Review: Trek Stache 9.8

by
August 24, 2017

Trek has committed hard to the 29+ wheelsize with the Stache 9.8 - a carbon fibre trail hardtail built around 29x3.0in tyres and a 120mm travel fork

Brand: Trek Bikes
Product: Stache 9.8
From: Trek Bikes, trekbikes.com
Price: £3500
Tested: by Barney Marsh for 3 months

In Issue 111 of Singletrack Magazine, Mr Barney Marsh reviewed three different wagon wheelers as part of a 29+ group test

For many, the Trek Stache was a sign that the 29+ ‘thing’ was going mainstream. For such a large manufacturer to throw its weight behind what heretofore had been a profoundly niche endeavour made many people sit up and take notice, as did the increasing numbers of enthusiastic advocates. But once you’ve invested in something, you’re almost duty bound to extol its virtues. And our test Stache has many, many virtues, at least on paper.

trek stache 9.8 plus issue 111
It’s the Trek Stache, carbon-style.

The frame is made from Trek’s OCLV (optimum compaction, low void) defence grade (apparently) carbon, so it’s strong and light – and it’s formed into a frame that is very distinctive looking. Everything is Boosted, of course, but the obvious distinction is an elevated chainstay, which runs parallel to the chain.

http://singletrackworld.com/2017/08/caminades-stunning-bonded-alloy-race-hardtail-prototype/
The ‘Mid Stay’ design elevates the driveside chainstay to help slam that rear wheel in super-dooper tight.
trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111
Curved seat tube to provide extra clearance and a little ‘spring’ to the carbon frame.

This last takes some getting used to, sure, but to these eyes it’s a little easier to look at than the Salsa Woodsmoke’s back end. Trek calls this the Mid-Stay, and it’s also home to some internal cable routing for the rear mech. It’s not all that long either – that altitudinous chainstay keeps the rear end tucked in as close as possible, so you get a 420mm back end, which would be more than respectable on a bike with wheels considerably smaller than these. Effective seat tube angle is 73.5° and the head angle is 68.4°. Reach on our XL test bike is 470mm, which is fairly normal for this size of bike.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111
You can adjust the chainstay length via the Stranglehold dropouts.
trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111
The Stache 9.8 comes with a SRAM X0-1 1×11 drivetrain, but the dropouts are adjustable so you can set it up as a singlespeed.

As befits the flagship of the Stache range, the 9.8 comes with some pretty serious gear draped all over it. The drivetrain is a mix of SRAM’s X01 (rear mech) and X1 (er – pretty much everything else), with SRAM’s Guide RS brakes.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111
Carbon SRAM cranks with a PF92 bottom bracket.

Front end boing is taken care of with RockShox Pike RC Solo Air fork with 120mm of travel, and effective rolling is provided with Bontrager Lone Pro 40 wheels, which have some very pretty carbon rims, laced to some very flashy hubs – all brushed aluminium, carbon and straight-pull spokes (28 of them). Tyres are Bontrager’s Chupacabras in a 29×3.00 size – so plenty fat.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111
Bontrager Line Pro 40 rims are made from OCLV carbon fibre and feature a generous width for the 29+ rubber.
trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111
CNC machined hub shells at the centre of the Bontrager wheelset.

And given that Bontrager is Trek’s house brand, there’s plenty more Bontrager to come too. A Bontrager Montrose Elite saddle is fitted to a Bontrager Drop Line stealth dropper post with 125mm of travel. The stem is a commendably brief 35mm long number from (take a guess) Bontrager (yay!) that holds a Bontrager carbon bar, which keeps your pinkies 750mm away from each other.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill bontrager
More Bontrager components, with carbon bars and a stout Line Pro stem.
trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill bontrager
And the Drop Line seatpost that we’ve reviewed separately here.

