, these guys are for experienced racers only! Perhaps keep a set of the Bontrager XR2 tyres on hand if the surfaces become more challenging.

Bontrager XR1Team Issue tyres, FASSSSST.
Bontrager XR1Team Issue tyres, FASSSSST.

On the trail

We hear it all at Flow, the percentile gains from all possible features under the sun, mountain biking is loaded with marketing talk to give a brand or bike a point of difference for the consumer. To be frank when we first saw IsoSpeed there was plenty of doubt in our minds, sure it may work but is it worth the cost, weight, complications etc?_LOW5267

Setting up the Procaliber for its maiden ride we whipped out the inner tubes, fitted the supplied tubeless valves and with a cup of Stan’s Sealant the Bontrager tyres went up and stayed up without a glitch. The RockShox SID fork was easy to setup with an air pressure guide on the rear of the leg helping us reach a good base setting, and we were good to go.

Just sitting on the saddle and placing a finger on the IsoSpeed joint you can clearly feel the movement between the seat tube and top tube, there’s no doubt that there’s plenty of movement going on in that region. Start bouncing on the seat you’ll really feel the seatpost rocking gently underneath you. Well, that confirmed our first hesitation at least, then it was off to the trails to get it dirty.

Humming along the Procaliber feels incredibly light, the DT Swiss wheels and super-low profile Bontrager tyres give the bike a real zippy feeling and it takes very little energy to keep it rolling fast. We set the bars up quite low, with the stem a few spacers down on the steer tube and the low front end was amazing on the climbs, we were stomping on the pedals and flying through the uphill singletrack.

When the surfaces became rougher we turned our attention to the IsoSpeed feature, and were clearly able to feel contrast between seated and standing. Standing on the pedals the Procaliber feels solid, sit down and there’s a definite numbing effect as the shock is dissipated through the movement in the seat tube, and there’s significantly less sting in the trail.

It’s no suspension bike though, it still kicks you in the back side if you stay seated as you hit impacts, but with about 11mm of movement in the IsoSpeed thing, there’s certainly benefit in terms of fatigue during longer rides and the ability to remain seated on the technical climbs for maximum power output and traction.

We’ve always enjoyed riding Trek 29er hardtails, they always feel agile and make light work of singletrack, perhaps its the G2 geometry coming into play with the quick steering feel.


Verdict

Yes, it works. The Procaliber with its fancy IsoSpeed is a clever approach to providing comfort in the otherwise harsh world of racing hardtails.

The weight penalty for the ability to offer some respite for your back on long rides, or enabling you to remain in the saddle longer on rougher sections of the trail will no doubt be worth it for the weight conscious racer, especially those who shy away from the astronomical prices of a dual suspension bike of the similar weight.

It’ll also blur the lines between choosing a dually or hardtail, because when it comes down to it, if the terrain suits a hardtail nothing beats a carbon 29er when you’re really hammering on the pedals. _LOW5332

Trek’s New Slash 29 Enduro Weapon

Holy dooley, say hello to Trek’s new Enduro destroyer! The Slash 29 is a purpose built Enduro machine, and it has us in a violent headlock of love.

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Love at first sight.

Key points:

  • Slash is now 29er only!
  • Bikes don’t get more bad-ass than this
  • 150mm travel rear, with 160/130mm travel-adjustable forks
  • Stiffest dual suspension bike Trek have ever made
  • Will destroy any Enduro track on the planet

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016

We actually first saw this bike back at the Trek Fuel EX and Remedy launch a number of weeks ago, but threats and blackmail have kept us quiet till now. Trek kept this beast up their sleeve until right at the end of the launch, and it sure got a big response when Trek’s Casey Brown rolled it into the seminar room! The new Slash 29 has got to be one of the most menacing, sensational looking bikes we’ve clapped eyes on, especially in the bold team paint job.

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Casey Brown presents the Slash 29, the bike she’ll be racing on the EWS.

Let’s get this out of the way: this bike is 29er only. That’s right, in contrast to the trend towards 27.5″ wheels in the Enduro category, Trek have opted to go for big hoops on this monster. Why? Well the Slash is designed as an Enduro race bike, and Trek feel that for the job of winning races, a 29er is the best format. They didn’t go into this decision blindly, we might add. Over the past few years Trek have had two of the most successful Enduro racers on the planet on their EWS team (Leov and Moseley) both of whom opted for the Remedy 29er, not the 27.5 Slash or Remedy 27.5.

The Slash gets the Mino Link geometry adjustment - the head angle can be 65.6 to 65.1 degrees.
The Slash gets the Mino Link geometry adjustment – the head angle can adjusted from 65.6 to 65.1 degrees.

Slash 29 geo

 

And so Trek has taken that feedback, combined the big wheels of the Remedy 29 with the travel and laid-back geometry of the Slash, and created a weapon of mass destruction. This clearly isn’t going to be a bike to take for a rip around your local cross country loop, but we are itching to give it a run on the roughest trails we can find.

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016
Deep chain stays. With a single-ring only design, Trek have been able to keep the rear end stiff and short, at 435mm.
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160mm travel FOX 36 with 29″ wheels and 65.1 degree head angle. What won’t you be able to mow down?

Like the Remedy, the Slash gets the new Straightshot down tube, but the focus on frame stiffness doesn’t stop there with this bike. Trek claim the new Slash 29 is way stiffer than any dual suspension bike they’ve ever made, even the Session downhill bike, and when you look at the single-ring specific chain stays on this thing it’s hard to imagine they’re telling porky pies.

Removing the Full Floater lets Trek fit a larger shock, lower in the frame.
Removing the Full Floater lets Trek fit a larger shock, lower in the frame.

The keen eyed out there will have noticed the Slash has a different suspension configuration to other Trek full suspension bikes – there’s no Full Floater system (Trek’s usual ‘floating’ shock mounting). Instead, the shock is mounted to the down tube in a more conventional kind of design. This is a bit of a surprise move, but Trek have their rationale:

“We developed Full Floater years ago to address performance constraints associated with the air shocks that were available at that time. Since then, mountain bike shocks have evolved. More dynamic and responsive dampers, along with more refined air springs like EVOL and Debonair, offer the performance benefits our engineers sought to achieve with Full Floater.

“Using a fixed lower shock mount opens up the lower frame area, giving us more opportunity to design stronger, stiffer frames and chainstays. This also gives us more flexibility to accommodate larger, more capable shocks. All of these effects are experienced most dramatically on long travel bikes, like the Slash.”

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There are going to be two models of the Slash coming to Australia, both using the same carbon frame. The 9.9 pictured here, with SRAM Eagle 12-speed and a FOX X2/36 suspension package for $8999, or for $6999 you can pick up the Slash 9.8 with a RockShox suspension package and SRAM GX drivetrain.


Bike Fitting Fundamentals: A Case Study with Dylan Cooper

It’s Saturday morning and the familiar smell of glove funk and chain lube is wafting in the air. You’re out on your local ride feeling indestructible. Unfortunately you come to realise that you are not. Frustratingly it’s not your fitness that gives out but that recurring injury that has plagued you for what feels like as long as you can remember. Personally at this point I’d be justifying a more expensive bike for myself as an investment in my health. However the first three bikes didn’t change the issue, why would the next? You may have spent thousands of dollars on your dream bike, why not make sure the bike fits you and more importantly that you fit the bike. Not only will you be more comfortable and efficient on the bike, but it also less likely to get injured.

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Dylan Cooper at Port to Port MTB 2016.

Have you thought about paying some attention to that ache and visiting your local therapist with a good knowledge of cycling biomechanics?

At this point, I should probably disclose that I work as Physiotherapist at Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy in Canberra and have a particular interest in bike fitting. I’ve seen many broken and battered bodies ranging from the elite to the highly recreation. Mountain bikers certainly provide some of the most interesting stories as to how they ended up with that stiff knee, broken shoulder or achey back. Unfortunately the mere act of pedalling a bike is highly repetitive and restrictive on the body. There aren’t too many sports where you are fixed at the feet, pelvis and hands then ask your poor body to repeat the same movement thousands upon thousands of times. Not to mention the odd loss of skin.

There are a few things you can do to make that Saturday morning ride more comfortable and enjoyable. The first seems like the most obvious. Have you thought about paying some attention to that ache and visiting your local therapist with a good knowledge of cycling biomechanics?

If the problem only occurs whilst riding then it is safe to say the bike has something to do with it. Once again don’t go blaming the new 27.5” carbon fibre dually that you just bought, it could still be your body that needs fixing to allow you to use the bike to its full potential.

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Even veterans of the sport can improve their bike fit.

Recently I had the pleasure of working with Dylan Cooper from Trek Racing Australia to help solve a few of his long term aches and pains and get the most out of his bike. Before even looking at bike position and pedalling technique we like to run through a full musculoskeletal screening to check muscle length, joint range of motion, pelvic alignment, key muscle strength and motor control. Then there are structural components to check such as foot abnormalities and leg length differences. When it comes to feeling great whilst riding it is just as important for the body to be able to cope with a cycling position, as much as the bike being the correct fit for the body. Having said that there are some adjustments you can experiment with yourself.


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Saddle height is crucial, even if you’re on a trail or Enduro bike with a dropper post. It’s handy to measure and recored your ideal height, so you can quickly get the set up correct if something slips, breaks or needs replacing. 

Saddle Height

Saddle height is one of the most important measurements on the bike. Too high and the pelvis will roll side to side on the saddle, and potentially aggravate the lower back. Too low and there is significantly more compressive forces going through the patella-femoral joints (kneecap joints), as well as decreasing overall pedalling efficiency. The correct height is a happy balance between staying steady on the saddle and getting the correct amount of knee extension to maximise drive through the pedals.

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Measuring ankle angles to re-check seat height.

Being a very technically minded rider, Dylan had his saddle height near spot on. The only adjustments that needed to be made was a mild increase in height and the packing out of a cleat to compensate for a slight leg length difference. This allowed Dylan to gain better and more consistent contact with the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

Dylan’s Comment:

“I’d messed around with saddle height for years, but wasn’t ever 100% confident with it. Having Simon confirm it was correct was reassuring and also meant if I didn’t feel right on the bike it was probably due to another set up issue. Having things measured and noted down also” helps. Now when I get my bikes each season I can just refer to those measurements and know they’re correct.

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The knee cap should be over the axle of the pedal in the 3 o’clock position for optimal fore/aft position.

Saddle Fore aft position

Fore aft position of the saddle has an effect on the how your body creates power. Too far forward and the thigh muscles become dominant and potentially cause knee pain. Too far back and you may compromise your ability to push through the pedals or end up in a position unfavourable to the lower back. Ideally the posterior surface of the knee cap should be over the pedal axle when the pedal is at “3 O’clock” in the pedal stroke with your ankle at its usual angle at this point of the pedal stroke. Once again Dylan wasn’t too far off the mark here and didn’t have any real low back or knee complaints.

Dylan’s Comment:

“This is another one I always played around with, especially when saddles change shape and length each year. Having this measured accurately gave me the confidence to commit to my set up.”

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Checking cleat position and float.

Cleat position

Cleats can be trickier to get the positioning right on. The simplest way I can explain cleat position is aim for the middle of the balls of the foot. If in doubt go with what feels comfortable and stable. It’s in this region that Dylan’s kryptonite began. Dylan complained of having long term pain on the outer border of the foot, particularly down long descents where there was a lot of pressure through the feet. He has experimented with a multiple pairs of shoes and orthotics however the problem has remained.

On assessing Dylan’s feet, I was quietly happy that he hadn’t been blessed with perfect genetics. Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be fair on the less cardiovasulcularly gifted riders such as myself. He had an abnormal foot type where his big toe joint had dropped and was causing his forefoot to roll outwards leading to excessive pressure on the lateral border of the foot. Dylan also had excessively pronated feet (flat arches) which pushed his knee towards the top tube during his pedal stroke. It should be mentioned here, that excessively pronated feet unlocks the midfoot axis and hence one doesn’t have a rigid lever to push on the pedals. Hence with a mobile pronated foot, one loses energy in the transfer of power to the pedal.

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Assessing forefoot position for optimal pedal contact and potential foot pain

Again, cycling is a bugger for showing up any biomechanical flaws. Carbon fibre cycling shoes with little give can potentially make for a very uncomfortable riding experience. To fix the problem, we made a pair of customized orthotics for Dylan designed to allow even pressure through the balls of the feet to compensate for his dropped big toe as well as provide adequate arch support to control the excessive pronation. This helped alleviate the foot pain and created a more stable platform for pushing through the pedal. It also enabled Dylan to keep his knee in line with the pedals rather than tipping towards the top tube, meaning a more efficient pedal stroke.

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As part of the fit process, Dylan’s left vs right leg power was assessed.

As an adjunct to this remedy Dylan was also taught gluteal (buttock muscle) stabilising exercises in the cycling position. The gluteal muscles are important for cyclists as they are the main stabilisers for the hip joint. Without good gluteal function the knee can have a tendency to go in and out during the pedal stroke rather than straight up and down. This can potentially cause pain or injury to the knee, as well as decreased pedalling efficiency.

Dylan’s Comment:

“The corrections in my feet and focusing on specific glute strengthening exercises has been the biggest revelation. I’ve put up with excruciating pain in my feet for most of my cycling career, especially in the heat. And I’d tried almost everything to fix the issue. But in the end I gave up. Having this sorted out in one sweep was amazing. And, combined with glute strengthening I can notice the difference in power and efficiency.”

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Again, knowing your measurements helps. The seat/bar distance is something we pay more attention to on the road, but it’s important on the mountain bike too, particularly if you’re spending long periods of time in the saddle during a marathon race for instance.

