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.
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 Spectral, Pivot 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.