Trek Fuel EX 9.8 | First Ride Review

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fuel ex 9.8
Wahoo! Sunshine and great bikes…

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.

fuel ex 9.8
OK, it wasn’t bad… The bits of the hotel that were finished, that is…
trek fuel ex 9.8 review
A team of mechanics is standing by – to grumble at your hamfisted allen key use

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.

trek fuel ex 9.8 review
The Trek Fuel EX 9.8

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.

trek fuel ex 9.8 review
You showboater…

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.


Singletrack Editor

Chipps wasn’t around for the dawn of mountain biking in the UK, but he likes to claim that he arrived in time for second breakfast (about the time he shows up for work, then…) starting in the bike trade in 1990 and becoming a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the subsequent quarter century, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

His riding style is best described as ‘medium, wheels on the ground, trail riding’ though he’s been spotted doing everything from endurance downhill racing to 24 hour cross country racing. He favours mid-travel trail bikes and claims to be wheel-size, gear, brake and tyre agnostic. In fact, his garage spans most bicycle flavours, taking in steel hardtails, carbon trail bikes, even a mountain bike tandem, along with road, touring and gravel/cyclocross bikes.

While he’s happy to chat about bikes all day, his real interest is in the people and places that bikes can introduce you to and he talks as fondly about the trails he’s ridden and riders he’s met as the bikes that took him there.

Comments (5)

    Yes, yes very nice, but what about the Supercaliber?? Was it there?

    Fuel EX’s have always been well thought out designs in my view. I would like a go…

    Shame they’ve decided to ditch the FF rear suspension. In a world where everything is so very similar it was a point of difference which stood out. But hey what do I know.

    I do like that T.W.A.T compartment.

    Chipps did you get a chance tell them that the silly Knock Block is putting off customers?

    Looking forward to seeing how you get on with the more trail less race 2020 Top Fuel

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