During some discussions at Sea Otter this spring, Trek dropped hints it was working to simplify its trail bike line up. This was right before it dropped a new full-suspension fat trail bike, so I wasn’t sure how to take that statement.
These simplification ideas became more clear few weeks ago when Trek invited us to Squamish to ride new trail bikes. As of now, Trek has only three full-suspension mountain bike platforms (not counting that fat bike)
Top Fuel – 100 mm 29er
Fuel EX – 130 mm 29/27plus
Remedy – 150 mm 27.5
Yes, in a surprising move, the Fuel EX 27.5 and the EWS winning Remedy 29 are no longer. Well, you can still get a new Fuel EX in 27.5 wheels, but only in smaller sizes of the women’s bikes.
Fuel EX 29
This is the same frame as the Fuel EX 27plus we’ve been riding, but all 29ers have a 130 mm fork, vs the 140 mm on the 27plus bike. The 29er version comes in a lot more models compared to the EX 27plus’s three.
|Fuel EX 5 WSD||$2,199.99|
|Fuel EX 8 WSD||$3,199.99|
|Fuel EX 9.8 WSD||$4,999.99|
|Fuel EX 5 29||$2,199.99|
|Fuel EX 7 29||$2,599.99|
|Fuel EX 8 29||$3,199.99|
|Fuel EX 9 29||$3,999.99|
|Fuel EX 29 AL frame||$1,889.99|
|Fuel EX 9.7 29||$3,999.99|
|Fuel EX 9.8 29||$4,999.99|
|Fuel EX 9.9 29||$8,399.99|
|Fuel EX 29 Carbon frame||$3,299.99|
We rode top of the line 9.9 (natch). Since I had plenty of time on the 27plus EX, I was happy to stick to the 29er wheels in Squamish. In fact, the few pairs of 27plus wheels Trek brought with them never made it on a bike while the media was there. It seems no one was that interested.
Right off the bat, the 29er felt more like the EX of the previous generation, light and snappy. Some of this might be attributed to the carbon rims and light tires, but after riding quite a few of these 29/27plus bikes in both configurations, the 29 inch wheels always feel faster to me.
The geometry of the new EX 29 is almost identical to the old Remedy 29, and the frame is actually stiffer. Which somewhat explains why the Remedy 29 went away. Put something like a Pike up front and some beefier tires and I would expect this thing to be a pretty serious ripper.
A quick rundown of the changes from last year’s EX:
-120mm->130mm rear / 130mm front
-68˚ headtube->67.7˚ (high) / 67˚ (low) headtube
-448mm->453mm (low position)
Lighter & Stiffer frame
– Straight Shot downtube for strength & stiffness
Knock Block Frame Defense
– Prevents frame damage from fork controls or brake levers
We rode some steep stuff in Squamish, and the EX felt at home here. The longer front end and slacker head angle (I spent half of the day in each geo setting) are a huge plus on steeper terrain. We did a fair amount of climbing as well as descending , and the EX now feels like a bike that balances the two more evenly, where the previous EX still had a lot of XC-racing genes.
And that is where I came away surprised. This is a much more aggressive bike than the previous Fuel EX, and I wonder if that will leave a hole in Trek’s line up? The Top Fuel is more capable these days, and maybe we’ll see a version of the Top Fuel with a longer fork, beefier tires and a dropper to compete with the likes of the new Kona Hei Hei Trail and other lightweight, short-travel, trail bikes. This isn’t to say the Fuel EX feels slow, but not everyone needs or wants 130 mm of travel and a 67˚ head angle.
Most of this is speculation, as the trails of Squamish don’t lend themselves to a lot of navel gazing about the fractured state of trail bike genres in the summer of 2016.
No more 29er Remedy? Yes, and this is somewhat shocking. Tracy Moseley has been dominating the EWS circuit on a Remedy 29 for years, but with the Fuel EX taking on the geometry of last year’s Remedy 29, Trek expects most riders looking for an aggressive 29er will be happy with the EX29. Time will tell. In the meantime, those looking for a 150 mm travel 27.5 bike should get themselves a test ride on the new Remedy. We’ve got a contender here.