Stem length and position

The front end of the bike is mostly about comfort and control. Handlebars too close to a rider can create issues through lower back. Too far away often leads to neck issues. On a road bike an aerodynamic body position needs to be taken into account, however not so low as to compromise back position or pedalling efficiency. On the mountain bike it is safe to say that aerodynamics isn’t as big a priority. I certainly haven’t seen anyone descending Mt Stromlo on aero bars lately.

Headstem length, handlebar height, handlebar width and brake position are very much a personal preference depending on riding style. It is useful to keep in mind what effect each change has on your back position if you plan on riding up the hill as well as down. Keeping the lower back in a neutral posture by maintaining the natural slight inward curve of the spine allows the leg muscles to drive from the most stable base, and generally feels a lot more comfortable several hours into a long day in the saddle. Dylan, much like many of the elite level cyclists, was running a very aggressively low handlebar position to allow for excellent cornering and climbing control. With good core strength and muscle flexibility he could hold this position easily without compromising his low back posture.

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Fitting a stem measuring device to assess the best possible handlebar position.

For many of the cyclists that I meet a headstem too long can lead to poor upper back and shoulder position. If the handlebars are too far away the natural response is to push the shoulder blades forward to maximise the length of the arms. Riders will also often shorten the headstem in response to low back pain however sometimes this is counterproductive. By shortening the reach it can be like pushing two ends of a piece of bamboo closer together. The result can be more bend and more low back pain. Conversely the same can occur if the handlebars are too low as riders with poor flexibility will be forced to bend more through the back to reach the handlebars. We usually use a sizing stem which allows observation of posture whilst pedalling in many headstem degrees of drop, raise and length.

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This shot is of Dylan’s Trek Superfly 100 from 2015, but you can certainly see that aggressive front end position he prefers.

Dylan’s Comment:

“I definitely run a low and long position, mainly to keep stretched out and have more range to ‘work’ the bike with. Too many riders assume a higher and shorter cockpit set up is better for descending, unweighing the front end too much and not keeping their body weight balanced between both wheels. This is a key thing to get right if you want to handle a bike well, but also avoid back pain.”

Sorting out orthotics to alleviate foot pain. This also allows better contact and power transfer through the pedal.
Sorting out orthotics to alleviate foot pain. This also allows better contact and power transfer through the pedal.

Brakes and shifters

Ok so most of you have figured out already that braking with 4 fingers doesn’t feel good. However for those of you new to mountain biking the brakes needs to be adjusted such that you are only using your index finger. To maximise your braking capacity the curved tip of the brake lever shoulder be lined up with the index finger. Play with the reach adjustment where possible to maximise the comfort levels. Once the brakes are set the shifters are adjusted to where it feels most comfortable and accessible.

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Having your brake lever positioned so that stress is reduced on your tendons and muscles will reduce the risk of arm pump.

Attention also needs to be paid to the angle of the wrist. Hand and finger musculature works much more efficiently when the wrist is in a neutral position, which on a mountain bike is as if you were punching the handlebars. Too much angle at the wrist forwards or backwards can lead to impingement or tendon injuries, and is far more likely to increase the dreaded arm pump.

Dylan’s Comment:

“This is such an important, but neglected, aspect of setting yourself up on a mountain bike. A lot of people I know run their levers way too high and it forces them to compensate with other parts of their body.”


Where do you start?

If you do decide to experiment with different positions I suggest you make small changes at a time. Allow your body to adapt and respond to your new and hopefully improved setup. If in doubt there is no harm in asking for help. Getting your position right on the bike is much easier with a second set of eyes watching from angles that you may only achieve whilst riding past a photographer in a race. If you are anything like my friends you’ll be more preoccupied with striking the best cornering pose than holding the perfect pedalling posture. In that case why not go get a bike fit.

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching someone ride a bike worth more than my car with a horrible seat position or headstem that just isn’t right for them

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching someone ride a bike worth more than my car with a horrible seat position or headstem that just isn’t right for them. Personally I would highly recommend a physiotherapist with bike fitting experience as there is often as many problems that need solving on the body as there are on the bike. You may be needlessly putting up with problems that can be easily fixed and make your riding experience so much more enjoyable.


About the Author:

Simon Davis works is a senior physiotherapist at Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy in Canberra. He is an avid mountain biker and has a special interest in treating cycling related injuries and correcting lower limb biomechanical issues. He regularly performs bike fitting assessments for all cyclists from weekend warriors to the elite level professional rider.

About the Rider:

Dylan races for Trek Racing Australia and has nearly 20 years of racing experience. He’s won countless national series races and represented Australia at the World Championships 7 times, as well as many World Cups. As well as 10 years of skills coaching experience, Dylan has raced internationally for years and won across various disciplines, including cross country, marathon, short track, road, and enduro. He’s passionate about getting people into this great sport and loves seeing people improve.

Flow’s First Bite: Trek Fuel EX and Remedy 9.9

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Ah, Canada…

There’s no chairlift or gondola in Squamish, which rules it out for most of the Whistler crowd instantly. You climb to the best bits, and you’re rewarded with loamy, fast, rooty, flowy, singletrack descending, some of the very best we’ve ever ridden.

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Perfect trail bike territory.

In short, it’s perfect trail/all-mountain bike territory, which made it the ideal testing ground for two of Trek’s newest offerings, the Fuel EX 9.9 and Remedy 9.9. We only had two days on the trails, but we made the most of them, giving us plenty of fodder to formulate solid initial impressions about the performance of these two rigs. We’ll be locking in some proper review time on board both the Fuel and Remedy on our home trails too.

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If you haven’t read our in-depth article about the new Fuel and Remedy, please check it out here.


Fuel EX 9.9

Our first day of riding Squamish was aboard the Fuel EX 9.9. This 11.3kg weapon is the top model in the new Fuel line-up; there’s more bling here than a Kanye West film clip, with SRAM Eagle, DT XMC1200 wheels, SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes and premium FOX suspension all round.

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Highly evolved.

The loop we had planned took in a couple of decent climbs, so we opted to leave the Fuel is its steeper 67.7 degree head angle setting. We long admired the grippy manner in which the Fuel ascends, and the new version takes this to another level. With the wide DT rims and the supple Bontrager tyres, there’s a huge amount of rear wheel traction. The SRAM Eagle drivetrain delivers on all its promises too – if you’ve got lower gears available you’ll always use them, and we found ourselves clicking down to the massive 50-tooth low gear more than we expected to use it.

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Don’t be surprised if later versions of this bike come with Bontrager’s XXX Kovee wheels, rather than the DTs seen here.

Looking around the group of riders, we did notice that a few people had their seat post right on the minimum insertion line. Because of the new kinked seat tube on the Fuel, the amount of seat post adjustment is a little limited. Careful consideration of frame size will be important – measure up your inseam and make sure you can get sufficient seat post height when choosing your frame size.

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The Fuel has a bit more menace about it now, with slacker angles and long legs. Note the kinked seat tube – it does mean you need to pay close attention when picking your frame size.
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Not a bad spot for a park up! The section of trail immediately after this certainly put the Fuel’s braking grip to the test.

We discovered before long that a cross country ride in Squamish is decidedly more gnarly than what you’ll find in most Australian trail centres! Launching blindly off ladder drops and granite rollers on a trail called Rupert, we quickly came to appreciate the 10mm of additional travel and stiff 34mm fork found on the new Fuel. On our second run down the same trail, we felt incredibly comfortable on the bike – that confidence building mix of buttery suspension, a roomy reach measurement and the wide 760mm bars had us pushing things much harder than is advisable when jet lagged! After a few seriously hard landings, we checked the o-ring on the fork and shock; we’d used full travel on both ends, but without ever being aware of hitting bottom out, full marks here.

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The Fuel’s shock is travel-reduced, so the o-ring doesn’t make it to the very end of the shock shaft at bottom out. We had no worries getting full travel, but without being aware of any bottom outs.

The final portion of the ride included some of those amazing, long rock slabs that are so iconic to this area of BC. If you ever need to get a feel for how a bike handles under heavy braking, this is the spot! Once again, the sensitivity of the Fuel’s suspension and the grip levels it attains blew us away.

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Dropping in on the Fuel.

For the afternoon session we dropped the bike into its slacker setting. On the climb back up into the dense wooded hills, we could certainly feel that the slacker angles required a little more attentiveness to keep the front end on line. The tradeoff is the stability and confidence that comes with the slacker angles, which was really highlighted to us on a couple of super-steep rock rollers and chutes, where it’s nice to have plenty of wheelbase out front.

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A 60mm stem on our size medium test bike. We noticed some riders opted to go up a frame size with a 50mm stem – not a bad idea, if you’re a particularly hard rider.

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Squamish isn’t all hand-built technical singletrack, there’s also a good chunk of flat-out flow trail, with monster berms. It was here that we gained the most insight into how much stiffer the Fuel’s frame is than its predecessor. We’ve spent a lot of time on the 2016 Fuel, and ridden plenty of these kinds of flow trails on it, so it was easy to detect just how rock solid the new Fuel is. Diving hard into deep bowls of berms, the was never an inkling of the front end twisting or sketching out under heavy load.


Remedy 9.9

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The Remedy 9.9 RSL.

We awoke for our second day of riding to the sound of rain, which is pretty standard for this part of the world, where the Howe Sound funnels moisture up from the Pacific and dumps it onto the mountains. We were heading out on the Remedy 9.9, and on the advice of locals, we dropped a few PSI from our tyres to help find some grip on the wet roots.

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The Eagle spreads its wings.

The Remedy’s legs have been lengthened a little, with 150mm travel out back and 160mm up front on the 9.9 RSL (Race Shop Limited) we were riding, and in order to get as much descending time in as possible, we shuttled part way up into the trail network before embarking on a long, steady ascent up the Legacy Climb. The sentiment we heard again and again from our fellow riders, and which we felt too, was that the Remedy climbed like a demon, way beyond expectations. Even with the ground made heavy by the rain, it made light work of the long climbs – the RockShox Monarch with the RE:aktiv damper is impressively stable under pedalling. On the Remedy 9.9, the Lyrik fork is travel adjustable too, though the climbs we were on weren’t steep enough to require its use.

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Even on the heavy ground of our test trails, the Remedy was an impressive climber, in or out of the saddle.
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The Remedy 9.9 has a travel adjustable fork, but we never felt compelled to use it – it climbs superbly without it.

Before we had begun our ride that morning, we’d spent some time with the crew from SRAM, getting our suspension setup. Our initial worry was that the bike felt a little too soft, and we worried we’d be wallowing in the travel. But once we hit the descents, we realised that the setup was ideal, especially in the slippery conditions. On rooty trails like Angry Midget, the Remedy felt outrageously planted.

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Wet conditions didn’t faze the Remedy – its supple suspension and grip under brakes meant we felt very confident to ride the trails like it was dry.
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Bonty’s rubber is top notch.

Again, the grip was sensational; with the wide Bontrager Line Elite rims and SE4 tyres just hanging on like crazy! That old ‘ride it like it’s dry’ line of Sam Hill’s popped into our heads, there was so much traction that we could forget about the mud that glazed the roots and rocks.

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We like the Drop Line post, but its performance became a little gritty in the wet conditions.

The wet and gritty conditions eventually began to have an impact on the Bontrager Drop Line seat post, however, so during our break for lunch, we pulled the post down to give it a quick clean out. Thankfully the job only takes a few minutes and requires just two Allen keys, but we think Bonty might need to do some more development work on the sealing.

Trek Launch in Squamish, BC, Canada, June 2016

With the sun rapidly drying out the trails, we headed out again for a second rip. The standout trail for the afternoon had to be Hoods in the Woods, a super fast, traversing singletrack descent that had amazing natural rhythm. Even with the Remedy in its steeper setting, the stability is sensational, happily carrying us through some seriously mis-timed jumps over root sections.

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Bombing out of blue skies.

 

Not2Bad Official Trailer

Anthill Films and the TrekC3 Project have teamed up again, this time in Spain, for a month of shredding, shooting and goofing off. The result is Not2Bad!

Check out the official trailer below, then head here for a full list of screenings on the film’s world tour.

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Gee Atherton riding for Not2Bad in Spain.
Gee Atherton riding for Not2Bad in Spain.

Bontrager unveils all-new Line XXX wheels, new Drop Line dropper post, 35mm bars and stems, flat pedals, and tyres.

Bontrager has unveiled all-new Line XXX MTB wheels in addition to the new Drop Line dropper post, 35mm Line Pro bars and stems, Line Pro flat pedals, and updated tread patterns and sizes for the beloved XR4 and SE4 MTB tyres.Line_bike_2

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Bontrager Line XXX wheelset – $3900

SN_TrekBontrager_AustraliaMTB_086_editLine XXX wheels offer unsurpassed impact strength and a supportive 29mm inner rim that combine to give a no-compromise, precision ride feel for technical trails. Handmade at Bontrager’s North American research, development, and manufacturing headquarters in Waterloo, WI, the new Line XXX raises the bar for the brand’s mountain bike wheels, further distinguishing Bontrager’s long history of exceptional quality.SN_TrekBontrager_AustraliaMTB_267-editAlso unveiled is the new Bontrager Drop Line dropper post, a cable-actuated hydraulic locking post that gets out of the way on descents and comes right back to support the rider when the trail demands it. Drop Line is easy to install and remove by clamping the cable at the lever and is available in 3 sizes.

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Bontrager Drop Line post – $399.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.09.39 AMSN_TrekBontrager_ChileMisc_069Line Pro bars and stems come in two levels and bring the sure handling of 35mm bars and stems to any bike. Available in 15 and 27.5 degree rises in both 750mm and 820mm sizes, the Line 35mm bars add a confidence to your bike’s handling while upgrading the aesthetic without adding any uncomfortable stiffness.

