With very little in common with its predecessor besides its name and the rear suspension design, the latest Trek Fuel EX features new geometry, a new frame, and a revised spec. Not just pitted against the competition in this group test, we’ll reveal whether Trek’s streamlining has been worth it.
Having slimmed down their collection and reclassified a lot of the full-suspension models to create some clarity, Trek now offer the Fuel EX as a 29er or with 27.5+ wheels, having got rid of the 27.5″ model. The models have also been streamlined, turning longer and slacker. Crucial components include the Shimano XT 2×11 drivetrain and a host of Bontrager parts which all perform effectively. Our test bike, the Fuel EX 9.8 29, featured a FOX 34 FLOAT Grip fork with 130 mm travel and a FOX FLOAT rear shock with Trek’s RE:aktiv technology and a matching 130 mm of rear travel. The RE:aktiv technology was designed alongside the motorsports experts from Penske Racing Shocks, and it adapts the compression damping to react to unevenness in the terrain.[emaillocker id=”139658″]
You know what, it works! With active compression damping, the Fuel EX knuckles down and climbs sublimely, with zero bob, great bump responsiveness, and tons of traction. In fact, its climbing performance is only faulted by the SE5 tires, which Trek mounted to boost the downhill performance. Apropos to downhills: Trek’s efforts have paid off, and we’re stoked to see a new side of this American brand. The Fuel EX was a dominant descender compared to the rest of the test fleet. The mega-plush suspension and big wheels turned rock gardens into gravel lanes, ironing everything flat. If we didn’t know better, we’d have guessed we were on a full-fledged enduro bike. Unsurprisingly, this characteristic overshadows the bike’s agility, which is a bit lacking. However, get the bike up to speed and you’ll see that it’s a rig for anyone who’s after serious pace over the ground.
Specs of the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29
Fork: FOX 34 FLOAT GRIP
Rear shock: FOX FLOAT RE:aktiv
Brakes: Shimano XT
Drivetrain: Shimano XT
Seatpost: Bontrager Drop Line 125 mm
Stem: Bontrager Line Pro Knock Block
Handlebar: Bontrager Line Pro 35
Wheels: Bontrager Duster Elite
Tires: Bontrager XR3 Team Issue
Weight: 12.63 kg
Price: € 4,999
Trek have donated the Fuel EX a serious dosage of downhilling, and no matter what the trail throws up at you, this bike is the ultimate weapon. Unfortunately, its iron will comes at the cost of agility, so we’d be more likely to define the new Fuel EX as more of a potent enduro bike rather than a poppy trail bike.
- The ultimate downhilling machine
- RE:aktiv works really effectively
- Sublime finish
- Bit burly on the climbs
- Bars and tires too much for a trail bike
For more information head to the Trek Website.
For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: 9 short-travel trail bikes in comparison
All bikes in test: Canyon Nerve AL 9.9 LTD | Evil The Following X1 | FOCUS Spine C Factory | MERIDA ONE-TWENTY 8000 | Norco OPTIC C7.2 | Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition | SCOTT Genius 910 | Specialized Camber Comp Carbon 29
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Words: Photos: Noah Haxel, Christoph Bayer