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Trek Fuel EX 9.8 first look

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TREK FUEL EX 9.8

It’s a cross-country bike. No it isn’t, it’s a trail bike. Hang on, maybe it’s an all-mountain bike. It’s got 130mm suspension travel front and rear and it is a hell of a lot of fun to ride. This, ladies and gents, is a mountain bike…a very good one.

Trek Fuel EX 9.8

Trek Fuel EX 9.8
Photo © Andy Lloyd

First impressions

When the Fuel was sent to Bike Magic Towers down here in Monmouth I was already excited. Why? Because I’d seen pictures of the 26inch wheeled carbon dream machine and I knew that even stationary this bike would have me smiling. Smile I certainly did as I pulled the bike from box, it looks every bit as good in the flesh as in the pictures, the carbon fibre main-frame construction and low-slung top-tube giving it a sleek, compact and racy look. It looks fast.

That beautiful carbon... Mmmm. Quite a looker, but the Fuel EX also rides fantastically well. Photo © Andy Lloyd

That beautiful carbon… Mmmm. Quite a looker, but the Fuel EX also rides fantastically well. Note: No, the Nukeproof bar/stem isn’t standard spec.
Photo © Andy Lloyd

What’s it got beneath the looks though? A quick glance over the components reveals a sensible and trail-friendly package that includes the desirable RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, proven Shimano XT brakes, clutch-equipped XT rear derailleur, Fox DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) 32 fork and Float CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) shock along with finishing touches by Trek’s own components brand, Bontrager. The wheels (Rhythm Elite tubeless ready), tyres, seat, bar and stem all bear the Bontrager stamp, which isn’t a bad thing. Having said that, I did swap out the Bontrager Race X Lite bar and stem for something with a little more rise as I found the front a tad low – but that’s down to personal preference.

Clutch? Check. This bike has all the mod-cons including tubeless ready wheels, BB95, 142x12 rear axle, tapered headtube and...triple chainring.  Photo © Andy Lloyd

Clutch? Check. This bike has all the mod-cons including tubeless ready wheels, BB95, 142×12 rear axle, tapered headtube and…triple chainring.
Photo © Andy Lloyd

Out on the trail

This bike is all about the fun factor. It’s billed as “the go-to full suspension trail bike” (Trek), a statement that we cannot disagree with. Being so light (at around 26lb) the bike can be picked up, moved around and of course pedalled for long distances with ease. All of these make for a fun bike that, even when up against the entire Bike Magic stable of steeds, nearly always gets picked as the first choice for any ride.

142mm rear axle width, 12mm axle. Stiff, stable and reliable. Photo © Andy Lloyd

142mm rear axle width, 12mm axle. Stiff, stable and reliable (there’s also a conversion kit available should you want to swap to 135x5mm coincidentally). Trek’s Patented Active Braking Pivot (ABP) helps keep things under control when braking. 
Photo © Andy Lloyd

It is also titled (by Trek) as bringing “race-day tech to all-day adventure.” I think I know what they mean by this, in that it is a very precise, flex-free frame – as far as 130mm travel bikes go – and that it is designed with the ability and intention of a full-on XC race bike whilst being just that little more relaxed for everyday trail riding. The 68º head angle is nothing ludicrous, it’s sensible and reassuring, the same goes for the 113cm wheelbase (on my size 18.5). The BB95 bottom bracket standard combined with the 142×12 rear axle add to the stability and rigidity of the chassis. It’s available in five sizes, from 15.5 right up to 21.5 so most bodies should be catered for.14788