Line Pro - stem $129, bars $229.
Line Pro – stem $129, bars $229.

Two of the brand’s most popular tires, the XR4 and SE4, have been updated to include 2.4 and 2.55 sized options and feature new tread patterns that save weight and roll faster with the incredible traction for which the tires first became popular.SN_TrekBontrager_AustraliaMTB_073

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Bontrager Kovee XXX – $3900

Along with the Line family, Bontrager is introducing the Kovee XXX, an OCLV Carbon cross country race wheel with 29mm inner width and wheelset weight of under 1400g. With a wide stance and durable rim, the Kovee XXX is pushing the boundaries of what an XC race wheel can be.mdelorme_03102016-06742

Long-Term Test Update: Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5

The Remedy comes in two wheels sizes, we went for the 27.5 one, it sits in between the 120mm travel Fuel EX and 160mm travel Slash. A real all-rounder with a buttery smooth rear suspension and relaxed geometry, it’s the type of bike that strikes a good balance between long and short travel. Perfect for travelling in search of new trails, not afraid of the rougher trails, and still efficient enough to keep up with the cross country bandits.

Coincidentally it’s the same bike that National Enduro Champion Chris Panozzo rides, although his goes much faster. Check out his unique build and setup here: Panozzo bike check.

We’ve been tinkering and modifying the Remedy from its stock spec, with a current weight of 12.6kg let’s take a look at what’s been going on under the hood of the ‘Pine Lime Express’.

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Hauling on Delatite, Mt Buller.

Front Suspension: 

The FOX Float 36 fork with its beefy legs is an uncommon sight at only 140mm travel, typically we’d see this travel category dominated by the FOX 34, with the 36 found on 160-180mm travel bikes. Not a bad thong at all though, it’s one of the stiffest steering front ends around, you really can put your weight over the forks and push them so, so, so hard.

The fork’s sensitivity isn’t the greatest though, especially when the rear suspension is smoother than butter melted on a silk tablecloth. A known trade for bigger diameter legs is increased surface area which often translates to more stiction, and being a non-Kashima level the fork on this bike does feel a little wooden when compared to the FOX 34 we reviewed recently.

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With a couple Air Volume Spacers fitted helps the fork feel more progressive.

We’ve fitted two air reducers in the spring side to add progressiveness to the stroke, the little plastic spacers are easily fitted but not supplied with the bike, we sourced them from FOX and popped them in to tune to our liking.

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Full Floater, fully plush.

Rear Suspension: 

Anyone who’s spent time on the Trek suspension bikes that use the Full Floater linkage system will agree, it’s one of the most sensitive and supple designs out there. After many years of Trek’s tight relationship with FOX they’ve been able to achieve the desired air spring that makes these bikes really tick without the need for their now superseded DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) rear shocks, the new large volume EVOL air cans on 2016 FOX Float rear shocks is exceptional.

The Remedy’s rear suspension is a system that certainly does require you to use the blue lever on the shock to your benefit, not in a bad way at all, it’s just so plush if you leave it open for anything but the descents it feels a little soft underneath you. To it’s credit, Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv rear shock damper works so well in ‘trail mode’ that we spend most of our time in that middle setting, it’s still more sensitive to small impacts than your regular rear shock thanks to their unique damping system.

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Dwarfed by big mountains, Bright.

Shimano XTR and Di2:

The Remedy was lucky enough to be chosen for the ongoing review of Shimano’s super XTR Di2 electronic shifting and M9020 groupset. With the wheels and brakes also badged with the three letters that spell ‘oooooh, fancy’, the Trail series of XTR with its powerful brakes and wider rim wheels have been ridden hard.

There’s no doubt we’ll see more electronics in the future of mountain biking, Shimano are bound to trickle down the technology to lower price points like on the road cycling domain with Dura Ace and Ultegra, and SRAM mustn’t be far off with a mountain bike version of their wireless road cycling drivetrain, Red E-Tap. Electronics enable things to happen at speeds that are unachievable with hand, and wires can travel places gear cables cannot.

The shifting on this bike is exceptional, super precise and never have we needed to tune the gears, the battery lasts for months and on those trails where you are shifting gears under load nothing compares to the precision and consistency of XTR Di2.

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The Pine Lime Express, as we like to call it. Strikes a good balance between ‘trail’ and ‘all mountain’.
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Electrics, totally from the future.
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The wires travel inside the handlebar, tricky.

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While the Remedy doesn’t have any specific integration for the Di2 wires like some of the latest high end cross country bikes (Trek Top Fuel, Pivot Mach 4 etc) it’s turned out quite nicely. By using a couple of the rubber grommets and plugs that are supplied with the Trek road bikes specced with Di2 Ultegra or Dura Ace we’ve been able to make it look neat and secure.

One long wire travels from the rear derailleur through the chainstay and pops into view under the rear shock, then its back into the down tube where it exits alongside the rear brake and Reverb line before connecting to the computer. The battery is inside the fork steerer, made possible by the Pro Tharsis Di2 bar and stem.

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At home on Sydney’s iconic sandstone.

PRO Tharsis Trail Di2 cockpit: 

Nothing is neater than Di2 with internal wiring, and with Shimano’s component line working so close with Shimano on the dedicated cockpit, the result is the cleanest bike possible.

Click here to read our full review of the Tharsis Trail gear.

The Tharsis bar and stem take the Di2 to the next level, providing internal routing of the wire in through the bar and the battery inside the fork’s steer tube.

The bars were trimmed down from a whopping 800mm wide to 760mm.

C’mon that’s pretty darn neat, right?
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The wires travel into the stem and inside the bars.

Schwalbe Procore:

Schwalbe have successfully produced a very effective dual air chamber system for your wheels, in an effort to increase traction while reducing wheel damage and risk of flat tyres.

While it added 420g to the existing tubeless setup we had already, it’s been a super interesting test of an impressive product. We’ve been running between 10-14psi in the outer chamber and 75 in the inner chamber with great results.

We talk about Procore a lot, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, what bike it suits and what type of rider it will appeal to most. We’ll be delivering our conclusion soon!

Read our initial impressions and installation log here: Schwalbe Procore.

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The inner core of the Procore system, with 85 psi.
Finding traction in the loam of Derby.
Finding traction in the loam of Derby.
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The special valve can select and inflate the two air chambers by switching between them.
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It makes for a heavier wheel, but it has serious appeal and benefit.

Absolute Black Oval Chainring:

With an in depth review coming to Flow shortly, we’ve fitted Absolute Black Oval rings to both our Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 and the Remedy.

It’s odd to ride at first, with a slightly lumpy feeling pedal stroke that is quickly forgotten about during the ride, but with more oval rings becoming popular, the benefits in the theory were worth exploring.

The chainring uses a narrow/wide tooth profile, and it’s all very secure, no dropped chains at all. But the XTR cranks don’t exactly match the black chainring so it’d better be worth it, or it won’t be on for long.

The word from Oval is: “Our Oval chainrings work because a rider does not produce power evenly through a pedal stroke; they maximise the part of the stroke where power is produced and minimise resistance where it isn’t. Oval rings make the spin cycle a lot smoother and are easier on legs while climbing. Believe it (or not), but a round chainring doesn’t transfer torque to your rear wheel as smoothly as an Oval one. You will actually feel your stroke to be more “round” with an Oval shape than with a round chainring.” – Oval.

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Chilling in the green room, Derby.

Ergon GE1 Slim Grips:

Left and right specific, and angled towards the edge to give your hands the best position for wider handlebars, the GE1 Slim Grip from Ergon is a real favourite here.

And the colours match.

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Stay tuned for more sightings of this great bike on Australia’s latest and greatest trails for many more months to come.

 

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.

Flow-Nation-Derby-2015-186
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.

Trek Fuel Long Term Update-1

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.

Flow-Nation-Derby-2015-200
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.

Trek Fuel Long Term Update-8
A 70mm stem and wider bar has made the Fuel even more playful.
Flow-Nation-Derby-2015-218
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.

Trek Fuel Long Term Update-11
The XT drivetrain has been flawless, despite dragging the rear derailleur across the odd rock.
LOW0028-2
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.

Trek Fuel Long Term Update-3
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.

LOW0310
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.

Trek Fuel Long Term Update-12

LOW0333
See? See how stoked this guy is?!

The Atherton Family Joins Trek Factory Racing Downhill

Trek and Trek Factory Racing announced today the creation of a marquee World Cup-level Downhill racing program for the 2016 season.

The new team will take on the full UCI World Cup series as well as select regional Red Bull events. Joining Trek Factory Racing Downhill for its inaugural season will be Rachel Atherton (UK), Gee Atherton (UK), Dan Atherton (UK), and Taylor Vernon (UK).

Trek is proud to partner with Dan, Gee, Rachel, and Taylor, and will offer full support to their exceptional competitive trajectory. Beyond their success in competition, these athletes are phenomenal ambassadors for the sport of downhill mountain biking. The Athertons’ wealth of experience also gives them a unique perspective on product development. Trek will rely on their expertise and input in the continued development of downhill bikes and equipment that have been raced to victory at the pinnacle of the sport.

Atherton Racing

“We are delighted to be a part of Trek Factory Racing,” said Team Director Dan Brown. “The team have substantial goals and we’re really excited to have Trek’s support and partnership. We’re looking forward to bringing the passion and professionalism that Trek have demonstrated across their whole cycling portfolio to our World Cup Downhill campaign and beyond.”

Trek Factory Racing’s product development relationship with its athletes has been a successful recipe, and one Trek plans to replicate with the new downhill program. Trek will work with the new team on the continued development of the best bikes and equipment through active research and testing around all aspects of downhill racing. “A lot of people out there are already saying that the Session is the fastest bike on the circuit,” said Gee Atherton. “Trek have shown how receptive they are to rider feedback, and we want to put our own stamp on the bikes.”

Atherton Racing

Dan and Rachel Atherton are equally excited to participate in the development process. “Trek is super-motivated to develop the bikes and push the brand forward,” said Dan. “They are as hungry to progress the sport as we are and we can’t wait to get started.”

Atherton Racing Atherton Racing Atherton Racing

Rachel added, “I’m stoked to be working with Trek. I remember watching my fellow Brit Tracy Moseley absolutely tearing apart the field at Worlds in 2010 on her Trek Session, then going on to dominate the 2011 season. Trek is a brand with a lot of positive associations for me.”

Gee, Rachel, and Taylor will ride the Trek Session, one of the most decorated mountain bikes in history, equipped with Bontrager components, wheels, and tyres. Dan Atherton will be taking turns on the Trek Session and Slash depending on the race and terrain.

Atherton Racing

Trek Factory Racing

Trek Factory Racing is a global professional cycling team that competes at the highest level with the utmost passion and respect to the sport. Woven around unique, rich personalities that create perfect unity, the team is open, engaging, and welcomes all to come experience the grit and glory of professional cycling.

Bike Check: Chris Panozzo’s Trek Remedy 9.8 Enduro Beast

Panozzo on Mt McKay-1 We’ve spent the last few days riding and filming with Chris at Falls Creek and Mt Beauty, and grabbed a closer look at his Trek Remedy 9.8. He’s got it completely dialled, and has some cool ideas on bike setup. “I don’t normally get super excited any more about setting up my bikes, but when I was building this one I was really happy,” says Panozzo. It’s a pretty tricked out piece of kit.

panozzo -1

[divider]Frame [/divider]

Chris rides a stock frame in the largest size that Trek make, an XL, or 21.5”. He pairs the roomy top tube with a 50mm stem to get the reach how he likes it. He’ll lower or raise the stem height with spacers to suit the tracks he’s racing.

Panozzo Bike Check-4
50mm stem on an XL frame.
Panozzo Bike Check-11
A crafty mod allows Chris’s rear brake to exit where the dropper post would normally enter.

He mas made a neat little mod to the cable ports that allow him to run his rear brake line, his dropper post and his Di2 wiring internally. The rear brake and dropper post line are heat-shrink wrapped together too, so they don’t rattle.

Panozzo Bike Check-7
Cable port plugs from a Trek Domané road bike keep the Di2 wires neat.
Panozzo Bike Check-5
Blue grips, to match blue graphics and blue pedals.

[divider]Suspension[/divider]

Chris runs a FOX 36 with 160mm travel, whereas the Remedy comes stock with a 140mm fork. “I’ve tried 170mm up front, and it works pretty well, but the 36 in 160mm is fantastic. The Remedy has a slightly steeper head angle than some bikes in this category, so running the 160mm fork slackens it out a little. I’ve never found it unbalanced with the rear end, even though it has 140mm out back.”

Panozzo Bike Check-2
A FOX 36 at 160mm keeps the front end ‘pointy’.

Out back, Chris is running a FOX Float X rear shock. “Everyone raves about this shock, and it’s for good reason. It’s super stable, especially under braking, the rear end just tracks so well.

His suspenion front and rear felt super firm to us, so we got him to explain his setup ideas. “I normally run everything really stiff, coming from a downhill background. And then learning how to adapt that to enduro has been difficult, because it’s definitely not the same setup as downhill.”

Panozzo Bike Check-10
A FOX Float X offers more damping control and more consistency on long descents.

Explain please: “You’re hitting stuff so hard in downhill, you don’t want to be compressing into every bump you hit. But that setup takes a lot of energy, it’s very hard on your body, so you can’t keep that up the entire time in Enduro. You’re on the bike for hours, not just three minutes, so you need a setup that’s a bit more forgiving too. I’m still working on it.”

