by Matt Letch
July 20, 2010
Last week we were fortunate enough to be asked to attend the Trek 2011 launch in Chatel in the French Alps. Three and a bit days of riding on great trails and four different bikes to test on very varied terrain. First of all 2011 Trek Fuel EX
The Fuel is Trek’s all round trail/XC Bike. 120 mm either end , seat angle 72.5 degrees and head angle 69 degrees so tried and tested angles .
Changes for this year are numerous, the main ones being the EX is full Carbon – So that includes the chainstays this year; according to the engineers at Trek, this is an incedibly difficult thing to do to make it strong enough and to fit into the original frame has taken a lot of time and engineering.
The frame material itself has also changed to Trek OCLV Mountain, this is a tougher version of their carbon technology with reinforcements at areas of repeated impact or greater loads, in this case the seatstays and lower half of the downtube.
Added to this is also Treks “Carbon Armour” which is a polymer shield (feels like rubber to me) attached to the downtube to further protect the frame.
Trek have invented a new standard to test for impacts on carbon using an anvil test to replicate a rock hitting the frame – interestingly a lot of micro-cracks that appear after repeated strikes don’t affect the frame’s integrity, but obviously aesthetically and psychologically can be very offputting for riders! The combined affect of the Carbon Armour and the OCLV Mountain frame technology should help remove that.
Quick bit about existing ABP technology for those not aware.
I think that explains it far better than I ever could – But you get the idea. It keeps the bike active under braking,which leaves you in more control of the bike.
So ABP Convert is another upgrade at the back end of the EX, which converts the existing 135 mm QR to a 142mm 12mm through axle.
How does 142mm fit into 135mm? The 142mm is slighly misleading – It’s not some new hub width (well not in the case of Trek) but the measurement of the axle in totality – so the 142mm includes the threaded axle that runs into the ABP pivot hence the 142mm measurement. Convert is also backwards compatible (hence the name) so if you have a really light pair of spangly XC wheels which are traditonal QR you can carry on using them.
DRCV Rear Shock /Trek Custom Fork
Both the Fuel and the Remedy use the Trek-only DRCV shock. The best way to think of this is as two shocks but in one elongated canister – The inital part of the shock is basically the same as a standard RP23 shock so all of your small bumps and ripples are coped with here. As the shock moves into 50% of its travel, the second part of the shock opens (the part above the linkage and Pro-Pedal lever) and allows what is effectivley a larger volume air spring to take control of the bigger hits. As you return back into the inital part of the travel the second chamber closes and you’re back with a “normal” shock. This is all instantaneous in use and you can’t feel it transition between the smaller and larger volume whilst riding at all.
The Fox forks also have a custom tune to suit the rear shocks which involves custom shimming to match the rear. One thing that was made clear throughout the week was that Trek are looking for a balance with their suspension- rather than trying to fine tune one requirement of riding (be that better bump response or climbing ability) they’re looking at the suspension in totality – this includes not trying to make a bike with built in anti-squat through linkage design to their own proprietary shock valving.
First things first – check your sizing. I’m 5’8 (after being stretched by a Physio) and found 18″ a far better fit than the 17.5″ which I would have assumed would be my size.Going up a size isn’t a problem as the standover is so good.
We got two rides on the Fuel. The first being a four-hour death slog on a 17.5″ frame. Up fire roads, down fire roads, across fire roads. It did give me a chance to hyperventilate with Gary Fisher as I pushed up rubble strewn gullies in 30 degree plus heat, so it wasn’t all bad but you get the idea.
Three things I could say from the first ride were these. Bloody hell it climbs well! Bontrager’s new saddles are at least 1000% more comfortable than they’ve ever been (you get a good idea after that much seated climbing) and I’m a bit of a grumpy sod if I don’t get singletrack at the top of endless fireroad climbs. It did give me a good chance to test its climbing ability and this bike put every pedal input into forward motion with or without Pro-Pedal on. During the (very) brief bit of singletrack during the XC ride the Fuel EX was excellent – massively stiff, it tracked incredibly well and you could thrash it through rocks as if it was a much bigger bike. It did leave me hankering for more technical riding on it, which I reckon is always a good sign.
I managed to grab a larger sized EX on Friday for a “photo shoot”. On went a 70mm stem and the steerer spacers flipped so the front end felt lower and we finally (thanks Geoff Waugh) escaped onto some singletrack.
The EX is fantastic on singletrack – incredible for such a light bike in fact. The combined effect of the ABP rear end the 15mm thru-axle fork must help, but the chassis is so stiff! The carbon also seems to do that clever but hard to describe damping thing – it’s a very, very quiet bike. I couldn’t help wondering whether this was partly down to the carbon armour also acting as a vibration damper – either way it made for a distinctly un-clattery ride. Suspension wise I ended up running quite a lot of low speed compression on the front with the pro-pedal on nearly all of the time. The acceleration was addictive and the small amount of small bump compliance lost by having firmer suspenion was more than made up for by whiplash effect out of corners. Honestly you could ride this down very hard stuff if you trusted the bike to do its thing and I started yearning for a big pair of wide bars to see how hard you could push it through corners. On the subject of cockpit, quick mention of Bonty’s new low rise bars – They are really very comfortable, have a really nice sweep and a pleasing 700mm (they weren’t that convinced by my suggestion of 750mm bars on a trail bike) width. You can see Trek has been looking outward at what’s going on in the world of riding and the cockpit is a reflection of this in much the same way the carbon armour is a tidier, more industrial version of the old tyres attached to the downtubes of bikes at bike parks.
Trek describe this as the ‘ultimate trail bike’. It’s also the type of bike that most riders in the UK will need or want. Very nice!