15.5 in 17.5 in 18.5 in 19.5 in 21.5 in
Actual Frame Size 15.5 in 16.5 in 17.5 in 18.5 in 20 in
Effective seat tube angle 68.5 ° 68.5 ° 68.5 ° 68.5 ° 68.5 °
A Seat tube 36.7 cm 41.9 cm 44.5 cm 47.0 cm 50.8 cm
B Seat tube angle 73.0 ° 73.0 ° 73.0 ° 73.0 ° 73.0 °
C Head tube length 10.8 cm 12.2 cm 13.2 cm 14.0 cm 15.7 cm
D Head angle 68.0 ° 68.0 ° 68.0 ° 68.0 ° 68.0 °
E Effective top tube 54.8 cm 58.5 cm 60.5 cm 62.2 cm 64.8 cm
F Bottom bracket height 33.8 cm 33.8 cm 33.8 cm 33.8 cm 33.8 cm
G Bottom bracket drop .5 cm .5 cm .5 cm .5 cm .5 cm
H Chainstay length 42.5 cm 42.5 cm 42.5 cm 42.5 cm 42.5 cm
I Offset 4.0 cm 4.0 cm 4.0 cm 4.0 cm 4.0 cm
J Trail 9.1 cm 9.1 cm 9.1 cm 9.1 cm 9.1 cm
K Wheelbase 107.2 cm 111.0 cm 113.1 cm 114.9 cm 117.6 cm
L Standover 74.5 cm 73.0 cm 73.0 cm 74.0 cm 74.2 cm
M Frame reach 38.1 cm 41.4 cm 43.1 cm 44.6 cm 46.7 cm
Assumed fork sag 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%
N Frame rise 54.6 cm 55.9 cm 56.8 cm 57.5 cm 59.1 cm
Assumed shock sag 25% 25% 25% 25% 25%

The DRCV Fox fork and shock, which have been tailor made for Trek bikes, have the intention of providing a stable platform when pedalling/riding smoother terrain whilst still allowing for larger hits to be taken care of as the secondary air chamber comes into use. I have used DRCV Fox shocks and forks before and have always loved the idea. In practise, they do provide an extremely stable platform, especially at lower speeds. Bigger hits are taken care of seamlessly but it has to be said that in my opinion there is a mid-point where there is a touch of ‘wallow’. That is me being picky though, it isn’t a major amount of instability.

This video should do the DRCV explanation/sales pitch better than I can:

It’s been a couple of weeks that I have been riding the Fuel EX 9.8 and I can safely say that I have loved every second on the bike. I’ve ridden it through the woods to work, I’ve put in miles and miles on gentle terrain and I’ve given it a good thrashing on tougher trails. I’m yet to find a major fault. If I have any gripes, I’ll say that around the Verderer’s Trail at the Forest of Dean I did find the forks ploughing through their travel coming into some of the big, banked turns. But this bike is in its element on singletrack and natural trails, I think it could quite possibly be the mountain biker’s bike; it’ll seemingly go anywhere, do anything.

The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post is undeniably the smoothest operating post on the market, and it's great to see it on the spec list of the Fuel EX 9.8. Photo © Andy Lloyd

The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post is undeniably the smoothest operating post on the market, and it’s great to see it on the spec list of the Fuel EX 9.8.
Photo © Andy Lloyd

Fin.

Right now I have every confidence in this bike as the champ of UK trail bikes and surely only long-term component issues could change my sentiment?

Two weeks is a short period of time, who knows what time will tell. When I report back with a full review my tone may have changed, let’s see what happens.

Price: £4,000
Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5, 21.5
More information: Trek Fuel EX 9.8

Nope, not the Fuel's intended purpose. This is a trail bike made for all-day rides and singletrack thrashing. But it is comfortable doing nearly anything. This is one great bike. Photo © Andy Lloyd

Nope, not exactly the Fuel’s intended purpose. This is a trail bike made for all-day rides and singletrack thrashing. But it is comfortable doing nearly anything. This is one great, extremely capable bike. 
Photo © Andy Lloyd

What Trek says about the Fuel EX 9.8

Fuel EX sets the bar for mountain bike versatility with a ground-up redesign that brings race-day tech to all-day adventure. Still the go-to full suspension trail bike, only better.

Can’t decide between a rugged, capable long-travel trail bike or a nimble, lively XC bike? No need to pick. Fuel EX is perfect for the rider who wants it all, without compromise.

  1. jay west

    Trek always has really nice looking bikes. And wow, that is perhaps the greatest review for any bike…ever!

  2. serge the seal of death

    so you liked it then james.
    26lbs 130mm travel, i dreamed of this type of bike 10 years ago.

    1. James McKnight

      I still have dreams about it, then I ride it to work through the woods and continue the dream… I do rather like it! Like I say, unless anything goes catastrophically wrong or the components fail with longer-term use I’ll continue to love it.

  3. serge the seal of death

    Thats alot of money though.
    is it a US made frame?

    1. Panos

      I believe TREK carbon frames are made in USA. All Aluminums are made in Taiwan.

  4. The butcher

    Bike looks great. But how much is the dog?

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