Trek’s full-suspension bikes have become some of the best-handling around in the past two years, but it seems the company’s hardtails are still playing catch-up.
There’s some good kit and a clean, lightweight chassis here if you can bargain a stem swap before you leave the shop.
Ride & handling: limited by the stem
With a low overall weight and fast-rolling tyres, the immediate impression of the bike is that it climbs and accelerates with a proper sense of urgency that racers will really appreciate.
By choosing the larger 19.5in size you’re opting for a generous amount of breathing space even with a long top tube. The long stem also helps keep you on line if you’re really grunting up (or barrelling down) a straight-line drag.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only time it does help. We can see why a designer thought a long stem made sense on a big bike, but one this long makes the steering feel distant and slow. Even after several hours on the Trek we were drifting wide or braking and wobbling round every corner, and ﬁghting with constant over-correction or just plain falling off every time we hit a slippery tech section.
Just to check we hadn’t become too used to shorter stems, we gave the Trek to some novice riders. If anything they were even more scathing, with feedback such as, “I’m riding in Yorkshire but it feels like I’m steering in Humberside,” and, “It feels like I’m trying to bend the bike in the middle, not just steer it.” Ouch.
The combination of a long stem and relatively steep angles also made fork set-up critical. This can be avoided by changing the stem to a shorter one in the shop, but we’d rather be bartering for some free extra bits rather than just trying to create a bike that’ll corner.
With a shorter stem ﬁtted, the Trek’s latent enthusiasm for carrying speed into technical terrain was released. The sharpness of steering and overall power response of the stiff frame makes the 6700 a real hard-kicking speed bike, too.
However, despite dropping pressures in the tyres, feel over small bumps was surprisingly harsh and clattery, even for a racer. In fact, the skinny grips actually started to get uncomfortable on longer rides.
Frame: clean & light with plenty of mud room
The frame is certainly a cleanly designed piece, making full use of the latest tube-forming shapes. The externally reinforced head tube is overlapped top to bottom by the blended ends of the down tube and top tube.
Meanwhile, the top tube is sharply triangulated and tapered before ﬂaring out again before the seat tube. In fact, it has such a ﬂuid look that several test riders actually thought the bike was carbon until we pointed out the weld lines.
What British riders will really appreciate is the lack of a bridge between the deep chainstays, and the clearance from the ‘monostay’ wishbone which means huge ‘fall through’ mud room around the big balloon tyres.
Other practical touches include a quick-release seat collar for easy saddle height changes, and two bottle cage mounts inside the frame, although the shaped top tube isn’t a nice place to tuck your shoulder into for traction when the tyres spin out.
The biggest gripe about the frame isn’t structural, though – it’s a size issue. For its full-suspension bikes, Trek this year introduced a new 18.5in size – in between the existing 17.5in and 19.5in sizes – and it has proved the perfect geometry for most of our test team. There’s no new size for the hardtails, though, so we’re still stuck between slightly too small and slightly too large.
Equipment: a curate’s egg
Given that the fork is exactly the same competent if not cushy Recon SL as that on the Kona Kula, it definitely can’t be blamed for the harsh feel. This makes the big front end and bulged Bontrager bars likely suspects, and the ‘basic’ Bontrager saddle doesn’t help either.
The wheels look and feel good, though, and while they gum up quickly in winter, the fat XR rubber will be welcome on baked summer trails. Shimano ‘light touch’ gears worked ﬁne, and the Avid brakes are nice and controlled once bedded in.
Fatter grips would be on our shopping list, though, and toeclip pedals are no spec match for the SPDs on other bikes at this price.
Summary: spec changes urgently needed
There’s a good bike here, but the spec does it no favours. The already rigid and racy frame is made even less comfortable by bruising bar and grips, you’ll need different tyres for at least half the UK year and the stem desperately needs changing if you’ve any interest in singletrack.