-140mm -> 150mm rear
-68 / 67.5˚ headtube -> 66.5˚ / 66˚ headtube
-447mm ->458mm (19.5” size)
Lower bottom bracket
-341mm -> 336mm
This is returning the Remedy to its roots as a longer travel trail bike, with a few models coming stock with 160 forks. This puts it squarely in Slash territory. Which leads one to wonder about the future of the Slash….
Anyway, the new Remedy uses the same technology as the Fuel EX, including the Knock Block headset and Straighshot downtube to make a lighter and stiffer frame. Lots of pricepoints with this one, too.
|Remedy 7 27.5||$2,999.99|
|Remedy 8 27.5||$3,299.99|
|Remedy 8 WSD 27.5||$3,299.99|
|Remedy 9 27.5 RSL||$4,499.99|
|Remedy 27.5 AL frame||$1,889.99|
|Remedy 9.8 27.5||$5,299.99|
|Remedy 9.8 27.5 WSD||$5,299.99|
|Remedy 9.9 27.5 RSL||$7,999.99|
|Remedy 27.5 Carbon frame||$3,299.99|
If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see a new RockShox Deluxe rear shock with the red stick denoting it is equipped the Trek’s proprietary Re:Aktiv valve. This is a good thing. So is the Lyrik up front. SRAM handles most of the parts on this bike, including Guide brakes and 1×12 Eagle drivetrain. Hidden behind my leg is Bontrager’s new Line dropper post, which has an excellent remote, although it could use more than the stock 125 mm of travel, which is feeling short next to 150 mm (and even longer) posts.
I’m going to have to look into the “hows and whys” more later, but the RockShox rear shock seemed to be better at controlling bob than the Fox on the Fuel EX, while still sucking up the bigger hits like a champ. This bike just felt controlled, everywhere. I keep things below my limits (and way below the bike’s limits) as I am not a fan of pinning it at media events, but I was shocked at how well this bike scooted uphill and bombed down unfamiliar trails. I expected to miss the 29er wheels on some of the steeper and chunkier bits, but it wasn’t an issue. In fact, if I lived in Squamish, this bike would be my choice over the Fuel EX, even though the trails never open up enough to really take advantage of the travel and stability of a bike like this, at least with my skillset.
My long term Remedy tester just showed up at the office, so expect a full review soon. We’ve got the RSL (Race Shop Limited) model, which has SE4 reinforced tires and a 160 mm Lyrik travel adjust fork. In other words, the enduro model. That extra travel kicks the head angle back to 66˚/65.5˚and a slightly higher bottom bracket at 346/339 mm. Maybe I just don’t have enough steep climbs, but this is another in a long series of bikes that I’ve adjusted the travel on the first long climb, forgot to return it to full travel on the first descent, and proceeded to leave it in the long setting and never think about it again.
Wrap it up, I’ll take it.
Trek is also offering a huge range of prices and aluminum frames that offer all the features of the carbon models at about half the price. There are even a solid selection of women’s bikes, for those that are into that type of thing. Some of the cheaper models don’t get a Re:Aktiv shock, but to Trek’s credit Re:Aktiv is found at even lower price points this year.
It is pretty easy to get wrapped up in all the tech-y buzz-words the Trek uses to market its bikes. ABP, Mino link, Re:Aktiv, Full Floater, Evo Link, Control Freak internal routing, etc. It is harder to talk about how well all of this works as whole. Trek has been slowly and quietly creating some very fine trail bikes, and this pair of bikes has no trouble holding it down against some of the best trail bikes I’ve ridden.These bikes are available NOW. Check out Trek’s website for more info.
The Fuel EX wasn’t exactly an “old” bike, even by bike industry standards. It wouldn’t have taken much for Trek to redesign the rear end of the Fuel EX 29 to accept a 27plus tire, slap a new Fox 34 Plus fork on the front and ship it out. It would have been an above average bike.
But that is not what Trek did. At all. This Fuel EX 27.5 Plus is just the start of Trek’s entirely revamped trail bike offerings. We’ll be in Squamish next week to ride the other new bikes, but in the meantime, we’ve been lucky to be one of small number of media outlets riding the new Fuel EX.
