Speaking of riding, my afternoon and early evening is spent riding Gary Fisher HiFi Pro 29 and Trek Fuel EX 9.5 bikes. Rather than using this space to regurgitate all the information presented in the classroom session, I’ll simplify things a bit and focus on the new developments specific to the aforementioned two bikes, and tell you about the new developments specific to each bike.
It takes a lot of bikes to keep the world’s mountain bike journalists occupied. Here’s a shot of the bike stacked against the big rig that Trek used to haul them from Wisconsin to Idaho.
For the first ride of the day, I’ve got a brand new Gary Fisher HiFi Pro 29 under me. That’s right, new for 2008 is a 29er version of the HiFi, and it shares the same G2 geometry philosophy as the 26″ wheeled HiFi. In G2, version 2 of Fisher’s Genesis geometry, the main goal was to improve the slow speed handling, while maintaining the high speed stability and climbing ability of the original Genesis geometry. To make a long story short, Fisher worked with Fox Shox to develop a front suspension with increased fork offset, which reduces the “trail” while keeping the same wheelbase. The end result is snappier slow speed handling.
When applying G2 to the 29er HiFi, Fisher worked to come up with a 29er-specific custom fork offset that resulted in neutral steering, such that the trail was nearly identical to that of a 26″ bike. The custom fork offset also allowed for slightly shorter top tube, which decreases the cockpit a bit and allows for a more optimal rider weight distribution.
Other spec notes include new Bontrager Rhythm 29er that feature a 28mm wide profile, between normal XC and freeride width, which allows the tire to take on a more rounded profile and supports it better, for added lateral stability, especially with lower pressure. There is also a custom tuned Fox Float RP23 rear shock.
My first ride of the day is an up-down affair on Bald Mountain. After a short warm-up spin through town, we start up Lower River Run trailâ€”a looooong series of switchbacks. I’m happy with the way the HiFi Pro 29er handles the tight, slow speed, uphill turns. It’s really the perfect place to get a first impression on the G2 geometry’s slow speed handling, and it passes the test. Climbing 1700″ is rewarded with a singletrack rip down Warm Springs trail, a “big grin” run with a roller coaster personality that’s got it’s share of sweeping corners, and just enough technical features to keep you on your toes. I feel immediately at home on the HiFi Pro 29er’s handling and instinctively point it into the “best line” through the fast corners without the need to engage my brain and think about the fact that I’m on a brand new bike for the first time, and that’s it’s a 29er full-suspension bike on top of that! So the HiFi passes the initial “it rides like a bike” test quite well, feeling very neutral out of the box and not exhibiting any noticeable quirks.
At the bottom of Warm Springs Trail the Trek crew and support van await to refuel riders and swap bikes for the second ride of the day. For round two I score a top of the line carbon Trek Fuel EX 9.5 with 120mm of rear travel and 130mm up front via a Fox TALAS RLC 90-130.
Traditionally, mountain bike suspension designs have located the pivot point either on the seatstays (like the previous Fuel EX) or on the chainstay (i.e. Horst link), and Trek points out that either of those locations cause the the suspension to stiffen under braking. The new Trek EX uses Trekâ€™s ABP technology, which locates the rear pivot concentric with the rear axle. This pivot location is claimed to keep the suspension active and independent of braking, which keeps the rear tire in contact with the ground for reduced skidding and better braking control.
Also new this year is the Full Floater rear shock mount that allows the shock to float between two independent linkages instead of having the lower mount fixed to the frame. This design allow Trek more flexibility on tuning the spring rate of the rear shock. What they’ve done is aim to produce a rear shock that feels active right away, has less ramp-up at the very end, for a “bottomless” feeling.
Trek racer Travis Brown was on hand and talked about how seriously Trek treats frame stiffness and how critical stiffness is to to cornering (to keep front and rear wheel from flopping in different directions). Fuel EX frame stiffness is 35% stiffer, mostly due to rocker link improvements, though the frame itself has been stiffened. The new rocker link, dubbed the EVO Link is now a one-piece design (not bolted together) with a wider bearing stance (from 46 to 64mm) and both factors contribute to the increased stiffness.
My ride atop the Trek Fuel EX 9.5 in the Adams Gulch area. There is no big sustained climb, rather we encounter a series of shorter climbs and descents, and the trails have a flowing rhythm. One of my first impressions in how light the bike feels for a 120mm-travel rig. Granted it’s the top of the line Fuel EX, still a weight around 24.5 lbs. is pretty impressive. I’m pleased with how well the bike pedals, with very little the pedal-induced bobbing, and it climbs very efficiently. My “first impression” of the redesigned rear suspension is that it feel supple over the small stuff, and provides the “bottomless” feeling that Trek was shooting for. Carving hard downhill sweepers leaves me feeling impressed with the frame’s lateral stiffness (though I wonder if my 150 lbs is legitimate test of any frame’s stiffness). Granted, this is only my first ride, but while I’m riding I find myself thinking, “You know, this could make a great race bike for the endurance events and rocky West Virginia race courses that make up most of my racing schedule.” 2008 Fuel EX’s are scheduled to hit dealers’ floors by August 1st.
We’ll that’s it for day one. The plan is to ride another bike or two on day two, and to do my best to post a bit of tech about the bikes and my initial impression here in the Dirt Rag Blog.