Trek’s Slash all-round enduro bike is a replacement for the short-lived Scratch Air and uses most of the company’s latest tech tricks. The control delivered by the rear end, plus a host of neat features and the beautifully balanced, tight but light-enough frame, make it one of the bikes to beat in 2012.
Ride & handling: Trek’s fresh all-mountain bike sets new total control standards
The most striking thing about the Slash is how balanced it feels in terms of handling. The angles are certainly at the slack end of the spectrum, but there’s no super-short chainstays ﬂicking you around or barge-like length forcing you to take the long line round slow-speed corners.
You just feel really well centred between the wheels and ready and poised for anything. Whether that’s turning a high-speed slide at one end or the other into a controlled drift, or calmly launching off a desert crag into a narrow landing slot on the edge of some serious singletrack exposure it just feels totally nonchalant.
In fact, when riding solo, it could almost be described as underwhelming, precisely because it’s so controlled and capable. Get onto the front of a fast group or follow a wheel though and suddenly you’ve got some context to just how good this bike is.
With 160mm (6.3in) of travel front and rear, and slack angles, this bike is a proper plough when it comes to seriously technical, rocky sections. Hold your breath, hang on and what starts as hope will rapidly turn into a realisation that the Slash has it all under control. The twin-chamber Fox DRCV shock – with full Kashima coating for extra plushness – and ABP rear axle pivot are outstandingly controlled.
Medium sized repeated hits, square edges, big drops and the secondary aftershock debris that’ll often kick a standard shock into space as it tries to recover from full travel – none of it seems a problem for the Trek. There’s no trace of nerves or deviation from the rock solid tracking accuracy either, so whether it’s trickling down a razor edge spine line or ripping sideways through a ragged berm the frame stays totally on track.
At more than 30lb (13.6kg) the Trek is always going to need some muscle to get it uphill, but the amount of ground-hugging traction from the top section of the DRCV shock means constant connection without pedal bob. The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost helps on rapid rise-and-fall trails, letting you properly hustle and keep the ﬂow going on the uphill and ﬂat sections. Precise, well-weighted handling helps reduce overall fatigue too.
Before you start thinking this bike sticks a halo on your helmet though, there are some downsides. We lost the chain off the MRP double-and-bash setup repeatedly and it’s gagging for a full chain guide and 1x10 setup. Lighter rubber and wheels have been used to keep the Slash keen on the climbs but we punctured repeatedly and regularly felt the wheels ﬂexing just as the frame was getting into its stride.
We rarely used the TALAS travel adjust on the Fox 36 fork, so Trek could have saved weight and money there. While it’s a top level Kashima-coated piece, it also regularly felt outshone by the exceptional composure and smoothness of the rear end. We can’t think of a fork that would handle itself any better though, so it’s more of a sign of how good the back end is.
Frame & equipment: Equipped with top enduro racing bling; burlier wheels would help on descents
Proven Trek family keystones found on the Slash include an E2 tapered headset and the company’s unique Fox DRCV shock in a Full Floater mount. It gets the wider 142x12mm format ABP Convert hub centric rear pivot ﬁxtures as standard, though you can switch back to standard 135mm quick-release if you wish.
The new frame literally has some neat tricks up its sleeve, including internal routing for the gear cables and dropper post. A Mino Link chip at the rocker link/seatstay pivot can be rotated to change geometry by 0.6 degrees, and there are ISCG mounts on the bottom bracket. Replaceable armour panels complete the chassis.
The 9 is the full-bling, SRAM X0 carbon trim, factory shock and fork ﬂagship of the Slash range. It’s a lovely bike if you can afford it, but all that carbon on a bike begging to be hammered so hard (and therefore crashed fairly regularly) is asking for trouble. Heavier tyres and burlier wheels would also be a beneﬁt on descents.
The £3,750 Slash 8 looks a more practical choice. You don’t get Kashima but you do get a Fox 36 fork, DRCV rear shock and a Reverb Stealth seatpost, plus a more reliably crash-proof alloy transmission and cockpit components.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.