With Lance and his legion not taking up all their time, Trek's mountain bike division seems to have come alive this year and even the long-running 8000 disc gets a whole new lease of life for 2007.
Well, it's actually the name that's long running, as the Alpha frame itself is totally new and showcases the latest hydroforming techniques. Starting with a neatly reinforced head tube, both double butted main tubes are curved and flared for maximum welding area and direction-appropriate stiffness at either end. The top tube slopes down slightly for increased standover clearance before 'trumpeting' up to boost vertical stiffness at the seat tube. The down tube is curved for fork clearance and then squashed flat for maximum bottom bracket support.
Chainstays are tapered multi-section pieces too, but the real showpiece is the flowing wishbone seatstay setup. As well as the smooth centre-seamed top looking stunning, it leaves masses of mud room. There's no brace on the chainstays either, so this bike should run unhindered on even the dirtiest days.
All cables and pipes run along the top side of the top tube (with a centre hose guide to stop it looping up) and there are twin bottle cage bosses for thirsty days.
Disc-specific design adds to the tidiness and flow of the rear end and even the scalloped disc mount is pretty, too. No rack or mudguard mounts though, so there's nothing for the bag ladies among you.
There's a big leap between sizing on Trek bikes, with the medium being shorter than you'd normally expect and the large long enough to land a plane on. This means plenty of racer-friendly stretch though, which fits the performance hardtail bill here perfectly.
With its long stretch and remarkably low overall weight (this was a large sample, after all) the 8000 just screams off down the trail from the first pedal stroke. The speed just keeps building too, thanks to a back end with a great balance of direct drive, but enough give to ride out the ripples and rocks. Having ricocheted around on a string of proper hard arse hardtails already this year, the extra grip and control was extremely welcome. The slight trace of flex is really encouraging and fun too, rather than just ruthlessly efficient.
While it's pretty stretched, the weight is really well balanced, so it slid just right through the corners even when we couldn't move our weight much to control it. The stretch also helps to keep you oxygenated when you're gunning for the finish line or summit though, and it keeps the front wheel well anchored on technical climbs.
The wide bar setup also copes pretty well with technical situations too, although a shorter stem (we run a 90mm on our Fuel long-termer) would really dial it in for proper chuck-around childishness. You'll definitely have to change the tyres though, as the cheap plastic original equipment Bontragers were all over the place in wet conditions. The same tyre in aftermarket 'GumBi' dual compound is a decent all-rounder though, and Bontrager Mud Xs are superb wet rubber, so see if you can do a deal from your Trek dealer when you buy.
Trek's kit choice isn't just race restrictive though, it's all-round trail friendly. A perfect example are the flat bars, which keep the nose low (if you take out the big stack of spacers) but at 630mm (25in) wide, they still give plenty of power steering leverage. In this case, the 110mm stem is a reasonable length for a large-sized bike, too. RockShox Reba forks are totally dependable and durable performers, with a controlled response to the full bump range that just gets better the more you ride them. These SLs get a sprint/Tarmac-friendly Pop Loc remote lockout too, which is super simple to use and ultra durable.
LX Dual Control shifting takes a bit longer to get used to, but the action is superlight once you've mastered it and the LX brakes are smoothly controlled. The XT rear mech is a nice ego boost, while the LX cranks are excellent. Bontrager Race disc wheels are reasonably light and durable, with the added bonus of easy upgrading to tubeless if a bit of Latex takes your fancy. Bontrager Jones ACX tyres need care in the wet though, as these are hard compound cheapies not stickier aftermarket ones - but they roll and cushion pretty well.
The rest of the kit is Bontrager Race gear too, which is all sorted and secure with the exception of the seat post. Set up your saddle and then crank the single bolt down as hard as possible or prepare to have your perch pointing skyward after the first compression thump.
There's no doubt that this is a bike that's well worth investing in and upgrading as time goes on, as the new Alpha frame is one of the best XC hardtail bases we've ridden in recent months. Not a small deal when you consider that this one comes fully equipped to complement its performance, whether you're crossing whole map sheets, heading for an Enduro podium or just out exploring with mates. A proper performance XC trail classic and a welcome return to form from Trek. Guy Kesteven