The Ride

It’s an impressive looking bike, once you’ve got over the initial confusing looks. This is, after all, an XL, but despite this the wheels still look completely enormous. But you do get used to it, and the bike even starts to look purposeful after a while. Those carbon wheels assist acceleration tremendously, and it seems to be a running theme that 29+ tyres don’t drift in corners to quite the extent that 27.5+ wheels can. Regardless, the Chupacabra tyres rewarded straight-line effort with scads of grip, even in clart, and cornering was a happily predictable experience. Climbing was actually almost (dare I say it) fun!

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill
With all that traction on tap, the stiff and lively carbon Stache makes mincemeat of technical climbs.

The short back end made lifting the front of the bike an effortless experience, and, much like the Woodsmoke and the Jones, it was a joy on twisty singletrack.

The Stache also felt surprisingly confidence-inspiring when the trail got a little more rowdy. It was easy to forget you were riding a hardtail at times, and the scant relative weight of the bike, coupled with those huge tyres made it seem to float effortlessly over much more gnarly terrain than I expected. I even took the Stache down to the local dad-jump spot, where it acquitted itself admirably (even if I did not) – it’s well weighted in the air, and with a fraction more air in the tyres than usual there was little of the predicted squirm even upon my frequent squiffy landings.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill
Huge 29×3.0in wide tyres provide loads of traction and cushioning for riding rough trails.

There’s no provision for a front mech, so you’re stuck with 1x drivetrains, but, despite this, the 1×11 cassette with a 30T chainring felt just about right. The gap between the elevated chainstay and the chain seems a little tight in some gears which made me curious about whether the frame would accept SRAM’s new 1×12 Eagle transmission, but Trek assures me that Eagle works fine, at least with a 30T chainring –it didn’t have any info to hand about any larger rings – but what sort of a monster puts large chainrings on a plus-bike anyway?

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill
Playtime.

I can’t say I was remotely fond of the saddle, and after a few rides in appalling weather I’m afraid to say that the seatpost stopped working. However, unlike many dropper posts, servicing it is a straightforward task that’s easy to do at home, so it’s less of an issue if you keep an eye on it.

I was surprised and extremely impressed with the Stache. I admit that I was sceptical when I first rode it – the Trek was my first experience of 29+ bikes after all, but it completely won me over after a ride or two. It’s a monster truck that rides like a sports car. Boom.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill
Grippy tyres, a smooth Pike fork and on-point geometry deliver a rip-roaring ride through twisty singletrack.

Overall

As, frankly, is the Trek Stache. The numbers are pretty similar to the Woodsmoke, and it boasts a slightly less – um – divisive back end, which also serves to slam the rear wheel as close to the seatpost as it can. So it’s no surprise to say that it rides as well. It accelerates, corners, climbs and descends like a much more conventional feeling bike, but with the added traction bonuses that the huge tyres confer. And it has the bonus of a smattering of extra carbon to keep the weight down where it’s important.

trek stache 9.8 plus 29er issue 111 tom hill
29+ used to be the nichiest of niches, but with the Trek Stache showcasing the very best the wagon wheelsize has to offer, we expect more brands to jump on board in the future.

Trek Stache 9.8 Specifications

  • Frame // OCLV Mountain Carbon Fibre
  • Fork // RockShox Pike RC Solo Air, 120mm Travel
  • Shock // N/A
  • Hubs // Bontrager Line Pro, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Bontrager Line Pro 40 OCLV, Tubeless Ready
  • Tyres // Bontrager Chupacabra Tubeless Ready 29×3.00in Front & Rear
  • Chainset // SRAM X1 30t X-Sync Direct Mount
  • Rear Mech // SRAM X01, 11-Speed
  • Shifters // SRAM X1, 11-Speed
  • Brakes // SRAM Guide RS, 180mm Front & Rear
  • Stem // Bontrager Line Pro 35mm
  • Bars // Bontrager Line Pro Carbon, 750mm Wide
  • Seatpost // Bontrager Drop Line, 125mm Travel
  • Saddle // Bontrager Montrose Elite
  • Size Tested // XL
  • Size Available // XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Weight // 12.95 kg (28.5 lb)

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