Chipps nips over to take in some Italian singletrack and bring you this Trek Fuel EX 9.8 First Ride Review
For the first ride launch of the Trek Fuel EX, Trek had chosen a quirky hotel about an hour from Venice. Yes, Venice is flat, but head north (or in our case, west) a hundred kilometres and you are suddenly presented with wooded green hills rearing up from the plains. It was here that our funny sort of spa hotel was situated.
The hotel seemed to be a healing spring kind of deal, with a naturally heated swimming pool and an assortment of scary looking ‘treatment rooms’ for mud baths and the like. And in between the leathery Italians in bathrobes, there lurked polo shirted Trek employees, moving between meeting rooms and a large tent full of demo bikes.
The reason for the huge takeover of the Galzgnano Terme spa place was that this was Trek’s European dealer launch, as well as press presentation, for several bikes (and only one of which is featured below, so get guessing…) – and after the press had carefully spun around on a few different models and gone home, the world’s top Trek dealers and distributors would be arriving and doing the same over the following couple of weeks.
One meeting room was dedicated to the 2020 range and the presentation covered a few key models. The one that probably raised the biggest interest was the bike we have here – the Trek Fuel EX. It’s always been an important bike for Trek, being the mid-level trail bike Swiss Army Knife model, and this new model has been completely revamped, as you’ll see in our accompanying news story.
Fuel EX 9.8 spec
The bike we got to demo, on some wonderfully hand-built, technical trails, was the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 – the nearly top-end model that sits just shy of the full-on XTR and SRAM AXS models. There’s a Shimano XT and a SRAM spec. This model comes with SRAM Eagle 12 speed and the rest is a ready-for-anything spec, with Shimano SLX four pot brakes and Bontrager’s Line Carbon 30 trail wheels. Interestingly, on the higher spec models, the Fox 34 or Rockshox Pike forks are upgraded to beefier Fox 36 forks (though the decals are stealthy black on black, so it’s not immediately obvious). This is a great upgrade for what turns out to be a super capable trail bike.
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Chipps’ (quirky) accommodation and (hugely delayed Easyjet) flight were covered by Trek.