The final day of the 2011 Trek camp was aboard the Trek Scratch Coil and Air.
Scratch Air And Coil
Once again the Trek family tree lineage runs throughout the range, with tapered headtubes, Evo Link, the same floating linkage and the downtube protector. The Evo Link on the Scratch comes with the “mino link” which are actually two small plates that you can loosen and the flip around to adjust the head angle between 66.5 degrees and 66.0 degrees. It also changes the BB height from between 14.4 inches (in the 66.5 degree setting) and 14.1 inches (in the 66.0 degree setting).
The Air comes with air forks and rear shock. The model we rode had a Fox RP23 on the rear and Fox TALAS Fit 36 on the front.
The Coil (go on, guess!) comes with the new Fox coil 180mm 36s and a top of the range DH rear shock.
Firstly, sizing issues again. I had a 17in bike that felt tiny! Trek recommend going up a size with the Scratch range. That meant I had to go up to a 19.5in frame. More on that later.
Chatel’s bike park has a wide range of trails for various skills levels; from ‘new school’ berms and bumps, groomed trails, through to ‘pick a line through this field of roots and hold on!’ techy stuff, to North-Shore type trails with some really skinny skinnies.
The Scratch Coil is like a slightly minaturised Downhill bike (a 95% scale model in fact) and as such has the dual personality of downhill bikes which makes them such a laugh/potential body snapper.
If you took control of it, it was very, very fast in ‘plough attached to a Ferrari’ kind of way. Point it into stuff, commit and you’d come through the other side wondering whether you’re really that good or had the bike saved your skin, I didn’t like it as much in corners as it just felt too short to really lay it down. It really was much more of a rock garden steamroller. The other place it really shone was on the Shore. Its shortness really was to its benefi. Plus you could land from ten foot to flat and barely even notice it through your bars and pedals.
After beginning test riding the 17in Coil I ‘swapped out’ (I was with Americans, OK?) for the 19.5in frame, it felt fine. A a little roomy maybe, but certainly useable. With a much longer cockpit and wheelbase on the groomed trails and big berms it felt so much better. On the other hand it didn’t have the moveabilty of the smaller Scratch Coil.
Ride-wise the Air was more reactive to rider input than the Coil. That is to say it felt a more precise tool than the Coil – but still with a big bag of suspension to dig out of trouble.
It was really hard to compare these two bikes beacuse of the difference in sizes. I myself preferred the Air, partly because I liked being able to set the suspension up to my riding style (firm and quick) and also the length. I also suspect that my preference for more “natural” technical terrain rather than groomed parks suited the more “instant” handling of the Air. However, I think if I was a kid or I just wanted a ‘holiday’ (big park terrain in Europe or Whistler styley) I’d go for the Coil. The Coil did make me think I was good at riding ‘Shore – which says a lot about this bike’s abilites to cope with cack-handedness!
Over the three days I got to ride four hugely expensive, top of the range bikes – all of them pretty excellent in the ‘genre’ they’re meant to fit into. The fact that I’d have liked to fiddle with all of them a bit to make them ‘my’ bike is probably just the same as any customer that would buy them.
So my wish list of tweaks for the the bikes I rode it would be:-
Scratch – longer please! Bigger bars as standard.
Remedy – Bigger forks or ‘mino plates’ plates from the Scratch so you could fiddle with the head angle.
Fuel EX – Out of all of them (which I wouldn’t expect) this is the one I’d most happily ride out of the box (albeit bars obviously). Its XC/trail bike moniker really doesn’t do it justice. 120mm bikes, set up properly are at least as capable 150mm bikes from a few years ago and the stiffness of the whole thing front to rear really does make pedalling effort a satisfying thing to do.
Massive, massive thanks to Trek Bikes Worldwide, our Hosts at the chalet and to Chatel for turning into “Trek City” for a week.