Trek’s Procaliber 9.8 SL - first ride review£3,400.00

Nippy cross-country race machine

BikeRadar score3.5/5

BikeRadar recently headed out to the 2016 Trek product launch in Holland to get a taster of the company’s new and improved Procaliber cross-country lineup. We checked the bikes out in all their glory at the launch, from the super-trick 9.9 range-topper down to the 9.7 ‘entry’ level XC race monster, riding the mid-range 9.8 around a 16km dry and dusty XC loop in one of Holland’s most beautiful forests.

Related: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 – first ride review

    The frame

    The procaliber 9.8 sl uses trek's new 'cable freak' internal routing system:
    The procaliber 9.8 sl uses trek's new 'cable freak' internal routing system:

    The Procaliber gets Trek's new Control Freak internal cable routing system

    The Procaliber line is build around an all-new frame Trek designed from the ground up. It incorporates the company’s IsoSpeed frame compliance system originally developed for Trek's endurance road bikes.

    The Procaliber 9.8 SL boasts a highly compliant ride – up to 70 percent more compliant than the Superfly SL, the company claims. Trek was explicit in stating that the compliance built into the frame is isolated from pedaling forces.

    The ‘flex’ happens at the frame’s seat tube (making the most of the carbon's ability to be flexed without losing its form) rather than the seat- or chainstays. The IsoSpeed ‘link’ is Trek’s way of isolating the movement of the seat tube from the rest of the bike. It uses a bushing and a bearing assembly allowing for rotation under frame flex.

    The frame also features Trek’s new Control Freak cable management system, allowing internal cable and dropper post compatibility. Boost 110 up front and 148 on the back of the bike have helped improve handling with stiffer 29erwheels. The chainstays are super short on the Procaliber, at 435mm / 17.13in.

    Build and equipment

    The rockshox sid sl fork uses the new boost (110x15mm) axle spacing to improve stiffness and steering precision:
    The rockshox sid sl fork uses the new boost (110x15mm) axle spacing to improve stiffness and steering precision:

    The RockShox SID RL fork uses the Boost 110mm front spacing to improving steering precision

    The new range-topping 9.9 model comes loaded with the RockShox RS-1 and XTR groupset; however the 9.8 is still very well-endowed with a SRAM X01 carbon 11 speed rear derailleur, SRAM X1 shifter and Shimano XT brakes. The ride comes with SRAM X1 cranks and a 32-tooth chainring coupled with a 10-42t cassette.

    The RockShox SID RL with motion control and remote lockout takes care of bump eating duties up front. DT Swiss X1700 tubeless 29-inch wheels are light and fairly stiff. The bar and stem are Trek in-house brand Bontrager.

    Ride and handling

    The isospeed dulls shocks, rather than eliminates them:
    The isospeed dulls shocks, rather than eliminates them:

    The IsoSpeed frame compliance system dulls trail chatter 

    Trek went big with a hard sell of the new bike – talking about compliance and comfort, but stressing that this bike is not a softail. It certainly rides like a hardtail when you’re standing – the traditionally rigid, aggressive and stiff carbon ride dominates the bike characteristics.

    You need to be quick to react and be ready to make the Procaliber move over and around the terrain to get the most out of it. This is a plus, as the bike is easy to manipulate (because of it’s low weight) and you can reap great rewards when pumping, gaining speed with minimal effort.

    The combination of the rigid frame and those short chainstays means the bike is great in corners – you can push hard through the turn to make it accelerate, and it feels very nimble.

    When sitting, the IsoSpeed does indeed dull the vibrations and feedback felt through the frame. It excels on smaller sharper bumps, making the impact feel less harsh.

    Bigger hits aren’t absorbed as efficiently though, and in these instances the bike does behave more like a traditional hardtail. It feels like the Procaliber is suited to rides where you’re going to be sitting down pedaling, rather than being constantly out of the saddle.


    The Procaliber is a nippy cross-country race machine that's ready out of the box to take on some tough competition. The IsoSpeed dulls shocks, rather than eliminating them. The hardtail ride is maintained when standing, though.

    Alex has been riding bikes since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He first raced back in 2003, winning the Juvenile category on a sketchy hard tail Planet X bike. Alex lived in the Alps for seven years so isn't shy of a climb or two and loves getting out in his bike in all weather. His favorite thing to ride is steep loamy tracks with loads of opportunities to slam the bike into turns and really give it some frame bending welly! He's broken his fair share of frames, so any bike between his knees is going to get a right seeing to.
    • Age: 29
    • Height: 182cm / 5'10
    • Discipline: DH, Enduro, XC, BMX, Road
    • Preferred Terrain: Epic descents covered in the world's finest loam and hero dirt
    • Current Bikes: Nukeproof Mega 275 / Giant Anthem Advanced 275 1 / LeMond Reno / Deluxe Pro 2 BMX
    • Dream Bike: Giant ATX 1 DH (1999 model)
    • Beer of Choice: Teetotal
    • Location: Bristol, UK

    Related Articles

    Back to top