Trek Lush SL WSD £2300

Practical women's specific mountain bike

BikeRadar score 4/5

We tested the top aluminium-framed model of the Lush, and it’s no mere rebranding exercise for the girls – it’s a fully functioning trail bike. 

Ride & handling: Confident descender if you’re experienced enough

After one ride we switched the tiny 630mm bars for 710mm risers. A bike like the Lush needs decent bars for maximum leverage, and with this simple change the bike came into its own. 

At first, the upright feel of the Lush makes even the largest 17.5in frame feel stubby, but the moment you hit winding singletrack the bike feels well balanced and aches to be flicked around. Once you’re out of the saddle, it feels lightweight and easy to aim and place, but stable and confidence inspiring at the same time.

Switching the suspension to its ‘let rip’ Descend setting means you can push hard into tricky corners and let the shock smooth your exit so you keep your speed. It’s easy to land softly over drops and nudge up your airtime. 

On trails that traverse more than plunge, the middle suspension setting is perfect to make effective use of your pedal power but also smooth out any jarring, although when the adrenaline creeps upwards it’s best to make sure you flick the magic dial to ‘D’.

Despite the technological assistance the Lush offers on rough trails, don’t be fooled – you’re no mere passenger. The 26in wheels won’t simply blunder through the rocks, and this bike requires precision piloting: that means shifting your weight around to untap the potential for speed. 

It’s this combination of a smooth, plush response from the suspension and the lightweight and even dainty feel – requiring a trail-sensitive, intelligent rider – that makes the Lush a real winner. 

Trek didn’t create the Lush with extended climbing in mind, and gaining height on the uninspiring fire roads that cross our mountainsides is a bit painful. The relatively slack 68-degree head angle and upright position can leave it feeling vague, but if you sit on the saddle nose and bend hard over the front you can force enough weight down to transfer your power from pedal to ground and bring the bike up to a reasonable climbing speed. 

On slippery, rocky climbs the Bontrager tyres grip well, especially when run at lower pressure. With a bit of mental grit, even the steepest of gnarl can be conquered if you play around with your balance point. 

The upright body position, deliciously comfortable saddle and super-grippy tyres will appeal if you’re new to trail centre Black runs and rugged big country riding. But the bike’s delicate balance and serious bounce will support a transition through to elite Mistress of Singletrack, and soon have you craving to push the limits of bike and skill. 

The fun factor increases as your confidence in body-shifting movement increases, but it does require plenty of core strength and endurance. We found this led to a sore back initially, but bear with it and your body will adapt. 

Frame & equipment: Women’s specific features that translate to the trail

Trek’s Women Specific Design line offers more than matching pink accessories; it means a proper saddle and grip combination designed for the female form, plus a slightly shorter frame for any given size to create a more upright, less stretched riding position. 

Frame sizes start at 14.5in and go up in inch intervals to the largest at 17.5in. All get masses of top tube clearance to boost quick-dismount confidence when tackling tough terrain. A tapered head tube offers extra stiffness and steering precision. 

Fox provide the 120mm of suspension travel, but both fork and shock feature Trek’s Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) technology, designed to give a plush but supportive initial feel that doesn’t get harder towards the end of the travel, maximising use of the available suspension. 

They also come with Climb Trail Descend adjuster levers so you can select damping to suit the terrain. The frame also gets the Active Brake Pivot and Full Floater designs seen on Trek’s other trail bikes, but it’s reworked to perform better with the slightly lower shock pressures that lighter riders typically require. 

That suspension, teamed with fat, grippy Bontrager XR3 2.2in tyres that can be run tubeless, make the Lush a bulletproof choice for women who don’t want to be overshadowed by the guys or go home early. 

A drivetrain based around Shimano’s outstanding 10-speed SLX gears – with XT rear mech and a Deore triple ring crankset – gives a range of gearing suitable for most terrain. The hydraulic Shimano SLX brakes offer plenty of power, and feel and reach can be adjusted to suit smaller hands too. 

The Lush offers a smooth ride over tough trails and plunges downhill at maximum speeds. The suspension offers a dramatic range of settings and it’s worth getting used to switching between them on the move. This is a bike to support your transition to a trail superstar, as it rewards skills while forgiving clunkier decision-making. 

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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