By Justin Steiner
Meet the new Slash, but don’t confuse this bike with Trek’s previous all-mountain bike, the Scratch. While Trek positioned both bikes to be extremely capable descending rigs, the Slash delivers a level of all-around versatility that’s head and shoulders above the Scratch. The stats speak for themselves: 160mm of front and rear suspension, an adjustable 65.5/66 degree head angle, and just a touch over 30lbs. My old 29er hardtail weighed nearly that much—guess which bike is more fun bombing down the mountain?
The Slash’s suspension design employs what Trek calls Active Braking Pivot (ABP) and Full Floater shock mounting. The main pivot defines the rear wheel’s axle path, while the rear pivot rotates concentric to the rear axle. This arrangement isolates braking forces, allowing the suspension to remain active under braking. Full Floater refers to the rear shock being mounted between the rocker link and the swingarm; this allows Trek to further fine-tune the spring rate.
At the heart of this suspension platform is the Trek-designed Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) Fox RP3 rear shock, which features two in-line air chambers. During the first half of the stroke, the shock operates solely on the smaller, initial air chamber for a snappy, responsive beginning stroke.
A plunger opens up the secondary chamber when the suspension moves into the remaining half of its stroke, allowing for a large volume end of stroke feel that does a better job of absorbing bit hits. It’s the best of both worlds: small volume for a lively initial stroke, large volume for linear, big-hit performance.
The RP3 rear shock is an early adaptation of what appears to be the next wave of platform damping adjustments: a three-position ProPedal lever with settings for climbing (3), trail riding (1), and descending (0). In terms of outright pedaling performance, this single-pivot design does benefit from ProPedal utilization. I only felt compelled to use ProPedal 3 on road climbs, spending a majority of my ride time in the ProPedal 1 setting. Only on long, chunky descents did I feel the need to use the fully open setting.
The high-end Slash 9 build kit is a smart mix of SRAM X0 brakes and X0 2×10 drivetrain parts with Bontrager wheels and cockpit. The RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost provided slick dropper duties, and the internal hose routing was a blessing—I can’t wait for the Stealth routing to go market-wide later this year.
I’ve read reviews elsewhere complaining about the stock Bontrager XR4 tires, but these 2.35” tires worked well for me when inflated to 30- 35psi. They provided excellent traction in both wet and dry conditions and are a good match for the bike, in my opinion.
Trek bills the Slash as a “technical trail” bike, designed to be a capable climber that can rip technical singletrack on the way down.
Hop on the Slash and you’ll quickly notice how pedal-friendly the riding position is. It’s clear that Trek intends you to pedal this bike long and hard, with a neutral, efficient riding position. My size 18.5-inch test bike fit like a glove right out of the box, and I really dug the width (750mm) and sweep (9-degrees) of the Bontrager Rhythm Pro handlebar. The wide and relatively low handlebar increases reach in spite of the relatively short (586mm) top tube.
On the trail the Slash proved to be a willing partner in all sorts of terrain. The slack angles and long wheelbase provide stability that coddles you with a sense of security, while somehow never managing to seem unwieldy. Quite the contrary, I found the Slash to have a very snappy ride thanks to the superb suspension feel and light-for-a- 160mm-bike nature.
With such a neutral position on the bike and average-length chain- stays (434mm), steep and technical climbing requires a moderate amount of body English to keep the front wheel on the ground. These characteristics also helped to keep wheel flop in check while climbing.
Of course, with 160mm of travel, the Slash certainly enjoys being pointed downhill. The long wheelbase and slack angles provide heaps of stability and a composed ride when things get ugly. Not surprisingly, the nearly DH head angle encourages a committed lean into tight corners— slam that Reverb and crank it over!
The Fox 36 TALAS FIT RLC absorbs small and large hits with the control we’ve come to expect from Fox. This fork is a great performer but is slightly outclassed by the positively stellar small-bump response of the rear suspension. I personally found little value in the TALAS functionality on this bike, as I felt the drop to 120mm was too drastic. Had it dropped to 140mm I might have used it more, but frankly, I’d rather have a Float and save some money.
Balanced chassis design delivers a bike that’s nearly too good to be true. I’m still amazed by this bike’s ability to balance nearly DH bike descending capabilities with responsive, trail bike pedaling performance.
Trek’s Mino Link, located on the rocker arm, adjusts the head angle and bottom bracket height. Riders can choose between a steep and high (66-degrees/368mm) or slack and low (65.5-degrees/360mm) setting. I preferred the slacker setting and would love to see a lower bottom bracket height for both settings, something like 66-degrees at 360mm and 65.5-degrees at 353mm.
I’m extremely impressed with the Slash. This is one of the only test bikes I’ve ridden that has satisfied my needs without swapping a single part. It’s a highly refined package that delivers burly performance in a capable, all-around chassis. While I feel the Slash would hold up to bike park abuse, it’s a bike that’s designed to earn its turns. The Slash is well-suited for enduro and super-D racing.
No matter how you slice it, $5,880 is a lot of money, but I do feel this bike delivers the performance to back up the price tag. This model will carry over as-is to 2013. Riders looking for a supremely competent all-mountain bike should check out the Slash. There’s been a lot of buzz about the Slash this year, and my experience supports the notion that this is one hell of a bike.
- Price $5,880
- Made in Taiwan
- Wheelbase: 45.8-inches, 1,163mm or 45.7-inches, 1,161mm
- Head Angle: 66 or 66.5 degrees
- Seat Tube Angle: 71.9 or 72.4 degrees
- Bottom Bracket height: 14.2 inches, 360mm or 14.5 inches, 368mm
- Chainstay Length: 17.1 inches, 435mm or 17 inches, 433mm
- Weight: 30.3lbs., 13.7kg
- Sizes available: 15.5", 17.5", 18.5" (tested), 19.5", 21.5"
- Specs based on size tested