Tester: Scott Williams
Weight: 170 lbs.
Trek upped the ante once more for the current Fuel EX lineup, looking to fulfill the one bike to rule them all prophecy. Deciding to step back from the prior generation’s long-legged cross-country-esque geometry, the new Fuel EX became more trail aggressive and shred-worthy with a slacker geometry and an increase in travel to 130 mm front and rear. Available in 10 models, including three women’s, you’ll be certain to find the right package to rip around your favorite trails.
Even though our test bike, the Fuel EX 7, is one notch above the base Fuel EX model, this bike is no schlup. The RockShox Revelation RL with Motion Control damping and Solo Air technology performed remarkably well. I was impressed with its quick tunability from a firm lockout on the climbs to a comfortable plush on the descents. Keep in mind, the Revelation is a lightweight trail fork utilizing 32 mm stanchions. I personally did not experience any issues during my testing, however, heavier and/or more aggressive trail riders should make note that is less robust than the Fox 34 on more expensive models. To the rear, Trek utilizes its signature Active Braking Pivot (ABP) to prevent the Fox Float EVOL shock from locking up while braking, helping you stay grounded and in control through the gnar.
I was equally impressed with the smooth, precise shifting from the Shimano Deore and SLX 2×10 drivetrain. The Deore Side Swing front derailleur shifted so well it almost banished all thoughts of single ring drivetrains from my mind. It’s unfortunate that this design did not trickle down sooner, as I feel we would be seeing more bikes with double cranks. Perhaps we would even have an integrated dropper and front shifter at this point as well. Although, if you are looking to upgrade to a single chainring setup or want some extra teeth on the cassette, SLX is now available as an 11-speed groupset and would be a relatively easy and inexpensive upgrade down the road as you wear out your drivetrain.
Trek did an excellent job keeping costs low, utilizing its house brand where they could and sourcing quality components where it matters the most. Admittedly, it was difficult coming up with caveats to this dropper-equipped, full-suspension trail bike. Sure, it’s six pounds heavier than the Fuel EX 9.9, which has every gram-shaving carbon bit imaginable. However, you can literally buy three of the EX 7s for that price tag and ride the EXACT same trails you would be able to ride on the 9.9. When it comes to the important aspects of enjoying your ride, the Fuel EX 7 delivers smooth shifting, solid hub engagement and quality suspension performance. This bike is a helluva deal and has ample potential to shed some weight with carbon bits as your needs and budget progress over time.
Although, I never moved the Mino Link adjustable geometry from its high setting, I can see that some riders would really enjoy being able to slacken the head angle by half a degree for steeper terrain. With that said, throw on some 27plus shoes and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone; the geometry of the Fuel EX and its fine-tuned suspension makes even the most jagged descents appear rideable with ease. Just don’t forget your knee pads.
As a whole, Trek’s revamp of the Fuel EX looks to be a promising one for all types of trail riders. As Ross Rushin, marketing manager from Trek, stated: “What very little the new 130 mm [Fuel] EX gives up in climbing prowess is far overshadowed by its added confidence on rough, high-speed descents.” The Fuel EX 7 is one example of a solid performing full-suspension trail bike where you don’t need to break the piggy bank.
- RockShox Revelation RL fork performs well.
- Short chainstays make a playful trail bike.
- Ample tire clearance for a 27plus setup.
- Knock Block system uses proprietary stem and spacers.
- Dropper remote placement with 2x setup.
- Any color you want as long as it is Matte Viper Red
Top Tube: 24.9”
Head Tube: 67.7°
BB Height: 13.3”
Weight: 31.3 lbs.
w/o pedals and set up tubeless, specs based on size tested
Sizes: 15.5”, 17.5”, 18.5”, 19.5” (tested), 20.5”, 21.5”, 23”
This review originally appeared in Dirt Rag 197 as part of our Sub-3k Trail Bike Lineup. Subscribe now to never miss an issue and while you’re at it, sign up for our email newsletter to get fresh content delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!