Chris's workmates engaged his shock bolt, just for him.
Chris’s workmates engraved his shock/cock bolt, just for him.

[divider]Tyres[/divider]

Chris runs Bontrager tyres, and in its current setup his bike is equipped with a G5 downhill tyre in a 2.35” size up front, which is a proper downhill tyre. Out back, he’s using a lighter and faster SE3 in a 2.35”. Both are setup tubeless. They’re mounted to carbon Bontrager Rhythm Pro wheels, which are a pretty light set of hoops. “I’m hard on wheels, so when I’m training I’ll usually run alloy rims, so that if I dent them, I can bend them back.”

Panozzo Bike Check-12

“I don’t always run a downhill tyre up front, but I do like to have a really pointy front end.” Pointy? “Yeah, really grippy, stiff. Because even though you steer the bike half the time by hanging off the back, you want to have confidence that the front end isn’t going to dip. It all ties into having the right bar height, the right suspension setup and the right tyre pressures.”

Panozzo Bike Check-13

Chris likes pairing a grippy tyre up front with something faster out back. “I can deal with the bike sliding around out back a bit, because for me it creates a balance that works. When you run a really grippy tyre out back, I find you can lose confidence to really throw it into a turn, because you want the rear end to break loose before the front. If I have a really grippy tyre out back, I find the bike can tend to understeer.”

Panozzo Bike Check-9
A 36 tooth chain ring is a bigger gear than we’d opt to push around!

[divider]Drivetrain[/divider]

Chris runs a full XTR Di2 drivetrain. “The Di2 is the business. It’s so discreet the way it all integrates neatly.” Chris’s setup sees the battery housed in the down tube, and he’s used the cable port plugs out of Trek Domané road bike for the wiring. “The shifting is amazing, you really don’t need to back off when you’re shifting, you can just flat shift it. You can set it up so it doesn’t shift until you pedal too, whereas if you did that with a cable, you’d just be loading up the cable and derailleur. That means you can be on the brakes, flick it down a few gears, and then it’ll shift as soon as you get back on the pedals.”

Panozzo Bike Check-8
Neat!
Panozzo Bike Check-15
XTR levers with Saint calipers.

 

Bike Check: Chris Panozzo's Trek Remedy 9.8 Enduro Beast

National Enduro Champion Chris Panozzo is one of the most terrifyingly committed riders we’ve witnessed. Anyone who has seen his recent video from the trails of Mt Beauty will know what we mean –he hits the dustiest, loosest corners feet up, flat out, and comes out faster than he went in.

Panozzo on Mt McKay-1 We’ve spent the last few days riding and filming with Chris at Falls Creek and Mt Beauty, and grabbed a closer look at his Trek Remedy 9.8. He’s got it completely dialled, and has some cool ideas on bike setup. “I don’t normally get super excited any more about setting up my bikes, but when I was building this one I was really happy,” says Panozzo. It’s a pretty tricked out piece of kit.

panozzo -1

[divider]Frame [/divider]

Chris rides a stock frame in the largest size that Trek make, an XL, or 21.5”. He pairs the roomy top tube with a 50mm stem to get the reach how he likes it. He’ll lower or raise the stem height with spacers to suit the tracks he’s racing.

Panozzo Bike Check-4
50mm stem on an XL frame.
Panozzo Bike Check-11
A crafty mod allows Chris’s rear brake to exit where the dropper post would normally enter.

He mas made a neat little mod to the cable ports that allow him to run his rear brake line, his dropper post and his Di2 wiring internally. The rear brake and dropper post line are heat-shrink wrapped together too, so they don’t rattle.

Panozzo Bike Check-7
Cable port plugs from a Trek Domané road bike keep the Di2 wires neat.
Panozzo Bike Check-5
Blue grips, to match blue graphics and blue pedals.

[divider]Suspension[/divider]

Chris runs a FOX 36 with 160mm travel, whereas the Remedy comes stock with a 140mm fork. “I’ve tried 170mm up front, and it works pretty well, but the 36 in 160mm is fantastic. The Remedy has a slightly steeper head angle than some bikes in this category, so running the 160mm fork slackens it out a little. I’ve never found it unbalanced with the rear end, even though it has 140mm out back.”

Panozzo Bike Check-2
A FOX 36 at 160mm keeps the front end ‘pointy’.

Out back, Chris is running a FOX Float X rear shock. “Everyone raves about this shock, and it’s for good reason. It’s super stable, especially under braking, the rear end just tracks so well.

His suspenion front and rear felt super firm to us, so we got him to explain his setup ideas. “I normally run everything really stiff, coming from a downhill background. And then learning how to adapt that to enduro has been difficult, because it’s definitely not the same setup as downhill.”

Panozzo Bike Check-10
A FOX Float X offers more damping control and more consistency on long descents.

Explain please: “You’re hitting stuff so hard in downhill, you don’t want to be compressing into every bump you hit. But that setup takes a lot of energy, it’s very hard on your body, so you can’t keep that up the entire time in Enduro. You’re on the bike for hours, not just three minutes, so you need a setup that’s a bit more forgiving too. I’m still working on it.”

Chris's workmates engaged his shock bolt, just for him.
Chris’s workmates engraved his shock/cock bolt, just for him.

[divider]Tyres[/divider]

Chris runs Bontrager tyres, and in its current setup his bike is equipped with a G5 downhill tyre in a 2.35” size up front, which is a proper downhill tyre. Out back, he’s using a lighter and faster SE3 in a 2.35”. Both are setup tubeless. They’re mounted to carbon Bontrager Rhythm Pro wheels, which are a pretty light set of hoops. “I’m hard on wheels, so when I’m training I’ll usually run alloy rims, so that if I dent them, I can bend them back.”

Panozzo Bike Check-12

“I don’t always run a downhill tyre up front, but I do like to have a really pointy front end.” Pointy? “Yeah, really grippy, stiff. Because even though you steer the bike half the time by hanging off the back, you want to have confidence that the front end isn’t going to dip. It all ties into having the right bar height, the right suspension setup and the right tyre pressures.”

Panozzo Bike Check-13

Chris likes pairing a grippy tyre up front with something faster out back. “I can deal with the bike sliding around out back a bit, because for me it creates a balance that works. When you run a really grippy tyre out back, I find you can lose confidence to really throw it into a turn, because you want the rear end to break loose before the front. If I have a really grippy tyre out back, I find the bike can tend to understeer.”

Panozzo Bike Check-9
A 36 tooth chain ring is a bigger gear than we’d opt to push around!

[divider]Drivetrain[/divider]

Chris runs a full XTR Di2 drivetrain. “The Di2 is the business. It’s so discreet the way it all integrates neatly.” Chris’s setup sees the battery housed in the down tube, and he’s used the cable port plugs out of Trek Domané road bike for the wiring. “The shifting is amazing, you really don’t need to back off when you’re shifting, you can just flat shift it. You can set it up so it doesn’t shift until you pedal too, whereas if you did that with a cable, you’d just be loading up the cable and derailleur. That means you can be on the brakes, flick it down a few gears, and then it’ll shift as soon as you get back on the pedals.”

Panozzo Bike Check-8
Neat!
Panozzo Bike Check-15
XTR levers with Saint calipers.

 

Tested: Trek Fuel EX 8 29 2016

Everybody has a word which they chronically mis-type. For this reviewer, it’s the word ‘fuel’… about 30% of the time, my fingers will key in the spelling ‘feul’, pushed into another typo by some inexplicably entrenched neurological pathway. While we battle with typing the word, we sure as hell didn’t battle with this bike: the 2016 Trek Fuel (yay, got it first time!) EX8 29 is a solid trail companion, and showcases some excellent improvements from the previous iteration of this bike.

We’re well placed now to comment on this bike’s performance too, having spent a year on both a 2015 Fuel 29er, and 2015 and 2016 versions of the Fuel EX 9.8 27.5.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-2
At first we weren’t sure about the silver seat stays (they reminded us of a warranty replacement!) but the look grew on us.

[divider]What is it and who’s it for?[/divider]

While some brands are going all-in with 27.5, others like Trek still feel that 29″ hoops are going to remain popular and desirable beyond the realms of the XC race category. The confidence, traction and generally sure-footedness of a 29er with trail bike geometry does still make it the ideal platform for a lot of riders. Trek have reinforced this viewpoint by investing in reworking the 29er version of the Fuel frame.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-20
The satin finish is classy.

Coming in at under three and a half grand, the EX8 29 sits at a price point that makes it the first ‘serious’ mountain bike for a lot of riders, and as such it needs to be able to handle the demands of a rider who suddenly has equipment that will let them push their limits a lot further. We think it nails it, delivering with a mix of proven Trek tech (the ABP/Full Floater suspension for instance) and new innovations (like the Boost hub spacing) which have facilitated some welcomed improvements to this bike’s geometry and handling that make it even more confidence inspiring.

Aluminium trail bikes mightn’t be a sexy category, but they are the bread and butter of the mountain bike industry. And bread and butter is still freakin’ delicious, especially as a pudding.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-26

[divider]The frame: Big chop, less flop, more BB drop.[/divider]

Until you inspect closely or get out the tape measure (everybody does that, right?) you could easily overlook the changes that Trek have made to the Fuel 29er frame. First up, it gets Boost rear dropout spacing, with the rear hub a whopping 148mm wide. The extra width not only allows the rear wheel to be made stiffer, but because the chainline is shifted outward slightly too, it helps solve some of the tyre clearance issues that plague 29ers.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-6 Trek Fuel EX 8 29-5

Long, tech-nerd story cut short, Boost spacing has allowed Trek to chop a massive 18mm off the length of the Fuel 29er’s chain stays.

At the same time, the rear end is stiffer too, alleviating two of our main gripes with the previous Fuel 29er; we never really got comfy with the super long rear end on earlier versions of this bike, and the rear end ‘twang’ robbed it of confidence. In comparison, this bike is crazy solid out back, and feels a lot better balanced too, with more wheelbase out in front, and less trailing you.

The Fuel 29er gets some geometry adjustment too for 2016, via Trek’s simple Mino-Link system. In the slacker setting, the head angle is a stable 68.8-degrees, compared to 69.5 on the 2015 bike. The bottom bracket is 4mm lower too. Put all these ingredients – stiffer, slacker, lower, shorter stays – into the melting pot and you get tasty blend that gives riders more confidence. And as we stressed before, in this category and price point, that should be the performance priority.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-29
Cable routing is semi-internal. Not a lot of room for a bottle – a 500ml is a tight fit.

The only serious gripe we have with this frame (and we mention it in every Trek review) is the ABP skewer. It hangs out the back of the bike like some kind of anchor, smashing into rocks willy nilly. Please hire some smart engineer to fix this! Water bottle clearance is also super tight, and a 500ml bottle is a real squeeze.

[divider]All the right bits for a good time[/divider]

It’s not just the frame which contributes to the Fuel’s increased confidence, but a whole bunch of smart spec choices too. A 750mm-bar and 70mm stem combo is a real winner, giving you a strong position over the front end, and the Bontrager XR3 tyres are a proper 2.3″ width as well.

A great cockpit makes a big difference.
A great cockpit makes a big difference – 750mm bar, 70mm stem.

Of course a dropper post is a must on this kind of bike now, and the KS LEV on the Fuel works well. Being cable operated, it’s easy enough to maintain too.

Even though the Shimano 10-speed SLX shifters feel a little clunky (especially in comparison to the new 11-speed XT gear), the 2×10 drivetrain will suit most. In an ideal world, we’d go a single chain ring, and fit something like a Praxis 11-40 cassette, to simplify and lighten the bike a bit.

Shimano’s affordable Deore brakes feel a million bucks! They don’t have a huge amount of bite or raw power, but they’re super consistent and have a light, precise lever feel that’s easy to modulate.

Great tyres! Going tubeless is easy too.
Great tyres! Going tubeless is easy too.

[divider]Skinny legs[/divider]

Just like the rear end, the fork also gets Boost hub spacing, with 110mm-wide dropouts. The stance of the fork is noticeably wider, like it’s been riding a horse, but the legs are still only 32mm. With all the other tweaks that have been made to improve the bike’s stiffness and confidence, we’d have loved to see a 34mm-legged fork on this bike.

The Boost fork has a wider stance, but still only uses 32mm legs.
The Boost fork has a wider stance, but still only uses 32mm legs.

[divider]Instant gratification[/divider]

Trek Fuel EX 8 29 action-5

One hallmark of a quality bike is the length of time it takes to get comfortable and feel like you’ve got the setup dialled. With the Fuel EX8 29, it was seconds, not minutes or hours. Something about the Full Floater suspension system makes it incredibly easy to get right, or very close to it. While other bikes will punish you with a harsh or soggy ride if your suspension pressures are a little off, Trek’s system seems to handle a much bigger margin of error without issue. A quick check of the suspension sag and you’re 95% of the way there, with only fine tuning to do down the track. The same with the fork too, which might lack the more supportive damping of more expensive FOX offerings, but is very easy to get balanced with the rear end.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-24
The magnesium EVO link is super stout, contributing to the bike’s rock solid rear end.

The handling is similarly simple to live with, and a marked improvement over previous Fuel 29ers. We always found the long rear end of the older Fuel 29ers made the bike feel like it needed to be steered through corners, and leaning it over wasn’t so easy. The 2016 bike doesn’t have any of those negative traits.