Trek released the Chupacabra 27.5 plus tires this spring, the first clue that we’d be seeing a bike like this from Trek. In fact, we had a bet going that about whether it would be this or a full-suspension 29plus Stash that we’d see released at Sea Otter (it was a full-sus fatbike, so we all lost).
Fully blacked-out, this is perhaps the meanest looking bike Trek has ever released. It doesn’t just look mean, it has the performance to back up the sneer. Long and low geometry, a new frame that is stiffer than the current Remedy and a travel increase push this new bike out of the long-legged XC realm into do-it all trail bike territory. Think less Midwest and more Pacific Northwest.
Unlike the 120/120 mm travel on the 29 and 27.5 bikes, the new bike is 140/130 mm front/rear. The travel is noticeably more plush, but loses some of the snappy pedalling feel of the shorter-travel bike. It hasn’t lost the oddly magic feel of controlled plushness that the Re:Aktiv shock provides, but feels better sitting and spinning rather than standing and mashing.
The carbon frame has a huge, almost-straight downtube, and lots of stand-over, Trek’s totally quiet Control Freak internal routing and a new bump-stop headset. Developed in conjunction with FSA the Knock Block headset uses keyed spacers and stem to prevent the fork from swinging 180 degrees in a crash. This protects the top tube from the brake levers and the down tube from the fork’s top caps. This allows Trek to increase tube separation at the head tube, and get rid of the upper bend in the down tube. Straighter, shorter tubes are lighter and stiffer, the attributes everyone is chasing in the full-suspension marketplace.
The downside to this new headset? Proprietary stems and spacers. I have a feeling this idea has enough merit to expand to more of the industry, but proprietary parts are not well received right now. The stock Bontrager Line 35 mm bar and stem is more than serviceable, and any 35 mm bar will work, so it isn’t that huge of a deal unless you really can’t ride without you chi-chi Chromag bar and stem.
The biggest news with the EX is the geometry. The head angle is the most obvious change, rivalling the new Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 for biggest difference from previous generation frames. Trek continues to use the geo-adjusting Mino link, resulting in a rider’s choice of 67.2 or 66.6 degrees. Seat tube angles are steeper, chain stays are at 433 mm (17”) and a 13″ bottom bracket should keep thing on the shreddy side on the trail.
I’ve been on the EX 9.8, which is an interesting mix of parts for a modern mountain bike. Brakes and drivetrain are all XT, including a 2×11 with side-swing front derailleur. The specs say the fork should be a FOX 34 Performance FIT, but my bike has a GRIP damper. Rear shock is a FOX EVOL with three-position Re:Activ valve. Wheels are DT hubs laced to Sun Duroc 40 rims. Everything else besides the 125 mm Reverb are Bontrager bits.
The other two bikes are aluminum frames. The EX 8 is 1×11 via SRAM GX, brakes are Shimano Deore, Fox 34 Rhythm GRIP fork, same FOX EVOL/Re:Aktiv shock and Bontrager hubs in place of the DTs. A KS EThirty dropper and Bontrager parts finish it off. The EX5 gets 2×10 Deore, Shimano M315 brakes, no dropper post, and less expensive Bontrager finishing bits. Suspension is handled by RockShox, a Sektor Silver RL up front, and Deluxe RL rear.
All three models use the new “metric” shock sizing and trunnion mounts. Also, all three bikes will work with 29″ wheels, although the bottom bracket will end up about 5mm higher depending on tire selection.
The current Fuel EX with 29 or 27.5 “standard” tires will remain in the line-up, which should be a relief for those riders that don’t need a bike as aggressive as the EX 27plus, but not as race-focused at the Top Fuel.
This bike is fun. It retains enough of the efficiency of the shorter travel EXs to want to take on long days on the trail, but the added travel and traction are welcome additions when things get rough. Chainstays at 17″ seem to be a magic number for this bike (or maybe just for me), keeping the front end down on climbs, but able to pop and hop without excessive body english.
I’m still messing with air pressure in the rear shock. The Re:Aktiv shock takes a little longer to dial in, and has a pretty broad range of usable pressures. Even when set up on the soft side, the regressive valve manages to make the bike pedal well, and all three positions of platform are all very usable on the trail,. Even on the firmest setting once past the threshold the shock opens up and gobbles up the bumps better than would be expected for something that feels so firm off the top.
