The not-so-minor details
Trek Slash 8
Excellent suspension. Great brakes. Rails corners and pops jumps. Great adjustability. Great bike.
Grips sucked. Chain device and 2 x set-up could do with a change (per your preferences). Some creaking developed.
Introducing the 26″ Trek Slash 8, 160mm of good travel that is able to ride up the biggest hills. Why would you want to ride up a big hill on a long travel bike? So you can get back down them with a very large smile and not fear every rock, drop, and railing turn – that’s why!
We’ve been testing the Slash 8 for a month or so and we’ve gone out for some big rides, including a epic 4 hour cross country mission and an all-day lifted gondola session in Queenstown. It proved to be a great mix to test the abilities of the blue beast and we ended finding it pretty hard to fault this great bike.
The Slash is a mean looking beast. Bright decals, big fork, slack head angle, large tyres, and aggressive stance all add up to a bike that obviously isn’t designed for your next 100km cross country race. It’s made to be ridden fast on steep, loose and flowing trails.
The Trek Slash 8 is an 160mm travel all-mountain bike. Every mountain bike is essentially an “all-mountain” mountain bike but over recent years the marketing machines have taken that term and turned it into a class of mountain bike design and associated riding. How we love labelling things in our sport.
To explain what all-mountain means in simple terms: think of it like a bike that loses a bit on the climbs in order to gain some on the descents. Basically, it’s slower up but faster down than most other bikes.
However, no bike is perfect at both climbing and descending and generally there has to be compromises at some end of the scale, and most often the uphill loses that battle. However, with a few little design aspects and specifications Trek has attempted to counter this. The integration of FOX suspension with CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) makes on trail suspension tuning a breeze so you can tune your bike as per the trail you are facing. Add to that, a remote adjustable RockShox Reverb seat post and TALAS adjustability on the fork and you can set the bike up for any trail and riding preference you have. All these things seem minor but do make the bike more suitable to most extremes of mountain biking.
The rear suspension design is coined a “full-floater”. To plagiarise Trek: “Most suspension systems attach the bottom of the shock to a fixed frame mount. That fixed mount can contribute to a harsh ride. We solved that with Full Floater, attaching the shock to two moving linkage points so it can better respond to bumps across a wide variety of terrain. It feels like more travel, but it’s not. It’s smarter travel.”
We did find the rear end very active and yes the travel did feel endless. For us it’s not about the angles, pivots, or design slogans – it’s about how it feels on the trail and honestly the suspension was superb and did feel like an endless source of bump absorption.
Other design features that stood out are the internal cable routing (for the Stealth RockShox Reverb and for the front derailleur), a direct mount front derailleur, tapered head tube, 2×10 speed, functional bash guard on the down tube, ISCG mounts, and 142mm rear axle.
The Trek Slash 8 is spec’d out very well, with a good mix of quality parts that are functional and strong. While not being the lightest bike on the market you have to remember its design purpose. There’s no point making that epic climb to the top of a mountain if the parts fail and/or fall off the bike on the way down. It’s all about correct and smart compromise.
The suspension is FOX CTD both front and back. The fork uses 34mm sanctions for extra stiffness, 15mm QR, and TALAS travel adjustability. We rarely used the TALAS function as we don’t like the dramatic change in geometry but for those who find a slack head angle hard to climb with then it’s a great bonus.
The rear suspension deserves a little more attention. In addition to the CTD it also has Trek’s Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) technology. With DRCV the shock has two separate air chambers and manages both small and big bump compliance using a combination of both. It’s a complicated process that happens inside the shock but basically you use one chamber for most of your travel however on the bigger hits the second chamber gets added to the travel and takes up the rest. Set-up however is a little more fiddly than a standard single chamber shock so make sure you take the time to adjust both chambers as per recommendations. If you do find it a little hard we recommend you take it to a Trek dealer and get it set-up right – it will make a world of difference.
The brakes are excellent. The Slash 8 comes with Avid Custom X9 Trail brakes with a big 200mm rotor on the front and 180mm on the rear, all matched with Trek’s Active Braking Pivot (ABP). The ABP is designed to separate braking force from suspension travel so the rear suspension is still active under braking. The brakes worked really well however Avid are know for making a little more noise than others and we did experience that from time-to-time. Nothing that lingered but always embarrassing when riding with mates and they can easily tell when you’re braking.
The drivetrain is a good mix of SRAM parts. The cranks are X-9’s with two chainrings (36-22) with 11-36 spread up the back. If there were one change we’d make it would be to remove the two chainrings and install a 1 x setup (maybe with a 34 tooth). The two-speed Truvativ chain guide and bashring are a nice feature but we still like the extra security of a full chain guide and we did loose the chain occasionally. Not a huge issue and we acknowledge it’s more of a personal preference than a design flaw.
The rear derailleur is a SRAM X0 Type 2 and we love the new breed of derailleurs. We couldn’t imagine riding a mountain bike without them anymore. The clutch mechanism adds to security and noise reduction – all things we love when smashing down trails.
On our very first ride we were super impressed with the Trek’s want, or need, to be jumped and played with. Seriously, every little bump, jump, and line was taken with vigour and the playful nature of the bike stood out.
We decided to put a different twist on this test. Rather than weigh the bike before we rode it we wanted to avoid any prejudice and so we avoided the scales for the whole test. It was only when we wrote this review did we put it on the scales.
Wow, we were surprised. The Slash 8 climbs really well and the 13.8kgs (sans pedals) didn’t feel like 13.8kgs. We used the CTD frequently and found the Trek to be an excellent climber if you use these features. No, it wasn’t as fast as our best Strava times but it was also not a laborious as we would have expected.
When the trails turned downhill was when the bike really showed its colours. The DRCV in the rear shock was noticeable in the sense that you never felt like bottoming out and the travel ramped up really nicely. No harsh hits were felt at all – and that was after many mistakes in line choice across rock gardens. We found we could let more and more air out of the shock and use the CTD to adjust the feel for different trails. We rarely used the “descent” mode but when we did it felt like a different bike and gave even more confidence to hit full on downhill race tracks.
We know it’s cliched but the Slash felt like more than 160mm of travel.
The front end is stiff and the combination of big forks and slack head angle meant we could hit lines with more confidence. In fact, there was a new line at our local trail that we had been eyeing off for a few months and on the very first ride on the Slash we hit it up – first run down the hill, no chicken runs – we kid you not.
There wasn’t really anything that stood out as a negative, apart from some creaking appearing in the headtube and bottom bracket. These would have been from all the dust and use as the bike was an ex-demo and hence would have been ridden by many more people before Flow. However, we found it also a positive. Even after much suspected use, the bike still felt tight and new. We are sure that if we gave the bike a recommended service it would have been silent again.
The Trek Slash 8 is a great bike and we really feel that you’d be hard pressed yourself not to like it either. Generally to make an all-mountain bike you have to make some compromises in performance somewhere and Trek have done a great job at minimising those. It climbs very well for a 160mm bike and really shines when you start pointing it downwards. It loves to be pushed really hard and if you want a bike to give you more confidence then we recommend this blue beast.
As 2013 is the year of Enduro racing this bike would also be the perfect race machine.