Words by Flow | Images by Sean Anderson, Flowtographer

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

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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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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.

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