The long and low geometry invites aggressive riding, in fact, it rewards it. Unlike the standard Fuel EXs, the plus bike feels best being tossed around versus a lighter touch. When given a choice, the EX plus bike is more fun to ride on the aggressive lines. If you like to stay seated and steer around things, this might not be your bike. With this much quality travel and traction, dropping the seat and attacking the trail is your best bet.
The Chupacabras are impressive performers for a tire with such small knobs, but they can start to feel overwhelmed with things get really hairy. I’m guessing Bontrager will have a more aggressive tread up its sleeve if we see a 27plus Remedy released. A more aggressive front tire paired with the Chupacabra in the rear would be a sweet setup.
Personally, I think Trek should have given this bike its own name, it is that different from the shorter travel EXs. How about Rumblefish or Roscoe, some of my favorites from the now-defunct Fisher brand? Regardless, even though Trek has been talking about simplifying its trail bike line-up, the addition of this bike and the full-suspension Farley EX seems like the opposite of that.
Navel-gazing about names and sales-floor confusion aside, the Fuel EX 27plus seems like a very worthy contender in the hotly-contested trail bike marketplace. We’ll have a full review in the next issue of Dirt Rag.
Pricing and Availability:
|Fuel EX 5 27.5 Plus||$2,399.99||June|
|Fuel EX 8 27.5 Plus||$3,299.99||NOW|
|Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 Plus||$5,299.99||NOW|
Full specs and geometry are up on Trek’s website.
Few bikes have such a storied lineage as the Fuel EX. Trek introduced a refreshed version of its 27.5-wheeled version last year with the incorporation of the Fox Re:aktiv shock technology. This year the 29er model gets the same treatment, with a host of the same features plus some new ones.
While still built around a 120 mm travel, full-floating, ABP (active breaking pivot) suspension design, the new Re:aktiv shock was designed with input from auto racing powerhouse Penske Racing shocks, a company that is normally designing products for Formula 1 cars. The idea is that it can detect the difference between different inputs (pedaling forces versus impacting a root at speed) and adjust on the fly. The speed that the shaft moves is what dictates how the damping reacts. It’s a rather complex technology that is found on only some of the top models, starting with the Fuel EX 8.
Unique to the 29er model is the introduction of Boost spacing front and rear. The 12×148 mm thru axle out back and 15×110 mm on the fork push the hubs’ flange spacing out and allow for a stronger, stiffer wheel. Trek says it makes the 29er wheel as stiff as a 27.5 wheel, and while I can’t say I can tell a major difference in the DT Swiss wheels, I have no reason to doubt their claims.
The 9.9 build we’re riding is the flagship model in the new Fuel EX range, with a full OCLV carbon frame, chainstays, seatstays and rocker link. Geometry is adjustable with the small Mino Link, an eccentric pivot where the seatstays meet the rocker link that alters the head tube angle, bottom bracket height and chainstay length a small amount.
Some key geometry numbers in the Low and High settings:
- Head tube angle: 68.8 / 69.4 degrees
- Effective seat tube angle: 73.6 / 74.6 degrees
- Chainstay length: 436 / 434 mm
- Bottom bracket height: 13.15 / 13.46 inches
The frame also features internal cable routing that integrates nicely with the Control Freak ports. There are also attachments to run the rear brake cable externally, if that’s more your style.
Hanging on is a 120 mm Fox 34 fork with the new and drastically improved FIT4 damper, a 1×11 Shimano XTR kit powered through a carbon Race Face Next crank. The RockShox Reverb Stealth sits up top and the carbon DT Swiss XMC1200 wheels put the power to the ground.
This is a spare-no-expense build ($8,400 to be specific) but Trek knows us media slimeballs are hard to please. (OK, that’s not the reason at all, actually. Brands want to show off the best of what they can do and what their employees work so hard to create, something I can hardly blame them for.) I’ll admit it is a little intimidating knowing that it retails for twice what I paid for my pickup truck.
