First Ride Review | The 2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.9 Is One Seriously Refined Trail Bike

The not-so-minor details


2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.9 X01


Trek Bicycles Australia




Handy internal storage feature
Solid chassis with supple suspension
Not too big, not too small


We'll get back to you on this one...

Oooh goody, a new Trek Fuel EX! This is particularly exciting for us; the existing Fuel EX is a bike we know well and have spent plenty of time on over its long life, changing every few years to keep up to the current standard the new 2020 one is a slick trail bike with well thought out features. So let’s take a look!

See the 2020 Trek Fuel EX in action in the video here

New Fuel EX is here, yiew!

As well as a slick new paint scheme, the Fuel EX frame is different from tip to tail. Less matte black on matte black colours in the range, too!

Walk-In Wardrobe, Glovebox, Pie-Hole, Not-S.W.A.T, Or simply ‘Storage’

Yep, the new carbon frame Fuel EX has internal storage in the downtube. Wait, what? We can hear you thinking ‘OMG, they copied Specialized!’. Maybe they did, or perhaps the bigger story is that Specialized was the first to make it worthwhile, and now Trek is making it possible for its bikes too. Good on them either way, it’s a great feature, and we welcome it to the trail.

Trek’s first mountain bike with dedicated internal frame storage, nifty.

Lift off the bottle cage with attached base and the internal space is yours for whatever you wish to stash. Can’t fit a motor in there, sadly…

Flick the lever, lift off the cage, and you’ve got access to a whole lot of space to stash your bits, store them in there, so you never leave them behind and keep them out of the way of water and mud for safekeeping.
Included with the new Fuel EX is a tool wrap and bottle cage to complete the storage picture, so you can wrap everything together for silent storage and fill a bottle with your favourite water product, leaving a hydration backpack at home for shorter trail blasts.
Curious to see how it actually works, make sure to check out the video above.

Full Floater Be Gone!

The second most noticeable change to the frame is down in the centre of things. Following the Session, Slash, Remedy and Top Fuel, the new Fuel EX is now Full Floater-free. A feature introduced many years ago to give Trek’s suspension gurus the rear shock rate they wanted, the shock would mount to the chainstay (see on the 2019 model below) and would travel downwards when compressed. Trek states that the latest high-volume shocks now perform well enough and can be tuned to achieve better results without need for the Full Floater linkage.

Gone is the Full Floater, the last of the suspension bikes in Trek’s range to do so. Fewer restrictions around the BB area result in a lighter, larger main pivot and BB region.

Clean and simple.

Without the Full Floater taking space around the BB and main pivot, the frame can be constructed with higher stiffness. No front derailleurs allowed either, a single-ring or nothing situation now.

Longer, Slacker, Steeper, Lower & All The Modern Classic Hits

We were initially concerned that the new bike would follow the apparent trends of bikes for 2020 and increase in overall size and suspension travel, but the Fuel EX stays 130mm of travel on the rear, just with a 10mm increase in fork travel up to 140mm.
Geometry scores a fairly predictable software update, with a longer reach of around 10-20mm depending on size. Head angles slacken by one notch to 66° and to keep the bike’s length in check as the reach grows, the seat angle steeps to 75°. This is all about keeping the new Fuel EX up to date with modern standards. It wasn’t like the previous version felt outdated in any one way, but as we were to find out this one is just that little bit easier to ride hard, while also being more spritely on the climbs.

New geo, small tweaks here and there, add up. A nice trail bike for a wide range of trails.

The top tube is significantly lower, for longer dropper posts and increased standover too, a good move as we wanted to upsize on the previous model but found the seat tube height would restrict the decent range of a 150mm dropper post. Problem solved!

2020 Trek Fuel EX Geometry

Eight size options in total – wowsers!

