Trek Session 88 FR review£3,200.00

Trek’s new slam sled

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The original Trek Sessions never got better than ‘pretty good’, but the new generation of their big-hit family is right on the money when the mayhem starts. 

The tight and relatively light frameset, consistently supple suspension and sweet handling create a bike we can really rave about, although the single ring-only compatibility means you’ll be gagging for an uplift.

Ride & handling: matched and on the money

As the Full Floater rear suspension squeezes the long stroke shock between the tips of the rocker link and the extended chainstays, the resulting spring action goes from increasingly progressive to a final digressive section. This kills any hint of bounce from an overloaded rebound, so the rear end feels smooth at the start and bottomless at the finish. 

Once the Totem fork has settled into its stride, and you’ve got the Mission Control damping dialed, both ends are sucked onto the trail with astonishing power.

The ABP pivot concentric to the rear axle means the Session doesn’t seem to care whether you’re slamming square edge blocks, G-ing out compressions or braking either. We pushed this bike hard into every situation without a single stutter, spike or step out of line.

Trek session 88 fr: trek session 88 fr
Trek session 88 fr: trek session 88 fr

The long, low stance drops you into a pinned position on the bike. The long wheelbase and 65 degree head angle also mean you can go super fast without becoming unstable.

Unlike a lot of long travel bikes, the Session 88 is so controlled through the mid-stroke that it feels like you’re biting into bedrock rather than loose dirt, letting you eject from corners with blistering speed and accuracy. Considering it feels so smooth, it pedals remarkably well too. The sub-40lb (18kg) weight means it’s got real pop and agility for a bike with this much travel.

But performance is always a balance between objectives and there are situations where the Session struggles. The long wheelbase and slack head angle mean you’ll have to really heave and lever it through tight technical trails. And the 36-tooth single ring set-up means a relaxed attitude to pushing is essential if you want to get lots of runs in.

Frame: makes good use of the latest hydroforming techniques

Its name might have been used before, but this Session series is a totally new build. Every piece of the frame was made with the latest hydroforming techniques – and it’s noticeable.

The two halves of the deeply sculpted Evo rocker link are welded onto a box-section centre, the bottom bracket is 83mm wide and the 150mm-wide co-axial ABP axles are nailed together with a bolted 12mm axle. Add the 40mm stanchions of the Totem fork and you’ve got maximum stiffness across the bike’s chassis.

Trek were one of the first manufacturers to use the e2 tapered head tube standard: trek were one of the first manufacturers to use the e2 tapered head tube standard
Trek were one of the first manufacturers to use the e2 tapered head tube standard: trek were one of the first manufacturers to use the e2 tapered head tube standard

Mud clearance is as good as you’ll need on our vile isle and the bike comes in a full range of sizes to fit all comers. You’ll need to take a saw to the seatpost to drop it low in the interrupted seattube though and you might miss the potential to fit a front mech.

Equipment: burly single crown fork, Saint groupset and Big Earl finishing kit

RockShox’s monster coil-sprung Totem is our favourite single crown freeride fork and a perfect choice for the Session but, considering its weight, the overall mass of the bike is impressive. 

While the frame takes the credit for most of the weight saving, some of it is down to the new, lighter Saint equipment that dominates the spec. Meanwhile, the short cage rear mech, MRP chainguide and bashguard keep everything in place no matter how chaotic the terrain gets.

MRP system 3 succesfully tames the transmission: mrp system 3 succesfully tames the transmission
MRP system 3 succesfully tames the transmission: mrp system 3 succesfully tames the transmission

Bontrager’s Big Earl equipment is equally control-friendly, with wide bars and a short stem perfectly suited to handling the most hideous tasks. 2.6in DH tyres on broad rims provide consistent suction and stiffness, while the specced rubber is the wet version of the Big Earl Gumbi dual compound – a bonus for British riders.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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