The 4500 sits right at the top of Trek's entry-level bike bracket. Its lack of cable disc brakes compared to rivals may impact on casual purchases, but in fact frees up the budget for some shrewd spec choices.
The chassis is a typical aluminium XC frame, with a wishbone seatstay and an oversized down tube that flares wider to stiffen up the front end. The fork is another dependable RockShox Dart, but with 80mm travel, disc and V-brake bosses, and a lockout switch, as well as rebound adjustment.
On the trail, the reach is roomy, thanks more to the long stem than the average top tube.
Bar height looks high but that's due to the long steerer tube and 4cm of spacer washers. Shuffling these and flipping the 10-degree stem lets you go XC low, or get down out of the wind for road work. Even as it is, the front end feels a lot more flrmly planted than the Saracen's on any twisty or uphill trails.
The drivetrain is the best in the test. Instead of 24-speed Acera or Alivio it's 27-speed Deore, which gives smaller steps between gears as well as a handy 22x34T bottom for climbing. While the 4500 comes with V-brakes, its wheels are ready for upgrading thanks to disc hubs - so you can skip cable discs and go straight to the hydraulics that any upgrader would want anyway.
The Bontrager Jones ACX tyres coped well with a variety of conditions, from armoured trails to thick mud. On road the rear end is commuter ready, like the Saracen, although you'll need to bodge something to fit a full front mudguard.