All Carbon, Universal Mech Hanger, Rebound Numbers & Thumb-Friendly Dropper

Moving into 2020 the carbon Fuel EX models are all carbon; no more aluminium rear ends. This is something we’ve seen a lot of lately, the 2020 Specialized Enduro and Giant Reign and Trance 29 for example.
While around the back end of the bike, we spotted a suspicious ‘UDH’ marking on the rear derailleur hanger. After a little digging, we were told it’s a new universal derailleur hanger standard that the kind folks at SRAM have conceptualised. Imagine that, a universal hanger! Let’s see who adopts it next and whether it actually becomes a thing…

Numbers on rebound dials make a lot of sense, but shock manufacturers have been reluctant to do this as it needs to be set at the factory to match the frame. But, sounds like Trek hassled Fox enough and look what we have here – numbers! So much easier for setup for all involved. Good stuff, Trek.
Bontrager’s new dropper post remote is a significant improvement over the silver ‘button’ of previous models. Under the thumb, the lever-action is tighter and less wobbly. A small but nice touch that we appreciated.

Throw More Fuel On The Trail

We recently took the stealth black 2019 Fuel EX 9.9 on a trip to Derby, Tasmania, so we certainly are familiar with its vibe. The new Fuel EX feels similar but manages to charge descents harder and jumps up short sharp pinches easier. In the saddle, and out of the saddle, we felt the new Fuel was more responsive to hard pedal strokes than the previous model. Put that down to the revised shock tune, longer reach and steeper seat angle or a stiffer bottom bracket area, either way, it’s super zippy.

Hammering tech trails with supportive tyres and a sturdy-feeling bike.

With a robust Fox 36 (previous versions used a Fox 34) fork leading the way, and a stiffer feeling chassis overall, the Fuel EX commands more respect from obstacles when confronted by nasty sections of trail. It’s able to plough a little harder but hasn’t lost that ultra-supple suspension feeling and sensitive reactions to choppy surfaces. Older model Fuel EX bikes would have such a cushy rear end that it required constant use of the shock’s compression lever. Nowadays the sensitivity is there, but the shock can better differentiate between body weight shifts and pedalling bounce from trail chatter.

With such a solid frame and fork it risks feeling harsh and transferring feedback to the rider, but the suspension works overtime to smoothen things out. We’d make sure to keep on top of the regular fork and shock maintenance, or that might change. Take a heavy landing though, and the Fuel EX won’t seem too fazed.
Ripping the new Fuel at the official launch, a super agile and confident bike indeed.

Australian Availability

We’ll see six models of the new Fuel EX coming to our shores; three aluminium and three carbon. Here’s the full rundown on what you’ll be seeing in Trek stores very soon.

2020 trek fuel ex 5
The EX 5 is the entry-point into the Fuel EX range, but it gets the same suspension design and geometry as the top-end models. Props for the quality XR4 tyres too.

2020 Trek Fuel EX 5

2020 Trek fuel ex 7
The Trek Fuel EX 7 steps up to a Fox shock, RockShox 35 fork and a SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. A real workhorse spec.

2020 TrekFuel EX 7

2020 trek fuel ex 8
The Fuel EX 8 is the top-end alloy model, and comes equipped with a Fox 34 Rhythm fork and a Float DPS shock with the clever RE:aktiv damper inside. Hard hitters on a budget, take note of this one.

2020 Trek Fuel EX 8

2020 trek fuel ex 9.7
For $5k you can get the full-carbon Fuel EX 9.7, which might just be the value pick of the bunch.This frame comes loaded with fully integrated armour, the downtube treasure chest, and Mino Link adjustable geometry chip.

2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.7

2020 trek fuel ex 9.8
The Trek Fuel EX 9.8 steps up the suspension quality with the big-hitting Fox 36 on the front and the Thru-Shaft damper on the rear. Remedy who?

2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.8

2020 trek fuel ex 9.9
Trek is making several Fuel EX 9.9 models, but the one coming into Australia for 2020 is this bike, which features Kashima-laden Fox suspension, carbon Bontrager wheels and SRAM X01 Eagle mechanical shifting.

2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.9

What do you think of the 2020 Fuel EX? Worth updating form the 2019 model, or perhaps this bike would make you consider dropping down from a longer travel bike to take advantage of a more engaging ride that’s still robust and solid? We may or may not have one of these slick new Fuel EX bikes coming to our hot hands soon, so keep an eye out for more.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Cheers for reading!

This Fuel EX might just be the best one yet.

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