My first ride on the Fuel EX 29 9.9 was on some dedicated gravity trails where it felt right at home. The only thing holding it back was
the 720 mm carbon Bontrager handlebar the stock Bontrager XR3 front tire, which was begging for something more aggressive. (Update: Trek informed me that some early bikes shipped with a 720 mm bar, while the stock bikes ship with a 750 mm Bontrager Rhythm Pro bar.) You’ll see in the photos I swapped in a 750 mm Truvativ Jerome Clementz BlackBox handlebar cut specifically for the new WTB Padloc grips, which I’m also testing. Plus a bell. Ding!
I also had a packaging issue with the Reverb remote conflicting with the XTR Trail brake, leaving it skewed at a less-than awesome angle. Usually it’s mounted below the bars on the left side, but this bike shipped with the right/bottom, left/top remote.
Aside from a few spec hiccups, the Fuel EX has really impressed me with its ability as an all-around performer. This is a bike I wouldn’t hesitate to line up for an XC race or toss on a chairlift for some bike park runs. I have very high expectations for this bike and have no doubt it has the ability to reach or exceed them. I’m looking forward to our time together! Keep an eye out for my full-length review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag.
Update: Some folks have asked about converting the Fuel EX 29 to 27plus. While a 27×3.0 tire easily fits in the Boost-spaced fork, it rubs on the chainstays on the frame. A few tweaks to the rear end might make it possible, so will we see something like that in the future? We’ll have to wait and see. Trek has been committed to the 29plus platform, so a whole new bike is just as likely.Tweet Print
The Trek Fuel EX has been one of the most popular trail bikes in history but Trek wasn’t about to rest with “good enough.” After the folks from Waterloo added a 27.5 version last summer with the introduction of the amazing Penske Re:aktiv shock technology, the 29er model gets a full refresh with new features, new technology and new axle spacing.
Yes, it’s Boost. You could argue till your tires are flat whether we need Boost or not, but Trek can be credited with creating most of its inertia in the market, after it debuted on the Remedy trail bike. All 2016 Fuel EX 29 models have wider hubs for stiffer wheels and better handling, Trek says. (Except for the two least expensive models, the Fuel EX 29 5 and Fuel EX 29 7, which stick with traditional thru-axles.) The Boost spacing also allows the chainstays to be shortened from 452 mm to 434 mm.
Other changes include the disappearance of the DRCV shocks, since Trek says the new Fox EVOL version offered the proper spring curve without having to make custom units, thus allowing Trek to save some money and include the Re:aktiv damper technology on more models.
The new carbon and aluminum frames are equipped with “Control Freak” cable ports to route any combination of cables or Di2 wires inside the frame for a clean look. There is a port under the downtube that allows access to cables to zip tie them in place to prevent rattling.
While the new Fuel EX sticks with 120 mm of travel front and rear (except for the Fuel EX 29 9, which gets a 130 mm Fox 34) the geometry can be adjusted with the Mino link that is commonly found on Trek’s longer travel bikes like the Slash and Remedy. An eccentric plate between the rocker link and the seat tube, it allows riders to adjust the head tube angle half a degree and raise and lower the bottom bracket 8 mm. The steeper setting is close to that of the previous Fuel EX 29er, while the slacker setting gets the head tube angle out to 68.8 degrees. Like all Trek 29ers the Fuel EX is designed around a 51 mm offset fork, which used to be known as G2, but has largely become commonplace for 29ers.
The 2016 Fuel EX 29 will be available in six sizes from 15.5 inches to 22 inches
2016 Fuel EX 29 pricing
- Fuel EX 29 Carbon frameset: $3,470
- Fuel EX 29 5, aluminum: $2,090
- Fuel EX 29 7, aluminum: $2,670
- Fuel EX 29 8, aluminum: $3,050
- Fuel EX 29 9, aluminum: $4,200
- Fuel EX 29 9.8, carbon: $5,570
- Fuel EX 29 9.9, carbon: $8,800
Fuel EX history
Want to read more about how this model has changed over the years? Here’s some links from our archives:
- 2008 Fuel EX sneak peek
- 2008 Fuel EX first ride
- 2008 Fuel EX update
- 2008 Fuel EX post Punk Bike pondering
- 2009 Fuel EX first look
- 2014 Fuel EX 29 first look