The Trek 69er concept takes some getting used to – a 26in rear wheel matched with a 29in hoop up front – but it’s got some real advantages for riders after smoothness and speed. The 69er 3X9 loves fast, open trails.
Ride & handling: Fast rolling penny farthing is a bike of two halves
As you’d expect, the twin wheel sizes dominate the ride, with all emphasis on the front end. Stamp on the pedals and you can feel the back wheel scrabbling – and often spinning – as it forces the slower accelerating front wheel down the trail. The light, less anchored rear wheel steps out sideways in corners or under power more frequently than a matched-wheel bike too.
It accelerates quicker than a 29er, though, and once up to speed it ﬂies along noticeably faster than a 26er. The big front wheel soaks up rocks, roots, steps and stutter bumps smoothly too. This makes it a fast and secure descender as long as you get your bum off the saddle to avoid the kick of the ﬁrm and less cushioned rear end.
The ﬁrm feel of the narrow bar and stability of the front wheel mean you always feel in control. The big wheel and easy front end pop-up also make it a smooth and rapid climber as long as you keep momentum up.
Once you’re used to its dynamics you can skid steer the bike through tighter stuff well. It was still relatively slow through the singletrack, though, and its talents obviously lie on faster, more open trails.
Frame: Stiff and shapely chassis with good-looking split wishbone seatstay
The 69er frame is a lot more than just a conventional chassis with a long fork plugged in. The short, integrated head tube keeps the front end as low as possible, while internal and external shaping gives it a resolute grip on the Fox fork.
Down tube, top tube and chainstays are all hydroformed, although the front mech means no repeat of the brutally stiff ﬂared seat tube used on the 69er singlespeed we reviewed recently. It’s still a rigid frame overall, though.
You get the same good looking and mud-friendly split wishbone seatstay, as well as a quality seat quick-release.
Equipment: Impressive fork, capable wheels, quality drivetrain and powerful brakes
While it’s only got 100mm (4in) of travel, the long-legged Fox F29 fork is impressively controlled. Broad Bontrager Duster rims wrapped in Bontrager’s new XDX tyres create a comfortable, capable wheelset too.
The Shimano XT/SLX transmission drives well, while a 185mm front rotor helps the Avid Juicy 5 brakes eat the extra momentum of the big front wheel. The droopy, backswept Bontrager ﬂat bar helps keep hand height low despite the big front wheel.