Whether it be getting onto the tyre side knobs, jumping or manualling, the new geometry makes things much more fun.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29 action-2

[divider]Buttery and gentle[/divider]

“Gentle” was a word that another rider used to describe the Fuel’s suspension, and it’s a pretty apt term for it. Both fork and shock are very smooth in the early stages of their travel, and  have a pretty linear feeling. More aggressive riders, or those who like really supportive suspension to work the terrain, might find things a bit too ‘plush’ or isolating, but we don’t really think that’s this bike’s intended rider. Most folk buying this bike will be blown away by how well this bike smoothes out the trail, and that’s what it’s suspension is optimised to do.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29 action-1

[divider]Chuggy on the climbs[/divider]

Trek Fuel EX 8 29 action-3

Because it’s not a light bike, climbing isn’t the Fuel’s forte, and you’ll want to use the shock lockout lever too. We didn’t find time to convert the wheels over to tubeless, but it’s easily done using Bontrager’s rim strips (the tyres are tubeless ready) and that would have saved some rotating weight and likely improved climbing performance too. At least with the 2×10 gearing you have a good low-range gear should you need it.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

We realise we’ve spent a lot of this review comparing this bike with its predecessor, but that’s only because we’re really impressed with how Trek have made what was already a good bike even better. Great handling, comfort and control galore, excellent suspension and a price point that won’t see you eating sardines and rice for a year either.

Trek Fuel EX 8 29-1

Chris Panozzo: On Rails at Mount Beauty

Chris Panozzo is not afraid.

Show him a dusty berm or two and you’re guaranteed a display of brake-free, full-speed cornering commitment. Watch what happens when he’s unleashed on his home trails of Mt Beauty as the Shimano/Trek racer prepares for the National Enduro Champs.

As The Crow Flies – Trek and Adelaide Football Club

As The Crow Flies documents the journey between Trek and the Adelaide Football Club to create a custom Project One bike to honour the Club’s 2015 Indigenous Round jersey and raise funds for the Adelaide Football Club Indigenous Programs Foundation.

Trek partners with Laurie Nona, the artist behind the Adelaide Crows’ Indigenous Round guernsey, to create a custom Project One bike that honours the rich history of indigenous athletes in Australian Rules Football.


Adelaide_Crow_Detai_Final_Black

TK15_Adelaide_Crows_Paint140

 

The best part…the bike could be yours! Donate to AFF legend Andrew McLeod’s Crows Children’s Foundation charity ride for the chance to win this truly unique bike: http://ow.ly/T38yT

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.

Trek Fuel EX 8 33

[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.

Trek Fuel EX 8 27

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.

Trek Fuel EX 8 30

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.

Trek Fuel EX 8 21
Boost 148 – a new hub and drivetrain standard that allows frame designs greater freedom to achieve better everything.
Trek Fuel EX 8 22
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.

Flow’s First Bite: 2016 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5

The best travel companions are fun, interesting and relaxed. But when it comes to bikes and not people to travel with it pays to be light, smooth and versatile, right?

It’s our pleasure to introduce to you our new Pine Lime Express – the 2016 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5.

The second half of our Flow Nation fleet that joins the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5, this 140mm travel carbon beauty is winning us over already after one week of enthusiastic ‘new bike frothing’ riding. We’ll be throwing this on the back of the car, and packing it in a box to fly and drive around as we feature our next season of must ride destinations.

Check out our Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 first impressions here: Flow’s First Bite: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5.

We’ll be putting in a lot of miles on this rig, and it’ll be used to test a lot of parts but in the meantime let’s take a look at how it came out of the box.

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Remedy 9.8 27.5 for $6099.

Where does it fit in? With 140mm travel and fairly modest geometry, the Remedy sits just below the realm of the super-slack ‘enduro race bike’. It’s aimed to be ridden hard, but also isn’t going to shy away from flatter terrain, so to put the Remedy in a category we’d call it a big all-mountain bike.

There’s a near mirror of this bike with 29″ wheels available, same price, nearly the same spec just with 29″ wheels. We went 27.5″ for the fun of it, sure the 29″ may be faster but we’re not racing anyone.

It’s a well thought out bike, with nice features like a thinner rear tyre for less weight and faster rolling, the Mino Link little reversible chip in the rocker arm for geometry adjustment and frame protection underneath the down tube an on the sides of the seat stays.

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Trek Remedy  4

FOX and Shimano. It’s a FOX and Shimano show here (with a RockShox Reverb seatpost sneaking in there) and the new 11-speed Shimano XT gives the Remedy an enormous range of gears, via the new wide range cassette and double chainring setup. We can’t sing louder praise for this new groupset, hear our thoughts in our full review here: Shimano M8000 11-speed tested. 

The new XT is closer in performance to the premium Shimano XTR stuff than ever before, the brakes are so dialled and light under the finger and shifting is even more precise and solid to engage gears.

It does have a double chainring and front derailleur, we’ll be swapping to a single ring as we like the neater and less cluttered loop

A FOX 36 fork is not exactly a common sight on a bike of this travel amount, typically reserved for bigger 150mm+ bikes the big legged 36mm diameter legs look huge on the front of this bike and sitting down at 140mm travel its going to be amazingly stout when ploughed into rocks, woohooo! We reviewed the older version of the FOX 36 at 160mm on the front of a Norco Range, check that review out here. FOX 36 review. But with the new FIT 4 damper and a regular 15mm quick release axle, the new version is more user friendly and feels extra supple.

RE:aktiv: Out the back the FOX rear shock uses Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv with a 3-position damper. But the DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) dual air spring system has gone from the 2016 range due to the new FOX EVOL large volume air can giving the bike its targeted spring rate curves and suppleness.

We’ve ridden the RE:aktiv damper a few times, and it sure does remain active and supple whilst in trail and climb mode, breaking away the instant a bump hits the rear wheel. We find ourselves riding in the middle rear shock setting a lot, which keeps the shock riding high in its travel and with less wallowing, but thanks to the fancy damper it still takes a hit without spiking harshly.

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The FOX/Trek RE:aktiv damper keeps things firm yet sensitive.
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Chunky legs up front! A FOX 36 fork at only 140mm.

The other bits. Bontrager make up the majority of the cockpit components and the tyres. A big 2.4″ XR4 up front is a great sight, we’ve been huge fans of this exact tyre for a couple years now, the big volume and tacky tread wins us over every corner.

You could dress it up, or down. The Remedy is the bike we want for exploring new trails, it blurs the lines between an all-round trail bike and a hard hitting enduro machine with the ability to go either side really well.

If only the Remedy was available from their cool Project One custom paint job and spec program, this is a bike that we’d love to have as our own but we’d probably just select this colour and build with Shimano XTR Di2 anyhow… Did we say Di2? Stay tuned.

Flow’s First Bite: Trek Fuel 9.8 27.5 2016

Our love affair over the years with Trek’s Fuel series has been a passionate, torrid and deep. We know the Fuel series like the back of our hand, having spent the past 12 months on board both the 29″ and 27.5″ versions of this bike as the steeds of choice for all our Flow Nation road trips.


 

Trek Fuel EX 9.8 8

For the new season, we’re incredibly happy to welcome the 2016 version of the Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 into the Flow stable. While the 29er version of the Fuel has been reworked in a big way, the 27.5 is not a radically different machine to last year’s bike. The frame remains the same as 2015, but there have been some excellent spec changes to add some junk to its trunk. Notably too, the rear shock no longer has the bulbous ‘knob’ of the DRCV chamber – more on that later.

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720mm OCVL carbon bar and one of the neatest, stiffest stems in the business.

Stiffer: Finally the Fuel comes with a fork which can match the bike’s abilities. The new FOX 34 series is a much sturdier number than the 32mm fork which came on the 2015 model. Combined with a wider bar (still only 720mm unfortunately, but that’s better than last year’s skinny 690mm bar) this should give the bike a much more direct feel up front.

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Excellent rubber. Bontrager’s tyres are sensational.

DT wheels: Given how good Trek’s own in-house Bontrager wheels are, we’re surprised to see DT hoops on the Fuel 9.8 for 2016. They’re shod with the versatile Bontrager XR3 rubber, which sealed up tubeless perfectly. They should be a good set of wheels, though we may opt to run a more aggressive XR4 up front (our favourite rubber from Bonty).

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The end of DRCV.

Goodbye DRCV: The Trek/FOX DRCV shock, which used a twin chamber design, has been a consistent feature of the Fuel and Remedy series for the past few years, but for 2016 Trek have decided to move away from this proprietary shock design. Instead, they’re running the new large-volume FOX EVOL shock. Apparently Trek were able to obtain the same ride characteristics with the EVOL shock as they’d been seeking with the DRCV design, namely a more linear spring rate. To be honest, we’re happy to see DRCV phased out. We’ve always liked the ultra smooth performance of DRCV, but it did have a tendency to bottom out pretty hard when really pushed to the limit, and the easy serviceability of a ‘standard’ shock is a real plus.

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The rear shock also has the RE:aktiv damping that was debuted last year. This ‘regressive’ damping system is designed to offer a firmer platform when the shock’s ProPedal is engaged, but with a faster, smoother transition into the shock stroke. While the system wasn’t without its bugs last year (a batch of shocks had a nasty ‘clunk’) it is a very effective damper, allowing you to run bike in a firmer compression setting without sacrificing sensitivity too much.

No Mino Link: While the new Fuel EX 29er is graced with Trek’s Mino Link geometry adjustment system, unfortunately this neat feature hasn’t been carried over to the 27.5″ bikes… yet. Hopefully it does get introduced down the track, as we’d love to have the option of slackening the Fuel’s head angle by half a degree.

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We’ll swap the double chain rings out for a 32-tooth single ring.

XT all over: Shimano’s exceptional new XT 11-speed drivetrain and brakes get the nod. Read more about our experiences with XT’s newest incarnation here. It’s superb kit. We’ll likely be converting this bike to run a single ring, which is as simple as swapping out the chain ring.

This bike will be with us for the long haul now. Tomorrow we’ll take it for its maiden voyage on our home trails – we cannot wait!

Trek Unveils E-Commerce Solution For Retailers in United States.

Trek has unveiled a new e-commerce platform designed to make its brick-and-mortar retailers more competitive in an increasingly digital marketplace.

NB: This program is launching only in the US, there is no further information how, when or even if it will be introduced in Australia.

Trek Connect E-commerce, unveiled to US retailers at the keynote address of the company’s annual retailer show, Trek World, will enable retailers to instantly have an online retail presence at no added cost to them. Beginning in September in the US, consumers will be able to shop Trek and Trek retailers whenever they wish with every single online sale made on trekbikes.com benefiting a Trek retailer.

Every online sale made on trekbikes.com will result in a service commission, a percentage of the overall sale, paid to the retailer of the consumer’s choosing. The company is supporting its retailers’ new omni-channel strategy with Trek Connect Retail Marketing—a suite of digital, direct mail, and seasonal POP assets available exclusively to Trek’s committed retailers.

“This is a massive investment in the long-term success of our brand and our retailers,” Trek President John Burke said. “We believe the most successful companies in the future will all be omni-channel enabled and we are doing everything we can to make sure that future for our retailers is bright.” 

Trek Connect E-commerce, available to Trek retailers at no cost, will be supported by Trek Connect Retail Marketing’s programs of seasonal brand campaigns, in-store merchandising, direct mail catalogs, search engine campaigns, automated email, and social media available at a nominal monthly fee.

Retailers that participate in Trek Connect Retail Marketing will also have exclusive access to Trek’s design team for assistance with the creation of visual marketing assets.

The product of a two-year long pilot program that included over 30 Trek retailers, Trek Connect was built from the direct feedback, experience, and needs of Trek retailers.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what Trek Connect means to our customers and David’s World Cycle and it’s really pretty simple: Customers not only have more choices than ever but also have less time. Trek Connect addresses both,” said David Sanborn of David’s World Cycle. “We ask three questions at David’s World Cycle whenever we ask ourselves what to do: Is it good for our customers, is it good for our partners, and is it good for David’s World Cycle? Trek Connect is a yes on all three.”

Consumers will have the option to ship their online accessories purchases to their home address or to a retailer for pickup, a process referred to as ‘click and collect.’ All bikes ordered through trekbikes.com will be shipped to the retailer of the consumer’s choosing for build and delivery or pickup. Trek retailers will receive a service commission regardless of the consumer’s chosen delivery method.

Trek Connect will launch in the United States in September. As a test market, the US will serve as a development program and enable the company to evaluate the potential for expansion to other markets globally.

Trek’s Three New 2016 Bikes – Top Fuel, Fuel EX 29 and Procaliber SL Hardtail

Keen eyes may have spotted Aussie Trek Factory Racing riders Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson riding some prototype bikes early this season, but these were whisked away from sight too fast for us to confirm exactly what we saw.

Did we spy a new XC dually using the EVO/Full Floater suspension system? And was that a carbon hardtail using a decoupled seat tube junction like Trek’s Domane road bike? No way, that’d be too much awesome… Well, turns out it we saw BOTH, actually. They’re both coming for 2016, along with another bike for riders who mightn’t be quite so worried about going as fast as Dan McConnell.


Trek unveil three new bikes: the Top Fuel, Procaliber SL and completely revised Fuel 29


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What bike have you got there, D-Mac?

[divider]Top Fuel[/divider]

The Top Fuel is back! This incredible race bike disappeared from Trek’s range a few years ago, but for 2016 it’s making a return, replacing the ageing Superfly 100 platform (which we’ve tested extensively). The Top Fuel is entirely new beast with the sole purpose of tearing cross country race tracks apart and setting personal bests on trails all over the place.

It has 100mm of rear travel, adjustable geometry via a Mino Link and weighs only 1900g for the top end carbon frame. It’ll be available in aluminium and a women’s version, too.

