July 19, 2013
Jenn's long termer of choice this year is Trek's Fuel EX 9.8.
Introducing the Trek Fuel EX 9.8.
Sometimes when test bikes arrive at Singletrack Towers, they’re barely unpacked before they disappear, returning an unspecified period of time later looking distinctly second-hand. This is usually a sign of a bike which is much anticipated, or which we already know will be fun – or both. So it was with the Fuel EX 9.8, Trek’s ‘do-all’ carbon full sus trail bike.
It arrived while I wasn’t in the office and was immediately whisked away to start its life on the trails. When I eventually retrieved it from its enthusiastic caretaker several weeks later it had a healthy ‘protective coating’ of mud, dust and sheep shit welded to the frame, yet still had the plastic spoke protector rattling away behind the cassette and the little orange stickers on the disc rotors – the sure sign of a bike that’s more fun on the trails than it is in the workstand…
Ten minutes with the spanners and scrubbing brush though and everything is shipshape. The point of our long termers is that we take a bike that we’d quite like to own for real and then treat it as our own for a few months (though we do eventually have to give them back…). This includes making the usual sort of upgrades and additions (or subtractions) that the average Singletrack reader will be making to their own bikes, but the first thing we do is ride them as stock bikes, to see what they’re like for real.
So initial tweaks have been minimal: brake levers wound in, spring pressures set to my weight, my choice of pedals added, saddle swapped for one I find comfy (Bontrager’s saddle technology is excellent but sadly my bum finds it torturous). Otherwise the spec remains as it was out of the box: Shimano XT drivetrain, Fox/Trek DRCV 130mm shock and fork, Reverb Stealth dropper post, Bontrager finishing kit and tubeless-ready wheelset, shod with tubed XR3 tyres.
I first rode a version of this bike in the Dolomites last year on Trek’s 2013 product launch, and already have a good idea of how it rides. Trek played an ace when they worked with Fox to match the DRCV fork to the previously existing rear shock and the bike rides amazingly, up and down, despite having an outdated wheel size. At 26in it predates the ‘great wheel debate’ (not that great, really – as long as my wheels are round, I’m happy…).
I’m going to be using it as a test bed for any long term parts that don’t fit on my own bike – a rigid-forked, alloy Santa Cruz Highball – and for rides where that bike just isn’t suitable, like enduro events, photo shoots, and big, long weekends in the mountains, as well as ragging it round my local trails of an evening. Stay tuned for the next update.