The new Trek Fuel EX 5 29 is a monster of a bike. Adding bigger 29” wheels and a more aggressive geometry has resulted in a potent performance boost… #gainz! It’s the skinny Olympic weightlifter of the group; at first glance it’s easy to write off as a plumped-up XC pushover, but challenge it to an arm wrestle and its power will make you cry like a baby.

Trek Fuel EX 29 5.0 | 130 / 130 mm (v / h) | 14.80 kg | € 1,999
Trek Fuel EX 29 5.0 | 130 / 130 mm (front / rear) | 14.80 kg | € 1,999

The frame shares little with its predecessor, with a new ‘Straight Shot’ down tube to boost stiffness and ‘Knock Block’ headset to stop the bars damaging the top tube. It’s clear when looking at the specification that you are buying a very nice frame, as there’s not much else to get excited about. The 750 mm Bontrager bar is nice, and the Shimano Deore 2×10 drivetrain and M315 brakes are functional (if a little basic), but the lack of a dropper post is disappointing. It’s the Boost 148 frame with Mino Link suspension adjustment (you only need the low setting) that’s the real star, featuring internal routing with a neat downtube protector. It will also take 27.5+ wheels if you want to go semi-fat!

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On the trail, the Trek Fuel EX 5 29 is an entirely different animal from the outgoing model. Gifted with Full Floater ABP (keeping the suspension active under hard braking), it offers the best descending back end in the group test. It’s capable of hitting wild lines with ease while offering excellent control in repeated fast hits. However, this new DH prowess has come at the expense of uphill urgency; while it’s no slouch on the climbs, it’s certainly a bike that nods its head more towards descending. The 130 mm rear is so supportive that it chews through rocks and roots without fuss, but it’s best to use the platform damping while climbing or your power will bob away. We were impressed to see Boost wheels (important with budget 29er wheels) and the RockShox Deluxe Shock with Trek-specific tuning. The RockShox Sektor Silver RL fork is functional, if a little uninspiring, and works better with the bigger wheels, but it’s the refined geometry and impressive suspension that repeatedly takes the low-grip Bontrager XR3 tires to the limit, and then far beyond.

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Helmet Fox Flux | Jersey IXS Vibe BC | Shorts Mavic Crossmax Pro
Helmet 661 EVO AM | Jersey Loose Riders Epic | Shorts Alpinestars Drop 2

The Trek Fuel EX 5 in detail

Forks: RockShox Sector RL 130 mm
Rear shock: RockShox Deluxe RL 130 mm
Brakes: Shimano M315
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore
Seatpost: Bontrager SSL
Stem: Bontrager Rhythm Comp
Bars: Bontrager Alloy
Wheels: Bontrager Alloy
Tires: Bontrager XR3
Weight: 14.80 kg
Price: € 1,999

Best in test: Trek’s Full Floater ABP suspension is class-leading. Active and supportive, it laughs at rocks and big impacts, keeping control while others have lost the plot.
Best in test
Trek’s Full Floater ABP suspension is class-leading. Active and supportive, it laughs at rocks and big impacts, keeping control while others have lost the plot.
Knock Block: Trek’s new Straight Shot down tube does boost frame stiffness, but requires the use of a special headset that limits fork rotation. It works well, but does increase complexity.
Knock Block
Trek’s new Straight Shot down tube does boost frame stiffness, but requires the use of a special headset that limits fork rotation. It works well, but does increase complexity.
Chain nightmares: Clearance behind the chainstay is just enough to allow a dropped chain to jam inside. It didn't happen often, but made us mad when it did.
Chain nightmares
Clearance behind the chainstay is just enough to allow a dropped chain to jam inside. It didn’t happen often, but made us mad when it did.
Stiffness is key: Wheel stiffness can make all the difference at this price point, especially in 29ers. Trek pioneered Boost 148, and it's good to see it in their affordable models too.
Stiffness is key
Wheel stiffness can make all the difference at this price point, especially in 29ers. Trek pioneered Boost 148, and it’s good to see it in their affordable models too.
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We did encounter a few specification issues: the combination of the long Shimano M315 brake levers and Shimano Deore 10-speed shifters with annoying gear selection windows meant we could not optimise the brake position. Also, if and when the chain falls off, there’s a clearance issue that allows the chain to jam under the chainstay, which is messy to fix and left scratches. With a decent set of tires and a future fork upgrade, the Fuel EX 29 would be unstoppable.

Conclusion

The Trek Fuel EX 5 29 is a born descender – punching forward like a Russian sprinter jacked up on HGH and testosterone, hammering down the trail faster than the brakes can deal with. Its poise and confidence makes a mockery of rocks and obstructions, and the rolling speed is enough to blow your eyeballs out the back of your head. It takes the ‘Best in Test’ with ease but Chain issues did result in much profanity, however.

Strengths

  • Insanely fast downhill
  • Exceptional rear suspension

Weaknesses

  • Brakes cannot keep up with speed
  • Chain can jam under frame

For more information head to trekbikes.com!

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: Five affordable trail bikes under € 2,000. Are these the real ‘bikes for the people?’

Other bikes in this group test: Cube Stereo 120 HPA Race | Lapierre Edge AM 527 | Radon Slide 130 8.0 | Trek Fuel EX 29 5.0 | Vitus Escarpe

PS: Readers' Survey 2017 - Give feedback, win awesome prizes: We're giving away an exclusive Trek Slash 2018 in top spec! Click here to take part now!

Words & Photos: Trev Worsey

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