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The Top Fuel SL’s tiny EVO link, driving a stout 100mm of cross country tuned travel.
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The frame design brings the new Top Fuel in line with the rest of the dual suspension range from Trek (and represents a clean departure from the original designs from the Gary Fisher Collection), using the Full Floater/EVO Link controlling the rear shock and the rear wheel pivoting around the concentric ABP Pivot at the rear axle. This suspension system is one of the leading platforms on the market and we welcome its arrival to shorter travel applications.

Both the new Top Fuel and Procaliber SL will use Trek’s ‘Smart Wheel Size’ fit system, assigning the best wheel size to the frame size. Larger frame sizes from 17.5 and up will have 29” wheels while the smaller 15.5 size bike uses more proportional 27.5” wheels. The 29″ Top Fuel will also use the new Boost hub standard – wider hub spacing front and back – creating stiffer 29″ wheels, and adding tyre and chainring clearance, too.

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HOLY S$%T Batman, that looks fast sitting on a computer screen! $9999 for this one.

The adjustable geometry is a neat touch – we wish more short-travel bikes came with adjustable geometry to let you dial in the ride performance you want. The geometry numbers are definitely racy – even in the slacker setting, the Top Fuel has a head angle of 70 degrees for razor sharp handling.  What’s also cool is that the frame’s designed to accept an internally routed dropper post, which is a nod to the increasing interest in short-travel droppers in this market segment.

[divider]Procaliber SL[/divider]

Seen the Trek Domane? This impressive endurance road bike frame broke the internet a couple years ago with technology we’d never seen before, but the moment we saw it it had us thinking how well it would translate into a hardtail race bike.

Essentially the new Procaliber SL is a carbon hardtail with up to 11mm of compliance via the IsoSpeed decoupler.

IsoSpeed:

The IsoSpeed decoupler allows the seat tube to pivot and flex independently of the seatstays, taking the sting out of the trail without losing any pedalling power to a rear shock or stiffness to multiple moving parts and pivots. Trek claim the new frame is 70% more compliant than the existing Superfly hardtail.

We can only imagine how much you’ll be able to hammer this bike without it skipping around uncontrollably like a classic race hardtail usually would on loose surfaces. Needless to say we’ll be getting our hands on a test bike as soon as they land in Oz.

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Top shelf race bike – Procaliber 9.9 SL – $8999

The Procaliber SL frame weighs 1012g around 100g heavier than the outgoing Superfly SL. While that figure makes it notably heavier than some of the competition, we’d imagine the compliance benefits will be well and truly worth it. Once again, the Smart Wheelsize System is used, with little wheels for littler riders, and 29″ hoops on frame sizes 17.5″ and up.

Like the Top Fuel, the Procaliber also scores the new internal cable housing system dubbed ‘Control Freak’. It’s Di2 compatible if you’ve got the good stuff, and a large port under the downtube means you’ll able to access and tie the internal cables together inside the frame to reduce unwanted rattling. Clever!

The Procaliber SL will replace the carbon Superfly hardtails, with the aluminium Superfly 5, 6 (WSD), 7 and 8 remaining in the range.

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The IsoSpeed decoupler, allows the seat tube to flex independently from the rear end of the bike. It’ll give you up to 11mm of compliance.
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Taking the sting out the trail, without losing power to unwanted rear suspension action.

[divider]Fuel EX 29[/divider]

A Flow favourite, but not without a few niggles in our opinion, the Fuel EX 29 scores some nice tweaks for 2016, too. We’ll see Boost hubs to add stiffness, chainstays shortened from 452 down to 437mm (hooray!), the new internal cable management system and Mino Link geometry adjustment.

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Interesting to note is that we won’t see Trek’s DRCV on the new Fuel EX 29. With FOX’s new Float DPS / EVOL rear shock, Trek were able to achieve their desired spring curve that was previously only possible with their proprietary DRCV shock. So going forward we’ll see standard shocks on the Fuel EX 29 at least – we wonder if this will also be the case on the Fuel 27.5 and Remedy?

It certainly sounds like Trek have made improvements in the areas that we wanted them to. Mind readers!

 

Behind the Scenes, Justin Leov’s First EWS Win

It’s Not Over ’til it’s Over!

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With back to back EWS weekends I think everyone knew it would come down to who could recover the best from Ireland. It was in Peebles last year where I managed to score my first podium ever and with two days of racing so much can happen, so it’s an exciting race. Coming from near perfect conditions in Ireland it was almost a given before I checked the weather forecast that we would see some typical Scottish weather over the week. It was pretty much what we expected but with extreme changes, we would see everything from blue skies to sideways rain with ice, axle-deep mud to fresh dusty loam! The week would see a lot of woollen clothing, rain jackets and waterproof gloves and our nutrition requirements would be huge this week.

So with the Tweedlove EWS there are basically two aspects, day one on the Innerleithen side and day two at Glentress, a few kms up the road. The first day at Innerleithen would see the more DH style trails; we would start with a physical stage but once through that it would be tight trees, tree roots and who could stay on. Day two on the Glentress side would have a mix of technical stages in the woods and flat out hammer to the wall endurance stages. This is where I learnt last year the race is won or lost and carrying speed while being in top physical condition would really make the difference. With these facts I had a simple game plan. Get through day one without any major dramas and then put all my energy into day two where the freshness would pay off.. Hopefully!

Practice this time around was over three days, it allowed a day on each side and one day of ‘choose which ever stage you want’. Learning these courses requires energy and there is always the fine line of how many times do you want to climb back to practice versus saving the energy with a single run. This time around we chose to ride both stage 1 and 2 twice and then a single on stage 3 and stage 4. For a first day of practice this was around 2000 meters of climbing. Getting the morning done with mild conditions we soon got to experience our first weather patterns coming in and rain showers to play in.

For the second day of training we would see rain on and off all day. This would break into blue sky moments at about a ratio of 20mins dry to 10mins wet. The climb back out from stage 5 would also show us sideways rain and being blasted by ice which felt like being on a windy sandy beach! Today we opted to start with a single on stage 6, then ride stage 7 twice then stage 8 and finish with a couple of stage 5. This meant we could learn the fresher DH style courses and save energy on the longer more physical stages by only riding once.

After our morning roll down stage 6 it was evident this would be a key stage. It was nearly 13 mins long on the camera footage and had three decent climbs which would totally break up the field. I knew there would also be some controversy about this stage.

It was so physical and basic in terms of technical aspects that some people would be struggling to be able to handle it.

None the less I was happy, physical is what I train for as well as technical. We’re not just racing Downhill, Enduro is meant to be in my opinion a mixture of both. With another 1800 meters climbed today in the rain I was starting to once again feel the body.

The morning of the last day of training I was feeling quite tired so I canned my original plan of a run on stage 1, 3 and 4 and opted for a single run on stage 1 and then put the feet up and rest the remaining day. It was the right call for me and by evening I was feeling human again and ready for the abuse I was going to get the following days.

Race Day 1: Innerleithen 4 stages with a forecast of blue skies! Happy days.

With around 7 hours from start to finish, this would be a stress free day in terms of liaison times. Each stage would allow us to cruise up and not have to drop the hammer at any point in the day to make a start time. Beginning on Stage 1 this would have us pedal straight out of the gate and then hit awkward speed zapping rocks before settling into the run on freshly cut wooded sections and steep chutes. It was a bit of shock to the system for first stage of the day and for some reason I felt a bit flustered. Crashing on right hander near the top of rocky section I instantly swore to myself and pushed on for the rest of the run annoyed. Not the start I had hoped for.

Stage 2 was wide open fast and some bar grabbing trees which were damn close at high speed.

I liked this stage a lot and felt good in training going fast. This time around I threw down a fast run without crashing and slotted into 2nd for the stage behind Richie Rude. Back on track.

With a timing check and a feed station I didn’t bother refilling my bladder as there would be water 30 mins up the next climb at another feed station (well I thought there would be at least) arriving there I was gutted to see all the water had gone and I would be on my own for the next hour before they hopefully refilled the water if I was lucky!

Stage 3 was flat out fast up top above the tree line then a moment of darkness as we entered the woods Clear and sharp vision is essential in our sport, in such conditions even more. High quality lens is a must. I had a clean run with no mistakes so another one checked off and happy for the final stage of the day. Climbing back up for stage 4 had us pass the previous empty feed station once more. Luckily for me this time there was water and I was a happy man. Neglecting fluid is something that you never want to do in these races.

Final stage of the day and this one would race us further down the hill than stage 3. It would be a similar terrain with tight woods and plenty of roots to deflect the wheels off line. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t to be a clean run and although I felt my riding was well under control.

I misjudged my speed into a right hander and down I went for the second time of the day. Finishing the stage I was annoyed again with myself for giving up some more time to leaders.

Official time check would show I was 20 seconds down for the day behind Richie Rude and in 9th position.

Frustration didn’t last long though and my focus changed to day two and how I would need not only a clean day but there would be no way I could leave anything on the stages. #fullgas!

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I woke on Sunday to read some really disappointing news. The event would be cut from four stages today down to two due to some predicted weather and high winds that could potentially bring trees down in the forest. I could totally understand the safety aspects and knew the call needed to be made but still, I was gutted. I thought at this stage I could bring back enough time in two stages to maybe get back to a podium finish but that would be riding the socks off it so to speak. I thought my chances of being able to win would be a far push.

Setting off for the day we had much colder conditions than our previous day of blue skies. Cold winds and rain showers reminded me of the practice days before and with only stage 5 and stage 8 it was going to be super short day in the elements. Stage 5 would be a short fresh downhill stage that finished on slippery roots. The ruts were deep in practice so everyone was going to have a mission of stage for the race. It didn’t take more than a few corners and I realised this was going to be a tough one to stay clean. The mud was incredible, every rut wanted to grab your wheels and if you slowed your speed down too much the mud was so thick it could throw you off as well. It was one of those stages you had to go fast and hold on and whatever you did, keep your feet on while in the ruts! I managed a fast clean run and 3rd for the stage. Richie had had a real problem In this stage losing his lead and with my clean run I had moved up the ladder to around 5th. I needed to empty everything I had for the final stage of the day if I was to achieve my goal of clawing myself back into a podium position.

There was a couple of key points to stage 8. It started further up the hill than previously planned due to the day being shortened. It now would have about 2 mins of stage 6 on the start of the stage and this is all bike park style corners where speed carrying is really important. We then would climb a short section before hitting the wide open part of the run and where it got fun! The middle of the run was again all about carrying your speed through flowy turns before the most aggressive short climb followed by a fire road downhill and then grind up the last short hill to have a fast and flowy descent to the finish.

I needed to be aggressive for this one and I planned to hurt myself massively on the pedalling.

I would say this run was on the edge for me, I had some moments where I was at the seat of my pants but just held it together and then the hurt I put though my legs was incredible. This was one of those runs when I was in constant fight between wanting to stop pushing so hard because it hurt so bad and the desire to want to win so bad it pushed me to hold it at the absolute limit. I remember the feeling of not enough oxygen as I crossed the finish line but with nothing left on the stage I was totally happy with my day and super exited to see how I had done with the weekend’s standings.

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A short 10min ride back to the finish arena and with the final time check I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the timing board. I had bloody done it! I had brought back not only enough time to hit the podium but had just sneaked past Florian Nicolai and Greg Callaghan to take my first ever EWS victory! It was my biggest dream come true, speechless it didn’t really sink in until the podium and hearing my name called out as the winner, I couldn’t wipe the cheesy grin off my face. What a bloody weekend and what a bloody day!! Taking over the series lead from Jerome was another unexpected surprise and with a dominant ride from Tracy and another solid ride from Rene once again we were the top team for the weekend. You just can’t ask for anything better than that!

I feel hugely proud to be series leader. It’s something to hold with respect and I’ve always looked up to the riders holding it.

Heading into a short break it’s now time to have a regroup and freshen the mind and body again. The next round in France will be another battle and will have its challenges but getting back to the higher mountains is something I’m really looking forward to and seeing some long stages again will be a lot of fun!

 

See you out there

Fresh Product: Bontrager Rally Helmet

Bontrager’s latest lid is going to be a hit with the new-school enduro crowd. The Rally is all what we want from a helmet, but with increased protection over your standard brain bucket, an eyeball burningly bright colour option and an adjustable visor to make space for goggles.

The moment we popped the Rally on our heads, we decided its a new favourite.

For $179, it’s also a pretty good price for a cool new lid, check it out. Comes in black, too.

Bontrager Rally 3 Bontrager Rally 7 Bontrager Rally 10 Bontrager Rally 8 Bontrager Rally 5

Features

  • In-mold composite skeleton allows a greater variation of vent shape and size
  • Headmaster – One-handed fit system adjustable by height and circumference
  • FormFit – Flexible head-conforming brow band improves comfort and ventilation
  • FlatLock Strap Dividers – Strap management made simple with a fixed position fit
  • Internal, recessed channels manage airflow through the helmet and over the head
  • Drop-in Coverage – Coverage below traditional bottom edge for more protection
  • Crash Replacement Guarantee

Trek Go Mid-Fat, With New Stache 29+

Trek announced today the release of the all-new Stache, the completely redesigned mid-fat trail hardtail that offers riders the capability of a full suspension trail bike and the efficiency and simplicity of a hardtail.

Stache delivers more on-trail confidence than ever before with massive 3” tires mounted to 50mm rims for better traction cornering, climbing, and negotiating rough or loose terrain.

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Stache’s mid-fat tires and wide rims are paired with some of the shortest chainstays Trek has ever engineered, making it the most capable and agile hardtail on the trail. The incredibly short chainstays are achieved through Stache’s all-new frame design, which features an elevated drive-side midstay that keeps the chainstay out of the way of the crank and rear tire.

