Pro bike: Lance Armstrong’s Trek Top Fuel 9.8

Who says Lance can only win on pavement?

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong continued his comeback by winning the 12 Hours of Snowmass mountain bike endurance event, along with teammates Len Zanni and Max Taam, just a month after coming second to Dave Wiens at the epic Leadville 100. Though the Texan gave good public displays of off-road prowess in 1999 at the US Mountain Bike Nationals at Mt. Snow, Vermont, and in 2003 when he was forced across a rutted field to avoid a fallen Joseba Beloki, these latest accomplishments confirm he’s the real deal on a proper mountain bike, too.

Armstrong’s weapon of choice for Snowmass was the new 2009 Trek Top Fuel.  Much like Trek’s current-generation Madone road platform, the latest Top Fuel is a far more daring design than the rather conservative one it replaced. The OCLV carbon main frame sports a semi-integrated seatpost more typically seen on the road, the bottom bracket bearings are directly inserted into a road-width shell and the head tube now wears an integrated headset.

Out back, the rear end sticks with a single-pivot axle path, but a host of new features adapted from the Fuel EX trail bike cancel out many of the design’s inherent drawbacks.  Lighter ABP Race (Active Brake Pivot) pivots provide a built-in floating disc mount for better traction and control under braking, Full Floater’s dual dynamic shock mounts allow for more precise spring rate tuning throughout the travel range and a stouter one-piece EVO Link keeps everything tied together.  

The new one-piece EVO Link works to keep everything tied together out back.

In total, Trek estimates that the changes have also dropped about 431g (0.95lb) from the previous Top Fuel, while also making it more predictable and faster at the same time.

The component spec continued the weight loss theme and, as one would expect, there was a healthy smattering of Bontrager-labeled gear such as the Race XXX Lite carbon riser bar, Race X Lite aluminum stem, XXX Lite carbon seatpost stub and InForm RL saddle. When it came to rolling stock, though, Armstrong apparently decided to reach outside the company toy box.   

Armstrong’s bike came to us wearing a pair of Bontrager Race X Lite tubeless disc wheels and fast-rolling, low-knob Jones XR Team Issue 26x2.0” treads, but we never saw him using any of it on course. Instead, he headed out with a pair of ZTR Race wheels and a 2.2”-wide Raven rear tyre from Stan’s NoTubes. Armstrong also ran a Raven tire up front for lap number one though he swapped it for a Schwalbe Racing Ralph for laps two through six.  The rear wheel was fitted with a 140mm-diameter coated aluminum rotor, also from Stan’s NoTubes. 

Clamping the rotors was a set of Avid Juicy Ultimate hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM was also tapped for the 100mm-travel RockShox SID World Cup. The feather-light XR Carbon shock from DT Swiss handled rear suspension duties and both ends were fitted with separate handlebar-mounted remote lockout levers. This made for a rather crowded cockpit, but with the large number plate covering it all up (with the number seven, of course), it’s unlikely many people noticed. 

Avid's Juicy Ultimate hydraulic disc brakes were used front and rear, along with an Avid 160mm stainless steel front rotor and Stan's NoTubes coated aluminum 140mm rear rotor. 

The rest of the drivetrain was a straightforward Shimano affair, including the XTR crankset, deraileurs, cassette, trigger shifters and pedals, plus a Dura-Ace chain. Since there was no support car in tow, Armstrong carried his own spare tube, plus a Big Air CO2 canister from Genuine Innovations. 

As pictured and with tube and inflator still attached (but without the full Mellow Johnny’s bottle), Armstrong’s bike weighed a competitive 10.75kg (23.69lb). We estimate the actual race trim cleaved about 430g (0.95lb) though, roughly doubling the weight savings of the new frame and bringing the total figure down to a more impressive 10.32kg (22.75lb). 

Light or not, one thing was certain: Armstrong and his bike were fast. His quickest 39:25 lap was second only to Jay Henry’s and, more importantly, he was remarkably consistent.  Armstrong’s sixth and slowest lap was recorded in 41:07 – just 1:42 slower – and only two riders in addition to Henry topped his worst of the day. 

In typical Armstrong fashion, it was mission accomplished. Now, anyone up for a little ride through the French countryside next July?

Full specification

  • Frame: Trek Top Fuel 9.8, 19.5"
  • Rear shock: DT Swiss XR Carbon w/ remote lockout
  • Fork: RockShox SID World Cup w/ PopLoc remote lockout, 100mm travel
  • Headset: Cane Creek IS2 integrated
  • Stem: Bontrager Race X Lite, 120mm x 7°
  • Handlebars: Bontrager Race XXX Lite Riser, 615mm
  • Tapes/grips: ODI Rogue Lock-On
  • Front Brake: Avid Juicy Ultimate w/ 160mm Avid G3 rotor
  • Rear brake: Avid Juicy Ultimate w/ 140mm Stan's NoTubes coated aluminum rotor
  • Brake levers: Avid Juicy Ultimate
  • Front derailleur: Shimano XTR FD-M971
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR RD-M970-GS
  • Shift levers: Shimano XTR Rapidfire Plus SL-M970
  • Cassette: Shimano XTR CS-M970, 11-34T
  • Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7701
  • Crankset: Shimano XTR CN-M970, 175mm, 22/32/44T
  • Bottom bracket: Trek Top Fuel integrated w/ Enduro cartridge bearings
  • Pedals: Shimano XTR SPD PD-M970
  • Rims: Stan's NoTubes ZTR Race
  • Front hub: American Classic Disc 130
  • Rear hub: American Classic Disc 225
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Revolution
  • Front tyre: Schwalbe Racing Ralph, 26 x 2.25"
  • Rear tyre: Stan's NoTubes The Raven, 26 x 2.2"
  • Saddle: Bontrager InForm RL
  • Seat post: Bontrager XXX Lite Mast System
  • Bottle cages: Trek Bat Cage
  • Computer: n/a
  • Other accessories: Genuine Innovations Big Air CO2 inflator, spare inner tube

Critical measurements

  • Rider’s height: 1.77m (5' 10")
  • Rider’s weight: 73kg (161lb)
  • Seat tube length, c-c: n/a
  • Seat tube length, c-t: 590mm
  • Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 765mm
  • Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 609mm
  • C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem): 712mm
  • Top tube length: 625mm (effective)
  • Total bike weight: 10.75kg (23.69lb)

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