"Every detail matters," say Trek about their 2011 range, which drops a broad hint that this is a year of evolution rather than revolution. With Trek's current Fuel EX and Remedy bikes clocking up test wins all over the place, tweaks rather than ground-up redesigns look like a good idea.
We rode the 2011 Fuel EX, Remedy and Scratch bikes on the varied trails of Châtel in the French Alps and came away impressed.
Most of the refinements for 2011 are found on more than one bike. The Fuel EX and Remedy, for example, both get a new version of Trek's Active Braking Pivot dropout system called ABP Convert.
Out of the box, it's a 142x12mm setup using a Maxle Lite through-axle, but if you want to fit a traditional 135mm wheel you can quickly change a couple of parts. The alternative pieces and skewer will be supplied with the bikes. The long-travel Scratch comes with ABP Convert FR, which can be switched between 142x12mm and 135x12mm.
The 2011 Fuel EX, Remedy and Scratch get switchable ABP Covert dropouts
Trek were early adopters of carbon fibre for mountain bikes, and for 2011 they've been working on the bugbear of impact resistance. Many riders are concerned about the possibility of frame damage from rocks kicked up by the front wheel. This is more of a problem in some areas than others, of course, and aluminium frames can potentially be terminally damaged in this way too. But it's a worry that Trek were keen to address.
The company's engineers developed a strike test using a pointed anvil to assess the impact resistance of different materials, and used the lessons learned to come up with OCLV Mountain, a new carbon layup designed with rock strikes in mind. The tougher material is used on the underside of the down tube and in the seatstays on the carbon Fuel EX and Remedy models.
Carbon Fuel EX and Remedy bikes – and even alloy Scratches – come with down tube shields
Both frames drop slightly in weight thanks to new carbon fibre stays – chainstays in the case of the Fuel EX, and seatstays on the Remedy. Further protection from trail debris is afforded by a Carbon Armour polymer shield under the down tube of the carbon frames. Even the heavy-duty aluminium Scratch bikes will come with a rubbery down tube shield, although it's attached by zipties rather than being glued in place like the Carbon Armour guard.
Other changes are more subtle, including internal tweaks to forks and shocks. The Fuel EX and Remedy both continue to use the Trek/Fox DRCV shock with its effective twin air chamber design, but there are slight changes to the damping tune. Inside the Fox forks on the new Trek bikes is a custom damping piston, using two large ports instead of three small ones and a slightly thicker shim. This is claimed to deliver improved sensitivity and stability.
New Treks get a custom damping piston in their Fox forks for improved sensitivity
We rode the top-of-the-range Fuel EX 9.9 and Remedy 9.9. They're similarly specced, with Fox 32 QR15 forks – fixed 120mm-travel on the Fuel, TALAS 150/120mm on the Remedy – and SRAM XX transmissions and brakes. Both bikes use DT Swiss wheels. New for 2011 is a Fuel EX 9.7, adding a third carbon fibre bike to the line-up.
With most of the 2011 improvements being incremental, it's no great surprise that the new bikes don't feel much different from their predecessors. With the 2010 bikes already being very good, drastic improvements would be surprising. Châtel's often steep, bermed and bumpy trails certainly demonstrated capable suspension performance and frame stoutness. Clearly the Remedy was more at home on the rougher tracks, but the Fuel EX is far more capable than its travel might suggest.
Trek's top-end Remedy 9.9 took Châtel's steep, bumpy trails in its stride
The tool of choice for many of the trails in the Châtel bike park was the Scratch, though. The Scratch and Scratch Air have become more tightly focused on their respective niches for 2011. The Scratch Air is positioned as a kind of super-all-mountain bike in Trek's 'Technical Trail' category alongside the Remedy. It has 170mm of travel at the rear from a Fox RP23 air shock, a 160mm Fox 36 up front, a CrankBrothers Joplin remote adjustable seatpost and a 24/36T dual-ring chainset.
The standard Scratch is firmly of the gravity persuasion, with a Fox DHX coil shock at the rear and a 180mm Fox 36 Van at the front. You'll also find a single 36T chainring and MRP chain device. Both bikes have the same geometry despite the different fork lengths thanks to the rotatable Mino Link in the back end that shifts bottom bracket height and frame angles.
The standard Scratch is aimed at freeriders, with a coil shock and 180mm fork
The Scratch Air is for technical trail riders, with an air shock and dropper seatpost
There will also be new Top Fuel and Session bikes from Trek for 2011, which will be revealed later in the year. We'll bring you details as soon as we can.