The bike that redefines expectations and brings the trail hardtail category back into relevance features Trek’s proprietary Stranglehold Dropout for the ultimate in wheel-size versatility. Stache can be optimised with 29+, 27.5+ or standard 29er wheels depending on ride style and terrain and can also be set up as a singlespeed.

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Stache is the first bike to feature the all-new Boost 148/110 front and rear hub spacing for stiffness, precision handling, and predictability on even the roughest trails. The new Stache lineup will include 3 alloy models and a frame set.

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For more details – http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/mountain/trail/stache/

George Brannigan: Queenstown Destruction

Queenstown has become a staple pre-season training camp for many World Cup racers.

George Brannigan recently spent some time riding some of the finest trails on offer, both in and out of the bike park. Judging by his speed and insane line choices, he’s definitely one to watch this season!

If you fancy some Queenstown Destruction of your own, have a look at our recent trip across the ditch: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/queenstown-and-wanaka-top-of-the-pile/

Video: The Kiwis – MacDonald and Brannigan

Trek World Racing are heading into the 2015 World Cup downhill season with an all-out Kiwi assault, with two of the fastest and most balls-out riders on the planet on the books, both of whom call New Zealand home.


It’s always amazing, and kind of terrifying, watching Brooke MacDonald ride as he hangs off the bike, letting it plough through anything dumb enough to get in his way. George Brannigan’s style is little, shall we say, lighter, but just as quick. Take a look at a bit of a re-cap of some 2014 highlights, and as Brooke and George rip it up at home in preparation for the 2015 season.

 

So Enduro: Trek Slash 9.8 Review

Changing the recipe can be a disaster for an established brand – remember what happened to VB when they dropped the alcohol volume, and seriously, why did Vegemite ever make Cheeseymite anyway? Trek knows this well. After countless design variants in the early 2000s, half a dozen years ago they hit a winning formula with their full suspension bike design. And they’ve stuck with it, because the flavour is just right.

Trek Slash 9


[divider]Build[/divider]

The Slash doesn’t buck the Trek system, it’s not a wild new look or layout for the trendy enduro mob, but it is a slick application of their proven design to the all-mountain category.

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Trek’s ABP system does a good job of keeping things smooth when under brakes. We just wish that rear skewer wasn’t such a blight on this good looking bike.

The demands of this discipline are pretty much a bike designer’s worst nightmare; create a bike that allows for reckless, downhill bike speeds on the descents, but make it light and efficient enough to clamber to the summit again. The Slash takes its best shot at this task with 160mm of travel, a lightweight, predominantly carbon frame (all but the chain stays and Evo link), and a suspension package that gives you a great degree of on-the-fly control over the compression settings and geometry too.

Where the Slash is a little different to the Fuel or Remedy, is the use of conventional shock – the excellent Rockshox Monarch Plus – opposed to Trek’s usual proprietary FOX DRCV shock

Like the Fuel and Remedy series of bikes, the Slash is built around the formidable ABP/Full Floater suspension system. With its floating shock mounting arrangement and concentric pivot around the rear axle, the system gives Trek a lot of control over the suspension rate and reduces the effect of braking on suspension performance.

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Where the Slash is a little different to the Fuel or Remedy, is the use of conventional shock – the excellent Rockshox Monarch Plus – opposed to Trek’s usual proprietary FOX DRCV shock. The oil volume of the Monarch Plus is definitely more suitable for this style of riding than a DRCV shock; while we like the DRCV system, it has quite a linear rate, which doesn’t necessarily suit the hard riding a bike like this is built for.

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The combination of the Full Floater linkage and Monarch Plus shock makes for a seriously bottomless suspension feel.

Treks don’t always have the cleanest lines, but the Slash, without a front derailleur, semi-internal cabling and angsty-looking graphics job, is the prettiest Trek we’ve seen in a while. The only blight is the rear axle, which sticks out like a broken finger, and with the beefy SRAM X1 derailleur too, the rear end of the bike is very wide and snags like a fisherman on a weed bank.

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[divider]Spec[/divider]

Trek have taken the shopping trolley straight to the Enduro aisle at Woolies and picked out all the favourites, then topped it all off with a few tasty bits and pieces from the Bontrager pantry.

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The Pike RC Dual Position.

SRAM’s 11-speed X1 drivetrain might theoretically be a lower-end offering than their X01 or XX1, but it works so well there’s almost no difference on the trail. We didn’t drop the chain during testing, but if we were racing, we’d probably still add a top guide, just for security.

These obese hoops offer superb support to the aggressive Bontrager XR4 tyres

The venerable Pike RC up front, in a Dual Position format, can be toggled between 160-130mm travel, for better climbing performance. Like James Bond, this fork’s reputation precedes it, and it’ll churn through the rocks like 007 dispatches with bad guys.

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XT brakes make us smile. The only downer with Shimano stoppers is that the Reverb dropper lever can’t be neatly integrated into the one clamp with the brake.

SRAM’s stranglehold on the spec is broken by Shimano XT brakes, with a big ol’ 203mm rotor up front too. We’re firm fans on the new SRAM Guide brakes, but Shimano still have the edge we think.

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Fat rims make a better bike. The Maverick wheelset is a top addition to the Slash.

Wide rims are the next frontier of wheel development, and Bontrager are on the program with their new 35mm-wide Maverick Pro TLR wheelset. These obese hoops offer superb support to the aggressive Bontrager XR4 tyres, which also happen to be our favourite tyres at the moment. This combo offers more grip than Sylvester Stalone in Cliff Hanger in any conditions.

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There is bugger all performance difference between SRAM’s X1, X01 and XX1 shifting.

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[divider]Ride[/divider]

According to ‘Back to the Future’ we were meant to all be riding hoverboards by 2015. That hasn’t happened, but the Slash does give you the experience of riding a hoverbike – this beast is smooth in the extreme.

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A combination of big, low-pressure tyres, suspension that’s supple off the top, and great damping properties of the carbon frame and bar, make this bike just float along. There’s incredible fluidity to the way the latest generation of Treks ride, and with the Pike and Monarch suspension combo, the Slash takes this smoothness to a new level.

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Making good use of the rear shock’s compression lever will help get the most out of the Slash.

As we’ve found with other Treks, getting the most out of the bike can involve judicious use of the rear shock’s compression adjustment. There’s precious little anti-squat built into the suspension design, so using the shock lever and a smooth pedalling action are key to extracting the most efficient ride.

Riding the Slash with its fork dropped and the suspension firmed up is like eating diet ice cream, kinda missing the point

The fork’s travel adjustment got a workout too, and we quickly got into the routine of dropping the front end and hitting the lockout lever at the base of every climb.

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With the fork dropped and the rear shock in its firmest setting, the Slash does a decent job as a trail bike on smoother trails.

In fact, on smoother trails, we often left the Trek in that setting – with the fork dropped and the rear suspension firmed up. In this mode, the Slash actually adopted the guise of trail bike pretty well. The downside is that with the fork in its 130mm setting, the bike’s bottom bracket height is super low, so you need to be very conscious of clipping pedals.

But riding the Slash with its fork dropped and the suspension firmed up is like eating diet ice cream, kinda missing the point. This bike is happiest in situations where the suspension is fully open, when you’re letting all that grip and damping do the work, you’re not pedalling, off the brakes, and looking ahead for the next potential down ramp to launch onto.

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The Slash at home, on Rude Rock high above Queenstown.

Trek have obviously been eager to position this machine as a very different bike to the slightly shorter travel Remedy series, and so the Slash’s geometry is more relaxed than a sloth on Valium. It’s built for rolling into the steepest lines and keeping its composure at speeds that would normally require a motor.

Using the neat Mino Link system, you can set the Slash to have a head angle of 65-65.5 degrees. For us, the 65.5-degree setting was already a bit of a handful on flatter or slower trails, pushing the front wheel a bit in spite of the huge amounts of grip, and we think it’d take some pretty serious terrain and high speeds to get us to use the 65-degree option. Still, it’s good to have that option of going slacker, and we’re sure plenty of riders will use this setting once the Slash replaces their downhill bike.

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The Slash making easy work of the trails at Derby, Tasmania.

 

[divider]Overall[/divider]

Magic stuff. All up, we think the Slash is pretty damn good value too. A ticket price of $5999 is still a lot of dough, but the Slash is as fully featured for this style of riding as you could ever hope, especially given it comes with new-school wide rims out of the box.

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A rider considering the Slash needs to be aware that this isn’t a heavy-duty trail bike – it’s a proper gravity enduro machine. If all-day trails are your thing, take a look at the Remedy, it’ll give you a zippier singletrack experience. But if you’ve got descent KOMs (or podiums) in your sights or you’re looking to roll your downhill bike and trail bikes into one butt-whipping machine, this is where you want to be.

 

Dan McConnell Riding Tour Down Under with Trek Factory Racing

Dan McConnell of Australia will be part of their seven-man lineup for the Tour Down Under in January. McConnell races for the Trek Factory Racing XC program which, same as the UCI ProTour team, is owned and managed by Trek Bicycle. 

McConnell finished the 2014 season on a high note, placing third overall in the XC World Cup, and taking the start in Australia’s only WorldTour event will give him an intense and early boost to the 2015 season.

McConnell: “This is super exciting for me. I participated in TDU back in 2006 with Team South Australia. It was incredibly hot, but more than anything I remember the crowds in and around Adelaide; they were just phenomenal.

“Mountain bikers spend quite a bit of time on a road bike, especially when we build endurance in the months before the World Cup season starts in May. At this time of the year, I probably ride 70 percent of the time on my Trek Domane,” says McConnell. “Of course, a 90 minutes maximum effort with an average heart rate of over 180 is very different than a 150km stage with a sprint at the end. It’s sort of hard to know where I’ll be. At the national road championships I go pretty well, and that’s on a hilly course.”

For Team Manager Luca Guercilena, McConnell’s selection is one of many benefits of factory management between two world-class programs. “Trek owns a handful of cycling teams, and they all compete under the Trek Factory Racing umbrella. These crossover projects are very valuable. Grégory Rast rode a cyclocross race the other day, and Sven Nys swaps cyclocross for mountain bike and road cycling in summer.”

TFR cross-country manager Jon Rourke agrees: “When Dan approached me with this idea, I thought it was great. Luca was receptive too, so we didn’t have to push this down anybody’s throat.”

McConnell isn’t the first mountain biker to ride on the road, temporarily or in a more definite way. “The unique element is that Trek owns both programs, which allows for a much more seamless participation of riders into either disciplines without major hassles or sponsorship conflict worries,” says Rourke. “Some people might say ‘Oh boy, here’s another mountain biker going on the dark side’, but Dan still loves the dirt, and this race works into his favor for his mountain bike schedule. We support this opportunity and know Dan is fully committed to mountain bike racing – especially as he prepares for the Olympic Games in Rio2016. It’s nice that these mountain bikers get to drop in and have fun and then go back. At the end of the day, we all love to ride bikes: road or mountain.” 

“This is a great opportunity for all parties involved,” agrees Team Manager Luca Guercilena, who has a background as a performance coach. “I saw Dan’s power output numbers and I’m curious to see how Dan will fare in a stage race on the road. A mountain bike race is a highly anaerobic event, significantly more so than road racing, but there are similarities. Especially when it comes down to climbing it will be interesting. It’s more an individual effort, a bit like a time trial, and Dan can produce consistent high power for a long period of time, so I’d say the climbing stages will be favorable for him.”

Trek Factory Racing’s lineup for the 2015 Tour Down Under:

Eugenio Alafaci (Italy) 
Marco Coledan (Italy) 
Laurent Didier (Luxembourg) 
Daniel McConnell (Australia) 
Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) 
Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) 
Calvin Watson (Australia)

Our Travelling Partner: Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29

If you’re looking for a travelling mate, you want someone dependable. You want someone open to new experiences. Someone who can cope with situations that might be out of their comfort zone… like getting robbed by prostitutes while sleeping in car park.

The top-shelf Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29er is sure doing a lot of travel with us: this is one of the bikes we’ve picked to take along on our Flow Nation trips across Australia and New Zealand. In just the past three months, we’ve taken this bike to Alice Springs, Tasmania, the Victorian High Country, as well as spending plenty of time on our local trails too. So how’s it going as a travelling buddy?


 

Watch the Fuel EX 9.9 29 in action, in Alice Springs, Hobart and Falls Creek, below:


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The Fuel EX 9.9 with RockShox RS-1 in Hobart.

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The Fuel EX 9.9 29 is the top-shelf 29er trail bike in the Trek range, a flashy 120mm-travel steed that’s aimed at the rider who wants a no-compromise cross-country/trail bike. With a full carbon frame, XTR sprayed all over it, and plenty of Bontrager’s lightest components, it weighs three-tenths of bugger all. But while the feathery weight will rival most cross-country race bikes, it’s also decked out with the all the necessities for technical trail riding, like wide tyres and bars, and a dropper post. Hands down, this is one of the fastest and lightest trail bikes going. We’re going to get into the particulars of this bike’s handling down the track with another update, so for now we’ll stick to the changes we’ve made, and why, and how it’s all holding together.

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Locally made, the Noble Entities CB1 is a neat single-ring and bash guard in one.

We were also eager to further reduce the bike’s weight and cable clutter, so fitting a single front chain ring was the call. We went for the Australian-made Noble Entities CB-1 ring/guide, with 32 teeth. While the XTR setup with a single ring doesn’t offer the same gear range as a SRAM 1×11 system, for a bike this light, pushing the 32:36 low gear isn’t a hard ask. Without a front derailleur, the bike just looks great too – it’s so clean!

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No chain drops issues here.

