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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
- Insanely fast downhill
- Exceptional rear suspension
- 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?’
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Words & Photos: Trev Worsey