Trek claim that their entry-level 3-series models are the world’s best-selling mountain bikes. Given that the 3700 Disc packs in both the obligatory 100mm-travel (3.9in) suspension fork and mechanical disc brakes for well under £400, it’s not hard to see why the specification is appealing to budget-conscious buyers. It's well built and well enough spec'ed to cope with some hard trail use but its short geometry holds it back.
Ride & handling: Solid build and newbie-friendly ride position make for a reassuring ride
The 3700 turns out to be a bike of surprising contradictions. Clearly built with the nervous newcomer in mind, the combination of a short rider cockpit with long head tube, extra headset washers and a high rise stem creates the kind of sit-up-and-look-at-the-view ride position that’ll make the Trek an easy sale on the bike shop floor. And if you are the kind of rider who’s content with pootling along looking at the view, it’s a setup that works well.
There’s a but, and it’s this – as soon as things get steeper, faster, lumpier, more interesting and more fun, the Trek’s ride position compromises what you can do with it. Point it up a steep climb and the high handlebar makes it hard to stop the front end wandering. Shove it through some fast, flowing singletrack and, you guessed it, the high handlebar compromises front end grip.
Throw it down a bumpy, rocky trail and – you must be getting the picture by now – the rearward weight distribution prevents the fork from working effectively. It takes an experienced rider to weight up the front enough to extract anything more than about half the available fork travel. We’d happily take a slightly shorter fork. It’d suit the bike’s intended purpose better – and probably save a bit of weight too.
The frustrating thing about all this is that there’s nothing wrong with the Trek’s handling, per se. It just doesn’t like being rushed. Given that there’s 100mm of actually fairly effective suspension travel up front and a pair of brakes that’ll haul it all to a stop pretty quickly, it all adds up to a bike of two halves. And, frankly, it doesn’t quite convince us.
If you’re looking for a well-built, well-specced towpath cruiser that won’t flinch if you venture a bit further afield, the 3700 Disc may be worth a look. But if your off-road adventures are likely to be a little more rugged, you need something with a geometry better suited to life in the rough.
Frame: Short, upright geometry compromises off-road handling
Trek label the aluminium tubes that make up the 3700’s chassis ‘Alpha Silver’. The exact make-up of this proprietary alloy is unclear but it’s extruded into plain gauge tubes and then shaped appropriately for the chassis in question.
The 3700’s cross-ovalised down tube provides a torsionally rigid backbone, arcing gracefully where it meets the externally butted head tube to avoid the need for extra strengthening gussetry. At the rear there’s a wishbone seatstay arrangement – something Trek have been using for a while, though the difference over regular stays is more aesthetic than functional.
The finish is a match for the company’s higher end frames but there’s no doubt that the basic plumbing contributes to the bike’s far from svelte all-up weight – 14.5kg (32lb), without pedals. Thoughtful touches include a full set of rear rack and mudguard mounts for an easy conversion to commuting or light touring duties.
Plugged into the front is Suntour’s 100mm-travel (3.9in), coil-sprung XCN fork. It boasts twin preload adjusters to help heavier or more aggressive riders tweak its set-up to suit. It is, without question, among the better forks available for this sort of money, although 100mm travel on a bike aimed at newer riders is arguably overkill. Still, it’s there if you need it.
Equipment: Decent fork and discs at this price is a good deal
You can choose to have your 3700 with rim rather than disc brakes for £25 less, if you like. It would help bring the weight down a tad, but we suspect that most riders will stump up the extra for the all-weather appeal of Tektro mechanical discs. A basic-but-functional Shimano seven-speed transmission combines with the easy rolling of Bontrager’s LT3 tyres to provide motive force.
Bontrager’s logo also adorns the bulk of the finishing kit. There’s evidence of the bean counters at work in areas such as the cheap and heavy bars, but for the most part it’s durable-looking kit that should stand up to some reasonably hard use. We like small touches like the labyrinth-sealed hubs, which should withstand wet and muddy use without flinching. Most bikes at this price make do with basic dust seals.