I’ve spent the last couple of weeks on Trek’s go-to trail bike, the Remedy, which is back for 2013 with revised geometry and improved suspension. Boasting an all-up weight not much greater than many cross-country bikes, and 150mm of front and rear travel, the Remedy has come as a pleasant surprise. It’s more than capable of holding its own going up and down most terrain you’ll typically encounter in the UK.
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Older riders like me remember when there was one kind of mountain bike. Fully rigid, steel framed and it went everywhere. If you rode off-road, that’s what you rode. Initially front, then full-suspension bikes and aluminium and carbon fibre frames became popular and suspension led to segmentation as manufacturers aimed to give us the perfect bike for each kind of riding.
But further advances in suspension and frame technology have begun to blur the lines, and manufacturers are beginning to realise that most riders’ wallets – and garages! – won’t accommodate a stable of steeds.
Plus, no matter what we enjoy riding most, we typically ride ‘most everything else as well, even if it’s just to get to our favourite trails. With the exception of hardcore gravity riders, who use uplift exclusively – and let’s face it, that’s not a scenario in most of the UK – we need a bike that can go uphill at least adequately. And one that can handle single-track as well as technical descents. As a result, Trek is pushing their Fuel EX as a bike that can deal damage on both the singletrack and the trail. I think they have the right idea. I just think they chose the wrong bike.
The surprisingly svelte-feeling Remedy is the bike I’d choose if I was looking for one bike to rule them all. Sure the Fuel is a very capable bike, and in the trail centres I ride most often – Dalby, Sherwood Pines and Gisburn, which primarily comprise hardpack singletrack trails – the Fuel has what it takes. But then, so do most lithe, lean cross-country bikes these days. You’d probably put in your fastest time around Dalby on the Rumblefish of all of Trek’s bikes.
But if you’re planning to loop off the red routes, and track through Sherwood’s Downhill Zone, or ride down Gisburn’s Black Slab, or try the rock drops on the right about 1km after Dixon’s Hollow at Dalby – the Remedy is the bike you want to be riding. When the hits get bigger, the surface rougher or the climbs more technical, the Remedy’s quite remarkable combination of suspension technologies really delivers.
Trek combines the Trek’s full floater suspension which sees both the chain stay and the seat stay on pivot with a shock connection them both between the seat tube, Trek/Fox’s innovative DRCV pistons at both front and rear (a first for this year) and their ABP, active braking pivot system, which stops suspension response dulling when you’re hard on the brakes. Clearly, it’s difficult to tell exactly which of these technologies is delivering what benefit, but in trandem, the result is simply stellar.
The DRCV system combines the big hit advantages of a large volume shock with the small bump benefits of a low volume one. Indeed it transitions from being one to the other as the impacts get bigger, by means of having two suspension chambers and a valve that progressively opens the second one as the hits get bigger. The results are simply spectacular on technical climbs. On the rock strewn ascent from the Derwent Inn towards Cutthroat Bridge, the Remedy kept the rear wheel firmly planted on the ground, delivering the traction and power needed to make this tricky climb manageable.
Hydroformed aluminium frames have brought an astonishing amount of rigidity without the formerly associated weight. And the Remedy has an interesting array of burly frame sections. A 15mm quick release at the front and 142×42 rear hub attach the perfectly acceptable Bontrager XR3 wheels while keeping everything rigid. The result is a bike that transmits your steering and power input to the wheels effectively, yet never feels heavy.
In fact, the Remedy 9 weighs in at almost exactly one kilogram heavier than my similarly specced Ibis Mojo HD 160, but costs a whole £2K less, which I think most people would find an acceptable trade off.
A Rock Shox Reverb dropper post adds a little flexibility to your descending options. It features a rather nifty little cable management loop at the top of the seat tube that neatly guides the cable during height changes. While we’re in that area of the bike, one distinctive feature of the Remedy is the Mino Link, a small cam-like wedge at the rear of the Evo link upper suspension linkage. If this is loosened and rotated, it changes the bike’s geometry, raising the bottom bracket height by 10mm and tightening the head angle by 0.5 degrees. I liked the bike just fine with the factory settings, but the option’s always there.
The benefits of DRCV are carried through to the fork. While the performance benefits are not so obvious here, they certainly don’t hurt. The Remedy’s DRCV Float 32 delivers smooth suspension actionacross the full rang of compression. This was particularly obvious on low amplitude, high frequency oscillation.
The bottom of the route from Derwent Edge to Ladybower via Grindle Clough ends on a steep path of rough Yorkshire stone slabs. Not your nicely faced and levelled garden variety, but moorland path style. Invariably this last section is taken fast, as a fun finale to a rapid descent. But it’s usually punishing on the hands and arms.
On Sunday as we reached the bottom, my buddy Jonathan was just bemoaning how his arms felt as I was reflecting on how well the Remedy had smoothed out the usually teeth-chattering lower section. You can use every last bit of the Remedy’s 150mm of suspension, yet it never feels wallowy or imprecise.
As a visual package, the Remedy 9 took some getting to love. In fact love is too strong a word. A green theme carries throughout the bike, which lead some of my fellow riders to make “where’s it gone” comments when I set it down in grass or against bushes. All that prevents its camouflage being too effective are some garish lime highlights, most notably on the suspension EVO links, and the fork legs.
Because Trek has unparalleled access to the Bontrager finishing parts catalogue these lime hints are carried throughout the bike, which results in a nicely cohesive bike – as long as you like green. I hate it, and would possibly pay the extra £900 for the Remedy 9.8 just to avoid it.
If unlike me you choose your bike for its value and performance rather than its colour, this is possibly the pick of the bunch, because north of here, prices rise steeply for marginal falls in a weight and componentry improvements.
As a result of riding the Remedy, I’m going to be looking long and hard at the suspension settings of my existing bikes. And if I can’t eke a few performance improvements out of them, I’ll be getting a Trek.
More information: Trek Remedy 9