The Noble Entities chain ring/guide has been flawless. We haven’t dropped a chain yet, and the extra protection of the integrated bash guard adds a little reassurance too when riding rocky terrain. It is a bit noisier than a narrow/wide ring (because the chain flicks against the bash guard), but it seems more secure overall.

Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 update 5
When the Reverb Stealth post is working, it’s great. But these guys do have occasional issues – we’ve had problems with two of them in recent months.

For us, riding without a dropper post is like eating a pizza without the cheese. The Fuel is equipped with a Rockshox Reverb Stealth, a very fine post indeed, but not when it doesn’t work. (Those with keen eyes may have noticed this bike was running a different post when we took it to Tasmania). Our post had to go back to SRAM, which was doubly a pain in the butt thanks to the Trek’s internal cable routing. Re-installing the post meant both removing the bottom bracket and the main suspension pivot axle in order to re-thread the hose. It’s now working perfectly, as we’d expect.

Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 update 12
Excuse the ugly tape! We taped the crank arm to protect it from damage on a bike trailer in Falls Creek recently. Reinstalling the Reverb Stealth post meant removing the bottom bracket and main pivot.

In terms of ongoing maintenance, we’ve had to give a little bit of love to the rear wheel. An occasional loose spoke has been bit of a surprise, but the wheels have still stayed nearly dead straight in spite of the hammering. The performance of the XR3 tyres has been top notch – no flats, no cuts, plenty of grip. We remember a time when Bontrager tyres would make us wince in anticipation of crashing, but now they’re some of the best on the market.

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Bontrager’s XR3 tyres are excellent all-rounders.

We’ve just received a set of Zelvy Carbon wheels to review, so we’ll be popping them onto the bike very soon. It’ll be interesting to see how the wider rim of the Zelvys (35mm) changes the bike’s performance.

Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 update 23
We’ve had some strange contamination issues with our XTR brakes.

The XTR brakes have also surprisingly needed some attention, with the pads seemingly to mysteriously become slightly contaminated if the bike goes unridden for a while. We’ve had this problem with XT brakes on previous test bikes, but never with XTR, and we imagine this is a pretty unusual occurrence. Giving the pads a quick once over with sand paper and regular riding seems to keep the problem at bay, and thankfully we haven’t heard other XTR users complain of the same issue.

RockShox RS-1 v2 22
We tested the RockShox RS-1 on the Fuel too. It’s a unique piece of kit. But is it better than a conventional fork?

We’ve run a couple of different forks on this bike over its short lifetime already; the stock FOX 32 Factory, and the super trick new RockShox RS-1. (Read our full review of the RockShox RS-1 here) We’re hard pressed to say which one we prefer…. The weight, looks and quiet operation of the RS-1 are magic, but the FOX is less cluttered (no remote lock out) and, we feel, a fraction stiffer. It’s also a lot cheaper! If money was no object, we’d run the RS-1.

Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 update 6
The Re:aktiv regressive damping system does work. It’s not a game changer, but it’s an improvement.

On the topic of suspension, the Fuel comes equipped with the new Re:aktiv DRCV shock, developed in conjunction with automotive suspension company Penske. This ‘regressive damping’ system was released to much fanfare earlier this year. Does it work? Yes, it does. It won’t blow your mind, but the Re:aktiv valving does offer more pedalling support and a smoother transition into the shock’s stroke than a standard FOX CTD shock. As a result, we’ve been running the rear shock in the Trail setting pretty much the exclusively.

We’ll bring you a final wrap up of this bike in a couple of months time, when we’ll focus more on the construction and handling aspects, and you can watch the bike in action over in the ‘Must-Rides’ section of the site for now

The Slasher! First Impressions of the Trek Slash 9.8

Later this week, Flow’s boarding the big white budgie and heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, for a few days of exploring the trails of that famed adventure wonderland. Queenstown offers up a whopping mixed bag of trails, but the gravity riding is the real highlight, with gondola-accessed downhill tracks and mammoth heli-biking back-country epics.

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For this mission,we knew we wanted to take a bike that wouldn’t wring its hands when presented with some pretty full-on terrain. Our usual Flow Nation bikes, while superb trail bikes, just don’t have the travel for downhill work, so we had a look at some other options. This bike grabbed us by the lapels and screamed in our face: “PICK ME!”

Trek Slash first bite 3
The frame is carbon throughout, with the exception of the chain stays. Flipping the Mino Link at the top of the seat stay will switch the head angle between 65 and 65.5 degrees.

The Slash is Trek’s most aggressive platform before you leap into the full-on downhill realm with the Session. It’s a real gravity enduro machine – we’d shirk to call it an all-mountain bike, because its performance heavily skewed towards descending. Heavily skewed, but not heavy: this 160mm-travel beast weighs in at 12.7kg. Its angles are all about stability when it’s fast and steep, with a head angle that’s adjustable between 65.5 and a 65-degrees.

Trek Slash first bite 7
Fork travel is adjustable from 160-130mm on the fly.

Piloting a 65-degree head angle uphill is sometimes a bit like pushing a wheel barrow with a flat tyre full of water; it’s a pain in the arse to keep on track. So to sharpen climbing performance up, the Slash has a travel-adjustable Pike that lowers the bars and sharpens the steering a bit.

Trek Slash first bite 5
The Slash 9.8 runs a SRAM X1 11-speed, single-ring drivetrain, so the front derailleur mount gets this neat cover.

We’ve fallen in love with the performance of Bontrager’s XR4 tyres. These things hang on like a cat over water, especially when they’re mounted to a wide rim, like the Bontrager Maverick. We’re predicting a lot of grip!

A RockShox Monarch Plus in place of the usual Trek/FOX DRCV shock.
A RockShox Monarch Plus in place of the usual Trek/FOX DRCV shock.

It’s almost odd seeing a Trek dual suspension bike that’s not equipped with the FOX DRCV shock we’ve come to know so well. While we like the DRCV shock, we do think that the Rockshox Monarch Plus is a better option for this bike; it has a bigger air and oil volume, and more progressive spring rate than the proprietary FOX dual-chamber shock, so it’s better suited to hard, rough long runs.

With four days of EnZed’s finest coming our way, we think we should be able to give the Slash a pretty good shake down and get our head around its strengths and weaknesses. A review will be coming your way, maybe even before Santa arrives.

Must-Ride: Alice Springs, NT

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Like most people, when we first heard whispers of world class riding in the arid heart of Australia, we were dismissive, but curiosity got the better of us and we’re glad it did. We took the three hour flight from Sydney, leaving behind a miserable winter, and found ourselves in the most unique, ideal mountain biking environment that Australia has to offer.

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It’s not extraordinary that mountain biking exists in Alice (desert towns the world over have healthy mountain bike scenes, just look at Moab or Fruita), but what is incredible is the quality and sheer quantity of trails around town. There must be literally hundreds of kilometres of riding out there, if you know where to look. Previously you needed a local’s helping had to get around the trails of Alice, but thankfully finding desert gold getting easier, with the recent formalisation of trails around Telegraph Station seeing proper signage at trailheads and junctions for the first time. From these professionally built trails, it’s easy to link up rides further afield, with singletrack worming its way across the the landscape at all points of the compass.

Flow Nation - Alice Springs 14

Given Alice’s population base, it’s impressive just how active the local club is. The Central Australian Rough Riders are a hyperactive bunch; when they’re not working with land owners to secure trails, they’re running events or petitioning MTBA to get their town onto the National Series Calendar. It takes serious determination to lure complacent east coast riders away from home, but the Rough Riders’ Easter in the Alice Muster event now attracts mountain bikers from across the country, and next year the event will be combined with a round of the Marathon National Series too, which should open even more eyes to what’s on offer in Alice.

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The accessibility of the riding around Alice is a key part of its appeal. The only transport you need to worry about is getting from the airport into town, after which it’s no more than a 10-minute ride to the trails in any direction. Accommodation providers get it too, and an increasing number of hotels and apartments are billing themselves as mountain bike friendly; we stayed at the Alice on Todd apartments, where bikes are so welcome we’re surprised they didn’t get given their own beds.

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Weather wise, there are parts of the year when mountain biking is pretty much off the cards – you wouldn’t want to be on the trails much after sunrise in the peak of summer – but Alice is at its best when large parts of the country are at their worst. Throughout winter you can bet the bank on 28-degree days, cloudless blue skies and the most spectacularly clear nights imaginable. Even though the middle of the day is prime for riding, you’d be mad not to get up early for at least one sunrise, it’s magical watching the ridge lines change from the cool grey of the pre-dawn to an absolute explosion of reds and oranges as the first sun rays hit. Time your trip right and you might even catch the desert in bloom. Seeing the wild flowers come to life in the desert is a pretty amazing experience.

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While at first glance the terrain around Alice all looks pretty similar, once you’re into the trails, it’s a different story. Riding in the desert throws up constantly changing terrain and surfaces too; the trails are an evolving, engaging mix of rock, quartz, sand, shale. Dodging potential side-wall slicers and floating over high-speed sandy patches becomes part of the fun. Luckily the almost complete absence of scrub means you’ve got visibility for miles, so you can always let it run and you’re rarely caught out.

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If we had to put our finger on what makes Alice Springs riding so appealing to us, it’s that it offers an experience that is uniquely Australian. The baking desert is one of the elements that characterises Australia – it’s the ying to the yang of the surf and beaches – but it’s the last place many of us explore, especially not on our bikes. One of mountain biking’s charms is the places it takes us and what it allows us to see, and we promise you, you’ll never have seen mountain biking in quite that same way as Alice delivers it. Check it out.

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Introducing Our Trek ‘Flow Nation’ Long-Term Test Bikes

Here at Flow, we spend a lot of time exploring trails far away from home as we scour Australasia looking for the best mountain biking the region has to offer. But when we head off on our Flow Nation trips, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to which bike to take with us – bringing a bike that’s too big or little can really hinder your enjoyment of the trails.

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The under-the-radar Fuel EX 9.9 29
Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test 22
The look-at-me Fuel EX 9.8 27.5

For our latest Flow Nation trip to Alice Springs (video coming up soon!) we secured two long-term test bikes from the crew at Trek Australia, and we’re happy to have these exquisite machines on hand for all our upcoming travels: the Fuel EX 9.9 29er and the Fuel EX 9.8 27.5.

The Trek Fuel EX series is pretty much the ideal bike to cover you for 90% of the riding you’ll find across Australia. When we selected these bikes from the Trek range, we thought hard about the majority of riding we find ourselves doing when we travel. We needed a bike that was confident and tough enough to handle it when we found ourselves barreling into rock garden on a trail we’ve never ridden before, but that was light and efficient enough for spending the entire day on the bike.

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The fast-rolling 29er loved the open, high-speed trails of Alice Springs.

 

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No doubt about it, the 27.5″ wheels love a tight berm to hook into! Early morning on the Wallaby Track, Telegraph Station.
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With 120mm of front and rear travel and agile geometry, the Fuel is a spritely platform that’s well suited to the swoopy flow trails that are becoming increasingly popular across Australia and New Zealand – think Rotorua or Buller, these bikes would eat those trail up! But at the same time, the Fuel is comfortable fighting up a weight division – the Full Floater suspension system is magnificent, and the confident inspiring riding position them a more capable bike in the rough than you’d expect. The build kit on these bikes is ideal for our purposes too, with Reverb Stealth dropper posts to save our bacon when things unexpectedly point down, and tough wheels with great tyres. We place a lot of import on tyres, and the Bontrager range of rubber is amongst the best going now, especially the XR3 and XR4.

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We’ve sung the praises of Trek’s Full Floater / DRCV suspension system before many times. It’s super supportive the whole way through the stroke.
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Trek Fuel EX Long Term Test Action 14

Our other option when we were selecting bikes for our Flow Nation trips was the Remedy series, but we’ve found in recent years that the Fuel’s abilities are really starting to bur the line between these two bikes. We first noted this back in 2013 when we reviewed the last edition of the 26″ Fuel EX, which left us amazed at how good the Fuel really was in the rough.

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With the Fuel EX series now available in both 29 and 27.5″ wheels, we made the call to get one of each, so we could compare the two bikes back to back and assess their relative merits. Trek also offer wheel size variants of the Remedy; some may say two wheel sizes for one model of bike is confusing, but more choice is rarely a bad thing – the two wheel sizes definitely ride quite differently, so it’s cool to be able to pick the one that best suits you.

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The RE:aktiv damping system is designed to provide increased stability, but without the harshness encountered with some inertia valve systems.

For 2015 Trek have delved into the internals of the Fuel’s rear shock as well, working with motor sport legends Penske to develop RE:aktiv damping, which is regressive damping system that should greatly improve pedalling and body-weight movement related stability. We’re looking forward to spending more time on this shock and bringing you our thoughts.

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We’ll be taking these two bikes to Tasmania in just a couple of weeks time, to explore the new trail developments at Hollybank outside Launceston, and to ride Hobart’s vaunted North-South track too. From the dust of Alice, to the cool brown soils of Tassie, we’re certainly getting a good chance to see how these bikes handle a variety of trails in a short period of time!

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The 9.9 rock clambering above Alice Springs on the Ridge Track.

Video: Trek World Racing – STORIES Episode 1.3

The quality of the team videos being produced now really is pretty staggering! The Trek World Racing team are leading the way with awesome post-race media.

“Trek World Racing today releases the third instalment of STORIES for 2014. The North American leg of the Mountain Bike World Cup is always full of surprises and comes well into the 2nd half of the season, and in the middle of summer. All of our riders were looking fast at both race venues, and scored some great top ten results both in qualifying and finals. Watch as Brook bounces back from crashing in Canada to a podium in Windham, and the other riders all score great results over the 2 rounds.”