2009 Trek Fuel EX: lighter, stiffer, faster

More carbon, new shocks for 120mm travel trail bike

Trek Bicycles unveiled the 2009 version of its Fuel EX line of trail mountain bikes in Durango, Colorado Monday, with an all-new full-carbon bike headlining a revamped range that Trek says is lighter and stiffer than its predecessors.

Trek product manager John Riley explained that the new carbon bike sprung from an effort to meld the stiffness of previous aluminum Fuel EXes with the light weight of the 2008 carbon bike – and to beat the weight of previous versions.

Aimed at general mountain biking and in particular endurance racing, the top-of-the-line 2009 Fuel EX 9.9 has a claimed weight of 23.5lb, on a 2,250g frame (with shock).

Several new technologies have helped Trek get the bike under 24lb. ‘Net moulding’ a new carbon fibre moulding technique, allows Trek to mould fittings into the frame for bearings.

This finds its most significant use in the frame’s BB95 bottom bracket shell. As the name suggests, this is 95mm wide and mounts the bearings directly into the frame, removing the need for screw-in cups.

As well as saving weight, this allows for a larger down tube, stiffening the frame against lateral and torsional flex. At the front end, Trek’s E2 head tube with 1 1/2in lower bearing also provides more space for a big down tube. The practical upshot is a 28 percent stiffer frame on Trek’s axle to axle test, Riley said.

The net moulding technique has also been applied to bearing mounts in the frame, saving grams by reducing the need for hard points.

The previous Fuel’s magnesium rocker link has been replaced with an OCLV moulded carbon link, saving 35g. The total upshot is that the 2008 carbon frame weighed 2,450g; the 2009 is down to 2,238g.

New shocks tweak the ride

But Trek hasn’t just gone for the weight-weenie vote. The company’s ongoing cooperation with shock maker Fox has led to a custom-tuned version of Fox’s new XV rear can.

The special edition shock has a less progressive curve in the latter half of its travel, and a wider range of rebound damping so it works for a wider range of riders.

The recent development of Trek’s suspension bikes has been driven by Jose Gonzalez and Greg Buhl in the development office Trek opened a while ago in Santa Clarita, California.

That’s been a big step forward for Trek with. A wide variety of trails within an hour and a half of base means Buhl, Gonzalez and their test riders can put the bikes through their paces far more thoroughly than they could in rural but rather flat Wisconsin.

On the trail

More after we tackle Durango’s legendary Hermosa Creek trail, but first impressions from a couple hours on the bike are of a superbly competent trail/cross-country rig.

It’s slightly hard to get excited about the Fuel EX 9.9 after riding its Gary Fisher stablemate Roscoe the previous day. The Fuel doesn’t inspire shenanigans the way Roscoe does. It’s steady and reassuring rather than inspiring, but that’s no bad thing.

A long-day trail bike or 24-hour racer doesn’t need to be exciting, it needs to be fuss-free and dependable, while still going where you point it and climbing like a goat. So far, the new Fuel delivers.

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