Review | The 2019 Trek Fuel EX 9.7 is a tech-heavy trail bike that rips hard

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As part of a head-to-head review feature, Rob’s been testing two 130mm travel 29er trail bikes; the 2019 GT Sensor Expert and the 2019 Trek Fuel EX 9.7. So which one has come out on top? Read on for Rob’s review of the Trek Fuel EX.


The Fuel EX platform has been kicking around now for what seems like forever. Well, since 2005 to be precise.

What started out as a 100mm front and rear travel XC machine, the Fuel EX has slowly but surely evolved into a 130mm all-round trail ripper. Getting longer, slacker and more aggressive in that time, the Fuel EX is now available in a staggering 18 different models and specs, plus five women specific bikes.

Here, we have the 9.7 model, which sits second from top in the line up. With 29in wheels and 130mm of travel, the Fuel EX 9.7 is, on paper, a do-it-all everyday trail bike.

Trek Fuel EX 9.7
Aesthetics to please all eyes, the Fuel EX looks neat from all angles.

The 2019 Fuel EX 9.7

This model is finished in Matte Sandstorm and Trek Black which may split opinion, but is very refreshing to see a bike that isn’t full black. The Fuel EX 9.7 uses a OCLV carbon front triangle, bolted to an alloy rear triangle with Boost 148mm spacing front and rear.

The carbon used for this frame adopts what Trek calls, Retained Strength technology. Basically it’s where Trek has used different composite materials in unique layups in and around the downtube to reinforce the carbon. The Fuel EX also uses a piece of rubber armour on the underside of the downtube for further protection.

Trek Fuel EX 9.7
A large rubber armour plate aims to stop rock strikes damaging that carbon downtube.

Staying on the frame, the Fuel EX really has got more aggressive the older it’s got. The angular kink in the top tube, and the beefy tubes used in the carbon front triangle give it a very similar aesthetic to larger models in the Trek line up – the Remedy and Slash.

Up top we’ve got Trek’s Knock Block technology. This system has allowed Trek to use a straight downtube on the Fuel, (rather than curved), apparently to improve stiffness. Knock Block is an integrated frame protection system comprised of a special stem, headset top-cap, spacers and a chip in the frame. This stops the bars from spinning too far, to prevent the fork crown from hitting the beefy and uncurved Straight Shot downtube.

Trek Fuel EX 9.7
Treks Knock Block system works well, but if you’re wanting to put a non-Trek stem on, you’ll have to faff.

Out back you’ll find the Active Breaking Pivot (ABP) located on the seatstays. This sees the brake calliper rotating around the rear axle, which aims to reduce the effect braking has on the suspension action.

2.4in is ‘officially’ the largest 29er tyre that you can fit into the back of the Fuel EX. Depending on the tyre and rim combo, I’d say there’s clearance in there to go wider. You can also fit 27.5+ wheels into the Fuel EX chassis (with clearance for 27.5×2.8in rubber), though Trek recommends upping to a 140mm travel fork to lift the BB back up to acceptable levels.

Mino-Link is Trek’s own geometry adjustment system that allows riders to flick between two geometry positions, through a simple Allen key operated bolt. Flipping the link adjusts the head angle by 0.5°, and can raise or drop the BB height by up to 10mm. All without having any sort of negative effect on the suspension performance.

Trek Fuel EX 9.7
The Mino-Link is one of many pieces of tech that work so well on the Fuel.

To suit my 6’2″ (188cm) height, I’ve got the largest available size on test; a 21.5in that’s apparently suitable for riders up to 6’5in tall. Looking at the numbers (and in the high Mino-Link position), we’ve got a 67.7° head angle, an effective seat tube angle of 74.7° and a reach of 487mm. Chainstays are a compact 432mm in length, with the overall wheelbase sitting at 1214mm.

There’s a pretty clever rear shock too. The Fox Performance Float EVOL shock utilises Penske-developed RE:aktiv damping technology, which aims to provide a firmer and more efficient feel while pedalling, with a rapid transition to plush performance when you encounter bumps on the trail. All without need for electronics, handlebar levers and extra cables.

Trek Fuel EX 9.7
Switching between settings whilst riding, so you can concentrate on enjoying yourself.

Getting This Bad Boy Rolling

 

 

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2019 Trek Fuel EX 9.7 Specifications

  • Frame // OCLV Mountain Carbon main frame, alloy stays. 130mm Travel
  • Fork // Fox Rhythm 34 Float, GRIP adjustable damper, 130mm Travel
  • Shock // Fox Performance Float EVOL, RE:aktiv 3-Position Damper, 210×52.5mm
  • Wheels // Bontrager Line Comp 30, Tubeless Ready, 54T Rapid Drive, Boost 110 Front & 148 Rear
  • Tyres // Bontrager XR4 Team Issue, Tubeless Ready, 29×2.40˝
  • Chainset // Truvativ Descendant 6k Eagle DUB, 32T Direct Mount
  • Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Shifter // SRAM NX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM XG-1230 Eagle, 11-50, 12-speed
  • Brakes // Shimano Deore M6000, 180mm rotors front and rear
  • Bar // Bontrager Line 35, 15mm rise, 750mm width
  • Stem // Bontrager Line 35, Knock Block, 60mm Length
  • Grips // Bontrager XR Trail Elite
  • Seatpost // Bontrager Line, 150mm Travel
  • Saddle // Bontrager Arvada
  • Size Tested // 21.5
  • Sizes available // 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5, 21.5
  • Confirmed Weight (with updated cockpit) // 13.9kg (30.8lbs)
  • RRP // £3,150.00

Review Info

Brand:Trek Bikes
Product:Fuel EX 9.7
From:Trek, trekbikes.com
Price:£3,150
Tested:by Rob Mitchell for 3 months

Comments (3)

    Active Breaking Pivot (ABP)???? Shouldn’t that Active Braking Pivot?

    How can you say that both the bar/stem combo, and the dropper are shortcomings, and then say that the build kit is faultless? Sorry, but this is a poorly written review with too much waffle and too many inconsistencies; it is not up to the usual Singletrack standard… 🙁

    While not limited to just this review, it does seem wrong to review a bike using parts it doesn’t come with.
    The main review should be about what you get in the box.
    Maybe add a bit at the end on what could be changed and the effect it has.

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