Review -

Back Issue | In Test: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5

Featuring in our group test from Issue #015, we pinned the Trek Fuel EX against some of the top cross-country competitors in its range. Battering bikes around the technical trails of California for three days straight, then depicting what we loved and hated, what we’d change and what we couldn’t do without… It was an awesome time and pushing XC to enduro was a real treat! See how the Fuel EX got on here:

When the books closed on our California test sessions, we couldn’t help but feel there was a whole other level of rad to the Trek that we hadn’t properly sussed out. No, we didn’t slam the saddle and roll aimlessly around the streets of Santa Barbara looking for Mexican food. We tested the Fuel EX in exactly the same way we tested each of the other bikes. Still, we feel that in slightly different terrain and imposing slightly different parameters, the Trek might’ve wowed us in an entirely different way. But that test will have to wait for another time.

The Trek Fuel EX 27.5 had the ability to absolutely shred the flowing sections of the California trails
The Trek Fuel EX 27.5 had the ability to absolutely shred the flowing sections of the California trails
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"When the books closed on our California test sessions, we couldn’t help but feel there was a whole other level of rad to the Trek that we hadn’t properly sussed out."
“When the books closed on our California test sessions, we couldn’t help but feel there was a whole other level of rad to the Trek that we hadn’t properly sussed out.”

By the numbers, this Fuel EX has you covered. Trek’s OCLV Mountain Carbon makes up the main frame and seat stays. Its 68-degree head angle is a solid marriage of stability and agility. Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain provide no-nonsense, blue-collar stopping and going duties. Trek has also seen fit to spec a RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost.

To handle the chunder, a Fox Performance Series 32 Float CTD fork provides 120 millimeters of front-end travel. Trek collaborated with Penske Racing Shocks and Fox Factory to develop and manufacture the DRCV RE:aktiv rear shock, which is the heart of the bike’s 120 millimeters of sublime rear suspension.

The RE:aktiv part of this shock equation is based on Penske’s regressive valve compression, which was originally developed for Formula One cars. These and other open-wheel cars rely on ‘downforce’ to keep them stuck to the track. The delicate balance for these racing machines was to find a way of valving the shocks so that they would support downforce yet open up quickly, allowing each wheel to soak up bumps on the track. Sound familiar?

In the development of the DRCV RE:aktiv damper, Trek worked with the Formula 1 suspension expert Penske Racing and FOX.
In the development of the DRCV RE:aktiv damper, Trek worked with the Formula 1 suspension expert Penske Racing and FOX.
The special DRCV RE:aktiv damper is fully-floating. The Active Braking Pivot (co-axial positioning of the pivot and rear axle) should minimize brake influence. In practice, the rear triangle performed brilliantly.
The special DRCV RE:aktiv damper is fully-floating. The Active Braking Pivot (co-axial positioning of the pivot and rear axle) should minimize brake influence. In practice, the rear triangle performed brilliantly.
Moving away from Formula 1. The cockpit is simple in comparison to Lewis Hamilton's...
Moving away from Formula 1. The cockpit is simple in comparison to Lewis Hamilton’s…

Mountain bikes are way cheaper than F1 cars, but the suspension problems they face are similar. Bicycle suspension designers are constantly trying to provide enough pedal platform for maximum efficiency without compromising suspension performance. RE:aktiv is Trek’s answer to that problem. Within the confines of our test, however, RE:aktiv wasn’t used to its full benefit. And this is why we’re still riding the test bike – or at least that’s what we’re telling them.

Characteristics of the Fuel EX that we did fully exploit, though, were its good-natured and stable, yet flickable and fun demeanor. Like a faithful family dog, this is a bike that feels ready to go wherever and whenever you are. We had fun charging every bit of our track on the Trek. And while some of us were able to find the limits of its front end, none of us can remember being stifled by the rear end.

The fun
“Like a faithful family dog, this is a bike that feels ready to go wherever and whenever you are. We had fun charging every bit of our track on the Trek.”

Who should ride a Fuel EX 9.8 27.5? If you made it this far – past the digits and dots of the 9.8 and the 27.5 – then you should. This is a badass mountain bike that would make anyone happy to hit the trails. As capable as it is, at $5,460, it is also our Best Value in Test.

Price: €4699.00
Weight: 12.27kg (Without pedals)
Travel: 120mm/120mm

Specification

Fork: Fox32 Float Performance CTD FIT
Rear Shock: Fox Float CTD Performance DRCV RE:aktiv
Drivetrain: Shimano XT
Brakes: Shimano XT
Seatpost:RockShox Reverb Stealth
Stem: Bontrager Race X Lite
Handlebar: Bontrager Race X Lite Carbon
Tyres: Bontrager XR3 Expert 2.35
Wheelset: Bontrager Rhythm Comp

The other bikes in the field included: BMC Fourstroke FS02 | Cannondale Scalpel Carbon 2 | Felt Edict 1 29er | Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 XC | Ibis Ripley | Marin Rift Zone 8 | Yeti ASRc

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For more info, visit: TrekBikes.com

Words: Joe Parkin Photos: Abner Kingman